Wednesday, December 26, 2007

PVTC Christmas Caper 5k

So, my neighbor has decided to start running. Steve is a few years younger than me, but we get along pretty well and our families do too. His son and Noah play together and he and his wife have an infant that is basically the same age as Naomi. So, it kind of works out. They live just a few houses from us too, so it is very convenient. Except for the whole "youth pastor at a charismatic church" thing. That is correct. He is the youth pastor for a church that believes in living prophets and glossolalia, otherwise known as speaking in tongues. He hasn't told me all of this, but the beauty of the internet is that I can find all of this out and never have to ask him about it. Because if I brought it up, it might make for a very weird and uncomfortable conversation. But I digress...

So, Steve and I have started running together in the mornings. It has been a real help to me because it gives me the motivation to get up and out the door, something I've always had a problem with. Steve wanted to do a race together, so we signed up for the last PVTC race for the year, the Christmas Caper 5K/10K. It was at Belle Haven Park again and was the exact same route as the Cranberry Crawl 5K/10K. I like these races because they are cheap, small, and easy to get to. And, as you can imagine, the basic experience was the same. Weather was similar, old guy who you can't hear announcing the race was there, and the same group of old school folks in ratty clothes and with their strange running gaits all showed up.

I came in third in my age group, or so I thought. They had me in third on the results sheet at the race, so I rightfully took home a big stinky candle. But, on the website, they have me listed as fourth. So, I don't know where the mix-up was or which list to believe, but it doesn't really matter. I ran a bit slower this time, but I felt a bit better in doing so. No bad shin splint feeling and my hands didn't hurt from the cold. Besides, I'm sure as heck not going to drive over to Alexandria to return a freaking candle. How'd Steve do? A lot better than I did at my first 5K. He finished about 30 secs behind me and immediately decided he wanted to do more races.

PVTC Christmas Caper 5k Bib #347
Alexandria, VA
December 22, 8:00 am

Time: 22:48
Overall Place: 26/82
Gender Place: 19/49
Pace: 7:20

You Might Be An A-Hole If...

You think it makes sense to spend $15,000 on a marathon in Antarctica. Believe me, I like the marathon and all. But, the egocentrism that drives one to feel a need to run one on every continent or to "brave the elements" of Antarctica is high-quality asshole-edness, in my opinion. Just shitty, first world, self-centered nonsense. The kind of activity and behavior that is rewarded in our society, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it largely says that you have lots of extra cash around and that you have a burning desire to make yourself seem interesting. Personally, I think there are about 15,000 things better to do with that money. And, running a marathon in sub-zero temperatures can't do anything to make you any less of a bore. You might have a good story to tell, but isn't the whole point for you to just have more stories to tell about yourself? Yeah, that is what being a bore is all about.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Killing Religion with Logic

Well, it certainly seems possible, doesn't it? If we are all rational creatures and willing to employ logic in efforts to discern the existence of God and the nature of the universe, then wouldn't it at least be possible to disprove all of the core beliefs of religion? Okay, at least monotheistic religion?

In an attempt to do so, let's consider two things. First, that the inability to physically disprove that God exists does not mean that God does exist. The inverse is true as well - we can't prove that God exists, but that does not mean that God does not exist. However, if we can neither prove or disprove and the inability do either doesn't affirm either position, what is left? Outisde of Pascal's Wager, of course. I answer this question by using the K.I.S.S. principle - Keep It Simple, Stupid. It is simpler to have a God or to have no God? Does it make more sense that God exists or that there are basic laws and explainable, scientific reasons for everything? I think the simpler answer is the latter. None of this kills religion, of course. It is really just opinion, but I think that fact that we cannot prove something is either proof that it does not exist or a sign that we simply don't have the appropriate tools yet. And, does it really seem like a lack of tools when it comes to proving whether God exists or not? What tools could we possibly need? God cannot be something that does not conform to the laws of the universe - God would almost have to be a law of the universe. So, if this is true and God exists, we should be able to measure this at some point. Absurd, right? So, I ask again, what is the simplest explanation?

Another question that I like to ponder, and one that has definitely plagued theologians over time, is the issue of omnipresence. God must be omnipresent, right? I mean, if God isn't omnipresent then God isn't really God. Would God not be in all places all the time? Is God a being that has a great deal of power, but is forced to travel around from place to place? If not omnipresent, then how could God be omniscient? Omniscience raises other issues too, but I don't think one even needs to discuss omniscience since you can reveal the absurdity of God simply by logically analyzing the concept of omnipresence. Okay, so if God is omnipresent, then that means that God is everywhere, including places where evil occurs. God would even have to be in Hell itself since Hell, assuming it exists, is a place and God must be in all places in order to be omnipresent. And, really, what would God be doing in Hell? Again, taking these concepts to their logic extremes shows how ridiculous the whole concept of God is in the first place. What I think is most compelling and most difficult to handle for most believers is the idea that God is in places where evil occurs and that God does nothing to stop it. A great example of this dilemma was summed up by Vicar Tom Honey in a talk at TED. Take a few minutes and watch his speech:

So, while the Vicar can't just renounce his faith and admit that there is no God, he sure comes close, doesn't he? God is everywhere or not. If not, why serve God in the first place since God doesn't have complete control? If so, why does God allow so much suffering and evil to occur? And, if God does allow suffering and evil to occur, why serve God? Does God truly love us or is God simply playing with us? Or, it there just no God at all? By now, you certainly know my answer.

Is Suburbia Actually Hell on Earth?

It might be if you listen to popular culture. It is also heaven if you listen to popular culture. Pundits and intellectuals attack it, historians and politicians applaud it. Rock stars complain about it and country stars pretend it is something more rural than it is. All I know is that I mostly love it, but that I feel very guilt living in it. I know that suburbia is the center of our overly consumptive lifestyles. I know that it would be far more environmentally friendly to cluster in more urban areas. I know that suburbia creates an existential crisis for many who feel disconnected in ways that they are incapable of understanding. But, it still seems like a wonderful middle ground between the cities and the country. I can have my little homestead, but still have lots of services. I can take advantage of large clusters of people in that we can have good restaurants and parks and schools, but I don't have to share a structure with strangers.

I think the suburbs may be wrong for a great number of people - it just isn't the right environment for them and they'd suffer if they lived there. But, for me, I think it is exactly the right place.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pascal's Wager

Simply put, I think this is one of the most bullshit statements I've ever heard. The basic idea is that you cannot ever know whether God exists or not. So, you have to choose to believe or to not believe. But, in choosing, you are really making a bet. You either bet that God is real or that God is not real. If you bet that God is real and you are right, well, you hit the jackpot. If you bet that God is real and you are wrong, you don't lose too much (I think you actually lose quite a bit). If you bet that God is not real and you are right, you don't win much (this I also disagree with). And, if you bet that God is not real and you are wrong, well, you are totally fucked for all eternity. So, according to Pascal, you have to bet that God exists because it is the better overall play.

Yes, so, I have a lot of issues with this basic idea. I get it and appreciate the attempt at reasoning out the best overall outcome, but it is still a load of crapola because it doesn't incorporate all the costs. A life of belief in God and all that it requires to hold true to those beliefs, is a life filled with time and energy and thought that could be better applied to other pursuits...much better pursuits. Belief in God takes an enormous toll, particularly on the true believers. The money and time invested in a church, the neverending bible study, the avoidance of all that seems remotely inappropriate or unacceptable. Not to mention all the terror and injustice that has been carried out by individuals who truly believed that God supported their actions.

So, we are incapable of reasoning out the existence and nature of God. Therefore, we must bet on the likelihood of God's existence in the first place. Of course, we are also making some grand assumptions about God's promises and what happens to us in eternity. I mean, the bet kind of breaks apart if we know that heaven isn't much better than living on Earth, don't we? If we know there is a heaven, then we'd know there was a God...ah, this can get very hard. Anyways, we are trying to make this simple.

If we more accurately balance the scales, I think the bet is even.

In the end, what I find so frustrating is that we all know we can't prove that God exists. So those that do believe use this ridiculously simple wager, even those that don't know about Pascal, to decide that they should believe in God. It may be the safe bet, but it is the sucker's bet too.

Some Other Things I Think

In no particular order...

1. We are not the only life in the universe. To be more specific, we are not the only sentient beings in the universe. I have no proof, but I believe this to be true based on the sheer probabilities.

2. We are not the most advanced life in the universe. Somewhere, somebody is more evolved than us. I'm not saying they fly over here in little ships, but we will likely run into each other at some point in the future.

3. We are one of many lifeforms that are moving in a direction that will enable us to communicate with each other. I think it will be well past my lifetime when we have proof, but I think we will eventually run into several other types of beings.

4. There is a good chance that one of the other sentient beings in the universe is artificial. If so, this is very bad news for us, in my opinion.

5. I don't really believe that this is the current state of affairs, but I do think it is possible that a form of artificial intelligence has gained the ability to control the fundamental nature of the universe. And, that this AI is so advanced that it may have even created the universe that we live in today. While I don't believe in God, an AI like this would certainly qualify.

6. I think that we have a good chance of creating an AI that achieves control of the universe. We won't birth the final being, but we will produce the Adam & Eve. In a sense, we already have. To put this all another way, I am convinced of the likelihood that humanity will reach the technological singularity within my lifetime.

7. I do not believe that there are absolute morals of any kind. Therefore, artificial intelligence that evolves outside of our influence will likely have no regard for what we hold to be true or "right". Again, this is bad for us.

Just some stuff I think about sometimes.

One or the Other

I was just thinking that it is definitely possible that life has no meaning at all. Certainly not in the New Agey sense that most people think of when considering that question. And I don't mean that a lack of meaning equals depression and all that. Life may have no meaning and there may be little purpose outside of the obvious biological needs. We could be no more than vehicles for the next generation, which would be a meaning of sorts, but even that is a farce, isn't it? Why procreate if there is no real point? What if the current state of life, all across the universe, is a well-balanced version of meaninglessness that just perpetuates itself?

Sure, there are laws of nature and all. And we know about gravity and have good theories about how the solar system formed and even how life evolved. But, laws don't equate with meaning and purpose. The laws in our nation don't give our nation purpose. If anything, the purpose or meaning of the United States should dictate what laws are passed and enforced, although we have a funny way of selling out the core ideals we all supposedly adhere to and believe in when it comes to the law. So, is there then a meaning that has dictated the laws of the physical universe? Is it simply an issue of this purpose at the center of everything only being realized with the addition of layer upon layer of complexity in how reality is constructed?

Does the act of reproduction and evolution suggests that there is some sort of purpose. If you think that it does, then asking what that purpose is is totally valid and you'd be remiss not to try and figure it out. Me? I think there isn't one. I think that our existence is a product of probabilities. The universe had enough time to finally align itself in a way that produced life and life began to then evolve on its own. But, with all the evolution, all the creation and extinction, only one lifeform has shown up here to even ask this question in the first place. Shouldn't everything in the universe share in the same core purpose, if there was one? Wouldn't the meaning be the same everywhere? And, again, if everything needed to be here in order to meet whatever the end goal is, then why would there be so much extraneous stuff? Why would the process be so inefficient? Why not just go straight to making humans and getting them on the fast path to whatever enlightened state they are supposed to achieve?

So, really, there is no meaning. There is no outward or expressed reason for us to here, but we are and we may as well make the most of it, for whatever that is worth.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Glutton for Punishment

So, I've done it. I've gone and signed up for my next marathon. It is a double-double loop course, which could be enjoyable or totally, excruciatingly boring. What I mean is that it is an out and back course that you repeat, so I will pass the same spots four times in my effort to complete 26.2 miles. It is on a trail along the Potomac River, so it could be a great experience if the weather is nice that day. But, if it isn't, or there is too much stuff going on in the surrounding area, I might want to quit well before I reach the end. I guess the key is to forget about the marathon's environment and to just run the miles. I'd like to make some real headway on my quest to qualify for Boston, so I am hoping for a 3:20 or better. If I was going to set three goals, my "reach" would be 3:15, my target would be 3:20, and my "won't cry as long as I do this" would be to break 3:30. What I learned in my first marathon training cycle was that the target I had at the beginning was only related to my fitness level at the moment I started the training. I had hoped for a 4:00, but I realized as I was training that I was building the capacity to do much better than that. So, towards the end, when I ran a better than expected race at the Army Ten Miler (a performance that I hadn't even rested for), I knew that I would be able to do much better than I had originally thought. It is with this in mind that I am setting these three goals. I am pretty sure that I am in 3:20-3:25 shape right now. My recent race performances suggest that anyways. And, since I am going to do some pretty serious training over the next several months, using a training program that is much more rigorous than the one I used last time, I figure that my abilities come the day of the marathon will be higher than they are today. With all that said, I still don't think I am going to qualify for Boston this time around. It is a shame, but I am giving myself until the end of 2008 before I start to feel bad about it. With a strong marathon in the first half of the year, I will then have time for another marathon training cycle and a shot at qualifying for Boston with a fall race.

People ask me why I want to qualify for Boston. Heck, some people ask me why I train for races in the first place. It isn't like I'm going to make the Olympics or ever win a bunch of money or anything like that. I might be able to get myself to be pretty competitive in my age group, but that is about the best I think I can achieve. Truth is, though, that doesn't matter. I am not really competing against any other runners...I'm just competing with myself. I don't need to lower my cholesterol or lose lots of weight or get back in shape, so what is it that I can use to motivate myself to get out and run? I use races as motivation and I strive to run faster at every single race I enter. I don't always do that and there are lots of reasons why, but I try to train to be better at every race and it is my hope that I run a personal best every time I lace up and take off with the pack. I have friends that just run for fun and that never enter races. They think it is kind of nutty that I plan out my running and create a training plan for myself. I wish I could run 5-6 times week without looking towards a race, but it just doesn't work for me. Without a race, it is just too easy for me to let myself slide on my exercise. I think I'll be entering races for a very long time.

And, speaking of races, I plan on running a fair number of them in the run up to the marathon. I want to hone my racing skills and I want to include as much motivation in this plan as reasonable. So, here is my tentative race schedule leading up to the marathon:

Christmas Caper 5K/10K
MADD Red Ribbon Run 5K
GW Birthday Classic 10K
Burke Lake 12K
LAWS Half Marathon
GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler

I haven't signed up for all of these yet, but I intend to do so. If you want to run with me, let me know and we can coordinate. We can even sign up as a team for some of them. I will hit some more races in the summer as well, but I haven't decided on any yet since the listings aren't out. there is some wacky endurance run in Rocky Gap, MD that I am interested, but I don't have any details. If you are into the idea of a 6 hour trail relay run, let me know.

Friday, November 30, 2007

PVTC Cranberry Crawl 5k

I ran this race on a bit of a whim. My pal Jon and I were looking for a race to do near Thanksgiving and this fit the bill nicely. The location was in between our homes and the price was just right - $5. No t-shirt, no ChampionChip, no fancy after party. Just a good old-fashioned road race. I want a few goodies now and then, but the no frills races are nice too. Low key, smaller turnout, and a bit of a seasoned crowd. The runners aren't necessarily faster or better than you find in the bigger races, but they are much more old school for the most part and I can really appreciate that.

So, in the wee hours of a cold Saturday morning, I put on some ratty running gear and meet Jon over at Belle Haven Park for this thing. I did get some coffee before leaving the house, of course. I can't run a race without coffee. Well, I can't do anything in the morning without a big cup of coffee.

The race crowd was on the small side and we couldn't tell who was running the 5k or the 10k (both races started at the same time and you just turned around early if you were running the 5k). The race director, or at least the old guy announcing things, was hard to hear and really made no attempt to speak up. So, Jon and I gathered in the start area only because we saw everybody else doing it. And, we only started running because everybody else started running. The race went down a paved, two lane path, with just enough room for three people or so across. And, even though there was a race going on, they didn't close off access to the path to other people, so it was a bit of a challenge to stay on our side of the path and still make headway through the pack of runners ahead of me. I ran until I found my spot between a few runners and just kept going. I felt okay to the turnaround, but I could tell I didn't have much gas and I couldn't hold a sub 7:00 pace through the run back to the start. I didn't care too much, frankly, since I didn't expect much from this race and was just doing it for fun. And, as I closed in on the finish, I realized there just wasn't anyone around me. So, since I couldn't catch anyone and nobody was going to catch me, I didn't even bother to run hard. And for my mediocre effort, I still did alright.

I hung around waiting for Jon and then we proceeded to say fairly negative things about the racewalkers whenever they were out of earshot. Yes, we are jerks. But you have to admit that racewalking is pretty ridiculous.

Did I mention it was cold? My hands hurt because I had no damn gloves and my lungs were just burning at the end. As Jon put it, we could just taste the blood. When I run hard in cold weather, I often have to cough for a long time after. But, as the winter continues, I get acclimated to the cold and it doesn't bother me anymore. I just need to keep running outside.

In the end, it was a nice race and a good way to kickoff the holiday week that was coming up. Not a PR, but my first "win" of sorts. I placed second in my age group, 30-39, and walked away with a cranberry walnut bread from Bloom. The sticker on the bread said $4.99, so I almost made back my $5 registration fee. I'd call that a pretty fair deal. And you can now refer to me as the Cranberry Crawl 5k 30-39 Runner-up, if you please.

PVTC Cranberry Crawl 5k Bib #169
Alexandria, VA
November 17, 8:00 am

Time: 22:37
Overall Place: 13/57
Gender Place: 8/28
Pace: 7:17

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Small Note

I have many things to post, but I don't have the time for all of them right now. What I do want to record is what might be a big day for Noah, developmentally. Maybe this is nothing, but it seems pretty important to me.

Our little family was sitting around the kitchen table this morning. A little snacking and other stuff. Noah was drawing on a piece of paper. I figured he was just doing his usual doodling or practicing his letters or something like that. He likes to write out his name too. Well, in any case, I heard his say "M-O-M" and then he showed his paper to Audrey. Lo and behold, Noah has written "Mom". That is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that Noah was written any word other than his own name. He knows how to spell cat and dog, but I don't think he has written them on his own yet. Of course, Audrey and I were really excited and praised him a great deal. Since I was sitting next to him, he turned to me, held up his palm, and said "Give me a high five, Dad". And I did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Master of Bullcrap Artistry

I think that it is might be absolutely true to say that MBAs are completely bullshit and that only chumps bother getting them. I mean, I don't really know this for sure and I'm never going to pursue one, but I have seen a lot of evidence to suggest that business schools and the folks that study in them are just well-scrubbed bringers of death. The absolutely soulless pursuits that MBA grads seem to so often pursue just seem so amoral as to be immoral. You know, the idea that valuing profit growth or increased productivity seems to be an amoral one on its face, but I think that is actually an immoral one when you consider the structural incompatibility of many corners of our economy with real morals, like social justice and freedom of speech and, oh, like equal rights and crazy stuff like that.

I am thinking about this because I had lunch with a former coworker today. She is really cool and a lot of fun. She's very intelligent and unique and one of those people who is easy to like and hard to forget. And yet, this really interesting person is now a milquetoast consultant at Accenture and will soon leave that job to go get her MBA. When I asked her why, she told me that she really enjoys strategic management consulting and so she feels like she needs to get an MBA from a top-flight business school in order to do the kind of work she enjoys. Her answer disappointed the hell out of me. It made me realize that her outward appearance and presentation is really just a sham. In the end, those brightly colored pants and funny stories are simply a way to cover up the fact that she is as bland and unoriginal as all the other yuppies that share her upper middle class Montgomery County roots.

Okay, I feel a little bad in saying that. I do like her, but I can't help the fact that her decision saddens me.

I Feel Old

Yeah, because I look old these days. I just had my 33rd birthday, which isn't all that old considering my likely lifespan. But, I seem to be getting much, much grayer these days. Enough so that people have noticed. I've let my hair grow a bit, so that has accentuated the gray. But still...I can't help but wonder where the 18 year old version of me went.

As an aside, my wife made me an amazing carrot cake. Hot damn. I celebrated my birthday by eating a full quarter of the cake, although I didn't do it in one shot. I had to go back to that cake later in the evening as I still had the taste in my mouth. I just couldn't resist nibbling at it until I had finished the quarter. I'm glad we gave some away or else I'd have eaten a lot more on the following night.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What is Consciousness?

I don't have the answer, but I have had an idea that isn't entirely worked out. The basic concept is that consciousness is a physical property of matter, much like magnetism. It isn't a property like mass or hardness or anything like that, but it a measure of the effect of a field on the material. So, consciousness is a universal field that permeates space, just like gravity and electromagnetism. The reason that we are "conscious" is based on our ability to react to this field, so our sense of having consciousness is simply a measure of our ability to react more strongly to the field. Just like gravity has differing impacts or effects on us based on where we are, on Earth or in the middle of space as an example, so too does consciousness have differing effects or impacts on matter. And just like iron shavings are more magnetic than sawdust, we are more conscious than a sunflower. Of course, this could get weird since gravity is, at least based on current theory, not so much a field as it is the transmission of particles known as gravitons. So, the fields I mention are really called forces which are applied at varying strengths based on the effects of subatomic particles. I guess consciousness could operate in this fashion, but this is really the point at which my idea begins to break down.

I also have some ideas about what it is that makes us more conscious as opposed to other objects or things. I think that it could partly be related to our chemical composition. There are many different elements resident in the human body - in fact, there is no human body without them. We are largely carbon, but we also have copper and iron and oxygen and selenium and sodium and potassium...the list is endless...all running through us and essential for what we know as life. I think it is possible that the concentration of one of these elements or maybe the concentration of some compounds based on these elements may be the substance that resides within us that is largely sensitive to the conscious field of the universe. If I had to place a bet, I'd say the most important element for consciousness is carbon, but that seems like a pretty obvious choice. They don't say "carbon-based lifeform" for nothing, you know.

But there is some very interesting research that has been done that suggests that consciousness is the result of the brain's function as a quantum computer. This computing happens within the microtubules, which are protein structures within our cells. These structures are not made up of lots of carbon, so maybe I am totally wrong about the element idea above. The theory that focuses on microtubules, the Orch OR theory, makes some very interesting assertions that go beyond simply suggesting that consciousness arises at the level of synaptic activity. By claiming that consciousness is built on quantum computation, it opens the door to the brain being able to assess all probabilities of any possible outcome. At the quantum level, this has nothing to do with things like seeing the future or weird ESP-like behavior. However, there have been some odd results from experimentation that suggests that the brain does somehow pick up information about the future, even when it doesn't use that information to make a "better" decision.

Whew. I almost got all New Agey for a minute there.

I think about this a lot, partly because I am fascinated by physics and how much it relates to everyday existence. But also because of two things that I firmly believe: that there is no God of any kind, but that we are something more than simply matter moving through spacetime. So, if we are more than directionless matter or perceive ourselves to be more than that and there is no divine presence, what is it that makes us all feel like we are connected to something greater? What is it that gives us a mind in the first place?

As an aside, I also often think about the idea of order in the universe and why it would exist. Order is often referenced to suggest intelligent design and a creator and all that stuff. But, I don't think any of that is needed for order to arise in a complex system. And, I think that is a different post.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Doing Something Else

When I think about work and what would make me happy, I am always clear in knowing that I do not forsee myself working in "tech" for the long term. The simplest way to put it is that I don't really like it all that much. It pays well and I seem to have a knack for it, but I get no real enjoyment out of it and find the majority of my effort and the greater efforts of the organizations I work for as meaningless in the long run. I might help the company make money and maybe the company helps others make money, but we don't really create value. We aren't helping to build anything that will stand the test of time, we don't help people in their daily lives, we don't make anyone's existence any more enjoyable or productive. Frankly, much of today's economy seems to be a glossed-over welfare state for the well-educated, slightly bored middle class and their progeny. We get jobs that we don't have to work too hard at and that ultimately don't produce anything tangible. We are moving bits around, bits in the binary sense, and we get paid - but our pay is just a bunch of bits transmitted over the wire to a bank account that is nothing more than a record in a database somewhere. Everything is virtual in this economy and I can't help but feel entirely disconnected and disinterested.

I yearn to do something else; something that has more meaning, something that I can touch and feel and experience. I have a number of ideas as to what it is, but none are fully formed. Okay, some are more well formed and thought out than others, but my detailed plans are rather precious to me and I'm not ready to share them with anyone other than my wife. However, speaking or writing about the looser stuff is satisfying and helps me to organize things as well.

Here is one - I've always loved the idea of doing radio. I have no background or experience whatsoever. But, I think I could do a pretty decent job of talking with people and of entertaining folks as they sit in traffic. Sure, I have a pretty dirty sense of humor, but I think I am wittier and more intelligent than simply a pack of fart jokes. Maybe this blog is my way of saying the things I want to say that I don't get to say since I don't have my own radio show. I don't think that the current state of radio really provides a venue for me to have the kind of show I'd want to have in the first place. A mix of music and talk with no strict boundaries on what subject matter needs to be covered or what demographic needs to be targeted. If I could get on air and just do what I think is interesting radio, I think I could build a decent audience. But, I'll have more luck doing pirate radio out of my basement than I will trying to get a job at a commercially run radio station here in the DC area.

Canary in the Coal Mine?

A coworker of mine came by this morning to personally deliver the news of his resignation. I knew about it yesterday, but it was nice that he wanted to come tell me himself and talk about his situation with me a bit. He has been here for over 5 years and he is someone I have a lot of respect for. I don't always agree with him or think he is doing the right thing in a given situation, but he is very intelligent and was always looking to create value here. I will miss having him around and talking about college football - he is a Michigan alum and a huge fan - but I will really miss his insight and his understanding of the company's culture. And, his departure makes me think about what the future might hold for this company and for me. When a former coworker of ours left, he told her that she was the "canary in the coal mine". My question is, what does that make him?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

3 Going On 30

Sometimes, Noah can really surprise me by what he says. I'm not talking about big vocabulary words, although it is funny and impressive to hear him say that he is frustrated about something (or someone). It is that he sometimes makes a connection or comments on something or takes a conversation in a direction that I'm not expecting. It is in those moments when I can almost see the new neurons connecting inside his head and I can tell that he is growing up and maturing.

I get Noah his breakfast every morning during the work week. And, if Naomi is up, I bring her into the kitchen to be with us. This morning, I told Noah that Naomi is my favorite baby in the whole world and I asked him if she was his favorite too. Listen, I'm a corny, loopy Dad who is absolutely in love with his kids. I can't help but say dumb, goofy stuff like this. If you think I'm a sap, I've got a shoe I'd love to shove up your ass.

Noah, who is also crazy about his little sister, says that she is his favorite baby too. Then he says "I have another favorite baby. We saw her picture at the ceremony". Then, quietly, he says "Eva". I agree and then he says "It was really nice to see her picture and to light all those candles for her".

Sometimes it seems as though Noah is doing a better job of remembering Eva than I am. And he never even had a chance to meet her.


I haven't run in over two weeks and I think it is making me depressed. I've gained a few pounds, which never makes anyone very happy. But, I am much more frustrated and dissatisfied at work and I feel like I've been cursing more often. I could have explained it as being due to lingering pain and discomfort, but I don't have any at this point. I just think I need to run again - to get outside and to burn off some of the gunk. One of the things I've found in running is that the rhythm of the act itself is a form of meditation. I often find myself in a bit of a trance while running, particularly if there isn't much distraction around me. If there is heavy traffic on the roads or lots of folks out running and biking, I can't let myself get too locked into my own head. But, if I'm running in the dark or it is just quiet out, I can get to a state where my mind is detached from my body and I don't really notice that I'm running at all. I lose track of the time and stop paying attention things like pace and distance and how far from home I still might be. It is a necessary respite for me from everything that has happened to us this year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recovery - Day 5

I'm feeling much better today than I did over the weekend. Healing doesn't seem like a general curve towards 100% health, although that is what I expected. It is more a case of fits and starts. While I remember having sharp pain in the middle of the night, sharper than I had during the day, I also woke up feeling much better than I have since the day of the surgery. I wasn't nearly as stiff and I had no initial discomfort. Standing for a long period of time definitely aggravates the site and I feel a growing sharpness in the discomfort the longer I stand up. Sitting helps, although I don't get quite the same amount of relief as when I lie down. All things considered, though, I am pretty happy with how I am feeling. No pain meds today, drove myself to work, and I feel okay sitting at my desk.

If only work itself could improve...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Day Has Arrived

So, I had my hernia repaired this morning. Since they do hundreds of thousands of these surgeries a year, it is a fairly quick and standard operation at this point in medical history. They used to gash people open and keep them on bed rest of six weeks, but now it is a small incision and you go home once the anesthesia has worn off. Well, as soon as you feel like you can leave - I wasn't entirely sane when I got in the car. I've had general anesthesia twice now and I've thoroughly enjoyed both experiences. I do have to be careful, though, because I have no filters at all when I am coming out of it and I have said some rather off-color things. First time it happened, I talked about a character I saw on Saturday Night Live that shot diarrhea from his mouth. And, this time, I declared how I hate a guy named Randy. Randy happens to be a nurse in the NICU at the very hospital I had my hernia operation done at.

In any case, despite some apprehension going into the procedure, everything worked out great. I don't remember much, frankly. They gave me a sedative prior to wheeling me into the OR, so everything is foggy from that moment until I woke up in recovery. From what Audrey says, the doctor came out to see her within 30 minutes and said that everything went very well. So, within a period of two hours or so, I filled out all the paperwork, got prepped and wheeled into the OR, they repaired my hernia, and I recovered and got back in the car to go home. I wish everything could be so easy.

Audrey drove me around a bit, got me a coffee and a snack, picked up my prescription, and brought me back home to rest. I've spent the rest of the day just lying in my bed, basically. I am getting antsy because I'm just sitting around, but I'm doing fine otherwise. I can get out of bed and move around...very slowly. The pain isn't too bad, but there is a lot of pressure and soreness. It feels like bad constipation and a severe muscle sprain, although it is localized and I don't really feel like I have to crap at all. Interestingly, peeing has not been a problem at all. I think that a full bladder actually makes it hurt more, so I get some relief by going to the bathroom. But I expected the act of urinating to hurt and it doesn't at all. I had a few bouts of lightheadedness earlier in the day, but my last foray out of bed was just fine. I made it to the kitchen for a moment and then came back to the bedroom without any dizziness at all.

So, that was that. I'll take it easy tomorrow and Friday as well and I'll be back in the office next week. I am going to try and walk a good bit more tomorrow and hopefully get outside for a stroll on Friday or Saturday. I'd like to jog a bit late next week, but you never know. I know that some runners have gotten back on the trails within two weeks, but I am planning on it taking more like three.

Side Benefit of Running

Losing your toenails...yuck. I should take pictures of my blackened toenails and blistered feet, but nobody really wants to see that stuff. I just peeled off my second black toenail. I guess two really isn't much compared to experienced marathoners or ultramarathoners, but two lost toenails in two years in double the number of toenails I had lost prior to this. My sister once dropped a brick on my foot, which busted up my toe and I lost that nail. It took 12 years or more before I lost another one. At least I can say that losing them from running is less painful than losing them due to a brick.

Same toe on my right foot both times now. I wonder if that toe is just longer than all my other toes. Or maybe I need different shoes.

Army Ten Miler, Round 2

Ugh. So, I ran the Army Ten Miler again. I think I probably said in the past that I wouldn't, but I signed up because a friend of mine was going to run it. And, it is a good training race prior to a fall marathon. But, it is huge and its size makes it a real pain in the ass. It is a pain to get the packet, it is a pain to slog through the crowds at the expo, it is a pain to get all the silly emails from them, it is a pain to get up earlier just to secure parking, it is a pain to deal with overcrowded public transportation, it is a pain to push your way through the crowds in the starting get the picture. Add to the size of the event that the t-shirts are really rather ugly, the registration fee isn't cheap, and that the course is the same well-worn course that every race in DC seems to use. I like the idea of running over the bridges and past monuments and all that, but I've done it several times now. So, I'm not exactly looking to do it anymore. I can understand that there are probably a lot of first time racers who really look forward to seeing the sights as they run, though.

In any case, despite my complaints, I ran the race again. Last year, I ran it in 1:16:42, which is a 7:40/mi pace. That was faster than I expected at the time and I was very pleased with that effort. This year, I was hoping to crush it. I've said this before, but I did a fair amount of speedwork this year and I was hoping to see those efforts rewarded by some great PRs at this time of year. Based on my run at the PVI Runfest, I thought I had a shot at getting close to 1:13. I even thought I might have had an outside chance at breaking that. But, it all hinged on the weather and that didn't look good.

Like most people, I run way better in cooler, drier weather. Hot and humid days just aren't good because I get overheated quickly and I just can't run as fast. But, nice fall weather is a perfect fit. So, I was looking forward to the Army Ten Miler because early October should have great running weather. But it didn't happen this year. Instead, race day was forecast to go into the 80s and to have 90% humidity or higher. No good for me.

The day of the race was really uneventful. Same old story, different race. Get up early, grab some coffee, drive to race, park, and hang out. Pee, pee again, and then just wait for the race to begin. They did a wave start this year, but that ended up clogging the lines for the bathroom as the first wave got ready to go. So, when I had to go a second time around, I started looking for a tree or a bush or something. Every time I started heading towards a thicket that was already in use, some soldiers would show up and try to shoo the urinating runners away. I didn't have to go that badly, so I just held it and figured I could pee on the course if it got to be uncomfortable.

The race started and I was pacing pretty evenly. I think I ran the first half a bit fast, but I felt like I had enough energy heading into the second half to hit a time I would be happy with. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity undermined that effort. Despite starting off with a shot at a 7:15/mi pace, I kept slowing down. With just a few miles to go, I knew I wasn't going to hit my goal. Well, I would do better than I had last year, but I wasn't going to get the kind of time I really wanted. So, I just tried to run as hard as I could and let the chips fall their they might. I wish I had more to say about this race, but it just wasn't that interesting or exciting. In the end, I finished in 1:14:58. Not what I wanted, but a 7:30/mi pace on a bad day isn't so bad after all. And, any improvement is acceptable.

Afterwards, I heard a lot of reports about the slower runners finding that the water was all gone by the time they got to the aid stations. I also heard that people were jumping in the fountain in front of the Capitol building and that some folks were so desperate that they were scooping water out of garbage cans. I guess they were getting pretty desperate towards the end. While it didn't effect me, bad organization and lack of race support is just one more good reason not to run this race again.

Army Ten Miler Bib # 4150
Washington, DC
October , 2007, 8:00 am

Time: 1:14:58
Overall Place: 1233/17579
Gender Place: 1084/10078
Pace: 7:30

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PVI Runfest 5k

So, all that training this summer to try and get faster was building towards this one race. I had wanted to do a 5K earlier in the year and it didn't happen, so I went into this run hoping for a good performance. If I blew it, I'd feel like crap all day. And, while I worked hard doing hill repeats, tempo runs, and track workouts, the effort would have seemed useless if it didn't translate into speed come race day.

I wanted everything to be just right so that I would be in position to do well. I set up the coffee the night before.
I tried to get a decent night's sleep and did well considering the lack of success we are having with sleep training Naomi. I got up with time to spare, meaning I could relax and try to poop, avoiding any potential disasters. And, although race time was at 8AM, I didn't head over until about 7AM for packet pickup and a warm up run.

The race wasn't too far from the house, which was one of the reasons I registered for it. It took me 5 minutes or so to drive over and it was easy to find parking immediately. Packet pickup was no problem at all either. They said that they would only have t-shirts for the first 500 people, but they've never had 500 people even sign up for the event. The race was put on by the athletic booster club over at Paul VI, although the proceeds this year were partly donated to a Virginia Tech related charity. And, as it is the season for these kinds of things, several local politicians were campaigning at the event, namely Jeannemarie Devolites Davis
and Chap Petersen, although Devolites Davis's husband, Tom Davis, was there too and he ran in the race. He is slow and gets very, very sweaty. I've seen him run a few races now and it is always the same result. Plus, he gets very red in the face from the effort. But, I think it is cool that he always comes out and runs. He's going to need to know how to run well if he plans on taking on Mark Warner for the soon-t0-be-vacated senate seat here in Virginia. But I digress...

After getting my stuff, which was the lightest bag of goodies I've ever gotten (just a coupon and some mints), I went for a warm up run around the course. I've never been one to do this, but I think that starting off cold in a short race is a bad idea. I would either start out way too fast and crash or I'd start out way too slow and have to run like hell at the end, something I'm not likely to do very well. And, since the course was a double loop, it seemed like an easy way to just get the blood flowing. Oh yeah, and it was cold as hell. I think it was below 50 or so when I got to the race and it didn't warm up much at all. So, if nothing else, I needed to run a bit just to warm up. As I ran the course, I started to feel very confident about my chances at accomplishing my goal. I wanted to run a sub-7:00/ mi race and everything seemed to be going my way. I felt good, the weather was perfect, and my warm up run put me in the right frame of mind. I got back with just enough time for a bathroom break and then it was time to line up at the start. There were a fair number of kids in the race for some reason, all of whom had lined up in front. Since this wasn't a chip timed race, I didn't really want to fight my way around a bunch of children, but it didn't look like I was going to have much choice. So, I sucked it up and figured I'd cut around them when I had the chance.

And we're off! I felt strange again, just like I have at the beginning of the other races I've run this summer. Like my heart is going nuts and I get a bit lightheaded. I felt out of sorts for a moment and thought that there would be no way I could keep running if I continued to feel like that. But, very quickly, it dissipated and I was running fine. I did make it around almost all the kids immediately. The first loop just zipped by. I felt like I was going a bit too fast, so I tried to slow it down just a bit. I was around 6-6:30/mi for the first .25-.5 and that was going to kill me. Plus, after the first mile, there was a nice hill to climb on the way to the halfway point, so I knew I'd need to have some gas for that.

Approaching the halfway point, I was gaining on a kid who couldn't have been older than 10 or 11. He was pretty fast, certainly faster than I was at his age, but I wasn't going to run slower than him in this race. But, when I passed him, he tried to get back in front of me. So, I passed him again, and he continued to try to stay in front, this time racing over and getting right in front of me, close enough that I could kicked him in the ass. Now I was irritated, so I pulled to the left and hit the gas, dropping this kid and gaining on the older guys in front of us. I'd have been happy to run with this kid the whole way, but I don't appreciate it when a runner steps in front of me like that. Looking back, I owe that kid some thanks. By getting me pissed off a bit, I ran faster through the second loop.

By my GPS, I had creeped up over 6:50/mi through the hilly part of the course, so I tried to gain some on the easier part on my second go-around. And I did, thankfully, because the hills and the last part of the course came up again pretty quickly. But, I didn't lose any momentum on the hill and kept the pace up until the end. The only thing that I did notice was that I didn't feel like I had enough left for a real burst at the end. I can usually pull something together in the last few hundred yards and just run balls out to finish. But, this time, I didn't. Maybe I should have pushed harder or maybe I was so pleased with my performance that I let myself off the hook. I knew I had a sub-7:00/mi in the bag and I think I just cruised at the end. In any case, I have absolutely no complaints. My GPS said I ran a 6:45/mi, although the official race results say 6:50/mi. I would give them the benefit of the doubt on the distance since I've seen discrepancies with the GPS unit before, but I know I crossed the line at 21:10 and they've got me at 21:12. Two seconds isn't much, but I know what I saw and it does irritate me a bit. But, that is what happens when the timing system is basically a bunch of people with a clock and some clipboards.

The only thing that does suck about this is that I'd have placed in my age group if this was 2005 or 2006. But, as my luck would have it, a bunch of fast guys in their 30s seemed to decide to race this year and I got pushed out. There is always next year, I guess. I will be running this race again since it is a nice, easy course and it is near my house. And, the t-shirts aren't half bad either.

PVI Runfest 5k
Fairfax , VA
September 16, 8:00 AM

Time: 21:12
Gender Place: 8/19
Overall Place: 48/269
Pace: 6:50

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Weaknesses

This is no introspective post at all. Instead, this is a recording of a few foods that I cannot keep myself from pigging out on when we have them in the house. These are things that cannot be purchased or else I get myself into trouble:

1. Cinnamon Toast Crunch - Worst. Cereal. Ever. I eat this crap by the handful, straight from the box. It is tastier than most snacks and desserts you can buy in the grocery store.

2. Peanut Butter Pretzels - Oof. I have had these tasty nuggets from a number of different sources: Trader Joes, BJs, and Wegmans. I think I love them all. Bad, bad, bad little treats. You must not get unsalted, though. It just isn't as good.

3. Vanilla Yogurt Raisins - This is a new obsession of mine. Wow. I eat them one or two at a time and don't stop eating them like that for an hour. Just a perfect drop of creamy sweetness.

4. Reduced Fat Oreos - The real Oreos taste better, but there is a certain chocolate aftertaste to these cookies that I crave. I have to eat 6-8 of them every time I get near a box.

5. Okay...cookies - I love all cookies. Teddy Grahams are the current badness, but I've loved up boxes of Vienna Fingers, Chips Ahoy, weird Ikea cookies, homemade cookies, Bug Bites, and the list goes on. If it isn't made from dogcrap, I will likely eat a lot more of them than I should.

6. Carrot Cake - I think this is the king of all weaknesses now. I love carrot cake. Homemade carrot cake. Home...made by my wife...carrot cake. A giant hunk of cake eaten right out of the fridge. I would skip all meals just to eat a great big piece of carrot cake each night.

Is It Worth It?

Sometimes I wonder if something is worth purchasing or investing in. I feel that if I can't arrive at a decently positive answer on my own, then it probably isn't worth it. But, sometimes I can't really tell. So, if you have any take on the following things, please share:

1. Is it worth it to join an alumni network? My school, a large state school, has an annual fee of $40. I guess it buys me something, but I don't see that I'll get much out of an alumni network and I don't see myself needing discounts on lots of school-themed products. Have you gotten good use out such a thing?

2. Is it really worth it to get an MBA, particularly if you are not going to get one from a top tier B-school? I know that I won't be able to go to a premier business school due to family and financial constraints. Besides, I'm not that interested. But, I often wonder if it would be worth it in the long run. If I got an MBA from my local business school, would it really make any difference in my career at this point?

3. Does it really help to join a local running club? I mean, really pay dues and be a moderately active member? Is it all about just meeting new people?

4. Does a AAA membership really ever come in handy? I feel like it is mostly a scam, but I hate the idea of not having it the day when my car dies on the side of the some highway. Or, worse, when the car dies in the process of transporting my wife and kids somewhere.

5. Are certifications that important after a certain point in your career? I'm a project manager of sorts and I sometimes wonder about getting a PMP. But, I just wonder if it will make any difference for me at all. Is it useful or simply something that exists as a checkbox for corporate and government jobs?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DCRRC Paul Thurston 4.5 Mile Race

I decided to try something different last night. I ran a race put on by a local club, in a park near me, in the evening. I figured it would give me some idea what the DCRRC crowd is like and whether I'd want to join. And, I hate missing any races that are just a few miles from my house.

The registration was $5. I got no shirt and the timing isn't exactly perfect, but it was a great, no-frills experience. I showed up within 15 minutes or so of the start, parked, and followed the obvious runners milling about the parking lot to the starting line. A small crowd had gathered, maybe 60 people or so, listening to Ed Grant (President of the DCRRC) say a few words. When I approached him right before race time and asked him who to give the $5 to, he simply held out his hand and that was that. Nice.

As an aside, the DCRRC seems to be mostly populated by odd looking people. I know that is a crappy thing to say and it isn't like I'm freaking Brad Pitt. But, well, what can I say? I saw some ragtag running clothes, some floppy old hairdos, and some of the strangest running styles I've ever witnessed. I guess that is what hardcore looks like when it comes to running.

There was no gun or anything like that. Just a voice saying "GO!" and we did. I glanced at my Garmin and I was running pretty fast in the first part of the race. I felt very strange too. Maybe I was running too hard (6:00-6:30/mi for most of the first mile) because I was dizzy and felt out of sorts. I thought I might puke or pass out or something and I was having difficulty focusing on the fact that I was running. I was a little worried as to what might be going on, but I began to feel more normal as I continued on. I mean normal in the sense that I had my wits and knew what I was doing. Physically, I still felt off. I went from fast and dizzy to an exhausted and progressive slow down until the end of the race, with a finishing pace somewhere around 7:30/mi, I think. The overall pace was 7:22 or 7:23, so maybe I was even slower than that at the end. In any case, I felt increasingly tired and I began to cramp up with a bad side stitch. I keep saying it was a fun race, but I really felt like garbage for most of it. I had no second gear after the first mile or two and just tried to hold on. I kept hoping I'd catch up with the runners in front of me, but I couldn't make up a single foot on them no matter how hard I tried. I just didn't have crap in me.

I did say it was in a park. Did I say that it was mostly on a dirt trail? And that it rained all day and had started to rain again right before the race? You can imagine what happened then. It was a complete mudfest. The trail surface was well packed, so it wasn't too hard to run on or maintain footing. But, there were a lot of soft spots along the edge of the trail and loads of puddles throughout. I quickly gave up trying to jump over them or dash around them and I just started running right through, hoping to not step too deep into the water as I went. My socks and shoes were completely soaked and I could feel the extra weight as I plodded along. My legs were splattered with mud up to my knees and my clothes were pretty damp from the rain and the sweat.

Given the short distance, though, it didn't last too long. As I crossed the finish line, they handed me a blank card and called out my time. I walked over to the back of a Subaru Outback, filled in my name and age, marked my time on the card, and handed it in. Race over. It was kind of cool to not have a ChampionChip or any fancy mats and to just do a race like they used to do it (well, like DCRRC still does).

In the end, I'm somewhat disappointed with my performance, but not the general experience. It was short and fun and I'd do it again.

DCRRC Paul Thurston 4.5 Mile Race
Fairfax Station, VA
August 21, 7:00 PM

Time: 33:15
Gender Place: 26/48
Overall Place: 28/67
Pace: 7:23

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

All is Right Again

Football will soon begin again. College and Pro, thankfully. And, this year, I've got something to look forward to in both. First, Rutgers has a Heisman candidate in Ray Rice, an All American in Eric Foster, and a shot at the Big East Championship. Heck, they are ranked 16th in the polls, so a BCS berth isn't out of the question. Now, West Virginia and Louisville are going to be monsters, so this is one hard ass hill to climb. But, it should make for an exciting season, one that provides a good follow-up to last year's amazing ride. And, second, the Steelers are in position to rebuild after last season's mess. Big Ben is healthy, Cowher's lazy ass is gone, and the young guys are hungry. Plus, Willie Parker is going to be a superstar, particularly in the new offense (thanks Bruce). The Browns are still a joke, Cincy will be a disappointment again, and the Ravens are getting ready for the nursing home. Ed Reed is stellar, but you have to slap a question mark on every other player on that team. So, while all the pre-season prognostication has them winning the AFC North and all, I think it is far from guaranteed. In fact, while I am quite biased, I think the Steelers actually are better positioned from a talent perspective. The key will be Tomlin. Either he can coach or he can't, but we will soon know the answer.

Update on Running

So, I think I am getting back on track. I dropped my plan, which was really not a plan at all, and have adopted a new one which is solely focused on achieving PRs in my next two races. I am actually going to do a few more than that, but there are two I am focusing my energies on (meaning that I've actually registered for so far). So, the plan is mostly speed building with just a bit of distance in there to prep me for the longer race, the Army Ten Miler. I've got the distance covered since I've been running 10+ on a weekly basis for most of the year. But, it will be good to push the pace a bit over a 10-12 mile distance in prep for this race, something I haven't done much at all this year. I usually just run the longer stuff at 8:45-9:00/mi unless I feel like total crap. So, maybe running it closer to 8:00/mi will be useful, but we'll see how the plan goes.

In any case, I took an Advanced 15k plan from Hal Higdon and am using that. I think Hal's plans are too loose, even the advanced plans, but it is so easy to just take one and start running that I figured it was better to just do that than try to build some custom plan from various sources. Besides, I used Higdon's plan as a base for my marathon plan last year and I was pleased with the overall result. As an aside, I plan on using a Pfitz-style plan for my next marathon. Too many people have had loads of success with Pfitz's methods for me to ignore it.

I ran 5 days straight, something I haven't done in weeks, which is an accomplishment at this point. And, every run was "good". I felt strong during the runs and my speed was at or above where I wanted it to be in each instance. So, I feel positive about where this plan is headed, although it is still rather early. I'll do a 5K test in another week or two as a measure of where I am at and then I'll know how I'm doing. In the meantime, I am going to try and make it to the Paul Thurston 4.5 Miler tonight at Burke Lake Park. It's run by DCRRC and only costs $5, plus it is almost in my backyard (sort of). My only concern is that it is mostly on a dirt trail and it rained a good amount last night. muddy could this race be tonight? My guess is that it will be an absolute slopfest and that I'll be covered in mud, but that might make it all the more fun. I'll slip on the trail shoes and just have at it. If you (as if anyone is reading this) are in the area and don't mind the mess, why not come out around 6:30PM? Race starts at the ice cream joint near the carousel and kiddie train, which is next to the parking lot right behind miniature golf.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weird Things I Think About

...whenever I eat an apple, I think about the fact that the seeds contain a trace amount of cyanide. I worry about swallowing too many and killing myself and I know about this because they used truckloads of apples to kill a giant blob, which was clearly susceptible to cyanide, on an episode of GI Joe.

...when I pee in a urinal, I always think about climbing up on it. Partly because it would provide a weird new perspective on the bathroom. Partly because I want to see if I can just tear the fucking thing from the wall. And, partly because it is there and just seems meant to be climbed upon.

...when I buy something in a store, I often thing about ways to thwart the security system. So many of them seem so flawed that I am extremely tempted to try and subvert them. I don't want to steal anything; I just want to see if I can fool the system. You know, remove the security tag from the back of the book or try to undo the tag on a pair of jeans. I've read about ways to get around this stuff, like wrapping the tag with foil as a makeshift Faraday Cage, but I've never tried it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K

So, this race established a PR for me since I've never run a 20K and this is the only one in the area that I am aware of. I don't know that I'll run this race again, so this performance will stand on its own for a long time.

I find it funny that they always suggest that there will be long lines for packet pick-up the day of the race because I never have any problem at all. Every time I've done it, I've never had to wait behind more than 2 or 3 people. And, I've never not been able to grab a t-shirt in my size. I'd like to pick my stuff up in advance, but driving out to a running store in rush hour traffic on a Friday seems like a big waste of time since I can just get everything the morning of the event. In any case, I say this because I left my house early to get out to Leesburg so that I could grab my packet and not have to wait too long in a big line. Traffic was light, parking was easy, and I was back at the car, sipping my coffee, within five minutes or so.

The crowd was larger than I expected, although I didn't read up on the race and can't say my expectations were in line with reality. A 20K race in Leesburg at 7:30AM in August doesn't sound like an attractive event to me. Of course, I did it. The crowds were not all there for the 20K, though. They run a 10K as well and about half of the runners were doing that instead. And, the folks who ran the 10K were clearly smarter than me. They finished in time to get bananas and to eat the ice cream before it got gotten all runny. That's right. They had ice cream, among other things, as a post race snack. I like the idea, but I don't want freaking ice cream at 9:30AM. I definitely don't want runny ice cream and soggy chocolate wafers that I get to peel out of wet paper. So, I avoided that stuff when I was finished. I did have plenty of water and all that and I drank a Harris Teeter Diet Coke which tasted like carbonated toilet water. Wow, that was some seriously horrible soda.

I felt kind of funny before the race. Funny in a "I have to take a dump, but it might not come out" type of way. So, I stood in line for the PortaJohn with the hope of dealing with it. And, I thought I had. I mean, I certainly felt better afterwards, but it turned out that I was quite done. In any case, I jogged down the block and back as a warmup and elbowed my way through the crowd to a spot in the corral. The race started on time, but they had a water station right before the starting line. So, I stopped and had a cup of water before crossing the mat. I felt a little thirsty and figured it might help out. Then, I was off. We ran a for a short bit through downtown Leesburg, making a circle in some shopping center parking lot, and then headed out on the W&OD trail for the rest of the race. The W&OD trail was pretty cool, for the most part. Heavily shaded, which was really welcome, and I've never run it before, so it was nice to get the chance. It quickly veered off into what seemed like a much more rural area with older homes and farms (or what seemed like farms from what I could tell).

Like all races, the crowd was pretty thick for the first mile or two and I had to do a lot of moving around to get passed the slower runners. I prefer running close to a small group and am always relieved when I reach the point in a race that the crowds have thinned out. I stuck with a general pack for a while on the trail. I'd gain a little on one person, they'd pull away. Someone would come up close and then fall back. I think I was about 100 meters behind the same guy for almost 10 miles of the race. The course seemed like a slow uphill climb for most of the first half. There was a short and fast downhill segment that was just a tease. I ran a little too hard on the downhill and immediately regretted it as I then had to continue my climb until we hit the turnaround. But, the nice thing is that the majority of the return trip was downhill. So, I dropped ten seconds per mile from my pace on the way back, going from what looked like a 7:5x/mi to the eventual 7:42/mi I ran. Around mile 4 or so, I felt like I really had to pee. And, I also felt the beginning warning signs of diarrhea. Now, I wasn't too worried about that since I often get some sort of a cramp that feels like that during a race. And, it wasn't bad enough to concern me. So, I kept running...and the general sensations got worse. And worse. I actually ran off on a side trail to take a leak, but I didn't do a thing about the diarrhea. The cramps got worse and I started to think that I might actually experience the thing I had always joked about: crapping yourself during a run. From mile 8 to mile 12 was basically a race against the poop; a delicate balancing act between running as fast as I could so I could get to the bathroom, but not running so fast that I lost control. it got close, but I made it across the finish without an incident and quickly got that chip off my shoe. From there, I grabbed a bottle of water and carefully made my way back to the PortaJohns to handle my business. Or, maybe, the business handled me. In any case, it was quite a racket and one of those times when you really wish you had a place to wash your hands appropriately.

I used my Garmin during the race. Now, I may have started it too early or something, but it kept hitting the mile marks almost a tenth of a mile before I actually past the marker on the race route. In the end, the Garmin had a few extra tenths of a mile on my overall distance and have me running a pace that was two seconds faster than recorded by the chip. So, I don't know which system is more accurate, but I am not happy about that large a difference. There isn't much I can do about other than to assume that the numbers I see during my training are not quite what I will see during a race. If I run a test 5K in 21:50, maybe I should assume I will run a real 5K in 21:55 or 22:00.

On the way back to the car, some volunteers were just handing out the extra t-shirts. I guess they would rather give them away then keep them and try to sell them for cheap. In any case, I am grateful to have picked up a second t-shirt. Since they were technical shirts, I'm now stocked on tops for running until the temps really drop. I just wish someone would give out shorts or running pants or something like that. I don't have enough of either of those. Hell, I'd take a hat or some socks once in a while too. Of course, corporate logos on socks wouldn't really work out.

Overall, it was a nice enough race, but not so nice or enjoyable that I would be compelled to drive out to Leesburg at 6AM on a Sunday to do it again. Although, to be fair, nicer weather and less gastric distress would have made the whole thing much more pleasant and might have changed my mind.

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K Bib # 563
Leesburg, VA
August 12, 7:30 am

Time: 1:35:40
Gender Place: 119/385
Overall Place: 153/672
Pace: 7:42

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Closer to a Goal

So, at least this week, I've had little success in getting my ass to bed at a normal time, at getting up easily, and at making it out the door for a run. Nothing at all. When I want to get things back on track and I don't, I just feel like a jerkoff. I'm not really impacting anyone other than myself, but it does make me a bit grumpy. I'm not depressed, but I feel shitty about myself today.

I think I am going to take off early and head home for a run before dinner. I need to do something to get started and I'll feel a whole lot better if I know that I can still run 35-40 miles this week. Ugh. 35-40 miles is depressing as well. I had a few weeks above 50 miles, but I've completely crashed. And, with a few races coming and the need to schedule my surgery, I don't know if I'll break the 60 mile mark any time soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Absurd Comparison

It occurred to me last night that the box of Eva's medical records is much bigger than the box of her remains. 1100 pages of paper compared to maybe an ounce or more of ash. And while that seems like an infinitely cruel reminder of what happened, the ratio gives me some hope that her brief life was not simply a useless exercise. Those records bear witness to that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm a Flip Flopper

So, I think I'll start posting again...for now. (Sidelong glances) People might be reading this. And, if I am going to post on other people's blogs, which I am doing with increasing frequency these days, it seems rather unfair to not share and update my own blog.

What I am moved to share tonight is that I have developed some rather bad habits this year and I'm having a great deal of difficulty in ridding myself of them. First, my sleep pattern is completely absurd and entirely untenable given my work and home life. I cannot stay up until midnight or later every night and still get up in the morning before 7AM. Okay, I can do it, but I won't feel rested and I certainly won't have lots of success in getting up earlier than that so I can fit in a run most days. I've always been a bit of a night person, but my pattern has been exaggerated ever since Audrey's stay in the hospital. I had to stay up late every night just to get everything done, but there is no real reason to do it now. Well, except for one, which leads me to my next bad habit.

My diet it also completely out of whack. I had very good control over what I ate last year and only really added a lot of carbohydrates to provide the energy I needed to train for a marathon. I gained a bit of weight after the marathon, in large part due to the fact that I couldn't run much in November. It just took the entire month to recover. By December, I didn't have the weekly mileage to really handle the holiday season's eatings and I had gained some pounds. But, again, when Audrey entered the hospital, I had the freedom to get very restrictive with what I ate and I was able to get down to below 170lbs early this year. My diet was pretty silly, though. I only ate a Balance Bar during the day, followed that up with a light dinner, and then had a big ass bowl of ice cream after Noah was asleep. Not the best way to go, I imagine. And, it didn't get any better after the twins were born. In fact, one of my reactions to the stress of the situation was to basically stop eating. I continued to lose weight, getting down to about 163lbs or so. I felt like crap, of course. I had nausea and dizzy spells, but I just didn't want to eat anything. It was easier to just drink some diet coke or a big coffee and to chew gum all day. After Eva passed away, I started to eat more normally, at least in terms of having normal meals and eating a healthy amount each day. But, my weird nighttime snacking became more exaggerated. And, in an effort to basically mask this snacking, I've continued to stay up until everyone else in the house is asleep so I can eat and not feel as guilty about it. By writing this now, I am outing myself and will hopefully have to deal with what I am doing in a more direct fashion with my wife.

In any case, so I don't sleep and I eat loads of crap at night. And I say that I want to run 60+ mpw or more and that I want to qualify for Boston and all that. But the two things don't mix and I've got to get control or I won't achieve my running goals. I'm just not sure how to start. Wait...maybe wrapping up this post and going to bed would be good. G'night.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Calling it Quits

Since nobody reads this, this post almost doesn't matter. Sometimes when I am online, I surf around other blogs and read other people's posts. Just personal blogs and all. I always come away thinking that most of these folks are amazingly self-obsessed. By nature, blogging is a me-me-me kind of thing and the posts from most of these bloggers are really just a lot of crap. Mountains of posts filled with banal ramblings of mediocre minds. People deluding themselves with New Age garbage and self-help claptrap. Adults typing lies into their laptops and posting them to the web as if the process somehow makes the misaligned hopes and dreams become reality. Some blogs are really amazing, of course. The few who are self-aware and who have the intellect, skill, and reason to craft each post in much the same way they might approach a journalistic effort or writing a novel even. The blogosphere is populated with some very interesting people writing interesting things - new perspectives and insights on life and its varied pursuits. But, the majority? Fucking bumbling idiots.

So, in realizing yet again how stupid most of the blogs are and how my own blog really isn't much better, I am considering a shutdown. Nobody is really reading this, so maybe my own selfish drivel should continue for its own selfish sake. Or, maybe I should just write it in my notebook and keep it to myself. Maybe a movement to not blog will spread and many of these people will simply stop chattering about themselves and their pathetic existences. They can go back to irritating their neighbors and relatives instead.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First Phase of Speed Work

I think I've completed my first full cycle of speedwork. I did hill repeats, 200s, and 400s, alternating the workouts each week for three months now. I tried to do fartlek and tempo runs on the weekends, but I didn't always follow a real plan when it came to those runs. Nevertheless, I think I definitely got some benefit out of all of this. I now need to determine what the best course of action for the rest of this year and the early part of next year is. I found a pretty rigorous 30 week plan that should get me in great shape for the National Marathon, but I'd need to get started on that in a few weeks. Before I do that, I'd like to run a few races to gauge my current capability. I've got a 20K lined up for August and a 5K in September, but I'm not really targeting those in my training other than hoping to get PRs in both. I've run 200 meters in 40 seconds, and 400 meters in 1:30. I'd like to drop those times across the board and I'd like to start including 800s in my speed workouts. I seem to have a tendency to run the second half of a repeat faster than the first part. I do the same thing for many of my runs, although I usually flip that behavior for longer distances. So, for example, when I do 6 or 8 miles, the return trip is usually faster. However, if I run a half marathon or more, the second half is almost always slower. This probably means I need more long distance training, which is something I haven't done much of this summer.

I need to do a race soon. I'm getting antsy not having a recent performance to determine where I'm at in my training. I might run one of the cheap and no-frills 5ks that the running clubs around here hold. $5 or something, no shirt, no ChampionChip timing. But, it will give me competition and provide a good opportunity to just run my ass off for 20 minutes.

I know almost nobody reads these posts, but I don't care. Nobody wants to hear me talk about running, so this is all I've got.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fantasizing about the Future

I recently read about a woman who turned herself into an Olympic-caliber marathon runner. She wasn't a runner, then ran her first marathon around a 3:45, and then spent the next year training like mad. She dropped an entire hour from her marathon time, getting herself in under the cutoff to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials.

To me, this is simply amazing. To shave an hour off in one year seems absurd. I can't even begin to imagine how she did it other than with massive amounts of motivation and commitment. I can't help but wonder, though, if I'd be able to do something similar. Even if it took two or three years, I wonder if it is possible. I wonder if I have the basic goods in my genetic makeup to turn my body into an Olympic marathon machine. The cutoff for men is 2:22 for Grade "B", so I have serious doubts I'd be able to make it. That would represent cutting an hour and twenty minutes from my current marathon time. I think I'll cut off close to 30 minutes by the time I run another marathon, but I can't be certain about that. And, even if I did, how the heck would I cut the next 50 minutes from my performance?

I'm not sure how much more effort above what I'm putting in now would be required to do something like this. I'm running, or trying to run, six days a week and I'm trying to get to a point where I consistently run 50+ mpw. But, since cracking the 50 mile mark, I've been in a tailspin with my training plans. I crashed and burned for 5 straight days because I just couldn't get my tired ass out of bed. With the extra rest, I did have an awesome track workout this past Saturday, though. But, I followed that up by blowing off my long run on Sunday morning. I made it out for a decent six miles yesterday, but again couldn't get up this morning for my run.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Race Registration

Well, I screwed up a bit and ended up missing the 5K/10K season for the first half of the year. I did one race, but wanted a few more to gauge improvement and I just never registered for any. That just means I'll have to uncork a whopper of a performance on 9/16. That day is the PVI Runfest 5k, a local race billed as the fastest 5K around. I plan on finding out. I'm not sure if it is possible, but I may as well set the bar high for myself - I want to break 21 minutes in a 5K. That would be around a 6:45/mi pace. Wish me luck.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Obsessed with Death

Since Eva's death, I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about the deaths of other people who are important to me. When I'm in the car or running, times when I am all alone, I can't help but think about my wife and children dying. I think about getting a call from the police because they were in a horrible car accident or of watching my son get hit by a car. During my run this morning, I began to think about the possibility that I would come home to find my son lying dead in his bed. He had a bug bite on his foot yesterday and he had some trouble sleeping last night, so I put the two together and wondered if he hadn't been bit by some poisonous spider or something. I told myself it was a ridiculous thought, but it was there in my head all the same. Needless to say, I was very relieved to hear his breathing the moment I walked into his room.

I think about finding out, I think about how I would feel, I think about what I would have to do. And, I think a lot about how I would move on or not. I don't know what value would be left to my life if something like this happened and I have a very hard time thinking there would be much point in living afterward. Should I just kill myself immediately or wait until I've given them all a proper memorial?

I guess I mostly seem to think about losing all of them. Less than that and it is easy to figure out what to do because there is someone to live for; a reason to go on. It is as if I am trying to figure out what scenarios exist in which it is okay for me to just kill myself, as if I don't really want to be here at all at this point and only stick around due to my responsibilities. I don't think that is true, but I don't know much anymore. I did begin to think that I could find new meaning in my life if I was to do something like run or bike across the country. I don't know if there would be a point, per se, other than to have something to do and to keep me focused on a goal in the future. Thinking about reaching the end of a trip like that might be enough to keep my mind off of the fact that the rest of my would be spent without my family.

Friday, June 29, 2007



Running Update

I haven't run in three days. I've felt crappy each morning and let myself just go back to sleep instead of getting up for a workout. I need to get back to running, though, since I think it might actually make me feel better. I've just some summer cold. It just comes on strong in the evening, wearing me out, and leaves me feeling groggy and exhausted each morning.

I won't hit my goal of a 50+ mile week before the end of June, but I can still try and crank one out next week. This stretch of rest days might actually be a good thing for me in the end. Let the aches and pains go away, get some more sleep, and kick this cold. Then, I can begin the climb to a 65 mile week or more.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Experimentation with Whole Grains

For a long time, I wasn't eating very much in the way of carbohydrates. It was an attempt to lose weight and it worked, particularly coupled with a reduction in fat consumption and increased exercise. But, then, I got into running. And, you just can't run a lot without carbs. You can jog and you can probably do a decent amount of mileage, but you can't rack up the miles on a weekly basis if you don't eat enough fuel in the form of carbohydrates. I learned this in a rather uncontrolled manner last year. As I trained for a marathon, I found that I just couldn't stop eating. I had cravings every night, particularly for sweets like cookies and cake. And, I ate it all. This has never really stopped, although I am slowly trying to shift my carb intake to healthier carbs as much as possible. Hence, this post about whole grains. I am not that crazy about eating rice or pasta, but those are good foundations for lots of meals. And, my wife and son like them both. So, I can't avoid them. But, as a family, we can avoid refined sugars and overly processed wheat and still get plenty of carbs and plenty of flavor by buying and cooking whole grain. So, we've started experimenting and trying out some recipes. So far, we've had quinoa, wheatberry, and some crazy seven grain pilaf thing. I guess it had lots of different things including wheatberry, bulger, and a few others. Of those that we've eaten so far, I have been very pleased.

Quinoa - strange looking and needs a bit of prep in that you have to soak it. But, it has a very nice texture, works well with a variety of flavors, and can be used in a lot of dishes. It is similar to couscous, in my opinion.

Wheatberry - very tasty, but not as accessible as some other grains. Hard outer coat and I'm afraid of what would happen if we cooked it too long. It is cheap, though. And, it does have a nice texture that can provide a good complement to some kinds of food.

Buckwheat - we've eaten buckwheat as part of a kasha dish. Kasha Varnishkas is wonderful, but I don't know what else we'd do with buckwheat. I like the funky shape of the grain and the fact that it is chewy. All it really needs is a bit of onion and some salt and it can be very enjoyable.

Bulger - have had this in some traditional stuff, but we haven't cooked with it yet. It is sitting on the shelf waiting for its moment to shine.

Spelt - we've never tried this one, but I just picked up a box today. It looks a lot like wheatberry.

I'll add more notes as we continue down this road.

Best Interview Ever

This is an email from back in March 2005. I wrote it right after this happened...

I've been looking for a new job lately. My current employer is being acquired and my manager has resigned, so it is time for me to move on. And, for those who are wondering, this will constitute the sixth job I’ve had since college, none lasting more than 30 months.

I had an interview this morning that lasted for over four hours. I assume that it will turn out to be positive, but I honestly don’t know. The setup for the interview is that I’ve got one long interview in which I am going to be meeting with multiple people. First one was with a senior executive in the company and seemed to go very well. He was easy to talk to, I had relatively coherent answers to his questions, and I got the sense that he liked me. On to the next interview, this time with the executive who oversees the group I would be joining. Much older guy than I normally meet; probably in his sixties, but could just be that he drinks too much and spends a lot of time in the sun. He starts the interview by saying that the whole interview is going to be me asking him questions. I wasn’t sure if it was a sign that he is simply an overaggressive type who wants to challenge me or if he just has no idea what to ask me. I paused for a moment since I really wasn’t sure how to proceed and then I start asking him questions. First question I ask, his response is “Oh, that is a very good question…a very good question” leading me to believe that this guy just doesn’t know what to ask me. We go back and forth, me asking the questions and him responding with generalities and non-answers. He wasn’t being vague for the purpose of secrecy; I think he just couldn’t formulate a thoughtful, professional response to anything I asked him.

At one point, the tables turn and he is actually asking me the questions. I am talking a fair amount and when I finish answering what seems to be his last question to me, I ask if I can continue to interview him. He pauses and just looks at me for several seconds. His face seems pained and a little red, but it wasn’t that different than how he had looked for the majority of the interview. Then he says:

“Hmmm. I’ve gotta piss real bad.”

I say, “Okay, I’ll wait.”

He then continues to simply sit in his chair, directly across from me. I have no idea what is going on, but I keep wondering why he isn’t just getting up and going to the freaking bathroom. While I am waiting, he continues to make strange faces and look down at his crotch. Every few seconds, he grunts or moans or makes a faint noise that suggests displeasure with himself. Then he says:

“I’m sorry, dude. I pissed my pants.”

I’m dumbfounded. Be sure, this is not a joke. This shit absolutely, positively happened to me. So, this guy sits there with his wet pants on, apologizing to me about the whole deal. I suggest he use his jacket to cover himself so he can get to the bathroom with some dignity. In his attempts to deal with this situation, he says things like “It’s my prostate” and “This happened to me on an airplane once and that was really horrible”. I try to make him feel better and say “It’s cool, man. I know what its like.”

Of course, I have no fucking clue what it’s like to piss your pants in public, let alone in the workplace while conducting an interview. I’ve certainly laid some unbelievably foul farts at work, but that never stained my pants.

Then, he stands up, shows me the damage by highlighting it with his hands, takes his jacket, and goes to the bathroom. I just sit there, fumbling to try and deal with what just happened. All I can think is that my interview is shot because this dude will never be able to think of me without thinking about the fact that he wet himself. And, he can’t let me get hired because I am the only witness to this little episode.

He comes back, puts his jacket on the chair, and again shows me the wet spot, which is now larger for some reason. He sits down and we continue the interview - no lie. At the end, he again makes an apology.

To which I say “At least you’ll remember this interview.”

He then responds with “It’s not like you made me piss my pants. This had nothing to do with you.”

The end result of this encounter is that I am seated next to him in my last interview of the day, an unexpected opportunity to talk to the CEO of the company. Mr. LooseBladder, who went home to change his pants, is basically acting like my best friend in front of the CEO, patting me on the back, praising my interview with him, and all sorts of extra friendly behavior. He ends up escorting me out of the office, shakes my hand a number of different times, tells me I did a great job, and apologizes one last time.

I’ll let you all know what happens next if anything. If they hire me, this has to be one of the greatest coworker stories of all time. Assuming he is still there when I join them.