February 28, 2009

Everything is amazing, nobody is happy...

Louis CK on Conan O'Brien explaining how amazing and convenient technology is, and why nobody is happy. The bits about rotary phones (two zeros!?) and internet on the airplane is particularly funny. Quit yer bitchin.

And about that 'r' in February...

February 27, 2009

Hope and redemption

I recently contacted Verizon because the charges for our FIOS service varied wildly month to month, and we hadn't seen a bill - ever. When we signed up they required a credit card since we didn't have a home phone bill, so various amounts have been coming out of the account. While I was on the phone trying to straighten things out, the guy on the other end mentioned that they had a new special that they could upgrade us to, and it would actually save us a dollar a month.

We now have a HD package, even though we don't have an HD TV set yet. We also have faster internet and a movie channel package for some indeterminate time (I got lost in the details). My wife is out with some friends from her old job tonight so I thought I'd see what was on.

I found Shawshank Redemption playing on Encore. I had missed the first 45 minutes or so, but it is one of my favorite movies so I couldn't pass it up. It is the story of Andy Dufresne, a young and successful banker whose life changes drastically when he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife and her lover. It is a story of holding on to hope in the darkest of places. Highly recommended if you have never seen it.

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

February 26, 2009

Miscellaneous photos

There was a dusting of snow this morning and it reminded me I needed to download some photos from my camera and phone.

Frosty shadow

Snowy ladder

Frozen in motion

February 25, 2009

Tell me about yourself

One of the projects I have been working on in the background is building a resume and starting a job search.

As I imagine most of my readers know, I currently work as a real estate agent and mortgage loan officer. And as almost everyone knows, home buying has come to an almost complete halt in the last six months. Fortunately there has been a bit of an uptick in refinances lately as rates have been hovering in the low 5% range. I have also taken over loan processing for everyone in our company so I have been a bit busier lately. Even so, I am looking for a new regular job with the plan to keep active in real estate and mortgage on the side.

It is an interesting exercise to look over your working life and try to sum up the last 10 or 15 years on a single page. And of course the goal is to make your experience and skills look not only applicable to the position, but somehow better than all the other schmoes out there looking for work. This is even more difficult when you are switching careers.

And of course, there are a lot of other schmoes out there right now. Recently 1400 people applied for, and 800 showed up to take the test for - a single job opening for a water meter reader for Tacoma Public Utilities. I have confidence that I can do well in many positions if given the chance, but it is going to be tough just to get to the interview stage with this many people fighting for attention.

I need something to set me apart. I mean there are resumes out there like this I need to compete with. Click to enlarge.

If you still can't read the small fonts when enlarged, here are some highlights:

"...participated in the executive level management of 120 people worldwide in a successful pot smuggling venture with revenues in excess of U$ 100 million annually(...) expert in all levels of security(...) well-traveled, speak English, French and Spanish(...) references available from friends, family, US District Attorney..."

February 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing--that's why we recommend it daily.

- Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker

February 22, 2009

Never tell me the odds

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.

I was listening to the This American Life podcast from last week. It was their Valentine's theme episode, so I am a little behind. The introduction segment was about David Kestenbaum and some other Harvard physicist students talking over coffee at the office. They noted that none of them had girlfriends. So, this being the world of physics, their next thought was to apply the power of mathematics to estimate the likelihood of finding a girlfriend.

They use a variation of the Drake equation, which is used to estimate the number of planets that have intelligent life on them (stick with me). You start with all planets and begin eliminating groups that can't support life to arrive at the remaining possibilities. They apply this line of thinking toward narrowing down the population to arrive at the number of possible girlfriends. Soon they are filling white boards with calculations.

  • So in the episode, they use the population of Boston as an example - 600,000.
  • So they cut it in half so they have the desired gender. - 300,000.
  • Then they narrow it to within 10 years, plus or minus of their own age - 100,000.
  • These being doctoral students, they wanted college graduates - 25,000.
  • Now, of course, we only want the single ones - 12,500.
  • Then we get to how many people are actually attractive to you. They guessed high at 1 in 5 women - 2,500.
  • 2,500 women in the Boston area, and this is before they consider anything personal (sense of humor, religious beliefs, outlook on the world, etc.)
As they are looking over the somewhat depressing odds, one of their professors walks in, and they start running the numbers for her. They start with the basic eliminations they had done for themselves, and then she has some specific ones to add. The man had to be taller than her (she was quite tall herself) and he had to be smarter than her (she was a Harvard physics professor). Her number basically came up as zero.

During the wrapup, David Kestenbaum talks about his thoughts during this whole mathematical discussion. Ignoring the odds, did he believe there was still someone out there. Yes, he believed there were people out there who would be right for him, but not just one. "If there were just one person out there - good luck! They could speak Chinese. What are the odds you're going to find them and a translator? You've got to believe there is more than one person"

"But if you do believe there is more than one person for you, you really might want to keep that belief to yourself sometimes. This may be one of those ideas you don't want to bring out of the classroom and into the real world."

They then give an example of one of their co-workers Alan Blumburg. He is talking to his future wife about how great it was that they were in love, and how happy they were to have found each other. She asked if he thought she was the only one for him. He answered, "I don't know if you are the only one for me, but I think you have to be like one in a hundred thousand."

At the time he thought it was romantic, thinking that there are almost 7 billion people on the planet - 100,000 sounded pretty rare. She did not. Though the math works out to be .0014% or a 1 in 700 chance, that is little solace. The wife says she doesn't really believe in the "one person", and she didn't expect her husband to, but why couldn't he set his scientific mind aside and just say it.

I have probably said some similarly dumb things to my wife. I know I made a CD for her (a mixed tape!) when we were dating that included the song Ghost of a Chance by Rush. The lyrics start out promising, talking about how amazingly small the chances are that we would find each other:

Like a million little doorways
All the choices we made

All the stages we passed through

All the roles we played

For so many different directions

Our separate paths might have turned

With every door that we opened

Every bridge that we burned

Somehow we find each other

Through all that masquerade

Somehow we found each other

Somehow we have stayed

In a state of grace

But then I throw a bit of a wrench in things with the chorus:

I don't believe in destiny
Or the guiding hand of fate

I don't believe in forever

Or love as a mystical state

I don't believe in the stars or the planets

Or angels watching from above

But I believe there's a ghost of a chance we can find someone to love

And make it last...

Oy, it is a wonder sometimes how we get together.

Interestingly enough, the first act of the podcast is a story about a man who falls for a woman who he met briefly while performing in China (If there were just one person out there - good luck! They could speak Chinese). A few years later he returns to China, and with nothing but a name, finds her, and they end up coming to the States and getting married.

They eventually face struggles. The novelty had worn off and the framework of their relationship was a world away. They often told the story of how they met and fell in love. It helped them and reinforced the fairy tale nature of their relationship. They fight through the tough times and make it through the other side. The husband observes, "People never ask how did you stay together. Everyone always asks how did you two meet?"

Act two, "Tom Girls" is a wrenching tale about transgender children. It fits into the theme of "one person out there that understands me", but is very different from the other stories. The third act is a funny bit by Mike Birbiglia called "My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend" and is a funny look back on the torture of teenage romance.

Worth a listen.

Chilly Hilly

A brief ride report - 33 miles, lots of hills, 2675 feet of climbing, a little over two hours.

This year was a little different. I actually knew three different groups of people who were going to do the ride. I ended up riding with Dave and Jay, and we had a great day. We woke up to rain and it was still drizzling when we got off the ferry, but the rain subsided and we were back to only dealing with the "chills" and the "hills".

Dave and Jay are both strong riders, so they challenged me to push my limits. We rode straight through without stopping at the rest or food stops. We had grabbed the first ferry and pushed the pace enough to finish before the last bikers even got started. We were done and enjoying the spoils of victory (a cold beer) before 11:00am. It felt good to push things a bit. I really want to become a stronger rider this year, and this first event of the year feels like a good start.

February 21, 2009

Tide - now with a fresh outdoor scent.

Today is laundry day at the old homestead. I only leave my running and biking clothing in the dryer for a few minutes, otherwise the heat of the dryer can ruin them. As I was draping the shirts and shorts on various chairs, something crossed my mind - laundry used to be a much nastier chore.

My clothing would come home smelling of smoke when I worked in restaurants. We would often hang out in the bar after our shift, and the air was filled with a blue haze of cigarette smoke. I can remember when I lived in my old apartment that as soon as I got home I would strip off the clothes and toss them out onto the balcony to air out. They still had a fair amount of smoke funk come laundry day, and the foul smell of old smoke is not the best thing to wake up to.

The state of Washington has banned smoking in restaurants and bars, so this wouldn't be as much of a problem today. Still, I am glad to be spending my free time outdoors rather than hanging out in a bar. And laundry day doesn't smell like a hangover any more.

February 20, 2009

Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon course

The course has finally been announced for the June 27th marathon. I had heard that they were having difficulty getting the full marathon course approved by the city. It sounds like an event of this size typically takes over a year to put together, and the Rock n Roll event was only announced in August of last year. From the rumors I heard, they were trying to get the course over to either West Seattle or the Greenlake areas. The course they ended up with is a little disappointing and I am hoping it was a compromise due to the time pressure.

The first part of the course is the same for both the half and full marathons. It travels north from Fosters Golf Links in Renton, and after about 4 1/2 miles reaches the shores of Lake Washington. The next five miles travel along the lake's edge, and should be the highlight of the run. The route then climbs up the hill toward downtown, and the half marathoners finish somewhere near Qwest Field.

The disappointing part is the next 13.1 miles for the marathoners. It looks like we will be running a double out and back on highway 99. This does include the Alaskan Way Viaduct which provides an elevated panoramic view of the water, but it doesn't quite make up for the fact that we will be running along an industrial highway. Add in the fact that the course doubles back twice, and it means we are in for some monotony. (And yes I understand some may think it is ironic to complain about monotony when talking about running 26 miles).

I am hoping this route was their fallback option, and that they are already working on a route that travels a more interesting road for next year. I really hope they come up with more of a loop route and get rid of the out and backs along the highway. I still think it will be a great event this year. The Rock n Roll marathons put on a great show, are well run, and will hopefully bring in some much needed tourist dollars.

Below are pics of the course and elevations, and more information can be found here.

February 19, 2009

Quote of the Day

In the best of times our days are numbered. And so it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world's crises so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were assigned in the first place...the opportunity to do good work, to fall in love, to enjoy friends, to hit a ball and to bounce a baby. - Alistair Cooke

If you're having a little trouble shutting out the crises of the world, you could tune in to KJR FM. Their morning show is reporting only good news. They reason that you can get bad news everywhere else you tune in or log on. In case you hadn't heard, the national employment rate is nearly 93 percent!

Time to take the dog for a walk in the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air and find those hidden roadside flowers.

February 18, 2009

Flying in formation

I am watching coverage of the Tour of California bike race tonight. It is a nine day bicycle race running up and down the hills and coast, and is the largest event in the United States. Of course the biggest events are over in Europe, as are most of the major teams. The U.S. presence is getting bigger in the sport, and the Tour of California is kind of the kick off to the season. I enjoy watching the big tours, and seeing the pro tour riding in front of the backdrop of the California coast is a beautiful thing.

Our own season kick off event is the Chilly Hilly, which is this Sunday. It is only a one day event of 33 miles, but the hills make up for its brevity. The event is a tough start for those of us who are more weekend warrior than competitive cyclist. I have been out on my bike six times this year so far, which is five more than last year at this point, so that's a good sign.

I mentioned that I have started joining the Sunday morning running group at Running in Motion. They also have a Saturday morning bike ride that I tried last weekend. There were seven or so riders, and after a couple miles we fell into a paceline. For non-bikers, a paceline is a string of bikers riding closely together, one behind another. The front biker sets the pace, and all those behind get the benefit of riding in a wind shadow. With someone in front of you blocking the wind, you are able to ride at higher speeds with less effort. On the pro tour, rather than a paceline, it is a mass of bicyclists riding wheel to wheel, shoulder to shoulder in a fluid group called the peloton. It is an amazing thing to watch.

I have done very little paceline riding. We had a great paceline when we were racing to beat the deadline as we rode out of Glacier National Park. The road was closing at 4:00, and we had been dragging our feet all day to get in as much time in the park as possible. It was a lot of fun to crank up the pace as a group and we made it in just under the wire.

I have always heard about the benefit of riding in a paceline - riders can realize a 30% energy savings by tucking in - but I really haven't done it enough to make my own judgment. On Saturday, we were cruising along at about 19 mph. When it was my turn to take the lead, I decided to watch my heart rate. Though it didn't feel like I was struggling to maintain the pace, my heart rate jumped about 20-25 beats per minute compared to when I was following.

I have resisted riding in pacelines in the past. I'd rather enjoy the scenery than blow through the day looking at the rider in front of me. I do have some longer rides planned this year though, so a paceline may become a little more tempting. The lesson of course is that it pays to have the support of friends around you rather than trying to do it all on your own.

February 17, 2009

This day in history

Something wonderful happened today some years ago (I cannot tell you how many), and I am forever grateful for this day.

Happy Birthday!

February 15, 2009

Lost in translation

The world's most difficult word to translate has been identified as "ilunga" from the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern DR Congo.

It came top of a list drawn up in consultation with 1,000 linguists.

Ilunga means "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time".

My new favorite word.

Courtesy of Neatorama. link.

February 14, 2009

Unemployment making it tough on burglars

Patrick had been recently been laid off by Washington Mutual, meaning he was home during the day when a couple of guys broke into his house. He kept his head, called 911 and snuck out the back way. Then it gets kinda funny.

Looking back, Patrick Rosario realizes it probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.

Still, as it turned out, the burglars who tried to loot his Bellevue home got a surprise of their own as they began their escape: Rosario had made off with their getaway car.

As he puts it: "The good guys win for once."

Check it out.

Seeing it everywhere

I was out walking with the pooch yesterday, and saw this image in the fog line at the side of the road.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

February 13, 2009


I was at the gym today to do my running on the treadmill. I had some errands in the afternoon that took me near the gym, and that made it easy to go inside to run where it is warm. While I was in the locker room getting ready, I noticed a song playing on the sound system. It is the theme song to The Biggest Loser - not too surprising to hear it since 24 Hour Fitness has a tie-in with the show.

The song is called "Proud" and is sung by Heather Small. The recurring phrase in the chorus is "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" While I was doing my 30 minutes of treadmill time, I thought about that line in a couple of ways.

I am my own worst critic. I am pretty hard on myself, sometimes for things I wouldn't fault others for. I expect a lot from myself, and when I fall short I have a hard time letting it go. This self-criticism can spiral into feelings of shame, and as much as I think I am keeping these feelings inside, it is pretty clear that I am not. These feelings can snowball to the point where you feel like you aren't doing much of anything right.

At my core I know that I am a good person with qualities, viewpoints and outlooks that I am proud of. Lately though I have been only seeing where I am failing. I know other people going through something similar and are feeling down about themselves. But each day we all do something important, something to be proud of. It doesn't need to be a lifelong goal, it can be as simple as helping a friend, teaching your child, going to the gym, not letting someone get to you, doing your job well, standing up for yourself, tackling that task you were dreading, facing a fear, etc. It pays to stop and reflect on the positive things you've done each day.

Of course on the show, the participants are making huge, life-altering changes for the better, and the song is a nice inspirational backdrop. While I am rediscovering some pride in who I am right now, I want to continually challenge myself to be better, and maybe make some life-altering changes down the road. In the meantime, I will try to keep things in better perspective. I will continue to set the bar pretty high for myself, but I'll try to stop beating myself up so much when I fall short.

Here is a simple thing I would have been proud to have done:

February 11, 2009

If you don't observe them, do irritating people disappear?

One of the podcasts I have been listening to intermittently is Zen and the Art of Triathlon. I am several episodes behind, but I caught a good one this week called "Quantum Spinach". One of the pieces was using quantum theory to talk about difficult people. It went something like this...

He started with two ideas from science. First - scientists have observed that matter is actually 99.9999....% empty space. There isn't much of anything in between all the atoms, neutrons, electrons etc. Second - according to quantum physics, observation affects reality.

Then he paired the above observations with dealing with difficult people. He makes the point that difficult people are only difficult to you a small percentage of your time. He gives examples of neighbors who flick cigarette butts out on their sidewalk. The amount of time in his life that he sees the cigarette butts is .0001% of his life. The rest of the time, he isn't experiencing those difficult people.

Of course many folks let these sorts things bother them for a much larger portion of their lives. Back to the observation of matter, you are observing the problem it as if it were 100% solid, when in reality, the real matter only occupies .0001% of the space. The goal of course is to not let such a small thing ruin your day.

To reinforce his point, he relays a story of two monks encountering a beautiful lady at the edge of a stream.  The lady is in a bit of distress and needs to get to the other side of the stream for some reason. So one of the monks picks her up in his arms and carries her to the other side, where he sets her down and receives a quick kiss on the cheek.

The two monks continue walking. It becomes apparent that the second monk is furious, smoke practically coming out of his ears. He can't contain himself and finally has to say something. "How can you have done that? We are supposed to stay away from women, yet you carried this woman across the stream." The first monk says, "you know, I put her down miles ago. You are still carrying her."

That is what you are doing if you let someone continue to irritate you, or you let one thought dominate your mind. You continue to carry something that should have been set down a long time ago. And of course the frustration you carry around, the difficult person probably isn't thinking twice about. Why should you be the person suffering?

February 10, 2009

What it is all about

Matt over at the Dawg Run has a regular post detailing his runs, often relating what he thought about while out on the road. Today's post is an excellent one on friends, struggle, redemption and love.
I think I decided that it was love that makes a hero . . . not just the warm fuzzy feeling that masquerades as love . . . but the type of love that loves even in the face of utter hopelessness . . . when you can't see how you will make it through . . . when it would be easier to walk away . . . and yet you embrace the baleful of pain and suffering for the one thin straw of love that lies within it . . . a love that is an agonizing choice of will . . . a love that chooses to love when you don't even feel like loving anymore . . . a gut-wrenching choosing of love at the end of all things because otherwise what is it all for . . .
Check it out

Silly web stuff

A video comparing Benjamin Button and Gump

Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie link

When Charlie Kratzer started on the basement art project in his south Lexington home, he was surrounded by walls painted a classic cream. Ten dollars of Magic Marker and Sharpie later, the place was black and cream and drawn all over.

There are fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, Winston Churchill lounging with George Bernard Shaw — and the TV squirrel Rocky and his less adroit moose pal Bullwinkle.

There are both The Walrus and the Carpenter (from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There), and William Shakespeare. The Marx Brothers peer around a corner. A flip-top garbage can is transformed via marker art into Star Wars' plucky little beeper R2D2.

Below is a snapshot of the room. If you follow the link above, there is a video that pans the entire room. Very cool.

Healthy Fitness Horoscopes. link

This showed up in my e-mail a little while back. Not that I pay attention to horoscopes, but here is the one for Gemini which sounds a little like me:

Gemini: May 22 – June 23
As a Gemini, you put a lot of value into careful thinking. Unfortunately, this means you have a hard time shutting off your thoughts and relaxing. The next time you’re mind is racing, slow down with a yoga class. If you’re not seeing the fitness results you’d like, satisfy your analytical side by keeping a fitness journal to assess your exercise habits. Log your workouts on a calendar to see how much exercise you’re getting. Fewer than three sessions a week means you need to take action. You’re interested in so many things, so it won’t be hard to find a new sport or activity to shake out the doldrums.

And something I clipped from some random Kindle post:

Q: Will ebooks save trees from being cut down?

A: Yes, but, nowadays most paper is made from criminal trees that deserve to die.

February 9, 2009

I'm just fine, thanks

So the Kindle 2 was announced this morning, and it turns out the leaked information passed around the internet was spot on. It is slightly more powerful, sleeker, and has a couple new bells and whistles.

As a current Kindle owner, Amazon.com was nice enough to send out an e-mail this morning offering me a spot at the head of the line to upgrade. At full price of course.

Quote of the Day

It may seem absurd to believe that a "primitive" culture in the Himalaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned. - Helena Norberg-Hodge

Quote introducing chapter 12 of Three Cup of Tea.

February 8, 2009

The early one sees a bird

As part of my 'get up early to workout' plan, I headed out this morning to meet a local running group. The group is hosted by Frank Yamato who owns Running in Motion near the Edmonds waterfront. The group meets every Sunday morning for a run around town. I have been on his e-mail list for quite a while, but have never ventured out with them until this morning.

I met Frank when I was just starting out as a runner. Wanting to support local businesses, I stopped by his store in search of some new shoes. The previous model I had been using was discontinued, and he spent some time watching my running gait and recommended a replacement model. He also hosts some running events throughout the year, and my friends and I have made the Rudolph Run a Christmas tradition.

Running is a funny sport. Most of the time it is a solitary venture. I typically run by myself as finding someone who runs your pace can be difficult, and matching up your schedules - fuggetaboutit. Running has become even more solitary with 95% of runners wearing iPod earbuds off in their own little world.

Still, there is a great feeling of community with other runners. You feel it at the starting line of any event. The nervous chatter, comparing training and goals, swapping stories about how you made it to the start line with all that is going on in your life. There are the smiles and waves as you pass another runner out on the road. Are they out there running toward or away from something? And there is a special commiserating bond when you pass another runner in the pouring rain or freezing cold. A smile that is part "way to go" and part "what were we thinking?"

So I crawled out of bed this morning to join a new community, though it was very tempting to hit the snooze button. I met some nice people and now have someone else to hold my feet to the fire to get out early on the weekends. I ended up running with a man named David who owns a wine shop called Arista Wine Cellars. I definitely need to get in good with this guy.

We all headed out from the running store and soon broke into smaller running pace groups. David led me around Edmonds, up hills, through neighborhoods, down to the waterfront and past the marina. It was just above freezing, but David set a pace that had us warmed up pretty quickly. It was great chatting with him while we ran, but the highlight was seeing a bald eagle at the waters edge just across the street from us. Though we see eagles once in a while circling over the Seattle area, it is rare for me to be this close to one.

All in all a good morning. The rest of the day is filled with errands, laundry, giving the dog a bath, etc., but it was nice to get an early jump on things. I just need to work on getting to bed a little earlier on the weekends to make the snooze button a little less tempting.

February 6, 2009

Time on the road

Matt over at the Dawg Run had a good post on the selfishness of running. Here is a bit of his post:
What I was ruminating on this morning is the shop-worn question of "Is running an inherently selfish pursuit?" Think about it - you take time out of your day, away from family and friends (usually) . . . to pursue something that makes you and you alone happy.

Think about what you could get accomplished in that 1 1/2 hours spent driving to, working out at, and driving home from, the gym. Think of the hours, days and weeks, spent pounding the pavement with little more than nothing to show for it.

Think of all the things that you put on hold - that you push to the side - that you kick to the next calendar day just so that you can get your scheduled work-out in . . . .

... But the paradox is, I cannot be wholly "present" unless I break away to work, pay bills, run errands and yes, run. Exercise is one of those things that we all just need. You need to move your muscles and bones and feel the wind in your face. In a strange sort of way, not exercising is a disservice to my family. Whatever my failings are now, I believe they would all be worse without a little sweat-session every other day. I owe it to my family to take care of myself.

I started running four years ago this month. I had done some biking previously, but never worked out on any regular schedule. I would get out on the bike a few times to prepare for events like the STP, but exercise was not a way of life. Running came even less naturally to me than biking, so to prepare for a 5 K, 10 K, etc. I had to get off my butt and out on the road on a more regular basis.

I started running four weeks before my first 5 K. My first entry in my running log was on 2/13/05 and reads: "First Run! The fantasy of a marathon begins here. Two short runs with a walk in between. 32 degrees, about a half a mile". I had a great time running my first event, the St. Paddy's Day Dash, and I definitely wanted to continue running.

I'd like to say that I continued training three days a week from then on, but the habit did not take right away. I ran only sporadically the next few months, then didn't run at all over the summer (though I did bike a bit). I started up again in September to prepare for a couple of events and this time I ran pretty regularly for most of the next year. I still have moments where I step away for a while, but some form of exercise has become a more regular part of my life.

Like most people who work out regularly, I have thought about the time away from my family. It can be a pretty selfish pursuit. My point of view is similar to what Matt expressed - I am generally a better person because I do get out and run or bike regularly. I feel better physically and mentally having gone out there. I think it is important to break away for periods to do something "selfish" to decompress and clear your head. Doing it through exercise is doubly beneficial because the additional fitness increases endorphins, metabolism and self-image and this all carries over to other parts of your life.

However...I can do a better job of it. One of several plans for this year is to change the time I work out on the weekends. I am not a morning person so I would typically go out on my long run or bike ride in the early afternoon. This is kind of a day-killer when I'm doing a higher mileage run, and that doesn't leave much room for family plans. So the plan going forward is to get out on the road in the early morning while my wife is catching up on some much deserved sleep. Ideally I will be back by the time she is rolling out of bed and we will have the rest of the day free to do something (or absolutely nothing) together.

Another lesson I'd like to take away from this is that just because you don't successfully change your habits the first time (i.e. working out regularly) doesn't mean you're doomed to fail in the future. If at first you don't succeed...

February 5, 2009

Page one

We had our latest book club last weekend, and one of the books suggested for next time was The Hour I First Believed. Though we didn't pick it, Wally Lamb was highly recommended as an author. During my wander through the bookstore the other day, I picked up his second book I Know This Much is True. I was reading the book jacket and saw this in the description:

A contemporary retelling of an ancient Hindu myth: a proud king must confront his demons to achieve salvation. Change yourself, the myth instructs, and you will inhabit a renovated world...

I have mentioned before that I am working on small changes in my life this year. I haven't exactly had an epiphany - more like an awakening. It was significant though, and now I see the world through different eyes. However, the world hasn't changed just because I see it differently.

Now the real work begins.

February 3, 2009

Book return

I took the box of books we had culled from our bookshelf around town to try to find them a new home. The first stop was our book club meeting over the weekend so everyone could pick over them. Not many were chosen, but I wasn't too offended since they were our castoffs.

Next stop was Third Place Books to see if I could get a little money from them. I had heard from a friend that Third Place offered a bit more than Half Price Books, but that they only take what they can sell. Half Price will take everything off your hands and donate what they don't plan to sell. There were 40 or so books in the box, and it was going to be about 25 minutes or so before they could get to them.

So I wandered around the book store with a cup of coffee. This is a great way to spend a half hour. So many books. I always enjoy checking out the staff suggestions and this book store also had a shelf of selections from 20 or so local book clubs. Surfing for books on the Kindle just isn't the same. I found an interesting book on the discount shelf and also picked up a copy of Anna Karinina for next book club. I'm sure they take their time sorting through your books so you have time to wander around and pick out their replacements.

Anywho, they picked out about 12 paperbacks and offered me $8 cash or $12 in store credit. Plus they give you a 10% discount if you spend the store credit right then. So I walked out with fewer books and less money overall, but with some new reads. I dropped by Half Price Books and they took the rest of the books off my hands for $6 cash, plus another 10% off coupon. Overall hardly worth the effort, but we have one less box of stuff clogging up our household, and reuse is one step up from recycling them for paper.

Speaking of paper and the Kindle, Sean sent a great link to a story regarding the cost of printing newspapers vs. sending out Kindle versions.
Not that it's anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.
Full Story with math.

February 2, 2009

If - by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

February 1, 2009

The Kindle is a hit

Well I have now read two books on the Kindle, and I am enjoying it even more than I expected. There are many advantages that I detailed in my earlier post, but I until I actually used it I wasn't sure how I'd transition from paper to electronic screen.

I've read one non-fiction book and one novel so far, and you can almost forget you're reading an electronic screen. The device stays out of the way of the experience for the most part, but the technology is there when you need it. I have been highlighting passages and good turns of phrase so I can refer to them later. In the past I have done a poor job of taking notes. I most often had a piece of notebook paper stuck in the back of the book, but didn't consistently have a pen handy, especially when I read before bed. Now it is all there at my fingertips.

Books are delivered over a cellular network they call 'Whispernet' and it works quite well. Books are delivered in about 30 seconds, and most top out at $9.99. One of the books I bought was only $2.99, and many older books that are out of copyright can be found for free online. I have downloaded classics like Moby Dick, Walden, Great Expectations and The Count of Monte Cristo which are now sitting on my virtual bookshelf to read later.

Another book I have downloaded is the Bible. I did not do very well on my reading program last year. Looking back I made it to about the middle of March but then I fell out of the habit. I never found a regular time to read the daily verses, and the Bible is not an easy book to tuck into your backpack. Now it is with me where ever I go and I can catch up on my reading when ever I have a free moment or two. And of course, now I can take notes and highlight passages on the fly. I started a little late this year, but have caught up so I am only a week or so behind schedule.

It sounds like Amazon.com will be announcing the Kindle 2 soon, possibly on February 9th. I have seen some leaked images online, and it looks a little bigger but thinner and sleeker. My impression is that any software updates will be available to the older models as well, so hopefully I will get any new bells and whistles.

Thanks again Momma Doris!

Leak on New Kindle