Stuff

First Item:

Head on over to NPR. First to pause for a moment to commiserate with the 7% of the staff that got axed, and second to tune into their Jingle Jams. Good stuff, though I don’t see James Brown’s Funky Christmas anywhere on the list.*

Second Item:

Spam. Man, Yahoo mail seems to be full of it.

Third Item:

Have I mentioned that I LOVE to run? Tuesday’s run was incredible. Perfect weather as the temp had risen into the 50’s, the rain and wind hadn’t started. And, interestingly enough, I’d left my headphones in the car. But I ran anyway. I think I may be past using the iPod as a crutch.

Fourth Item:

I’m getting a bit fed up with Rodale. A while back, they moved Bicycling magazine to an automatic renewal policy. Which is fine, ‘cept they wanted to charge me $22 for a year’s subscription this time around, and send me some crappy new lifestyle magazine. This is a problem when there’s fliers in the dead tree magazine, and a huge add on Bicycling’s website offering a subscription for $12/year. So, I called up, cancelled the old subscription, and re-subscribed for 2 years for $21. Why is it that people feel entitled to take money out of existing customer’s pockets?

Fifth Item:

Swim Class at the Y. The boys are over the moon, ’cause their dad is going to be taking swim lessons at the Mystic Y, just like they do. They’re offering a triathlon swim training class on Monday and Wednesday evenings, 5:30 to 6:30 Mondays and Wednesdays, which is perfect with my class schedule. Things are really falling into place for Mooseman.

Sixth Item:

Training programs. I’m open for suggestion, especially for base development for January and February. I’m partial to modifying TriNewbie’s half program. It looks to be about 7-11 hours per week, which is about the volume I think I can reasonably support (I know i’ll just be squeaking to finish a half; but I’m realistic). The other one I like is Scott Herrick’s. Now, when do I sleep?

Last Item:

Looks like this blog is branching out a little bit. I’ll try to keep a fitness focus, but will likely do a bit more rambling here in the near future.

OK, so that looks like it’s about all. Hope everyone’s having as good a holiday season as can be expected. I’m completely loving life. We’ve got our church pageant on Saturday (with CAKE afterwards). One more class this calendar year; then three whole weeks to catch up on reading.

*They do have Run DMC’s Christmas In Hollis

Technology Rant Continued

A while back, I hit on why it’s not an awful thing that science and engineering jobs, etc, are getting moved offshore.

Surfing back through a couple of old links I’d saved, I found this Reason interview with Neal Stephenson, who has way to much of my mindshare for a living mortal. (and if the idea of a “Reason” interview doesn’t get you chuckling, please go read Snow Crash). In any case, part of it focuses on how abandoning the model of science and engineering driving the economy isn’t unprecedented –

If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It’s no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you’re living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.

The common theme is that control shifts over to the next group once a challenge is conquered. The pioneers figured out how to move from the post-iron age to the industrial age on a large scale, without the inefficiencies of kings and royalties. The plutocrats figured out how to manage manpower and capital on large scales. The technical class – well, crap, what didn’t they figure out?

Not that there’s not still technical work to be done; however, the biggest transformations that need to take place in the next 50 years are in mindset – how do we urge adoption of efficient energy technologies? How do we manage increasing urbanization and still fulfil basic human needs to create and build? How do we communicate; find people who share our ideas, ideals, wishes and dreams? And how do we negotiate with other groups without resorting to blowing them up?

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Bleg: New England Backpacking

As a test of an idea that Brogan kicked out today:

It’s a ways in the future, but I’m looking for suggestions for good places to get Jake hooked on backpacking. Here’s what I’d like:

– less than 2 hours from Hartford.
– Actual backpacking, not car camping.
– Preferrably something cool to do once the hike is over.
– Campsite not more than 3 miles from the trailhead
– Something cool between the trailhead and the campsite

I’m considering Pauchaug State Forest, just ’cause it’s really, really close to Mystic. Looks like Nipmuck State Forest has actual camping, too.

Other areas that I know are large and wild and close-by are Arcadia in Rhode Island (unsure about camping there; know the fishing’s great), and …

Is there anything like this in the Berkshires in Mass? I think the boy’s a bit too small to head up to the Whites in New Hampshire. And I love, love, love the Adirondacks in New York, ‘specially after going to prototype at Ballston Spa, but most of the places I’ve been up there are a pretty good ride in the car, which I think might kill interest on the boy’s part. And completely would rule out taking the two-year-old.

Thanks in advance, Internet. You’re the greatest.

Happiness in five parts…

At some point last week, I managed to get my act together, and actually managed to get in three runs, one swim, and a meander on the bike in over the last few days. Hopefully I can maintain that; somehow, however, I doubt it. Life has just been too good lately…

Part 1 – Renewal
Anyhoo, having all of my stuff in one sock for a change left me the opportunity to leave the office just after 1 on Tuesday, and finally hit the roads for a run. And run I did. Out of the parking lot, up hospital hill, over the hill, out past the golf course, and back onto the perimeter trail. Pshew – 20 minutes into the run, an excessively steep hill, and I’m saying to heck with this. So, staying true to long, slow, distance, I drop down to a walk and stroll up the hill.

On the other side of the hill, I decide to walk down the equally steep downhill. Hey, I’m strolling. Life is good. Get to the bottom, start running up the steep uphill. Near the first top, prior to the false flat, I briefly think “Hey, I’m going anerobic – better walk..”. Riight – I keep on running, the legs start burning, lungs aching – life is still good, thoughts of Lydiard are all gone.

The rest of the run is just that – a run. 45 minutes. Get back to the office, plug it into Gmaps Pedometer and see – 4.3 miles.

Part 2 – Continuation
Wednesday was a blustery, windy day. The news on the way to the base was all about the powerlines down and trouble with Metro North in the western end of the state. We don’t have all that fancy train stuff here (just Amtrak, which is pretty much worthless at about $100 round trip to either New York or Boston), but it was impressive to hear. Worked, and headed over to Bluff Point at sunset to go run. 45 minutes, the last couple of miles completely lost on singletrack (but totally happy) – good times all around. I’m guessing 4 miles.

Part 3 – Bonding
Wednesday night, got the kiddos in bed, grabbed the swimsuit, and headed over to the pool. Went from being completely packed at 8 to me and another woman swimming at 8:30. 5 laps of breast – nice, felt good to stretch. The first 10 laps of free – good. I was applying the whole sculling concept, carving S’s in the water with my hands, kicking from the belly instead of the butt. Yeah. I was completely getting lapped by the guys in the next lane, but such is life. Started another set of free, but after 3 laps, I thought about getting out, since the “feel” just wasn’t there – I was flailing. Stopped, took a deep breath, and had a great final set of 10. Didn’t push it, just swam nicely.

I did get busted at the end – I did a dive off of the swim meet platforms, and got hollered at by the cute lifeguard. D’oh. Guess those orange cones on them mean don’t dive…

After the swim, I caught up with some friends who’d gone out for supper. They’d had booze, I’d had endorphins. We all had some dessert and coffee, and I was happy.

Part 4 – Family
Real life caught up with me on Thursday and Friday, and I managed to avoid running both days. Stupid dumb dummy… Saturday, I drilled in the morning, but managed to wrap up in enough time to make it home for Family Swim at the Y (’cause it’s fun to play at the YMCA). Grabbed the kiddos, gave the wife the long face, and got the OK to run home from the Y (she works out during Family Swim). Got to the Y and discovered Jake had not brought a swimsuit. Missy had asked him to bring one down for the bag with Nate’s suit, the towels, etc, but Jake had thought it would be cool to take his own backpack. D’oh.

All was not lost, however. We live just far enough away from the Y that we might have been able to make it home and back, get changed, etc, before family swim was over. But, yesterday was beautiful – 40’s calm, and clear. So, we went and just adventured all over the Y property. Rolled down the hill. Ran around on the tennis court. Swung from the chain link fence. Picked up some trash. Threw some logs into the river to launch “boats”. Climbed all the way up the lifeguard tower, and jumped down (not Nate).

The run back was good. No pain, no shortness of breath, just good running goodness. Through downtown, up River Road, through old Mystic. Just felt good to go running. Karen had inspired me to use my forerunner again (no Mr. V, though), which ended up being both good and bad. Good, ’cause it took me mentally back to the days of early 2005 when the 101 and I were nigh unto inseparable. Bad ’cause the forerunner pointed out what I’ve become painfully aware of – I’ve completely lost a step. Short-ish runs which were in the low eights last spring are now in the mid-nines. Not that I’ll ever be 1337, but it’s humbling to realize exactly how much I’ve lost since the fall. I suppose being grouchy will do that to you… And it turns out that I wasn’t lying to Susan at all… Five + miles in 48 minutes.

Part 5 – What goes around
Took down the Christmas lights today. Put the youngest down for a nap. Told the boy to rest for a bit. Jumped on the single speed road bike and went a-ridin’. Down to the Y. Around Mason’s Island. Stopped at Mystic Cycle. Ever since they moved into their new box, I’m wondering if they left their soul back at their old funky place. They definitely left anything that might have been on sale. Loved the Specialized Cross bikes, though.

Road back up River Road, past lots of walkers, but oddly, only one cyclist, and back home.

Epilogue –
One of the things slowing me down might be my shoes. Two marathons and all the intense training leading up to them – think it’s time to retire the Gel Cumulus VII’s. There’s a pair of Gel Helios’ in the mail – think they’re a new style, and they’re about $10 cheaper than the GC’s. Worth a shot – the GC’s are too well ventilated for winter running. (And, no, I don’t really think it’s the shoes)

First real good week in a while. Not that the others have been really bad weeks, but it’s the first one I’ve had that I felt I actually put in an effort. I think I’m going to aim the next month or so for a 20 mile per week running base, and try to get in 2 bikes (probably Monday during 24 and Sunday after church), and 2 swims (Tues/Thurs nights, so Wed/Fri will be easy runs).

Overkill? Possibly. But, I want to maintain an intensity level that keeps me engaged and happy, rather than antsy and bored. I’ll listen to my body.

“The Future”: or, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the death of American Engineering”

So Mark and I were swapping e-mail after my “Fun” post. I went off into my typical sob about “ for the vast majority of us, if we’re not really loving being out there, there’s not a whole lot of reason to do it, especially given the whole time and money sink that lots of fitness activities are. (it was) really liberating for me to hear this attitude, especially after a year of reading books implying that running/marathon/whatever was SO important, then getting the big anti-climax.”

Mark came back with

Hey, I am ALL about fun. In fact, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation Administration – so does Beverly of One Step at a Time. (NB – Beverly also has kids that love ZooBooMooFoo, or one of the few unquestionably worthwhile shows on the idiot box) The degree gave me a philosophy of Fun, Play, Leisure and Recreation that permeates my life still. … Fun, discovery, growth and passion. That’s what life’s all about.

Which made me realize that there’s a big part of me that wishes I’d done something more like RA than Engineering. So I didn’t make the “Would you like fries with that?” joke…

There’s a line at the beginning of Neal Stephenson’sSnow Crash” (which if you haven’t read it – well, you should. First, it’s a way to dip your toe into Stephenson without committing to the 900 page “Cryptonomicon” or one of the 1000 page volumes of the “Baroque Cycle“, and Stephenson will be looked back on as the Twain of the 20th century. Second, “Snow Crash” is remarkably prescient about the way the internet and culture in general seems to be going – life broken up into a series of incorporated “franchiculates” instead of larger nations … interesting take. Is this parenthetical long enough? I think so.) where he says that the only things that the US (i know, Canada and all, but bear with) is good at are Movies, writing code, and high-speed pizza delivery. I’d probably modify that to be “Entertainment, creating new memes, and affordable cuisine”.

But the point he’s making is kind of a larger one – hard research and engineering have been refined to the point where that kind of creativity 1) can be taught to anyone, anywhere in the world; and 2) done cheaply almost anywhere (especially if anywhere’s environmental laws are not as restrictive as those in Western Europe and North America). Which sucks for guys like me. What’s even worse is that my fallback is an MBA, and business is even easier to learn than engineering.

Where the opportunity opens up is for people with a background soft skills , and the chance to sell … well, let’s say “fulfillment” for lack of time to come up with a more accurate term … “fulfillment” to the 3 billion or so soon-to-be middle-class engineering and middle-management types that are taking the lessons of the 20th century and applying them in China and India and places which were until recently associated only with crushing poverty and tragic disease. These places are soon to create the largest explosion of wealth and desire for leisure that the world has ever seen.

It does not matter that companies like Intel and Microsoft are moving offshore. It especially doesn’t matter that GM is not long for the earth, or that traditional airlines can’t make money. All of that is old industry, codified in textbooks and easily translatable into any language on earth, and able to be done more cheaply wherever the books can be read.

(Want to make a mint at somewhat of a high risk? Start laying fiber in Africa, especially if the UN goes through with this $100 laptop deal. Much like Levis and Coke turned all but the true-believer Soviets into capitalists in the space of a decade, IM, e-mail, and http are going to turn isolated pockets in Africa into folks who see that life doesn’t have to be muddy and malarial. Serve up even ’20s and ’30s-era agricultural material that’s passed into the public domain, and watch a little knowledge work miracles. You may not need the bullet if you’ve got the ballot, but it’s important to get a bushel of grain in every belly first. In any case, Africa’s going to skip the industralization that took 200 years to run its course with us Norte Americanos and Europeans, and will play out in about 50 years total in Asia. Africa’s going straight to the 22nd century.)

What I’ve been meaning to say is that you’re completely right “Fun, discovery, growth and passion. That’s what life’s all about”. Darn Straight. And the “Next Big Thing” is selling that to the 3 billion people who are about to learn that food in the fridge and a good job at a good wage still leave an empty spot in the soul.

Sorry, no real running news today. But exercising the mind is fun, too, right?

2005 year in review / Shameless Cribbing off of Jon

I’ll be honest – Like most of my good writing ideas, this is straight from Jon. Were I making any money on this space, I’d send it his way in fealty.

But, let’s look at 2005 Reloaded:

So, for planning purposes, I am doing Mystic.Done.

I’m going to be using the training plan from the New York Road Runners, specifically, the 18 week schedule starting from a 20 mile/week base. Done. I think I can still consider myself at the 20 mile base, BTW. More on that later.

My secondary goal is to avoid overtraining while still reaching achievable goals. Not sure that I really accomplished this one. I think that my tendency to blow off long runs contributed to my tightness in the calves which really really showed up in a mental toll. But, I established a new well to which I can go mentally, so in all, I’ll rate this goal a push.

(I have no clue what that previous paragraph means, but have few doubts that I’ll repeat it in a meeting in the next two weeks, with work-related buzzwords replacing the running-related words)

Hopefully I can find some time in the next week to dig into the HTML of the site and add a bar with the races I’m planning on doing over the year. – heh. No comment.

Weight – Mixed bag here. Yes, I’m down overall (won’t actually check on the Christmas damage until, say, mid-January, BTW) for the year, but closer to the start at 180 than the goal of 152. I did mark an entire year under 185, which is great.

Need to review prospective goals and get to work now…

Focus

Yesterday – another non-starter. This makes 8 days without significant physical activity. Mercifully, scale was still at 171 today – holding firm to that net gain of 4 lbs since NYC. Holding flab, I guess. The wife? Starting to show actual abs. <humor>Only a matter of time now until she leaves me for someone else who’s fit.</humor>

But I’ve been doing some thinking; spurred on by one of those stunning convergences that happen way too often to be completely the result of random chance: First, there was Jon’s rant yesterday and Blaine’s reply. I’ve also gone back and started re-reading my archives. As the final piece of the puzzle, I picked up a new tri book yesterday on my way home.
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Say it is so

Via Velonews:

I do have a cycling/triathlete hero who can average 15 mph on her bike on a good day. Why my hero? She donated one of her kidneys to a total stranger. She, my friends, is a hero. Maybe not a cycling hero, but certainly a hero who cycles.

I’ve got a pair of fraternity brothers who share a set of kidneys. There is overwhelming inspiration and good in the world. It just doesn’t always pay well or come with sponsorships.

Embrace and extend, y’all.

Gauntlet

Jack’s got 17 lbs to lose; I’ve got 17 lbs to lose – it’s on.

I’d put my money on Jack though – 27K in 40 degree weather.

I, on the other hand, had pizza and ice cream.

We did pick up all the leaves in our yard, and quite a few that blew in from the neighbor’s yards. Anyone out there a landscape artist? I’d like to put something together in the yard (hedges and stuff, maybe a picket fence) that blows the leaves out of my yard into the woods behind the house. How cool would that be?

In any case, I didn’t run/bike/swim this weekend. Nope, just carried quite literally a ton of leaves into the woods and piled them up until they were over my head. I’m seriously thinking about heading out there with my sleeping bag this evening, just ’cause they’re still crunchy and fluffy. Melissa said she’d be worried about the fisher cat that’s allegedly stalking our neighborhood. Yep, Connecticut’s a wild place. Our first house featured a bald eagle that ate (I kid you not) two neighborhood cats.

Now all I need to do is to figure out how to get the ratzel-fratzel neighbors across the street to rake their yard. They’ve got lots of oaks; we don’t. There were more than a couple oak leaves in the pile.

Goals

So…

It’s only been three days since New York, and already my mind’s wondering what’s next. Remarkably, the body’s much happier after NYC than after Mystic Places. Somehow, I made the right decision and laid off instead of breaking myself. Goodness, can I actually be learning something?

In any case, I’m riding high on putting the marathons behind me, and with them, the corpse of my “failure to follow-through” demon. So now, it’s all a matter of setting goals and knocking them down, right? None of this is “official”, of course, but here are some of the things I’m thinking about:

1. Weight. I’m still toting around a little extra lard. To paraphrase the W.K.Kellogg Corporation, “On Billy J you can pinch an inch”. 167 today, right where I’ve been for six months. About 17 lbs above where I ought to be as a 5’7″ type. SO, I’ve got some work to do. At a pound a week, which is a sustainable weight loss, I could hit fighting weight in about 4 months, or February. Sweet. Call that one a goal.

2. Navy Physical Readiness Test. Next one ought to be in … April. Plenty of time. Did the run in 10 minutes last time. No marathon to train for this time. Let’s try to smoke the next one – 100 situps, 75 pushups, and the mile and a half in 9:00. Ambitious? Sure. Within my grasp? Heck yeah, especially if I’m not toting around the equivalent of two gallons of milk. My PRT at the end of OCS met this goal. Sure, we’re almost a dozen years down the road, but I’ve got more than 13 weeks to train, and am starting the training in much better shape than I started OCS. This one is do-able. Not quite the low-hanging fruit of the weight goal, but it’s there.

3. Bluff Point trail race: Broke an hour last year, which still amazes me. I’d like to break an hour again this year; I think if I concentrate, I might be able to break 55 minutes for 7.2 miles. That’s 7:45’s or so, but I’ve completely re-defined the amount of “discomfort” I can subject myself to. 55 minutes – tall order. I’m kind of iffy on this one.

4. Terramuggus Tri series. I’d like to do at least 3 of the 4 races this year, and ideally all of them. I also think I can break an hour. The swim – my worst event, was never more than 12 minutes. Leaving 48 minutes to bike 12 miles and run a 5K. A 20 minute 5K is reasonable for a thirty-something guy no longer lugging around a beer gut. Leaving 28 minutes for the 12 mile bike. Hmm – that’s a 24 MPH average speed. This one may be out of my league – have to shave about 25% off of my best of last year… How ’bout 1:10?

5. New Haven 20K. Hmm, that’s just four 5K’s. So, how ’bout seeing if I can break 90 minutes? Again, a pipe dream, but why not dream big this far in advance?