The strange inconvenience of summer weather

It is raining today.

That’s fine. It’s dry enough that a little rain is good. It makes the grass grow and all that.

Summer rain is kind of weird, though. While it is cooler than normal, it’s not actually cool—it’s 17C right now, which is t-shirt weather. But if you go outside wearing a t-shirt you will come out looking like an entrant in a wet t-shirt contest. Which is handy if you are actually on your way to a wet t-shirt contest. It’s otherwise less desirable.

However, if you wear a jacket…well, it’s too warm to wear a jacket. So you can keep dry, but get all sweaty and gross instead.

Basically, summer and rain don’t really fit together well. Science has obviously failed us here, as there’s no super-light fabric that can deflect raindrops. This is also why I don’t wear a jacket when I run in the rain, even in the winter when it’s actually cold.

The solution, then, is to stay inside and play video games or watch something on one of the five thousand streaming services now available. Hold on, I’ve just received an update—make that 6,000.

Run 626: A cool effort

Run 626
Average pace: 5:41/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 12:16 pm
Distance: 5.02 km
Time: 28:33
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 19ºC
Humidity: 67%
Wind: light
BPM: 160
Weight: 163.4 pounds
Total distance to date: 4710 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (65 km)

First, the strange news: Today’s run took me 28:33 minutes. The previous 5K run, which I did on the river trail, took me 28:34 minutes, a difference of one second. How I can manage such precision while running in two different locations is baffling and a bit unnerving. But yay for consistency when the result is good!

Now, the good news: It was much cooler and cloudy for today’s run, which made for a refreshing change of pace. Sweating was minimal and my energy felt strong throughout. I was actually a tad disappointed that I came in at the same overall pace as the previous run at 5:41/km. I was hoping I’d be faster–though the lake is a more technical run than the river, so there’s that.

After some contemplation, I chose to go clockwise yet again, as work continues on the side trails. There is more progress, though, as I could see the Conifer Loop has been resurfaced, complete with the top layer being smoothed into place. Hopefully they’ll wrap it up by next weekend.

I did not get off to a zany fast start this time, and the pace from one km to the next was a little more consistent–in line with how I felt. I thought of running more than 5K, but in the end wanted one more direct comparison, especially after missing a run. Post-run, I walked the first km, then ran the entire second km, with a pace of 5:41/km, matching my overall pace for the run. This is encouraging. I actually ran a lot on the way out, with no issues at all.

Overall, this was a nice effort. I felt good, had lots of energy, had no issues and it was not busy on the trail, likely thanks to the cloud cover.

Book review: The Outsider

The Outsider

The Outsider by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Outsider is both vintage King and a continuation of his recent fondness for police procedurals, notably the Bill Hodges trilogy. Here he fuses a murder mystery with a classic King monster. There is a shift in the story where it goes from being a baffling murder case to more of a monster chase, and at first the shift felt a bit abrupt to me, almost as if King started writing a whodunit and couldn’t figure out how to finish it, so reverted back to supernatural boogums.

But in the main character of police detective Ralph Anderson, King works the angle of the disbeliever hard, laying down the groundwork for the novel’s closing act and the introduction of Holly Gibney from the Hodges trilogy, who becomes the linchpin who helps steer events to their conclusion.

While not reaching the heights of some of King’s latter day work like Duma Key or 11/22/63, The Outsider still has all the strengths typical of King–instantly engaging (or despicable) characters, and an authentic feel for the places the people inhabit, while avoiding most of the excessive bloat. The story could probably stand to lose a bit of the flab, but King is one of the few writers I’ve read who makes even the flab interesting.

There is an analogy used by one of the characters late in the novel about how we all skate on the thin ice of reality, and how few fall through to see what is beneath, and that both summarizes the main theme of the story, and also serves to ground it in a way some of King’s other straight-up horror novels don’t quite manage. Here the characters basically confront weird shit, acknowledge it’s weird shit, then deal with it, because what else are you going to do?

For King fans, this is a solid effort. For those intrigued by the police procedural aspect, be warned that while it is there and is a good chunk of the story, this is ultimately a horror novel that fits neatly alongside the others King has written.

Recommended.

View all my reviews

Run 625: Made in the shade

Run 625
Average pace: 5:41/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:16 pm
Distance: 5.02 km
Time: 28:34
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 26ºC
Humidity: 45%
Wind: moderate
BPM: 156
Weight: 165 pounds
Total distance to date: 4705 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (60 km)

I was going to run on Saturday but did some errands and then had a kind of lazy day after that (I did go for an hour-long walk, so not totally lazy). Sunday the weather was showery, so I waited for a break, but the weather never really changed, so I ended up having two lazy days.

Monday was Monday. I only run on Mondays when it’s a holiday.

Which meant I ran today, Tuesday, with a four day break in-between runs. Longer than I’d like, but on the edge of being acceptable. This was a post-work run, so I set off to the river trail.

It was not four degrees warmer than Thursday’s run, and humidity was lower, but the balance was pretty close, which meant I sweated, but not a lot, and my mouth did not turn into a mini-Sahara. It also helped that the sun was lower, so most of the run was in the shade. Yay shade.

My left foot was a bit sore to start (probably a posture thing–as I sit here typing this, I have my feet on a foot rest, but had my right foot resting on top of the left one, smooshing it in a way that’s probably not great), but it settled down quickly, and there were no issues after that.

BPM was similar to Thursday, but my overall pace was faster at 5:41/km. Curiously, the fourth km was by far the fastest, a zippy 5:08/km. I’m not sure why I was moving so swiftly at that point. Maybe I slipped into “must finish quickly so I can eat dinner” mode. By comparison, the previous km was 6:06/km. That difference is kind of crazy. Maybe I was so slow in the third km that I ended up being well-rested for the next one.

Overall, a fine run, with no apparent side effects from the four days off.

The “Did Not Need” Vacation 2019 list

I’ve fallen a tad behind in writing about stuff and junk, like the camping trip Jeff and I took last month. I have the text written for that and will pick and post the appropriate photos soon™.

In the meantime, here’s a post-trip list of what I took and found useful and what I didn’t need to bother with. For every trip I have to consider things like:

  • How long I’ll be away
  • What kind of place we’re staying at (campsite with full hookups, abandoned farm in the country*, luxury hotel, etc.)
  • How much is practical to bring along because the easy solution would be to bring everything if possible

We were going to be camping for a week in Hope at a campsite on the edge of town, with full electrical and water. We’d go without either the last day and a half at the dirt bike camp, but generally we’d be in civilization and close to the outdoors, rather than the reverse (as would be the case at Manning Park, for example). We did not plan on doing any laundry while away.

Here are the things I brought and did not use:

  • Jeans. It was mid-July and though we had a few misty days, it was never cold enough to wear pants. Even if it had rained all week, I still don’t think they would have been needed. Summer vacation does not require one to be a pantser, you might say.
  • Long sleeve shirt. See above.
  • More than one hoodie. I brought a thicker one and a thinner one and only wore the thinner one. See above and above.
  • iPad. I figured since we had electricity, I’d bring along my MacBook Pro, which is rated for 10 hours of battery life–the same as the iPad, but with the bonus of having a larger screen and keyboard. I never looked at the iPad, though I did charge it once just to keep it topped up.
  • Long socks. See bullet points 1, 2 and 3.
  • Running gear. I brought everything–shoes, belt, shirts, shorts, cap. But I never ran. It wasn’t out of laziness, either–we did plenty of hiking and biking and disc-tossing and such. I probably could have squeezed a run in, but I’ve only ever done this once while away (in Kamloops). Plus there was a cougar alert at the campsite, which made me not really want to go dashing off on my own.
  • Charger for Apple Watch and iPhone. I forgot the trailer has these.
  • Sleeveless t-shirts. I never wore them, not wanting to get my shoulders burned. I stuck to regular t-shirts. As it turned out, I likely wouldn’t have gotten burned, anyway, as it never got hot until the last day.
  • Jabra Move wireless headphones. I never listened to music because we were always doing other stuff.
  • Charging cable for the Kobo e-reader. It didn’t need to be charged, it actually wasn’t even close to needing to be charged, one of the perks of e-readers. Mind you, the MacBook Pro also didn’t need to be charged, because I used it for less than an hour per day.
  • Electric shaver. I could have slummed for a week without shaving, really.

Overall, my load would definitely have been lighter in hindsight, but I can use this knowledge going forward to be more efficient and satisfy my latent OCD.

The things I was glad I brought:

  • MacBook Pro. I wrote every day.
  • Kobo e-reader. I spent enough time reading to warrant bringing it along, plus it’s fairly light and compact.
  • Lots of t-shirts and socks. These tend to get dirty and stinky when you’re outdoors, so more is better.

I forgot to bring along bug spray, but surprisingly there were very few bugs. I got a couple of minor bites and that was it. I’m probably forgetting a few things–one of the hazards of writing this more than two weeks after getting back. If need be, I’ll jazz this up later. It’s mostly reference for the next trip, anyway. If this accidentally informed anyone reading it, I apologize!

Run 624: Cooler and faster

Run 624
Average pace: 5:48/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 2:49 pm
Distance: 5.02 km
Time: 29:08
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 22ºC
Humidity: 57%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 157
Weight: 166 pounds
Total distance to date: 4700 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (55 km)

Today started out cloudy, which would make for a nice run. By the time I headed out it cleared up, but it was okay, because the temperature stayed around 22ºC, which is well below the threshold of “Why am I running in this crazy heat?” Humidity was higher, too, so unlike the previous run, I was not plagued by dry mouth. It was nice.

After the last run I had some soreness in my left knee, extending down into the shin, so I was concerned how this would impact the run. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to have any effect, perhaps because the three days off gave it enough time to sort of recover. I didn’t experience any other issues during the run and at times I felt pretty good, even distracted enough to think about other things, as I do when I get in the proverbial zone.

My BPM was right around average for the runs of late and my pace was only a tick or two higher at 5:48/km, but also within range, showing that I was able to come back from the Xtreme Heat run without complication.

Officially I hit 4,700 km total today, though it’s higher, since I didn’t track runs from the start, but 4,700 is a pretty good number. It’s enough to get me to Honolulu with almost 300 km to spare, though my shoes might get a little wet.

The Sauconys have not been scooping up gravel the last few runs, leading me to believe this is more a me problem than a shoe problem. I’m not sure what has changed, but I’d like to continue not scooping rocks and debris into my shoes.

In all, a decent run. My next will be on Saturday and I may go clockwise yet again, as progress on the resurfacing of the side trails is moving strangely slowly, so they remain closed (this is doubly odd, because they never actually closed the main trails while resurfacing them, so I’m not sure what exactly they’re doing on the side trails. Maybe they’re adding more trees or something).

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (Million Dollar Writing Series)

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer by Kevin J. Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slim volume is basically Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker telling you why they use voice dictation for their writing, and the specifics of how they do it. Their techniques differ–Shoemaker dictates while driving a one hour commute to and from work (and emphasizes the safe way to do so), while Anderson usually takes a digital voice recorder with him when he is out on hikes, keeping fit while staying productive. They sometimes overlap methods and Anderson in particular makes use of typing services, which can transcribe at a typical cost of one cent per word or thereabouts. He admits this is not suitable for all writers. A 100,000 word novel would cost $1,000 to transcribe, a hefty sum for a lot of people, especially those new to writing.

Each author also uses dictation for brainstorming, tossing out ideas, character background and more into their recordings. Shoemaker uses Dragon Professional 15.0 to transcribe his recordings and is satisfied with its accuracy, noting that cleanup is always part of the editing process, regardless of writing method.

They cover all the basics–when and where to dictate, overcoming the embarrassment of talking to yourself in public, getting comfortable with the sound of your own voice, and more.

All of this is good stuff, and both writers present their use cases in convincing fashion. The book does lack a certain amount of depth–this is Anderson and Shoemaker relating their experiences, with a minimum of advice, technical or otherwise. Those looking for more specifics on using voice dictation for writing may be better served by checking out The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon by Scott Baker (which still covers the latest version of Dragon as of this writing, August 2019) or Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per hour.

Still, this is very much a worthy read, if for no other reason than to provide a little more incentive to making the jump to using voice dictation.

View all my reviews

Run 623: The “Why did I run?” run

Run 623
Average pace: 6:08/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 3:55 pm
Distance: 5.04 km
Time: 30:57
Weather: Sunny, hot
Temp: 30ºC
Humidity: 36%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 155
Weight: 164.8 pounds
Total distance to date: 4695 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (50 km)

I did not plan to run today, but I ended up running, even though it was kind of nutty to do so. Let me explain.

On Friday I planned to run, but slept in and then deferred to Saturday, as I did not want to run later Friday when it would be too hot. Remember the “too hot” part.

Later Friday I developed a pain in my abdomen reminiscent of “men of your age” infections of yore. Saturday morning, instead of running, I went to my favorite nearby walk-in clinic. Except they wouldn’t see me until noon, so I went back at noon. The diagnosis was vague and uncertain, though I had sugar in my urine, so the diabetes alarm was raised once again (this has happened throughout my entire life–so far each actual test has come back negative). The doctor gave me a bunch of other tests to take, similar to the ones my own doctor wanted me to take, but which I had been putting off, because I’ve been kind of lazy during vacation. She also suggested I drink lots of water and drink Metamucil, to prevent blockage/infection, though I assured her I was pretty regular already.

Sunday morning (today) Jeff drove me to a LifeLabs that was open on the weekend and they took more pee and also blood. The blood removal was the most efficient I’ve ever seen. It was kind of eerie.

After this, we went out for breakfast at IHOP (mmm, blueberry pancakes), then came home. I opted out of going to the Pride parade because the thought of sitting/standing ion place for hours on end did not seem enticing. Jeff ended up going off (unplanned) to watch it on his own.

It was very hot today. By mid-afternoon it was up to 30ºC. I decided if I couldn’t run, I’d at least walk, so I put on my running clothes (they are much more comfortable for warm weather) and set off to walk to the lake and back (around 8 km total). When I got to the lake, I decided to keep going, so I did that. When I got to Still Creek, I contemplated doing a run to finish off the loop around the lake. Remember, now:

  • it’s 30ºC
  • I had blood taken just hours earlier
  • I have abdominal pain

There was no good reason to run. None. But I had already missed two potential run days and didn’t want to miss another, so I made an agreement with myself to only run for as long as it was comfortable. If there was any pain/aches/fainting, etc. I would stop. And so I sent off doing what was essentially the reverse of my usual 5K clockwise circuit.

The first km was relatively zippy, considering the heat, coming in at 5:28/km. This changed and by the third km I was firmly in “Why am I doing this?” territory, with my pace way down to 6:39. I rallied and came back to 6:12 before wrapping up with 6:23 for the final stretch. This was one of those runs where I really wanted it to end.

Despite how I felt, I was fairly confident once I made it past the halfway mark that I would be able to finish. Fortunately, the Avalon trail was in shade at this time of day, probably the only thing that kept me going to the finish.

My mouth was very dry. Like, it was the Sahara in my mouth. To paraphrase America, the heat was hot. The humidity was high enough to make the air feel like a furnace, but not high enough to keep my mouth moist.

And yet the most interesting stat from the run was my BPM–a mere 155. This means that both my mind and body were being sensible. As I slowed, I did not push to maintain an unsustainable pace. I fell back into a slower, but steady pace and kept to that. I didn’t over-exert. I was smart! This is one of the few times I checked my BPM mid-run, too. If it had been crazy-high, I would have stopped, but it was pretty steady in the 150s throughout.

And the abdominal pain, though still there, is now a much more muted kind of ache, so it didn’t present an issue. Really, the only issue was the weather itself. And my decision to run in it. :P

Best photo of a MacBook Pro accompanying an article on Windows 10 writing apps

Right here:

The best part is the editor’s note at the bottom of the list:

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.

My own editor’s note: Windows 10 did not exist in 2013. Fresh and accurate indeed.

Amazing list of personality attributes to have or avoid for job interviews

I’m not going to link to the article but if you use your favorite search engine, you should have no trouble finding CNBC’s article on how personality matters more than things like education or appearance when it comes to job interviews.

This may seem obvious to you. It seems obvious to me. The purpose of an interview is not to assess a person’s education–that’s presumably listed on their resume. Nor would appearance be a factor, unless the candidate showed up dressed in a bunny outfit (assuming they were not applying for a position as a bunny, of course). What else is left at an interview, then? Personality. I mean, anyone can answer the mind-numbingly dull, rote interview questions that always get asked (“Tell us about a time there was a conflict at work and how you handled it”), it’s all in how you handled it (driven by your personality) that matters (“I smashed a chair over his head and said next time it will be an axe. We got along great after that.”)

Here’s the list of the least and most desirable personality traits provided by some experts or something. Are you ready? This list will blow you away.

The takeaway here is to not start the interview with, “I am the best person you will interview today, I have already had a thousand other jobs where I excelled, deserve top pay from Day One, will promise to show up almost all the time and will dictate all of my own working conditions, do what I want when I want and will ignore all requests by management.”

Obviously, say the opposite of the above and you’ll be hired. It’s just science.

This post has been brought to you by the coalition to reduce clickbait on the internet by 0.0001% by 2050, if the Earth hasn’t melted first. We don’t have a catchy acronym yet, but we’re working on it. Share and like if you agree.