Category Archives: Rants

Tips for Avoiding Plantar Fascists

Got a comment from the wayback machine – an old post I’d done for completerunning.com (Iochelli, I miss you, blogfather). Jenn is recovering from Plantar Fascitis, which is my old bugbear. Remembered pain got me to reply. I really hope that Jenn isn’t a bot. But, I’m putting my faith in mankind and the interwebs tonight, ’cause I’m feeling optimistic, and don’t want to lose the promise of Hope and Change…

Here’s what I said:

The good news is that my PF hasn’t reoccurred in about 2 years. I’m not sure if it’s dumb luck, but here’s what I’ve learned:
  • Make a gradual, gradual reintroduction to running. I blew it in 2007 – started training for the 2008 OKC Marathon and wasn’t consistient enough. I tried to jump back in, slacked off in the fall and winter, and tried to make up mileage the two months before the race. I ended up dropping from the whole to the half, and while I had a good race, it wasn’t enough.
  • STRETCH! From spring 2008 until spring 2009, I tried to maintain pretty consistent running volume, and added cross training. One thing I focused on was learning PF stretches, chief among them the toe stretch* and also the frozen water bottle **
  • Cross Train: Spring 2009 I did a half ironman triathlon, and my chief gripe was not doing enough bike/run bricks to get my back ready for the second transition. PF was not an issue.
I’m not a doctor or a physiologist, but what seems to have worked was:
  • Build training volume by adding non-running activities. If you want to sweat, get on a bike, or in the pool, or anything that doesn’t stress your tendons. Your heart and lungs build capacity much more quickly than connective tissue.
  • Be a 10% stickler: Start with about a mile or two a run, and be strict about the 10% rule – don’t increase weekly mileage more than 10% a week. IE, if you do 5 miles in a week, 6 might be too much for the next week.
  • Stretch: Do the stretches several times a day. I’d do them immediately upon waking up, at lunch, and before bed.
  • Avoid treadmills like the plague: I’ve got nothing scientific on this, but I did a lot of my winter 2007-2008 training on the treadmill. I’ve been studiously avoiding them since, and have been less injury prone. My theory is that the treadmill doesn’t listen to your body, it just starts carrying your foot straight back as soon as you make contact.
Good luck!
Bill
PPS – water bottle stretch:
  1. Go drink a drink in a plastic bottle.
  2. Save the bottle and cap.
  3. Fill the bottle most of the way up with water.
  4. Put it in the freezer.
  5. Let it freeze solid.
  6. Pull the bottle out of the freezer.
  7. Put on socks.
  8. Sit in a chair.
  9. Put the bottle under the arch of one foot, push down, and roll the bottle back and forth from toe to heel until your foot begins to feel really, really cold.
  10. Switch feet and repeat until bottle becomes squishy, or until feet become too cold.

Bail-Out Plan – What’s yours?

Jon(was)inMichigan has a good post up about “What-If”, as in “What-If my running partner knocks herself unconscious when we’re out in the middle of nowhere?”

The general consensus is that one ought to run with a cell phone, or failing that, run where there’s lots and lots of people around.

Missy and I both do that for long runs (my short runs are usually on a Navy base, so there’s ALWAYS people around; hers are usually down River Road in Mystic, where she can flag someone down pretty easily). The other thing we’ve gotten in the habit of doing, especially before long runs, is letting the other know where we’re going, and how long we expect to be out.

I’m a big fan of previewing my route in Google Maps, MapMyRun, Nike+, or DailyMile so that I can plan out:

  • Bail out points (IE, where can I cut the run short if I feel like crap)
  • Fuel points (gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops, and places to get carbs-(there’s a pub in the basement))
  • Scenery

Anyway, it’s something to think about, especially for those of us north of the Mason-Dixon line who are blessed with cool in which to run for the next couple of months. I don’t wanna hear about any lost fingers, toes, or lives.

Clackity

Freaking Merlin Mann. He’s one of those guys who often I can’t stand* – talking about productivity and GTD and such with no apparent skills other than a quick wit (pot, kettle), but just as often love.

Today’s a love day.

Go read this. I’ll still be here.

Done?

So, what’d you think? Isn’t that why we’re here? I mean, on the internet, keeping blogs?

Sure, it’s convenient to have all one’s running info in one spot, but we can do that with Google Docs, or breakingthetape.com, or any number of solutions.

But we, we RBF’ers, we’re here because we’re storytellers, because we like reading about this stuff, because it feels just plain GOOD to write.

Your keyboard will have different things in it than mine does, of course. But, it’s impossible to know what’s in there until you’ve made the clackity noise for a few minutes.

My keyboard? I hope it’s got a thesis in there sometime in the next five years. Until then, I’ll have to regale y’all with stories about my kids.

Like today – we went down to Esker’s Point beach. It’s a crappy little beach on the way to Groton-Long Point; I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone who didn’t live in the area, but it’s my favorite local beach. We went after church today, set up the umbrella and the chairs, and did the beach thing. I swam out to the point – my first open-water swim in forever, and my first swim in a month. It was great – five strokes per side, warm water in the top foot, cold water below.

After I got back in, the boys and I went stalking sea life with some $1 nets we’d picked up at the closeout store. We’d terrorize the minnows – their silvery sides flipping in the sun, gills flapping. Collected a bucket full in no time. The beach smelled of August – low tide at the end of the summer; mounds of rotting kelp and weed piled high in the sun. The onshore afternoon breeze blew, carrying with it the smells of the yards in Long Point – flowers and mown grass.

Nate came up to me, asking to put on his floaties. He’s terrified of getting salt water in his mouth, but loves to swim. We headed out on a swim to the buoys marking the swim area, and Jake swam out to us when we’d gotten about half way to the buoy. Rounded the buoy, and then we all just floated on our backs for a while – staring at white fluffy clouds, Nate brushing my right hand from time to time just to make sure I was still there.

There – Clackity.

Now you, write your own story.

—-

* I’ve been on a big anti-“management”, anti-“planning” jag lately (despite having my very own MBA). Mostly because I work for the government, and there’s a lot of people who’ve realized that managers get paid more than workers, even if those workers are scientists, engineers, or soldiers and sailors. Plus, managers aren’t really accountable for jack squat – if a task doesn’t get done, it’s either due to a bad worker, or personnel not being able to supply talented workers.

Plus, management and planning tend to be snakes that eat their own tails. The more levels of management you have, the easier it is to get an underling and climb up the ranks. Then, instead of being concerned with useful stuff like interface documents, impedance matching, or variable typing, a manager gets to do powerpoint and gantt charts. (Which both can be useful, but need ultimately to be tied to some actual work. And neither of them require 18 levels of review and their own project plans)

Merlin’s got (and GTD has) the right message – just frackin’ do it. Now.

My gripe is that the people who get off on that sort of thing don’t “do” useful stuff – they manage. Actual workers are too busy doing actual work.

15 Books I love

I’m reposting this from my facebook page – I’m interested to see if anyone else bites. Inspired by JohnO.

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag as many friends as you want to, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your Profile page, paste rules in a new Note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the Note, upper right-hand side.)

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – two things here: First, reading it as a teen, it made me realize that grownups don’t have a clue, though they may pretend otherwise. Second, and probably most profound (considering Douglas Adams was an outspoken atheist), it made me Adams’ bit about the Babelfish and God contained “Proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing”. Being a geek, I’d struggled to reconcile science with the literal interpretation of the Bible I’d learned growing up.
  2. PJ O’Rourke’s “Parliament of Whores” – I went back and re-read this recently, and, even though I’m rapidly becoming a New England bleeding heart, it holds up well. “Giving car keys and liquor to teenage boys” seems as good an explanation for how the country’s gotten where it is, and “Democrats are also the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.” still rings true.
  3. Tom Robbins’ “Still Life With Woodpecker” – CHOICE.
  4. My freshman year Physics textbook. F=MA. Everything else (above a quantum scale, moving less than 99% of the speed of light, including electronics) is but a riff on this.
  5. My freshman year Calculus textbook. Lets you derive everything else from #4. Why study when you can cipher?
  6. The Hunt for Red October” – corny (as I was a submariner), but true. I was hooked at the interplay between machinery, crew, and intellect, and wasn’t let down when I got to drive. What Clancy left out, however, was the months of drudgery maintaining and training between the couple of days of getting to do cool stuff that would make good novels.
  7. Moby Dick” – I really cracked Melville in 2001 or 2002, after I’d gotten out of the Navy. When I finally read it, I was floored at how much it resonated with me – the bit about first seeing blue water under the keel out of sight from land made me put down the book and breathe for about 90 seconds.
  8. Galloway’s Book on Running” – Finally, running made sense, and there was a logical progression of how to make it not painful.
  9. Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” – Holy cow! How did I get to #9 without mentioning Snow Crash? Anyway, read it. It’s good for 1) Painting a picture of what the internet could be, and why normal people won’t really get ‘it’; 2) It’s kind of a “Modest Proposal” for radical libertarian capitalism taken to a logical extreme; and 3) I really dug the theme on memes.
  10. Where the Wild Things Are” – great when I was a kid; better now that I’m a dad. Let the Wild Rumpus Start!
  11. Kierkergaard’sFear and Trembling” – another critical book in taking me back to faith. About a dozen re-tellings of the Abraham and Isaac story at the beginning, each slightly tweaked. Beautiful.
  12. Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” – Even though it’s mostly a sales pitch for open source software (go linux!), it’s an absolutely great primer on how to work on team dynamics.
  13. Lessig’s “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace” – In some ways, this is an academic riff on Stephenson’s “meme” theory in Snow Crash. In other ways, it’s a manifesto for how to reform society.
  14. Fukuyama’s “Trust” – Francis Fukuyama’s much mocked for declaring “the end of history” (taken much out of context) at the end of the Cold War. “Trust” is a phenomenal examination of the interplay between regulation, economics, and shared values and expectations. It’s a tough, dense read.
  15. Nassim Taleb’s “Fooled by Randomness” – Excellent treatment of how our minds completely misread statistics, and how it leads us to be very poor at risk assessment, and to assign success disproportionately to an individual’s skill than to random chance. Much like Adams let me keep God, Taleb let me keep PJ O’Rourke.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Cluetrain Manifesto” – still holds up after the dot-bomb. Life is a series of conversations. Nothing should ever be final.
  • Clausewitz‘ “On War” – a classmate said that “On War” is to a study of strategy what Newton’s “Principia” is to physics. Both are outdated and too densely written for anyone but serious scholars to read, but both are fundamental and revolutionary to their subjects.
  • Paul’s epistles – There’s much humanity there, which gets glossed over looking for dogma. Christianity is about people, not rigor – something that was missing in my religious upbringing.
  • The Atlantic Monthly series on “Books that changed the world”, or some other nonsense. O’Rourke wrote about Adam Smith, and focused on the “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, which is what Smith would have wanted. Karen Armstrong’s book on the Bible rocks. And I’m ploughing through Hugh Strachan’s examination of “On War”, and, while predictably dense, it’s much more readable for anyone who’s interested in Karl Von but isn’t required to read the original text for Joint Professional Military Education.

Dishonorable Mentions:

  • Management books. I flat out think that these are a waste of paper, time, and brain cells. They’re the equivalent of talking heads on television – short platitudes and a lot of hot air. At their best, they’re 20 pages of good practices blown up into 200 pages so it can sell at $25/copy. At their worst, they’re justifications for dehumanizing employees and customers and for paying managers exorbitantly for applying common sense to other people’s work.
  • Malcolm Gladwell. You cannot do science by analogy, especially when the analogies all are extreme cases. Taleb eviscerates this kind of pseudo-intellectual tripe. It takes everything I dislike about management books, adds poor research practice to it, and puts a guy with bad hair on the back. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a double whopper, jumbo fries, and a jumbo coke – it’ll fill you up and spike your glucose, but ultimately it’s counterproductive unless you’re starving.

Scott Adams Beats me to the Punch again

As many of y’all know, I’m one of those guys who struggles with weight. My BMI has been hovering around 24, or on the very low end of “Overweight” for the last few years, which is down from ~29 when I came out of the Navy full time. I dropped most of the 20 lbs that I’ve managed to keep off in 2005 when I spent about 6 months religiously counting calories. Since then, I’ve maintained (Actually, crept up from ~165 to ~173 in 2008) weight despite gradually increasing the number of miles I was doing.

Dilbert’s author (with the awesome blog) links today to a Time article that confirms something that Brent had tweeted earlier today (Yesterday? darn insomnia) – that “exercise doesn’t do much for weight loss”.

The article itself is pretty good, with the money quote (for me) as:

“They’re like, ‘Ah, I’m running an hour a day, and I’m not losing any weight.'” He asks them, “What are you doing after you run?” It turns out one group of friends was stopping at Starbucks for muffins afterward. Says Church: “I don’t think most people would appreciate that, wow, you only burned 200 or 300 calories, which you’re going to neutralize with just half that muffin.”

Brent’s observation that “I get so dang hungry” is right on with my experience. The article kind of addresses that too, saying that “Self-control is like a muscle … If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you’ll be more likely to opt for pizza.”

I tend to be a bit more optimistic than that; however, self-control being the muscle that it is, needs to be exercised as consciously and as diligently as we log miles.

So, I’m going to re-start my food log – it worked for the first 20 lbs; hopefully I can squeeze out another 20 lbs before my 20th high-school reunion.

Poking the Helmet Debate

I’ll be up front – I usually wear a helmet while riding the bike. Both of my kids have bike helmets, and are pretty religious about wearing them, even to the point of telling their friends “Hey, wait – I’ve got to get my helmet” when they go to ride bikes. Helmets are good, m’kay?

But bikes are better.

The couple of times I’ve caught the kids without helmets, I’ve just handed them to them, and a couple of times when we’ve been out as a family in the evening, Missy and I walking and the kids riding, I’d just told them to keep going, ’cause in my mind building kids who love cycling is going to make them healthy years later. I’d rather treat the helmet as a “nice to have” instead of an all-or-nothing, making riding the bike sometimes a negative experience.

I’m not arguing that helmets don’t work – they do, even in high speed situations. But making them completely mandatory with punitive makes people not ride bikes, or so sez some Commonwealth medical researchers via BikeRadar:

For example, a 1989 case-controlled study (i.e. directly comparing helmet wearers with non-helmet wearers) published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85 per cent.

Writing in the British Medical Journal in 2006, Dorothy Robinson, a statistician at the Department of Primary Industries in Armidale, Australia, claimed that helmet laws caused cycling levels to drop by 20 to 40 percent in several Australian cities and states.

Robinson’s point seems to have been backed up by evidence from 1990 – Victoria, Australia, introduced an all-ages cycle helmet law in that year and helmet use rose from 31 percent to 75 percent, with the number of head injuries dropping by 40 percent.

However, cycle counts in Melbourne showed drops of between 33 percent and 46 percent. Injuries dropped roughly in proportion to the decline in cycling. The proportion of serious head injuries compared to overall injuries fell only slightly.

I’ll be clear again: I think if you’re going to ride and have a helmet, you ought to wear it. However, if you’ve got a bike and a car and decide to go somewhere on the bike instead of in the car, do it. If you want to go cruise the rail-trail in a straw bowler, feel free. And if you really, really want to go climb wearing a USPS cap and pretend you’re Lance back in 1999, knock yourself out, helmet or not.

Bikes rule. Go ride.

Semi-regular rant – Early April 2009

1. I’m a huge believer that for the 21st century the internet and ubiquitious free or cheap access is as critical to national success as was America’s roads infrastructure was to the US’s dominance of the last half of the 20th century. And I think it makes even more sense for the government to do it than it did with the roads, as access to the internet is critical to freedom of expression, organization. all that fun stuff that is in the Bill of Rights.
So, with trillions being doled out, what’s a couple of hundred billion to begin connecting municipal internet efforts, revive muni-wifi, or maybe even hold some spectrum to build out publicly owned WiMax? Just a thought.

So far the Obama administration has offered $7.2 billion in grants to be doled out by two separate federal agencies to give to companies to build out networks in “underserved” areas. The whole process is mired in semantic debates over what “broadband,” “unserved” and “openness” mean. Incumbent players such as AT&T and Verizon are complaining about onerous openness requirements and are threatening to not even apply for the funds — these are the folks who have done everything in their power to suffocate innovation on the net and in the wireless world. [From National Broadband Plan? Dream Big, Feds, Very Big | Epicenter from Wired.com]

2. I’ve been running. Running is good. Running with the wife is better. Got in a total of 18 miles over the weekend with my soulmate. Love to run. Need to do more.

Train in Vain.

Why on earth can’t I print out Amtrak tickets from my computer? This is just absolutely and completely unacceptable.

I’m trying to take a day trip from Mystic, CT to Boston, MA on short notice. It’d be exceptionally convenient for me to take the 6:05AM train from Mystic.

BUT I CAN’T.

Why? Because I can’t print a ticket from the online reservation system.

And I can’t buy one at the station, because there isn’t a ticket counter, and the ticketing machine is inside the station, which is only open from 10AM to 4 PM.

And, apparently, I can’t pick up the ticket on the train, because they apparently don’t do that anymore.

Grrrf.

I’m trying to keep a car off the road, but Amtrak is trying to stifle me at every opportunity.

Postscript

I broke down and called the Amtrak customer service line (1-800-USA-RAIL). After wading through the phone voice menu, I finally asked to speak to an agent, who was able to give me a Reservation Number and a Boarding Number with which I can purchase my ticket on the train. So, I am taking the train.

But, were it not for a real will not to drive, I wouldn’t be.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if We (as a nation) really want to encourage alternate modes of transportation, We really need to design out the obstacles. ESPECIALLY when trying to change thought among users.

Postscript 2 (Thanks, Deene, for spurring another rant):

I’ve got one better –
There’s a toll bridge going from the mainland into Newport. Since it opened in 1960something, it was tokens. For the last 20 years or so, it’s been $2 cash toll, or you can buy tokens at 11/$10 at the toolbooth (~91 cents/crossing) or for 60/$50 (~83 cents/crossing) if you go into the office. No proof of Rhode Island residency required.
They converted to EZPass this winter. For RI residents, it’s a bargain – 81 cents per crossing. For EZ Pass holders, it’s $1.75/crossing. But, they’ve got a commuter program, whereby if you do 30 crossings in 30 days (working say 3 out of 4 weeks), the toll is only 91 cents/crossing. Here’s the problem, though (I live in Connecticut)- I take a commuter van about 3 days per week, and travel a fair amount. Which means that I get screwed on days that I drive to the office now – paying $3.50 instead of $1.80 each roundtrip. Driving 2 days/week (8 days/month), it’d be cheaper for me to cross the bridge twice (2 roundtrips) every day I drive and hit the 30 crossings wicket.
For carpoolers, it’d be even worse – two folks sharing a ride would have to use the same car every day instead of splitting up wear and tear, as Rhode Island has cameras to bust people using illegal transponders (compare transponder to license plate). It’d be impossible to share the rides, unless you did it on a monthly basis.
Grrr. Why stick it to part-time car-poolers, van-poolers, and public transit riders?