April 30, 2011

Stalled

I have been experiencing writer's vapor lock. I just can't seem to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Writing here has been sparse, and the other blogs are totally neglected. And the novel has been stalled in rewrite all month. My engine is seized and I just can't seem to get it restarted.

I've even lost my reading rhythm, and I think the two are connected. When I was working on my own novel, reading other works of fiction would give me flickers of insight and inspiration. Now all novels sit neglected by my bedside.

I've had a few larger topics working in the back of my brain for a while now, and it seems that until I write about those, the inspirations of daily life don't make their way to the forefront. And it is odd, some of the topics are about frustration and stress, but I am actually pretty happy right now. I know that I just need to write, write about anything to get the pump primed again and turn the vapors into something solid.

The weather is beautiful, the coffee is strong, the future is brightening. The head will clear and the writing will get better.

April 20, 2011

Quick Boston update

The friend I mentioned in my earlier post went on to run a great race. She cut over 8 minutes of her previous PR, and requalified under the tougher Boston standards. And for the first time, the text message updates actually worked this time around, so I was able to follow along as she ran the course.

Something I didn't catch until today - the top two male runners ran faster than the world record. And by a big margin. The winner finished in 2:03:02, taking nearly a minute off the previous best of 2:03:59. The second place finisher was just four seconds behind, also crushing the world record. The only problem is that it doesn't count (at this point).

From the Boston.com article:
On two accounts, Mutai’s accomplishment does not meet the International Association of Athletics Federations standards for a world record. In a rule meant to equalize the impact of tailwinds, the association requires courses to loop around so that, in the case of marathons, which are 26.2 miles long, the start and finish lines are no more than 13.1 miles apart. Boston, of course, is a straight shot. The Boston marathon also exceeds IAAF downhill regulations for having an overall elevation drop of 459 feet.
But neither of those measures takes into account the actual difficulty of the Boston course, whose twists, turns, ups, and downs make it far tougher than any flat, circular course could be. Runners almost universally consider Boston the toughest of the world’s five major marathons. New York, London, Berlin, and pancake-flat Chicago have nothing to compete with the steep inclines of Newton, culminating in the most humbling ascent of all the majors, Heartbreak Hill. Those hills are most likely the reason that Boston, for all its history, has not seen a world record in the men’s race since 1947, when Korean Suh Yun-bok won in 2:25:39.
Boston Athletic Association Executive Director Tom Grilk said it got to the point “where we hadn’t given a lot of thought to a world record being set here. With the ups and downs, it’s so hard for the runners to get into a constant rhythm.’’ Moreover, Mutai’s 2:03:02 came without the controversial aid of pacesetters. Boston and New York ban the practice in which runners with no intention of winning pull along the elites with a blistering pace for 18 or so miles before dropping out. The previous record of 2:03:59 was set by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia with the aid of pacesetters at the 2008 Berlin Marathon.
The BAA said yesterday it will seek to have Mutai’s time officially recognized, on the grounds that the Boston course features “punishing changes in elevation’’ and that its memorable finishes are achieved “through competition, not with rabbits,’’ in Grilk’s words. The IAAF’s desire for uniform rules is understandable, but the ones they’ve imposed are too arbitrary and serve to unfairly prevent recognition of a world-class achievement.
Brutal.

April 19, 2011

That is not the word you are looking for

I've been doing a lot of text messaging the past few months. In fact, it seems my phone is hardly ever used as an actual phone these days.

I am still using a very basic phone, so texting means tapping the numbered keys. There are three letters associated with each number, so you can tap each key 1 to 3 times to chose the appropriate letter. The other, slightly faster method is to let the phone predict what word I am looking for.

Each series of numbers can match more than one word, so you often have to cycle through some choices. For example, a 4-6-6-3 can spell either 'good' or 'home', words which have a nice little connection.

I recently typed in the last name of a friend. I of course didn't expect the phone to know the name, but the series of key strokes came up as 'enemy'. A terrible misunderstanding.

Early morning quote of the day

"39 is so much older than 38."
~ Holly

* Being sick doesn't help.

April 16, 2011

April 15, 2011

Running Boston vicariously

click to enlarge

I ran with a pace group at last year's Long Beach Marathon. Our leader was supposed to set a steady pace that would get us across the finish line for a 3:50 finish. There were probably 20 of us all together following along in a shifting blob of runners. I chatted with a few of the people along the way, passing the time and hearing some great stories.

Our pace setter blew up on a hill at around mile 17 and I never saw him again (he ended up finishing at around 4:30). A few of us pressed on without him, and I fell into step with Trish for the next few miles. I had learned earlier that if she finished in the planned 3:50, she would qualify for Boston. We were able to make up the time we lost on the hill, and we were roughly on pace to finish in time.

At around mile 21, I started to slow and couldn't keep pace with her. Didn't exactly blow up, but I lost a couple minutes over the final five miles. I was happy to hear that she pushed on to finish in 3:50:59, capturing a Boston Qualifier by a single second. She was also fortunate to get signed up amid the crush of runners that filled registration in eight hours.

She found me on Facebook, and I will be following along online as she runs her first Boston Marathon. I think if I were to qualify, I would just enjoy the day and the course as much as possible, enjoying the reward for all the hard work to get there. From what I can tell, Trish has been training to shave six minutes off her PR, in hopes of qualifying for Boston, at Boston, under the new standards.

I have no idea what will be going through her head as she runs. Probably nothing like the video below, but when I saw it last night on Half-Fast, I couldn't stop laughing.

April 14, 2011

Where does it all go?

What if we got a receipt?

I am doing my taxes this week. If I was expecting a return, they would have been done long ago, but I put them off until now to delay the drain from my bank account. I have done my own taxes every year since I was 16. It is never a treat, but most of the time is spent gathering receipts and cross-checking them with Microsoft Money (self-employment adds to the headache). Preparing my own taxes is one of those things that I know I can do, so I hate to spend the money to have someone else do it.

And I do them by hand. These days there are .pdf forms you can download to make them neater than my sloppy penmanship, but they do not do the math for you. It is more painful than using a computer program, but this is another place where I figure my time is worth less than the software price.

This year though, I used an online version of Turbotax. It was free, so the price was right. The online version was pretty slick, and the necessary forms populated with all the important numbers. Being who I am, I will still go through it by hand to double check it. I still have to do my state taxes, which will be a first (CA has them, WA doesn't). I am debating paying the extra fee to use the Turbotax for the state return as well. Since tax day is only four days away, I may just pony up.

There are a couple of bills coming before Congress that would provide taxpayers with a relatively detailed receipt of where their money was going (Seattle Times article). As Congress debates about the amount in the penny jar when it comes to our budget, it turns out the American public has little idea where all our money is being spent. According to a recent survey:
..half the respondents believe that international humanitarian aid consumes at least 10 percent of the federal budget. The actual figure is about half of 1 percent. The median guess for share of the entire federal budget allocated for the Corporate for Public Broadcasting was a whopping 5 percent - more than what the government spends on transportation, law enforcement and homeland security combinded.
If the American public had a better grasp on where our money was going, we could better decide what we want government to pay for, and what we could cut back or eliminate. We would be less inclined to believe the hyperbolic rants about how we need to slash NPR for budget reasons.

The portion of the budget that goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is actually only one one-hundredth of one percent, 424 times less than the average person believes. And the cuts to this budget have nothing to do with reducing the deficit. NPR's portion is a fraction of that one one-hundredth of one percent, and the "Congressional Budget Office calculated that the net savings from defunding the network would be zero."

If we knew where our money was going, we could see what cuts would actually make a difference. And we would recognize what was actually fiscal responsibility, and what was just politics. A detailed receipt for our purchases would be a good start.

April 13, 2011

Recalibration

I have continued to enjoy reading the3six5posterous for its variety of writers. If something an author writes catches my eye, I often will follow the link to their own blog. Monday's post did not especially grab me, but the author notes (her book title specifically) intrigued me enough to click over:
Christina Rosalie is completing her first book, Life In The Present Tense: A Field Guide To Now, that will be published in 2012. She blogs at MyTopography.com.
After clicking over to her blog, I found this beautiful post/poem on sinking into nature and prayer:

Recalibration

Absolutely worth the click.

April 11, 2011

No you're not

Whenever someone says they are going to give 110%, I have to laugh. Not only is it mathematically meaningless, but the people who drag out this well-worn phrase are typically those that give a half-assed effort on most days. What they are really saying is that they are going to bump up their typical 60% effort to a strenuous 75%. Don't tell me how hard you are going to work, just show me.

It is like when someone would tell me they were a great tipper back in my restaurant days. My response (in my head) was "no you're not", but they received the same level of service as everyone else in my section. I am not sure if they were just trying to get the monkey to dance for the promise of a shiny object, but they were never "great" tippers, and were often quite cheap.

If you feel the need to boast before you bother to make the effort, you likely have nothing to boast about.

April 10, 2011

Quote of the day

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.
~Winston Churchill

April 6, 2011

Small costs of nice weather

Spring has sprung in a big way. Last week we actually shot past spring and had a couple of days of summer, topping out at 90 degrees at the house. Along with the annual return of beauty in wildflowers and sun dresses, warmer weather means allergies and spring cleaning.

I have been allergic to most things that grow or walk on four legs. When things go into bloom each spring, I am attacked on all sides. The list of things that set me off has become a little smaller over the years (cats don't bother me nearly as much), but I can usually count on a couple of months of uncontrollable sneezing every year.

With only two days of warm weather, my allergies are already in bloom. I try to avoid using drugs, and have been using a Neti pot to wash away the irritants for the past couple of years, but sometimes I have to call in the big guns. Fortunately, the one drug that actually works for me is now over the counter.


I'll admit that I raised my arms in victory like a total nerd when I saw the first ad on tv.

The pooch is also suffering from allergies - she has developed an allergic reaction to fleas. She has never had issues before, but fleas are a much bigger problem down here with no cold winters to kill them off in big numbers. When they start attacking, she loses hair in big clumps and her coat takes on a odd dimpled look like she is a walking golf ball.

Another odd weather related difference down here is all the street cleaning. Some cities and neighborhoods sweep the streets every week, something that never happened in Seattle. I guess it is because there is so little rain to wash them naturally, but it seems an odd thing to spend money on. Maybe clean streets are one of those background things that keep people happy.

But all this cleanliness ended up costing me $50 last week. I parked overnight in the wrong spot and woke to a ticket. Of course the sign telling be about the street cleaning was down at the end of the block, but I am pretty sure they have heard that excuse before.

This morning it is raining, which throws a wrench in our work plans (hard to stain wood when it is raining). But the rain will bring more spring flowers, if not more sun dresses.

April 4, 2011

Carlsbad 5000

It was another long, beautiful day.

This was my second running of the Carlsbad 5000, a race that boasts that it is the "World's Fastest 5k". The course is a pretty simple loop that runs along Pacific Coast Highway with some great water views. The small hills and occasional winds means it isn't the fastest course, but the event attracts many elite runners, and several world record times have indeed been set there.

The weather was great for Sean and I in the morning, slightly overcast and cool. Sean was still fighting a chest cold and I was nursing a sore back, but neither of us were smart enough to bow out. The event is so large that it is actually six separate races, and by the time Marci ran at 10:20am, she was fighting warm temperatures Sean and I avoided at 7:00am.

I managed to shave off a minute and 44 seconds off my Carlsbad time last year, and set a 37 second PR compared to the Oceanside Turkey Trot last November. Marci also set a 28 second PR and walked away with a medal for finishing in the top 250 of the 30-39 year old bracket. Sean beat us all to the finish, but his chest cold kept him from breaking any of his own records.

We stuck around to watch all six races and spent some time in the beer garden celebrating with others. We ran into one of Sean's customers again this year, and he has run in each one of the 26 annual events. At 68 years old, he routinely wins or places high in his age group and had some great stories to tell.

The race only took a little over 22 minutes to run, but we were down there for about eight hours start to finish. There are marathons where I have spent less time. There is definitely something special about this race.

April 2, 2011

Next!

We've clicked over into another month, and it is time for another monthly New Year's resolution. Last month's goal was to write for an hour each day. It actually went reasonably well until the last week. Several days I was able to get in a few hours and make real progress on the book edit, but the last five days or so was pretty much a bust.

The goal for April is to avoid fast food. I have been eating on the run far too much lately, and my wallet is shrinking while my waist expands. When I have given up fast food for Lent in the past, I have exempted sub shops since they are not nearly as unhealthy as their deep-fried brethren. I will keep this option open if necessary, but I am hoping to cut way back on the money I spend eating out. I don't often spend money on a fine meal, but those too frequent $7 meals add up.