Run 556: Slow

Run 556
Average pace: 5:50/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 11:08 am
Distance: 10.03 km
Time: 58:35
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 6ºC
Humidity: 83%
Wind: light
BPM: 171
Weight: 161.7 pounds
Total distance to date: 4330 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

This was not a good run. It wasn’t a bad run, either, just thoroughly blah.

One complication–my left hip felt a bit sore for no apparent reason, but it largely worked itself out by the end of the run and was fine on the walk home.

I was expecting a temperature of 1-3ºC but it was actually 6ºC when I started out. Again, the difference in temperature here is quite noticeable so while I was not over-dressed with two layers on top and running pants instead of shorts, a jacket and gloves would have been too much. I passed a number of joggers early on and everyone wearing a jacket either had the jacket fully unzipped the next time I saw them or the jacket was tied around their waists.

I wore my fancy new Under Armor jogging pants that include zippered front pockets and everything and they kept my legs nice and warm on the walk to and from the lake. For the actual run I would have been fine with shorts, especially since it was dry with little wind. I also had fancy new Under Armor underwear to go with the pants and they are thin and silk-like, so they stayed dry and pretty much felt like they weren’t there. Gear-wise, the run was a success.

The walk to the lake was one of the slowest ever at 9:41/km. My usual pace is below 9:00/km. The walk back was a bit better but still slow, while the run itself was a full ten seconds slower than last Saturday’s at 5:50/km. Lowlights included a couple of km where the pace was over 6:00/km. By the third km I was already feeling tired, though I got my second wind and felt decent for the last few km, even if my pace never improved. The cold seemed to keep my BPM up, too. It also doesn’t help that each run I’m getting a little heavier.

Basically I need to eat better and exercise more, just like that doctor told me way back in april of 2008. And I will. I’m taking my running gear to work and will dash around the golf course at lunch instead of dashing food into my face at the cafeteria. It also helps that after next week the cafeteria will be essentially closed for inter-session (no classes, no exams).

Since the weather was nice a lot of people were out, though I didn’t encounter any large roving gangs of walkers. Instead of dodging puddles I dodged people. I think I prefer puddles if I’m honest about it. Puddles don’t make sudden movements.

Overall, a slog but I finished it and to quote Elton John, I’m still standing (though I’m sitting as I write this). I plan on doing more and shorter runs this week, rain or shine (but no snow, please). We’ll see if I start to regain some form before year’s end.

Pencilled in

This post was lovingly hand-written using my iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and the Nebo note-taking app.

Nebo converts the handwritten text to type on the fly and the accuracy seems pretty good considering l’m writing this in bed while the neighbors make strange thumping sounds upstairs.

All in all, I give the technology ten thumbs up and this post’s excitement level half a thumb up.

My Top 10 Albums of 2017

Or “Why I don’t know anything about the current state of pop music.”

I apparently only bought seven albums this year. That may actually be higher than average compared to most album buyers, since the album format is either dead or dying (or just on a temporary downward trend if you’re feeling less doom and gloom about it).

The albums I bought fall into these categories:

  • Albums previously owned but purchased for the sake of having them in digital format: 1
  • Albums bought because a friend had them and I liked them and they were on sale: 2
  • Albums that were cheap and had at least one song I liked so I figured why not: 4
  • Albums I bought that were released in 2017: 0
  • Albums I bought that were released in the 21st century: 0
  • The year each of the seven albums were released:
    • 1976
    • 1978
    • 1982
    • 1983
    • 1984
    • 1986
    • 1992

So really, this was an exercise in 1980s nostalgia. Not surprising since that was the formative decade for my taste (or lack thereof) in music. The seven albums are:

  • Hotel California, The Eagles. I’ve heard the title track a billion times and somehow I am still not tired of it. The rest of the album holds up well given its age and Don Henley’s cynicism is just as appropriate–or moreso–in 2017.
  • The Cars, The Cars. The Cars! This album got played endlessly in Drawing and Painting class in junior high but I didn’t mind because it’s a crazy good pop confection.
  • Vacation, The Go-Go’s. Worth it for the title track, “He’s So Strange” and “Worlds Away.” Not quite as catchy as their first album but pretty close.
  • Eliminator, ZZ Top. For some reason I can never bring myself to listen to the whole album, just the singles that I’m familiar with like “Sharp-Dressed Man” and “Legs.” I have no buyer’s regret.
  • Welcome to the Pleasuredome, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. What an improbable success. A friend had this on that newfangled CD format and it’s a bizarre mix of covers, ersatz prog rock, dance music and ballads. Somehow it works, in no small part due to Holly Johnson’s commanding presence.
  • Crowded House, Crowded House. A lovely pop album with one of the most essential songs of the 80s, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
  • Harvest Moon, Neil Young. The title track is a sweet ballad and the rest of the album is similarly soothing as Young gets quiet instead of weird or angry.

Maybe one of my resolutions for next year will be to buy an album released next year. Hey, it’s happened before! (Last time in 2014.)

In their pocket

I got an email yesterday from Pocket, the service that lets you save stories on the web to read later (various browsers and other apps do the same thing but I glommed onto Pocket, in part because it was bought by Mozilla and integrated directly into Firefox).

Email from Pocket is not unusual–I get several per week with recommended and sponsored stories. This one was different, though (and yes, it included the little rocket because that’s become a strange and slightly annoying trend in email subject lines over the past few years):

? Stan, you made the Top 5% of readers in Pocket this year!

It goes on to elaborate a little:

You’re a top reader in Pocket for 2017, and you should be proud! Not only did you make it into the top 5%, you’ve also exercised your brain and undoubtedly learned a ton in the process.

I just find this weird. There are about five hundred billion people on the internet, so how did I manage to get in the top 5% of Pocket users? My first thought is that Pocket is drastically unpopular and any moderate use by anyone would put them in the top 5%. This is also my second and third thought because all other possibilities seem so much less likely. But perhaps most people only use Pocket occasionally because they read a story right when they find it, rather than holding off until later. Maybe we live in a culture of instant rather than delayed gratification and I’m an outlier.

Maybe this would all change if Pocket featured Facebook integration (I would then hate it forever and plunge into the bottom 5%).

Anyway, I suppose it’s nice but mostly still weird that I’m in the top 5% of anything on the internet. Go me!

The ongoing death of brick & mortar: NCIX edition

The personal computer market has changed a lot since I moved to Vancouver in 1986, and the retail market has changed along with it.

In 1986 the Macintosh was only two years old, the IBM PC was all of five. Walking into a decent computer store, whether a hardware-focused place like Future Shop, or a software-focused one like Super Software, you could buy titles for the following systems:

  • Apple II
  • IBM PC
  • Atari 8-bit
  • Commodore VIC-20
  • Commodore 64
  • Macintosh
  • Amiga
  • Atari ST (520/1040)

Ten years later the market every system was dead or dying, save for two. The Macintosh had carved out a niche, primarily for those using it in desktop publishing, but it was the PC that came to dominate, both with businesses and home users, with the advent of VGA graphics and decent sound cards making them viable for gaming. The growth of the PC led to the number of stores selling PCs, PC parts and software exploding.

I did a lot of my early shopping back then at a few local stores such as ATIC Computers and Frontier PC before settling on NCIX for their combination of good stock, retail locations and solid pricing. Just this summer I was still buying from them, picking up a mouse and some USB stick, not realizing they were on the verge of shutting down all of their retail stores and declaring bankruptcy. It makes me sad to see another long-time local business go under, even as I admit to a bad taste in my mouth over the way customers are predictably getting the short end of the stick as the company goes under.

Also, how does a company selling tech in the shadow of places like Amazon and Newegg not realize the future is online? I liked shopping at NCIX because I live in a condo and it’s a pain to get larger items delivered, because they end up at some depot and it’s just easier to get them at a store. But if I lived in a house? I’d order everything online–it hardly makes sense to do otherwise, with either free or cheap shipping. But the owners of NCIX apparently thought otherwise, and even as the competition got swallowed up (Best Buy devouring Future Shop), shifted to corporate/online sales Frontier PC) or just vanished altogether (to my surprise, ATIC is still around, though they have moved to a new location next to MEC), they kept their focus on retail stores that never generated enough traffic to justify the expense of operating them.

And in this case, we’re looking at stuff that doesn’t translate easily into digital format like books, magazines and music. But it doesn’t matter–people are shifting their purchases for a lot of electronics online and NCIX lost out.

I guess I’ll get a chance to see how well delivery works from Amazon and Newegg now.

Angry on glass: A SkyTrain station message by Author Unknown

A few days ago during The Rains I trod to the Sapperton SkyTrain station to begin my morning commute and I discovered this message finger-painted onto the glass near where I usually stand on the platform.

“fuck you ya you fuck head” – a possibly aggrieved passenger or urban poet

One might quibble about the lack of proper punctuation but the message is nonetheless unambiguous. What I find most intriguing is what would prompt someone to:

  1. Feel this angry while standing on the platform of a commuter train very early in the morning (before 6:30 a.m.)
  2. Be moved to transfer the anger into a message written via finger on a rain-slicked sheet of glass

This leads to other questions, such as:

  1. What did the person feel later, when they were presumably on the train. Remorse? Regret? Catharsis? Ongoing anger?
  2. Would I be able to pick this person out if I suddenly found myself on the car on which the angry scribe was riding?
  3. Has this person written similar messages before?
  4. Is this act usually a one-off or just one in a series?
  5. Is the person–almost certainly a guy (sorry, guys, you know we’re mostly jerks) an otherwise nice fellow, entirely reasonable, and just found himself in a foul mood due perhaps to an unexpected and unpleasant event?

I am slightly sad I will never know the answers to these questions, though I’m not sure what I would do with the answers, anyway. Maybe one day I’ll make the answers up and turn it into a story called “The Messenger.”

(Probably not, though.)

If I had a million dollars

First, a million dollars wouldn’t go nearly as far as it once did. Heck, you couldn’t even buy a lot of fairly ordinary homes in Vancouver for a million dollars.

So let’s start with if I had ten million dollars. What would I do with my riches, assuming I hadn’t acquired the money by extorting a bunch of strangely wealthy orphans?

  • Buy a fairly ordinary home in Vancouver. That immediately takes care of about 10% of the windfall.
  • I suppose I’d get a car of some kind, something nice but not flashy. I’d have to get my xdriver’s license renewed, too.
  • Give a couple million to a few charities/good causes. I don’t have a list yet, I’d have to do some research.
  • Buy a 4K TV. honestly, I’d have to come into a lot of money unexpectedly before I could get past the  first world guilt of getting something I absolutely positively don’t need.
  • Give some money to my co-workers before quitting. Because I’d totally quit. The last two weeks would be glorious.
  • Give some money to family and friends–equal amounts, no favorites. No limits on what the money could be used for, as long as it was legal. If someone wants to spend thousands on Beanie Babies, who am I to deny them?
  • Stash away a bunch of money in some sort of interest-generating account or investment (one that is stable, not like “I’m investing in Bitcoin because it’s going to keep going up forever!”) so I always have something to fall back on.
  • Travel. I’m not sure where. Probably across Canada to start. The U.S. is out for the moment as it seems to be in a possibly never-ending downward spiral and I have no desire to deliberately feed any funds into its current government. Or “government” if you prefer. Also, Europe and other places overseas scare me because I hate flying and taking a cross-Atlantic cruise isn’t much better.
  • Buy Twitter and shut it down. I probably couldn’t do this with only $10 million, sadly, but a boy can dream.
  • Maybe buy some Beanie Babies. Just kidding. I’d probably buy giant novelty Rubik’s Cubes instead.
  • Get one of the high end Wacom Cintiq tablets just to see what the fuss is all about. I’d draw stick men and stick trees and somewhere a poor graphic artist would cry out in anguish at the travesty.
  • Buy some macadamia nuts. I love those things but I can’t buy them without thinking they’re some stupid luxury, like caviar or Rolls Royce cars. I wouldn’t buy a lot, though, because that guilt would reassert itself.
  • Probably write a lot more lists. This is not necessarily a positive thing, as you can see here.

Run 555: Dipsy doodles and achievement unlocked

Run 555
Average pace: 5:40/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 12:06 pm
Distance: 10.03 km
Time: 56:53
Weather: Showers
Temp: 5ºC
Humidity: 93%
Wind: light
BPM: 169
Weight: 160 pounds
Total distance to date: 4320 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

It was another day of The Rains and my dedication to fitness was put to the test when I opened the front door of the condo and was greeted by a downpour.

Given that it was only 5ºC I wore two layers up top (a long-sleeve t-shirt and short sleeve) and that worked well. I wore shorts and my (sexy) legs were also fine. My upper body was a bit cool heading back after the run but that was due more to the sweat cooling and turning clammy, combined with a breeze that was picking up. And the fact that the rain never actually stopped.

So it was a soggy run and the trail at the lake was in full Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde form, the good doctor being the parts that have been resurfaced over the last few years (generally fine) vs. the other parts still untouched, which includes all three side trails and the Cottonwood trail. These combine to form close to half my route and they were filled with trail-spanning puddles that forced me to skirt along the edges.

On the plus side, the recent work at the sports field is mostly working, with no flooding there and only a thin layer of run-off pouring in from the edge of field at the point where the trail bends 90 degrees to the west. A little shoring up there would fix that. The sports fields themselves appeared to be a swampy mess, though the poopmonsters seemed fine with that.

Given the weather there were few people out–a few dedicated dog walkers, a couple of the “I love walking in the rain!” types and some fellow joggers, all of whom were dressed much more conservatively than me. One of those was wearing a jaunty blue jacket that served as a kind of beacon. I spied him ahead of me about two km in and by the 5K mark he had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead. That was fine, I was in steady-as-she-goes mode, seeking only to go through at a comfortable pace. Somewhere around the 7K mark he either stopped briefly or slowed because the gap began to close. I could see I was gaining ground and entertained the possibility and eventually the necessity of passing him.

As with a car passing another on the road, to pass a fellow runner you must accelerate and then remain at the accelerated pace until you have sufficient space between you and the other runner. When I look at the splits for the run this acceleration doesn’t seem to really be apparent, which may explain why I caught up to begin with–he was slowing and I wasn’t. The little bit of gas was probably responsible for my slightly-improved pace of 5:40/km vs. 5:42/km the previous week. One downside was my BPM was back up, but I believe this was due to the pace difference and mire importantly, the much lower temperature. It doesn’t feel like I’m working hard, but my body clearly is.

Also, the nipple guards (band-aids) got their first real test today and actually worked amazingly well. The nipples (why is nipples such a funny word?) experienced no chafing and even more, did not get cold at all, which never happens during a rainy run. It was a surprising delight when I got home. And who doesn’t like being delighted by their nipples?

The unofficial achievement was marking the first time in several years that I have run at least once every month. This year the first two months of runs were done on a treadmill due to The Snows, but I nonetheless got the runs in. Today’s run officially caps out a full 12 months of running. Yay.

Overall, another decent effort. I look forward to perhaps staying dry, hopefully, next time.

Book review: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted PlacesGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ghostland is at turns frightening and horrifying, not because of the alleged ghosts said to haunt homes, bars, hotels and other places across the U.S., but due to the sometimes unspeakably awful ways the people who lived, worked or occupied these places behaved.

In the hands of author Colin Dickey, Ghostland is an examination of how crime, class warfare, sexism, racism and more are often the root of so many ghostly appearances. Where people have suffered, Dickey argues, stories of ghosts thrive, borne variously from anxiety, guilt and loss. Sometimes the stories have an economic motivation–people making a few bucks off tours of allegedly haunted houses. Other times the stories are a way of translating some human horror–the mistreatment and abuse of slaves, for one–into something more easily-digested. As Dickey notes, “Ghost stories like [these] are a way for us to revel in the open wounds of the past while any question of responsibility for that past blurs, then fades away.”

As Dickey details the operation of massive insane asylums constructed in the mid to late 19th century, with their horrific overcrowding and cruel experimentation on patients in search of “curing” them, it seems inevitable that ghost stories would emerge from the real-life horrors that went on inside the walls of these hospitals.

Dickey also covers some well-known haunted locales, such as the Winchester Mystery House. Here he lays out evidence suggesting that Sarah Winchester didn’t keep adding rooms to the mansion to ward off the spirits of those killed by her husband’s rifles, but because she had the keen mind of an architect–and nearly limitless funds to indulge her experiments in building.

And so it goes throughout Ghostland, with Dickey deconstructing nearly every haunted place he has researched. A few that he visits give him pause, leaving him genuinely unsettled, but there is no “a-ha!” moment when he becomes convinced–or tries to convince the reader–that ghosts are real.

Rather, this is a fascinating journey through the darker parts of American history, Ghostland is well worth reading for how capably it provides rational explanations for the ghosts, poltergeists and other entities said to haunt so many corners of America’s vast landscape. Recommended.

View all my reviews

November 2017 weight loss report: Up 3.5 pounds

The good news is I’m still down overall for the year.

That concludes the good news.

The not-so-good-news is I did not reverse October’s trend of gaining rather than shedding weight. Instead my went went up again, a hefty 3.5 pounds. Yikes.

This was due to two things:

  • an increase in snacking
  • a decrease in exercise (specifically running but also walks)

The increase in snacking was bad. It’s obvious I can only manage it when I exercise enough to make up for it, so when I don’t the weight gain is immediate and significant. This depresses me a little. I must again resist snacks. December is probably the worst month of the year to give up snacking but I’m going to give it a try before ending in an orgy of short bread and Ferraro Rocher.

The decrease in exercise was not due to a sudden transformation into a lazy, sloth-like thing, but rather because of the change of season. I don’t mind running in the rain and the cold (though I can honestly say I would never miss running in the rain), but I haven’t really done it in the last few years and want to get better gear for it. To a certain extent this is just an excuse but I’ve made some movement here.

There are a few issues right now when it comes to exercise.

For lunch walks, it’s pretty difficult to do when it rains. Yes, I have a Goretex jacket, but my jeans will still get soaked. I could bring a second pair of jeans to work for these walks, but it’s a bit of a pain to shuttle pants back and forth between work and school. Still, it’s a possibility.

For running, it’s now dark right after work, so I can only run at lunch. If it’s raining lightly and not close to freezing, I’m good with the gear I have now, though I want a second pair of running shoes so I can just leave one pair at work. The problem starts when it gets colder–I need better running pants than what I have now, plus a better jacket, one that can better resist precipitation (my current running jacket is more of a windbreaker). One final issue is when it rains hard, the trail around the gold course turns into a lake/river combo that is supremely unpleasant for running. It’s also a bit dangerous because when most of the run is done in giant puddles of water, you can never really be sure what you’re stepping into.

I plan on addressing the gear situation soon and the no-snacking begins tomorrow.

My plan for December is modest–to get below 160 pounds again and stay there. If I can do more, that would be spiffy, but my goal right now is to just reverse the weight gain and get back on the no-donut track.

And now, the grim tidings regarding my waistline through the month of November.

Stats:

November 1: 157.6 pounds
November 30: 161.1 pounds

Year to date: From 165.9 to 161.1 pounds (down 4.8 pounds. In October I was down 7.9 pounds and in September I was down 11.4 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 19.1% (31.7 pounds of fat)
November 30:
17.3% (27.9 pounds of fat)