The “I ran on my own treadmill” run

After thinking about for a good long while and doing research for awhile longer, I finally went out and bought a treadmill so I can run when it is dark/wet/scary outside. It’s a Sole F80, which is what might be considered a basic or entry-level commercial grade treadmill. I was willing to spend on something commercial grade because I’ll be using the treadmill regularly and I wanted something that could hold up to daily use.

Unlike a lot of treadmill purchasers, I’m not in the planning stages of running, since I’ve already logged 4,800+ km over the last ten years, so I don’t expect this to become a glorified coat rack in a couple of months.

Setup was east, because I paid the fitness store to do it. The manual shows an exploded view of the treadmill, so named because looking at it will make your head explode. It took three experienced builders an hour to put the treadmill together. It would have taken me a week and I’d have had parts left over, wondering if they were important or not.

I programmed in settings for User 1 (me) and User 2 (Jeff) and did a trial run (ho ho) of 15 minutes. I didn’t listen to music, just my own clomping, as I wanted to listen for any odd sounds the first time. I heard no odd sounds, just the relatively quiet whir of the motor and, as mentioned, my clomping. Shortly into the run my left shoelace came untied, which was weird, but I figure I must have tied it a bit lopsided and got an end caught under my shoe. Because I had been un-manlike and read the manual, I knew how to pause the run, tied my shoelace back up and completed the run.

Because I haven’t been running much lately and also I’m fattish now, even 15 minutes felt like more than 15 minutes. But I’m going to run again in a couple days and keep it up as much as I can comfortably manage.

I do like the ease of just changing and hopping on. It really can’t get more convenient, so my excuses for not running will need to be extra-lame now:

  • “I might break the treadmill!”
  • “What if I pull a muscle again? I’m good at pulling muscles.”
  • “What if I fly off and go through a wall?”
  • “What if I run so much my legs become like tree trunks and suddenly I can’t get through the door?”
  • And so forth

The stats for my first at-home mini-run:

Distance: 2.32 km
Time: 15:06 
Average pace: 6:30/km
BPM: 157
Calories: 175
Total treadmill distance: 45.04 km
Device used: Apple Watch Series 5

Another awesome book review

On kobo.com the book Fire and Fury, about the first year of Trump’s tenure as president, features this 1-star user review. Keep in mind that user reviews are held in a moderation queue before being posted.

Is the user’s name Ana Nomous or did they just stumble that badly when trying to spell “anonymous”? Whatever the case, it is both curious and interesting that someone took the time to post a 1-star review in which they forthrightly state they have never read the book and would never read the book because ewww.

This is a close cousin to the “I must answer every reader question about a product on Amazon even if I have no actual information to provide” posts featured on, well, Amazon.

People are weird.

Baffling design: The Staples search engine

I did a search for “network cable” (note the singular) on the following sites and here’s what came up:

  • Best Buy Canada: network cables
  • London Drugs: network cables
  • Memory Express: network cables
  • Canada Computes: network cables
  • Amazon Canada: network cables
  • Staples Canada: tables

One of these things is not like the other. I tried doing the search in a second browser that had never been to the staples.ca site before to see what would happen and the same thing comes up–tables. Table is highlighted as the search term in each result:

Here is the URL showing the search terms:

Now, if I do a search for “network cables” (plural) the site will pull up…network cables. But when you look at the results you’ll see the items listed are in the singular:

This is inconsistent and illogical.

Is it too much to expect a search of “network cable” to not show a bunch of tables? We are 30 days away from the year 2020. I do not think this is an unreasonable thing to expect. I’m just glad I wasn’t searching for a hard disk.

Book review: A New World

A New World

A New World by Whitley Strieber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like The Afterlife Revolution, this book is pretty bonkers when viewed through the lens of the world most of us see and know. There is always the chance that Strieber, for reasons unknown, is pulling a very long con (dating back to Communion, published in 1986) or is merely delusional. But while it might make one feel smug to dismiss this as nothing more than crackpot theorizing, there is enough evidence to suggest something is going on.

I’ve long felt that there is a lot in the world and the universe that we don’t understand, that for all our advances and (alleged) intelligence, humans are still pretty primitive. As explorers, we don’t know what is in most of our own oceans. We have only seen our solar system on a limited scale (albeit with some fantastic results) and have ventured no further than the moon when travelling off the planet. We have exploited said planet to the point where we may be accelerating drastic climate change–global warming–and when we need them most, it seems more of us are turning away from science, rational thought and logic, especially those in positions of power, both in business and government.

It’s kind of depressing.

Against this backdrop, A New World is both a summary of Strieber’s previous books recounting his experiences with what he calls the visitors, and a call to action for the visitors–and the reader. For the first time Strieber puts emphasis on having as many people as possible seek out the visitor experience, believing that open communication between us and them may be the only thing that will prevent humanity from being all but wiped out as climate change accelerates (because the visitors will share knowledge that can help us, but won’t do so until we are “ready.”)

In presenting his case, Strieber recalls past experiences, putting them into new perspective, then builds on them by detailing a new chapter with the visitors that began in 2015 and continues now (the most recent events are from a scant month ago as I write this, in November 2019). What it basically comes down to is time is running out and Strieber believes that the more people that join in the communion (sharing) with the Visitors, the better our odds of achieving a communication breakthrough and getting help in literally saving the world.

Again, this sounds bonkers, but Strieber builds his case piece by piece, drawing from experiences he had that feature credible witnesses, to citing other incidents and examples–such as the recent admission from the U.S. Navy that objects captured on video by Navy fighters are actual unknowns. He makes connections that may surprise those who are only familiar with movie aliens. While never stating firmly–as he claims he doesn’t truly know–Strieber posits that the visitors may actually be some form of human from a parallel or mirror universe that is overlapping ours, that they experience time differently, able to see the past and the future, and are attracted to us because we get to experience things in the moment, with a spontaneity they lack.

Also, the dead may also be in this mirror universe as energy beings, and are only able to manifest in the physical realm in very limited ways. While noting that some of the visitors may have ill intent, Strieber says it is only in the same way that some humans are criminals or otherwise operate outside of society’s norms.

As for why they have been so reticent to present themselves openly to us (by landing on, say, the lawn of the White House–and hoo boy, would that be interesting right now), despite possibly having been around for thousands of years (picture Georgio Soukalos leaning forward and saying, “Aliens!”), it’s that they experience reality so differently than we do that just trying to wrap our minds around it can overwhelm us. The visitors can’t chat casually with us because they are fundamentally non-physical beings, so they use imagery and symbols and it all comes out cryptic and weird. We just want to sit down at a table with them, have some tea and get to know each other. They can control things–including themselves, perhaps, at a sub-atomic level. Idle conversation isn’t really possible.

There is a chapter that actually goes into the possible science behind this, referencing everything from Schrodinger’s cat to decoherence and the fine-structure constant. The very nature of reality is brought into question, that the information our senses provide may not be exactly reflective of what reality really is. Strangely, the tone in this chapter is a lot less serious than the others, possibly because the entire thing is framed as trying to prove how something so bizarre can be real.

The book ends on an urgent note, calling on the visitors to more openly present themselves, to “open the doors of their school wide, to us all. We have a planet to lose and our lives along with it, or we have a journey to take.”

As always, Strieber writes clearly and with a sober tone. More than usual he confesses to how strange everything sounds, imploring the reader to make a leap of faith (not necessarily a religious one, but with a spiritual component). He also provides good news to lazy, but generally decent people–you don’t need to believe the visitors are real or that the soul is a thing to contribute positively to the communion process, you just need to be a fundamentally good person.

Any book that ends with that kind of promise can’t be so bad.

As I’ve said, it is difficult to buy into what Strieber talks about, especially if you’ve never experienced anything even tangential to what he talks about, unless you have a very open mind and are willing to think way outside the proverbial box. I keep an open mind (some might say downright vacant) and I find the theories and ideas presented in A New World to be interesting and intriguing. This is in a way a hopeful book, and in these dark times, that goes a long way.

View all my reviews

November 2019: Bah

I’m not sure why, but November was kind of an off month, despite some positive developments.

On the plus side:

  • Improvements in workflow at work
  • Ran a 10K
  • New headphones provide relatively silent sanctuary on public transit
  • It didn’t really rain that much and up until the last few days, it hasn’t been that cold, either

On the negative side:

  • Return to Pacific Standard Time has probably led to some kind of SAD. Getting out from work and seeing that it’s already getting dark is never not depressing.
  • Still not reading as much
  • Writing has gone from minimal to micromal. Yes, I just made up that word.
  • Even blog writing has tapered off. This will be post #21 when I’d normally be on post #30.
  • After a month of Inktober and getting into sketching again, I only did one sketch in November
  • Fat. Up 2 more pounds.
  • Pulled two muscles
  • Not running as much (see bullet point directly above)
  • General feeling of malaise with working in technology. I’m tired of fixing things. I want to make things.
  • Have not started stretching
  • Have not started meditation

I don’t have a witty summary to sum up the two lists. I also have no expectations for December. I hope it doesn’t snow. That is all.

November 2019 weight loss report: Up 2 pounds

This post is brought to you by spin. When you have bad news to present, spin spin spin!

There is not much to spin but here is what I have: my weight gain slowed for the month. Last month I picked up a cement bag-like 4.1 pounds. I still marvel at that (in horror). This month, though, I only gained two pounds!

But I am still up and that’s where the spin ends. The rest of the news is fat and bad.

On November 12 the Fitbit app officially declared me overweight with a BMI of 25. I lucked into normal on November 27 when a rounding error declared the BMI to be 24.9, but was otherwise deemed overweight for the month of November. Yes, I’m aware BMI is a controversial measurement. But my waistline is non-controversially more expansive than it was a month ago. I am gaining weight and as the stats below reveal, it ain’t muscle.

A couple of things have contributed to the weight gain:

  • Yeah, that whole putting food into the mouth thing. Especially snack food. All attempts to curb this failed, with one notable exception: I promised myself a last oatmeal fudge bar from Starbucks yesterday, walked to the store, then turned around and left, a rare moment of impulse control.
  • Along with the food-in-mouth problem, I didn’t run much. This was due to a couple of things, like the usual “too dark after work” issue that plagues me during late fall through early spring. I also managed to pull a muscle in my lower back, then a week later pulled another muscle in my upper thigh. The latter was especially vexing. I was given opiates for pain! I did not become addicted. When I did finally run again, I was very slow, but I was also carrying 170+ pounds by that point.

My burdensome current weight reminded me of when I was at my most svelte. This was back in the summer of 2012 when I was running 10Ks three times a week (and walking 4 km to and from the lake each time). I recently found some shots from the MyFitnessPal app I took on my iPhone at the time that showed my current weight. This one is from July 29, 2012:

Yes, I was 144.8 pounds. That seems surreal now. It was also 27 pounds ago. Even the starting point of 159.8 (I apparently can never shed that last 0.8 pounds) is still 12 pounds lighter than I am today.

But there is hope ahead, even as we head into December, the snackiest seasons of the year:

  • As mentioned above, I’m off the oat fudge bars
  • I’m still off donuts
  • I swear no shortbread this year. The shortbread most readily available at nearby stores is covered with sprinkles and crap, so I’m unlikely to be tempted
  • Still running on weekends
  • And the one new change: I’m getting a treadmill. Woo! It’s actually commercial grade and honking big. I’ll be able to use it for my weekday runs when it’s too dark/snowy/scary. And then I’ll be able to use it any other time, too. In other words, I’ll be exercising regularly again, which is also what I was doing in 2012 when I was impossibly thin.

So here’s to December being the month the weight starts dropping again, instead of continuing to pack on like it’s being fed through a particle accelerator.

The fatty stats:

November 1: 169.8 pounds
November 30: 171.8 pounds (up 2 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 171.8 pounds (up 4.3 pounds)

And the body fat, now fatter than ever:

November 1: 18.3% (31.1 pounds of fat)
November 30:
20% (34.3 pounds of fat) (up 3.2 pounds)

Bonus amusing cat image, November 2019 edition

Because two amusing cats are better than one. Not because I am desperate for stuff to fill the blog with. Nope.

To be honest, this one is probably more nightmare-inducing than funny, but it caught my eye. Behold the fully articulating feline.

Blah-ck Friday

The incessant promotions for Black Friday leave me weary. I know it’s hardly novel to complain about rampant consumerism, but it’s just so relentless, with a big, odious emphasis (say that three times fast) on FOMO (fear of missing out).

I subscribe to a number of newsletters to keep up on occasional deals and to see if stuff I normally buy is on sale, and also to sometimes find interesting new things. Black Friday basically turns my inbox into BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY.

I now just automatically delete every newsletter until Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Black Week/Month/Year is over.

At least we have less than a month left of Christmas music being piped into every public space 24/7.

An ear-y tale

Among life’s little annoyances is wax buildup in ears. Why do our ears even have wax? Does it serve a purpose, other than to be bothersome and clog up your ear canals and just generally be kind of gross?

I asked the internet and this is what it said (answer is courtesy of kidshealth.org:

Earwax has several important jobs. First, it protects and moisturizes the skin of [sic] ear canal, preventing dry, itchy ears. Second, it contains special chemicals that fight off infections that could hurt the skin inside the ear canal. Finally, it acts as a shield between the outside world and the eardrum. When dust, dirt, and other things enter your ear, the earwax traps them so they can’t travel any further.

Apparently earwax will magically fall out of your ears without any action on your part. The same site says this explicitly:

If you want to get rid of earwax, here’s what you need to do: nothing!

I can do nothing quite well, so I am set. My doctor confirmed the same today (that no action is needed against wax, not that I generally excel at doing nothing) when I had both ears squirted repeatedly with a syringe of warm water to remove approximately two kilograms of embedded wax.

Before this squirting occurred, I spent 11 (!) nights putting drops of extra virgin olive oil in each ear before going to bed. Putting oil in your ears is as much fun as it sounds like. It generally didn’t dribble out, but laying on my side and waiting for the oil to settle/soak in for ten minutes night after night was not an experience I am eager to repeat. Much like ear wax itself, it was annoying and kind of yucky.

Speaking of, when the deed was done, I took a photo of the results floating in the container that I had to hold up to my ears to catch the water. It is kind of appalling to think that stuff was inside my body. Just thinking about it makes me not want to eat for the next week. Or year.

I thought about posting the photo here, perhaps behind a spoiler tag, but it’s just too vile. It will be my own special (?) memory. Maybe I’ll add some googly eyes to the container one day and then post it. For now, no one gets to see and everyone should be grateful.

Here’s to my ears not immediately clogging up again in a month’s time.

National Novel Writing Month 2019: I could still win

Yes, I could still win NaNoWriMo this year, with just four days left. Let me use this handy computer calculator to see what my daily word count would need to be to pull off the feat:

12,500 words per day.

This is due to having written no words at all this month.

On the one hand, there is a perverse sort of temptation in trying the impossible to see how far I’d get (my guess is maybe 10,000+ words, though the last day is a Saturday, which would lend itself to binging, were I so inclined). On the other hand, the only thing of value I’d get would be to simply exercise the ol’ writing muscles.

Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Words are words, after all. Not to be confused with “Deeds, not words,” the credo adopted by Ace Hunter and his elite group of freedom fighters as featured in the all-time classic Megaforce, of course.

But on the third imaginary hand, if I was going to do something like that, it would probably be a better use of time to revisit one of my existing stories, or work on something new that wouldn’t be subjected to NaNoWriMo’s hellbent-for-metal approach of write now, edit later (maybe never, after looking over what the NaNo method produced).

Realistically, I’m probably not going to writer much over the next four days, but life is full of surprises and one of those surprises could be me writing stuff over the next four days. Who doesn’t love a surprise, except for maybe someone with a heart condition standing next to a giant fireworks display, not knowing it was about to suddenly explode?

Photo of the Day, November 24, 2019

Since starting 10Ks again I haven’t had many chances to get shots from Deer Lake Brook bridge lately, but thanks to being out of shape and only managing a 5K today, I did! Summer is definitely over.

Run 643: Harvest of destruction (Also: a slow return)

Run 643
Average pace: 6:02/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 11:35 am
Distance: 5.02 km
Time: 30:17
Weather: Sunny, some cloud
Temp: 9ºC
Humidity: 77%
Wind: light
BPM: 175 (?)
Weight: 172 pounds
Total distance to date: 4825 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (185 km)

Exactly three weeks and two pulled muscles later (one lower back, one upper thigh) I returned for only my second run of November. I was expecting to be slow, generally lack stamina, and so planned on only doing a 5K.

It was a good call.

I started out slow (6:10 on the fist km), got even slower (6:19 on the second) before finding some energy reserves on the third km, where I got my best results, a relatively zippy 5:41/km. After that it was downhill again, with the final km almost exactly mirroring the first.

Other than lacking energy I felt fine–no cramps or other issues. The pulled muscle in my leg didn’t hurt at all while running and seems fine now. I just had no gas in the tank.

Strangely, although the workout app claims an average BPM of 175 (which is high and plausible after three weeks of slothfulness), there is no heart rate data otherwise, just this message:

The heart rate for the walks before and after the run recorded without issue, so I’m not sure why it didn’t work for the run. Maybe I was running so slow it got confused and shut off.

The conditions were okay. It was clear, but felt colder than the 9ºC would indicate. It had rained earlier, so there was some piddle jumping, but the only really bad spot was that one section by the field that always floods. It was flooded and after trying to skirt around it, I gave up and just plunged through. My feet are almost dry now.

The harvest of destruction came as I approached the Cottonwood Trail just past the 3K mark. For reasons unknown, almost every tree between the trail and the train tracks had been cut down. It looked like a clearcut. I expected to see protesters locking arms together. A lot of bramble had been cleared out, too, but sloppily enough that the trail was covered in twigs and other detritus. Further, recent rains had hit this part of the trail especially hard, carving lines and further exposing tree roots in what is already the tree root-iest part of the trail. It’s the worst I’ve seen it in eight years of running here. Hopefully Cottonwood is next on the list for resurfacing, as it’s clearly overdue.

Crowd-wise it was not as bad as expected, though a gaggle of photographers completely and utterly blocked the path on the Piper Mill Trail. I actually had to stop and wait for them to part to get through. Why do people completely block the trail? Do they think no one else will ever use it except them? Perhaps.

Speaking of using the trail, I saw a pair of cyclists on the way in carefully studying the map, the one that clearly states NO CYCLING in multiple spots, and which includes directions to alternate routes. I confirmed that bikes were not allowed and directed them to the alternate route. They seemed displeased and I can’t blame them, because a bike lane on a road is not as nice as a trail around a lake, but they actually turned around and left, so kudos to them.

Overall this run went about as expected. I will cling to that third km where I briefly hit my stride as an example of how I can still run decently, as long as I, you know, actually go out and run.

And now I am off to dry my feet.