Monday, November 30, 2015


Movie reference anyone? Patience. Stupid iPhoto.

Brief spin last night, peaking out at 250 watts for 3 minutes. That got me warmed up for a 90 second plank.

I goofed last night. For some reason I thought I had to fast for the lab tests this morning. Not. Sigh. At least I didn't hangry anyone's head off at work.

Running after work means running in the dark, and today that meant about 0 C, or for the readers in the place with the primitive measurement system, 32 F. Shoes, socks, medium weight tights, light short sleeved tech shirt, with a heaver long sleeved shirt over it, cap, gloves. 4 K, 27 minutes. It felt really good, light feet, breathing not too hard, and working a bit harder on the back half. Just at the end I was starting to feel a bunch of niggles coming on, and decided that it had been really good and I didn't need to push it.

Brisk walk home, stretch after, and ta-da! 90 second plank. I'm getting tempted to go for two minutes.

I was musing about not doing NaNoWriMo this year. There were a few times I missed doing it, and a couple times when a writing thought was just beginning to form a pre-words concept, but I really didn't have the time this year. None of my writing buddies were doing it, that I know of, and it's more fun to do it with others.

Here's one of the shrubberies Linda created yesterday. The other is similar. I'm not sure how she does it. She pokes things in the dirt, wiggles them around a bit, and it looks beautiful! Such a nice addition to our patio, and way, WAY cheaper than buying. And no knights had better come creeping around to swipe them!

Did you miss the inner shark yesterday?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My inner shark came out to play

Back into the salty murky water of Glenmore again today for a lap swim. I had been thinking that a swim there would be good, since I'd be less likely to overdo my shoulders. Then my inner shark showed up. He loved it! He and I cruised past the other swimmers in the next lane. I passed some of the swimmers in my lane, and sometimes they stopped to let me pass. My inner shark was all about chasing them down, in a relaxed sedate sort of way. It sounds strange, but it made sense at the time. Not that he wanted to actually catch and eat any of them; most did not look like a healthy food choice, and my inner shark is a very picky eater. I cruised along, not working too hard, concentrating on a nice stroke.

There was a first along the way. The water is really choppy because they have lane ropes with small buoys on them, not the wave breaking plastic discs. I caught a mouthful of water just before going into a flip turn, and was coughing through the whole thing. Salty water.

Since the pace clock is really hard to see I didn't keep track of laps, but it was about 1.5 K, with some short breaks in there to fit in with my lane buddies. I even managed to fit in some short intervals, 3 x 50 in 45, on 1 minute, and I could have kept going, but there were people in the way. I started with some slower people, then all but one went away, and I drafted a guy for a while, then he went away, and I split the lane with a woman for a while, both of us doing our thing and not getting in each other's way. Then a few more people showed up, slow people, who seemed a bit uncertain about the circle swimming thing. Slow, as in, swimming very easy I could keep up with them as they churned away with swim fins. Perhaps the slow, medium, and fast lanes are more a mind set thing than a clock thing. I cooled down a little and bailed out of that lane. Hot tub at Glenmore is awesome!

On the way out I was chatting with one of the staff I used to know at Canyon Meadows. Nice to get caught up. I'm pleased how it worked out. My shoulders know I've had a swim, but they aren't complaining, and I'm not getting the chest muscle spasms I was getting for a while.

Saturday was good. Planked in the morning as part of the limbering up for a run. It was beautiful out and I nailed the clothes for sunny 0 C. One layer tights, long sleeved top, gloves, cap. 5 K, 35 minutes, nice and easy, though working a bit for the last K. Stretched after, then in the evening did another core session with a 90 second plank. So, on average, I'm still with the plank a day thing.

Traffic is still crazy. On the way out this morning I'm doing 65 to 70 K in a 60 zone on the way out of the 'hood. I got passed by a guy weaving in and out of traffic, doing maybe 90 k. He ran a red light (hey, it's only been red a minute) and and it's good that the guy turning left was paying attention. The stores weren't even open yet! Where could he be going?

The garden is still there in winter, just not as colourful. It's easy to see the colour is beautiful, of course, but I also like the stark winter beauty as well.

Why is the BBQ uncovered, you ask? BBQ rack of lamb.

Linda is working on some greenery displays. Photos when she's done. Stay tuned.

Did you maybe miss the recent blog posts? Pre-Christmas Crankies, or The Unmentioned Tusk?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

PCC- the first attack

The first of many, I think.

Pre-Christmas Crankies. I get them. Maybe you do too. There we were, driving to work much later than usual on Friday. Linda had an appointment in the building next to my office for 9:30. I am carrying a small surplus of hours this month, so I wasn't in a hurry to get into the office. Therefore we were going past Chinook mall at 8:45. Northbound on McLeod trail, in the left lane because I know I'll be making a left eventually.

Well, no, not quite. The left turn lane into Chinook is backed up and spills over into the left through lane. I eventually get out and around the backlog of cars, marveling at all the space between the cars in the turn lane. Drivers oblivious to their surroundings, focussed only on impending shopping delights, though only I figured that out later. I noted crappy parking already taking place, bad enough I could see it from the road, while driving. Sigh.

In the office, a couple people were planning some shopping. As near as I could tell, this wasn't anything they actually needed, it was more like a smash and grab raid merged with a free the hostages objective. If they planned their work that well, nothing would ever go wrong.

As most of you know, I and my current boss and a very few others are the only survivors of The Great 5th Floor Massacre of last September. After work yesterday some of those people met up in a bar. My entire old team, as constituted at the time of the aforesaid massacre, showed up. It was lovely to see them all and get caught up. I text with a few of them, but had lost touch with the rest. Of the 7 of us, the score is 3, 3, 1. Three are working, Dan, Meby, Patricia. Three are not yet, Debbi, Dahlia, Richard. And me, still there.

My best remark of the night. My one colleague has a 2 or 3 year old son. Another has a pair of late teen daughters. One of the daughters was babysitting the son at a nearby mall. They'd sort of arranged a 7pm end time. At 7:30 the daughter plaintively texts, and asks what's happening. I almost got the phone in time, and said while they were replying, "Tell her to sell the kid, take the money and run, two happy sets of parents result." The daughter's father laughed out loud. The son's mother was saying "Wait, she can't do that!" My response? "Black Friday, people will buy anything."

And so they will. I don't get it. I've only lined up for a sale once, and we saved $3000 on a plasma TV, way back in the day when such things were still fairly rare, and the "standard" 42 inch screen retailed for about $8000. Yes, I know. Times have changed.

Generally if I actually need something, I'll figure out where to get it, and pick it up at some convenient time, or have it shipped. I do try to find local suppliers, and pick up in person when I can. My thinking is that money spent locally is more likely to stay local, or at least some of it is. Plus the local shops are employing people in my community, which is a good thing.

I've been buying stuff in Calgary on and off now for 35 years, and some days I think every damn thing is still in this house, breeding more stuff. Outside of consumables like groceries, there isn't much I actually need to buy these days. There are wants, though, and boy do the advertisers push those wants!

The consumer debt numbers are frightening. I'm appalled by people making quite good money, even by oil patch standards, that have to visit the food bank within a month of being laid off. Does nobody save money any more? Does nobody else realize Calgary has a very cyclical economy, and if you want to get through the bust times, you have to plan for it during the boom? There used to be a bumper sticker, "Please God, let there be another oil boom, I promise not to piss it all away this time." Well, I've seen several of these booms come and go, and people are still pissing it away.

One guy, laid off in September, is waiting till January to put in his EI claim. He was well paid enough that some of it would be clawed back if he took it the same year of earning salary. His thinking is to take the 8 months of EI, not working next year or at least not for a salary, then line up work for 2017. He was mentioning complicated calculations about RSP withdrawls, taking some tax losses and rebalancing his investment portfolio. At least he has money to play with, for now. 2017 will come quick. He did mention he had very little cash to carry around from now till the new year, and had to be careful of what he spent.

Back to the bar last night. For a city where at least 18,000 people have been laid off recently, the bar was so full we couldn't reserve a table in advance. We had to scrounge, and promise not to stay past 8 pm. The place was full, and the wait staff run off their feet. We shut it down about 8pm, as the bar was picking up steam. People were hovering to snap up our tables. I did not have to invoke my iron-clad leaving the bar rule.

I only had two very tasty beers, and was home about the time I normally go to bed. The transit system was fairly quiet, only one somewhat obnoxious drunk. Still, at Chinook our fairly empty train car was invaded by dozens of people. Suddenly the car was rush hour full. All happily chatting to each other in not-English. There's probably a story there, but I don't know it.

Then I got caught up with Linda's adventures in traffic as well. No damage, but a lot of frazzling. She bailed on some of her planned destinations because the traffic was so crappy.

The consequence of the beers is that I didn't plank last night. Technically I've broken my streak. But I'm planning to plank this morning in conjunction with morning workout. I'm still dithering between a spin or a run. It's nice out. Then later this evening, I'll do another plank. So I'll have to be careful, saying "averaging a plank a day", to be correct.

I'm trying not to be maudlin about this year. There's still a month to go after all. But Christmas. Ho Hum. I'm not quite to Bah, Humbug yet, but I'm working on it. I'll probably get there in time. These photos make me feel better. How could it not? Curtis is so regal in the morning sun, and it's cute how their tails had all twined together as Celina snoozed hard.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The unmentioned tusk

For the last little while I've been growing a tusk. My doctor said it was nearly exactly the material our fingernails are made of, and it was on my nose, so tusk is reasonably correct. It started growing quite suddenly. At first I thought it was a scab from scraping my nose somehow, then it kept growing.

At my annual physical I mentioned it, of course, and he said it was easy to deal with, and likely not a big deal. Today was the day for removal. A needle, a knife, and a bit of gauze later it was all over but the analysis. He doesn't think it's anything untoward, but wants to be sure.

Which led to this exchange.

So there it was on my nose, for several months. Not one person mentioned it to me. I figure there are two possible explanations:
  • They noticed, and were too polite to say anything, for fear I would burst out with intimate details of my peculiar backwards nose leprosy.
  • They didn't notice. 
I'm not sure which explanation I prefer.

(There was a long bit here where I segued from the not noticing, to the technical shortcomings of our vision, to the handicaps our thinking places on our vision, to the current refugee issues. But it all got out of control and I don't think it made much sense, so I cut it out.)

(Then there was a segue into this being the most recent example of my body breaking down, to organizational breakdowns in the Alberta economy, and federal transitions of power, which tied back to the first one, on seeing the problems clearly, and dealing with them as such. But that got out of hand as well, so I cut it out. This could well be the longest blog I didn't actually publish. Now that I think of it, maybe I should have saved it as a draft. Oh well.)

In other news, the plank streak is still alive, but I've been a slacker otherwise. Yoga was more like a pilates session. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

I did four

Sunday started with a swim. Well, no, it started with this, trying to persuade Curtis to let me have my flip flops.

1K 19 minutes, nothing special, but feeling better. I tried the center line snorkel I bought, and that was interesting. Trying to sort out just enough roll for the stroke, but not to breathe was a bit of a change. Totally different feel pushing off the wall. 3x100 on 2 and ran out of mojo.

Water ran with Katie after, with Mr Splash beside us. Only at the end did she realize that he had been splashing her towel with every splashy flip turn. She is such a temptress, trying to talk me into all sorts of things that she says will be good for me.

Then the hardest spin in a while. On the bike 1.25 hrs, with 10 minutes at 200 watts, feeling pretty good. Then some short (very short!) very high watt intervals. This got me all sweaty, which got Celina all excited. Nothing like a good spin workout to get all sweaty. I'm feeling really good about the bike just now, settling into longer workouts as my butt gets toughened up.

Planked during the stretch session. I got all full of hubris and decided to try pushups. I can't remember the last time I did any, it was such a long time ago. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured since the planking had gone much better than I expected, I thought maybe that would be true for the pushups. Not so you'd notice. I was hoping for 8 or 10, and I did 4. Only 4. Captured by weenie-ness again.

Slept like crap. Curtis was singing the song of his people at top volume, and flinging himself against the door. I was expecting the neighbours to be banging on the door wondering what on earth we were doing to the cat.

Barely got out of bed and off to work. Dragged my butt all day, till I got home. Since it hadn't snowed, my legs felt like running. 5 K, 36 minutes, nice and easy and relaxing. The last K felt a bit harder than the rest, but it's uphill all the way. In fact it was just a little bit slower. I got nearly run over only once, even though I was wearing my reflective vest, so that was pretty good. I'm not really used to it getting dark so early, so quickly, and I think the same is true of other people. I see lots of people driving around with just the daytime running lights on.

Stretched, and kept the plank streak alive. 90 seconds. I'll give it another week, and maybe try the push ups again. Maybe.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

It seemed so simple then, and UTOASN

The good news, the plank streak is continuing. 1:45 yesterday. Shorter today, but still over a minute, starting on some of the variations. Wouldn't want to get bored, of course.

The news I thought would be bad, turned out to be good, Friday early afternoon, was that my boss's boss walked into my office, shut the door, and asked if I had a minute. Whoops! For a moment I thought my time had come. Then it turns out his status had changed from transitioning out of the organization, to accepting an offer to stay in. He and my boss will be sorting out their roles and responsibilities. In other news, things go on as they are, till they change.

The ugly news is the traffic last night. I bailed out of work, thinking I would head over to Strides to buy another pair of the running shoes I have now. I like them, and I anticipate doing some indoor running this winter. Part way there I heard about a collision (a demonstration of driver incompetence, as I like to say) on Glenmore near 14th St.

No problem, I figured I would sneak out 38th and down Sifton. They didn't have the shoes, but called the other store, and they agreed to hold them for me. By the time I got out of the store the traffic was backed up everywhere, including the streets I was going to use to sneak out. Gridlock everywhere.

Eventually I got over to the aquatic store, with Siri trying to get me lost along the way. (Did I buy a skimpy Speedo swimsuit?) I bought a few more swim toys, and had a nice chat with the staff. Then I heard traffic had been closed northbound on Crowchild, and they were dumping traffic onto 33rd. Glad I wasn't there.

The sunset was beautiful, and I picked up the other shoes no problem. I was wondering how I could not know there was a Strides on Canyon Meadows, but they've only been open 6 months or so. Whew! I'm going to put an old set of white laces into those shoes so I can tell which are the indoor, and which are the outdoor. White, you know, purity?

I'm just dying to go for a run inside at Talisman. I will turn on iSmoothRun, of course, and I will post the map. That should be cool.

Michelle and I ran along the ridge with a beautiful unexpected view of the mountains. 8 K in a little over an hour, nice and easy, chatchatchat, stopping at turnaround to arrange coffee. We met up with Sue and Kevin and had a wonderful chat.

While running and chatting I was thinking about the unhappy state of the world in many ways, and how good we have it here and now. I'd seen a video about Syria, how it started with protests, then a civil war, then it got worse. Then worse again as more players joined the confusion.

Back in the day, such as what we call World War II (The winners of the war call it The Great Patriotic War), there was a limited number of enemies, with clearly defined borders and combatants (essentially everybody on the other side of the border, but still, that's clear). How nice it must be to have that clarity. Syria, and all the associated issues is such a mess it's hard to know where to begin to start making it better. So far, dropping bombs has not noticeably made things better, so maybe we should stop doing that.

But where I'm going with this is data. I'm a data driven kind of guy. To solve or mitigate the many very complicated problems facing us, we need all the data we can get. We need to massage it into information to build practical policies. We need to track outcomes, and build feedback loops so that we know what works and doesn't, and when to start changing what we're doing.

Just one of the problems is the faith based idiots mucking up the works. They believe the "End Times" are here, and there is no need to think about a future. They appear to believe their mission is helping to mess things up so their prophecy is fulfilled, and the Rapture happens, or Jesus returns, or something. Maybe it's aliens coming to take them away, and I could cheer for that one.

Faith is the opposite of data and information. Faith is creating problems, and doing nothing to help them get better. An example? Sure. Two of them. Christianity is rich in prophecy about the return of Jesus, starting from a few days after he died about 2000 years ago. Every few years someone rears up on their hind legs and says the date is x, usually a short time ahead. (send money, they say.) It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it's ever going to happen. Deal with it. Let us deal with problems rationally.

The other is this peace on earth thing. If there is one thing all faiths have in common, it's that they pray for peace on earth. This time of year particularly you hear a lot of that. Now, look around. Do you see peace on earth? Locally yes. Not so much elsewhere. Why would that be? Here, we have good government, with a stable society governed by laws and mostly honest politicians. Even Harper, an extremist by Canadian standards, was honest, pragmatic, and fairly successful by world standards.

What else? A system of courts and mostly honest hard working police. Corporations working in a stable framework of laws that make it harder to engage in a race for the bottom in an orgy of corporate greed. A lack of gun toting nuts that think they are the "good guy". A medical system that helps cure or mitigate many conditions that used to be the scourge of humanity, and still are where such a system can't operate, or the anti-vaccine idiots are left to run free. Why is there less peace elsewhere? I'd submit for discussion that there is too much faith.

Canada used to have a civil service that was the envy of the world. In a relatively non-partisan way it provided data to the government of the day, and we've built ourselves a pretty good world. The key is data, and people that can organize and make sense of ever more complex data. It isn't just storing it in databases, or even spitting out the canned reports. No, we need people that can think about the various reams of data, and organize it in different ways to make sense of it for various issues. Then we need politicians to act on that, changing public policy to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

So, a fairly simple thing, in the great scheme of things. Bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the dead of winter. I cry "Shame on you! to the people that say we should close our doors out of fear. Even what little I've read of the refugee vetting process as it is now, seems cumbersome and slow, and some people want to make it even harder. Let's get a grip, people. If someone wants to come to Canada and do bad things, it's easy enough to do. Emulating a refugee is making the problem far more difficult, from a bad guy perspective.

Now lets get complicated. Climate change. Holy doodle, the issues never stop! Here in Alberta we get most of our electricity from burning coal. That's horrible stuff, even with the best scrubbing technologies we want to afford. You still have to deal with the ash. Ok, so how do we stop burning coal? Even retrofitting the plants to natural gas, which is tres cheap right now, isn't easy, and we're still burning a fossil fuel, albeit a cleaner one.

One of the concerns is an economic one. How do we account for the sunk costs of building and operating those plants? They were built according to the regulations of the day, and have been periodically updated as the regulations have changed, but these things can't happen overnight. But how much time do you allow? If you regulate the industry out of business, how do you compensate the people that invested in what was a legal enterprise?

Then we get into renewable energy, the whole wind and solar thing, and perhaps others. I disagree with the people that say it isn't economic now, therefore it will never be economic. I disagree with those who say that we can't do it because the wind doesn't blow every day, or the sun is behind clouds, and that will shut off all the lights. Bah! There are technologies of power storage, and that industry is advancing in leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so.

There are lots of moving parts here, and we need to let the smart people work on it. I've read that half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive now. Let's give them the data. Let's let people fold, spindle, and arrange the data. Let's look at the facts that emerge, and act on them. Enough of making things up, or pretending they are the way you want them to be. Enough of letting corporations manipulate affairs so they continue to make a profit, just because they have been. Let's grow up and deal with the world as it is.

Oh, and UTOASN?
Runners will know this. I had a lovely run, but there was a minor distraction, what with the impact running has on the guts. As soon as I got home, I had to deal with an Urgent Task of a Solitary Nature. At least this is a simple task, free of complexities here. In other parts of the world, it is much more difficult, and dealing with the corresponding flows from many people is an urgent and ongoing problem. We know how to solve it, yet can't seem to.

Let's get that sorted out, so we stop that source of pollution. That gets us into supplying everybody with clean drinking water, which will cut down on disease. This should give us lots of experience solving problems of moderate complexity and build confidence in dealing with more complex problems. Let's be about it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2 hours is not enough

Swim was better today, stretched out and relaxed. I could feel my stroke oscillating between the new version and the older version. It was sort of a weird feeling. Still feeling a bit pummeled from the massage yesterday. Stretched on the wall, and did a bit of water running.

We had a nice pasta dinner, and a bit over 2 hours later I was thinking it was now or never for the bike. That felt pretty good too, settling easily into 85 rpm fairly quickly. Did some short bursts at gradually higher watts, with some easy spin in between. Pushing ~200 watts for 5 minutes gets my heart rate up into the mid 130s, and felt pretty good. About 230 watts was pushing too hard.

The problem was that I was still feeling a bit full from supper, and I didn't want to push too hard. I've done that before and came close to regretting it. The 45 minutes went quick and were a good lead in to some stretching,


plank! Only 60 seconds today, but keeps the streak going, 5 days now. Other stretching was good.

I was asked why I hadn't yet blogged about Paris, terrorism in general, political stupidity, and other related topics. To be honest, I don't have the heart for it just yet. I'm saddened at the whole darned thing and everything connected with it, especially the people that should know better. I've had different pieces of it going through my mind, but there's nothing coherent enough for a blog. Maybe it will come together, or maybe not.

Something that made my day was my buddy Janice's blog, full of pictures from a recent Scotland trip.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've never done this before, she said

Swim Tuesday was a bit clunky. Well, a lot clunky. I had no mojo at all. Not sure why, nothing especially hurt, but nothing was working very well either.

I found out Wed afternoon at massage. Lovely, but she was working on my arms, and where a particular tendon anchors into the bone near the inside of the elbow. It was making odd noises, and the muscles on it felt really stiff. She told me the name of the tendon, but I don't remember.

She said that she'd never had to work on anyone like this on those muscles and tendons and asked what on earth I had been doing. Well, it turns out that these are what is working to catch the water and get your forearm vertical during freestyle. I demonstrated, which is hard when you're lying flat on your back.

In one sense, it's proof that I've been changing my stroke, but maybe I'm working too hard at it. Something to think about. I think an easy relaxed swim tomorrow if I can get a lane where I don't have to keep up, or keep track to get out of the way.

No run. It rained, then it snowed. The sidewalks are crap. I should go get another pair of shoes like the ones I have, only for indoor running. I think it's going to be a long sloppy winter. Talisman track, here I come.

Still at Penn West, even as many other companies are laying off. I'm dreading to hear the numbers of people over at TransCanada. I have buddies there. There's been so many layoffs, and I suspect nobody is getting a year end or Christmas bonus. I don't think the retailers are going to be very happy this year.

Somehow, we've got to get off this oil and gas roller coaster. It isn't good for anyone, or the industry, or the economy at large. I wish more people would see climate change as an economic opportunity, rather than a cost.

Still struggling with novel edits. I'm not getting the time to dive in and concentrate.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The spin didn't, but

I was so pleased myself, getting home, feeding the cats, and getting on the bike for a spin session. Celina was very pleased with the new (old) crunchies, and inhaled them. Curtis is very suspicious, but I don't think he's caught onto the true depths of the perfidious humans. He got the same old. There is still another can of the wet that he doesn't like but will eat, eventually, but Celina won't eat at all.

The spin didn't go so well. It took 23 minutes of slowly speeding up to hit 100 rpm for a short time. A very short time. By the time 30 minutes rolled around, no, rolling implies smoothness. This was clunky and both knees were feeling weak. At 30 minutes I called it and went over to my yoga mat.

Yesterday I did something else in the new but old category. A plank for the first time in forever. A whole minute! I was amazed. Getting off the bike today I was determined to see if that was a fluke, or what.


1:15! Yay me! I even did a bit of (pathetic) side plank. That felt very weak. I tried a few very gentle, shallow squats to give my weak and feeble butt the idea it was going to get some action. Tomorrow. Let's see if I can keep a plank thing going every day or not. I think the longest I've done it before was a month or so.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First time EVER!

About 10 years ago I changed my life, and started getting more active again. Some of it was taking up activities again, such as swimming. Some of it was old activities with a twist, such as getting on a bike again, but riding for time and distance. Technically, I used to run, back when the rocks were still soft and we were coming out of the crustation era, but generally I consider myself an adult onset runner.

Then there were some entirely new things, such as doing all three one after the other. Running in the winter. Working on the spin trainer in the basement. Doing core work to help build up my pathetic abs. Seriously coaching another person to learn to swim. Writing not just one novel, but 3 of them. Let me just say the editing into a salable property is not going as well as the initial writing.

Then there was today. Some parents I barely know voluntarily turned over their 9 year old boy to me. We went to the Southland leisure centre water slide. A 9 year old, and a water slide, each new things. Somehow in my life I've never been to a water slide. Technically, I suppose, the 9 year old wasn't mine. Really, the parents were turning him over to my buddy, who I think had tried to organize a kid's day out, but the other parents couldn't make it.

Still, there were 4 slides, and we all went down all of them at least once, and down the biggest several times. We all swung off the rope and ball arrangement and dropped into the water. I couldn't help myself and went in cleanly, then hit the bottom. It wasn't as deep as I thought. I even dived into the diving pool. Plus the hot tub, of course. It's pretty nice, even if there were a bazillion kids there. I've got a scrape across my right elbow, but I'm not sure how I did that.

But that isn't the only new thing. I had my way paid into what is called a conditioning swim at Glenmore pool. I've swum there a number of times off and on, and used to know the pool boss there. But the conditioning swim is like Masters light, I think. I told the coach my 100 m cruise speed, and she slotted me into a lane.

There were 3 other guys and 3 women in that lane. All the variants on freestyle were awesome. I was keeping up no problem. It's the other stuff. I can't really do butterfly at all, and my breast stroke is pathetic. Even lying on my back, kicking with fins, one of the women passed me. I hadn't thought I was lollygagging that much!

With 7 in a lane, and similar numbers on each side, the waves and splash is pretty dramatic. I treated it like a polite mass triathlon start, lots of waves but nobody actually touching you, and had fun with it. I can't read the whiteboard with the workout, so I got the other people in the lane to tell me what to do. It was an hour swim, pretty steady. I think I missed out on 50 m of the overall workout. Not sure how long it was, but I'm guessing around 2.5 K. It was a pretty good workout, but I'm not sure I'd go again. I'm pretty good at challenging myself with workouts on my own. Plus, I'm not used to such a murky pool. After Talisman it felt too warm, too murky, and too small. Even divided up into short course, Talisman is 2 lanes wider at least, and twice as deep.

Other workout stuff included a 45 minute spin, with 15 minutes steady at just over 85 rpm, and about 175 to 180 watts output. My heart rate was steady just under 130 beats per minute. I haven't done the formal testing yet, but I think this is somewhere in the top end of the aerobic zone. Certainly I was having no trouble keeping up with my breathing, but my legs were beginning to feel it towards the end. So far so good, working on a gradual build. Next time if I'm feeling good, I'll aim for 20 minutes at 200 watts, and see how that works out.

Since it was nice out we decided to fire up the barbecue, and Linda prepared these kebabs. Delicious with taziki sauce!

The cats, hard at being cats while I'm reading.

Then there was a run this morning that was just lovely. 5 K, 33:30, actually trying to run slower for most of it. The fog had burned off after an interesting sunrise and it turned into perfect running weather. You can't really see it here, but through the fog there was actually lots more red and orange.

When looking at it in real life, the 7-11 was easy to make out, but for some reason the camera has a tougher time.

And another weekend done! I'm still glad I didn't try NaNoWriMo, since I've had no brainwaves on what happens after the opening I've thought of. Maybe my characters are waiting to see if I write down what they've told me so far, to see if I'm serious, before they tell me any more.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Not so heavy, and short

Several heavy duty posts in the last week, here, here, and here. Something a bit lighter today.

In the mean time I've been suffering through a bit of a cold. Not bad as these things go, but just enough that I'm feeling too tired to work out much.

A 1 K swim in 18:25 Tuesday was enough to leave me dragging my butt most of the day.
An easy half hour spin session on Wed had me tired out.
Friday after work I was out for a run, 3K just over 22 minutes, feeling clunky.

The doctor doing my annual physical did not call my wife to ask her to ensure my affairs were in order, and arrange to have me humanely put down, so I guess that's a good thing. I always worry about that.

Winter is here. My cousin just got back from St. Maarten. My neighbours are off to Florida for a month. My famous blog buddy SUAR was invited to do a triathlon in St. Kitts and Nevis this weekend. The photos so far have me drooling. I think I need a vacation somewhere warm. A place where attractive people bring tall, cold, fruity drinks with those little umbrellas in them, out to their guests on the beach. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why 107?

One of my readers asked me "why would you want to live to 107?"

Why not? Consider the alternatives. Or rather, the alternative. As far as we know, we live then we die and that's it. Lights out. Nothing more. This beautiful magical unique human being we call "me" goes to the place soap bubbles go when they pop.

Some people hold a different view, and there are variations on the theme. They start with the idea that there is some immutable "me" that continues after the death of our physical body. Usually people call this our soul. That's a good enough word for the purposes of this blog.

Maybe that's true. There are people that come back from near death experiences with stories that something of them existed while they were technically dead. There is much discussion about what exactly happens there. Some people believe it's a straightforward telling of what happens, that our soul leaves our body and goes somewhere else, and sometimes meets a presence along the way. Other people believe that it's a form of a dream, similar to the ones we have when we sleep, as the brain reacts to the circumstances of the dying body, or oxygen shortage, or drugs, or pain, or whatever.

For me, what's important about the whole thing is that nobody really knows for sure, in an objective, provable sort of way. You might believe you really know, but then, some people believe they are Napoleon, or some other historical figure. Science hasn't been able to prove the presence or absence of a soul, let alone what happens to it after our bodies die. (For the record I believe I have one, as do most other people, but that's another blog.)

We can remember our past, to some extent. We forget some things, or have only a hazy recollection, some memories are crystal clear, and some of them have been induced or dressed up, or embellished for some reason.

We can look forward to the future. Sometimes we can predict with great accuracy what will happen, and we're already thinking of where the broom and dustpan are to clean up the soon-to-be-shattered cup that slipped out of our hands. Sometimes we are much less certain. Those flying cars, for example.

That leaves here and now. This is all we really have. Some people believe that what we do doesn't really matter, in a great cosmic sense. We live and die. Other's believe that our lives matter, that we might be working off a karmic burden from previous lives, or that our actions here determine our reward or punishment after death.

I take the position that our actions here have consequences for ourselves and others. It might be minutes after you drink and start a car, or decades after that first cigarette you smoked on a dare. We are responsible for those consequences, intended or not. We carry on doing what we think is best, often looking at a very short time scale. Bad shit happens to good people, and good shit happens to bad people.

Humans have been living longer recently. A 100 year old person used to be a marvel. It's not routine yet, but it's no longer a surprise. We're born healthier, due to healthier moms, who themselves had healthier moms. Child mortality is rare, and getting enough food isn't a problem for almost everybody in North America. We have some of the best medical care available, and there is all sorts of fact based evidence one how to have a longer, healthier life. Don't smoke tobacco. Eat a variety of foods, but not too much. Get regular exercise and sleep, not too much or too little. Take care of your eyes and teeth. Get and stay married.

We now see people active into what used to be considered the declining years. Sister Madonna Buder did an Ironman in her 80's. People in their 90's still live on their own, doing their thing. Old age isn't what it used to be. When people ask why you'd want to live a long time, they picture someone in a wheelchair, wearing a diaper, sniffing oxygen, or screaming to be let out so they can go home, year after year. Nobody wants to live like that, me included.

But that isn't what I picture for me. I made choices to get more active and lose weight because I could see the diabetes freight train heading towards me. So far so good. I'm still active, though I'm more careful about warming up and recovery than I used to be. It would be nice to be able to do an Ironman in my 80's, but that level of activity isn't quite what I have in mind. Then again, who knows? I absolutely love getting into the pool in the morning for a swim, or going for a run or bike ride with buddies. I love being able to walk faster than most of the people around me. I love being mentally sharp enough to figure out complicated problems, and melt the brains of the people around me as I explain it. (It's those xl spreadsheets, complete with SQL, that will do it every time!)

When I was a child, life expectancy for men was late 60's or very early 70's, and the last few years were usually pretty scary. Canadian life expectancy  is 80 for boys born recently, and 84 for girls. Even more than extending life expectancy, medical advances are making that time more comfortable. Cataract surgery is routine, as are replacing hip and knee joints. We can deal with heart attacks and the aftermath far better now.

We've just started learning what can be done with reading our genetic code. They speak of medicines tailor made for us, of growing new organs from our own tissues, and transplanting them in when necessary. We may learn to predict which exact illnesses we are prone to, and be able to take action to prevent or mitigate their effects.

When you think of that, living to 107 becomes just the starting point. Why wouldn't you want to be alive, healthy, and doing the things you enjoy doing? Being able to do that will be an outcome of the choices you made. Wouldn't you feel stupid that you couldn't take advantage of a medical procedure to extend your life because you hadn't taken good enough care of yourself?

So, put down the last of the Hallowe'en candy! Get off your ass, yes you, right now! Put on your shoes and go for a walk. Take your kids if you have them. Don't wait till New Year's Eve to resolve to live better. Start NOW!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

2001, a Fitness Odyssey

The fitness odyssey part is my most recent blog, 2000.

But really, the title was a lure, a reference to one of the most iconic movies ever made, 2001, A Space Odyssey. I was a big science fiction fan, lapping up Isaaic Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and many others. I leaned more towards the 'hard' science fiction, and really enjoyed Hal Clement and Larry Niven.

For those of you with a shaky grasp on recent history, the USA was putting men on the moon during this period. (Men on the moon!!!) The era seems a little bit like a dream now. Mankind had been dreaming of flying, and men on the moon for generations out of mind. Then it was done a few times and people got bored, and decided it was too expensive.

I want to explore those two topics, bored, and expensive.

Humans have a nasty streak in them. We like to watch failure. There is no end of examples. The fail army videos document people doing stupid things without the first thought of what could go wrong. What gets shown on the news, the winning race car moment, or the huge crash with parts flying everywhere? Millions of people travel every day by aircraft completely uneventfully, and everybody obsesses about the extraordinarily rare failure.

When the USA started the space program there were any number of drivers, pride and showing up the Soviets being perhaps the main ones. But there's a reason why 'rocket scientist' entered the language as code for someone really smart. When airplanes crashed, we can usually pick up the pieces and discover what went wrong. When a rocket fails, it happens very quickly, very violently, and the results are typically metal confetti. There isn't much left to learn from.

They decided that having human remains mixed in with the metal confetti wasn't a propaganda win, and took steps to limit the human losses. The word is telemetry. They started building instruments to understand what was happening, and sending the results to the ground. Sounds simple. Yeah. In our world, kids can build balloons that go to the edge of space, take video, and parachute back to earth. For a time that was the pinnacle of scientific endeavor, with some of the smartest people trying to figure it out.

Another thing, rockets themselves. It is not intuitively obvious how to build a pressurized metal tank to be as light as possible, and yet withstand the many stresses involved, some of them unknown when they started working on it, and still fit in a vehicle that flies at supersonic speeds. The answer to that, is also the answer to transporting soda from manufacturer to consumer. Who knew?

All that technology filtered out into the world. Someone has probably written a book on how the various space program discoveries changed our world. Satellite communications is still revolutionizing our world, with GPS being only a recent example. And we've already touched on pop cans, with the savings in gas from hauling cans instead of bottles being enormous.

No Saturn V rockets blew up on the launch pad with people on top of them. 12 people have walked on the moon, and when you consider all that could have gone wrong the missions were essentially uneventful, Apollo 13 aside. People watched that one! People started saying, another mission to the moon, ho hum. The minor issues along the way were dealt with because they'd made plans to deal with it, and every other conceivable failure. But the public didn't see that. It was a triumph of science, technology, and planning, and the public didn't get it. Sigh.

Kennedy's speech where he set the goal of a man on the moon in a decade is one of the most breath-taking leaps of imagination by a politician ever. And then when it was done, they didn't know what to do with it. People started looking at the cost as an absolute number of dollars, and wondering what they were getting. Never mind that it was a trivial percentage of the overall budget. Never mind that it almost certainly paid for itself in spin off applications. Never mind that there other, far larger expenditures that were a complete and total waste of money, with the Vietnam war coming prominently to mind. In two ways, the space program spending was cheap. One, as a way of inspiring people to sciences, and two all those spin off technologies.

More recently NASA has been sending robots to various parts of the solar system. I have my imagination boggled every time I read about them. The distance to Mars varies depending on where the planets are in their orbits, but it's several hundred million kilometers. NASA landed Curiosity 2.4 K from the target after after a trip of 560 million Km. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity were expected to last 90 days. Spirit lasted more than 6 years. Opportunity is still operational, 11 years later, or more than 45 times its design lifespan. We now know that Mars had water, and very possibly had life. If one of the rovers should come across an actual fossil, it will be the biggest news day ever. Proof that life has existed elsewhere a long time ago, makes it much more likely it exists now, perhaps in the ocean on Europa.

New Horizons is a mission to Pluto. Imagine this, launch the space craft, fly past an asteroid, fly past Jupiter on a gravity slingshot orbit, and do a pass 12,500 Km above Pluto, take pictures and send them back to earth, all from a distance better measured in multiples of Earth's distance from the sun. Plus have the time of closest approach with minutes of the calculated time, after nearly a decade of travel.

Those things don't happen by accident. They are the result of 500 years of science and data driven exploration of our universe. A great many smart people have worked hard to further our understanding and creating the world we live in. It distresses me a lot when people dismiss it as 'science, what do we need it for, faith is more important'. People that are deliberately blind to the data are unfit for any public role in government. While I don't say that everybody should be a scientist, I do say that everyone should have an appreciation for science, and it's role in creating our amazing world.

Before science, surviving child birth was something for everybody involved to celebrate. Various diseases that we consider easily preventable ravaged humanity, killing hundreds of millions. Communication was no faster than a man on a horse carrying a letter. Getting enough to eat was a major challenge for almost everybody.

So where are we now? Nobody has walked on the moon, or even orbited it since 1972. Some of my readers weren't even born then. The moon landings are ancient history to them, like rotary telephones.  Not only did politicians cut spending to the space programs, now it's fashionable to deny science entirely. Most USA politicians deny human caused climate change. There is a whack-a-doodle crazy movement that is against vaccines. Some people doubt the moon landings even took place, which boggles my mind. (Faking it would be MUCH harder than actually doing it, and it's one of the most difficult things humanity has done.) Here in Canada we had a tyrant Prime Minister that realized the best way to get his ideological way was to suck the data out of the argument, thus the abolition of the long form census and muzzling scientists. Deposed now, thank you sensible voters!

Back in school I read about the Roman Empire. It's fascinating, and anybody that thinks what's happening now is new and unprecedented hasn't read enough history. I didn't understand how putting on the famous games would distract people from important things, like a lack of bread, or political corruption. But today, with newspapers full of what celebrities are or are not wearing, and professional sports, I now understand. What's a moon launch, where all will go well and another person walking on the moon, ho hum, compared to, to, a celebrity nipple slip on the red carpet! Oh my! There's another million papers sold, or views, or however they count such things now.

I own a DVD copy of 2001, and watched it recently. Much as I decry the too fast cuts in modern movies, I found it very slow. Almost unwatchably slow now. You can only admire the stunning effects for so long. We don't quite have a computer as smart as HAL is, but Siri is working hard at it. Our iPads are almost as good as the newspad on the ship. Considering it was made in the mid-60's it's an astonishing picture of our future. I only hope trips to Jupiter by humans are in fact part of our future. I'll settle for a moon colony in my lifetime.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Here we are, at the 2000th blog post.

Whodathunkit? No cake, though, like I did for 1000 where I posted a bit of a blog retrospective. If you're a new reader you might want to go back and see what you missed.

I began 2932 days ago, so I've pumped out a blog every 1.46 days. Set your calendars because I've no intention of stopping. There's been a bit of variety in that number. Sometimes I go a month or more blogging every day. Sometimes it's every other day. I still don't have much trouble thinking of things to say.

So who is this Keith guy, and what makes him think he is a blogger? Well, for a start, I break ALL the rules about blogging, and I'm proud of it. I don't monetize my blog. I don't stick to one topic. I don't publish on a regular schedule. I don't pester my readers with emails, unless they've signed up for them. I don't follow any of the rules about building readership, because I'm not in this to get a ton of readers that I can then take advantage of somehow. I don't do product reviews. I don't produce short blogs, with easy words and lots of pictures. In fact, several people have described my blog as a "wall'o text." But some of them at least read it. A few special people have done guest blogs, but I don't do them as a rule.

I'm doing this because I enjoy it. I write what I please, when I please. Some of you are amused. I suspect that some of you are appalled, wondering what I'll say next.

One reader wanted a decade by decade story of my life as the AMA. Gawd. It was the only request, so I suppose I can't plead that I lost it. My mother reads this blog, and I'm pretty sure her recollections will differ from mine. But let's take a quick run at it and see what happens. Anything for my readers, after all.

Let's for no particular reason start at 7. Living in Toronto, on the East Mall. I'm in Grade 2, I think. Struggling with the whole concept. Not liking school. I think I nearly failed several grades. We found out later I needed glasses. I have memories of that time, but almost no memories of school itself in Grades 1, 2, and 3 while in Toronto. The ones I have are not happy. There are few photos of me at this age and I don't think I have any of them. Or maybe I do, and the trauma of seeing them has erased the memories.

17. Living in Smalltown, Ont, going to high school. Still struggling with school. Driving when possible. I'm a skinny kid, though I've discovered beer, and that servers in a bar tend not to ask for ID when you're taller than them. (Beer is 95 cents a bottle.) Shortly I will start packing on a pot belly. I haven't the slightest idea what I want to do for a living when I grow up. This is a recurring theme. There was a house fire, so the number of photos of me younger than grade 5 is very small. Very. Small.

27. Living in Calgary. Married, much to my astonishment that someone would have me. I was a callow youth. I am the cautionary tale of the female BDD strategy. (Bonk, Drag, Domesticate.) We are in the process of buying this house. Gained and lost that potbelly. I'm active in the SCA, dressing up in leather and beating my friends with sticks. I'm working at the City as a plant operator. Shiftwork hasn't tried to kill me yet, though that will come soon enough. I got very lucky. Still not many photos, since I was the one holding the camera, when we remembered to take it places.

37. (According to the terms of the mother son agreement, this must be a hypothetical age. She is only 29.) This is a bit of a lost time for me. I left the City, went to school a couple years, then started at Nova keeping track of gas volumes in a big pipeline network. I'm slowly gaining weight, and getting less active. Hardly any more photos of me.

47. (A very hypothetical age.) Still married. Worked at Nova, BP, BP/Amoco (pronounced BP, the Amoco is silent), then BP, and then Skystone Engineering. Loved working there. Gained a ton of weight. Shortly after starting at Skystone I realized I weighed nearly 300 pounds. I started swimming again. I remember I used to be able to swim 1000 m in 20 minutes and not get into the aerobic zone, and could reliably do it under 17 minutes and was hoping to break 16. It took years to get back to 20 minutes. I get started on triathlon, inspired by my buddy Susi. I start losing weight again. I was asked if there are any photos of me when I was big. The answer is no. Somewhere in the next 10 years we will buy a digital camera. I keep a firm grip on it.

57. (A completely hypothetical impossible age. I still think of myself as being early 30's.) Still married, still living in the same house. The triathlon stuff worked out really well, culminating with Ironman Canada in 2010. You can see a collection of posts here. Worked my way through several companies, and started working as a contractor. Working at Penn West, and I'm  practically the last person I know there. I take great pride in having melted the brains of several bosses as I try to explain, via complex spreadsheets, what they ought to be doing to fix the problems I've found. The iPhone takes wonderful pictures. Some are even of me. Here's the earliest digital photo of me I can find, taken in Turin at the Slow Food Festival cira 2008.

67. (Remember what I said about hypothetical?) Married. Same house. Working part time on projects that interest me, but mostly retired. Except for being a famous novelist, with Dwen's World creating a new genre of literary fiction that takes the world by storm. There are movie offers, e-versions, foreign editions, and publishers throwing money at me to reprint my books.

77. (I hope you've got the hypothetical part down solid.) Still married, and the house is still standing with us in it. My standing is a little more unsteady, but I'm working hard on staying fit so I can enjoy the adulation of being a world famous author, and survive the trip to become the writer in residence on the moon.

87. (Still hypothetical, almost mythical.) I've withdrawn from the world a little, still writing, traveling, and enjoying life while I still can. Other than writing, work consists mostly of being paid to talk while people listen and take notes. I escape a write in ballot campaign to make me Prime Minister of a Unified North America. (The USA collapsed just like the Roman empire did, and Canada picked up the pieces. It all works much better now.)

97. (Getting a bit more hypothetically creaky.) Since I'm widely regarded as a has-been, over the hill, and "what, is he still alive?", I keep to myself. I took up bee-keeping, with a tiny bout of spying on the side. (Some of you surely must get the reference?)

107. The singularity has arrived.

So, that's a nice life, don't you think?

And the blog you ask. What's good on the blog that I might have missed? First of all, the long reigning most read blog post, Stock on Road means only one thing complete with awesome comments, was dethroned by a determined bot that moved Run for Sherry into first by a large margin. I don't really count it though, since I know it wasn't real readers like you.

From oldest to newest, starting from 1000, or October 2011, picked because they make me happy, or were noted as being good.

My buddy Beth of Shut Up and Run fame tagged me here for a day in the life. Lots of photos.

One of my better essays, Genetic Consequences.

Some Deep Thoughts about me, in case you're still interested.

In addition to an Inner Shark, might there be an Inner Polar Bear? Includes a snazzy graph.

Here's lots more about my Inner Shark, with the tiniest bit of ranty swearing at the end.

One of my best rants ever, about a subject everybody loves. Boobs. Good comments too.

Ballroom dance, and triathlon. A discussion of athleticism.

One of my more frothing rants, where Alberta politics and religion mix.

One of my rare filks. Cheap Trick hasn't sent assassins yet, so they can't be too offended.

Another rant on modern life, with unrelated cat photo.

A tagging, and commentary on aging. Sister Madonna Buder forever!

The cat world view.

The care and feeding of a Mo, along with the inner shark. I can never shave it off. Nobody would recognize me.

I think this is the longest post, but maybe not. A ranty essay on health care. Get a big cup of coffee.

I'm a business analyst. I think about processes a lot. Even at a race.

I like Norse proverbs as applied to running.

Best tusks ever! And company on the run.

This will be the last one I leave you with. I hope it sticks in your mind, and you do your part, trying to make being a driver or pedestrian safer.

When will 3000 happen? At a day and a half per blog, that's near the end of 2019. But don't wait till then. Come back till you've read all the links above, and followed the linked within buttons at the bottom of each blog, and all the links in the blogs themselves, and keep coming back for all the good stuff between now and the end of 2019. Hope you enjoy the ride. Don't forget to comment.

Feel free to leave comments on any of those that strike your fancy. Comments are moderated but should go public within a few hours.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Your last chance for a while

I've had one request for an AMA (ask me anything.) This is blog 1999. If you don't ask now, you'll lose your chance. Don't say I didn't warn you. Maybe I'll make up questions and attribute them to you. After having lots of coffee and chocolate.

Slugdom has struck this week. I celebrate a laid off buddy finding work at a good company, coffee with a buddy, and lunch with a buddy, but other than that there isn't much to write home about.

In my epic swim commentary I missed the idea of inserting screen shots. I don't know how I did that. Or didn't. I've had a request for the slo-mo, but that will be next week. There are evidently ways to insert a voice over, circles and arrows, and other ways of making it great. Who knew? All this new fangled technology has me baffled sometimes. Some days I think I'm nearly the geezer that didn't know how to deal with a VCR. Soon.

The swim Tuesday was pretty good, but to fit into the crowd I had to start at an odd time on the pace clock, then I lost track a bit. I'm pretty sure I was about 18:30 for the K. Then some hard 100's, on 2 min, some backstroke to cool down.

There was a spin session in there somewhere, getting perilously close to the retaste zone while spinning up. I kind of goofed there, I hadn't meant to go so hard but got carried away.

Don't ask about yoga.

Running is de nada. None. Zero. Nothing since Sunday. I've been feeling tired and run down. Winter is almost here.

So tired and run down I think I'll go to bed now. Good night.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Swim video commentary

I hadn't known Michelle brought her phone onto the pool deck. Here's one of the resulting videos. There's another, done in slo-mo for 50 m, and that's much longer, but you can actually see what's happening. If there is sufficient demand I'll post that one too.

So you've watched. If you want to see it on youtube direct, go here. I must admit it doesn't look as clear there, as it does on my own screen. There's some good and not so good. Lets begin at the beginning.

First 3 or 4 seconds, note that I was looking at the clock. You can't see it, but when you're trying to improve, the clock is your friend. When you swim faster you will know, and then you can think about what you were doing right, or what you've stopped doing wrong.

I slide down into the water and tuck onto my feet against the wall. As I push off I'm well below the surface. Many people push off by leaving their head out of the water, bring their feet up to the surface, and poke their butt out. This makes a horrible wake and slows you down right from the start.

At 5 seconds I'm nice and streamlined off the wall, already beginning to kick.

At 6 seconds I've just about completed my first stroke with my right arm. I could push off stronger and glide further with a dolphin kick. I think I'm about under the flags, but can't tell. Note that my head is still completely underwater. When your head is down, your hips and feet can be higher.

At 7 seconds, my right arm has recovered and my left is just beginning to stroke. My shoulder is still slightly out of the water because I haven't completely rolled more onto my right side. My upper arm is still slightly out of the water, but my hand has speared into the water. There is a complete lack of bubbles around my hand. My butt is right up at water level.

At 7 seconds and a bit, my left elbow is pointed at the ceiling. My right is just beginning to start the catch, you can see there is still a complete lack of bubbles. My head is tilted ever so slightly up, and should be flat in the water.

At 8 seconds, you can see my left hand is just about to enter the water, and my right has just begun the stroke. No bubbles, but my elbow is not as high as it could be. My head is flatter in the water, and I've just finished sucking in air. My left hip is at the surface.

At 8 and a bit seconds you can see my left hand has entered the water and my elbow is still out. No bubbles. I sound like I'm harping on it, but until you are swimming clean, every bubble is evidence of a sloppy stroke.

At 8 and a fraction more seconds I'm wincing at where my right elbow is. Way too low, and looks like it's leading my hand. I know better. You can see a little splash where my left elbow is in the water.

Still not quite 9 seconds, my right elbow is emerging from the water. My left hand is still out in front, reaching forward, preparing to catch. It might be hard to tell, but I'm looking straight down at the bottom of the pool.

Still not quite 9 seconds, right hand is just coming out of the water, although my wrist is bent too much. Left hand still hasn't started the catch, I'm looking straight down, hips at the surface.

Still (STILL!) not 9 seconds my right elbow is up and I'm bring my hand forward. My forearm is relaxed. Left hand still out in front, still looking down.

Still pre-9 seconds, I've rolled onto my left side a bit, and my right hand is preparing to spear the water. The left is just begun the catch. My hips are at the surface.

At 9 seconds (at last!) my right hand is straight out in front, no bubbles, and my left has disappeared. I'm looking straight down, you can see a tiny bow wave over my head. My shoulders are out of the water.

At 9 and a bit you can see my left elbow most of the way through the stroke, but not quite emerging. You can see a bit of a bow wave around my right hand, so it's just below the surface. The higher it is in the water, and the further forward when you start your catch, the more water you'll anchor yourself onto.

At 9 seconds and a bit more you can see the left elbow straight up and my right hand just starting the catch. There's a subtle shoulder thing happening here. As I've been stretched out, reaching forward with the one hand, I'm starting to recover with the other. As the recovering shoulder starts to catch up to the arm, the catch happens, and your shoulders swap positions one forward the other back. This helps drive power to the stroke, in conjunction with the roll.

You'd need a fast finger on the stop watch to time how long a stroke takes from say, entry around to entry again, but it's under 2 seconds.  When I time the strokes on my right hand, it's 16 seconds from the time the first right stroke starts, to the end of the 9th, is 15.5 seconds or so. You don't have time to think about it.

Skipping forward to about 10 seconds you can see me breathing to my right side. My elbow is just out of the water, my hand still in. My left eye is in the water, and my head is flat this time. The bow wave creates a bit of a dip in the water where my mouth is. This is one of the great challenges of swimming, in that you have to breath at very specific times, and for a very brief time. You need to power those lungs to SUCK IN air. The flatter you are in the water, with your shoulders back, the more your lungs can expand. I'm told good swimmer breath out slightly between breathing in, but I'm still working on that.

At about 13 seconds you can see my feet, and it looks like a big kick, but my left heel is up near the surface. An underwater shot would be better, but you can see I'm pretty flat in the water.

At 21 seconds I'm getting ready for a flip turn. At 22 seconds my head is curling down, and all you can see is my butt, just barely, then it is up and out of the water. Fast now, my heels come up out of the water, and I reach around with my toes, looking for the wall. This happens with my hips flipping open so I'm flat on my back in the water, just under the surface. If you stay turtled up it takes longer to get around and you'll sink like a stone, and your feet will end up on the wall much too high and you're likely to push off pointing down. At just on 24 seconds you see between the ripples that I've pushed off the wall, and I'm just beginning to roll onto my right side.

At about 24 seconds you can see me just breaking out of streamline. I'm on my right side, and I'm just about to stroke with my left hand. It's almost a sideways stroke, with my entire upper arm out of the water, and my forearm pointed straight down. My head is under water, and my hips are just coming to the surface.

By 27 seconds I'm back in the groove, left hand finishing another stroke. I'm breathing, one eye in the water, head point forward, not up, with my mouth in the little depression from the bow wave.

28 seconds the right arm is recovering, but look at my head, you see the back of my head is almost under water. Remember head down means hips up, means flatter and faster in the water. Michelle sometimes visualizes being pulled along by her hair in a pony tail.

During the mid 30 seconds, look at my feet. The kick is much tighter, and it's up near the surface.

At the very end I cruise it into the wall, where a competitive swimmer would take another stroke. You  might not notice, but I looked at the clock. Then I did a lot of heavy breathing.

19 strokes on the way out, 21 on the way back if I've counted right, for a golf score of 79. Not bad, but not terribly good either. I was getting sloppy.

My learnings from this, and especially from the slo-mo version? I need to work on keeping my elbows up. Always. A competitive swim coach would talk about my weak and feeble kick, and they'd be right. Being a triathlete swimmer gives me slightly different priorities. The biggest piece there is that my stroke is not smooth in the water. It jerks around, partly because I'm pulling hard, but also I'm not doing it as well as I could be. Really, you don't grab a handful of water, and throw it backwards. You anchor your forearm and hand vertically in the water, and slide your body past it. Think of it as a Jedi mind trick. I need to work on this. I already know when I slow my stroke down slightly and really focus on anchoring it, I swim faster. But then when I try to swim faster I get sloppy.

Just to put my time (39 seconds for 50 m) into perspective, that is 78 seconds for 100 m (my best time for that ever is 83 seconds and best recently is 87 seconds), and 780 seconds (13 minutes) for a Km. (My best recent 1K time is 18:04 or so) For a real fantasy trip, that's 2964 seconds for Ironman distance, 3.8 K. That's 49.4 minutes. That's Ironman male pro territory! Then they get on their bikes for 180 K, and then run a marathon. That just shows you how good they are at what they do.

The swim club kids will routinely go sub 60 seconds for 100 m freestyle in a 25 m pool, and the Olympian men will do it in about 45 seconds.

Back to the swim video. Watch what my head does throughout. It rolls side to side, but stays pointed straight down the pool. My body follows my head, and stays straight, or mostly straight in the water. Twisting and turning will slow you down. I think I can be more rhythmical, and that will help my stroke.

So, there you go. If you want the slo-mo, you have to ask. You can see exactly what my hands are doing, and see better what my stroke is doing underwater. Questions? Comments? Any pro swimmers have any suggestions?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The split weekend

The Friday off was lots of fun, blogged here.

Then work Saturday. You don't want to hear much about it other than it being the culmination of what was really about a week's work, spread over several months, on and off again. When I say that one xl took 2 hours and 15 minutes to load you'll have a good idea how my day went. 49K rows of data. Glad that's done.

Today started with a bit of chaos caused by a cranberry, we think. All is fine now. The swim was really good, with video even! One slow-mo, one real time, each. I've been watching these, marveling at how much Michelle has improved, and even how much I've improved. I'm liking my stroke better, with the water entry being good, and my body position in the water is good. But I was getting sloppy on the stroke itself, leading with my elbow a bit. I might put mine up on YouTube with more detailed commentary, but I'm not up to that tonight.

This is why it's important to get video of yourself swimming if you want to improve. Whatever you THINK you might be doing, odds are it doesn't look that way at all. All this was shot above water level, so it's harder to see what's going on under the surface. I keep meaning to buy a Hero camera and shoot from underwater.

I found it interesting that my first 100 m I thought I was cruising along, was maybe going to end up being about 100 seconds, turned out to be 91. The next I tried a bit harder and was 94 seconds. After a short break I put it all together for 87 seconds. Contrast that with the 50 m swim in the video, that was 39 seconds. It's clear my speed falls off sharply when I double the distance.

Showering and changing after a swim is old hat. Getting run gear on is a bit more disorganized. Today there were about 7 other people in the locker room, and 3 of them were standing right beside me, and one of them was a smoker. Yack.

Then out for a run, nice and easy. About 8 K in an hour. We parked over at the canoe club. Once upon a time we ran from there all the way up to 64th Ave, in the dead of winter, check it out here.

Some of my long time readers might remember me running along the canal in the mornings. This started at the canoe club, across the canal, along it, and then along the Bow, with some pauses to check out interesting stuff, and take some run video.

I still look like T Rex, plodding along, but at least my feet don't look like they're trying to pick themselves out of a tar pit. I think I look very heavy on my feet. My hands are doing a floppy thing that looks looks weird, each arm doing something different.

On the way back we ran along the bluff above the river and paused to enjoy the view, and take some butt shots I mean, do panoramic model shots of the fine running gear we were wearing. It was a beautiful cool sunny morning, perfect for running. Mostly quiet, even though there's the Deerfoot right there, and no other running traffic. We weren't in the mood for that.

Even though in the photos the buildings downtown look a long way off, in real life they are right there. Sunrise photos from here can be pretty dramatic if you've got the right camera and lenses.

Weather coming in. We got a bit of rain later.

Those large round brick things? I've stood on them. I used to work there.

How could I not include this shot of them?

Coffee after, and picking up goodies at the Farmer's Market. Later I put some beef tenderloin on the BBQ, and we had a lovely meal. I'm currently fending off the cats as I finish my wine and write.

The astute of you will have already noticed the NaNoWriMo banner is no longer at the top of my blog. It's true. I'm not going to do it this year. My schedule is full already, and I still don't have any idea where that piece of the story is going. Maybe what I think is that great opening scene belongs elsewhere.

This is what I like about writing, the intellectual challenge of taking this wonderful story and characters that live in my head, and reducing it to a string of text that someone else can read and build their own world in their heads. Even though it's frustrating when it doesn't work out, or my characters aren't talking to me. Maybe their busy sorting something else out, and I'll wake up one day knowing what happens next. That day, I assure you, I'll take the day off work and write like a madman.