Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some photos, mostly enraged commentary

Well fuck you too Snapseed. Once upon a time you were a wonderful little program. Simple. Intuitive. Fun. Powerful. Exactly what I needed.

What are you now? Enraging. The interface has become cryptic and complex. I've got a very nice edited (at last) version of the cloud photo below. But is it anywhere I can see it on my laptop? No. NONONONONO!!!!!

I can see it on the desktop after a complicated process I'm not sure I can repeat. Eventually I suspect I'll have to save the blog to draft, and edit it more on the desktop. What a pain in the ass. The old version just saved the edited photo to the camera roll, and from there it would be (eventually) shared (sometimes) with the other devices at the variable mercies of photostream. I saved the photo a bunch of times from the iPad, trying different options. None of them, NONE, did what I thought it should. I never saw the edited photo on the iPad anywhere but in Snapseed itself. So much for Google not being evil. Screwed up another good program.

Plus, trying to figure this out with a cat yelling at me. Grrr. I was driven out to the lodge. I just want some peace and quiet so I can think. Even in the lodge I can hear my neighbours talking loudly. Maybe my next project will be to build a sound proof writing office in the basement. It doesn't have to be big, just quiet. My own little anechoic man cave.

Just lately I'm finding a lot to be annoyed about with devices in general. While writing in Safari on the laptop for the blog, I can't see the cursor anymore. I don't know what happened to it. On Firefox, I can't stay logged into the blog. It seems the photo I want in the blog is never on the platform I happen to be writing on. Drop downs and translucency annoy me. It seems like you roll the mouse over anything on a web page and something pops up at you, and this is with the pop up suppression turned on. I've had websites bark at me because I've got cookies turned off, or I won't put in an email, or I keep closing ads. Don't they get it? There are NO CIRCUMSTANCES I want to be shown an ad. None! If it's a popup by definition I don't want it. There are a few blogs I've stopped reading because I can't find the text buried in all the ads and photos.

Call me old fashioned. I want text, unless I've deliberately clicked on a video. I can skim through text far quicker than a video, providing I can find it. And whatever happened to dark text on a light background? Whatever web designer thought small, light gray text on a dull white background was a good idea needs to have terrible things happen to them for an eternity or two. Maybe three. And while I'm on about it, what's with the small text boxes? Some blogs have those too. It's like they want to make it difficult to comment.

It drives me nuts when programs try to be "helpful" and I'm looking at you, Excel, but you are merely the head of the line. At the moment I'm thinking the biggest attraction to retiring is that I wouldn't have look at xl. Why yes, the xl I'm dealing with at work is a complete dog's breakfast, why do you ask?

I've been systematically going through and turning off the %$#@!youautocorrect everywhere I can. My timing is just fast enough that I've hit the space bar or punctuation, accepting it's proposed change because the little correction suggestion hadn't appeared yet. Then I have to go back and edit. The functionality is backwards. I want it to reject the suggestion unless I click to accept it. I've given up trying to get into the phone with the fingerprint, it never works more than a day or two after putting in a new one.

This was taken just after a very nice run in South Glenmore park, looking towards downtown.

Here is the tweaked version.

I was driving past the library the other day and realized I hadn't been in for a while, and decided to scope it out. We used to go weekly, and they told me I hadn't taken anything out for almost 2 years. Wow. But while there I found a Blue ray copy of the BBC series Miss Marple, with Joan Hickson in the title role.

As a digression, this is about as perfect as casting gets. Hickson is a treat to watch. Plus, this was one of the last TV series shot in real life, so to speak. They found a village and dressed it up. No digital trickery. It's lovely.

I've seen these any number of times, but still got the disc. There was the magic word "remastered" that caught my eye. Here's a scene from the old version, taken from a still image. Look at the wallpaper and the receptionists face.

Now here's the blue ray image. Wow! The rest of it is just as clear. I thought the one car was sort of a gray blue, and it turns out to be a brilliant royal blue. We're going to see if we can find the set at a reasonable price.

For all that the word pansy has terrible connotations in English, the plants are tough little guys. This is what's come up in the back garden. Not so long ago that had a big pile of ice on it.

I think some of you missed the AMA I posted earlier this week. Not many readers.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Another AMA

Here we go, another exciting AMA feature! Thanks very much to my questioners.

What's your next race(s)?
If you could do any race in the world what would you do? Assume funds aren't an issue and you will be perfectly trained on the start line.
I'm going to do these together. I'm not currently signed up for a next race. I said I will sign up for the 10 K run at the Calgary Marathon so I can join a buddy at the start line. She's going to be doing the marathon, but I'm not up for that. I've got a September or October marathon penciled in, but haven't signed up yet.

I don't need to be signed up for a race to motivate me to train or even just be active. In fact, signing up almost fills me with dread because now I have a deadline. I fear an injury, or bad weather. I know that there are good training days, and there are tough ones, and there are bad ones, and if I don't have a race, that's what they are, is training days. But when I've got a race coming up, the bad ones start preying on my mind.

The more I look back on it the more I marvel at completing IMC in 2010. I not only had to sign up a year in advance, I had to travel to Penticton to do so. It's a beautiful part of the world, and we enjoyed the trip, but I could hear the clock ticking. It's a good thing I didn't work most of 2009 and could plan my life around workouts and recovery. I am quite certain that I couldn't train for another Ironman while working even part time, and I'm not especially certain I could do it again even if I wasn't working.

I think it's a fire and ice thing for the any race. Every triathlete in their secret heart of hearts wants to do Kona. They all want to go to the Big Dance at least once, and not only walk on Dig Me beach, but fit in. At least most people have heard of it. Mention one of the other Ironman races and it's huh? 

But then there is there is the Norseman Ironman. Watch the video. That one takes serious stones. You wear the black finisher's shirt in the tri crowd, and you will get noticed. This is one brutal race for both athlete and sherpa(s). I would LOVE to be fit enough and tough enough to tackle that. 
What did you think of the federal budget?
Good question! I think of budgets as sort of a mythical thing, with no real connection to reality. Take the snow and ice control budget for the city. Nobody really knows how much it will snow, or how much it will cost to keep the roads drivable in winter. There are estimates based on previous years, and long term forecasts, but really they're a guess. But the problem comes is that people start thinking its a performance measure. Exceed the budget and you're a bad manager, come in under budget and you're a good one. BAH! 

Even on a household level nobody really knows. Income is uncertain, especially lately in Calgary. One never knows when a house or car repair will pop up. Even allowing some space in the budget for that, it could easily be not enough. 

So now imagine trying to build a budget for the entire country. I wouldn't even know how to begin. Trudeau said his government would run deficeits and now they are doing what they said they'd do. People are surprised, why? Oh, the amount is bigger than you expected? And you're surprised, why? It's such a big number? So go do the calculations as a percent of GDP and get back to me. Serious economists are not worried about it. By definition the Calgary Sun does not print the opinions of serious economists.

Yes, I know that several voracious readers of my blog are accounting professionals. I know what I've said fills them with inchoate horror and dread. I am an accounting heretic! I say it loud and proud! 
What's currently your biggest challenge in life?
Working on my books. Some days the words come and that's good. Some days the editing tweak is going well, and that's good too. Other days I look at the screen and I've got nothing. That's not so good. I'd hoped to get lots more writing done this weekend, but that didn't happen for whatever reason.

A different sort of challenge is to build consistency in running. Consistency has always been hard, along with the slow build. I'll be doing well and then I'll push too hard and have to back off and start over. Or an attack of life will come along and I can't get out to run when I'd like to. This afternoon as I write this, for example is a beautiful day for a run. The problem is I ran yesterday, and I'm not big on running 2 days in a row. Tomorrow isn't looking so good, but I'll deal with that when I get there. 

Then there are the work challenges. The oil and gas industry is particularly difficult right now. I'm in a fortunate position where my skills and corporate needs coincide. Many others are not so fortunate. I've been there and know how it feels. It's going to be a challenge to find the next gig as I try to transition gracefully to full time semi-retirement. 
What's your next travelling holiday?
We have a short vacation in April  to see the spring flowers. We booked before we fully realized what the seasons are doing. We've already had several months of spring weather here, and the flowers are starting to come up. But the flowers we visit will be up and blooming. We also hope to visit a cousin, and some buddies that live near there. We are beginning to flange up a retirement trip to Australia and New Zealand.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Ah yes, but what time of year? The perfect place one season might be the last place on earth to be another time. The climate in Calgary is nearly perfect for me. I love the sunshine, with days that vary between WTF cold and pretty darn hot, sometimes even within the same day. Even when it's warm or cold, it's a dry heat or cold.

Then again, Calgary itself is turning into an all-devouring big city. The ring of suburbs (where I live, technically speaking) is a monstrosity. Drive into town and the outside ring of houses (I don't say homes) looks a little like a ring of fortress walls. Our favourite fish and chip place is deep in the souless heart of Bridalwood, or Evergreen, or maybe it's Bridalgreen. I don't know. Remember those old Flintstone cartoons as they are driving along, and you see the same scenery going by on a short loop? That's what it's like driving there. Ugly homes, all the same.

And that word, driving. It pretty well sums up Calgary. For those who can't, or won't drive, living here must be a close approximation of hell unless you are fortunate in where you live and work. The neighbouring communities aren't much better. Okotoks used to be a nice little town, now it's a bedroom suburb. Same with Cochrane. Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Millarville all have their little subdivisions springing up. Mostly these are big ugly McMansions. High River is still a nice little town, mostly. There a few suburb things, but they're taking one out, the whole thing, because they realized they can't protect it from flooding. There's a river running through town, and there's reason for the name.

The thing that threw me about visiting Nova Scotia is when it rains (and it does rain) it was a warm rain. I couldn't get over it. I was out for one run, shorts and tech shirt, soaked to the butt, and had a great run. I enjoyed it. In Calgary if it's raining, it's cold out, and unless you've dressed very carefully, you're going to be cold. There's lots of niceness in Nova Scotia, but then, we haven't been there in the winter. It might be fun to go in the winter, and see what the beaches are like then. Vancouver and Fraser Valley are crazy stupid expensive, and with a mostly crappy climate for me. Pity so many of my relatives live there. 

I'm sure there are lots of nice places to live, even if only for a few weeks or months of the year, but that's not how it works for me. I've turned into a home body. We've been in this same house since 1984, slowly accumulating stuff. By moving somewhere, all that stuff would get rearranged. I'd never find anything again, though I have to admit that's sometimes a problem now. 
If you could splurge on any new piece of triathlon gear what would it be and why?
This is actually a surprisingly tough question. For what I'm doing now I've got all the gear I need. Probably more than I need, and I just ordered more yesterday, and more is taking the slow route to here. Some of you are thinking I'd say a top of the line tri bike, and surprise! No. Because then I'd be a poser. I'd never be able to use such a bike to it's full potential, and it would be an unhappy bike. Even my current bike doesn't get ridden as much as she would like. So maybe a mid-range tri-bike, custom fitted to me.

Anything less in the way of gear isn't really a splurge. The Garmin 920XT is $660 plus tax at MEC. If I was really SERIOUS, VERY VERY SERIOUSLY SERIOUS about training, I'd have probably bought one, or the earlier model when my last watch died. As it is, the phone and current Garmin (that I won!) tell me more than I need to know about my training. I suppose if I were doing a lot of swimming in open water, I'd "need" the Garmin.

In fact, like the guy with two watches that doesn't know what time it is anymore, I can now see too much information. My phone thinks yesterday's (as I write this) run was 11.09 K in 1:21:32, and the Garmin data says 10.87 K in 1:21:56.   
Have you any interest in running an ultra?
No. Not at all. 42.2 K is more than enough to run at any one time. In lots of ways I think the ultras are even tougher than Ironman.
How do you ignore bandaids and whoknowswhatelse in the pool? 
There are several answers to this. One is that Talisman is a really clean pool. I can't remember the last time I saw a band-aid there. Now, there is occasionally stuff on the bottom of the pool. The other day I picked a key off the bottom and one of those S hooks used for the lane markers. I was wondering what the story was for the person that lost the key. It's good luck to pick something off the pool bottom.

I think you either trust that the pool staff are following the various regulations about testing and pool chemicals or you don't. But I know that if I were designing a swimming pool, it wouldn't be possible to get from the locker room to the pool without being totally immersed in a foamy cleansing pool. Towels and dry stuff get passed through an opening. It could designed to accomodate various disabilities.

 Another is that I periodically swim in open water. Anything at all could be in that water. I remember a post race photo where one of my blog buddies was holding up her swim suit afterward. You could see everywhere the algae had accumulated. She threw the suit out.

Lastly is my work experience. I worked in a waste water treatment plant for a bunch of years. Even with shift work amnesia I remember what comes into the plant. Everything. Lets just say that and leave it there. One of my favourite pranks to do to people taking a tour happened in the secondary control room. This (at the time) was the final stage of treatment, with the water going into the Bow River. Of course it's sampled for lab tests. The samplers are a few feet away from a drinking water fountain. The water there always had a flat warmish taste just because the supply pipe was really long and the flow was low. AFTER all the people had had a drink I told them the fountain was hooked up the same line as the samplers, and that's why it tasted a bit off. After one girl threw up on the spot, I was a bit more careful who I told that to. And really, the water going into the river was crystal clear. The lab people said it was better quality water than what many people in the world thought was drinking water. 

When are you going to publish this book, or books you keep talking about? Why are you writing them anyways?
Publish. Good question. Sort of implies I end up with something an editor will publish, even if that editor is me. Part of the problem is that this isn't genre fiction. There are no easy handles on it to put it into a category, and publishers and book sellers need to put it in a category. And Lord knows, it isn't dramatic literary fiction that could be a contender for the Giller, or the Man Booker, or anything else, at least not yet.

Imagine going to a movie. The director has made all the choices for you, what the characters look, sound, and act like. You see the sets, scenery, and background. You get a soundtrack. You might get a face-full of digital effects. You need only sit there like a lump and take it all in.

Now imagine reading a book. You have to work harder, but the rewards are greater. Everything the director would show you, you build in your head. It's a much more satisfying experience and why the book is always better than the movie. Well, almost.

Now one step further along, writing the book. My characters are pretty darn good to me, only getting off the reservation sometimes, but it's usually good for a scene or two. They are good sports about trying out the scene different ways. It's fun for me, since I can see the whole thing, to describe it in a series of words that is all the reader sees. 

I can get buried in my books (there are about 4 novels worth so far, and things keep expanding) far more easily than I can get buried in almost anyone else's books.

While it wasn't my Granny that asked this time, she's been asking for the better part of 20 years.
When are you and Linda coming back to NS?
That one I don't know. In one sense we've never left. One of my favourite relaxation techniques is to picture myself on Hirtle's Beach.Ahhhhhh.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

If I had 3, they would be cookies

Not as much novel stuff as I had hoped for happened this week, but it's been BBQ rack of lamb. I mean, very relaxing. I mean, how can one NOT be relaxed with you have this?

 The Saturday morning run was lovely. This is one of the first times that a long slow run has actually been relaxing. I felt better at the end than I did at the beginning. My legs were feeling a little tight, then later that afternoon they wanted to go for another run.l

So, speaking of legs, me and my running buddy. It should be easy to tell which of us is which. Yes I ran in shorts. No she didn't run in painted jeans.

Part of our view.
 It's been interesting getting my heart rate monitor settled in at the start of a run. For a while it was reading 170 bpm which is flat out not right, considering my max is supposed to be 163. It got settled in and stayed nice and steady.

We started at the dog park at the end of Southland Drive, ran south to the pedestrian bridge at the north end of Fish Creek, back to Carburn park and around the little pond. That ticked over 11 K, 1:21 or so. A nice walk back to the car finished things off.

Then some treats! These are energy or recovery balls. They are not cookies! This has been decided. Though three of them would be cookies. I had two. They are very yummy!

Sunday was a very nice spin session pushing the heart rate up a bit. One the bike an hour.

 Oh! If you are a Joan Hickson Miss Marple fan, you can now get a Blueray of her BBC series. I got one from the library just to see, and the image difference is AMAZING! If I get organized I'll try to take some photos.

The AMA will be published tomorrow. Some of the answers are still being tuned.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Last call for AMA!

I've had several questions now for the intermittently erratic AMA feature. My brain is turning on them, and already going interesting places. Thanks to the questioners so far.

If you want in on the deal this time, now is your last chance. I'm going for a run in a little while, and in between the fascinating conversations with my running buddy, my brain will be twisting and turning and going sideways on the questions.

After the feeble, weak, creaky, cranky swim the other day I had a perfectly nice 45 minute easy spin. I credit a nap with snoring cats.

Then the next day I was in the pool again for a buddy swim, and this was back to almost normal. The first 500 m was perfectly normal, 9:15, and the next 500 m kind of fell apart on me, 9:30 or so. Lots of water running with Katie, then some more 100 m intervals that were kind of slow. I didn't want to stress my shoulders so I left it there.

The 3 of us walked over to the Purple Perk and had a lovely coffee chat. Even though the butter tarts were tempting me in 3 part harmony, I stayed strong. Part of the discussion was if the energy balls Michelle made were cookies. We decided not.

Appros of nothing in particular.

So, don't forget, if you want in on the the AMA, now is the time. Comments below.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


No, not just triathlon transition.

This is more general, about the change from any state to another state. Awake/asleep. Working/not working. One yoga pose to another. Swim to bike to run. Non-geezer to geezer. Fat to fit. Skiing to shooting. Incomplete to complete. Green veggies on the plate to a clean plate. Whatever. Some of these the change alternates whether we like it or not, and some of them could go either way and some are one way.

There is the transition itself, and then the conditions it happens in. Forced or not, as in suddenly being told you don't work there any more. Time pressure in the sense of the clock ticking like in a triathlon transition, or a deadline. Is there an audience? Are you solo, or part of a team?

Change can be hard, but sometimes people seem to make it harder on themselves. Take something simple, or what should be. Get out of bed and out the door to whatever activity is first on your list. Maybe that's a workout and you don't need a big breakfast or a shower. Maybe it's getting ready for a big meeting first thing at work, and you take extra care how you dress.

I listen to people, and you'd think getting out of bed was the 7 labours of Hercules all together. I don't get it. As an adult you should know how long it takes to get done whatever needs to happen for you in the morning. Allow that much time plus a little extra for recreational cat vomiting cleanup, and subtract that from the time you have to leave the house. Set the clock for that time. When it goes off, and this seems to be the hard part, turn it off, get up, and get on with it. This hitting the snooze button is madness. That 9 minutes "sleep" isn't going to do you any good, and could well mess up your day.

Much the same rule applies to almost all transitions. Just get on with it. The more you think about it, usually, the worse it gets. If the consequence of getting the transition wrong are catastrophic, then you might need to take some time to think it through first.

If you don't know how to do it, the best way is to learn by doing. The first time is always the hardest, and you'll know better for the second time. If you get a chance, practice first.

Lots of people here in Alberta are going through a working to not working transition, of the forced variety, and for all too many of them it's a surprise. This baffles me. So many people seemed to think the good times were going to go on forever, in spite of recent evidence of busts. Alberta's economy is a roller coaster, and anyone that doesn't understand that and plan accordingly deserves what they have coming. That's not to say I like the roller coaster. Not at all. It's a stupid way to run a province.

Some people don't seem to grasp that a job exists only as long as the company wants it to. They only care about their bottom line, and will spit you onto the sidewalk like used chewing gum when it suits them. The only course of action is to be prepared. More on that here. Once it happens, and it will, you  need to get on with whatever is next. For many people that's finding another job. Sooner started, sooner found. For some it's retirement, desired or not. Suck it up and get on with it.

Transitions can be exciting. All that change! Try to enjoy them for what they are, a break between two other activities. You might not like it, but focussing on what you don't like just makes it worse.

Some transitions are less clear cut, and all but irreversible. From young to old, for example. That one has been preying on my mind lately. I don't think of myself as old, not at all. But it's creeping up on me. Every now and then I see it in the corner of my eye, skulking in the undergrowth. When I look, it disappears, or seems to. But it doesn't go away.

Working on being fit helps stave it off. I look at other people my age, and some of them look old. Some of them act old regardless of their age. It's like geezers. Not all of them are old, and not all the elderly are geezers or old. Yes, I'm dealing with sore and tired muscles, and creaky joints some days, but I keep telling myself it would only be worse if I stopped moving as much.

I'm not one of those people that think things have gone all to pot, and youth have no manners, though looking at American politicians one can be forgiven for thinking so. Yes there are problems, climate change being one of the biggest. I'm mostly excited by all the changes. 20 years ago cell phones were rare, expensive, and stupid. Now almost everyone has one, and they are amazing! I'm still learning things that it will do. 30 or 40 years ago cars were death traps. Now they've learned to drive themselves better than humans, and the sooner we can remove the nut behind the wheel the better off we'll be.

That word, learning, is a big one. I think when you stop learning you start dying. I've already begun to think about what my next project is when I have more time, and I'm thinking photography. I've really enjoyed taking pictures with the iPhone, and sometimes tinkering with them in Snapseed. I think it would be fun to get a good camera and learn to actually use it properly. Right now I look at camera specs and I'm baffled. But that will change. I have a buddy who says if I take him to lunch and ask nice, he'll walk me through the camera purchase process.

That more time thing. I'm beginning to suspect the Penn West contract will not be renewed at the end of June. That will give me more lots more time. I've got one buddy that wants me to take surfing lessons on a beach near Tofino. Another buddy keeps telling her team, "I know a really good data guy." Guess which is tempting me more?

Today is one of the rare days when I'm not working, but Linda is. I dropped her off, had a weak, cranky, creaky swim followed up by a long soak in the hot tub. It would have been a nice day for a long swim since I was the only person in the pool, but I wasn't feeling the swim love today.

One of my buddies is running some stairs to the pre-puke stage later today. I scoped them out, since I hadn't known there were stairs there. OMG. I was invited, but won't be joining. This is the half-way point.

A little shopping on the way home, and now I'm beset by cats while trying to write this blog. Maybe I'll have a nap. There are novel ideas gelling.

I tried resting the laptop on Curtis as he snoozed, and got this look. Anyone have any doubts what he thinks? He is not a fan of the laptop. Or the phone. Or the iPad.

And the AMA, Ask Me Anything. Feel free to put your ask in the comments. I promise to use my imagination.