February 28, 2011

More good 3six5 posts

I have passed along a few good posts from the3six5.posterous before, and below are teasers of a couple good ones posted on back-to-back days. The blog invites a new author each day, so at the end of each year you have seen the world through 365 different viewpoints. I was actually selected as an author, and I am scheduled to post there this Saturday.

By Josh Boston:
At this very moment there are 247 snow flakes hanging from my ceiling. I’m moving away from sunny Southern California to the mountains of Colorado and I figured making it snow in San Diego would be a good going away present...
I love these snowflakes because they’re the physical representation of being present, being alive, of thinking of something & then actually doing it.
Which I kinda suck at. I'm terribly inconsistent.
They represent the opposite of “Oh, that’s a neat idea,” and instead say “Whoa, I really did that."
I want more of the latter in my life. ‘Cause in life, I call timeout way too often.
I’m guilty of talking a lot, but then not doing much of anything. Of pretending there is plenty of time for the promise of tomorrow. Often I’m waiting for things in life. Waiting for a break, for a spouse, for when I get a mortgage, for when everything finally arrives. But there is no waiting because life doesn't slow down...
The rest of the post

By Sam Ismail
Life is always simpler when you let go of who you think you should be. You hear it and you roll your eyes. But when you live it, you’re awash with a sense of freedom that you can’t quite quantify or express. Not in a tweet, a Facebook status update, Foursquare checkin or an angst-filled lyric you wished you’d written. It just is.
I weave in and out of airports, cities and traffic these days, walking past and through people and buildings I know well. The irony that fate wraps in everyday is not lost on me as I see the person I was and pity him, even though it’s actually me I’m so disdainful of. To borrow a famous thought, I let go of everything and only kept what came back to me. That is now what is precious.
I wish I had known that the thought that "you just might not be enough" is an illusion. Like the monsters under our beds and in our closets that terrified us when we were young. In the end, the monster in the closet, when the light’s turned on, is just a jacket on a hanger and the fear is gone.
The rest of the post

February 26, 2011

Streak broken

Well, I didn't work out yesterday.

After work, I went to a local brewery with my good friend Sean. There have been some very good and very bad things going on in the past few weeks, and it was just great to hang out with a friend over a beer. We didn't solve any problems, but there was certainly something gained in the sharing.

I could blame the missed workout on strained back and glute muscles, but I could have done some upper body work (Lord knows I need it). I had the time - I arrived home at around 8:00 and I could have stopped off at the gym on the way home to keep the streak alive. I even had the will to do it. I just decided against it.

Going 28 for 28 would be satisfying on paper, but these resolutions are not about perfection of status reports. Too many people look at a backslide as a failure and they give up on the effort to change. One evening of ice cream does not doom your new way of eating. One skipped workout should not derail your effort to get in better shape.

One of the things we talked about last night was my previous inability to accept my own shortcomings and failures. I used to beat myself up over mistakes, somehow assuming I should be perfect rather than human. I still have moments of frustration over stupid mistakes, but it no longer spirals out of proportion.

We are all flawed human beings, and I have found that pretending otherwise is damaging. Bottling up or unleashing frustration only serves to distance us from each other. Being honest and sharing our flaws and concerns (maybe over a beer) not only fosters humility, but it lets us know we are not alone in the things we struggle with.

We can aim for perfection, but can't reasonably expect it. And 27 for 28 is no where near failure. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back out there and go for a run in the rain.

Blanket of white

There is a storm rolling through southern California that will dump an inch or two of rain today. Temperatures are going to be low overnight, and snow has already been falling above 2,000 feet. Here closer to the coast, it will just be rain, occasionally flooded low spots and terrible traffic.

We did have a flurry of white at the house though, I brushed out both of our white dogs and swept the house. Came up with enough white fur to make my own cat.

February 21, 2011

February 19, 2011

Spring cleaning

If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
~Albert Einstein

I am a pack rat. To be honest, I am also a bit of a slob. I create, and put up with, an increasing amount of clutter in my life. Most times I don't even see it, but every so often I feel the walls closing in on me. This week I have been trying to do a little early spring cleaning to beat back the avalanche.

I started with my room. Most everything I brought down to California is stored within the walls of my bedroom. After living here for a year, there are several things I have not touched since I arrived, so they are just taking up space. But of course there were things that did not fit in the back of my truck that I have since needed and purchased down here. On top of all that, throw all the daily debris into the mix and I was starting to feel a little like a hoarder, needing to create pathways through all the junk. I am exaggerating, but it was starting to feel that way.

So this week I tried to take off the top 10% layer of stuff to clear the room and my head. It probably doesn't look all that different to the outside observer, but it definitely feels better to me. The next project is clearing off the table I use for a desk, and that means going through piles of receipts to update my files and prepare my taxes. Not looking forward to that one.

There is only so much I can do, however, to clear out the room. Furniture and the dog bed alone command a lot of floorspace. One big item I could move to clear out the room is my bicycle, but for some reason I like having that in my room even if I don't ride it all that often. But it may get relegated to the shed on the next pass-through.

Yesterday I cleared out the cab of my truck. Ever since I started working in construction, I accepted that my truck would always be pretty dirty. There is just no way to keep it clean when you are dragging in dirt and mud every day. And it is rare that I have a passenger in the truck, so I never really thought about how filthy it was getting.

Once I started digging into it, I began to see how disgusting it had become. I eat while driving quite a bit, so along with all the dirt, paperwork and dog hair, there were plenty of crumbs and crusty fries to be found. The truck could still use a scrubbing down, but at least now it relatively safe for human habitation.

Sometimes a cluttered desk is just a cluttered desk, but I have to say that my mind was a little more at ease when I sat down in my cleaned out truck this morning.

February 18, 2011

Fooling myself

So February's goal is to work out every day. So far, I am sitting at 100%, but it has been more difficult than I imagined.

It is pretty typical for me to run three times a week, and at certain times of the year I throw in a swim or maybe a bike ride on top of that. I knew moving to seven days a week would be more of a challenge, but I wasn't too worried about it. My work schedule has varied quite a bit this month, so I haven't found a standard time to get out. I have also been running low on sleep, so the sunrise hours have not been very tempting. I have found a way to make it happen each day, but have found myself rushing to the gym or running in the dark a few times.

One of the things I did not think about was laundry. I have a ton of running shirts picked up at various races, but do not have a weeks worth of shorts. Typically I can get by on one load of laundry a week, but not this month. I have had to do a couple late night loads of laundry in order to have workout clothes to pack the next morning.

My legs are pretty strong from years of running and biking, but my upper body only gets a workout during the occasional swims. However I do work in construction, so I thought there was a certain level of strength there. I don't do any sit ups, but the occasional day of mixing concrete provides a pretty good core workout. But I was fooling myself.

I have done a couple days of push ups, planks and sit ups to strengthen my core, and I was pretty embarrassed with the results. In my head, I thought I could hold a plank position for a couple of minutes, but my back was shaking almost immediately. I squeaked out 45 seconds but it wasn't pretty. I have been pretty fortunate to avoid much back pain in all the years of construction, but it is pretty clear that I need to work on these muscle groups to keep that streak alive.

February is turning out to be a good gut check month, quite literally.

February 17, 2011

Things just got more difficult (part II)

As if finding work weren't hard enough, a federal agency warns that some employers are excluding jobless workers from consideration for openings.

People testified before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Wednesday about what some said is a growing trend of employers refusing to consider hiring the unemployed.

The practice has surfaced in electronic and print postings with language such as "unemployed applicants will not be considered" or "must be currently employed."

...Several examples of such help-wanted ads were offered: A Texas electronics company said online that it would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason"
Full Seattle Times article

Things just got more difficult

One of my goals is to qualify for, and run, the Boston Marathon, but I still have a long way to go to get there. I would need to improve my current PR of 3:52:13 by more than a half an hour in order to get in. The qualifying times are based on your gender and age, and the 40-44 age bracket requires a marathon finish of 3:20.

When I move into the 45-49 bracket, I get an extra 10 minutes vs. the 40-44 group (3:30 vs 3:20), and this has been a goal I can more easily wrap my head around. The earliest I could qualify in this slower age bracket is around October of this year. I had thoughts that I could make changes to my fitness and training this summer and hopefully get much closer to the 3:30 mark. But now they have moved the finish line.

After the 2011 Boston Marathon sold out in just over 8 hours, the BAA needed to make some changes. Rather than increase the size of the field, they decided to make it a more difficult challenge to qualify and register. The qualifying times for all of the gender and age groups have been cut by five minutes. My 3:30 goal is now a 3:25 goal.

They have also changed the registration process so that the fastest runners get a chance to register first. For the first couple of days of registration, only people who beat their respective qualifying time by 20 minutes or more get to register. On the third day, runners who beat the BQ time by 10 minutes get to register. On the fifth day, the five minute group gets to sign up. The following week, everyone else who qualified gets to register.

So not only do I need to get five minutes faster, it is entirely possible that even if I snuck in under 3:25, I would not get in unless I beat it by several minutes in order to register earlier. I can't really argue with letting the fastest in first, and there's not much I can do about it but to try to get faster. Time to double-down on the training.

BAA press release


Update: I just found out that the 59 second cushion is also being eliminated. In the past, if your qualifying time was 3:30, you could run 3:30:59 and still get in. No more. So in real terms, the qualifying times actually got six minutes faster. Damn.

February 16, 2011

Blast from the past

We went up to the mountain town of Julian this past weekend. Julian is an old gold mining town that has morphed into a shopping and tourist destination. It is sort of similar to Leaven(s)worth in Washington, though without the Bavarian theme.

The road in and out of town is a bit twisty as the road snakes up the hillside, but a dose of Dramamine kept everything in check. The road passes through land that was pretty decimated by a wildfire a few years ago, and white, burned-out trees stand amongst lower green growth. We took the long way back along a road called Sunrise Highway, which provided some great views of the desert to the east.

The weather was pretty decent for a February afternoon, and there were a lot of people (particularly motorcyclists) wandering around town. I guess there are tours of the gold mines, but our group was pretty content to just wander down Main Street, look in the shops, and indulge in a slice of pie Julian is famous for.

One of our first stops was at a place called the Candy Basket. The shop had hundreds of different kinds of sweets, and Kristy found plenty of Valentine's treats for some friend's kids (including a large jawbreaker that hopefully won't end up getting used as a throwing projectile).

Along with all the regular treats you might expect to find in a candy shop, the place had a ton of candy that I didn't even know was still being produced. I just couldn't pass by this when I saw it.


POP ROCKS!! I haven't seen these in probably 25 years. If you know nothing about Pop Rocks, it is a carbonated candy that fizzes and pops when it comes in contact with moisture (like the saliva in your mouth). It is the same sort of fizziness that is in any carbonated soda, but it is an odd sensation when the solid candy starts popping on your tongue as the CO2 is released.

As described in the Wikipedia entry, an urban legend soon developed that if you ate Pop Rocks with a can of soda, the resulting CO2 gas would cause your stomach to explode. The rumor more specifically said that the "Hey Mikey" kid from the Life cereal ads died from the Pop Rocks/Coke combo (he is alive and well). The Mythbusters have done an episode further debunking the myth.

I can actually remember a phone call to my house as a kid where a person was conducting a survey about Pop Rocks. They asked what rumors I had heard, and I repeated the exploding myth, though I think I might have said a bursting kidney. When I read the Wikipedia article, it appears that Seattle was particularly concerned with the "dangers" of Pop Rocks.

I tried the Pop Rocks this morning and it was just as I remembered it. I kinda grossed out my roomies as I stuck out my tongue so they could listen to the popping. It was a fun flashback, with no exploding organs, but I think I can wait another decade or two before having it again.

February 11, 2011

Time flies

I have been working over at a friend's house this week doing some odd jobs and repairs. I am working by myself, so I have been catching up on the backlog of podcasts. There was a repeat of an episode of This American Life called Contents Unknown. One of the stories was about people who bid on the contents of abandoned storage units based solely on what they can see from the doorway.

There was nothing particularly special about this episode, but I knew exactly where I was the first time I heard it. I was nearing the southwest corner of Washington state on my drive down to California. I can clearly picture the wooded road I was driving on when I heard about these storage unit scavengers for the first time. It continues to baffle me how the mind makes these connections when it fails at so many things (I locked my keys in the car today by the way ).

Then last night just before turning out the lights, I spotted this on my bulletin board:


It reminded me that I arrived in San Diego the day before Valentine's Day last year. It is surprising think that I have been down here for a year now. It doesn't seem like it has been that long, but at the same time the drive down seems like forever ago. At times it feels like I haven't done all that much in a year's time, but I suppose that was part of the plan for the walkabout.

Still comfortable with the decision a year ago - no regrets. It has definitely been a good experience, even if I can't say that I have checked off many to-do items. There have been some wonderful surprises along the way, and I have no idea what the next year will bring, but I feel like I am ready for it.

February 9, 2011

Quote of the day

Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
~ Aldous Huxley

February 7, 2011

Internet time wasters - feline edition

In case you need a little distraction at work or anywhere else, I give you the iPet Companion.



You can remotely play with cats at two different Humane Societies, one in Oregon and one in Idaho. The controls allow you to move the camera around the room, as well as manipulate three different remote arms to dangle or drag toys for the cats to play with. For now it only works with Internet Explorer for some reason. Here is the Oregon site.

In typical cat fashion, they stood back in disinterest when I was at the controls.

February 5, 2011

Peta-ful

February is work-out-every-day month, so I finally dusted off the bike after an embarrassing six month hibernation. I have no good excuse why it has been so long, other than it seems I've been training for marathons for the past 9 months, so running has been the priority. But it was a beautiful 60 degree day here in lovely San Diego, so I went for a couple of laps around Mission Bay.

The route took me by Sea World twice. The first time around, there were people from PETA protesting the fact that Shamu, et al are being held in captivity. There were probably 15 or 20 people holding signs near a traffic signal, sharing their slogans with people waiting for the light to turn green. It was pretty peaceable overall, but a couple of people were holding a large sign blocking my way onto the bike path. I rang my bell and waved, but they seemed to be ignoring me. When I was almost upon them (I was stopped at the light so I wasn't moving fast), one person moved a foot to the left so I could sneak by.

On my second time around, traffic was backed up for several blocks. And this was the reason:


Now there were four people in Shamu costumes lying across the road, shutting down two of the three lanes. There was a policeman there directing traffic, probably waiting for others to arrive so he could clear away the protesters. I have never understood the thought process that would lead someone to believe that blocking traffic is the best way to get their point across.

On my first trip around, they had a captive audience every minute or so when the light turned red. People could read their signs and decide whether or not to tell little Sally that they weren't going to go to Sea World after all. Who knows how many people they reached by reminding them that the animals are in captivity for our education and entertainment, not for the animal's benefit. Probably not a ton of people, but they may have caused a few to look at things differently when they walked in the gate.

However, I can almost guarantee that by blocking traffic, they pissed people off enough that any message was lost. The only people on their side would be people they had already reached (and even then they might have lost several). Very few people are open to a new opinion or way of thinking when you start by pissing them off.

I can only assume that by jacking up traffic, it feels like they are making more of an impact. But I doubt it is the impact the really want to make.

February 1, 2011

Picture of the day

Ready for a sunny, San Diego afternoon. Beach perfect VW Bus with room for a bike and a pooch.