March 31, 2010

Ad of the day

I received this ad probably 15 years ago for a magazine of essays and short stories. Never did subscribe, but I had their mailer tacked to my wall for a number of years. Came across it in the move.

Click to enlarge

March 30, 2010

Plug and play

I was driving home a few nights ago when I got a call on the cell phone. The GPS showed the incoming call, so I clicked the button to answer it. And I heard nothing. I was able to send the call back to the phone and retrieve the call, but only because the caller had been patient listening to silence for ten seconds.

Great, the fancy Bluetooth thingy wasn't working. While I was driving home I tried to figure out what the problem was. Then it dawned on me that there was no real manual included with the GPS, only a 'quick-start guide'. This has become pretty typical these days and that is both good and bad.

On the plus side, many electronic gadgets are set up to be relatively intuitive to use, so a brief guide will get you started. And by not printing out the full manual for every item sold, many trees are saved and less gas is burned to deliver them to the store or your door. On the negative side, people have stopped taking the time to learn how to use things. If a feature doesn't jump right out at you, you may never know it exists. And if something doesn't work, you have little troubleshooting knowledge to fall back on.

I used to be in the habit of reading every manual for every new product I bought. Before I used something, (usually while it was getting its first charge) I sat down to learn about all the features and how to use them. J used to good-naturedly tease me about it, saying I was more excited about the the manual than the gadget. Of course after she had to ask me about how to use a new gadget a few times, she started skimming the manuals as well.

We have come to expect that things should just work without needing to learn how to operate them. Don't get me wrong, plug and play is a good thing. When I was shopping for a digital camera, if I couldn't navigate the menus to the basic features easily, I picked up the next camera to see if it was more intuitive. But by not making the effort to learn about it, the wealth of features on all the new gadgets are kind of wasted. So I still read the manual once I decided on a camera.

Usually there is a reference in the quick-start guide to a web address where you can download the manual. The Garmin guide made no reference to a manual anywhere, but I was able to find it online. And yes, I skimmed through all 64 pages, and no there was no indication why the phone call didn't come through. But I did find out how to get the direction lady to speak in an Australian accent.

March 29, 2010

Bad kid joke of the day

What do you call cheese that's not yours?

Nacho cheese.

The machine knows

As I have wandered around southern California trying to get acquainted with my new town, on several occasions I have driven in circles to find where I was going. Trying to hit several stores while out running errands became a bit of a chore, usually requiring printed directions or frequent check-ins with Google Maps on my phone. More than once I have missed a turn or exit and found it difficult to circle back. It also looked like I would be doing some regular work at multiple locations, so I broke down and bought a GPS receiver for my car.

I had emptied my change jar at a Coinstar machine and had a $40 credit on Amazon, so that is where I started shopping. I also checked out the local Fry's Electronics to see some of the GPS units in person, but their prices weren't any better. I finally decided on a Garmin Nuvi 285WT which was on sale. I figured the routing ability of most modern GPS units were all roughly the same, so I was looking for a relatively basic model and maybe a few bells and whistles. The 285WT model had some good reviews regarding the intuitive ease of use, and the larger screen seemed to allow for more information to be displayed clearly. It also came with a free 9 month subscription for traffic information and Bluetooth for hands free cell phone calls.

I have used it for a week or two, and I have to say it is pretty handy. Beyond simple directions, it has helped me locate stores, gas stations and restaurants on the fly saving me some time and effort. There have been a couple of misses though, like telling me to turn right on Park St. when you're not allowed to, and leading me to a non-existent fast food joint when I was starving. The traffic info also takes too long to load to be of use during the morning commute, so it is a good thing it came with a free subscription to try it out. But in general the Garmin has been great.

And one of the handiest features is probably one of the simplest - estimated time of arrival. I do hate to be late.

Of course there are some disadvantages to knowing where you are at all times. Sometimes a wrong turn here and there leads to a surprising discovery. My friend Matt was also mentioning that since he has used a GPS for directions, he has stopped paying attention to how he was getting there. It dawned on him as he was leaving an appointment, that he had no clear idea of how to get home.

Probably shouldn't get too dependent on technology.

michael drives into a lake. from peter allen on Vimeo.

Oh, and another thing
Sean and I were standing in line at Home Depot the other day and there were some Thomas Guides by the checkout stand. I wonder how many they sell these days. 15 years ago they were standard issue in any construction vehicle. The books of maps were divided up in grids, and the table of contents in the back listed every street in the county with the corresponding map grid listed. It was a pretty good system to find places, but of course you still had to find out how to get there. And of course parts of it were out of date as soon as they were printed.

Just checked my truck, and there was a year 2000 Thomas Guide for the Puget Sound region stuffed under the back seat. Might be time to put it out to pasture next to the slide-rule and rotary phone.

March 28, 2010

Keep your head up

I've been having a tougher time with marathon training this time around. I'm not sure what the cause is, but my heart isn't in it quite as much this time around. There is also a bit of a scheduling conflict for marathon weekend, but at this point I am still training to run. I've also spent the money on the entry, so it will be an expensive decision if I don't make it.

With the longer hours at work, the mid-week runs have been pretty spotty, but I've made sure to get the long runs in on the weekends. But I need to get out of the house early for those long runs. I had a 12 miler on the schedule today, and I didn't put shoe to pavement until around 12:30. It was a warm one today, somewhere up in the upper 70's. My body isn't used to running in this very often, and certainly not in March. I over-heated and was tapped out of energy near the end, and actually stopped just shy of my goal.

So high temps and flagging enthusiasm are pulling me in the wrong direction. Thankfully I have places like this to run to fight the dark thoughts.

March 27, 2010

Quote of the day

"Though we might have precious little,
it's still precious."

~ from "Bravest Face" by Rush

I've got no time!

Busy, busy, busy.

I have been working on a kitchen remodel for the past week and a half with a friend of mine. I haven't done much interior construction work in the past (outside of fixing up the house for sale), so a lot of what we are doing is new to me. So far we have done the tear out, moved a wall, put up some Sheetrock, and tiled the floor. Next week we will be installing the cabinets and maybe some of the appliances. Of course it has been hard work, but it has been great to learn some new skills. I am certainly not a pro, but I would certainly feel more comfortable in tackling some of the projects now. Still on the schedule to learn is electrical!

The drag is that the job is about 2 1/2 to 3 hours away, so that means lots of commuting time and not much down time at home. Daily stuff and projects are naturally piling up a bit. This is also the reason for the somewhat limited posting recently. But I have found in the past that I work best with a little added pressure of deadlines and time limits. It is also a good exercise to see what sorts of things can fall by the wayside and not be missed, like tv and internet time.

I read a post on Zen Habits last night just before bed entitled, How to Reclaim Your Attention. The first few paragraphs:
A while back I (a bit ironically perhaps) tweeted this message:
"Consider what you give your attention to each day. It’s a precious resource, & determines the shape of your life."
This seemed to strike a chord with many people, who I think are feeling overwhelmed these days. Our attention is being pulled in too many directions, leaving us feeling overloaded, distracted, chaotic, spread thinly, without focus.

There are a million blogs, people, services, media, competing for our attention. Our attention is limited, and valuable, making it one of the most precious resources we have.

The world wants that attention. Only you can decide where it goes.

Frequently when new lanes are added to a freeway, it doesn't seem to reduce traffic congestion. Car trips increase rapidly to fill the new capacity and commuters are left sitting in the same frustrating traffic. Like highway capacity, if you extend the amount of time available in a day, it often fills up with junk rather than providing additional time spent pursuing your passions.

The remodel job will last at least another month, so I will need to make better use of my free time to get things done and pursue my interests. I certainly wouldn't want to have this sort of commute indefinitely (I don't know how people do it), but I will do my best to make use of the limited time to sharpen my focus. Hopefully when additional free time comes back, I will make great use of it rather than filling it with junk.

March 23, 2010

Career advice from Lloyd Dobler

"How many of them really know what they want, though? I mean, a lot of them think they have to know, right? But inside they don't really know, so... I don't know ,but I know that I don't know."

 "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."

~ Say Anything

March 22, 2010

Quote of the day

"A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

~Winston Churchill

March 20, 2010

Update on the pooch

So the pooch and I are a week into the new routine, and things are going pretty well all things considered. Several of the symptoms have abated and her energy and disposition seem to have perked up. She has been very good with the shots, only complaining when the insulin is too cold.

She was diagnosed last Saturday, and I made sure to stick around most of the weekend to watch for any bad reactions. If the insulin pushed her blood glucose level too low she could get hypoglycemic, which in the short term is more dangerous than the high glucose levels connected with diabetes. Fortunately there haven't been any bad reactions so far.

I have started doing some work with a friend which is great, but unfortunately the current jobsite is roughly three hours away. The pooch gets two shots a day, and this jobsite meant that I could not be home to give both shots (I've been getting home between 8:30 and 9:00). Fortunately, my friends/roomies (froomies?) have stepped in to help out when I am not around. I felt bad asking them to do it, but like friends do, they waved off my concerns. I am really glad the pooch sits still for the shots - I'm not sure I could ask them to corral her if she was a fighter. I've been taking care of the morning shots, and they've covered the dinner-time shots. I'm very thankful for their help.

The doctor at the veterinary clinic has also been great. He has called twice in the last week to check in on how the pooch and I are doing. Rather than pepper him with questions over the phone, I stopped by the clinic today. I had done some online research, but I wanted to touch base with the doctor to make sure what I had found made sense to him. The next step is to start checking her blood glucose level on a semi-regular basis. We first need to do a baseline day of testing to see how her glucose levels change throughout the day. Based on what we find, we may need to adjust the insulin amounts or schedule.

So the options are to have the pooch spend the day at the clinic, or for me to do it at home. I am planning on doing it myself because I think she would be much more stressed to be at the vet all day. So I need to pick up a meter and some test strips, and then hope that she is as cooperative with the blood draws as she has been with the shots. Thinking good thoughts.

March 16, 2010

Keep it secret, keep it safe

Finally, a good use of those stupid store cards. Full story.
As they scrambled recently to trace the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds around the country, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention successfully used a new tool for the first time - the shopper cards that millions of Americans swipe every time they buy groceries.

With permission from the patients, investigators followed the trail of grocery purchases to a Rhode Island company that makes salami, then zeroed in on the pepper used to season the meat.

Never before had the CDC successfully mined the mountain of data that supermarket chains compile.

Of course it does raise some privacy issues
Longtime shopper-card critic Katherine Albrecht, director of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, said she worries that the practice could lead to a switch from a voluntary system to mandatory use of such cards.

"That sends chills down my spine," she said.

I've never been all that paranoid about the privacy aspect of the store cards - I just hate having to carry around ten or twenty cards on the off chance I might stop in to buy something. But I can see how the information could be abused. Imagine if your health insurance company started looking over your buying habits, jacking your rates if they saw too many bags of cheesy poofs.

Of course our expectation of privacy may be changing. And it is no longer just "Big Brother" from 1984 that we need to worry about - we are doing it to ourselves. We are broadcasting so much information voluntarily through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the like. There are apps that use the GPS in your phone to update folks on your whereabouts at all times that folks are paying to have. "Over the last few years the consensus about privacy on the Internet seems to have changed a lot. A few years ago, people were still hesitant about using their real names online, but nowadays people are comfortable sharing their exact location with the whole world."

To raise awareness of the dangers of this voluntary broadcasting, some Dutch folks launched a website called For a while it was publishing Twitter posts from random users like "I'm enjoying a drink at Murphy's Pub" or "heading out of town for the weekend" to point out how that information can be abused, and how little we think about posting it. The response was understandably huge and mixed, and they are no longer broadcasting tweets. "We're not showing the Twitter messages anymore, as they no longer add anything. If you don't want your information to show up everywhere, don't over-share ;-)"

I avoid mentioning out of town trips, etc. until I get back for this very reason. But in this over-broadcasting era we live in, it doesn't hurt to get a reminder once in a while to think before posting.

March 15, 2010

Oh sweet sugar

I have had my pooch for just over seven years now. We adopted her from the Humane Society when she was four, so she has recently turned 11 years old. Most any dog owner will tell you they have the best dog in the world, and I am no different. I don't know where I would have been without her in the last year when I was coming home to an otherwise empty house. She is my fuzzy buddy, my chunky monkey, my sweet sister. 

The pooch made the move down to San Diego with me. As I mentioned before, she had a tough time on the trip down, bad enough that I was concerned about her well-being. She has recovered somewhat, regained some appetite, but she hasn't returned completely to how she was before the trip. Her bum legs seemed a little weaker and she seemed to have less energy and excitement.

In the last two weeks, something else had changed. She started drinking much more water than normal, and as a result she needed to go outside more frequently. She has had a urinary tract infection once before, and I thought that maybe this was what was going on now. Her water consumption continued to rise to the point where she was drinking four times as much as normal. The night before her vet appointment, she woke me up three times just so she could get to her water dish.

It turns out it wasn't a urinary tract infection. The pooch actually has diabetes. When they tested both her urine and blood work, the amount of glucose was off the charts. The normal range is 70 - 143, and her reading was 630. The veterinarian had little doubt about the diagnosis.

I had heard that diabetes was a concern in cats, but for some reason it was a surprise to hear that dogs can develop it. In my still limited internet research, I have found one statistic that says that one in ten dogs will suffer from it, and that the incidence is increasing much like it is in humans. Heavier, older, female dogs are more susceptible, and the pooch falls into that category.

A quick synopsis on diabetes for those who have not had experience with it, taken from
When we eat, our bodies break food down into organic compounds, one of which is glucose.  The cells of our bodies use glucose as a source of energy for movement, growth, repair, and other functions. But before the cells can use glucose, it must move from the bloodstream into the individual cells. This process requires insulin.

In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine. This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal. The excessive loss of water in urine is compensated for by thirstiness and increased water consumption. The principal clinical signs of an animal with diabetes mellitus are therefore polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive water consumption). In addition, diabetic animals tend to lose weight because they breakdown stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make glucose and ketones (an alternative fuel) in the liver. Other clinical signs diabetics may include: cataracts, polyphagia (increased appetite), exercise intolerance and recurrent infections. If the production of ketones by the liver is excessive, a condition called ketoacidosis occurs which makes the animal very unwell.

So the major (early) symptoms of canine diabetes are:
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Cataracts
  • Weight loss
The pooch has all of these symptoms, which makes the diagnosis seem even more believable (she has lost almost 10 pounds in a month and a half, but she is still at a healthy weight). From what I understand, the damage diabetes does to the body progresses to the liver and kidneys among other things. Fortunately, the blood work did not show indications of organ damage at this point. The cataracts are permanent, but hopefully if her diabetes is managed properly, they won't get any worse.

So, what does this mean? She is now on a special diet of prescription dog food. The food is higher in fiber, more whole grain, and slower burning fuel that shouldn't spike her blood sugar as much. There will be no treats or dog biscuits in her future unless I find something that won't mess with her glucose level. She also needs to get shots of insulin twice a day (by yours truly). I am not a fan of needles, but we are four shots into the program and we are both doing OK so far. I had heard that in humans, it is possible to modify your diet sufficiently to reduce the need for insulin. The vet did not think this was possible for the pooch, so at this point she will be getting shots for the rest of her life.

It is all still sinking in, but I have found some helpful websites and a Yahoo group dedicated to diabetes in pets. After getting some background medical information, I am hoping to learn even more from folks that are going through this with their own pets. There is a list of things I need to get or figure out including how to check her blood sugar, how often we will need to go to the vet, and how to dispose of all the needles.

The good news is that the insulin shots seem to working. It has been less than two days, but her excessive water consumption stopped almost immediately like a switch had been thrown. I am hoping that she continues to improve, and that some of the weakness in her legs may improve under the new regimen.

Who knew she could be too sweet.

Students helping students

From the February 8th posting on, a film about a organization at Kansas State University called "K-State Proud".  Good stuff!

March 14, 2010

Notes on reading

“But you know Matilda, you can not pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames. For me, Matilda, Great Expectations is such a book. It gave me permission to change my life."

~ Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

I've been having a hard time reading lately. Not trouble finding the time, but rather I'm having trouble focusing. I used to be able to read in a loud coffee shop, becoming engrossed in the book so as to shut out the noise of the world. It has been getting a bit more difficult to focus over time, but it has been particularly bad in the last year. Jangled thoughts and emotions flying through my brain, tangent after tangent distracting me from the words on the page. And the distracting thoughts have made it more difficult to understand and appreciate each book. I have found myself coming to the end of several books thinking, meh, it was OK.

I have been highlighting passages in the books I've read over the last year for a number of reasons including, book club discussions, failing memory and the desire to be a better writer. It is mostly in the non-fiction/self-help books, but I also make note of good turns of phrase in novels. And it has been an interesting exercise. When I come to the end of a book that I didn't feel was all that great, I am often surprised at how many good quotes I have made note of. It again makes me feel like my distracted mind isn't appreciating what is in front of me.

So the books I have been reading are filled with a bunch of little scraps of paper marking pages with good passages. I've felt books are somewhat sacred and shouldn't be abused with folded pages, broken spines and pen marks throughout. Several of the books I've read this year belong to the library, but I have resisted marking up books that I own as well.

But I am softening my viewpoint a bit. I was talking about marking up a book with Matt after he showed me a book that looked trashed. It seemed like nearly every other page had been dog-eared to mark a passage bracketed in pen. My point of view was that if I lend out a book that has been marked up, I am sort of telling that person "this is important" and affecting what they might come away with through their own eyes. Matt on the other hand feels that marking passages that he found important was like a conversation about the book with the next reader.

Never say never. I didn't think I would be happy with an electronic reader, but I have really enjoyed my Kindle. I have also started marking up my non-fiction books when I find a great passage I want to refer back to. But for the novels (and of course library books) I'm still using scraps of paper or post-it flags.

And I still can't break spines and dog-ear the corners of pages. A line has to be drawn, even if it is in pencil.

March 11, 2010

Quote of the day

If you want to go fast,
go alone.
If you want to go far, 
go together.

~ African proverb

March 9, 2010

Don't leave home without it

I was out for a five mile run this afternoon, catching up on my exercise schedule and podcasts. There are a couple of podcasts that I listen to only while I am running. One of these is Two Gomers Run a Marathon.

Anthony and Steven are preparing for their first marathon. They had a podcast last year about their move from being sedentary to becoming half marathoners. Now they are taking on the full marathon, and their podcast is pretty entertaining. They are self-admitted Gomers who know little about running, and aren't afraid to let people listen in as they stumble their way through things.

Their journey to the marathon has already hit some roadblocks. In late 2009, Anthony was having doubts about his ability to keep up with the training, and was considering postponing the race for a couple of months. A week or two later, Steven was knocked flat with a case of the shingles. Shingles! They set a new marathon target for a race in March. After announcing which race they had decided on, a listener pointed out that it wasn't being held this year.

So then they decided on a marathon in Atlanta, also in March. They were back on track, gomering their way through training. Then Steven was hit by a car.

Thankfully he is mostly OK, though he has a few fractured ribs. As he said, "If your going to be hit by a car, make it a Smart Car." Not only is it small, but because it has a sloped front and no hood, the impact was spread over his whole body rather than breaking his legs.

It was obviously still pretty painful. Here are a couple of shots of the car that hit him, and Steven in the hospital.

So their plans are on hold once again. One of the first things listeners mentioned/suggested was that the Gomers should be carrying a Road ID. Steven was out of town for a conference, running in an unfamiliar town without his family when he was hit by a car. The Road ID tells first responders who you are, medical information, and who to call.

I have been carrying one with me for a couple of years, and today's episode reminded me how important it is. It also reminded me that I hadn't updated the information on it since I moved to San Diego. I had to get a new one recently since my first one had the wrong contact information on it. It was J's old cell phone number that is no longer in use. The new one is the "interactive model". It has my name, blood type and a person to contact stamped on it, but there is also a phone number or web address where first responders can get additional contact, personal, and medical history information.

I am all updated, and checking every cross street more diligently as I run. I don't ever want to put my Road ID to use, but it is a little peace of mind for me and my family.

March 8, 2010

March 7, 2010

Not that I need another blog to read

...but this project sounds interesting. It is the 3six5 blog - 365 days told by 365 different people. There is one post each day of 2010, written by a different author each day. Some guidelines for the authors are.
  • First, include a timely piece of information in your post that helps the reader get a sense of what day it is. 
  • The second thing we ask is to make your post relatable to many people. When we say relatable, we don't mean you need to write something that others will agree with, we just mean that your writing includes something that people can understand. Feel free to talk about the unique things in your life, but explain them concisely and spend more time talking about why it matters to you that day.
  • Third, be personal. This project is part history book in the making, and part diary. If someone wanted to get a diary of 2010 based on facts they could just save CNN's homepage everyday for 365 days. We want you to talk about current events, but the important part is that you explain how they make YOU feel.
  • Keep self-promotion to a minimum.
  • 365 words maximum.

I only recently found this blog/project, so I have several entries to catch up on. At 365 words each, they should be a quick read though. There were a few open days in December when I first found it, but all the days were soon accounted for before I could throw my hat in the ring.

Below is the January 9th entry. Nothing profound, but it struck me as kind of funny. I am looking forward to hearing lots of different voices from around the world in bite-sized pieces.

I don’t care about 3-D televisions.

There, I said it.

I’m at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today and I had to get it out. I keep hopping from conversation to conversation about the damn things and I’m yet to verbalize it. I’m not sure I can. Everyone else here seems to think they’re a big deal. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen "Avatar" yet (another thing I’m not admitting here because—well, because then I’d get my nerd card revoked and I’m pretty sure it’s keeping me employed, and maybe even married). Maybe it’s because my fashion sense won’t accept colored glasses as an accessory, even around the house. Or maybe it’s just cuz real life is in 3-D and I might walk into the wall it’d be mounted on in my home. 

And you know what else? It doesn’t matter why I hate them. I just do. Turns out people are irrational. That sounds like blasphemy at CES, a celebration of human achievement in engineering. But it doesn’t matter how well applied your technical and scientific knowledge is. In the end, some guy can just say “I hate it” and not buy it. And when enough guys say it, the technology can be a bust, even if it shouldn’t be. I bet whoever invented Betamax is still coming to grips with that inconvenient truth. 

People make irrational choices. They buy things they don’t want. They do the same thing over and over but expect different results. They hit on hard 17 when the dealer’s showing a three (I’m looking at you, Hawaiian Shirt Guy, at The Palms). Sometimes, even at 31, they drink a little too much in Vegas and wake up early still a little bit drunk and lock themselves in the hallway getting a paper they weren’t going to read anyway wearing only their boxers only to deny it when their neighbor walks by and asks “are you locked out” even when they really could’ve used the help. 

Or something. 

Being irrational is kinda cool. It’s empowering. It’s also why I know I’m gonna have one of those damn TV’s in my house by year’s end.

March 6, 2010

Summer plans

You can't run from your problems.
But you'll both feel a little lighter when you get back.

~ from a New Balance shoe advertisement

I am at the end of my third week of running down in San Diego. Getting back to running regularly has been tougher than I thought it would be. After running with UPS in November and December, I ran regularly for three weeks in January, and it was going relatively well. Then I had two weeks around the trip down that I didn't run. In those two weeks off, it feels like I lost whatever fitness I had. Each time I went out in the past couple of weeks, I felt fat and slow. Hard to believe I ran a marathon in December.

Things are slowly improving as the miles add up. The great weather and beautiful scenery definitely helps keep me going even when I'm not feeling it. This morning I went for a nine mile run around Mission Bay. There is a nice paved path that runs around the east side of the bay, and since I needed some extra miles I ran around Fiesta Island as well. It is a pretty barren area with almost no development, but there is five miles of shoreline for people and dogs alike to enjoy. It was overcast and windy, but I was done before any of the rain arrived.

As I have mentioned before, although I enjoy running on a regular basis, it helps tremendously to have a goal event on the calander. If there isn't a looming deadline to prepare for, it is too easy to let things slide. And to that end, I have decided to run the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon in June. I ran this marathon in 2007 with a bunch of friends, and since I'm down here anyway... Actually I would probably choose a different marathon for variety sake, but it is the latest one held before everything shuts down for the hotter summer season.

The course is a little different this year. The Marine training base where the marathon normally finishes is undergoing some renovations, so this year the race will finish near Sea World. The only changes to the course come in the last 8 miles or so. Instead of going around Mission Bay, the course doubles-back on the east side.

Old Course

2010 Course

To make up some mileage the route goes around Fiesta Island, so I kind of previewed the the last part of the course today. I wish they could have eliminated the portion along highway 163, but of course they didn't ask me. They've also added a half marathon to race day for the first time this year, so we may be able to convince some other people to join us for the craziness.

So the training calendar is set. I just have to get out and make it all happen. I would love to beat my current personal best of 3:57, but we will see how training goes. If I don't make it happen in June, hopefully all the training will give me a great head start for a stellar fall marathon. The long term goal is to qualify for Boston by the time I turn 45. To do that, I need to cut 27 minutes off my best time, more than a minute a mile. A pretty tall order for my level of fitness, so for now we'll just focus on improving bit by bit, mile by mile.

13 weeks to go!

March 4, 2010

Where did the week go?

It is National Procrastination Week!  I meant to mention it earlier this week, but I was totally busy doing...well nothing really. I just lost track of time. Actually I was so distracted because I missed Hot Breakfast Month in February. A month of omelets, waffles, bacon, hash browns, coffee...what a waste.

March 3, 2010

The power of sunshine

 "The world is full of broken people. Splints, casts, miracle drugs, and time can't mend fractured hearts, wounded minds, torn spirits.
Currently, sunshine was Micky Billsong's medication of choice, and southern California in late August was an apothecary with a deep supply of this prescription."

~ The first two paragraphs of One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz

March 2, 2010

Just wanted to mention

I am now participating in a program with called "Amazon Associates". When I have a book or product review, there will be a link in the post to the product on (if available). If you click on the link and purchase the product (or any other product during that session I believe), I get a little kickback from Amazon for the referral. I have also created a store with items that I have previously talked about in this blog, or that I found particularly good. I will only be placing items in the store that I have personally used. The store is currently divided into categories of books, running, biking and electronics. The link to the store can be found on the right side of the blog.

I bring this up not only in hopes of directing a little traffic to my Amazon store, but also because it seems a little sneaky to not mention that the links might earn me a little money. I will not turn this blog into an endless list of reviews and links (though I do have a backlog of books to talk about), but I am hoping for a little passive income while I continue to seek steady employment. 

So if you find something interesting on this blog, or just in the mood to shop at Amazon, I would appreciate it if you click through the store link to the right. I value your readership and comments, and I appreciate all the support.

March 1, 2010

Sunday school

Yesterday was going to be a busy one for Matt and Holly, and there was no time for the full church service, but they made sure to attend Sunday School for an hour before the chaos of the day took over. Our friend Wendy was leading the class that morning, and we wanted to be sure to attend.

The classes are generally lead by Dean Nelson, who has authored the book God Hides in Plain Sight. It comes highly recommended and I have been given a copy to read (It is next on my ever-growing stack of books to read). Anyway, Dean is apparently gone about a third of the time due to other commitments, so Wendy was standing in this weekend. If I may make a poor attempt to summarize, the topic was the extraordinary in the ordinary, and she used Abraham to illustrate her topic.

She mentioned that the Bible, like any work, most often hits only the highlights of a story or life. We come away with the impression that a person's story is more epic than it really was. There is so much ordinary life between the highlights, but that does not diminish the impact of the life. In fact much of the preparation for the extraordinary moments takes place in those mundane spaces in between. When we evaluate our own lives, often all we see is the ordinary, even though if our story was told in a similar abridged fashion, a reader might come away with the impression of an epic life we didn't see ourselves.

She also spoke of her in-laws and their farming heritage. Simple folks with simple lives, who would probably never say they were anything special. But when the stories are told of all they persevered through, and all they did for their friends and community, they were anything but ordinary folks.

Our lives (thankfully) are not comprised of one big event after another. It is those more mundane moments that often frame the extraordinary, like a week of rain around a spectacular sunny day. But in those mundane moments it is possible to find enlightenment as well. Wendy mentioned insights that have come when she is washing dishes in the sink, rather than when she is deep in prayer. I myself often look for "mindless" tasks to do so I can shut off the brain for a while. Of course the mind is never really at rest, but when you relax into moments that don't require active thought, wonderful things can bubble to the surface.

Running is a seemingly boring task, especially to a non-runner. But it is something that can sooth the soul, be a place for psychological and spiritual renewal, and possibly lead to moments of enlightenment. It is one of the few places where I find myself most completely "present" in the moment. The rhythmic steps and intake of breath providing a mantra to channel another level of consciousness. Beyond being a mindless task, I think the addition of a physical challenge helps break down mental walls even further. It is in finding our limits that we reach beyond what we normally see.

Matt nicely summed up Sunday school as kind of a book club with a single book as its focus, and that is how my first time felt. After Wendy's presentation, she asked if there were any questions, comments or additional thoughts. Like almost any group discussion, not many hands went up initially. The conversation started haltingly, but then got rolling after comments inspired other thoughts, which lead to further insights. People shared personal stories that expanded the topic of extraordinary people living seemingly ordinary lives, and there was the occasional wonderful tangent.

And like any good book discussion, you come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation when you discuss varying interpretations and points of view. Reading the Bible has been a goal for the last couple of years, but I have made only stumbling progress so far. I think I am stalled at Judges at this point. I think that the Sunday school classes and Dean's book may inspire me to pick it up for a third try.

I am still a decided agnostic, but I see my uncertainty as an asset rather than a liability at this point. I am interested in learning more about the many beliefs and viewpoints people have, how they provide comfort, and how they give them a foundation to make sense of the world. I am interested to attend the Sunday school classes now and then to hear people flesh out the stories in the Bible, and in their own lives. And of course I will continue to run, to sooth my soul and to listen for those unspoken thoughts.