April 28, 2010

Until the fog lifts

I am running far behind on my reading, writing, and even my 'rithmatic is getting pretty fuzzy. Not sure if it is the slow decline in brain cells, or just lack of use, but I am unable to do math in my head the way I used to. The lines of thought are also less sharp these days, and things remain slightly out of focus. Life in San Diego is still good, I've just been feeling a little off, a little foggy, a little down.

Sorry, tangent. What I started to say is that I am behind on reading both on and offline. I am only recently getting back to reading the daily posts over at the3six5.posterous.com, and have just caught up to the end of March. Like any blog, some posts resonate more than others. Since there is a different author for each post, it is even more of a grab bag than most blogs.

Until I unstick my lines of thought, I thought I'd point out a couple of posts that caught my eye. One tells me to relax, and one inspires me to get past this funk.

By Matthew Knight

I’m sorry.
I’d planned greatness for today.
I’d planned a trip to the other side of the country and back.
I’d planned a spun yarn of pirates and robbers and sharks and helicopters.
I’d planned a million dominoes clattering after one another around a six mile course of twists and turns and ups and downs and tunnels and bridges.
I’d planned a rodeo.
I’d planned a circus.
I’d planned a perfectly cooked poached egg.
I’d planned to create something so wonderful, wierd, wacky and wicked.
I’d planned to craft and cajole and create and curate.
I’d planned on doing so many things.
But instead, I went out for lunch.
I get easily distracted.
Somewhat like a magpie in a hall of mirrors.
I get distracted by another idea.
I get distracted by the dozen things which float around me in my personal digital cloud.
I get distracted by the thing I was meant to be concentrating on an hour ago.
I’m not actually that sorry.
It was a great lunch, with friends.
Wine, Roast Meat, Potatoes.
There was even cake.
I guess, one should never apologise for simply spending time with friends.
Putting down the laptop, and not writing a blog post.
Putting down the camera, and not taking a photo.
Putting down the pen, and not writing your diary.
It’s okay to not document.
It’s okay to not capture, edit, post, repost.
It’s okay to forget the infinite detail, and remember the fuzzy whole.
It’s okay to go outside and just be.
I’d planned greatness for today
I had a better day by just doing nothing.
I should try and remember that more often.


By Alicia Kan

Today I spoke to three strangers and made them laugh. I bought a book on Frank Lloyd Wright for a man who once dreamed of being an architect. And I inspired a business partner to reach for a goal he once thought was unattainable. 
Engineers build bridges. Artists create works of art. Although intangible, I hope my mark on this earth will be as memorable. I want my epitaph to read, “She never had an original idea. But she left a legacy of truth and beauty behind.”
In 2004 I was lying in a Hong Kong hospital, five tubes coming out of me, unable to move, because of cervical cancer. I was outraged that my body had failed me, sick of being surrounded by sickness and frightened at the prospect of death. 
That night I heard the patient in the next room dying. As I listened to him wail in the dark for someone to hold him, I thought, who would weep for him? Who would weep for me? How would I be remembered if I ever left this world? Would I be remembered at all?
It occurred to me then that I didn’t have a body of work worthy of a tribute. No Moleskin notebooks with scribbled poems. No unfinished paintings. No children. Just a history of bad grades, bad behaviour and a closetful of designer bags.
I swore that night that if I ever got well, I would say yes when before I’d say no. I’d stop worrying what people thought about me and do what made me happy. I’d give each person I met the best moment they could ever have, as long as it was within my power to give it. I’d live a life remembered.
So like pennies in a jar, I collect these moments. Today three people’s frazzled Fridays were, for one minute, lightened by deep belly laughs. One person rediscovered, in a swift turn of a page, why he loved Frank Lloyd Wright. And another person had an epiphany: He could go further and faster. His dream was not impossible after all.
On a day like this, my jar – and heart -- are full.

April 26, 2010

A toast

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water."

~ from the movie "Bottle Shock"


The movie Bottle Shock is based on the true story of the 1976 contest between French and California wines. California's Napa Valley was still the young upstart in those days, and was not taken seriously by the wine connoisseurs of the day. An Englishman with a wine shop in Paris proposed a blind taste test pitting the California wines against their more respected French counterparts. You may see the results coming down 5th Avenue, but the movie is quite enjoyable.

We watched the movie for the second time last night. Naturally, a bottle of wine seemed appropriate. The cupboard was bare of wine, but I had brought a single bottle down with me on my move from Seattle. It is a bottle that I had tasted once before in my own little contest.

My friend Scott had a watch that he never wore, and during a party at his home, we noticed it sitting on the counter in his kitchen. It was a Swiss Army watch with the logo of a restaurant we all had worked at, the place where we all met. Brian and I both admired it, and Scott was willing to give it to one of us. But who? I don't recall whose idea it was, but we decided that Brian and I should each bring a bottle of red wine to the next party. Whoever brought the nicest bottle would win the watch. It would be a blind taste test, so it was not the nicest by price, but by taste.

Well, Brian forgot about the contest, so I ended up winning by default. The bottle I had chosen was one I had never tried before, so we all enjoyed a glass for the first time. And it was good. I quickly returned to purchase another bottle, and I have been holding on to it ever since. Stashing it away for a special occasion.

That "special occasion" never happened, so the bottle has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. So tonight, we had our own Open That Bottle Night:
...the time when you are entitled to uncork that cherished bottle and enjoy the contents. The bottle that you enjoy, traditionally, is one that you have been saving for some special event that, so far, has never quite happened. 
Thankfully, the bottle had not suffered much from inadequate storage, or enduring the particularly hot summer last year. You never really know until you open the bottle if it was worth saving all that time. I don't know what exactly I was saving it for, but last night felt like the moment to open it.

So, I raise a toast to all of my wonderful friends. I have always cherished you greatly, but never more so than this past year and a half. I wish you all could have been there to taste just a bit of it. It held its own over time, just like your friendship.

Salud!

April 25, 2010

Clean slate

The necessity of short term memory for a runner (particularly after a bad run), courtesy of Feet Meet Street:

At the time, it was complete misery and I wondered why I did this to myself. I had a happy childhood. I once threw a spade shovel like a spear at my oldest brother in an attempt to impale him during an argument but everyone does that right?* What’s with the self abuse?
By that evening, I had forgotten all about the ½ hour of post-run torture and was already mentally planning my week in running ahead. And looking forward to my 22 miler in two weeks.
It’s important to have short-term memory loss as a runner. Forget the pain of the last run. If you are doing intervals, forget the misery of the last interval. Forget the pasty white thigh of the dude in the side split running shorts. Forget everything except why you love being out there in the first place. Move forward…think positive. Really, what’s a half hour of twisting, knotting leg discomfort in the course of a day?
*I didn’t hit him. The aerodynamics of the curved, unbalanced blade of the shovel threw off the trajectory sending it into a pile of dirt nearby. I stole his Vern Ruhle baseball card instead.

April 24, 2010

Oh, snap

That snapping sound you may have heard yesterday around 1:15pm was my body, and then will, breaking.

I was out on a 16 mile run, one more mile closer to the looming marathon in June.  When training for a marathon, I normally schedule runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays for the sixteen weeks leading up to the event. The midweek runs are about building a mileage base and a little speed, while the weekends are for longer runs to get your body used to the hours on the road. Many training programs have four to five days of running, but I have stuck with three both to avoid injury and to make it easier to fit them all in.

With the crazy commute and shrinking hours at home, I haven't been able to fit in the midweek runs for the past month or two. I won't say I couldn't fit them in, because I know busier people who do, but it would have been really difficult. I have been getting in the weekend long runs, but not surprisingly without the other additional runs to build a base, they have been pretty difficult to finish. Yesterdays run was where it all came crashing down.

The day was warm, but there was a nice breeze to help keep the temperature manageable. When I got out of the car and gathered my stuff, I realized I had forgotten my watch which monitors my heart rate and keeps track of the mileage. Kind of a bummer, but maybe it would be a good thing to just run by feel. I was running a new route that took me from Mission Bay, through Ocean Beach and up to Sunset Cliffs, but I had plotted the course out online, so I knew the rough mileage.

There were some hills in the middle segment, but nothing too brutal. Things were going OK for the first half, and without the watch reminding me of the seconds ticking by, I stopped in a few spots to admire the ocean view. But after mile 10 I started to feel pretty run down. I stopped for more water and to take an energy gel, and that gave me a bit of a boost, but it was short lived. After about mile 12 I started adding in some walk breaks, and not long after that, I was walking more than I was running. My chest felt heavy with fatigue, and as I stumbled my way home, my calves, hamstrings and glutes slowly tightened like a rope being twisted.

I ended up walking the last mile and a half to the car, and even that was painful. Usually the muscles will relax when I slow to walking speed, but they continued to get worse. My kingdom for a cab! I was also feeling pretty nauseous so in addition to my lack of fitness, I may have messed up the amount of fluids and fuel I was taking in.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised at this crash-and-burn with the half-ass way I have been training lately. Even though I know better, I still wanted to believe that I could prepare myself for the marathon distance on minimal training. I knew I wasn't going to run a great time, but I thought I could manage a finish if I did at least the weekend long runs. Now it isn't looking very good.

Yesterday I was ready to throw in the towel and write off the marathon. I am not much more confident today, but I am not quite ready to write it off after one (very) bad experience. This week I am going to try to get out for a run on Tuesday and Thursday. Our jobs are a little closer to home, so I should be able to fit in a few miles during the week.

And quite frankly, whether or not I make it to the marathon, I need to get back to exercising regularly. Even with swearing off fast food for the past few weeks, my weight is starting to creep up again, and I just don't feel very good overall.

And if I don't make it to the start line in San Diego, there may be a very nice consolation prize of a long weekend away with friends to soothe my wounded ego. The devil on my shoulder says maybe I should just throw in the towel after all.

April 23, 2010

This I Believe

Another story from This I Believe:

A Shared Moment of Trust
One night recently I was driving down a two lane highway at about 60 miles an hour. A car approached from the opposite direction at about the same speed. As we passed each other, I caught the other driver’s eye for only a second.
I wondered whether he might be thinking, as I was, how dependent we were on each other at that moment. I was relying on him not to fall asleep, not to be distracted by a cell phone conversation, not to cross over into my lane and bring my life suddenly to an end. And though we were strangers to each other, he relied upon me in just the same way.
Multiplied a million times over, I believe that is the way the world works. At some level we all depend upon one another to act in a way that avoids mutual destruction. Sometimes that dependence requires us simply to refrain from doing something — like crossing over the double yellow line. And sometimes it requires us to act cooperatively — as in the case of profound threats to our health or safety.
One familiar example of a serious problem that could not have been solved — or could not have been solved as promptly — without worldwide cooperation is the SARS epidemic. In 2003, SARS claimed 700 lives and threatened to spread around the world. The virus had to be quickly identified and controlled. That was too big an undertaking for any one country, but scientists from five nations were able — working together — to identify the virus in record time. Doctors around the world then brought the outbreak quickly under control.
Another area in which international cooperation is essential is terrorism. In the continuing struggle against this lethal threat, we cannot prevail without cooperation among the law enforcement agencies. intelligence services, and sometimes the military establishments of countries around the world. The daily news from Iraq and Afghanistan underscores just how much even America, the super power, needs such help.
Americans are a people who value their freedom to do what they want to do, when and how they want to do it. But we cannot escape the reality that in ways large and small, we live in an interdependent world. Only the unwise would say that an individual or a nation can go it alone.

Warren Christopher was U.S. Secretary of State from 1993 to 1997. As President Carter’s Deputy Secretary of State, he helped normalize relations with China, win ratification of the Panama Canal treaties, and gain release of the American hostages in Iran. A native of North Dakota, Christopher now lives near Los Angeles.

April 22, 2010

The beer garden


The beer garden isn't the only reason we run, but it is a nice reward for the effort. Most of the events of any size will have a beer garden near the finish line - they recognize a captive audience when they see one. Though runners tend to be disciplined folk, we are happy to turn our backs on counting calories on race day. And beer has that magical combination of water, carbs and celebration. Great for recovery.

We spent some time hanging out in the beer garden at the Carlsbad 5k a couple weekends ago. Because the race is divided up into gender and age groups, we were at the race for several hours. Sean and I were in the first race, and were enjoying a celebratory beer a few hours before Marci would tow the line. One of the great things about these running and biking events is the variety of people who participate. There are so many great stories behind those bib numbers. And the two places you are likely to find out about them are during the nervous chatter at the start line, and in the beer garden afterwards.

Sean saw one of his customers, Mr. Reed, at the Carlsbad beer garden. Mr. Reed has run more marathons than he choses to keep track of, and he told us stories about the Catalina Island Marathon mentioned at the finish village, as well as his favorite marathon, the Great Wall of China Marathon. Both are grueling courses, and it sounds like the Great Wall one included a ton of stair climbing.

This year's event was the 25th anniversary running of the Carlsbad 5k, and there was an 80's theme to the website and shirts. Even a local got in the spirit by blasting Asia's "Heat of the Moment" at 7:15am on his 4' stereo speakers around mile 1. (I totally dug that CD out of a box and listened to it last week. Totally). Mr. Reed mentioned that he has run in each of the 25 Carlsbad 5k events. I found out later that there are only 17 people who have done this. Sean commented to Mr. Reed that he was in a different age bracket when he started, and didn't used to have to get up so early. But Mr. Reed corrected him - he was around 43 when he started, and is still running the event at 68.

It is hard to imagine running an event 25 years in a row, and only starting when you are 43. But that is about where I am these days. I hope I am still standing at the start line when I am 68. And sharing great stories in the beer garden afterward.

Cheers!

April 21, 2010

April 20, 2010

Where the wild things are

On Sunday the troop headed to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It was Holly's birthday, as well as the last day of the annual butterfly exhibit, and who wouldn't want to invite butterflies to your birthday.

The park is enormous, covering over a thousand acres. There are more typical zoo exhibits as well as vast open enclosures where the giraffes and antelopes can play. There is a guided tram that takes you through the open area, and gives you a semi-close-up look at the roaming wildlife. In addition, there are several walking trails that take you to see other animals like the lions, tigers and elephants.

As you walk into the park, you immediately notice the extensive variety of birds in the park, most free to fly wherever they wish. Some belong there, but others just come to hang out in this little inland paradise. There were plenty of cool birds, but I don't think any can top the looks of this one.


It seems prehistoric, cartoonish, and even a little Muppet-like at the same time. If I remember correctly, it is a Shoe Bill Stork.

The park is so large that it would be difficult to cover it in one day. It is run by the same folks as the San Diego Zoo, so I invested in an annual pass so I can visit each one throughout the year. Now I don't have to try to see it all in one visit. I can just drop in and see the pandas on a lunch hour.

But on to the butterflies. They are in a building similar to an aviary, and dozens of varieties fly around you as you walk through. It was of course difficult to capture a picture that would do them justice, and my camera was really misfiring by the time we got there. I did capture a little video on my still camera. Again, it doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.


The line was the longest for the butterfly exhibit. Taking a tip from Disneyland, there was some entertainment to distract you while you waited. When you were almost to the entrance, there was a guy handing out crickets and meal worms. To eat. Matt and I took the plunge. Kind of salty in case your wondering.

After the butterfly exhibit, we went into the Loriket aviary. There you could get a little cup of nectar, and the birds would land on your arm to drink from the cup in your hand. We were there near the end of the day, so the birds were a little full, but they eventually came down to drink.


All in all a beautiful day.

April 19, 2010

Downsizing

All of my electronics are turning on me. My phone and my camera have been giving me problems, but the most irritating has been my laptop computer. I've had it for a little over four years, so I suppose in this era it is a dinosaur. I wiped it clean and did a fresh reinstall of Windows last fall, and it helped some, but it became increasingly slow and unstable. I had no interest in replacing it, but it was time.

As an example, after a fresh boot and nothing else open, it took seven minutes for iTunes to open. And the program wasn't functioning for another few minutes after that. It brought me back to the time of AOL and dialup. Like back then, I got in the habit of doing chores while I waited for programs to open. Click an icon, make a sandwich. In the past few weeks when I had so little time at home to just check e-mail, it was exceptionally frustrating, so I started looking for a replacement.

I had dragged my destop computer down with the move, so that was an option. It just needed a monitor, so I picked up the cheapest one at Fry's Electronics. As a side note, the cheapest monitor was a 20" LCD flatscreen, which was a vast improvement on the huge CRT I donated to the Goodwill, so no complaints there.

But I really liked the mobility of a laptop. My old laptop was a near necessity when I was working in real estate. Back then, I decided to get a large screen version for ease of use and for presentations to clients. I didn't skimp on the processor either, but of course by now it is outdated. But it ended up being rather heavy and cumbersome, so this time I looked into the newer, smaller (and cheaper) netbooks.

Since I have the desktop to do the heavy lifting, I didn't need (or want to spend money on) a top of the line model. The netbook would largely be for e-mail, writing and surfing, so portability was the main concern. I found a Gateway model on sale for $280. It is crazy, but that is less than I paid for my smartphone three years ago. The smaller keyboard and screen are a bit of an adjustment, but quite frankly I am just so happy programs open in under a minute that I am willing to be pretty forgiving right now.

So, much of the weekend was spent backing things up and moving files around. Just like a physical move, it is a pain in the butt, but it is a chance to downsize and organize. I am going to try to avoid gumming up the netbook with too much stuff. I will be keeping most of my pictures and music on the desktop, as well as all those archived e-mails I can't seem to clean out. I am also testing out Google's Chrome browser as it is supposed to run faster and cleaner than Firefox and Internet Explorer. Smaller, leaner, faster!

There was a brief temptation to jump ship to Apple. An iPad would be a pretty cool way to go, but their base model was twice the cost of the netbook, and I just can't see giving up the keyboard just yet. Apple doesn't make a netbook, and their cheapest laptop is a thousand dollars, so I am still a PC.

I haven't moved or figured everything out yet, but I am at least back up and running (and not swearing at the computer screen anymore).

Isn't it cute?

April 17, 2010

Chillin'

I made it home from work much earlier on Friday, around 6:15 or so. So much earlier that I was greeted at the door with a round of applause. It was a great welcome home and a good start for the weekend. We opened up a bottle of wine and watched Star Trek. I melted into the couch and was positively giddy (well giddy for me).

Didn't catch up on too much sleep, but did get an extra hour or so. The bed is at about perfect chin-height for the dog, and she greets me early each morning with smiling eyes and a wagging tail. The giddiness and wine lingered from the night before, so I was slow to get up. She started nosing the covers off, letting me know that it was time to get up and make breakfast. Now!

It was a nice, slow morning - coffee and the paper - good stuff. I haven't been able to get in any weekday runs the last few weeks, but I've been trying to get in the long runs on the weekends. The number 15 was on the calendar for today, and I wasn't feeling all that up to it. I headed down to Ocean Beach to get in some good scenery to make the day go a little better. It was a decent day, but the last few miles were a struggle. Not surprising with as little running I have been getting in. 

On every trip to San Diego in the past, I have made sure to put my feet in the ocean. I am drawn to it. But in the two months I have been down here, I haven't made the time to get to the beach. After I finished my run today, I walked the extra half mile to Dog Beach. Disneyland is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth, but I think Dog Beach may have it beat.

I walked through the bounding puppies and chilled my sore legs in the surf. Ice baths are supposed to be good for recovery, and it is hard to beat the feeling of toes in the sand while you're doing it. Glorious!

April 16, 2010

Trapped under a two ton heavy thing

courtesy of Indexed

Oh man, the week is finally over. It was another long one, working too far from home. On average, I am away from the house from about 7:00am to 9:00pm, and that adds up to very little down time during the week. I'd like to think that I have the ability to endure, and to do the same job under strain, but I know that isn't as true as it once was. With the lack of sleep and downtime, my mind has been scrambled lately and I have been more on edge.

When I get home, I have so much to do but no clear head to deal with it. I have ideas that I would like to get out of my head and down on paper, but I know it would come out even more jibberish-like than normal. I haven't read a page in a book in two weeks - I just don't seem to have the mental space to fit it in. Bills have been paid, taxes have been sent off, the dog has been taken care of, but not much else has made the cut lately. I try to get to e-mails, but anything needing more than a glance is put on the 'to do later' list (which is what the weekend will be about). The fact that the laptop is slower than a hand-crank calculator isn't helping, but that is another story.

I hope to have something besides woe-is-me B.S. up soon, but I need a seriously long nap. Too bad the dog is an early riser.

April 12, 2010

Somebody has a case of the Mondays

Like the rest of the days recently, this morning I was up too early with too little sleep in the bank. I tried to inhale my vitamin pill rather than swallow it, lodging it in the wrong pipe. It took several hacking coughs and too many seconds to expel the pill into the sink. I just about pulled a rib muscle in the process. It rained most of the night, and apparently California drivers are not prepared for this sort of thing. The first leg of my long commute usually takes about 50 minutes. Today it was an hour and forty-five minutes. Today's main project was sanding topping compound from the drywall ceiling, so it was a day filled with crap in my eyes and throat. Since the day started late due to traffic, it ran long and I didn't get home until 9:30. After showering off all the drywall grit, the towel caught on my hoop earring and just about ripped out my ear. I actually had to get my Swiss Army knife to cut it loose. Then I couldn't get Firefox or Outlook to open on my laptop. For some reason Internet Explorer is the stable program tonight.

Glad there is only one Monday each week.

April 11, 2010

The Carlsbad 5000

For such a short run, it made for a long day.

Because the 5k has so many runners, and the route crosses itself and some railroad tracks, the runners are split into eight separate start times including the elite runners. Since Sean, Steve Starr and I are all 'master' runners (older than 40), we all set off together in the first wave at 7:05am. Marci is not quite so masterful (old) and her wave went off at 10:20am. The event wraps up with the elites heading out at about 12:15pm.

With the large number of runners, and warnings on the website to show up early for parking and registration, I begrudgingly crawled out of bed at 4:30am to arrive at 6:00am. The warnings may have been a bit overblown, but it got me there early enough that I had plenty of time to find parking, pick up my packet and wander around soaking up the pre-race energy. And to wonder if getting up at 4:30 to run makes me a little crazy.

The weather was about perfect for a run, overcast with a little wind. The course is relatively flat with just two gradual hills, and about a mile of ocean views. I had plans of taking it a little easy for the first mile, but was caught up in the speed and energy of the start line and headed out at a good clip. Though the weather was coolish, I worked up a sweat pretty quickly trying to maintain pace. I managed to hang on and run a steady race.

There are a couple points where the route doubles-back, so it gave me a chance to look for my faster friend on the other side of the road. We all had a pretty good day on the road - Sean blazed the trail with a 20:11 finish, I followed with a PR of 23:47, and Marci ran her own PR of 27:37 even after straining her hip an hour before the gun went off.

We decided to grab some lunch and stick around for the elites to run their race. World records have been set on this course and we were anxious to see if today was the day for another. After watching them fly by at the start, Sean and I hustled over to the finish. We weren't sure what the record was, but the way the announcer was carrying on it sounded like it was going to be close. Unfortunately, the elites ran into more wind on the coast than we did, so their quest for a new record came up short. The men's winner finished in 13:11 and the first woman crossed the line at 15:04.

It is hard to fathom running that fast for three plus miles, even if all you did in life was train to run. Most of my training in the past has been toward longer events, tests of endurance rather than speed. But even though I was just above the middle of the pack, today's run for speed felt really good. I could see getting hooked on these shorter events, training to gain seconds rather than miles. It would also be a whole lot easier to fit a 5 miler into the weekend instead of a 15 miler. And that would mean more time for sleep.

April 10, 2010

Is running recession proof?

Most all of us have felt the pain of the last couple of years. Falling home values and sketchy employment have forced some belt-tightening. But sales of certain items seem to be a bit recession proof.

I remember from my Econ classes that hamburger sales move in reverse of the economy. When times are tough, people buy cheaper protein. Other items that are moving in the same way are Spam and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Not surprisingly, antacids and Pepto-Bismol are also seeing a jump in sales. But also included in the list of movers are running shoes and sunscreen.

Both the Seattle and San Diego Rock n Roll Marathons have sold out this year. Seattle's inaugural event sold out last year, but sold out much more quickly this year. San Diego had never sold out before, though the sell out had a lot to do with the addition of a half marathon option for the first time this year. And I also heard that the Las Vegas Marathon race fee went up by 50% in only its second year.

I'll be doing my part to support the running industry tomorrow morning - I'm running the Carlsbad 5000 with Sean & Marci. Carlsbad was one of the first major 5k events and it is now in its 25th year. It is also one of the largest 5k's in the country, boasting about 10,000 participants this year. Several world records have been set on this course, and I am hoping to set my own little PR. I don't think I will finish in a particularly great time, but I should be able beat my previous best since I haven't run a 5k for time in about three years.

Turns out that running beats both depression and recessions.

April 7, 2010

This I Believe


One of the last books we read in book club was This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. It was actually one of my picks because I had heard about the old radio show from the '50s, and the effort by NPR to revive it a few years ago. The original radio show was hosted by Edward R. Murrow and featured brief essays by both the famous and the unknown. Politicians, nurses, artists, construction workers, athletes, parents, students - anyone and everyone could contribute.

It is a difficult assignment to capture what you believe in three brief pages. From the introduction of the book: "This I Believe offers a simple, if difficult invitation: Write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life - your personal credo."

The book is based on the series, and features essays from both the original series and more current submissions. Many essay titles are serious like, "There is Such a Thing as Truth", but there are also some more lighthearted ones like, "Be Cool to the Pizza Dude". There was also two essays from the same person - one from the '50s series when the author was 16 years old, and another essay fifty years later. I originally checked the book out from the library, but after bookmarking about fifteen essays with scraps of paper, I decided it was a book I wanted to own.

I enjoy having the book to refer back to, but I have found that most all of the essays are also online. I thought I'd feature some of the ones that spoke to me or touched me in some way. These will be in no particular order, probably just in the order they appeared in the book. The first is from the 1950's by composer, conductor, pianist and educator Leonard Bernstein.

The Mountain Disappears

I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the whole mountain disappear for me. One person fighting for the truth can disqualify for me the platitudes of centuries. And one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it.

I believe that man’s noblest endowment is his capacity to change. Armed with reason, he can see two sides and choose: he can be divinely wrong. I believe in man’s right to be wrong. Out of this right he has built, laboriously and lovingly, something we reverently call democracy. He has done it the hard way and continues to do it the hard way–by reason, by choosing, by error and rectification, by the difficult, slow method in which the dignity of A is acknowledged by B, without impairing the dignity of C. Man cannot have dignity without loving the dignity of his fellow.

I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of “human nature.” Human nature is only animal nature if it is obliged to remain static. Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love.

I believe in man’s unconscious mind, the deep spring from which comes his power to communicate and to love. For me, all art is a combination of these powers; for if love is the way we have of communicating personally in the deepest way, they what art can do is to extend this communication, magnify it, and carry it to vastly greater numbers of people. Therefore art is valid for the warmth and love it carries within it, even if it be the lightest entertainment, or the bitterest satire, or the most shattering tragedy.

I believe that my country is the place where all these things I have been speaking of are happening in the most manifest way. American is at the beginning of her greatest period in history–a period of leadership in science, art, and human progress toward the democratic ideal. I believe that she is at a critical point in this moment, and that she needs us to believe more strongly than ever before, in her and in one another, in our ability to grow and change, in our mutual dignity, in our democratic method. We must encourage thought, free and creative. We must respect privacy. We must observe taste by not exploiting our sorrows, successes, or passions. We must learn to know ourselves better through art. We must rely more on the unconscious, inspirational side of man. We must not enslave ourselves to dogma. We must believe in the attainability of good. We must believe, without fear, in people.

April 6, 2010

Quote of the day

My family and friends are the best thing I've known.
Through the eye of the needle, I'll carry them home.

~ from "Minutes to Memories" by John Mellencamp

April 4, 2010

Looking past the cover

I received an e-mail from my friend and roommate Matt a few weeks ago with a link to a story online. For a couple of reasons, I hadn't made the time to read it until today. Since I am getting home late these days, I have only made quick scans of e-mails, and the longer stories were marked to read later. The other reason was that the link was to a story on the Huffington Post, and the link had in the title, "6-questions-for-an-athies".

Oddly enough, I have never visited the Huffington Post (though I hear Arianna Huffington as a commentator on the podcast Left, Right and Center). And the title in the link kind of made me a little suspicious going in. What sort of story was I going to find sent by a conservative believer to a liberal agnostic. And again, I don't describe myself as an atheist so that gave me a little extra tweak. I did not intentionally leave the story to the day of Easter, but this morning it seemed appropriate to finally click the link.

What I found was a great interview with the author of In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church. It is the story how the author, a self-proclaimed atheist, goes undercover in the megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell. As the interviewer says:
In the end, she came out -- as we all should -- more understanding of our religious neighbors. Her book is a great example of how those on any side of the religious, political, or cultural divide can retire our preconceived notions by walking a mile in someone else's shoes and come out a more tolerant and well-rounded individual because of it. In that sense, we should all try to emulate Welch's open-mindedness.
It is an interesting interview about the author's motives and experiences, and I have placed the book in my 'to-read' queue. It was also an interesting lesson. The author attends the church to get past pre-conceived notions by meeting real people, hearing their stories and getting a taste of their lives. Theses caricatures and stereotypes we knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate get in the way of honest communication and real understanding.

I had a pre-conceived notion when I saw the link that made me hesitate to click it. I had my own little knee-jerk reaction, even though the story was coming from a friend. But I came back to it eventually and found a great article and story. Check it out.

The rest of Easter was great. We attended a nice service at church this morning and then headed to a friend's house for more fun and a nice dinner. We even had an earthquake (7.2 centered near the Mexican border) and a small fire on the patio to make the day that much more memorable.


I hope you all had a wonderful weekend

Amateur hour as a vet tech

So we're three weeks into the pooch-with-diabetes phase of our life. She has become less tolerant of the insulin shots lately, and it usually takes a firmer hand to get her to sit still. But in general, she is doing great. Her energy level is up and she is back to doing her happy dance at meal time again.

As I mentioned in my last update, the next step was to do some blood testing to monitor her glucose level throughout the day. The initial dose of insulin was largely an educated guess by the vet. By monitoring her blood work for a day, we can see how her meals and the insulin shots affect the glucose level in her blood. If her levels were still too high, we could increase the amount or frequency of the insulin shots (or decrease them if the levels were too low).

The pooch had a bad episode about a week ago. I came home from work at around 10:00, and she was acting funny and having difficulty standing. From what I had read, I assumed she was having a hypoglycemic reaction (dangerously low blood sugar) so I gave her some molasses for some quick sugar. It seemed to do the trick, but it was pretty freaky.

I cut her insulin dose in half for the week and got online to order a meter and test strips. I had Friday off so that became blood testing day. The plan is to take readings every hour or so to check her blood glucose level to see how it rises and falls between meals and shots. Ideally it rises and falls in the acceptable range. I had done a little internet research, but I was still a little nervous about the whole thing.

The suggested place to draw blood seemed to be from the ear or the lip. I figured that the ear was the safer bet since she doesn't like her mouth messed with. There was no way I would be able to get her to sit still before her morning meal, so I tried to get a sample shortly after she ate and before her insulin shot. It did not go well.

I stabbed the veins in her ear three separate times and all it did was irritate her. The meter needs only the smallest drop of blood, but I came up empty each time. We were both pretty frustrated, so I stopped trying for a while and jumped back on the internet. I found a new site that suggested taking blood from the callus on the dogs elbow. The first try there didn't net enough blood either, but at least it seemed to be painless. The fifth time was the charm and I actually had my first clear reading.

Since things started so badly and the first reading showed a decent glucose level, I decided to take readings every two hours instead of every hour. The rest of the blood draws went relatively well, and the readings were all within the acceptable range. Assuming the meter is accurate, the current half dose of insulin seems to be enough. I will discuss this all with the vet, but I am guessing that I should just check her blood work periodically to see if we need to adjust anything further.

A stressful day, but in the end a good one.

April 3, 2010

Go for launch

Click to enlarge

Will the iPad change everything? Has Apple hit another home run, or will it not live up to the ever-increasing hype of an 'i-something' product launch? I have a feeling it will be a very (very) cool gadget, but unless you have money to burn, it might be a tough sell for something that falls between an iTouch and a laptop especially in this economy. As Sean put it, it is built primarily for consuming, not creating. But I'm sure there will still be lots of people in line this morning anxious to get there hands on one.

And the iPad has made it's mark in one way already - prices of e-books are going up. Publishers have been frustrated with Amazon's price-point of $9.99, claiming they can't make any money at that price. The coming competition from the iPad launch has allowed them to renegotiate with other e-book sellers. Amazon, Barnes & Noble to let publishers set price for e-books. Increased competition and prices go up. Not what I learned in business school.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have an iPad. Just can't convince myself that I need one.

April 1, 2010

Quote of the Day

Its funny how
life turns out,
The odds of faith
in the face of doubt.

Camera one closes in,
the soundtrack starts,
the scene begins.

You're playing you now.

~ "Camera One" - The Josh Joplin Group