Monday, February 29, 2016

NIMBYism revisited

Last week my wife and I attended an information session in our neighbourhood on the proposed SW BRT line. I blogged about it here. You may wish to read that, if you haven't already. Many of you have, and even posted thoughtful comments, thank you very much for them and the retweets. The topic is still active on Twitter, with the hashtag #swbrt. I've been thinking about it and some thoughts have gelled.

Is there anyone that doesn't need to get around the city? We all have places to go. Work, home, social activities, shopping, the list is endless. Calgary is a big sprawling city, and it's been mostly designed around a car-centric culture. Why wouldn't anyone want to get in a car and drive where they want to, park nearby, do whatever, then drive to the next place, park, and repeat until you're done? Note the key words here, drive and park. We'll get to them.

We might all want to do that, but some of us can't. Not the under 16 crowd. Not the blind. Not the people with certain medical disabilities. Not some of the elderly, and eventually all of us will be so elderly we shouldn't drive. Not those who can't afford a car, or the various expenses that go along with it.  Not those with a philosophical objection to cars and the damage they do, and are willing to put their feet (so to speak) where their mouth is. It might not be any one thing, but a combination of them that puts a car out of reach.

There are other choices besides owning a car, but are car based.  For purposes of this blog, all powered wheels are considered cars. Services such as taxi, car sharing, handi-bus, and similar are all lumped together here. One might rent or borrow a car, but if you can't drive, that isn't any help. Perhaps you can ask someone to drive you, or pay someone to drive. That can get expensive quickly. None the less, some of these models work for some people, at least some of the time.

What else? Calgary transit operates an extensive fleet of buses and light rail transit vehicles. You could use a human powered vehicle, such as a bicycle, trike, or some of the enclosed versions of these. For the more adventurous there are skateboards and roller blades, though I don't see so many of the latter as I used to. You can go old school and walk. I need not go into the advantages or disadvantages of each. At the least, the distances, weather, or cargo carrying capacity impact all of these.

During my childhood there were many magazines predicting personal helicopters, flying cars, and jet packs. I don't think we have to worry about these coming along, and for the flying cars it's just as well. Too many drivers demonstrate on a daily basis that they lack the skills for the current driving environment; adding in a third dimension would probably add so much chaos it would end civilization as we know it. As an aside, I don't call them accidents. I call them demonstrations of driver incompetence.

One aphorism I liked during the bike lane debate was “counting the number of people swimming across a river doesn’t tell you how many would use a bridge.” Riding a bike on the street with cars driven by error prone humans can be a very risky activity. Being physically separated from the cars is a good thing. Every person on a bike instead of a car makes more room on the streets and parking spaces. Yet the debate around this gave me the impression that for some people it was the end of the world.

Pedestrians don’t have it much better. On average in Calgary a pedestrian is struck and injured every day by a car. You know the pedestrian doesn’t come out ahead in such a collision. I’ve had several occasions where I’ve stepped into a crosswalk on a walk signal, and quickly backed out again to avoid being struck. It's probably happened to you too. Calgary is experimenting with some “scramble” intersections where all traffic is to stop, and people can cross any which way they like. These were protested too. I mean, making drivers stop, it's against nature!

Even the parking piece is important. Cars take up a lot of space at each end of the trip, space that can't be used for much else even when empty. Depending on how it’s done, we can put 10 to 20 bikes in the space taken up by one car. Granted, if people want to go places by bike, there needs to be some space allocated to change rooms and places to wash up.

We need to be smarter about transporting us and our stuff around. Not just here in Calgary, everywhere. We need to escape the delusion that cars are the only solution, even if they're electric or self driving. We need to look at what’s cost effective and will serve everyone, not just the rich people that can afford cars. To me it’s a no brainer that transit should accommodate the handicapped. I’ve never understood why a rush hour LRT with 600 people on it is waiting at a downtown red light for a few dozen cars to cross the tracks.

A rich ecosystem of transportation options allows us to find out which ones work in the real world, not just in an engineer's model. It's worth the money to build it and find out. To put it in perspective, the projected cost of the SW BRT is $40 million. Not chump change by any means, but the annual budget for the City is $4 Billion. For comparison the interchange at McLeod Trail and 162 Ave is projected to be $68 million.

But this is what really gets my goat. I’ve never understood why it’s so difficult to even discuss these things. I can understand people getting upset when they learn a proposed LRT line is going to be mere feet from their their home, or worse, if the home will be replaced by tracks or a right of way. There's a process for these situations, and the very nature of it means someone is probably going to be unhappy at the outcome.

But a bus route, people? One that doesn't take out any homes, reduce the number of traffic lanes for cars, or even require any sound barriers to be moved. What is there in this to produce the ragey-pants Mercedes driver? I don't know if he actually belongs to the opposition group that will remain nameless here, but whether they like it or not, he's the face of their group on this issue. Even if you don't like the idea, there is no reason to lose it and go postal. Keep on driving and parking if you can afford it. The fact there is some construction work that has to be carefully done to accommodate existing infrastructre isn't a reason to not do it, it's a fact of life on every construction project.

Those aren't the only issues where people come unglued. Secondary suites, cat licensing, and fluoride come to mind, and there's probably others. For some people these aren't just issues they disagree with, worthy of a sternly worded letter to your city councillor, or maybe even showing up to speak at a public session. These have produced no-fooling, lose your shit, over-the-top tantrums worthy of Mercedes man. You'd think grownups would have more dignity and self respect, to say nothing of more respect for the people they're addressing.

We pay the City staff to spend our taxes to provide the services that make a city work. Calgary and other North American cities are amazingly complex things. The solutions that worked in the past, build more roads, bridges, traffic lights, freeways, don't work so well anymore. We need new solutions. We need smart and innovative professionals to research the various alternatives and come up with proposals. We need engaged citizens to provide reasoned feedback on those proposals. The city has to provide an opportunity for feedback at that crucial window where the engineers have figured out what's feasible, but the project isn't set in stone yet.

Let me stress the feedback has to be civil. People that yell at or otherwise abuse their employees are beyond the pale, and yes, Mayor Nenshi and all the city staff are our employees. That doesn't mean they do any fool thing some random taxpayer demands of them. They have to serve the whole city. All of it. All of us. There's far more detail to it than most people realize.

The key point here is that transportation is not a zero sum game. It's not like we're trying to share a plate of cookies, and you can't have a cookie that I've eaten. There's a concept most of us learned in kindergarten, called sharing. We all live here now. We need to build the city so it works for all of us.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Inchoate. Disjointed.

This has been an odd weekend. Lately I've had some really good writing happen on the weekends, but not this time.

I sort of wrote myself into a corner, then backed up and I've got a bunch of places it can go. The problem is that none of them are congealing in my head. I'll start thinking about it, then my thoughts go to other scenes and depart from there, taking the story somewhere else. My characters are enjoying themselves, leading their lives, but it's awfully confusing for me. Sometimes I can't tell what's foreshadowing for something important, and what's random chat.

Often it's Curtis that "helps" with the writing but today it was Celina.

Here's a better shot of her entire face. She's such a pretty cat.

Worse has been trying to write a followup to NIMBYism, from the middle of last week. I'm feeling a lot of things about the whole situation, but coherent isn't one of them. Some of my long time readers might remember my theory about television, that aliens have been playing with tv programming so as to turn human brains into tapioca pudding. It seems to be working, especially on politicians and their prey. If their intent is to come harvest the crop, they'd better come soon. It's well on the way to spoiling if politics in the States is any indication. I mean, Donald Trump. For President. Seriously??

This is one reason fiction writers have it hard. We labour under the demands of plausibility. No publisher would buy a book with Trump making what is so far a successful run for the Presidency, in spite of (or I really fear is because of) the amazingly stupid things he's said so far. If the writer self-published, nobody but the author's family would buy it. And yet here we all are. There's so much stupidity it's going to slop over into Canada.

The Friday run was good, till I crashed. Polysporin is great stuff and I'm pretty well all healed up from that. I was down and out for most of yesterday. Today was 5K 35 minutes and all was good till I whacked my right wrist against the post office box. I'd been chatting with a neighbour after the run and was walking back to the house when I took a bit of a ride. Whap! I don't think I broke anything. There's no swelling, only mild pain and stiffness. Holding the shift key down with my right little finger is the most painful thing I've done today. I am hopeful about a swim tomorrow, but lets see.

Friday, February 26, 2016

two extremes, back to regular programming

It's been quite a week for the blog.

Tuesday I posted a bit of an in joke, trying to lure my writing buddies into reading about SQL. It didn't work. That had the lowest readership post for many months. No surprise, even thought it's good SQL, neatly formatted and all, together with the story of how it got that way.

Then the very next day I posted NIMBYism, and well inside 24 hours it turned into my all time most read blog, with nearly 12 times as many readers as the day befores. The readership counter is still ticking over, just much slower now.

It's not that I've done anything different. There are lots of essays and rants on various topics. This one was particularly topical, with the event hitting the news, being mentioned by the mayor, and,  (the really strategic part), getting lots of retweets. I'll probably do a follow up on it, since the event is still in the news.

Fitness, coming off a meh week.
Monday, swim 1K 19:50 long course, feeling slow and weak.
Tuesday, run 4.5 K 30 minutes, feeling pretty good.
Wednesday, swim blah. Feeling really slow and weak. No water feel at all. 500 m easy, then trying 5 x 100, working hard, but really slow, barely making my interval.
Thursday, rest.
Friday, ran 3.5 K 24 minutes, running nice and easy, (just under 7 min/K pace) when I crashed, and banged my elbow hard on the way down. The one I banged a while ago, and it seems I bump it on something every day.

On my book, I think I've written myself into a dead end. I've tried a couple routes forward, and they don't go anywhere. I think I'll have to back up my last 500 words and start again from there. Just had an idea. Gotta go.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Last night we attended an information session in our neighbourhood about a proposed transitway project that would run from here to downtown. We got there early, and just as well. The hall was already full, and the lineup to get in was short.

There were lots of display boards with maps, which I'm a big fan of. I love maps. Lots of display boards with Q&A from previous sessions, and other information. There were several places to provide feedback via sticky notes. The room was full of people milling around reading the displays and talking to each other. Lots of city staff, including our city councillor (used to be alderman) were on hand to answer questions, and what I saw were polite and cheerful people receiving questions that ranged from polite to mildly upset. I gather that changed after we left.

Some of the comments revolved around parking, fearing that someone from outside the neighbourhood would park in front of their house, or in the local shopping mall parking lot. Fearing that transit would bring in the homeless. Fearing that Transit Oriented Development would happen. Fearing that a lane a few inches narrower, but still within the safety standards, would be beyond the abilities of other drivers to handle. (Not them, oh no!) Fearing that not only was there insufficient ridership, there never ever would be sufficient ridership. Fearing vast parking lots that would attract crime. Fearing that running buses on an expanded 14th street would crush the gas pipelines underneath.

Fear, fear, fear. When did we become so afraid?

There's an important place for community feedback. Our taxes pay for the projects, and we should have some input on it.  There is approval, constructive feedback, and essentially 3 kinds of disagreement, of which only two are legitimate. I call them rational, ignorant, and stupid.

The first, rational, presents whatever facts can be marshalled against the proposal, or in favour of alternative proposals. Actual real true facts, instead of made up 'facts' that are actually uninformed opinion. If you have the facts on your side, you don't need to yell.

The second, ignorance, isn't an insult. It's people that might be against a project because they don't understand it, or don't realize there was a need, or don't realize their concern has been addressed in the design, or that things have changed since they first heard of it. They have questions because they don't know yet, or the informational materials aren't clear. Even though there may have been many opportunities to learn about the project, there could be any number of reasons why they haven't taken advantage. But that you personally weren't consulted isn't a reason to oppose the project. People in this boat might be upset but mostly recognize that yelling is counterproductive. The end result could range from, oh ok, to holy crap that's where my house is.

The third, stupidity, is opposition for the sake of opposing, or a willful failure to understand the facts, or worst of all, because they won't get anything out of it or a group they don't like will get something. The guy that says that we don't need the transitway because area residents will take their Mercedes downtown, not a bus, fall into this category. When you don't have the facts on your side, but feel emotionally driven for some reason, you end up yelling.

Let me just say that several of the neighbourhoods near the transitway are some of the most affluent in the city, and that most could be described as well off. I've lived here 30 + years and can categorically say that Mercedes are not thick on the roads here. The existing buses and LRT are well used.

Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost community spirit. The idea we were all in this together has gone away. That your personal issues didn't matter as much as what was good for the overall community. There was a balance between the needs and desires of an individual, and the overall community, and there was a recognition that the balance might be difficult.

But too many people now feel their personal issues come first, every time, ahead of the community at large, and every other person individually. Their objections show no sense of community. They don't object to the cell tower because it's ugly, and disguising it would mollify them. No, they object to it as a thing, even as they use it to tweet their outrage. How dare I have to look at a cell tower! A temporary inconvenience during construction is enough for them to say that it shouldn't be done at all.

Someone at a previous office once asked how my weekend was, and I told them I'd had a great bike ride out south and west of the city. Pedal bike, not motor bike. Well, holy doodle. She exploded. That's where she lived. Us bikers were Satan incarnate. We had no place on the roads. The roads were for cars because the roads were paid for with gas taxes, (which were much too high), so only cars should be on them. We slowed down the traffic, and throwing stuff at us or trying to run us off the road was good sport. Upon being asked, she said that farm or construction vehicles shouldn't be using the roads either during daylight hours. No matter it was safer for all concerned for slower vehicles to be on the road in daylight. Motorcycles were a menace because they went too fast, but speed limits were a plot against nature. And road construction, she took that hard. Being detoured, or told to wait while they repaired a road was a personal assault. You only think I'm overstating the case. No. This was all blurted out with deadly seriousness as we waited for the coffee to finish brewing.

I found out later through media reports, that things got heated at the transitway meeting. Swearing. Pushing, shoving. It was reported there was a death threat. I don't know of this personally. It seems that future in-person information sessions for the transitway have been cancelled. The people in other neighbourhoods will have to make do with on-line feedback due to the stupidity and thoughtlessness of a few people.

It was as you'd expect it to be when we were there. But there was a long line up to get in, and there was a group against the project inciting the crowd. I heard a number of untruths as we were walking out. Several tweets mentioned these people were less than polite. This is shameful. I don't understand what they think they're going to accomplish.

Somewhere along the line it became acceptable for a small, but vocal minority to use any and all tactics to stall or permanently block a project they don't like, no matter the benefit to many other people. The USA has that disease really bad, and I fear it's just getting started here.

I think the root of it is fear of the other, and fear of change. People that are different, and a trivially small difference is enough. Most Canadians seem to be welcoming the Syrian refugees, but I've heard some hateful things. Somehow, they are simultaneously terrorists coming here to blow us all up, while taking all the money in benefits away from decent honest Canadians while not working, and yet stealing jobs from those same decent honest Canadians. They don't even realize how stupid they sound. Our next door neighbours are immigrants, and it's all worked out perfectly fine.

Fear of change is understandable, but it's even worse than the "screw you Jack, I've got mine." It's, "I've got mine, and I want to fix it so that I don't have to share, and you don't even have a chance of getting some for yourself." It doesn't matter if the subject at hand is a ring road, a transitway, an LRT extension, power lines, pipelines, food banks, homeless shelters, or it could be almost anything. Some of the objections are valid, and some are completely a waste of time, and I feel for the people on the receiving end.

I hope the police can identify the people that disrupted last night's meeting, and they are charged. City staff shouldn't have to put up with that kind of abuse.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The birth of a query

So, my boss said, way back in the day. I want to find out the locations where we have compressor bottles, but no compressors, and the vise versa, compressors without bottles. She didn't mean in the real world, she meant in a database.

You need to know this was during the data migration process to Maximo. It used to be that compressors were in a different database than compressor bottles.

So I started with a quick and dirty bit of SQL, and had a list that got some tweaking in xl. That was one week, and the next week all the people that were interested in that were let go.

Time went on, as did various data integrity processes, and eventually it came up again, with a twist. My current boss wanted to know the same thing, but also if the vessel regulator thought we owned the vessels or not, and did the locations and operational statuses agree. Plus, while you're at it, the location hierarchy up to the top, so we can send out the lists to the right place for correction.

So here's a trivially simple bit of SQL.

select *
from ABSA20151209
where ANUMFMT in

That gives me a list of all the vessels in the regulator database where the A number is in a list I provide, and put inside the brackets. There is another much longer, more complicated chunk of SQL that gets the lists of bottles for that A number, and compressors, and compares them. With a bit of shuffling around I can know lots of the individual pieces of the data, and could assemble them into an xl. Except that it's really easy to miss something, and I wanted to build the query to do it all for me.

I was going to dive in and join the two lists when I realized that there are a few vessels in our database that are not listed in the regulator's database as owned by us, and some they think we own, but are not in our database. Sometimes order is really important. Such things need to be accounted for or you'll drive yourself crazy. Plus I know I'm getting a new regulator list in a few days, so I need to make it easy to drop it into the query.

I built a little diagram to make sure I knew what I was getting, and to keep me on track so I didn't build something else.

Then the creative part starts. There's several ways to do this. I start writing simple SQL and make sure each bit works before adding other bits which have also been tested. So. Get the list of compressors that are not air compressors, get the hierarchy. Get the list of compressor bottles, and add in hierarchy. Left join them to get the list of locations where there are bottles but no compressors. Left join that to the regulator list. Along the way tweak the code for the subtleties of data. Extract the A number from another table so I can link to the regulator. Correctly handle where one table has null values. Every step along the way make sure the right number of assets are showing up. Then the work begins, looking at the output xl to see where work exists to fix stuff.

You are just dying to read the result of all this creativity, I know it. I just KNOW it! Though I do have to admit the colour coding in my editor makes things a little easier to read. And yes, for the two SQL geeks that I know read my blog, I know I did the joins two different ways, and that first ones you see are not ANSI SQL-92 compliant. Getting the location hierarchy going is tricky, and it was easiest to see this way, and once I had it, I've never bothered to go back and re-write it. But this is part of what I do to get paid.

--This whole query is to compare compressors to compressor bottles by LSD and then compare to ABSA.
   --This query generates a list of locations in hierarchy together with compressors.
   MAXIMO.ASSET@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink S,
   MAXIMO.COMPANIES@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink C,
   MAXIMO.LOCATIONS@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink A,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L1,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L2,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L3,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L4,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L5
Y AS (        
   --This query generates a list of locations in hierarchy together with compressor bottles.
   MAXIMO.ASSETSPEC@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink P,
   MAXIMO.ASSET@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink S,
   MAXIMO.LOCATIONS@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink A,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L1,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L2,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L3,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L4,
   MAXIMO.LOCHIERARCHY@keitcart_omaxmop1_dblink L5
Z AS (
--this shows vessels without compressors

Monday, February 22, 2016

More talkative, but not much else

Workouts as such sucked on the weekend too, but by then I'd given up on the whole idea, and was just trying to recover and feel better.

Saturday I was out for a very nice run with buddies down in Fish Creek. Only 5 K, 42 minutes, taking it very easy on the ice. There were lots of places skates would have been appropriate, but there was usually at least some pavement to run on.

It was a surprisingly windy cold dank day, considering how warm this month has been overall. The main thing for one of the runners was her first 5 K outdoors! Her confidence is boosted enormously for a 5 K race she's entered in later this spring.

Monday I was feeling a bit of trepidation about going back in the pool. It's been almost a week, and I've been having some shoulder and chest muscle pain. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared. I started out with the whole 50 m training pool to myself. All of it! That didn't last, but I kept the whole lane to myself.

1 K, 19:50 long course. I haven't swum it that slow in quite a while. Tried 100 m aiming for strong but not all out, thinking I'd be 95 seconds or so. Not. 105 seconds. I suppose the pace is all of a piece, just feeling slow.

The novel is chugging along. I'm up to a hair under 63 K words. The last couple weekends have been amazing. I'm at a spot where I'm contemplating some choices to see what happens to my protagonist and all her buddies, and her several enemies.

The big non-event of the weekend was updating all my Apple devices. I was several releases behind on operating systems because I was spooked about Photos and iTunes. The latter is still an abomination. There's an album I bought from Apple, it plays on the ipad, but nothing else. Sigh.

I'm embarrassed to say how long it took to figure out how to preview a song from the iTunes store to see if I wanted to buy it. I'm a bit cheesed at all the blandishments to sign up for iCloud and Apple Music, when it's just a fiendish plan to hold your own data hostage and suck you into monthly payments for the rest of your life, and push you into the next data plan bracket. Screw you, Apple! I want MY data on MY devices. That's why I bought the memory.

However, it all ended well. I'm actually liking the new photos because it pulls the date of the photo out of the metadata and sorts the photo by that. I never got that to happen in my old version, and this essentially fixes how my photos got all screwed up in a hard drive crash. So far the photostream thing seems to be working faster and more reliably but I shall see.

This isn't a fast process, though. It took the better part of two days, and I'm just finishing up the back up of the new system. Yes, I backed up everything before the upgrade, and that hard drive is now living at work. One big drive, 3 partitions, with two full bootable backups, one done with Super Duper, and the other done with Carbon Copy Cloner. Every now and then I do a new backup onto the oldest drive. What I'm really doing is backing up photos, since not much else gets done on that computer anymore. The novel is on the laptop, with an automatic backup to Drop Box, and a period manual copy to a USB drive, just in case.

What do you mean, you don't back up your hard drive?

Oh, if you think time capsule is doing it, close iPhoto, or Photos, and then do a backup. Your photos aren't backed up if the program is open. Check the backup. Time Capsule failed me once. Good thing I had all the photos on the iPad.

This is a dressed up photo from my run with Michelle a couple weeks ago. This is along the Bow, not far from the pedestrian bridge to Edworthy park. My buddy Neil Zellor is doing to an intro to your DSLR camera, and I'd love to take it. I looked up the camera he recommended and went GACK at the price, but it's not that so much. It's the time to go do it, and do the post processing. I've lots else on the go. Maybe when I take the next step to retirement. In the meantime, this is the iphone 6 and Snapseed.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Still here. Not feeling talkative.

Workouts sucked this week. Tuesday swim was trailing rust. The hot tub wasn't open. Wed was a massage. My left side hurt a lot more than I thought it would. I nearly cried like a little girl at one point. Rested. Thursday, a very short, very easy spin that stopped when my knee started hurting. Stretched and some core, very easy, very careful.

I was all packed up for a swim this morning, but I had a dreadful sleep. Woke up feeling like I'd been in a bar fight. One that I lost after drinking too much. Doing a slow 3 K walk was nearly too much for me. The only good think about the nap was that I know where the story is going next. I'm glad I didn't have to go to work today.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Battery discharge recharge

A four day weekend can zip by awfully quickly when you are buried deep in your book, and you get a couple visits with friends in. Friday was a lovely coffee with a buddy. Saturday we headed way north to the Symon's Valley Farmer's Market to check it out, and meet up with a work and blog buddy. The market is nice, with very friendly merchants, but given the 40 minute drive we won't become regulars. We really enjoyed getting caught up.

Workouts were a mix. The spin on Friday was excellent! 15 min warmup, 1 hour at 160 to 170 watts at different cadences, then 15 min cool down. Stretching. I didn't think it had taken that much out of me, but it appears so.

The run on saturday started with this.

I was feeling a bit clunky and briskly walked a whole K to warm up. My right quad wasn't feeling the run love. Part way along I got this.

If it had been a 6 K run it would go into the books as good, exactly as planned. Nice and easy about a 7:30/K pace, even though I was feeling heavy on my feet. My quads were not happy at all. At this point I was still running beside the reservoir.

If I'd known it was ending at 7 K I could have gutted it out. But I was still a long way from home, and  the actual pain was starting. No bears were chasing me, so I walked home. I'm not sure why a walk pace sends the purple cadence line all over the place, but it's a pretty good description of how I was feeling. I hope this is the worst run this year. By the time I got home my legs were feeling somewhat better.

I took it easy Sunday, with only some light stretching. On Monday my quads were actually talking to me again, and not swearing. I got on the bike for an easy half hour spin session. There were only a couple minor twinges. First run off the bike since last summer. It was a beautiful warm day and I didn't even have to change. 3K, 18:36! I think this is the fastest 3 K ever. Towards the end I was getting a bit tired. This felt like about a 5 K race pace for me right now. My next race I only have to run 3 K, so this is all good.

The real news this weekend is that I dived into my book, and pounded out 10K words! I'd written myself into a little bit of a corner, and noodled about it for a while. Then I backed up a bit, and rampaged off. Lots happening. I'm up over 58K words now, and I may have gotten into what the book is actually about.

Curtis, the literary cat that he is, supervised. A few times he tried getting his paws on the keyboard to put in his own suggestions. I've told him he can start his own book, and put in whatever words he wants.

There seems to be a bit of an inverse relationship between the number of hours I put in at work, and the number of words that get written. I'm not sure why that is, but I'm enjoying it when the words flow. I'm not sure if any of it is worthy of a snippet here, I'll have to think about that.

And with that, the long long weekend is over, and not another one till May.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The laser goes POP POP POP!

After what seems a wonderful long time of nice weather, for Calgary, in February, we have a day of cold dankness. Foggy. A bit of snow. Freezing rain. Glad I'm not out in it.

Except I was, off to a coffee shop to chat with a buddy. She is about to start one of the biggest adventures of her adult life, and I was there to cheer her on, and tell her that while right now there doesn't seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel, that's part of her task, to install the light.

After the fast 5 K run on Tuesday my legs felt great! They continued to feel good after a solid swim on Wed. 1K 18:30, 5x100 on 2, 1:37 rest at 1:42 or 3. 150 m backstroke to cool down. I felt sorry for the teach pool. They've been having some problems with, and are taking serious action.

Serious action.

It hurts my soul to see a swimming pool that colour. The life guards are just as disgusted, but they've gotta do what they gotta do.

So the laser. We've all been fed a diet of the sound a laser makes in the movies, a high pitched screeching sound, with the villain cackling "No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!" But they don't. They go POP POP POP for a while, very quickly, fairly loudly. The occasion was the stubborn mole on my nose. It came back.

They said I shouldn't swim Friday like I planned, so after coffee with my buddy I got on the bike for 1.5 hours. 15 min warmup, steady at 160 to 170 watts for an hour, in various gears to play with cadence and effort. Just towards the end it was falling apart a little. Thursday was a rest day, though my legs didn't really feel like they needed it.

Bjuold is one of my favourite authors, and Miles Vorkosigan and the motley crew around him are some of my favourite characters. This is the most recent book in the long series. She normally writes from a "what's the worst that could happen to my character?" and that leads to interesting places. Not this time. I was a little disappointed. Still, it's nice to see some of the characters find some happiness. A fast easy read, but not the place to start the series, even though the plant they are on is where the series started, and my goodness what a long strange trip is. Come to think of it, this book is massive spoilers for much of the rest of the series.

My own novel is being stubborn at the moment. The characters are all talking to me, just not about the point where Ceridwen realizes she's been deceived about something. I mostly know where the story goes after this, but I'm not sure how to get over this little hump. I'm at the point of just picking up a bit later to see where it all ends up, then I can write this particular bit.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shoes and shorts

Feb 9.
High of 16 C (61 F)
When I ran it was maybe 11, and cooling rapidly.

I ran in shorts. I loved it. It turned out to be my fastest 5 K since last September, 32:24. My legs wanted to run faster yet, but my lungs wanted to see the bear first. This was mostly a little faster than chatchat pace, but not race pace. It felt really good.

So the shoes thing. I'm really thinking my old day to day shoes were causing my leg tightness. Every day since I stopped wearing them my legs have been feeling better. This last week is one of my bigger run and bike volumes, and they're still feeling good. Should have done this a long time ago. Here they are. Classy, yes?

Biked on Sunday 1.5 hrs. Lots of endurance pace at different gears and cadences, with a little tempo, and a tiny bit of really hard. The bike is feeling pretty good these days too. Can't wait to get outside. Stretched and some core after.

Monday was a swim sharing a lane with a drafting jerk, till I got sick of playing. It took me almost a K to get warmed up and feeling like swimming. About the 900 m mark this guy gets in and pushes off in my draft. I pulled away a bit, but it was just a little faster than I felt like swimming. I settled into cruise hoping to maintain the distance between us. I'm still swimming the same pace by the clock, but he sped up and banged my toes a few times.

I let him pass, then settled into his draft. It was kind of funny. He kept trying to swim faster to lose me, but in the draft it was easy to keep up. He couldn't pull away from me. Nor would he stop and offer to let me lead again. He did sloppy inconsiderate flip turns trying to slow me down. So I cruised along, contemplating passing him because I'm pretty sure I could, but deciding I didn't need to. The people in the other lane left, so I gave him the space.

Ended up swimming 1.75 K or so, but I'm not sure of the time. It was a clunky start, and got better.

Biked in the evening, 20 min warmup, 15 min of really hard intervals, +300 watts for 30 seconds at a time, 10 min cool down.

The next book arrived. Sorry no picture. Linda has it. She isn't coming to bed till she's done. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Change of pace here. Two quick rants, one fun, one serious. You'll know which is which.

One of my buddies has given up Facebook for a month. Today, looking at my feed, I understand. It was almost entirely reposts or shares, and almost all of them were stupid. One of them about toast, for crying out loud, kept adding comments almost faster than I could scroll past it. Even my reliable buddy who is normally in tune with what I like batted a couple of clunkers.

Maybe I'm just feeling more curmudgeonly than usual, but it seems that the quality of both Facebook and Twitter has gone badly downhill recently. Anyone else having the same experience? Anyone give up social media and regret it? Or was it the best thing ever?

The big news up here is about some teenagers that trespassed onto Canada Olympic Park property. Somehow they thought it was a good idea to go down the bobsled track.
At 1 in the morning.
On a toboggan.

2 of them died, several of them were seriously injured.

My opinion on this is cold and harsh. The world is a tough old place that doesn't have much tolerance for stupidity. Not so long ago you could do everything possible right, and still die from bad luck just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like being next to someone in 1918 that sneezed, and you got Spanish Flu and died a few hours later, probably infecting other people along the way.

Our current society is one of the safest places ever in all of human history, idiot drivers aside. Yet Fail Army documents no end of people doing very stupid things, with many of them probably suffering a concussion or dental injuries. It's clear they didn't have the first thought of what could go wrong. We might end up knowing what the survivors of the midnight toboggan ride say they thought about at the time. Trust me, it will be teenaged boy stupid.

And yes, there's a few stupid things I did, and I got lucky on them. There were a bunch of others where I paused that vital second, and thought "maybe that isn't such a good idea."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The opposite of stillness

So I had my ass run off today. I'm chugging back from a run in new territory, when my run buddy says we can't leave it there, we have to round up to an even number." So we do. I'm so obedient!

It was all good! My run buddy is the best ever. Over the last couple days I switched shoes. Not running shoes, my every day shoes. I got to wondering why my calves and hams and quads have been so tight. Then I realized all that started about the last time I bought shoes, and these don't really have a heel on them. Zero drop. They've been pulling my calves with every step.

I went back to the previous shoes and the first morning I could feel the difference. Two days and it's like I have new legs again. So this morning I was into MEC for new shoes, and my run buddy came along to marvel at the male shoe selection process. The guy brought out 4 pairs based on size and what I said I wanted. The first were ok, but not quite right. The second were good. I walked around a bit, then said they were good to go, didn't need to try the others on.

Let's just say my running buddy was dumbfounded with astonishment. She admitted she'd have tried on the others, and sent the staff person scurrying back for more, just in case. That's a quote, just in case. Not me. Pants shopping, if the first pair don't fit, I abandon shop and go back another week. Shopping is usually an ordeal to be completed as quick as humanly possible.

The wind was howling when we got out of the store. We'd originally thought to run along the Bow near downtown, but that's wide open to the wind. Plus I've run on that before. I will again, but we decided not today. We parked out at Edworthy Park, and ran west. The path got a bit confused and didn't do what I thought it did, but that's ok. I've never run out there before. There's some very classy houses in that little street  in Bowness. I remember that as sort of a run down neighbourhood.

10 K, 1:16 or so. I haven't run 10 K since last September. It felt pretty good overall. My feet felt a bit heavy, but quads and calves were good. No niggles.

We interrupted this irregularly scheduled blog for



Stupid blogger rearranging them, and me too lazy to fix them. Besides, I know my readers love it when the story goes to cats.

The next diversion is humidity. The bane of runners, and houses in winter. Our house had become so humid. Turning the humidity control thingy down didn't do anything. Then we realized water was still flowing through the humidifier. Sigh. The shut off valve didn't work so I had to disassemble it and jury rig a solution.

Last week the plumber was here, fixed all that, and we determined that the solenoid valve, pictured below, was stuck open. That's ok. We left it a while with the water supply off, to let the house humidity sort itself out.

Then Thursday night we came home to find the furnace going through the startup cycle again and again. Big sigh. We've have this before. Furnace company. They were out on Friday and fixed it, easy and quick. Warm house again. (There's another detour in there that I'll get to.) Mentioned the solenoid valve.

He said the solenoid failed because of high water pressure, and that the solution is to install a pressure reducer and a new solenoid, for $1200. Yikes! Meanwhile the plumber had suggested if the shutoff valve had scaled up, which it had, it was entirely reasonable to assume that the solenoid valve had too. That seems reasonable to me too, especially when that much money is involved.

So this story is still playing out. The valve is soaking in some vinegar right now, and maybe later some CLR. If it's still gucked up, I haven't lost anything and I'll buy a new one and install it myself, saving more than a thousand ever loving dollars! Then do the same thing in a few years if the water pressure or scale gets to it again.

So the other detour was a swim on Friday morning. Water ran briefly with Katie, then settled into a very nice 1K 18:30 relaxed and smooth. Then another 500 m of other stuff, including 100 m in 88 seconds without really trying too hard. Gotta love that.

Back to the run. This morning I was up early and managed to catch another great sunrise. Then off to MEC and Edworthy. Still with me?

My favourite run buddy looking chic in sunglasses and classy jacket.

On the way back I paused and grabbed a quick shot of the sunlight playing off the water of the Bow. Later on the clouds went away and it turned into a beautiful winter day.

We ran past Angela's, then back to round it out to an even 10 K. I'm sure Katie and many of my other even number buddies will approve. Even though we nearly froze our tails off walking that last half K back into the wind.

What's interesting about the graph is my run cadence slowly dropping off (purple line). My pace is all over the place (orange line), which isn't a surprise given being careful with ice on the paths, and paying attention to the route so I could get back. But the elevation! That's the gray line. We ran back to the starting point. This path is pretty darned flat.

The coffee and treats at Angela's were really good. My first time there. Overall a winner of a day, and that's before cleaning some wine bottles. More paths to highlight in on my 2016 map.

We might have run past another run buddies house, and we'd have waved if we knew for sure where. She knows who she is.

Oh, and the reason for the title is the most recent blog. This was active, that wasn't.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Deep Stillness

One of the things I think is important is to periodically spend some time sitting quietly. No music. No TV. No conversation. No sound other than what filters in from the street. Cat purring is acceptable.

It isn't a nap, sitting or lying down. You aren't trying to read, or write, or do anything. Just sit, and breathe.  The idea is to let your mind drift where it wants to go. Let it explore deep stillness. Not forcing it to think about something, just letting it be. Daydream. Meditate. Relax. I picture my brain on a nice warm beach, between tall fruity drinks but not drunk or thirsty, watching the waves, listening to the breeze, feeling the warmth of the sun, smelling the sea.

I find it very refreshing. Usually I have a renewed sense of purpose afterward, knowing what I need to be up and at. My personal belief is that everybody needs to do this from time to time.

Last night we went to a performance of the Yamato Drummers from Japan. It's an amazing show, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I can't keep time worth beans, so watching the troupe do so while dancing, doing sit ups, and moving around the stage was magical.

The bigger drums produce a deep rich boom you can feel in your chest, and we were sitting near the back of the balcony. Keep in mind they've got 9 or 10 people on stage, pounding away on a variety of drums.

But a few times I dropped into deep stillness between the beats of the big drum. It seemed like there was all the time in the world between the booms. I had a chance to think about my book, and stuff that's going on. Watching the energetic and captivating show was mentally peaceful in a way I find hard to describe. Even though I've never seen Japanese drumming before, I knew what some of the next bits of performance were going to be, where the music was going to go.

People talk of being mindful, being present in the world. This was sort of an odd mix, simultaneously present in partaking of the performance, and yet present within myself, or alternating back and forth so quickly I wasn't aware of it. I'd like to be able to do this more often, but I suspect it's the sort of thing  that just trying to do it is sufficient to prevent it from happening.

Has this ever happened to you?

Do you like to make time for stillness in your life?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I haven't done one of these prompted blogs for a while. My buddies Leana and Janice had done them.

All things come to those that wait. Except I like chasing the things I want. I'm keen to see how I do in the March mini-triathlon at Talisman. Sooner or later I'll make a decision about doing a marathon in 2016.

Life as a semi-retired person is lovely! Every weekend is a 3 day weekend. So far there's been plans for every Friday, including next Friday. It's nice to have the option of going out for breakfast on Friday when the crowds aren't so bad.

Working on
Stuff! Yes, so much stuff! I should insert a bullet list here so you can keep it all straight. Fitness. Another novel in the Dwen's Worlds series. Still trying to push my aging body into further fitness gains. 80% time at paying work.  Catching up on some of the house tasks that had got away from me. Getting paperwork in line for personal income tax, then a bit later for corporate tax time. I keep saying I want to set up a system, and I'm getting there.

House of Cards, the American version. Loving it! The scheming, twisting, lying, and downright smarminess is lovely to watch. We're in the middle of season 3 right now.

Next is season 3 of Elementary. Related to that we watched the one movie episode of Sherlock that was partially set back in Victorian times.

Linda is in the middle of Game of Thrones, but I don't know where, or who's doing what to who. I can't watch it; It seems like every few minutes someone is screaming in agony. Even the gratuitous display of boobs doesn't make up for that.

Some of the items on my to do list. There are wine bottles to be cleaned, and I haven't been in the mood. One of these days.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Captivating so far. Set in WWII France. The tale of two very different sisters.

3 day weekends every weekend! Being able to run and bike and swim, though not so far or fast as I would like. Considering other people my age, I'll take it.

I'm not a big hater. That's too much emotion to waste. I'm more of an ignorer. I look over it.

I like to think of myself as a thinker. Deep thoughts. Plans for world domination. Connections between apparently unrelated things. At work this leads to me creating complicated multi-tab spreadsheets that I end up having to explain to people. People have such difficulty comparing two complicated sets of data through views like Jurnum=Jurnum but SN<>SN or location<>location or status<>status, which is 3 tabs right there and I'm barely getting started. 

Most times my novel characters are doing stuff in my head, and I try to keep track of what they're up to. Sometimes it's just stuff they're doing that has no bearing on the novel, such as the day the buddies had a chili-cook off (Les had the hottest, Belinda had the tastiest/best balanced, Ronnie had the one needing most tequila after, Zoe had the best vegetarian, and Llywelyn had the best cole slaw side.) All of them complained about the lack of impartiality by the judge, and the judge made it clear they'd all tried to bribe her. When I ask who won the farting contest that was sure to follow, they just smirk at me. Other times I suddenly realize what they are up to is the next bit of the book and I hustle to the laptop. Last time I was in the shower, and couldn't wait to dry off. That was where I'd realized the guy who had been shot was, oops, I've said too much.

In fitness news, the indoor run Monday was a bit of a slog. A lot of a slog, actually. My feet did not feel like running. 4K, 30 minutes. The one lap I tried to push a bit faster (224 m in 1:20, which is a fraction under a 6 min /K pace) it was actually beginning to hurt a bit.

The swim today was sort of better, I think. 500 m in 9:30 (long course) and it seemed like I was working really hard for that. 3x100 all about 1:43. Two separate 100's nearly all out was 95 seconds. It took till about then to start feeling the water, and by then my arms were tired. A few more 100's fairly easy and cool down and I called it a morning. I had the whole 50 m lane to myself the entire swim, and for much of it I was the only person in the pool. That doesn't happen often.

I'm a bit puzzled by the swim. I counted heartbeats after one of the fast 100's, and it was 124, dropping to 95 or so in a minute. Yet I'm breathing all out by the end. The swim kids in the next lane were zooming past. I need stronger arms and less drag and more lung power.