Return of the Eye of the Tiger (actually, just the voice)

It is sunny and dare I say actually warm today so I was inspired to do something I have not done in nearly a year of running — run on consecutive days. I know that makes me not hardcore or something, but there you have it.

Today I went all out, though. Or halfway out, at least, doing another 5K run. I felt fine during the run and feel fine after — no pain and the only soreness is from overnight, when three weeks of not running caught up with all those unstretched leg muscles. I suspect they’ll be a bit stiff tomorrow, too, but it wasn’t anything that affected the run itself.

The temperature rose to an early spring high of 15ºC and the wind also picked up, strong enough at times to tug at my cap. I hate that. The sun felt very distinctly warm but not hot. It was pretty nice, overall. The same jogger was on the trail from yesterday, running clockwise, a compact woman in her early 20s who apparently manages to breathe through her nose as her mouth appeared to be clamped firmly shut every time she passed me. To a non-runner this may sound like no big thing but to me, there is absolutely no way I could take in enough air through my nose to keep me going while jogging. Maybe I just have small nostrils. Not that hers were flaring like a bull’s. Anyway, it seemed odd, so I mention it.

I improved considerably over yesterday’s pace without consciously trying. I just worked at a steady, natural gait. The shock came at the end — not when I got the stats on my run but hearing the voice of Tiger Woods congratulating me for the first time since the whole scandal broke last November. With him back golfing and having done the live TV confession thing, it may be that Apple and Nike thought it was time to let him speak again to all the joggers plugged into the Nike+ doohickey. For the record, he said, “Tiger here. You’ve completed 250 miles, way to go.” It was nice, if a little late — I had passed 250 miles on yesterday’s run.

A remarkable 12 second improvement in my overall pace. I definitely shook off the cobwebs today.

Full stats (yesterday’s times in parentheses):

Total distance: 5.03 km (5:04 km)
Overall average pace: 5:21/km (5:33/km)
1st km: 5:05 (5:12)
2nd km: 5:10 (5:20)
3rd km: 5:15 (5:25)
4th km: 5:18 (5:29)
5th km: 5:21 (5:33)

Running, post-injury: Volume 2

Today was my first run in three weeks, since yoinking my left calf. I don’t think the injury was that serious but it seemed wise to give it ample time to heal before venturing out again. As expected, my time was pretty slow but I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort during or after the run, so I’m tentatively planinng on a full 10k on Friday.

The conditions were close to ideal. It was very mild — around 14ºC — and sunny, with a light breeze. The trail was slightly damp from previous rains but firm and the ruts from a few weeks back were smoothed out. A few other joggers were on the trail, along with a couple of people walking their dogs. And the fountain was working, woo. It almost felt like an early summer day. Ah, summer.

Because it was a short run, here are the complete stats as recorded on the Nike+ sensor:

Total distance: 5.04 km
Overall average pace: 5:33/km
1st km: 5:12
2nd km: 5:20
3rd km: 5:25
4th km: 5:29
5th km: 5:33

Breakdown: Much slower to start and the second lap also reflects the slower pace, as I added a whopping 8 seconds. After that you can see me starting to settle into a steadier pace, with times increasing more gradually.

I might try to break 5:30/km for Friday’s run. That would mark an improvement while not pushing myself too hard in the ramp-up to a more regular running regimen.

My (alleged) top 8 needs

The recent testing I did to assess my values also included a deck of cards to ascertain one’s needs. Like the Values deck, it asks you to split the deck into three categories: High, Higher, highest. You then take the Highest pile and sort it into three more piles and then finally take the top 8 from the first (most important) pile. As it turns out, I only had 8 total. I’m not sure if that makes me efficient or just not very needy. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • an environment where my thoughts and ideas are welcome. Who doesn’t like to be heard? Not me, obviously!
  • a culture that allows for direct communication between people. The opposite of this would be using the Cone of Silence, I imagine.
  • to work in a chemical/dust-free environment. Are there people who would prefer a chemical/dusty environment? Sludge monsters from space, perhaps?
  • to be in a helping role. I like helping people, it gives me warm fuzzies. Unless they yell at me, then they get a warm fuzzy in the face!
  • to work in an environment where people are treated fairly. Again, the opposite of this would be “I like to work under the boot of a dictatorship, it’s fun!”
  • an environment that provides time for analysis and observation. Not too much time, mind you. But enough.
  • freedom to make decisions independently. I hate top-down organizations. Do as I say, minion! Not for me.
  • to be fairly compensated financially. I wonder how many people tell a prospective employer, “Pay me as little as you want, I don’t need to eat every day!”

Frankly, these needs are kind of boring. Oh well, I guess that’s why they’re called needs and not Super Exciting Things, Wow!

A pair of dream snippets

I am trying to remember my dreams again and have been doing a decent job of recollection when waking up. What I haven’t been doing such a decent job of is writing the dreams down after waking up. :P

Here are a pair of recent snippets. They’re not very interesting but perhaps putting them down will help me to remember more.

Dream #1 featured Robert Reed, best known as Mr. Brady from The Brady Bunch. The dream seemed to be set back in the 70s and Mr. Reed was being a bit of a jerk (as himself, not Mr. Brady). I have no idea what exactly he was doing, why he was being a jerk and what kind of presence, if any, I had in the dream. I also have no clue why I’d dream about Robert freakin’ Reed. The guy is about as far off my radar as possible. Or so I thought!

Dream #2 took place in a small town and at one point I remember nimbly dodging a set of road construction equipment on my trip to…somewhere. The other part I remember from the same dream was being assembled as part of a group in a large auditorium that was serving as a makeshift movie theater. We were there to watch something I vaguely recall as educational but the stage area had no screen so the film was projected on a small section high up on the back wall of the auditorium, forcing everyone to twist in their seats to look backward in order to watch. No one seemed to mind, though. The one image I remember from the film was of a submersible of some sort. I believe this was triggered by the R.E.M. song “Sing for the Submarine”, which I’ve heard several times recently.

That’s all for my two most recent dreams. More subconscious nonsense to come!

This is Vancouver: a sign of the times

Photo (click for full-size):

Web page

Relevant quote:

Everybody knows that Independent bookstores have been under pressure from the ‘big box’ operations for many years now and it is clear that it is not going to get any better; the likes of Chapters, and Amazon are ruthless in their drive for market share and we cannot compete on price anymore. The book itself is in the throes of a technological transformation and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift.

I remember when Duthies had their big store on Robson Street many years ago, with the spiral staircase leading downstairs to the fiction section. That store eventually closed and is now a high fashion boutique. A pretty rare sight on Robson, as you know! But Duthies took over the Bollums Books at the corner of Granville and Georgia and once again had a two-storey space, this time complete with escalators. Alas, it was not to be as the company went through some dramatic restructuring after their expansion that resulted in the chain being reduced to a single store on 4th Avenue, whose windows currently bear the notices seen above. I didn’t even realize the store had closed until a few weeks ago when someone mentioned it to me, so I’m as guilty as anyone in helping it shuffle off its retail coil.

In recent years I have bought books from Amazon and a few from Chapters. I have purchased ebooks from Sony’s website to use on my Sony Reader. The world of book selling has dramatically changed over the past decade and smaller general interest stores like Duthies will continue to be squeezed out. It’s unfortunate because quality bookstores add something valuable to a neighborhood that isn’t captured by a sprawling place like Chapters.

There will still be specialized book stores, I think, at least for awhile, whether it’s shops like Macleod’s Books with its teetering stacks of obscure used books or stores that cater to a particular genre or style. But even they may eventually feel the pressure of outlets like Amazon that also take in and sell used books and can cover every genre without needing the expense of a brick and mortar presence.

I suppose it’s like everything else. In the end, there is only change. It’s still a bit sad to see.

P.S. The six exclamation points still rankles me. That will be a pet peeve of mine for the next million years.

I have still not found a use for Facebook

This could have been my Facebook status but I’ve already beaten that joke into the ground.

The subject line is still true, though. I am also becoming more aware of how all these social networking sites leave an easy-to-follow trail of crumbs for prospective employers to check out. Not that I’ve ever posted anything that would particularly get me knocked out of consideration for a job, it’s more the Big Brother aspect that gets me. One post I made here resulted in someone contacting me about it because I used words that were flagged by Google Alerts. Everyone watches everyone else on the world wide web. Quite the merry circle!

Mostly though I just don’t feel Facebook is a good fit for my rambling, verbose style.

UPDATE: After posting this, I checked Facebook and got the following. The timing is ironic, to say the least. And delicious!

ERROR
The requested URL could not be retrieved

While trying to retrieve the URL: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?

(It was fixed by deleting the cookies for the site.)

My top 5 values -or- My other top 5 values

Recently I went through an exercise where you take a bunch of cards with values listed on them and sort them into three piles: Never Important, Sometimes Important and Very Important. You then toss aside the two lesser piles and order everything that is Very Important. After this you finish by selecting the top 6 Very Important values but I read the 6 as a 5, so I my final result is slightly value-deficient:

  1. Teaching
  2. Creativity
  3. Listening
  4. Leadership
  5. Cooperation

The values are, of course, constrained by the options in the deck of cards you use. If a value isn’t listed, you can’t choose it, but it seemed fairly complete. I am always aware of my tendency to game these evaluations so I picked quickly to reduce the possibility of my brain being too clever for its own good. Let’s see how these values break down:

1. Teaching. I was about halfway to a teaching certificate many years ago before shifting gears and I’ve always tested strongly for it, so this does not come as a surprise. I really enjoy teaching others how to do stuff. The positive feedback is incredibly rewarding to me.

2. Creativity. I write, I draw comics, I dream up elaborate worlds and systems, I make maps of imaginary places. I sometimes arrange my food on my plate more for the aesthetics than the practical. Yeah, this is pretty spot-on.

3. Listening. I have always thought of myself as a good listener. If the person is at least somewhat engaging, whether they are talking about things positive or negative, I find it easy to stay engaged and absorb like a human-sized sponge. I generally prefer to listen rather than talk, though the inner stand-up comic in me does sometimes want to take over.

4. Leadership. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re part of a team assigned to some task and everyone just sits around and shrugs at each other and nothing happens and you find yourself thinking, “Stupid people! Do something!” and then you suddenly realize that you have to be the one to take charge and so you do and then things happen and it turns out okay? I’m that person.

5. Cooperation. This one seems a bit weak as a top 5 value. Sure, it’s got a good beat but can you dance to it? I guess I prefer cooperation to the alternative but what rational person wouldn’t? Well, one who didn’t have to cooperate to get things done, I suppose.

I always double-up on these tests to see what, if anything, changes when I do it again. Here are the results from take 2:

  1. Creativity
  2. Teaching
  3. Utilizing
  4. Listening
  5. Honesty

Here we see Creativity and Teaching swapping spots at the top, so no big change there. But then we have:

3. Utilizing. I’m not sure how this got in. I’m not even sure what it means. Maybe I wrote down the wrong card. Utilizing. Okay, the dictionary says “To put to use, especially to find a profitable or practical use for.” Seems very practical. I’m not sure how it’s a value. I think I picked the wrong card.

4. Listening. Swapped from #3 to #4, not much change here.

5. Honesty. Is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Like Billy Joel, I also like honesty, though I’m not as bitter and jaded about its apparent absence. Nor do I record songs about it and make millions of dollars and blow it on coke and crash cars and marry woman half my age, either. Anyway, this seems like a reasonable choice for me, as honestly is pretty fundamental. If you’re not being honest, you’re lying and there’s a good chance you’re a big ol’ poopypants because of it. I see a lot of people refusing to communicate effectively because they are afraid to be honest.

Read moreMy top 5 values -or- My other top 5 values

Reviews: Alice in Wonderland, Ringu, Avatar, Clash of the Titans

Four quickie movie reviews, one a rental, three in theaters and two of those in 3D.

Ringu
This is the original Japanese version of The Ring from 1998, the story of a weird videotape that, once viewed, will lead to the viewer’s horrific death exactly one week later. A reporter who comes across the story and falls victim to the tape launches an investigation against time to solve the mystery. And that’s essentially what this is — a mystery, albeit one that centers on a tortured spirit instead of something mundane. I have not seen the American version of The Ring but was told it is scarier than this one, which really isn’t scary at all. There’s a few minorly creepy bits but that’s it. The film is still well-crafted and interesting but this is a case where perhaps something really is lost in the translation (I watched a subtitled rental). Thumbs up but not hugely so.

Alice in Wonderland
In which the Mad Hatter gets an expanded role because you’re paying zillions for Johnny Depp so you’re going to use him, dammit. This is pretty much what you’d expect from Tim Burton but I found it a bit pedestrian and the usual Burton aesthetic didn’t quite work for Wonderland. The look was a little too dreary and dark, not funky and weird. The actors were fine and I especially liked the style Helena Bonham Carter brought to the Red Queen — an unexpected surprise. But the story, which imposes a not very interesting narrative onto a setting that works best without one, felt a bit limp. By the end where the Mad Hatter is fighting with a sword and Alice is decked out in a suit of armor you’re kind of wondering what the hell is going on. But the visuals were good. A feast for the eyes, not so much for the brain.

Avatar
What can be said about this that hasn’t been said already? It’s made over $2 billion worldwide, is still playing in theaters as its Blu-ray and DVD release nears, was nominated for a truckload of Oscars and perhaps formalized the mainstream acceptance of 3D in movies with most of its take carrying the $3 or so premium price that 3D films extract. I thought it was pretty good, though some of the early dialogue in particular was clunky and the story, of course, is nothing original. I don’t ding it for that because few stories are original and if it’s told well, that’s good enough for me. Cameron keeps things moving along and though predictable, I enjoyed the ride. The visuals are amazing. Sam Worthington, as the titular avatar, didn’t seem to be all that different here from his role in Terminator Salvation last summer. This leads me into…

Clash of the Titans
I heard the bolted-on 3D here was especially bad but we managed to catch an old-fashioned 2D version of the film. Reviews had been mixed at best so I didn’t have high expectations. Some good CGI, some decent action, that’s all I hoped for and the movie mostly delivers on that. It plays fast and loose with the mythology, just as the original did, but when you’re remixing stories that are made-up to begin with, how much can you really complain? This time Perseus is out for revenge after Hades wipes out his adopted family. Hades is played by Ralph Fiennes, who seemed to be channeling several different bad guys, among them Wormwood from The Lord of the Rings. Liam Neesson played Zeus about as well as one might hope for and his armor literally sparkled, like a Twilight vampire. The Medusa sequence was fairly brief and somewhat disappointing, though the Medusa design was striking — a huge serpentine body with a hauntingly beautiful face that transformed into a suitably haggish look when she got some face time with a hapless victim. My biggest complaints would probably be some of the dialogue (see Avatar), Sam Worthington’s bland Perseus (see Avatar) and the way Perseus was written, apart from Worthington’s specific portrayal. The character just wasn’t interesting. The giant scorpions, surprise “cameo” and general effects were all pleasing enough. Better off as a rental.

Well: A deep subject

All right, then. What happened?

On my last run I complained that my calves were sore. This happens sometimes. Maybe it’s the weather, the phase of the moon or just the capricious ways of a body in its mid-40s but occasionally my legs will get sore while running (as opposed to merely getting tired). The day after this run my right calf felt fine, as expected. My left calf did not. It twinged with a bit of pain whenever I put pressure on my left leg. I knew this feeling from last October.

I had injured my leg. Again.

But for variety’s sake, it was the left one this time. Some sort of balance thing, perhaps. Fortunately I proved I could learn and adapt and did not run like hell on the injured leg afterward. I also think the injury was milder than the previous one. After being out of commission for 18 days I am planning on resuming my runs this week. Once again I vow to be cautious and careful and not pull, rip, shred or strain anything. I don’t have a third leg to injure so I’m hoping I’ve got this whole “hurting myself” business out of my system now.

In better running news, my total Nike-tracked distance to date is 407+ km. That’s a lot of laps!

In other random news, I am going to start spamming posts to the blog again. Excelsior!

Things that irritate me when I run (plus: my run!)

Very mild and sunny today, the trail was in fine shape, though it looks like the forecast will result in a few puddles come Friday if it stays accurate.

I have been having some digestion issues lately — gas from both ends (bleah) and a rumbly stomach/intestinal tract. I almost didn’t run today because of this but went out anyway, drawn by the siren song of a nice day.

My start was pretty good, just over 5 minutes and the first 2 km were very close time-wise. The middle stretch I began to feel rather blah and my calves also started to ache a bit, bringing my overall time down. At around the 8k mark a new jogger showed up and came onto the trail just ahead of me. His pace set him maybe 100 meters ahead of me and although I couldn’t catch him, I managed to keep up with the pace he fell into it. He started pulling a little ahead after a few minutes and I resigned myself to not catching up. Then something happened. He may have started to slow but I definitely turned it up a notch, tapping into the fresh reserves brought about by the runner’s high. My last 2 km have only a 2-second spread, which is pretty good for a finish. Even better, I managed to actually close the gap and was about to pass the other runner when he suddenly departed the trail and headed up the hill and out of the park.

Results:

Total distance: 10.02 km (previous: 10.02 km)
Average time/km: 5:26/km (previous: 5:23/km)
Best time/km: 5:02/km (previous: 5:02/km)

The list of things that irritate me will be posted below soon™.