Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekend watching

Part of owning a home is doing maintenance on it. Or rather, to be more precise in this case, paying others to do maintenance on it. There are some basic tools in the basement. Some of them are even electrical power tools. Previous of my jobs have required the use of various tools in tasks not unrelated to home maintenance. I've done lots of various home maintenance tasks before.


That was then. I'm much more aware of what can go wrong with plumbing or electrical stuff. There's always a part or tool you need that you don't have, and you have to put things on hold to go get it, knowing, KNOWING, that this won't be your only trip.

Now I'm much more willing to pay others to get their hands dirty, and deal with the inevitable issues that come up. So for example. This tap dribbles. We've done the take it apart and soak it in vinegar and scrub with a toothbrush thing. It just dribbles worse now. Turns out you can't get parts for it anymore, at least not through the plumbing distributers.

Some people take this as a challenge and go hunting. Not me. The kitchen tap is much more than a decade old. The replacement tap isn't expensive. I have a limited (but hopefully large)  number of hours left on earth, and I don't want to spend them chasing tap parts. It's easier to earn the money to buy it, and have the moral satisfaction of keeping the economy going.

This tap is even older, and the handle has got all floppy and takes a bit of doing to turn off the water. It needs a new cartridge, whatever that means, plus a plumber with special tools to replace it. Kind of a pity, because we really like these taps.

In preparation. You don't want to know what we took out of there.

One of the things we took out of there was a video tape (you younger readers can google that, it's a real, if old, thing) giving instructions for the care and feeding of the counter surface. That counter was installed mid-90's or so. It's been sitting there for 20 years. You don't want to know what it's been buried under.

Replacing the taps was straightforward, for him. Once the old ones came out, I was glad I hadn't tried to tackle it. There is a tool that makes some of it much easier as you're working up behind the sinks. Plus there's a bit of fiddly stuff, and the instructions look really complicated. I'm happy to pay an expert.

There was also a bit of hot water tank maintenance, plus piping related to a furnace humidifier. All went well. I'm glad I didn't try that either.

In fact, the only problem turned out to be the kitchen drain line. We'd known the drain was slowing down, so I'd asked him to look at the P trap while he was under there. I just assumed that was full of guck. That was fine, though there was just a bit of "mung," as he called it, in the little almost horizontal section of pipe under the sink. We tested the drain after, and the first few seconds were awesome! Then it slowed down, and drained even more slowly than I had remembered. Then the other sink started filling up.

"Oh oh" he said. We went down to look at drain piping. There's a long run of pipe to the main drain stack. It was clear there was a low spot on the piping. Tapping it sounded full. Shaking the pipe didn't produce any sloshing or draining noises. "Oh oh," he said again. "I don't have the drain clean out tools, and I don't have the amount of pipe to cut that out and replace it. Plus you'd have to move all those books. Drain clean out time."

That guy and his specialized tools arrived the next day, and produced cat frightening noises. He did the kitchen sink drain, and the ensuite shower drain just because the second drain was half price. The kitchen sink drain works awesome now, sucking down with a whirlpool forming. The shower drain works better. Trying to do this myself, even with rented tools would be a frustrating use of time at best. At worst it would be trivially easy to create a horrendous mess from what used to be caked inside the drains. Need I elaborate? I thought not.

The only unfortunate thing is that I didn't get my run done while it was nice Friday afternoon. Thursday was a much needed rest day, and Friday an extra rest day, which isn't a bad thing in my books after 6 days in a row doing something every day. One of the things about the nice weather is that this becomes the running surface.

Saturday morning was a swim. We got in a half hour swim in the dive tank till we got kicked out, but by then the main pool had cleared out a bit. I joined a lane with 3 other people swimming my speed and had a fast K or so, plus some various intervals going harder.

There I am at the end of the pool, looking around wondering where Michelle and Amy have got to, when I hear my name. I can't see squat without my glasses, but it's the two women that had been water running in the next lane. Once she called again I recognized Rose's voice, and joined them to run for a bit as she and Madi had a long run and were looking for diversion. We chatted a bit, then Michelle and Amy dragged me off to the hot tub. Then breakfast. Yummy!

Today was a 100 minute spin. Longish warmup. 40 minutes at 150 to 160 watts in various gears at various cadences. Then some hard short intervals, and a cool down. It's feeling really good.

I'm pretty pleased with my month of workouts. Some people write up a calendar with planned workouts. I write down what I actually do. If you look carefully, you can see the novel writing progress as well. (At this very moment, the project is at 45203 words, and I'll be back at it as soon as I'm done writing the blog. The things I do for you guys!)

In the shower after I had some brainwaves about the book. I know what the next bits are. One of my characters is lying to a cop, and here I thought she was a good girl. Things are getting complicated.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Round and round, where we stop?

Tuesday was round and round day, running at Talisman. My phone says 4.36 K in 30 minutes. That might be true. Or maybe not. I suppose I could figure out almost exactly by figuring out laps and stuff, but I don't feel up to it. 25 or 26 times around I guess. I changed direction half way through.

This was at an easy pace, aiming for chatchatchat pace, but there was nobody to chat to. I wasn't sweating hardly at all during the run, but noticed more while doing a cool down walk, and I was sweating a bucket while doing some stretches after. That seems sort of odd. Running inside is still a bit odd to me. Better than a treadmill.

What impressed me was an older woman tottering along in the outside lane, cane in one hand, handrail in the other. When she got to a break in the rail, she paused a moment, then pushed across in a big effort till she got to the other side. I think she was part of the cardiology group. I don't know how she got to this, but for her, walking 3 laps is clearly a huge effort. She was only supposed to do two laps. Good for her.

Swam Wednesday, 1.5 K, 28:10, pretty steady pace, trying to go nice and easy and relaxed. I was so looking forward to the hot tub and it was being cleaned. Sigh.

Curtis still hasn't figured out the front door.

Some random photos, just because.
Dawn from Talisman. Shortly after this it got spectacular, but I was driving.

The same dawn once I was parked.

Sunset from home, facing south.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Curtis vs the front door

Curtis knows perfectly well the front door leads to out.

He tells us he just wants to go hunt his mouse, to contribute to the household. We tell him it's cold out, that the mice are hibernating. We tell him we suspect him of trying to hunt for better human servants. We tell him there are no better humans, and every other cat we might wants to lead the life of Curtis and Celina. We tell him it's a tough old world out there, and that he's been homeless before. He gives us a look and tries the door again. If he figures out the two locks, and the handle, next will be world domination. Look out.

Swam 500 m 9:20 feeling kind of slow and sluggish. 5 x 100 all right on 1:43. What's odd is that some of them I was trying to swim faster, and one of them I was dogging it. Then another 500 m 9:10. Felt pretty good. No hot tub though. Sigh.

Easy 45 min spin and some stretching. Then another 3 episodes of House of Cards. Still loving it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's the half-assed ones

This was after my run, but it hasn't changed much since this morning.

This is actually a really hard temperature to dress for. Get the layering wrong and you'll be drowning in sweat, or freezing your tail off. There's only so much adjustment you can make on the run.

Today I went with the usual shoes and socks, no yak trax or anything like that. One pair medium weight tights, no special wind or weather proofing. One short sleeved tech shirt, and the usual winter jacket. Gloves and a fleece hat finished it off. Not a coordinated fashion statement, but I don't care about that. For a guy my age, there's only one way a "fashion statement" goes, and it's not good.

Around the neighbourhood to stay out of the wind was perfect. I think if I'd been running into the wind or out on the exposed bike path for any length of time I'd have been looking for another layer.

5 K, 38 minutes, running carefully. We've had some melting the last few days, and a bit of snow overnight. There's a bit of moisture in the snow so it packs down a bit, and makes for surprisingly good footing, even over ice. Even with ice under the snow I don't slip much when I run, it's the walk before and especially after where I have to be careful.

Part of the trick is to land with your foot right under your centre of gravity, on your whole foot, or mid-foot. Not on your heel way out in front of you, or on your toes like a sprinter. It's too easy for your foot to slide out from underneath you. At best you'll land on your butt with nothing damaged but your pride. At worst you'll break something.

Some of the sidewalks were clean and bare, or well on the way to it. What's nice is that a couple of the people doing a good job pointed out icy bits. Running on that is good. Running on a sidewalk that was well shoveled and just has new snow on it is perfectly fine too. The snow is good footing. The bits along the curb to cross the roads are a bit tricky, but you know what's there, and it's good to do a bit of leaping and hopping.

What kills me is the half-assed shovel jobs. A meandering goat path in the snow. Only part of it done. One guy shoveled the driveway, and piled up the snow on the sidewalk. Jerk. One guy was using what looked like a toy shovel to push the snow around a bit, while smoking. He glared at me as I was going by, no doubt offended by the taint of clean living or something.

We even shoveled off the back patio yesterday. Two reasons. One is to get the snow onto the garden for the moisture when it melts, which is looking like next week. And the other is to get to the BBQ. We got a heck of a deal on Alberta rack of lamb, and it was awesome with a smokey barbecue rub Linda found, and a big Greek salad. Plus wine. Simple, easy, super-tasty!

Did you miss the latest visit of my inner shark?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forward at inner shark speed

Today was a good swim day. At first I wasn't sure I'd go. We finished season 2 of House of Cards last night, not late, but late enough and me tired enough from the spin yesterday that if I was asleep I was going to stay asleep. It's quite different than the BBC version, but equally good. I liked Ian Richardson (playing Francis Urquhart) and the way he broke the fourth wall. Kevin Spacey doesn't do it so well, but you see more the scheming and counter-scheming.

But no, habits die hard sometimes. I was up and ready. Talisman had only 4 lanes for us public, but Deb, Michelle and me got lucky and scored a lane to ourselves. Well, it started out that way, then another woman joined us. At first I was a bit worried, I was coming in for a turn, and she was floundering around at the end, right in the middle of the lane. Someone else was there too, so the turn was careful. Then we sorted ourselves out and it was all good with the 4 of us.

Then my inner shark came out! I was having a fairly strong swim, 500 m warmup in 9:05 or so, even with some waits to pass. It was the surges to pass that brought out the shark within. I could feel the water on my hands and forearm. Swimmers know what I mean. I'd slow down slightly, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, then accelerate hard to pass, then relax again. Some of my 50 m times were amazing for an ongoing pace! One was around 45 seconds, then back to my normal pace. I don't know if fartlek applies to swims, but that's what it felt like.

What was interesting was that I didn't really have to look to know where people were. A part of me was keeping track of where the prey , I mean, where the other swimmers were. It seemed to be easy to time the passes. For a while a guy in the next lane was trying to race me, flailing down the lane, splashing water everywhere. Then he'd stop to rest, and I'd keep going, periodically passing my lane buddies. It made for an interesting swim, and a really good workout. They seemed to be having a good time as well. Hot tub, but no sublime moment like the other day.

I'm not sure of the exact numbers. 500 m in 9:05 or so. 500 m pull about the same time. 500 m mostly kick, lots slower. 500 m nice and easy, working on stroke mechanics, thinking really hard about the water feel on both the front and back of my hands, what my shoulders were doing, and body position in the water. Played some drafting games with Michelle. A bit of this and that, with a bit of chat, in the water a little under 90 minutes or so.

On the way home I got to thinking about the state of the world, and my place in it. Part of it was fueled by watching Frank scheming his way up the ladder in House of Cards. I have known people like that in real life, and will go to significant effort to avoid them. Part of it is getting used to having more time for me, and what I want to do with that time.

There are things to accomplish, but I need to be careful I don't bite off more than I can chew. I'd like to say there is a step by step plan, with goals, and milestones, and targets, but that's corporate bullshit. I'm trying to do this day by day. Get up, do stuff, go to bed. Eat good food. Hang out with interesting people. Go places I haven't been.

Some of that happened Friday. The sunrise was beautiful, and one of our plants is looking out at the winter landscape in a blossomy sort of way.

We did a bit of a date day, starting with breakfast at Blue Star Diner. Awesome food. Bridgeland has become quite a hotbed of good restaurants. Then out doing some shopping for the house, with a side trip out to the deep SE to pick up the stuff. I'm very please I didn't walk off the truck dock. Then some errands along the way home, buying a The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah for the book club. Into the Italian Centre to check it out.

Along the way in the SE I was looking over all the various buildings. Manufacturing plants, warehouses, offices, whatever, connected by road and rail, as well as an invisible network of electric and data cables. Wireless antennas. Water and sewer lines. Gas and oil pipelines. It's an amazingly complicated network, and it mostly works very well. At least until some idiot demonstrates that they are not up to the cognitive demands of driving, and screws it up for everybody in the area.

The point of it all is to connect the people who want to buy or rent various products with the people producing them. In the middle is that intricate network. So many different things, all with their product codes, specifications, assembly instructions, manufacturing requirements, and so many people keeping track of where the stuff is, how many of them are there, who has bought them, or sold them, and the associated flow of dollars.

Perceived as a whole it's baffling complex, with inter-relationships out the ying-yang. Even with computer help, nobody can track everything about even one thing, let alone everything. That's why us data geeks take slices, or views of things. My boss sometimes rolls his eyes as I get pedantic about what exactly is making up the number I'm quoting, because it matters. You can't do set arithmetic if you don't know that your sets are congruent, or rather, you can provided you know exactly how the are incongruent and take that into account.

While we were picking up our new faucets, the warehouse clerk came back with one instead of two. One of them had been accidentally put on a pallet that was spoken for another job. She couldn't take it, even though it was mine, till they sorted it out. Somebody hadn't consulted the system when assembling the order. This seems to happen to me a lot lately. The computer system says they have x in the bin, but the clerk only finds y, and has no idea where the other is. Even with all the bar codes, and scanning, and tracking, and inventory counts, and point of sale systems, stuff still ends up where it doesn't belong.

Until very recently we used to throw many things into the landfill. For several reasons now, we are starting to track what used to be waste. We want to recycle products and materials. This means knowing what's in them, and developing a process to stream like with like, to go to the appropriate places. More tracking. More complexity.

If you have a kid contemplating what they want to do for a living, they could do much worse than go into data analytics or business analysis. These systems are only going to get more complicated, and they need people to build nice process diagrams to explain to software engineers how to modify existing software to cope. It's straightforward to track new things with bar codes. Old things with obsolete bar codes, or waste products with no bar codes are a different thing.

Then a hard bike spin in the afternoon, 1.5 hrs all up, with lots of short bursts at high effort. I like getting a good sweat on, but last time I was putting out that much effort I was snorfling sweat in as I breathed. Plus it dribbles/ pours down my glasses.

That isn't so much fun. I got a variable speed fan set up now,  with a remote even, and that makes the ride much nicer. I had to tie down the little piece of plastic over the trainer computer. Stupid Blogspot for unroatating it.

Thursday was a rest day. I was feeling knackered from the week, and glad it was only 4 days. Word is the lay-offs aren't done yet. Several of my IT buddies have been told they won't have jobs soon, May or June, or so. That reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon, a boss standing in front of the clerks desk, as he says, "I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go as of 4pm today, in the mean time keep up the good work."

That gives them several months to find a new project to work on, which is good because it might take that long. Looking for work now is tough sledding. There are companies hiring, but it's typically contract work, not employee, and they are asking for very specific skills. One good thing about times like these is they put some work into defining exactly what they want, which is good for everyone. If you don't have the skills, you don't waste your time applying. In busier times they might put out a job requirement that is so vague, it might as well be "can spell business analysis, and has used Visio."

The current read is still "Older, Faster, Stronger" I'm liking it, but it's a bit disconnected in some ways. She does a lot of name dropping about all these older athletes and times, but it's mixed in with her races, and I'm losing track of which one is which.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A sublime moment

During my swim today I was trying out some new goggles. The main result was seeing the crud on the floor of the pool much more clearly. A band aid. A hair scrunchy. What looked like some note paper. Assorted bits of plastic that look like they escaped the lane ropes. A metal S hook. Stuff. I think they installed new lights in the competition pool, and things still look a bit different to me.

The swim was fine, 500 m 9:15 with a slow start. 5x100 slowing from 97 seconds to 105. I tried 100 m hard, and thought I was doing good, till I saw 91 seconds on the clock. Oh well. Cool down.

The other pool had cleared out then so I did 20 minutes of pool yoga. That felt pretty good. I got a random assortment of minor clicks and creaks from my knees and ankles, but although my low back was feeling THAT close a major crack, nothing happened.

Some of you know the hot tub at Talisman. The 20 person one in the new building. There is a wide lip on it, maybe 2 feet or so, made of small white tiles. There were lots of little puddles of water on the tiles of the lip. The pool has lots of lights, and they were reflecting off the little puddles.

I was in the tub, thinking of nothing in particular, when some ideas for my book struck me, comparing and contrasting two world views. I was staring out towards the pool in what probably looked like a really vacant gaze. As you might know I'm really really short-sighted. At 25 m I'm barely able to tell male from female without my glasses, unless the suit is really bright and makes it really plain.

Suddenly I was seeing this independently through each eye. The tile grid lines were at a bit of an angle to one another, with one tilted up a bit. Many lights, many puddles, all reflecting through each eye. There was a bit of a curved lens effect so I could see much of the roof and part of the walls reflected in the puddles. Each puddle had a tiny rainbow effect around the edges and each light. I could see each version of the view independently. Listening to the sounds of swimming and splashing water. The warmth of the hot tub on my body. Smelling swimming pool. It was lovely and peaceful. A happy place.

I was just thinking about all those rays of light, created, bouncing off layers of water and tile and into my eyes, through my optic nerve, to be comprehended by my brain. Thinking of the uncountable number of light rays that bounce off other surfaces and are absorbed and dissipated, without entering a human eye. Did they really exist? Were both visions, the straight one, and the tilted one, equally real? Which was the tilted one? Could I choose which one I got out of the pool into? Thinking of the world duality I'm trying to express in my books, wondering where they're going to end up.

Let's see. The Monday swim was kind of blah. Good easy spin on Sunday, with some stretching and core. Tuesday I'm calling a rest day, though it was anything but restful. More people left Penn West, and not willingly. That put a real damper on the day.

Once upon a time I had thought of becoming a journalist. I'd read of the intrepid reporters chasing stories and the various hijinks they got up to. I see it as once being a bit of a romantic profession, knowing what's going on even if it's not published, contacts with (depending on your beat) politicians, police, criminals, what have you.

Once. That time is now long past. Postmedia, a form of corporate zombie bloated on the carcasses of previous media companies has laid off many staff and amalgamated newsrooms.It's a futile effort, I suspect. They are trying to make an outdated and broken funding model work. There are better ways of exchanging information now. One journalist had been at the Herald 34 years. If I'd entered that world, and stuck with it, that might have been me. I hope they still have a pension and it hasn't been pillaged.

Once upon a time I'd walk over to the 7-11 and buy the papers. We'd have a coffee, read the papers, and slowly wake up to a Saturday morning. I'm not sure when we stopped. The delivery of the actual mounds of paper became erratic, and the internet got faster and easier. Not better though. I still miss in depth stories, pulling together many sources into a coherent story. I miss editors, believe it or not. Anyone that reads the comment sections of just about anything now misses editors.

I'm minded of a saying. If the rich and powerful don't mind it being public, it's advertising, but if they try to suppress it, it's almost certainly news.With very few sources of newspapers now, which do you think is being published by them?

I'd like to think there is still a place for community news, for exposes of what the rich and powerful are trying to keep hidden from us, for a community voice speaking out on topical issues. It's just that nobody has really figured out how to deliver it and not lose money. As an iPad app, Zite was good, but it's gone. Flipboard was horridly painful to use. I've tried a couple others, but none stuck. Inform News app is sort of working ok, but I'm not in love with it.

There's a quote from Yes Prime Minister:
Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

Here, the Globe and Mail is read by the people that run the country, or think they do or should. The Calgary Herald is ready by people that see themselves as the right thinking majority. And the Calgary Sun readers don't care as long she's got big tits.

Now the Herald and the Sun are going to be run from the same office, which isn't going to work. Not at least in terms of delivering two different products. Another swirl around the toilet bowl, getting closer and closer to that final swoop out of sight.

I feel for the people who have been spat out of their jobs like used chewing gum onto the frozen sidewalks, whether they be newspapers, or oil and gas companies, or any other industry. I tell young people I work with that their choices in life are either that, or they take control of their working lives and decide themselves when it's time to leave a job. Very few people now leave a job through retirement on their own timing, and it's going to be fewer every year.

Now that you're all thoroughly depressed, here's a photo of Curtis cheering me up last night. Nothing like a purring kitty tummy rub to make you feel better.

As a bonus, a closeup of the paw of domination.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hashtag notaweenie

So this.





I love running with Michelle. She has a rock steady pace, and except for me going up the hills, it was all chatchatchat pace. We both nailed the layering. No SUAR ass-icles were formed in the making of this run, though I'm glad we weren't out in the wind any longer.

We didn't stop  for any other photos because we were afraid our phones would freeze (It's happened to both of us before)  but the Weasel Head is beautiful with snow and hoar frost on all the branches. We were alone for almost the entire run, which is unusual. This is a very popular place to run and bike, but I guess not at -16 C (4F).  The footing was very good, about half of it plowed, with a light layer of packed snow. The rest, down the hill and up the other side, had two packed paths so we could run side by side. Did I mention the chat part?

I'd mentally tagged 4 K as the turnaround point, and knew we were coming up on it at the bottom of the north hill. Michelle totally channeled Katie and said if we start up the hill, we go ALL the way up. So we did, imagining the police band piping us up.

Friday, January 15, 2016

So, that first official day of semi-retirement

Sorry mom, I know that you have a tough time thinking you have a child old enough to be almost retired.

I've been saying for a while that I wanted to start shifting to part time work about the age I am now. The thought of working on an interesting project for a while, then taking a break is calling me pretty loudly right now.

It was looking like that was going to happen with work last fall, in that I seriously thought my contract would be ended. Well, no. They extended it another three months, then last week we signed the paper extending it till the end of June, on the understanding I work an 80% week. Typically that means Friday's off. And just now at least, it's very interesting work, trying to match up a not-quite database with real data.

Last Friday I was in the office because I had a lunch date, so today was the first of my Fridays off. I am loving it so far. Even though I didn't sleep that well, I snoozed in a bit. I'd woken up with more ideas for the book, and even before coffee I pounded on the laptop a bit, then brewed coffee. The Christmas Blend from Crickle Creek, if you're wondering.

While I slowly sipped that, enjoying it immensely, I nibbled on breakfast and pounded on the laptop some more, to the tune of about 1500 words today, so far. All during that there were many cat complaints and a few house chores.

Then I went downstairs and got on the bike trainer. 1.25 hours, nice easy warmup, some fast spin ups, then 30 minutes at the top of my endurance/bottom of tempo pace. By the end I was dripping sweat, but my heart rate was nice and steady. Stretched. There were more cat complaints.

Nice soup for lunch. Then some shopping and research on replacing the halogen bulbs in the kitchen with LED's. Turns out we also need to buy the right kind of dimmer switch as well, which I hadn't known but they aren't terribly expensive, about the same as a bulb. The bulbs are $30 and there are 6 in the kitchen on the same switch. I'm having some trouble with that because I grew up with incandescent lightbulbs, and they are cheap like borsht. Sure the LEDs last forever, and burn less energy, but still. The world keeps changing. What next?

I spent a delightful time in Lee Valley shopping. There's still more of a gift card to use up. I brought home one of their big catalogues and plan to get more tools. Guys are always wanting more tools. Their product descriptions are amazing; they fill me with the desire to go buy something that I hadn't realized I urgently need. I'm thinking I spend a lot of time typing, and I should probably do something else creative with my hands to use different muscles.

More quiet time writing in the afternoon, then a lovely pheasant dinner. With wine, of course. A bit more writing, then I'll binge on more House of Cards. I hope I'm in shape to run tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Every surface under the twilight

The swim yesterday was pretty good. I scored a pair of goggles from a buddy that was pissed they kept leaking. Quiet pool. 500 m 9:10. 5 x 100 on 2 between 100 to 105 seconds. 150 m in 150 seconds. Then trying 200 m at the same pace, but ended up 224 seconds rather than 200. Something to work on. I'd sure like to make that my regular pace, which is just under a 17 minute K, when I'm currently swimming a hair over 18 minutes for a fast K.

Yesterday and today were so nice out, I was itching to go for a run, even on melty sidewalks. Finally got out there just before sunset today. The sky was a beautiful gray pastel with some interesting swirls. The footing was, was, interesting.

Runners care a lot about their footing. I'll run in minus WTF temperature with an even colder windchill, but I might bail on a run if there's a thin slick of ice. Today was a bit of everything, as you'd expect as the day shifts from just above zero, to just below.

The footing varied the same way, from bare dry sidewalk, to deep chalky snow that behaved much like sand, and almost everything in between. The worst of it was that it caked up on my shoes and felt odd on the bottom of my feet. Of course, maintaining cadence is hard when your feet are slipping backwards.

I'm full of ideas for the current book! This is very happy making. I've written myself into a place where lots of things can happen, and I just need to decide which of them happen in which order, and how it all ends up. For those who care about such things, my protagonist just survived a poisoning attempt. I'm past 32,000 raw words. Very raw. I just reread one bit and winced. Write first, edit later.

There is a quarterly Business Analyst breakfast meeting I try to attend. It's great for networking and keeping track of where people are. I've missed several of the most recent ones, but back on track now. At the last ones I attended, almost everyone was working in oil and gas, or trying to be. Today, only 1/4 of the people were in my industry. 1/4 were between gigs and not even looking at oil and gas, and the remainder were in a variety of other industries. How things change.

Did you miss the cats holding me prisoner or the first day of my recent vacation, wherein there are cat pics, snowy pics, and something else.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Help, the cats are holding me prisoner

They are tag teaming me, shifting their weight, making sure I can't get up. My lap is full. The laptop is off to one side so I can't type much, so this will be a short blog. No wonder my back hurts some days.

Oh, please. Help me. At least bring me a cookie then. With some milk, please and thank you.

Friday was supposed to be the start of my 80% time, but I had a lunch with a buddy scheduled so I showed up for the morning. It gives me a few hours in the bank what with some other things on the go.

Before you start feeling all sorry for me, being cut back on pay, think again. I'd suggested this to my boss back in December, but he claimed to not remember. I'm delighted by the whole thing. I'd been thinking about going to part time about now, so this works out perfectly. Which ties into some of the thoughts I discussed in my money blog from last week, if you missed it.

Lunch was the usual time and place, with someone I go to lunch frequently (by my standards) and a good time was had by all. I'd sort of thought about going running in the afternoon, but then got busy doing other stuff. Did some core.

Saturday was an excellent spin session! When I was last on the bike regularly I'd figured my FTP was 225 watts, and had written up a workout guide to the various effort levels. I've been slowly getting used to being back on the trainer again. I figured it was a good day to see if I could hit that mark again. I sent a text to a buddy, "Time trial starting 225W or puke." Just barely made it, my legs were beginning to complain and the spin was getting a bit rocky. The sign saying "This way to the re-taste zone" was clearly in sight. A little over an hour on the bike. Plus core after, though only 60 s of plank.

Sunday was a blah swim. I just didn't have it in me at all. No water feel until I'd been in the water about 45 minutes, swimming most of it, kind of sort of. Though I did put it together enough for an 87 second 100 m, even though the last 25 m was shite. Awesome breakfast after at the Blue Star Diner. Company and the food, in case you were wondering.

Then book club. Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. If you like the original Sherlock Holmes stories, you'll like this. Great atmosphere, interesting mystery, and the ending is awesome. We met at the Merchant's pub in Marda Loop. Excellent food! I'll have to go with an appetite next time.

Monday I was looking at this.

I can't count laps in the pool, so what makes you think I can count laps on a track? I had my phone keep track, kind of sort of. It says 4.25 K in 30 minutes, and that's close enough. Ran nice and easy, not trying to run too fast and stay in zone 2, but I think I drifted up a bit from time to time.

It's sort of soothing running around the track. I got lost in my book, and forgot I had planned to run in the other direction at the halfway point. There were some niggles in my left knee so I swapped a bit late. (I'm up to about 32,000 words on the book.)

My right knee was feeling like it wanted to click and wouldn't all day Saturday and before the swim. The hot tub helped I think. Overall the run felt quite good. One of my buddies was horrified that I'd run on the track, when I had either outside or a treadmill. I'm not feeling much of the outside love at the moment, and the treadmill scares the crap out of me. Maybe I've seen too many of those fail videos featuring treadmills. I know I don't run well enough for them.

Just to finish off, we got this lovely sunset while I was doing BBQ chicken on Sunday.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Resolutionista thoughts about money

I wasn't sure what I'd see going into the pool this morning. Normally the resolutionista's are out in force this time of year. They've decided that by golly, THIS year they're going to get into shape. There were lots of people on the track, and more than usual in the little workout area beside it, and lots in the gym doing some barf-inducing core workout. But the pool, same as usual.

What was funny about it is that the lane marked 'slow' had some actual slow swimmers in it, and the lane marked 'fast' had a bunch of breast strokers in it. Slow ones. The other lane had a couple guys that aren't good about sharing because they split a lane and race their workout. The other lane had 2 people swimming exactly the speed I swim. I joined them and had a great swim! 1500 m in 27:45, with fairly even splits. 3x100 slowing down quick, then 200 easy.

Hot tub, listening to some of the swim kids talking about what they're going to do. Getting laid and buying a motorcycle were the main topics. But it got me thinking about resolutions (which I don't do anymore) and the anti-resolutions.

Think about most people. You, my dear readers are different, I'm not talking about you. Most people sit too much, eat too much, pay far too much attention to the TV, and far too little attention to their money. Then they wonder why they're poor, and die young from preventable diseases.

So the hashtag #healthyish. Yes, eating less meat, more fish, and a lot more plants is good for you. Avoiding fast food almost entirely is really good for you and better for your wallet. It's now 36 years or so since I've eaten McDonalds, and longer since Kentucky Fried Chicken. Even meeting a dear run buddy inside a McDonalds was a trial, and picking up KFC chicken fingers for Linda nearly made me spew just going inside. I told Linda she need never doubt I loved her.

But really, how many (people you know+ people resolving to lose weight) actually do so more than temporarily? That's because they rely on willpower, and try to do stupid things like going against a lifetime of bad habits. It is very, very difficult to go from a lifetime of eating junk, to eating every meal as a perfectly healthy, utterly optimum nutritional dense, calorie load perfect meal. You start by dropping the worst of the junk, and replacing it with healthier food. Little by little, over the weeks, the months, the years, you get rid of the crap food and replace it with good food. You will get healthier, and you will lose weight. Sort of like the "overnight success" bands that worked at it for 10 years.

Now the hard part for most people. One of the reasons they don't eat healthier is because it's more expensive up front, and sometimes takes more time. If you're working 2 or more part time jobs trying to make ends meet, eating healthy is going to be tough. Baby steps.

Now, about the current stock market decline. You might think I've changed topics, but no. Most people, and this might include some of my dear readers, maybe, perhaps, are stupid about money. They've never been taught the important things about it.

Here it is. Money is the only tool that can make more of itself. Most people think of money as a way of buying stuff and if you don't spend it quick on something you'll be forced to spend it on bills or something. If you think that, you are wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. It can be used for that, but that's like using a car's air conditioning system to cool your patio. It can do so much more.

What money really does is insulate you from being controlled by people and institutions that are not your friends. Banks, insurance companies, governments, those payday loan places, and car dealers are the worst ones I can think of off the top of my head. They want to keep you fat, poor, and stupid.

When you think of other tools, there's a good and bad side. Fire can cook your food, and burn your hand. A table saw can cut materials to a desired size very quickly, and remove your fingers even faster. Money, if it's working for you, will make more of itself with very little effort on your part. If it's working against you, it will drain your life away to feed the profit of rapacious corporations. Remember what I said about fat, poor, and stupid?

Most people think of making money as a hard thing to do, and they're wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. This is where the resolutionista thoughts come in. Some people resolve to try to save more money, and  most of them don't succeed. To be fair, they are up against an entire culture that makes it hard to accumulate money. Remember those institutions? They don't want you to have a lot of money because then you wouldn't need them. Sure, you might use a bank, but when you have lots of money the bank pays you, rather than you getting buried in interest, service charges, and fees.

It builds on itself, both ways. When you have money, you can get better deals when you do buy stuff, such as groceries, or a car, or more financial instruments. When you don't have money, you pay more. Even worse, debt is negative money, sucking what little you have away like a remorseless lamprey eel sucking your life blood away. Right now, google an image of a lamprey eel. Those teeth, clamped into you, sucking your life away.

There are two kinds of debt. Good debt is used judiciously to buy things that will appreciate in value, like financial instruments, art objects. A mortgage or home equity loan, or a student loan might be good debt depending on the exact circumstances. Bad debt is a car loan, overdue credit cards, overdue bills of any kind, and lots of other things.

Debt for most people should be treated as an emergency instead of a lifestyle. I'm about to say some unpopular things here. The single smartest thing you can do is stop paying for cable. Completely. No more television. This will do 3 things.

  1. It allows you to put what used to go to the cable company towards paying down debt, worst interest rate first. 
  2. It cuts down on the commercials and stupidity that encourage you to be fat, poor, and stupid. No, you do not deserve the lifestyles and stuff you see on tv shows. Those people are not real. No, you haven't earned it. No, you aren't worth it, at least not now. Not till you have no debt, and can pay cash, without touching emergency funds.
  3. It frees up many hours a week that can be used for any of the following three purposes. Move your fat ass more doing whatever activities are fun for you and your family. Learn how to use money as a tool and that includes figuring out other ways of spending less money. Prepare healthier meals for you and your family.

Your first priority is to get debt out of your life. All of it, gone. It won't happen overnight. The only time you don't pay down debt is if you can invest in a product that makes money faster than your worst debt is sucking it from you. Nothing legal makes money faster than credit card or payday loans suck it from you.

When I say get rid of debt, I mean you have to be effing ruthless. Examine every dime you spend, being especially suspicious of "treats". Treats are rare at the best of times, and rarer still when in debt. Starbucks, well, don't get me started. Lots of people have stuff in storage. If you aren't using it, sell it, get rid of the locker, and apply it to the debt. I guess unless it's a heirloom or something. Buy a cheaper car, and drive it less. Remember what I said about moving your fat ass more? No vacations on the credit card unless you can pay it off in full that month.

There are all sorts of ways to have fun without watching tv, and without spending much money, if any at all. Your local library is a great place to start looking. I'll be really blunt here. When someone tells me "I'm bored", what I hear is, "I'm stupid." I leave. Get such people out of your life. You want to be a winner? Start dumping the losers out of your life.

The financial books talk about saving 10% of your net income, and I laugh! This is the absolute bare minimum. Once the debt is gone, or is reduced to where there are investments that are a better deal, you'll continue your thrifty ways. I don't think there's been a year, 2009 excepted, where I've invested less than about 15% of my gross. I think last year it was half. It's often been 25% or so, year in, year out, and I don't think I'm living some poverty stricken lifestyle. Oh, and all of your income tax refund cheque goes to debt or investment.

Putting your income tax refund into an RSP is the gift that keeps giving, year after year. Why? You can deduct contributions from your taxable income. Depending on your tax bracket, you could get a third of that back. Which, of course, you promptly put into your RSP again, and you get a third of that back. It goes like this, with amounts simplified so you see how it works. The first year you scrounge $500. That's a couple coffee-like beverages a week at Starbucks.
year 1, deposit 500
year 2, tax return 165, + 500 = 665 contribution
year 3 tax return 665*.33 = 220 + 500 = 720 contribution
year 4 tax return 720*.33 = 237 + 500 = 737 contribution
year 5 tax return 737*.33= 243 = 500 = 743 contribution
You now have $3365, plus whatever returns that are generated by that money in the RSP account such as interest, dividends, capital gains, from the $2500 you put in.

This is where it gets good, where your learning about money will start to pay off. You decide where to put money to earn income. At first the amounts are small, but they grow. I thought I was going to break my face smiling when I saw a statement that said I made more from investments in a quarter than I did in salary. Don't expect that to happen all the time, though.

Go look up compound interest. Look at an Andex chart.  These are fascinating, and a superb example of an infographic. This one shows you what $100 would be worth now if invested in various instruments in 1950. Some of them go back to before the depression. The single most important thing you learn from such charts is to hang tough during days like this week. The people that sell off now have locked in their losses and demonstrated why they remain poor. Investing takes smarts and if you do it properly you don't need nerves of steel. You just need that bit of smarts, and some patience. The smarts might be to find someone really smart about money, and pay them to manage yours.

Then what happens?  The single most important thing is you sleep at night when you hear rumors of a layoff at work. In fact you might volunteer to work part time, so you have more time to do the things you want to do. To work on your own stuff. This is pure gold. I essentially didn't work for most of 2009 and the early part of 2010. Our life didn't change in any material way. We didn't worry. Why? Our house was paid for, and we had investments. I've just been offered a chance to work 80% of a regular work week and you can bet I snapped it up.

Having money gives you staying power, or the freedom to walk away from a bad situation. You don't need to take the first job that comes along when you're looking. What else? You smile when interest rates go up, because you make more money. You don't worry about becoming homeless, or having the bank repossessing your car. In fact, if you decide you still need a car, you look for the cheapest way to get it. You decide what you want to spend your money on, and it isn't an emergency. You can look for deals because you can wait. You can afford to renovate your house when you get a break on prices, and you don't sweat a few thousand in extra costs. You can buy those nicer appliances and pay cash. Actually you put them through your credit card to defer paying for them for a month, and you might get points or discount.

What else? When you find a wine you like, you buy a case. You travel where and when you want to go, and don't have to scramble for some cheap ass flight crammed in like a sardine, to go to some crappy room in a tacky all-inclusive resort. You aren't fussed about fluctuations in the exchange rate. When shit happens because this is life, you have so many more options to solve the problem. You can get on with things rather than waiting for an insurance payout. You rent a replacement car. You take that flight to go to a funeral or wedding. You pay the surcharge so the plumber comes right now. Your question isn't "can I afford it?", it's "Do I want to afford it?"

It's possible to have a perfectly nice life without money, but it's more difficult. Money gives you choices, and makes it easier to do the things you want to do with your limited time here. That's why it's worth learning about.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

We are 31

No, that's not the royal we.
No, I don't have a tapeworm, though I do have cats.

31 years ago today there was a chinook, ordered by my mom. It was 5 above, and the sidewalks were steaming gently. The guests amused themselves walking outside without their jackets or coats. A few threw snowballs at each other.

The best man never showed up, and just as well. I found out later on he had been over at his brother's place, working on a car. The brother's place was about a 5 minute walk from here. He could have easily dropped in, just to say hello, grease up to the elbows. I recruited another on the fly. I'm adaptable like that.

All the guests easily fit into our house. The deed was done, we nibbled Black Forest cake and some other goodies. Total cost then was a little over twice the price of the meal tonight, and we're just as married as the people that spent 10s of thousands of dollars on their wedding. Actually, more married. Lots of those people divorced.

31 years later we're still in the same house. I didn't have much hair then, and less now. I'm a lot heavier, but given the supply of cookies over the years, that won't be a surprise to anyone. We've been supervised by a steady stream of cats, in order: Sebastian, Thorin, Nefertitti, Amelia, Bernard, Curtis, and Celina. There was a few months hiatus between Amelia and the current bosses. All of them have made it clear they WILL be talking to the cat judge about what completely inadequate humans we are.

We still have a few of the things we moved in with. Linda's dining room table which we used until a few weeks ago. My dining room table turned into the laundry room table, and hasn't been seen for decades. Other stuff. We tend not to replace something if it's still working. We recently replaced a washer that we bought shortly after moving in.

A weird fact for you. Linda wore a family heirloom ring, and I didn't wear one for years. I had a job where my hands sometimes went into odd places, and a ring was a bad idea. Then on a trip to California for an SCA event, which also involved me wearing Micky Mouse ears as a temporary deputy of the person running the event (yes there is a photo, and no there isn't a photo of the photo, if you know what I mean) and I saw a jeweler selling stuff. I tried the ring on and was hooked. I didn't want to take it off. It seemed like a lot of money then, but it still looks good. Later on I got a matching ring for Linda from the same guy.

Only 3 cars in all that time: 83 Honda Accord, a 95 Dodge Caravan, and a 2004 Honda Accord. History says it's time to get a new car soon, but I don't know. These new-fangled things are just so full of electronics. Just one more thing to break. After buying you have to make an appointment to introduce your car to your phone and get them on speaking terms. I fail to understand how it's distracted driving if I glance a text on my iPhone, and NOT distracted driving if I'm fumbling around with a touch screen trying to change radio stations, on a badly designed interface that's got stupid and unresponsive with the cold. And no, I don't look at my phone when I'm driving.

To celebrate we went out to The Lake House, what used to be called Inn on Lake Bonavista. Not a place to go to for a casual after work meal with the family. It's a nice upscale place, and the food is WONDERFUL! I had the bison tenderloin and back ribs, Linda had the caribou leg. Both were yummy. Half bottle of a nice wine that we last had in Italy and liked a lot. Really good dessert. If you've got a special occasion in mind with your sweetie, you could do much worse.

No pictures of food. No pictures of the picture of us, way back in the day. No pictures of the cats. Sorry about that, I know for some of you the cat pictures are the only reason you come here.

Swam this morning, just to build an appetite. The hot tub was working again! 500 m 9:15, gradually speeding up. 5 x 100 on 2 between 100 and 105 seconds. The last was pretty shaky. 100 m in 88 seconds and I blew the last flip turn. Monday was some serious stretching and core. I was beat after a long day back at work.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The temptation to apricate

Today I slept in. If Blogger were better about formating, it would be a giant calligraphed red letter day. This doesn't happen often. Linda had already made coffee when I got up. Another clear sunny day here.

After a nice breakfast and slowly waking up I headed out for a run. It was still a bit cool, -10 C or so, but I didn't want to wait till the warmest part of the day. Dressing for that is a bit more tricky. The intent today was to a nice long slow run. Long and slow being relative of course. Just around the neighbourhood, going places I haven't been in a while.

What was good about this is after months of working on this, I'm getting better at maintaining my cadence. All too often towards the end of a run my feet start slowing down. But look at this!

I'm pretty pleased. That one dip towards the end was slogging up a hill where the path hadn't been shoveled yet. Other than that I chugged along about a 7:20 per K pace, 7K, 51:30, feeling pretty good indeed. Almost all of it was at a chatchatchat pace. Legs and feet felt light and good. No niggles.

Back home again I'm nibbling a snack, fresh baked scones if you must know, to discover the cats apricating full speed ahead.

They were both snoring gently. It was so tempting to sit down and join them. Instead I went downstairs for a good stretch. Then worked on my book. I'm at a bit of a stuck point, wondering how to get into a particular scene. The last bit of writing is a scene in my head, but I'm not sure of it's place in the book. Sometimes you don't know these things till later.

Yesterday was a nice spin session. A buddy came over to try out my spin trainer and the associated power meter. This was very interesting for all involved. I've often said that unless you are already a mid to front of the pack racer, you don't need a lot of training toys. Just doing the activities, gradually building speed, strength, stamina, all those good things is the single best thing you can do. At this stage trying to wring every ounce of efficiency out of your time by training at a specific heart rate, getting the best gear to shave a few seconds, is a waste of time and money. Things are different if you're a front of the pack racer. I figure I'll worry about it if I ever get there.

An example. Learning to spin around and around rather than mashing up and down. One leg drill is a simple way of doing this, listening for the sound of the trainer. Anything but a smooth whir means you're mashing. It doesn't matter what your cadence is, what the watt output is, or how expensive your bike is. Learning the skill will pay off big time next year when you get outside again.

Or this, learning to spin faster and smoother. As you speed up you will reach a point where you start bouncing around, and your butt and back fat start resonant jiggling. It doesn't really matter what the rpm is. When I started it was just over 100, as I recall. Find that speed, and learn to spin without bouncing. Engage your core, learn to be still. By learning to spin faster, you will spin better at lower speeds.

I haven't been doing plank every day for a while now, and I got schooled. 90 seconds for me, 2 minutes for my buddy. Lots of stretching after the spin session.

Back to work. Sigh. This is going to be tough.

Friday, January 1, 2016

I shut up and ran.

I looked at the dawn of a new year, and contemplated going for a run. In the end I decided that coffee and breakfast first was a reasonable choice, and ran about noon. It was below zero though, so it's not like I weenied out or anything.

Still, I was thinking of a recent blog by my blog buddy Beth Risdon. It isn't what you'd call delicate, but then, she isn't a delicate kind of girl. She tells it like it is, and gets out there to do it. (Those of you who read her blog regularly realize how delicate *I* am being with the 'do it' part of that statement.) I want to bring a bit more of this shut up and get on with it attitude to my workouts. Within reason of course, and the limits of my tired old bod.

So, me, today. I'd started with more writing this morning. The coffee was so good! Writing and coffee go together so well.  Things have been going well. I'm up to 23,500 words. Some of it conversational blither, of course. I woke up to a great scene, but I'm not sure what the point of it was, or where it belongs. Maybe I should write it down anyway, so the idea fairy keeps bring ing more ideas. I decided to shut up with the words for a bit, and go run. 5 K, 35 minutes nice and easy, trying to relax my hams, and not provoke my left calf. It's feeling a little cranky. It's a beautiful day, clear and sunny, a few degrees below freezing. The run felt great, not many other people out yet.

Yesterday was a nice swim, though still no hot tub. 1.5 K, 29 minutes, feeling very slow in the water, like my arms were going around and around, but not getting a grip. Water ran with Katie after.

The exciting part of the day was some shopping. Costco first and what a zoo that was! I had to park across the road. All sorts of inconsiderate people shambling around like half slaughtered oxen. Just in front of me a couple people got into the store, and stopped right there, looking at the tv display. I didn't recognize the movie or show, but I did recognize the copious amounts of drool. Ick. There was one old geezer with a loud and fatuous voice that I couldn't get away from. They moved the cheese.

Co-op next. Not so many people, but they were all trying to get in my way, I'm sure. I didn't actually trample any of them.

While in Costco I picked up the 3 season set of House of Cards, the American version. I have the British version with Ian Richardson, and loved it! So far, (2 discs) I'm loving the American version, which is a bit of a surprise to me. I hadn't planned on staying up till midnight, but the show carried me along.

So here we are, 2016. I'm not going to inflict any summary of the year on you. Nor am I going to list out my resolutions. I'm not a resolutions kind of guy, other than the afore mentioned desire to be less of a slug, and to get on with the things I want to be doing. There might be a bit more trampling in the year to come. I'm quite sure I reached peak patience several years ago, and my supply is declining.

So far I've got 3 months of work lined up, and who knows if that will actually happen, or what will happen after? I've totally loved this couple weeks off, even though I didn't get to sleep in much. Afternoon naps are nice.

The cats. Here they are, both ignoring me, paying attention to the human in charge.