February 25, 2012

Open that bottle night

Today is annual "Open That Bottle Night". The night where you open that nice bottle of wine that has been sitting on your wine rack. The bottle that is nice enough that it sat there aging, waiting for the right occasion to be opened. If no night or occasion seemed to measure up in the last year, tonight is the night to enjoy the wine, and make a an otherwise random Saturday special.

I wrote something about it a couple of years ago. We celebrated on an even more random day in April of 2010, but it was in the same spirit. And the wine and friends made it a special evening.

A Toast

I don't have a nice bottle sitting on my wine shelf these days, but maybe I'll go out and splurge on something good. You know, something over the $10 mark.

February 24, 2012

Suddenly I see

So the frames were all picked out, and it was time for the better picture.

When I first put the glasses on, Kristy had me close my eyes while she made the final adjustments to how the frames sat on my face. After a couple of bends and tweaks, I was ready to open my eyes. Before I did, Kristy said, "Now, don't expect miracles."

I opened my eyes and took the glasses on and off as I compared the corrected vision to what I had been looking at all these years. I was handed a card to check out the reading portion of the lenses, and no surprise, it was much clearer with the glasses on.

Then I tested the distance portion. I didn't feel like my long range vision was all that bad before. I could look to a hilltop in the distance and see the branches and leaves on a tree. But the testing revealed that I needed help. I looked across the large room to a display on the other side, alternately looking through and over the lenses. It was clearer with the glasses on, but the difference was more subtle. I had to pay attention to notice the difference.

As I looked around the room, things went swimmy. The room bent like I was a drunk in a house of mirrors. Actually, looking at the mirror offered the best way to describe the sensation. They have an enormous mirror leaned up against a wall for clients to look at, to take in their whole body and not just the frames on their face. As I moved my head from side to side, the rectangular mirror frame warped sideways to become a parallelogram. The more I moved my head, the more it bent. Some adjustment necessary indeed.

One of the tips I was given is to point my nose where I want to look. You can't just move your eyes, as the right part of the lens needs to be facing what you want to see. Moving my head side to side was what was causing the swimming sensation, but I was told that it would get better as time passed and my eyes and brain got used to the new way of working.

I purposely did not write this for a couple of weeks because I wanted to give it that time. Part of the problem is that I haven't been wearing them often enough during the day. As I said, other than reading, I don't notice a big enough problem to think to put them on, and at work I trade them for safety glasses. And although they have the cool transition technology that darkens the lens when they are exposed to sunlight, they do not get as dark as typical sunglasses (this is where complaining about how sunny it is will be met with mockery).

It has been better, and when I wear them for more than an hour at a time, the issues become less noticeable. That said, here are the issues. These things are listed on "things to expect" on several websites, so I am sure these have nothing to do with the particular lenses I have. They are simply a limitation to glasses, and progressives specifically.
  • The field of view is smaller and more precise than I expected. It has taken me some time to get used to where I need to look through the lens to make things the clearest. Progressives are normally worn as people age and develop Presyopia, or the difficulty in focusing in on near objects. The reading portion of the lens is sort of an addition to a wearer's normal prescription. As I have never had a prescription before, the divvying up of the lens sections isn't what I anticipated. 
  • The peripheral vision is not as good as expected. This goes back to needing to point my nose at what I am looking at, but it was surprising to me (as a glasses wearing novice) that the peripheral vision would be distorted, rather than just not-as-good. Again, this is a property and limitation of the lens, not an issue with my own pair.
  • Walking through a grocery store and trying to look at all the items on the shelves is where the swimming sensation is most prominent. All those square edges distorting is still unsettling. To avoid the bending world sensation, I think I have developed the unconscious habit of blinking as I turn my head, but that isn't exactly practical when you are scanning a large area. It is getting better, but I think this will be the last thing to fade into the background. 
Of course on the whole, things are much better:
  • The distance vision is improved, though again not as dramatically as the up-close reading portion. The leaves on the trees are different. I would describe it as seeing the colors a little more brightly as opposed to the edges being more clearly defined, but now things pop a little more.  
  •  My eyes are not strained and fatigued at the end of the day. This is one of the biggest things I was hoping for, and it is definitely better. Night vision is also improved, so driving at night is not the strain that it used to be.
  • I am reading much more these days. In the past year, I have been crawling through books. In the last few weeks, I have torn through a couple of books in a few day's time. I am sure that fatigued eyes were a big reason for the slowdown, and it is nice to be back on pace.
  • The frames are lightweight and comfortable. When I stop obsessing over which area to look through, and just focus on what I am looking at, they sort of fade into the background. 
So, things are definitely better. There is more adjustment to be made, but I have a feeling that many of the issues will continue to fade into the background as I wear my glasses more often. As this is my first pair of glasses, I really had no idea what it would be like, and I probably was expecting miracles.

I just need to remember to put them on.

February 21, 2012

After reading my junk, go read this

There is just too much to read. I can't keep up with all the books, articles, and blogs. I stopped reading the daily paper to save a little money. I thought I would really miss it, and I do at times, but it turns out it was embarrassingly easy to let go. Other things rushed in to fill that quiet time I used to take in the morning to read a bit about the world.

There are some great blogs that have fallen off the radar as well. Some are for entertainment, but others I just love the writer's voice no matter what they write about. The 3six5 is one that I haven't been getting to regularly. Since it has a new author and new topic every day (including my post last March), you can't know what you will find. There are absolute gems in there, but at times it feels like I am sifting through too much river sand to find the nugget.

Just as every writer and story is going to be different, each reader is going to have a different story grab or resonate. I stopped by this morning and read through a week's worth of entries. I am glad I read through the first seven to get to this one by Katherine Ablan.

February 20, 2012

A nice frame for a better picture

I was waiting for a time when it would all become clear, and it has, but only for a narrow part of my life. Of course, I am talking about my new glasses.

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I have never worn glasses. I have made it forty-four years without correction, but staring at computer screens and trying to read ever-shrinking print has pushed me to the doctor. I was diagnosed with astigmatism in both eyes, and in need of correction both for reading and for distance, so I had to jump into the deep end by getting progressive lenses (essentially trifocals). I wasn't exactly looking forward to getting glasses, but was anxious to be able to read without strain.

But first I needed to pick out some frames. I was very fortunate to have both Holly and Kristy as guides here. Both have been opticians for years, and their shop Urban Optiks has hundreds of cool frames to chose from. I have a hard time enough picking out clothes, never really feeling that anything looks good on me, so picking out my first frames ever was daunting.

Fortunately, with their trained eyes they could narrow the field by looking at my facial features, the set of my eyes, and taking into account my particular lifestyle. Then I just sat back as they brought out frame after frame deciding what worked and what didn't. I would look in the mirror after each one, and as the process went on I learned more about what they were looking for, but it is clearly a well-honed talent to pick the right frame.

At first the frames came out slowly. Since they knew me and were used to my face without glasses, it was slightly more difficult, but soon we were having fun trying out different looks. We must have tried on forty frames in all, but we went with the first pair Kristy grabbed off the shelf. There were some funkier frames that worked, but since these are my first frames ever, we went more conservative. So the big unveiling...

Next, how I'm adjusting. I'll try not to whine.

February 19, 2012

Quote(s) of the day

I don't always know what I'm talking about but I know I'm right.

~ Muhammad Ali


It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

~Mahatma Gandhi

"The scientific method consists of the use of procedures designed to show not that our predictions and hypotheses are right, but that they might be wrong.

Scientific reasoning is useful to anyone in any job because it makes us face the possibility, even the dire reality, that we were mistaken. It forces us to confront our self-justifications and put them on public display for others to puncture.

At its core, therefore, science is a form of arrogance control."

~ "Mistakes were made (but not by me)", by social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

February 13, 2012

Another red letter day

Just as the Super Bowl is a marker beyond the game for me, the day before Valentine's Day was the start of a few things that have little to do with the holiday.

Cherie threw down the challenge of running a marathon after a glass or two of wine on Super Bowl Sunday. I would like to say that I woke up Monday morning (the day all resolutions begin) and went for a run. I didn't. I had to go out and get the right shoes, shorts, a training log, and all other manners of putting off the actual work. But I followed through on the "Drunken Promise" only a week later, so I won't beat myself up too badly for the delay.

Being the number cruncher that I am, things don't really count unless they are recorded somewhere or thrown on an Excel worksheet. I have been keeping a training log ever since that first run, tracking distances, paces, heart rates and calories burned. I have experimented with a few online tracking sites, and these days my Garmin just burps the data up to the cloud when I plug it into the laptop. But I have maintained a paper journal since the beginning, and I continue to make notes to compliment all the metrics. When Buckeye Outdoors crashed on me last year, I am glad I had my own hard copy.

I dug out the training journal from 2005 and found the entry for my first run.

"First Run! The fantasy of a marathon begins here. Two short runs with a walk in between." 

Apparently the need to record time and pace didn't begin immediately, but I did make sure to note that it was 32 degrees out when I made that first step. I couldn't run more than a quarter mile without a walk break that first time, but I was running a 3.5 mile race just a month later. Seven years hence, I am still running, and that fantasy of marathon when I couldn't run a half mile is now reality.

February 13th marks another beginning. I arrived in San Diego two years ago with a pickup truck full of stuff and a road-weary dog. I received a very special valentine the next day.

Not everything has worked out as planned, but that is to be expected. I arrived here for just that reason. Even so, there have been some nice surprises and unexpected good things because of the move. I can't pretend to know what my life would be like now if I hadn't made the leap, but I feel like I am a better person, a better man for what has happened since then.

I don't know what the future holds, but I am better for having taken these first steps, making these changes, and setting out on a new path. I need to remember that and be a little braver when taking a risk and making a leap.

February 11, 2012

What to share

Most of us live online more than ever. Fleeting moments or hours at a time are spent on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and discussion boards. Do we really have that much to say?

Everyone uses it a little differently and even each outlet seems to have its own level of intimacy and disclosure. The level seems to match up nicely with the number of words used. This is certainly not hard and fast, but Twitter seems the most banal, a place to put the thoughts that fly through your head but rarely land. Facebook offers a little more depth (at times), and blogs seem to be where people take the time to work through their thoughts.

That is not to say that the fleeting thoughts and tiny topics are not worth sharing. Sometimes the smallest of observations can be enlightening. But no one comes home and describes their day in minute by minute detail. Everyone still needs to decide where to draw the line, and what to share.

I recently reconnected on Facebook with someone I hadn't seen in a couple of decades. His postings were pretty upbeat, usually inspirational, and gave the impression that he had figured it all out. No, not that he had figured it all out, but that he had come to terms with so many things, and yet he continued to try to improve every day.

We had a chance to meet in person not too long ago, and the person I met had little to do with the online persona. He was a bit crude, a little vulgar, and didn't give off the aura of enlightenment he had on Facebook. I felt a little like I had been duped by an online dating service.

For a while after that, anytime he wrote something online, I took it with more than a grain of salt. After seeing him in person, it all seemed so false and contrived. But then I began to wonder - maybe these inspirational passages and desire to be better were closer to the mark. When we met in person, we were only together for a half hour or so. Maybe he felt like he had to be a "guy's guy", and the more introspective part of him would have come out if we had more time.

Of course, both of these parts are who he is. We all change how we act in some respect depending on the audience. The stories we share with family, friends, drinking buddies and office acquaintances all vary. It doesn't mean that some are lies and others aren't, because they are all incomplete.

I have picked up reading a blog again that I had let drop off the radar. The author is going through a separation or divorce from her husband of eleven years. She is incredibly honest about the pain she is going through, while leaving out the details of why it is happening.

From a recent post:
Sometimes people send me advice and it is so colored by their own pain, pain that I honor and regard with reverence, but it wants to believe so much that isn't true about this. This thing that I'm living through. This thing that is full of details and dynamics and its own kind of pain, a kind whose shape I think I have figured out and then I turn it over and find another side.

I don't mind the advice, not at all. This experience wants to tell its story, and our common ground is the struggle. We share the simple hope that no one at the store will notice that we are wearing sunglasses indoors, sunglasses we won't take off until we've pulled into the garage and slouched over the steering wheel to resume sobbing.

And no matter who is to blame, no matter what happened or is happening we've each had those moments when the panic rises so fast in our throats that to hold it down is like swallowing the deep end of a pool. But then we make dinner, we help with homework, we somehow walk from one end of the room to the other. Like so many of you have assured me, that light at the end is around here somewhere. And sometimes just a glimpse of it is enough to get me to the end of the day.
I think we can all learn from this sort honesty, the expression of a common struggle that is uncommon to you. I detailed some of my own fight here and on the other blog, and I felt like I was being brutally honest, but I still didn't share the way she has. I didn't (and don't) describe every dip and valley - there is always some graphical smoothing when drawing up the elevation profile. Though the portrayal is incomplete, I try my best to be authentic.

In many ways, I have been more open and honest here than in person. Even though the audience is wider, I suppose the distance helps me be more forthcoming. But I am getting better about being open in person. I have seen the harm to myself and others with keeping everything inside, and finding relief only in writing instead of speaking aloud. An odd side effect is that my writing here has slowed down in the process, but I will take that trade off.

We share and over-share online. The medium opens us up to all manner of thought and opinion and at times allows us to be more honest. The post quoted above reinforced the value of sharing the things no one sees. My meeting with my friend reminds me that we still have a long way to go in order to live honestly and make real connections.

February 8, 2012

Quote of the day

"As I look back on nearly half a century of research, I am struck by the fact that my life in science has never proceeded along a straight line toward a goal, but in a series of steps in different and unexpected directions. It reminds me of the walks I loved to take in Paris- not journeys toward a particular goal, but random strolls that were directed, at each corner, by the curious or beautiful that appeared down one street or the other. I think it’s a good way to explore and a great way to live."

~ K. E. van Holde

February 5, 2012

Super Sunday

It's never about the game really.

I like watching football as much as the next guy (depending on who I am standing next to), and could sit and watch a game with teams I didn't care about, simply to enjoy the sport. Although the Super Bowl is the premier football game, I don't get any more psyched to watch it over any other game (outside of the one and only year the Seahawks made it in).

No, it is about the gathering, the party, the food, the friends, and the commercials. Tami held parties every year for a while with two tvs going. Even so, all but the die hard fan would spend most of their time talking and eating, and the commercials would quiet the room more often than the game.

But the big game is a marker for a few non-football events. In 2008, I ran a marathon on Super Bowl Sunday with Sean and Marci. We braved dumping rain and swirling winds to finish one of my worst marathons. Holly braved those same elements to watch us run, and later in the day she would tell us she was pregnant with Annabelle. We went back to Sean's house to celebrate and turned on the game almost as an afterthought. I did manage to catch the last drive where the Giants came back to ruin the Patriot's perfect season.

I probably would have been watching that game rather than running if it hadn't been for another Super Sunday. As I mentioned before, we were at a Super Bowl party in 2005 and Cherie said to me, "grab a glass of wine, I have something I want to talk to you about". She threw down the challenge to run a marathon, even though neither of us had run a step in years (or ever). But that promise set me on the running path that carried me to Surf City in 2008.

And Super Bowl Sunday marks another beginning. Kristy and I started dating a year ago today. We actually started dating the day before the big game last year, but the 5th falls on Super Sunday this year. I have no idea how we will celebrate, but watching the game is probably not going to be on the agenda.

No, we prefer to be outdoors these days. We have been sneaking away for hikes on Sundays, heading to the Farmers Market, or just working out in the yard. Unfortunately, Kristy is pretty sick right now, so it may just be a lazy Sunday indoors on the couch. Maybe there will be football after all.


This Sunday just got more Super. Please welcome Sean and Marci's new baby boy to the world, born on this day.

February 2, 2012


I've been feeling at loose ends lately.

I have been letting things pile up. My corner of the house is a mess of papers, things that need to be read and attended to. Sort of a visual to do list, and it reached the point where I didn't want to pick it up. I spent a good ten minutes looking for my checkbook the other day. It was in plain sight, but blended in all too well with the strewn paper backdrop.

The first step is always the hardest.

I went for my first run since the marathon this morning. With no event forcing me to get out there, I took more time than I needed to rest my Achilles tendon. Every morning, I talked myself out of going out, and then I just forgot I should be running by now. Fell out of the habit.

I haven't written anything toward the new book since I set it down in November. I have been occupying my mind with small bits of promotion for Share the Road, which is more exciting than the actual hard work of writing. I finally sat my butt down and picked up the loose thread in the chapter. It was only 500 words or so, but it was a start.

I was listening to an interview with Haile Gebrselassie while running this morning. He is an amazingly accomplished runner, having held world records in distances from 1500 meters all the way to the marathon. But the connection was a little poor and I found it difficult to understand unless I really concentrated. So my mind drifted.

The kaleidoscope of images running through my brain pushed out the voices in my headphones, and I chose not to look at the watch at my wrist that was counting off time in hundredths of miles. I kept my eyes on the horizon rather than slumped over on the road. I might otherwise have missed the guy enthusiastically air-drumming to the song in his head, as he dropped his hands to his side as he heard me approach.

I am coming up on a few mile markers on the calendar and it set me to reflect on the past couple of years. I have done a few things that are both amazing in the moment, yet rather ordinary in the grand scheme of things. Most times I don't know how to feel about it all, and I didn't come to any epiphanies this morning.

Work is always a bit up in the air. We work from job to job, so the schedule is never the same. It is more at loose ends right now because Marci's due date was yesterday. For the past week they have been convinced that the baby was coming that evening. Then the next evening. It is hard to plan work, because Sean doesn't want to be fifty miles away when she goes into labor. Every evening for a week, Sean has said, "Well, I probably won't see you tomorrow." But each day he is there, ready to dash off when he gets the call.

Nearly half a million babies are born each day. It is at once the most ordinary and natural thing. But it will be nothing short of amazing, and life will never be quite the same. And at this point, the waiting is probably the hardest part. They just want to get started.