Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a favorite holiday. It's got it all. It's got candy. It's got parties. It's got activities after dark. It's got things you do with your family. It's got things you do with your friends. It has skeletons and bloody scythes. Yes, it has it all.

For me, Halloween also has about 5 hours raking leaves, mulching them, and putting them into big yard waste bags. It has blisters. It has burning eyes from all the leaf dust. It has no time for lunch, much less workign out. It has that tired feeling you get from a job that is not well done, but done, and that gives you only the satisfaction of knowing your lawn is less likely to grow mold over the winter.

But it also has pumpkins! We had a bumper crop of Jack-o-Lanterns this year and if I'm not too lazy I'll post some small pics of them later. Each of us carved one. My own has a neurotic, weepy/scared face which just suited my mood today. One daughter's is kind of angry skeleton and the other's is Frankenstein's monster on acid, and my wife's is just demonic. No wonder my poor orange guy is all freaked out - he keeps weird company.

I hope everyone reading this, imaginary or not, has a fun and enjoyable Halloween, with just as much candy as you like and no more fright than you can handle. And remember - if you eat too much candy, you can always run it off tomorrow *place demonic laugh here*

Torchlight Update

In the interest of being fair, let me say that I've got Torchlight up and running on my PC. After thinking about it, and checking their support forums, I found that there were two issues. One was that the installer puts MS C++ Redistributable 2008 on your PC even if you happen to have that same redistributable or, in my case, a full version of MS C++ 2008 installed already. That was creating the Buffer Overrun error. I fixed that by removing the redistributable that the installer had put on the machine. The other was that good ol' Norton was detecting the program as some kind of threat and not allowing it to connect to the internet for program registration. I can see why it might do that, I've seen it happen before with small press applications. But what bugs me is that Norton Firewall would then decide that ALL attempts to access the internet were malicious and thus, I would be unable to access the internet with any program after trying to start Torchlight. Which would lead to a shut down, and all the rest. I got around that by turning the firewall off long enough to get the thing registered, then put the firewall back on (so I wouldn't get caught with my electronic pants down). Fortunately, the program does not access the internet other than for registration, so it doesn't keep hanging. Also fortunatley, it looks like the developers are already working on a patch that may address this or other issues.

So far, the game seems quite enjoyable, but I haven't gotten to play it much because I spent all my playing time getting it to run. But I have played it enough to know that it does not suck (so far).

Friday, October 30, 2009 - There's An App For That

I happen to think this is hilarious. The iPhone seems like a cool smartphone, and mad props for innovation, but Apple's opportunistic decision to selectively waive its normally fanatical dedication to proprietary technology to sell apps (which coincidentally help sell iPhones) just burns my cookies.

But maybe Torchlight does?

I frigging HATE IT when programs won't run. I actually got enough work done at work today that I had a night off. I was going to spend it playing this new game, Torchlight, which looks to be just the bee's knees. I'd love to tell you about it but, well, I can't. Because I can't get the fragging thing to run. When I try it first gives me a buffer overrun error, then essentially freezes my internet connection and then won't allow me to enter in the verification codes because it can't access the damned internet. It can't access the internet because it's f*ing up the goddamn connection! The conflict seems to come with the MS C++ redistributable package or something. I've spent an hour and a half trying to figure it out, with many MANY system restarts, and nothing. Not one piece of luck. What an INCREDIBLY frustrating way to spend $20 and an evening. @#$!@

Others are playing the game, and liking it, so I'm assuming it's a weird combo of my system set up and the software. They just released it so eventually they may get enough people with this problem that they'll post a fix. Or not. RIght now I'm too annoyed to care. If I had purchased a boxed version of the game, I would have set it on fire by now.

So I'm just fooling around on the linux box for the moment. Even though the hardward is a bit buggy, and even though I'm finding linux to be confusing as hell (cause I'm just not that used to it or saavy with this stuff), it's VERY stable and that makes me love it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MS Visio doesn't suck

It's always a treat to find a MS program that doesn't suck. I'm currently writing this on my linux box which, although it does reset itself from time to time due to a bad heatsink on the mobo, boots SO much faster due to not being an MS program :o) But I spent a lot of time today using MS Visio and I have to say, it didn't suck too bad. Visio is a drawing program, mostly for diagrams, flow charts, and that kind of thing. Like EVERY MS program, you do quickly have to get out of all the templated, pre-set crap that they assume will just be soooooo helpful, and get to where you can tell it what you actually want it to do. But once you do that it works. I'm doing some diagrams for an upcoming presentation where I'm reporting on this SEM/CFA modeling (if it would mean anything to you, you'll know what that means) and I've seen people do diagrams in Word, in Powerpoint, and now (myself) in Visio and so far Visio is my favorite. The arrows go where I want them, it's easy to insert text for each path you draw, circles are circles, squares are squares. It doesn't take too much to make me happy.

So, if you happen to need to do a bunch of path diagrams and you have access to it, Visio is not a bad way to go. If you don't, just use the Draw program - that will work almost as well. When I used it in a grant application though I found that it's figures tended to be a bit fuzzy and weird on printout.
There ya have it. Geek out, world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Have I mentioned how much I hate spiders?

I think I may have mentioned how much I hate spiders. So tonight I'm watching The Biggest Loser on my fat ass, which is conveniently located on my sofa. And I look over and there's a large unidentified object on the ground. And it's vaguely spider-shaped, but it can't be a spider. I mean, it just can't. Because it's huge. Forget a quarter. This thing is the size of half a dollar bill. I dogleg around behind it, and damned if it isn't a spider. Like the kind that come on plastic rings this time of year. Only he isn't on a plastic ring. He's on my carpet. And turns around so that he's watching me.

So I did what I always do in these situations. I called someone who's hundreds of miles away. The last time this happened, a spider effectively treed me on the sofa and I called my friend in Arizona. Yeah--I lived in New Mexico at the time. As the spider bobs up and down trying to figure out just how much silk it's going to need to immobilize me while it sucks my body dry, my friend is like, "Honey, I can't do anything. You know if I lived even 20 miles away, I'd come running, but you have to sleep before I can get there. Hit it with a shoe." It wasn't until hours later when my then-husband arrived and shrieked like a teenager in a horror film that he believed how big the spider was. (My ex-husband killed it with a shoe. He was a good man that way.)

This spider could eat that spider for lunch. And would--because, you know, they're cannibals. And I got divorced, so there's nobody to kill the spider.

I run back to the sofa and call my cousin's husband. "Bill, Bill. There's a spider in my house so big that he casts a shadow. And he's watching me."

"Well, he's probably not watching you, because he's a New York spider. I don't think you have poisonous spiders out there, do you?"

"I didn't think we had giant spiders, but the survey says yes we do."

"Do you have a New York Times?"

"No. I read it online."

"Oh, well then you'll have to get a book and wrap it in paper."

Genius. I wasn't fooling around. I got an encyclopedia so big that when I put it in a Trader Joe's bag, the handles of the bag tore off. The spider, no fool, got under a chair. It took me five minutes of coaxing from thousands of miles away to move the chair and throw the encyclopedia at the spider. And I kid you not, it made him really mad. Instead of his legs being out in creepy-crawly mode, he shooped them up under his body to make himself really tall and threatening like the tripods in War of the Worlds (except an octopod). Not to be deterred, I got the Oxford Guide to the Bible and threw it in another Trader Joe's bag. (He must not have been doing very well for all his big show, because he stood there looking mad as hell while I did this.) I was a little concerned, because it wasn't as big as the encyclopedia, but it turned out that greater maneuverability was an asset.

At least, I think it was. I'm scared to pick up the bag. And all the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I look at it. I'm counting this as my workout for the evening because my heart rate was definitely in the fat-burning zone.

NMA's new album

New Model Army! They're at it again. Woo hoo!

For the unenlightened: NMA is a British once-punk band that's been around for decades. They have a substantial cult following, not only in Europe (where I gather they're better known) but here in the States as well. Their music started punk and softened and broadened a bit over time. One of their albums from the 90s (Thunder and Consolation) was once described to me as a cross between Pink Floyd and Depeche Mode, which was funny to me for a few reasons. First, I was very fond of both of those groups (and still am very fond of Floyd). Second, because I doubt NMA feels at all influenced by either. But somehow the description worked. By the way, if you were looking for an album to introduce you to NMA, I'd probably go with Thunder and Consolation. Maybe just because it was my first exposure to them and it totally grabbed me, but I've always thought that it was one of the most immediately appealing albums.

NMA is one of those bands who has been around long enough to change. Which is cool. Their sound has definitely evolved. It's matured, moderated, grown more complex, a bit less angry. But they're also a band who has stayed very true to themselves. They still sing about the social issues and socialist themes that made it hard for them to get visas to tour the US on a few occasions. Their lyrics, which have always been a huge strong point, are still awesome. They still rock. I think at some point I'll try to get into more about their songs and lyrics. One of the many many items in the "future post lists."

But anyway, the boys have got a new album out, as of last month. Today is a Good Day. No, that's the name of the album. I've only gotten to listen to it a little bit so far, but it sounds good. You can get it for $9 from an Amazon download, a $35 import (if you're stateside) cd, or you can order direct from their website. Or you can ignore this and go about your business.

Monday, October 26, 2009

So what's with all the econ cr*p anyway

Really, when you come right down to it, why read any economics book? What do you care, right? You're not all about money, are you? That would be lame. You don't want to be one of those money people, do you? You don't want to be a money-grubber! Perish the thought, and pass the credit report.

So why on earth have I been trying to read the mainstream, pop-econ books I've been reading?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Because I have a few answer for you. First, econ is not the study of money! Second, it has some interesting implications and explanations, and finally, because it freaking matters. Read on, dear readers, for more!

Alright, so maybe I exaggerated a bit - econ does study money. Surprise. But. But more than that it's the study of human behavior. Specifically, it's the study of how people allocate resources in response to incentive. That sounds boring, right? Well consider that "resources" is anything you have - your time, your interest, your activity. And incentive is anything that influences your behavior - a smile, a piece of candy, a PR in a race, that good feeling you get when you donate to NPR. So at its broadest, there isn't that much difference between economics and many other social sciences - psychology, sociology, maybe even anthropology (not sure on that last - I've never studies anthro). But those things are interesting. Why? Well, if you read half the posts on this, or any other, blog they're about why do people do the freaky crap that they do. Why do I do the freaky crap I do? Why do even weirder people do even weirder things? Why do pepole act so goddamn stupid? These are the questions, dear IR's, and econ has answers. Maybe not the rigth answers, definitely not all answers I agree with, but interesting answers. So one reason to read at least pop-econ is that it's interesting.

Now even my brief reading of econ has found that it does explain some things. Here's an example. Why do special interest groups have so much power, and why do we end up with so much "pork" in government spending? Well, it turns out there are very rational (and I think good) explanations for how this occurs and they come right from economics. Unfortunately, I just tried to write them down and it came out in the electronic equivalent of whale vomit, all over the screen, so that'll wait for another post. But for now just take my word for it - it has some good explanations.

So now you know it's interesting, it explains things, why else?

Well, because it matters. I think I've ranted on this before, but here you go again. I have talked before about how taxation is the implementation of a people's (society's) will. And that's why taxation should matter to all of us, whether we like taxes or not, can afford them or not, they represent how we as a people are acting. I still buy that, by the way. But the implication is that the people express their will through the economy (Taxation) which means we express our will through the allocation of resources. And when you think about it, the allocation of resources is probably the single most powerful thing that societies do. Does the king get all the resources? Do all people share equally in the resources? Is it based on merit, inheritance, effort? These are all about economics, and these things all matter. And what economics, in theory, should do is give us a way to study how our decisions about these things actually work. In other words, if we set up a policy to tax this, or incentivize that, to achieve a goal, how well does that policy work? Those are the questions that really matter, the ones that need to be asked. And the ones that economics should help with.

Even in my very brief reading in this area I'm already seeing 1) the reasons some things are being done in the government, 2) where some people (commentators, politicians) seem to be just dead wrong, and 3) some possibilities for how things could be done different. I'm not quite arrogant enough to figure my quick reads have got me wise enough to tell everyone what to do (I was already that wise, doncha know?) but I do feel I've got some new insights.

Everything I've said, by the way, is my endrosement for "Naked Economics" by Wheelan. It's readable, it's basic, it's interesting, and it's more of the core ideas than Freakonomics or the other books I've read. Highly recommended.

So now that you know why this is so damn interesting, you may want to ask "Does all that insight change Shifter's life?" Nah. Not a bit. But that's a whole different question, and a different post, and probably on someone else's blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Without Multitasking? Scary!

I almost never buy magazines. I used to subscribe to a couple, but when they began to pile up around my home in great, unread, teetering piles, I decided enough of that was enough and stopped subscribing. Now I subscribe only to the New York Times Book Review, which at least stacks up into small, unthreatening unread piles.

Last month I bought a Real Simple magazine. I have no good explanation. Real Simple magazine almost never involves anything real simple. I remember, a long time ago reading an interview with someone associated with The Simpsons. The guy said he loved finding advertising where the ratio of words to lies was 1:1--the example he gave was Country Crock. "It doesn't come from the country and there is no crock." Real Simple is right up there. On the front of the issue I bought, for example, is a beautiful frame handbag. It is a two-thousand dollar Prada bag. That says it all to me.

Nonetheless, in the magazine was an article called "Stop the Madness! One man's quest to go from manic multitasker to zen unitasker in one month flat." It is a testament to my multitasking addiction that it took me from September to nearly November just to find the time to read the article. But I really did enjoy it, for several reasons.

For one thing, I really feel for the dude as he struggles to corral his brain into unitasking. I do not remember the last time I ate a meal in my own home without watching television. If I turned off the television, I would probably turn on the radio. I don't shower with the radio on, but that's only because I don't have a shower radio. The concept of just concentrating on food is something that I do only at a restaurant, partly because I'm not a great cook...probably partly because I only pay attention to food I haven't prepared myself. Just taking the time to sit and read the article without doing something else was a struggle.

I also really identified with his struggles with meditation. He says he falls asleep while meditating, too--it's as though my brain has two speeds, trying to do too many things at once, and off. My brain sees meditation as time I've set aside to listen to it natter about all the depressing things that I really don't want to hear it blather on about. It's time for it to bring my unfiled expense reports to my attention. Time for it to explain why nobody loves me (yes, I know it's wrong, which is why I really hate it when it brings it up--it's like having the same argument that nobody wins with your spouse for like the 9000th time in a row). Time for it to explain how much I suck at my job. Blah, blah, blah.

And the culture of interruption at work, which he doesn't mention a lot, probably because he works from home, is something I hate and yet passively endorse by buckling like a belt to the constant pressure to be instantly available to everyone at work all the time. Instant messenger is a wonderful boon at work, but it's also the worst interrupter ever. People are allowed to interrupt you if you're busy, or in a meeting, or whatever. Last week during a critical activity that couldn't be delayed, I put "Do Not Disturb" on my messenger, which is apparently a crime against nature. 8 people messaged me to tell me that my messenger was on "Do Not Disturb." Thanks, folks. I needed that bulletin. (I'd have logged out, but then I'd be forced to talk to the developers in India on the phone. There is one specific guy I work with there whose written English is easier for me to grasp than his spoken English, and my written English is less idiomatic than my spoken English, so IM is what we've agreed works best. See? Boon. And yet...)

I found the article interesting (and also? hilarious!), and I'm off to try to meditate before bed. Assuming I don't fall asleep.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well said, Mr. Krugman

As part of my dabbling into economics I've been reading the odd blog or two. Paul Krugman is an economist who has some nobel thing or other going for him and who blogs prolifically. He tends to talk to other economists as far as I can tell, so sometimes it's hard to follow him closely, but his post here was succinct and to the point. And right on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Joss Whedon on Glee

Joss Whedon, musical talent extraordinaire, is going to do an episode of Glee. He claims he won't kill off any of the characters, but I'd watch anyway.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Church of Chuckology? Where do I sign?

This morning on NPR they did a story on radical evangelist atheists--you know, like Richard Dawkins. It was a moderately disturbing story about how these people believe that religion is actively dangerous and must be actively opposed by rational men and women of the world, and the slightly absurd notion that this militant view is causing a schism in the atheist community. (Dude, as schisms go, that's not really going to make it into the top ten, is it? I mean, you've got your Urban VI, your Martin Luther, hell, even your Henry VIII. But the guy who separated the unbelievers from the less strident unbelievers? I find it hard to believe that's real schism material.)

For the record, I'm not real sure I disagree about the danger of religion. Religion is many things--a comfort, a blessing, an incentive to make the right decisions, and an awesome tool for, well, tools who want to control politics, abase women, and excuse appalling injustices on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. But I'm an agnostic, not an atheist (you have to have much healthier self-esteem than I have to be an atheist--I could never be so full of myself to claim absolute certainty that there is no God), and far be it from me to oppose people--and there are plenty of them--who truly want to make their faith a force for good in their lives and the lives of others. I reserve the right to make fun of them sometimes, but that's about as militant as I get. And I think a lot of agnostics and atheists envy the truly devout their faith, even if they think it's a divine madness. Let's face it, it seems pretty comfortable to know what's going to happen to your eternal soul.

Sometimes I kind of wish I could join a religion. Unfortunately my experience with Catholicism left me so mistrustful of organized religion that my one try at attending a Buddhist meditation retreat nearly gave me a panic attack. In case you didn't know, Buddhists are about the least "militant" sect out there. You go to a Buddhist temple and they're like, "have a cup of tea. We do this. If you'd like to do this, you should stay. If not, well, at least you had a nice cup of tea." They are definitely not out to recruit you or control your thoughts--they'd be pretty happy to observe their own thoughts, thanks. But there was a bit of the meditation where they chanted together, and it reminded me so much of mass that I just had to leave--it was all I could do to keep from crawling out of my skin before we got to a moment where I could flee without disturbing other people.

So it is with great interest that I read that Chuck Lorre is starting a religion that is, if you will, informed by Buddhism, but which probably doesn't involve synchronized chanting and probably doesn't involve getting dressed up or going anywhere. Yay Chuckology!

All of which is just my way of saying:
The Big Bang Theory is awesome.
Wil Wheaton is also awesome.
Wil Wheaton and Sheldon in a duel to the death? It may not be communion with the eternal, but I was totally there in the moment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So where are all the great marathon posts...?

What's that? A cry of dissatisfaction and longing from all the IR's out there, desperately checking their RSS feeds every half hour on the off chance that the promised Marathon Blog Posts have arrived? Yes, yes, I hear a sound, faint but distinct. It may be just that, that I am hearing. Or I may be hallucinating.

My apologies to all our IR's for being so tardy in posting any of the Great Ideas that came to mind while I was running the last marathon. What happened is this: 1. I ran a marathon. 2. I came home. 3. I walked in to a sh*t storm at work. 4. my wife got sick. 5. our dog had surgery (neutered - poor guy - snip snip). 6. I'm still a little sick. As a result of these 6 factors, and a few other unmentionables, I haven't had much time or energy to post. And I don't have a whole lot right now, but I'm determined. Too long have ye waited. Too often have ye checked the blog. Now ye must be satisfied.

So, the first blog should be a little bit about the marathon. Whistlestop is a marathon that isn't exactly local for me but is reachable. It's known as a pretty marathon, and a relatively fast one, because it's down hill. It's in the north of Wisconsin and takes place just as the leaves are turning colors and usually it has nice weather. This year almost all of those things came true except for the nice weather part.

I really enjoyed driving up to Wisconsin and seeing all the trees with their truly vivid autumn colors. I mean colors with capital letters. And italics. I mean the leaves weren't yellow, they were Yellow, a kind of royal Yellow that takes your breath away. And the red leaves were Crimson, or something like that. If I was a more visual guy, who had more than 6 colors in his vocabulary, I could try to paint you a picture, made out of words, describing the things I saw on that drive. But I'm not, so all I can tell you is it was godd*mn beuatiful. So I got to the town it's held in (Ashland) the day before and picked up my race packet, then went and drove 90 minutes to the hotel I was staying in. Ashland is not a big town, and it doens't accomodate the few thousand runners who show up for this, plus other tourists wanting to see The Colors, easily. Normaly this wouldn't matter much - you don't sleep a lot the night before a big run anyway, so getting up a little early to drive in isn't a big deal. Unless there's a blizzard or something.

There was a blizzard.

No, I'm not kidding, I got up at 5 am the day of the marathon, looked out the window, and found my car covered in a few inches of snow. Snow that was still falling. Because I have brain damage, I didn't bring very good cold weather gear. I had a long sleeve shirt, a thin jacket for a windbreaking shell, shorts, running shoes, baseball cap. I was missing a few things you would normally want for running in a blizzard. Things like, I don't know, GLOVES. Gloves are great things to have in wet, freezing conditions. Especially as you are getting the snow off your car (socks work a bit, as it turns out). So I got the snow off my car and started driving to Ashland and right away I'm was driving in this really heavy snow that was making it very hard to see the road. I was worried about slush, I was worried about ice, I was worried about driving into a ditch. I was driving slow, slow, slow. Good thing to, some other guy did drive off the road. And as I was driving up to Ashland in my shorts and light jacket through the snow storm all I could think was "I can't believe I'm going to die on the way to a marathon. How F*'d up is this??"

Well I made it to the marathon, somehow, with plenty of time and no bodily or automotive damage. That was a big relief, until I realized I had 2 hours to wait before the race started and it was below freezing outside and I had my shorts and tiny jacket and baseball cap. It was Full. Of. Suckage. A frozen wait in line and a blessedly long (and heated) bus ride later I arrived at the start line and found a fishing/hunting bar that someone had opened up and that was, again, blessedly heated. I'm sure it had a capactiy of like 70 people and we had about 300 runners jammed in there. But we were the lucky ones. The other 900 runners couldn't fit inside and got to do jumping jacks or whatever to try to stay warm, waiting for the race to start. Normally I wouldn't like standing in a small room surrounded by Greenbay Packers posters and a large crowd of strangers in various states of excitment and frostbite, but having tasted the world outside of that room I didn't mind at all. I didn't leave that blessed, heated bar until 5 mintues before the race was supposed to start. It was just too damn cold.

Then, finally, the race starts. And within 5 minutes I'm totally not cold. That isn't as weird as it sounds. I, and most runners, really do generate a lot of heat during a run and the reason I didn't have a lot of cold weather gear with me was I didn't think I'd need it when I was running. And I didn't. I just needed it before and after. The one exception, of course, being the gloves.

The run itself was beautiful. It's on an old rail way that has been covered with gravel going through the woods. Autumn colors, as previously described, were all around. There was a lot of wind, but it came from behind to it didn't bite too much. It did, however, blow up snow sparkles and blow down leaves that were just beautiful to watch as I ran. From time to time I would try to catch leaves as they were falling, just to pass the time on the run. This was, hands down, the most gorgeous race I've been in. It was still cold, and my hands went numb, and I had to chew on some ice chips that had formed in the water and energy drink they handed out at the water stops, but I really didn't mind. It was all just fun, really.

So in terms of the running itself, that went well. I did not expect much from this race. As I've said, I was sick, I didn't get to train as much as I like for a lot of reasons, I didn't get to taper as long as I needed for similar reasons, and I had generally not been feeling my fittest for the past 3 months. So I was telling people I wanted "4-ish" or 4:10 from the race. And I was hoping, secretly, to get just under 4 hours. But I didn't expect it, to be honest. So at the start of the race I was taking it easy. I was doing 9 minute miles, sometimes a bit more. I actually stopped and waited a minute or so to use a port-a-potty, which I usually wouldn't do. (No, I wouldn't do anything drastic - I'd just keep running until I found one that was open rather than waiting). At the half way point I was just about at 2 hours, which I expected. What usually happens, though, is that the last 13 miles are much slower than the first because you get tired. And you hit it. The Wall.

The Wall pops up about mile 20 and is a psychological/physical event when your body and mind suddenly decide that f*ck you, this sucks, you're insane, and they want to walk. The Wall makes the last 6 miles of the race feel like 20, and take as long as 10. The Wall has made me want to cry. And will again. Now I know about the Wall, I've seen it many times, so I was just waiting for it to slam down in front of me, or on top of me, as soon as I hit mile 20. And that is why I figured when I was just under 2 hours for the halfway point that I was looking at a 4+ hour marathon.

But then the weirdest thing happened. The Wall never showed up. I hit mile 20 at about 3 hours, which is about usual for me. But I wasn't feeling tired, and I wasn't feeling like I was going to die. Both good signs, if unusual. No, I won't remind you again why I do this to myself. Then I hit mile 21 and was still feeling pretty good. In fact, I found myself speeding up a bit. Mile 22 came and went and still no Wall, still feeling good, wanting to speed up. Around Mile 22 I started to pass people. Usually you kind of settle in with a group of people who happen to be running the same pace as you and who will, for the most part, finish with you. They hit the Wall around when you do, some of them get through it better than others, but on the whole you finish up with the same people you had with you for a lot of the race. But not this time. Because the Wall didn't show, and because I had enough energy to actually increase my pace, I was passing just loads of people. I've never actually done that in the last miles of the race - it was fun. It wasn't really a competitive thing. At that point in a marathon, most of us are just racing against ourselves, trying to keep moving. In fact, a number of people would call out "good job!" when I ran past them and I'd yell back "thanks, you too!" At mile 24 I had figured out there was No Wall in this race and I started pushing hard. I did my last 2 miles at just over an 8 minute pace, which for me, for the last 2 miles of a marathon, is just freaking insane. Did it hurt? Hell yeah. Was it fun? Hell yeah! It was a blast. And it hurt. And it was a blast again.

So I crossed at about 3:53-3:54 and as soon as I crossed I felt just awful. My lungs were aching, I was incredibly cold, and all I wanted to do was get out of there. As I said, when you're running you generate a lot of body heat and can be in any weather no problem. When you stop, you're just a guy who's exhausted, soaked in sweat, wearing thin, wet clothes, in a moderately heavy wind with an air temperature of about 35 degrees. That was unpleasant. I grabbed my medal, got my shirt, picked up my sweats bag, and staggered back to my car. 90 minutes later I was in a warm shower, feeling awful, and feeling terrific. Knowing I had done far better than I had expected and that not one thing in the world could take that away from me or bring me down.

This race was dedicated to my brother and my wife, for reasons they both know. Thanks for reading about it.

So next I'll post some of the random thoughts I had during this experience. But that comes later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Seriously? Still?

I'm not saying we're not awesome.  America FTW!  But seriously, how is this attitude still plausible in the United States today?
I realize that I'm technically biased now that I've been in a mixed-race relationship, but I think my "WTF?" would have been just as incredulous 20 years ago.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today's Surreal Office Moment Brought to You By...Power Point

Guns don't kill people.  Bullets kill people.
No, no, not those bullets.  Power point bullets.
I took a trip a few weeks ago, and one of the new initiatives for our company involves having employees who take trips summarize what they learned in a brief Power Point presentation.  Which is fine.  Except when I'm spending 14 hours a day at work to do the bare essentials of my job--and not especially well, I might add, because even at 14 hours a day I'm doing a slapdash job, because I have so much to do.  The sheer number of failures I experienced today was truly disheartening.  So in this particular situation, the thought of spending time on the Power Point presentation is...loathsome.
So I got an e-mail from my boss's boss today saying that they really needed the presentation.  And I replied that no doubt sometime over the next two days I could cobble together a brief presentation, but that I wasn't sure when I could present it, because at this point every minute of testing counts.  And his response was that they didn't care whether I gave the presentation, just as long as I had written it.
This is insulting on so many levels that I can't even think critically about it--all I have is impotent rage.  First, there's the obvious conclusion that the damn thing is busywork.  Then, there's the fact that when they asked me to do it, they said it would be "a great opportunity to get in front of senior management and get your face out there."  Now, we all know that those things are at worst lies, or at best half-truths that are more a manufactured incentive to produce a desired behavior than a genuine offer to develop an employee or improve his or her opportunities.  But still, I'd like it if, having taken up the fiction, they were a little more careful with my ability to suspend my disbelief while reading it.
And yet, as I sit here at almost 9:30, I can say that I produced the damn Power Point.  I did it for two reasons.  One, it's easier to write a 7-page Power Point than it is to explain why your employer is an unjust and unfeeling villain.  And two, I like my boss, and I don't want him to go crazy trying to keep me sane, especially since tomorrow is Boss's Day.
And on that note, I'll leave you with:  Power Point Corrupts Absolutely

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recovering from Burnout

I took a quiz about burnout. According to this quiz, I'm 5 points away from total burnout. Which, you know, gives a girl something to strive for.

Of course, I'd be more impressed if the Score Interpretation weren't so redundant:
50 – 59 You may be at severe risk of burnout - do something about this urgently
60 - 75 You may be at very severe risk of burnout - do something about this urgently
So all I get for being a 69 instead of a 50 is the addition of the word "very"? That's an affront to my sense of personal achievement.

Also, the suggestions are a little vague, no? Do something! Thanks for the advice. To be fair, the article suggested at the bottom of the quiz page does offer a variety of tips, and it's not the article's fault that not many of them are useful in today's economy. (Doing Nothing, Changing Career, and Changing Jobs are all sort of non-starters at the moment.) My personal favorite is "Using Burnout as a Trigger for Positive Growth." I've done that to great advantage in the past, so much so that it's second nature now to try to find something that I can get out of the bad situation. I'll admit that the SWOT analysis concept seems a lot like work, but then again, it works at work, so I'll give it a whirl.

That takes time, though, and it would be nice to have some immediate gratification. I have a hankering for something totally absurd to leaven my work life. A few years ago when I was incredibly depressed about my job, my cousin and I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of stuff and decorated cubes for people in three different buildings at my old work campus. I think that such an act at my current job would bring on some kind of international incident, or at least a small criminal investigation, but I really feel the need to do something crazy and fun and harmless to just lighten the fuck up.

[Tents fingers, Monty-Burns style, and waits for brilliance to ensue...]

[Still waiting...]

[Says "fuck it" and goes for a nice, relaxing cup of tea.]

Famous person blogs

Sometimes I wish I were a famous person.

Well, no I don't wish I was a famous person. Ever.

Quick digression. I, Shifter, have been on TV a few times. For work. People saw me and commented on it, for months. And the TV station ran the damn show over and over again (it was an educational section on a "hot topic") and every time they did I'd have someone come up and say how well I came off. And I hated it. I rather like blending in, and all that attention, even in small doses, is annoying. To this day I've never watched the program, even though they gave me my own copy on DVD, because why would I want to feel all that embarrassment? There is no way I'll like it. I'll just think "Oh my god, did I say that!?" So I avoid it. I tell you that to just help you see how much I do not want to be famous. End of digression.

So I don't want to be famous. But sometimes I wish I wrote a famous person's blog. Why, you ask? Because famous people don't really have to blog about anything interesting. Whatever they say is somehow more interesting because, well, they're famous. So like let's say I'm famous, right, I'm a TV star. I'm on Criminal Minds or something. If I was going to be famous on a TV show right now I'd pick Criminal Minds. But anyway. And then I sit down to blog and I blog about how I ate pizza at Little Joey's on 5th street and they have the best pizza ever and the waitress is kind of cute. If I'm Famous Criminal Minds Shifter people will read that. They'll read it, and they'll be interested, and they'll care, in some weird, weird way about my pizza and the cute waitress. Now let's say that I'm NOT famous (a real stretch, I know, but give it a try - just imagine it) and I'm Normal Everyday Guy Shifter and I sit down and I write the EXACT SAME blog. About pizza and waitresses and so forth. And someone somehow manages to read it. You know what people will think, what you'll think? Sure you do - the same thing I would think. "I. Don't. Care." You'll think "I ate lunch today too, and there was a waitress there too, but nobody cares and so I didn't bother to blog about it." And if you're thinking that, well, you're exactly right. Nobody would care about what Ordinary Guy Shifter ate. Nor should they. Hence my dislike of diary blogs.

But diary blogs work great if you're famous. They also work fine if you're a very, very good writer. If you can write a post about pizza and cute waitresses that somehow warms the heart, tickles the funny bone, and soothes the soul all at once. If that's the case it can work well. And those bloggers are out there. And they're damned impressive too. They can write about postage stamps and make you cry, or slush on the streets and make you laugh out loud. They're awesome.

But if you're not that great of a writer, and you're not that famous, then you have to try to come up with something else to write about that has some shred of interest to someone, or at least an imagined someone, and that takes more work. Yup, we ordinary every day Joe Schmoe bloggers may be unfamous, and we may be unfabulous writers, but we try harder, damnit. We work for our blogs. And all of our imaginary readers just appreciate the hell out of it. No doubt about that, I imagine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Post In Which I Fail to Handle Stress

So I'm on this project, and I'm working long hours, and the last time I did this I gained ten pounds. So I'm trying to eat right and lose weight, or, failing that, not gain it. And I'm also trying to get ahead of the stress, because phase I of this project was...not so good from a stress management point of view.

So I've been trying to get enough sleep and stick with my meditation program (I fall asleep every time, but I do feel a little better anyway, so I'm going to keep trying). And I've been trying to exercise. The last few weeks I've done a few workouts a week, and this week I decided I was going to work out every night.

Tonight I was at work until 8, and when I got home I had half a mind to just sit on the sofa and eat and not work out. But I went anyway, and came back to watch The Biggest Loser.

And here's the sad part. When Liz gave up her opportunity to view her video from home for Danny, I cried like the first time I saw Terms of Endearment.

I think that means the stress management program isn't working especially well....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's Surreal Office Moment Brought to You By The Direction "Down"

Systems are meant to be up. Up as in "up and running." Up as in "up and at 'em, rise and shine!"

Our test system is "down." Down as in "Down in the dumps." Down as in, "hey buddy, you're looking a little down. Whatcha doing on that ledge, buddy? Oh, no!"

It's actually our third-party partner's test system that's down. And our third party partner is a bank, so they have today off. You know, for Columbus Day. They were nonetheless extremely responsive. Mostly because I called our dude from the third party partner on his cell phone (I think I woke him up--and yes, I do feel incredibly guilty, but the company I work for is full of hardasses, and they said, "who the hell gets Columbus Day off, call him and be quick about it"). And I said, hey dude, your system is totally down. And he dutifully explained that he would do everything he could to fix it, which wasn't much. He tried to call people in, and, wise people that they are, not one of them answered their phones. Fair enough. I mean, I'm glad that there's someplace where a day off is a day off, even if I don't work there.

So in a valiant effort to get some testing done, I spent most of the day tracking down a dude who could fool our system into thinking that the down system was sending the up system data. And I found him, and he did his magic, and we started up a test. Whereupon the up system promptly threw the data back up all over our shoes. You know, just like a date that you thought was going well but then went south right as you were gonna kiss her at the doorstep.
Which means that I've created work for several more people. So the cycle of life continues. But weirdly, it's 4:00 and I can't do any more testing today. I'm not even sure what to do with myself. It's very, very disturbing.

And I mention all of this, because people ask me what I do. And there's just no good answer to that question. I'm an SAP Business Analyst. That doesn't answer their question. I could tell them about a typical day. See above. That doesn't help them either. I usually just give them a Dilbert cartoon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Used To Love Crickets

Crickets used to remind me of hot summer vacations in the midwest, and I loved them. The Crickets were even one of my favorite bands. But dude, moving to Long Island has totally changed my perspective, mostly because the noise is giving me a headache that won't go away.

For the last five or six weeks, the crickets have been freaking unstoppable. They are calling to their chirpy little lovers everywhere in my house. Under my dishwasher. Under my refrigerator. Under my oven. Behind my desk. And just generally in my dining room, where they just love the acoustics, and where they sometimes gather in groups of two or three, in what I can only imagine are little cricket orgies.

It's been great for sending me to bed early. There is no way I can stand the noise until Mad Men is over, for example. I will shoot myself in the head if I have to listen to it for another two hours. I don't really think it's wise for me to try to go to bed at 8:30, but I will certainly go upstairs and read or something and pray that I can drown the little beasts out. Last night one holed up under the dishwasher and at 8:00 I couldn't take it any more. I loaded the dishwasher and turned it on and then went upstairs to try to empty the noise out of my head.

In the past, when I saw a cricket, I would try to encourage it to leave, because I'm seeing a nice human who has Views about bug killing (he doesn't do it--there's a designated glass in my kitchen and a designated post card and they are the designated bug-catching equipment and the bugs get ferried kindly outside). But the gloves are off. If I get off work before Home Depot closes tomorrow, steps will be taken.

In the meantime....chirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirpchirp

Latest Marathon

Shifter here (surprise surprise!)

Well, I ran a marathon yesterday - the Whistlestop marathon in Wisconsin. Several good things happened as a result: I got to drive through Wisconsin, which is gorgeous this time of year; I ran into some friends at the marathon; and I got a really good (for me) finishing time (around 3 hours 53 minutes - a personal record), AND best and most importantly, I had nothing to do but think of blog posts for 3 hours and 53 minutes! So I'm loaded with ideas and raring to go here. Too much for a single post, so I'll be doing them piece meal. But for now, the fam is about to go to dinner and, again surprise surprise, I'm going with them. So more very soon!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sacred Gold: A moderate timewaster

When I discovered the Good Old Games website that I blogged about before, I came across a downloadable, DRM free version of Sacred Gold. Sacred was a moderately successful Diablo-clone that I had actually tried more than a year ago and then stopped playing because it just didn't hold my interest very well. Since it was only $10, I decided to give it another try and see if I could last til the end. Which, I'm a little pleased to say, I did. It took probably about 20 hours over a few weeks but I beat the game on the "Silver" level with a Wood Elf (the archetypal archer class - aka the Amazon in D2, the Rogue in D1, the Vanquisher in the upcoming game Torchlight, and the list goes on and on). I say mildly pleased because the game was mildly pleasing.

Sacred has all the right elements. It's got a very fast paced combat system (the famed point and click variety) with some complexity thrown in by way of skill trees that allow customizing characters and specializing them. It's got oodles and oodles of monsters and even more oodles of treasures. It's god tons of quests. It's got a big world. It has loads of stats for your character that you can try to minimize or maximize til your geeky little heart explodes. It has a bunch of different character classes, from standards like the gladiator and wood elf to weird ones like the seraphim and demoness. It has all of that ... and it's just not that fun. You go through and do the quests, and kill the monsters, but you never really get into it. Not the way you did with D1, or D2, or even Fate. In fact, there is probably something to be learned by comparing Fate with Sacred.

Fate had a small budget, simpler design, fewer stats, MUCH smaller world, and MUCH less intricate quests. Sacred had a larger budget, much more complex design with more stats, HUGE world, and, well, not intricate quests but certainly more intricate than Fate. Oh, it also had more detailed graphics and sound. But Fate was incredibly fun. It wasn't incredibly fun not because it didn't have all the stuff Sacred had, it was incredibly fun because what it had was put together into a very entertaining, enjoyable whole that sucked you in and held your attention. It was (and is) addictive. It's a blast. Sacred has all these other great things in it but it just doesn't come together into a wonderful total package. It's not a bad game, really, at all, but it's far from addictive. Every single bit is there that should be there, but it doesn't merge well for some reason.

I could try to list the ways that Fate is more fun and Sacred is less, and I might talk about minutia like screen layout, number of monsters coming at you at a time, atmosphere as generated by graphics, lighting, and sound, the balance between enough choices in character design and too many choices, and so forth. But I think what it comes down to is more of the artistry of game design. A lot of games these days have all the right pieces, the pieces that are such a big part of the mega-hits like D1 and D2. But the artistry is not quite there, and so you end up with a decent game, but not a great one. The great games are the ones with all of these pieces in place that enhance the experience but don't distract from it, that immerse you further into the world instead of making you think so much you're out of the world. And so like a lot of art, I can say what I like but it's very difficult to say exactly why.

So there's my opinions on Sacred for you. One of these days, just to be fun, I'm going to play a game when it's released. And then I'll write about it when other people might even consider buying it and playing it. And that will be something special. But until that day comes I'll continue to comment on games that are 3-4 years out of date (Sacred 2 has already been released - no idea what that one's like) and leave the actual reviews to the people who get paid for it. And I'll continue to imagine that all the IR's are just enthralled by reading reviews of old games. I've got a great imagination.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Every time you think they can't get any worse

Well, conservapedia, which I have no intention of linking to, has gone and done it. They've decided it's time to translate the Bible into a 'conservative' edition. Evidently, the Bible as currently translated has a bunch of hippy commy socialist propaganda contained inside, and needs to be updated to meet 10 criteria for conservative correctness. A description is here. Now it is true, IMO, that the Bible has been interpreted, and reinterpreted, many many times and that often the interpretations were done for political or social agendas. The King James Version of the Bible, I think, is a good example. And it is also true that translating the Bible doesn't really matter all that much, perhaps, to someone like me who isn't a Christian anyway. But what bugs me about it is, well, let me explain.

One of the things that always surprises me about things like this is that the people who come up with them are able to read and write. The other is that they have just incredible abilities to ignore their own hypocrisy. These are the same people who just hated political correctness. They cried out, yea loudly, in the wilderness: Why should you have to change what you say to match someone's sensibilities? What is this, the thought police? If that's what it says, leave it alone, and if someone doesn't like it, screw them. Ok, fine.

Enter conservapedia. An effort to come up with a conservative body of knowledge, because the current bodies of knowledge are tainted with liberal bias. Things like physics and, evidently, the Bible, that the commies have altered to diss hardworking Americans or whatever. Tree huggers have changed the definition of benzine on wikipedia and sissified the descriptions of hair follicles. Oh, and added that whole thing about the concentration camps - the bastards. This must be corrected! (Yeah, I know there are a LOT of cheap shots there, but I'm annoyed and besides, what is this, the thought police?)

So we've got to expunge the liberal bias. But what this translates to is this: conservative correctness. Whatever is said, or written, has to be said in a conservatively correct way. If it's not, we'll translate it into a conservatively correct form, such as conservapedia itself or the conservative bible.

So the hypocrisy is kind of apparent, right? Let me restate the position, only now applied to conservative correctness: What is this, the thought police? Why should you have to change what you say to match someone's sensibilities? If that's what it says, leave it alone, and if someone doesn't like it, screw them.

I imagine the argument they'll make, those who can read and write, is that "they started it!" Liberals have been changing things for decades, centuries even (how long ago was the King James Version of the bible written? By those pinko commies, right?). And so they're just going to change it back. And you know, they could make that argument if 1) they demonstrated convincingly that this liberal bias is as endemic as they shrilly proclaim it is and 2) they were changing it back instead of changing it into something new like say, a conservative edition of the Bible.

And let's get real. Even if the liberal bias is out there, it's relatively rare for a source of knowledge like, say, wikipedia or oh, the Bible, to be deliberately and openly established to espouse only one political viewpoint. At least wikipedia and translators of the Bible claim to try to be accurate. Even if there's bias, at least these sources pretend (and are thus somewhat accountable?) to seek truth. It's kind of like science - science comes up with bad ideas, even wrong ideas, all the time. But it is intended to reach right ideas, and it has procedures in place to help it do so. It does not have an agenda. If it had an agenda, it would be religion, not science. And that's what conservative correctness seems to become - a religion. Which is fine, but if it's a frigging religion, don't expect me to buy it as "the truth" any more than I'm going to buy any other that comes floating down the river. On the other hand, if it is a religion, I suppose it makes perfect sense it wants its own bible.

A nice thing about the YMCA

Well, I've been at the Y a few times as I work on torturing myself (aka swimming) and for some reason I really noticed something that's been on my mind for a while. It has to do with the kinds of people you see at the Y.

So, who do you see at the Y? Just about everybody.

Tall folk, short folk, fat folk, skinny folk, uber-fit folk, way way way out of shape folk. Nice folk. Mean folk. Just any old folks. I guess I didn't used to think that would be the case. I thought it would be all hard-bodies and elites who were obsessive exercisers. And the reality is there are some of them there. But there are a lot of people, as I said, who look like it's hard for them to climb the stairs and a huge range in the middle. And the cool thing is, all of that is inspiring. When I'm running the track and I'm zipping by people who either can't run or are running a lot slower, I feel good because hey, I can run better. But I also feel good because I see people working and trying and think that they look exactly like I looked 6 years ago when I started exercising, and I feel good for all the potential gains they can make. And I also really respect the guts it takes to go to a health club, even the Y, when you are way out of shape and start doing something about it. And that is inspiring.

Then there are the people who zip by me when I'm running. Or who are lifting the equivalent weight of 2 trucks over at the weight machines. Or who aren't running but just by looking at them you can tell they could outrace you, then kickbox you to unconsciousness, and then slam dunk your body through a basketball hoop. And when I see them that's inspiring too. Because they you think, wow, if I work at it I can be closer to that kind of shape. Not that I can ever be in that shape. There are some genetic and in my opinion kind of insanity things necessary to be that damn fit. But I'm closer to it than I've ever been and I could get closer still, and that's inspiring.

Then there are the people who are just about where I am, and they drive me nuts. Because if you're running, they're right there with you. They're not so fast you can't hope to catch them, and they're not so slow you zoom by them without effort - they're right there with you and it makes you work harder. Whatever they're doing, they push you just a bit by being there doing about the same thing. So that's cool too.

I know there are health clubs where you get a lot more of the elites and the beautiful people, and I doubt they'd let me in the door (well they probably would cause they want my money, but you know what I mean). But I really prefer a place where normal people go to work on themselves and improve their lives. It's more welcoming, and more fun.

This post was paid for by your local YMCA association (just kidding).

Shifter Ascendant

I was at the Y over a year ago when this happened, but it took a while for me to remember to describe it.

It was in the evening after I had finished a workout and I was on my way out the door. There was this young guy, and a young girl, both reasonably attractive and both manning the front desk at the Y. On my way out I said good night and they said good night and then the girl asked me a question. They were playing some trivia game, it seemed, and had a disagreement. She asked me if Flash Gordon and The Flash were the same person or different. I didn't even blink, or think about it, "Different people," I said.

Then the guy, who seemed kind of excitable, said to the girl "But he doesn't know! He's just guessing!" I suppose he was in the Single Person camp and didn't like hearing a dissenting voice.

Unfortunately for him, and also unbeknownst, he was talking to an uber-geek. And, even worse, he had just challenged my geek-ness. I didn't know?!? Excuse me?? About two comic book characters?? Before I could even think about it my wounded geek pride lashed out and I said, firmly "One guy goes around in space ships and fights Ming the Merciless. The other guy wears red tights with little lightning bolts on his head to fight crime. They're different guys." And I walked off, secure in my ascendency, imagining the stunned looks on their faces behind my back as they took in the awesomeness of my comic book trivia mastery.

It was only, oh, 10 minutes later that I realized I had just lost any cool points I had ever, ever had at the Y with my burst of nerdy superiority. Indeed, my chances of scoring a date with some young attractive female Y employee who would have otherwise been blind to my marital status, middle age, lack of hair, and over abundance of sweat glands had in fact just been shattered by my display. But by god, it was worth it. Yes, it was worth it.

Different guys. End of story.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Today's Office Space Moment Brought To You By Trees

You know, the trees that die every time you print an e-mail?
I've just spent what feels like a hundred years of my life implementing a paperless system at work.  Today one of the clerks showed me an enormous stack of paper.  Can you guess what it was?
It was the printouts from the paperless system.  They printed everything out of it for some kind of weekly audit.

The Long Haul

Sorry for the total radio silence.  I've been working on a medium-sized software project and we've begun testing, so the craziness has officially begun.  Last week was 9-9 most days, except for Friday, when I took off at a decent hour to make it to a family wedding.  This week is going slightly better, but this is still the first chance I've had to breathe all day.  It's exhausting, and it really frays my temper and my patience, to the point where I don't know how anyone gets along with me.
I'm trying to exercise, because during the first phase of this project I put on 10 pounds.  This morning I was supposed to go out and go walking (and a little running), but there was rain, so instead I slept in.  (I know, Shifter, I know, neither rain nor snow, etc., but I'm a wimp.)  Tonight I'll probably do something non-weight-bearing so that I can get up tomorrow and start with the walking/running again.
Tuesday I got up at 5 in the morning, which is the only shot I have of exercising and still arriving at work on time.  I drove out to Port Jefferson and parked near my pre-determined inspiring running route.  What google had not divulged was that the beginning of the inspiring route was an incredibly steep ascent, to the point where it was like climbing stairs.  It was also dark.  And I don't mean dark, like, oh, I'm in the movie theater and it's dark.  I mean dark like Jack the Ripper's alley dark.  Needless to say, there was no running.  Just climbing, huffing, and puffing, and a lot of peering around.  After an embarassingly short time I thought, maybe I need to find a less inspiring route, so I turned back.  Then, for the hell of it, I thought I'd drive the inspiring route in my car, just to see how much further the giant hill went.
It went about half a mile from where I started.  I had climbed about .48 miles.  That's how steep the darn hill was, and how dark--I couldn't see that I was practically right at the top of the hill.  I'm hoping that next time out I get a little further--I will say it's about the best butt and thigh workout I've had in a long time, so worse things have happened.  And if I can keep going, I think there should be a sunrise view of the ocean in it for me, which would be a sweet reward.  (Plus getting to go down the hill on the way back, which is not too shabby, as rewards go.)
Wish me luck....

Monday, October 05, 2009

Crosstraining weirdness

Everyone is always talking about cross-training, and how important it is. And I'm sure they're right. And hey, I'm even going to do some! But let me just tell you, dear IR's, cross-training is weird.

For one thing, it makes you feel like a wimp. Which is not, generally speaking, a great goal of mine. I mean I do feel like a wimp all the time, but it happens often enough that I don't feel a need to supplement it with my training schedules. But after gasping my lungs out following a single lap in the pool, my wimp-o-meter was clicking along quite merrily, I assure you. And it's a weird kind of wimpiness, that goes kind of like this: "I can run 26.2 miles, but I can't swim 100 yards?? Really??? Oh @#!!." Yup, that's the wimpiness of cross training. Incidentally, I've discovered that for me swimming has a simple definition: Not drowning in a particular direction. I'm hoping to not drown in a given direction more quickly, but that will take extensive training.

Another weird thing is this: you get these bizarre paradoxical post work out reactions. Last night I did my 12 whole laps, then gave up because I could not make my arms move any more, then biked for 15 minutes, then stopped for similar reasons, and then ran a bit just to round it out. What was weird was that I had to stop, had to, both swimming and biking because my muscles were too tired. But then when I got out to run, I felt like I could keep going for miles. I only made myself stop because I was planning on running the next day (which, btw, I didn't - Lazy me). So when I was done my legs were stiff and shaky, my arms hurt terribly, muscles I didn't have were hurting, and I felt like I hadn't really worked out and wanted to do another 5 miles. And I felt like I had the wind and the energy to do it. You see what I mean? Bizarre. On the other hand I'm not actually complaining about this particular bizarreness, because it did help a bit with the wimpiness discussed above.

Never fear, dear readers, Ol' Shifter will keep you posted about every ache and pain, twist and turn, splash and gasp as the training progresses. We're all in for a rip-roaring good time over the next many moons.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Triathlon training ... what have I done??

So, today was the first day of the rest of my triathlon training.




First off I just have to say something. Swimmers? You guys are frigging maniacs. How do you do this stuff? I swam one lap. Count it, one. And I could barely get my heart rate back down from what felt like 200. I can run 20 miles without stopping, but I can't swim 1 lap without almost passing out. What the f@#!? Swimming is hard, hard, hard work. I had forgotten, I really had. When I was training for the last triathlon, 3 years ago, it was hard work then. But the mind blanks on these things - you forget just how hard. Just how much it sucks. Until you try it again. But I remember now. And it ain't a pleasant memory.

I'm sore in muscles I had forgotten I had. And I had forgotten I had them because I didn't have them anymore. And now I still don't have them and they hurt. What a wonderful combination - worst of both worlds. For the record, I did 12 laps, total. In about 25 minutes. That's pathetic, I know. I'm putting it down here so that when I do the triathlon I'll know how bad I was when I started, and hopefully will be doing better than 12 laps in 25 minutes when I'm done with this willing hell I'm embarking on.

This is not a diary blog...


But someone I really care about is going through a very, very hard time right now and I'm very worried about him.

But he's suffering a lot, right now, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

But I have to literally make myself not think about him so that I can function, and I feel bad for doing that.

But it just seems wrong to me to keep on writing the usual crap I write without at least acknowledging this.

So, this is not a diary blog, but I had to say I'm thinking of this person, and worrying for him, and hoping for him, and doing whatever it is an atheist can do for someone when there's nothing else to be done. And all that caring, and worrying, and hoping, doesn't stop just because I'm trying not to think about it. It just doesn't stop.