End of the summer runs?

Maybe, because as I’m typing this, there’s 60 degree air rolling in through the kitchen window, and it’s supposed to hit 55 tonight.

I snuck out of the office at lunch yesterday for the day’s 4 miles; a beautiful summer day on Narragansett Bay – 80, sunny, brisk breeze from the south. And the run was good.

I’m not back to the point where I was before San Antonio – runner’s high setting in at about 2 miles in, but I think I’m starting to get sniffs again. There’s something different about this cycle – it’s been just harder to get going. I don’t know if that’s because I have been better this time about sticking to the schedule, or if I didn’t take a long enough recovery period after Mooseman. Regardless, it’s 2 months to New York, and I think I’ll make it.

So, that’s it, except for this: Nate (youngest) comes downstairs early this morning, all sorts of excited. “Daddy, where’s Mommy?”

“She’s out running, why?”

“I wanted to show her the turkeys in the backyard cleaning up the mess at the birdfeeder.”

Man, I love those kids.


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.


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.

Fat Cyclist and Susan

Cancer took another wife, mother, and apparently phenomenal human being from us last night.

I’ve followed Fat Cyclist’s blog for a good long while – first because it was the funniest bike blog on the planet, but lately I’ve been drawn in to the battle that Elden and his wife Susan have been fighting with a recurrence of Susan’s breast cancer.

Courage is an underrated virtue these days, but listening to how FC struggled and continued in his roles as husband, caregiver, father, and worker gives us all a high standard to try to achieve. I’ve found myself continually wondering if I could continue to function in the same scenario. Of one thing I’m sure – I could not continue to write about it with the clarity, and wit that FC maintained.

I’d go on, but I think the only thing I can do is to recommend that you Fight Like Susan.