June 2015 mini-vacation: Rain, sun, ants and horseshoes

Back in early June of 2015, I booked a few days off from work in order to attend my partner’s sister’s daughter’s (!) convocation in Kamloops. Apparently, some people are unfamiliar with this term–it’s another way of saying “high school graduation ceremony” but uses one word instead of four. It’s efficient. Our trip was five days in total, starting Wednesday, June 3 and ending Sunday, June 7.

(I started writing this post a few months after the trip and never quite got around to posting it. I am now posting what I had written to that point.)

The exciting day by day details follow.

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The Possible List

In which I rank the possibility of things actually existing, on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being “nuh uh” and 10 being “oh yeah, big time.”

  • Bigfoot. 4/10. Woods are spooky and many of them haven’t been totally paved over yet, so maybe Bigfoot is out there. But more likely not.
  • Loch Ness Monster. 4/10. Sure the loch is big and all but if a giant aquatic dinosaur was really living there we would have confirmed it by now with our fancy modern technology. 2 of the 4 points are just wanting it to be real because giant aquatic dinosaurs are cool.
  • UFOs. 10/10. Technically, UFOs exist, no debate needed. People see objects flying in the sky all the time that can’t be reliably identified. The real question is what might those objects be if they’re not weather balloons, swamp gas or stealthy government aircraft.
  • 9/11 conspiracy. 0/10. You fly a giant passenger jet into a building, there’s going to be problems. You don’t need a sinister government lining the building with explosives and deliberately massacring its own citizens for that.
  • Parallel universes/dimensions. 8/10. There’s just enough circumstantial evidence to suggest parallel universes exist. What they might look like is another question. Are there really an infinite number of me out there? If so I hope at least one of them has nice teeth.
  • The afterlife/soul. 7/10. I’ve been warming up to this as time goes by. While there is a certain cold logic in you live, you die, you get replaced by others who are born and the cycle goes on forever, some evidence is starting to emerge that suggests something may persist after the brain has shut down permanently, whether it’s a soul, something soul-like or maybe just gas. But something. My question is if there is an afterlife, why can’t people on the other side talk to us? After you shuffle off your mortal coil, do you switch from your native language to some kind of crazy moonspeak that the living could never understand? Is it a parallel universe where people can look but not touch? Is everyone standing around on clouds and reminiscing about the good old days when they were alive?
  • Ghosts. 6/10. Some say ghosts are just a form of the soul that hasn’t moved on to standing on clouds and talking about the good old days. I suppose I should really rank this the same as the afterlife, but I’m knocking it down a point just because every ghost hunting TV show is so dumb.
  • Aliens. 10/10. Do I believe there are non-human intelligent beings out there? It seems silly and narrow-minded to think that among the billions of stars and millions of planets we’d be the only intelligent life. And I use that word loosely, given the current political climate.

If April showers bring May flowers…

The old adage says that April showers bring May flowers. If this is true, I expect to see the following in seven days, based on the current precipitation for the month:

Day of the triffids

Writing group, week 12: Where the second house party flops

Today was gray and not especially mild, so it was a good time to be cooped up inside and writing.

I arrived at Waves Coffee early, to find the private room empty. I seized the opportunity to get in early and was already writing away when the next person arrived. In all we ended up with seven once again, though Dave, suffering the ill effects of being ill, came in around 1:15 p.m. Sans laptop, he cracked open a package of new pens, cracked open a new notebook, then proceeded to write faster than I’ve ever seen someone write before. I have no idea what he was writing but it seemed he had pages within seconds. He was handwriting faster than I can type. It was kind of weird.

For today my loose plan was to write the second house party scene of Road Closed, which was only covered in a few brief paragraphs in the original draft. I tweaked it to be the same house as before, with the plan being the party would be a bust (as originally written) but that Christian would seek out and explore the “spooky-ass” basement, which he neglected to do on his first visit, due to his impressive drunkenness.

And indeed I wrote most of the scene, culminating in Kevin and Christian going into the basement. Then nothing much happened. I hinted vaguely at a few things–an old hammer covered with rust–or was it blood? But in the end, it all felt perfunctory and now I question the need for the expanded scene. This isn’t a bad thing, as it provides some clarity to the story, even if I end up chucking thousands of words as a result.

I had time to re-read most of the first house party scene I’d written a few weeks back and I’m pleased with how it holds up. I think there is something definitely in that house, I just haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Except that it’s not in the basement.

Run 487: Dodging rain and bikes

Run 487
Average pace: 5:39/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 28:30
Weather: Overcast
Temp: 15ºC
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 170
Stride: n/a
Weight: 166.4 pounds
Total distance to date: 3825 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPhone

Today’s run was paradoxically faster and slower.

It wasn’t really a paradox, though. While I was slower than my previous run–5:39/km vs. 5:36/km, I was running different terrain (lake vs. river trail). If you compare my last lake trail run, I was much faster–5:39/km vs. 5:51/km.

It was mild but overcast, with light wind and the threat of rain. Apart from a few light drops now and then, the rain held off (as I type this the cloud cover has thickened, the wind has picked up and a storm seems imminent). I think the conditions helped to speed me along, as did running the more straightforward north side of the lake.

The stupid cyclists didn’t show up until I was walking back after having just finished the run, a young man and woman. The guy had that smug look on his faces that says, “That’s right, I’m here on a bicycle and I know I shouldn’t be. What are you gonna do about it, haw haw?” If I was a rotten person I’d push them over as they rode past but instead I just silently wish for karma to do its thing, preferably in the form of flat tires, bent spokes or attacking geese.

Speaking of attacks, the bear signs have gone back up. I do not wish to see a bear while running.

I pushed a little on this run and my BPM reflects that, coming in at a rather high 170. I will have to ease up a bit next time, methinks. I also experienced a few moments of mild cramping, another good sign that I’m getting carried away.

Still, I was pleased by the effort. And also by the lack of bugs, puddles, and hurricanes.

When a man waves a wand at your nether region

I had a vacation day today but unlike most vacation days where you do fun things like take a trip somewhere interesting, relax on a beach or simply spend time shopping or sight-seeing, I went for two medical tests.

The vacation day was due to the tests being in different cities and different times of the day. The logistics simply weren’t manageable.

The first test in the morning was for blood sugar. I got to the lab early and got in early–yay! I opted to have the vampiric removal of blood done through my right arm this time and there was no bruising, unlike the last visit, so good there.

The next test was an ultrasound (I will always think of the ultrasound as being a PC sound card, which I had back when people actually bought sound cards for computers) at Richmond Hospital. I arrived mega-early because I have a highly-developed skill in getting lost inside hospitals. You don’t want to get lost in a hospital because they are largely unpleasant places, filled with the sick, the dying and the dead. They also smell funny.

After spending a half hour or so walking around the pond/park next door and carefully avoiding a couple of geese on the path (it is a verifiable scientific fact that geese are the nastiest birds in the world) I toodled over to the main entrance, went inside and studied the map, looking for the imaging area. Almost immediately a nice older man appeared and offered to assist me. He took me to the imaging area (which I probably could have found on my own since it was only steps down the hall and even my usual bumbling was unlikely to lead me astray), I was given a number (77, they were serving 74 when I arrived) and before too long I was ushered into the ultrasound room by Chris the technician. When I left it was 3:10 p.m., which was pretty nice, because the appointment had been for 3:45.

I was told to remove my pants and underwear but could leave everything else on. I opted to remove my shoes because they would have been awkward to pull the jeans over, anyway. I did keep my baseball cap on, though. I imagine I looked a little ridiculous. I was given two folded towels to place over my manly bits. Not because my manly bits are huge and require two towels, you apparently need one to go over and one to kind of go under.

Anyway, unlike my heart ultrasound where the jelly was not warm and I fairly leaped out of my skin every time the tech touched me with the magic ultrasound wand, the jelly this time was warm. I was especially appreciative, considering where the wand was going.

In all, it only took five minutes. I had to hold my breath a few times and near the end was asked to point to the unwelcome lump of something or other. Chris then made with the wand again. He asked if the size had changed recently. I said I wasn’t sure, though a few days ago it sort of seemed like it might be smaller, which would be a good thing.

He said my doctor would have the results in a few days, that he’d clean up the towels, then left.

I put my pants back on and also left. I successfully navigated back to my original starting point at the main entrance, to my delight and surprise, and headed out into an unusually warm and sunny afternoon, thinking how the whole experience was pretty benign as far as things that can happen in a hospital. I wonder what it would be like to go through the same thing while being horribly shy. Horrible, I guess.

In a little under two weeks, I’ll discuss the results of both tests with my doctor. Here’s hoping it’s good news but even if it’s not, I’ll deal with it and move on.

I’m good with not needing another ultrasound for awhile, though.

Bad design: The backward shirt

There are, broadly speaking, two types of shirts: with buttons and without buttons.

Putting on a shirt without buttons is easy, you just pull the shirt over your head, stick your arms in the sleeves and you’re done. This can be complicated by having a huge head and the shirt having a tiny neck but it is generally trouble-free.

Putting on a shirt with buttons is not much more difficult, especially if you’re not falling-down-the-stairs drunk. You stick your arms in the sleeves, then button the shirt to the desired level (or sometimes not at all depending on taste/whim/current state of alcohol consumption).

But there is a subcategory of shirts with buttons that is, you guessed it…bad design.

This is a shirt with buttons on the back instead of the front:

Back buttons shirt

Observe how your elbows bend. They bend forward. This is because your hands are made to be used in front of your body. Now imagine you are buttoning up the shirt above. Your hands are twisted around into an awkward position. They are bending the wrong way. It is difficult, perhaps even painful.

Why would someone design a shirt with buttons on the back? To have a clean, button-free look on the front. But there is a solution for this already. It’s called not putting buttons on the shirt.

But what if the buttons are somehow deemed essential to the design? Put them on the front! But what if the designer finds buttons to be hideous and gross? They’re just as hideous and gross on the back, plus they look stupid there. But if the designer absolutely must have buttons and insists that they are ugly, just include a giraffe tie with every shirt to help hide them. Who doesn’t like giraffes?

Run 486: A mild improvement

Run 486
Average pace: 5:36/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Distance: 5.05 km
Time: 28:21
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 12ºC
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 164
Stride: n/a
Weight: 166 pounds
Total distance to date: 3820 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPhone

I switched back to the Brunette River trail for the first midweek run and conditions were kind of blah. It was 12ºC but rain threatened so I wore a long-sleeved shirt. In the end, it didn’t rain so I would have been fine in a regular t-shirt but I wasn’t uncomfortable at all, so no harm done.

I modified my strategy for avoiding the big zig-zag at the end to reach 5 km (the end-to-end distance on the river trail is about 1.9 km, so to reach five km total I would normally go two full lengths then run back and forth over the last stretch to get that last 1+ km in). Today I spent an extra 10 minutes walking up to about the 1 km mark. I started there and just did two full lengths after, hit 5K and it was good.

The run went better than expected. I could feel a bit of a burn for the first stretch but never pushed so hard that I cramped up. Even so, I got a bit of a second wind partway though, something that hasn’t happened recently. I finished with an average pace of 5:36/km, my best effort so far this year and handily better than the 5:51/km slog of my previous run at Burnaby Lake.

The extra bonus: no bugs!

Overall I am pleased by today’s effort. The right heel did not present any issue during the run, though it is a slight bit tender tonight.

Run 485: Poop and pestilence

Run 485
Average pace: 5:51/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 29:31
Weather: Cloudy, hazy sun
Temp: 17ºC
Wind: light
BPM: 165
Stride: n/a
Weight: 166.6 pounds
Total distance to date: 3815 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPhone

I returned to Burnaby Lake for the first time in awhile for today’s run and in theory, the conditions were much better than the last run. Instead of cool temperatures and incessant rain, it was cloudy but an incredibly mild 17ºC (which is actually a bit above the monthly average). In practise, it was in some ways worse.

For one, the much warmer conditions saw the sudden appearance of billions of bugs. I had barely started running when one flew into my eye. Several others landed on my glasses and other places. It was thoroughly annoying. Why do these things exist? Why I ask!

Also, the dramatic shift in temperature also contributed to my energy being sapped more readily. I was about a minute slower than the last run and the difference was noticeable early on. At times it felt like a slog. At other times it felt like a slog with lots of bugs.

Still, I persisted and managed a pokey but not jaw-droppingly awful pace of 5:51/km. Despite my right heel acting up in the past week for reasons unknown, it wasn’t a factor and was only a minimal nuisance intermittently on the walk back home.

Being pleasant and Easter Sunday, the trail was quite crowded but people were well-behaved, save for the one woman who suddenly zipped past me on a bike just as I was finishing my run. I shot darts at her with my eyes but she just kept going. I like to think she suffered two flat tires the moment she turned off the trail. Then her bike exploded, somehow. Stupid cyclist.

Overall, a plodding effort but I’m glad I made it out all the same.

As for the poop, when I got to the lake I found I had to pee. No problem, I could use the porta potty. A bigger concern was I also had to go #2. You know, poop. The porta potty was conspicuously filled with a large volume of liquid, almost as if someone had poured a bucket of water in it. Splashback was a legit concern. There was also no toilet paper.

I considered my options as my bowels rumbled in warning. All of them were not good. The nature house has washrooms but it was two km down the trail. Abandoning the run would still require travel over multiple km to find a loo. Being early spring, there wasn’t enough foliage to conceal me if I wanted to make like a bear in the woods. The last option was to simply go and forsake wiping. Yuck.

But I did it anyway because every alternative was worse.

I felt much better after, then the better feeling went away as I ran and plodded (see above).

The extended forecast is calling for rain or chance of rain every single day so my next run is probably going to be both cooler and damper. Yay (sort of).

Writing group, week 11: Easter egging us on

I skipped the last writing group because it was held in the amenities room of an apartment building and I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out.

I returned for #11 this week, though, on an unusually pleasant Easter Sunday. Surprisingly, attendance was quite good, perhaps because we’re all too old to go on Easter egg hunts.

I didn’t have a specific goal coming in and was concerned I might end up faffing about for three hours but instead I quickly decided to focus on the opening chapter of Road Closed and tidied it up, removing a big chunk of exposition and smoothing out the introduction to Christian’s new life in a college town. I also began some tentative work on lining up the other earlier parts of the story but that’s still early enough along that I’m not sure where exactly that will go.

I’m basically deciding between a spooky house or spooky woods. Or maybe both.

Overall I was pleased with the work done and Road Closed is now officially my longest piece of fiction at nearly 63,000 words. I have no idea where it will end up by the time I’m done but around 100,000 seems reasonable. It’s like two NaNoWriMo novels smushed together!

I ate a McMuffin today

McDonald’s recently launched an all-day breakfast menu with a kind of dumb ad campaign featuring “apm” to signify the zany ability to order pancakes in the a.m. and p.m.

sausage and egg McMuffin
470 calories. I don’t care. Much.

I happened to be downtown at 1:30 this afternoon and remembered the all-day breakfast menu, while simultaneously remembering it had been a long time since I had an Egg McMuffin®. These two thoughts converged and I found myself ordering a Sausage and Egg McMuffin at the Waterfront Centre McDonald’s. I averted my eyes from the menu behind the counter as they now show the calorie count of each food item (kudos to them for doing this, though).

Because all-day breakfast is radical and new they had to make my McMuffin fresh. I was given a number on a plastic card for my order.

The number was 42.

This couldn’t have been a coincidence.

The Sausage and Egg McMuffin was surprisingly tasty. I mean, it’s exactly what it appears to be…an English muffin, a sausage patty, an egg and a slice of processed cheese. But still, it was yummy.

I feel guilty now, but in a slightly profound sort of way, like it was destiny.