Jogging a go-go

Today I began Week 5 of my 9 week jogging plan. I approached it with some trepidation because Friday’s jog found me coming up a bit short on the last five minute segment, mostly due to the sun beating down on me like some giant hot thing and making me want to pass out. Today, however, it had cooled off and was overcast, so that wouldn’t be a problem. To further distract myself, I picked up a cheap 2GB Sansa Clip so I could focus on music rather than my lungs burning. For today’s run, which consisted of three five minute segments I chose:

  • Boney M, “Rasputin”. It’s hard to beat disco for jogging. It keeps you going. As a bonus, the song is over 5 minutes long.
  • Pink Floyd, “One Slip”. Also 5+ minutes. I actually find the lyrics of this song insipid: “Then drowned in desire, our souls on fire, I led the way to the funeral pyre” — uh, what? I can’t even begin to decipher this. It’s like someone partook of some peyote and tried to rewrite “Evil Woman” as a love song. Or something. But the song moves, Dave Gilmour plays his guitar and that’s the important part.
  • Blondie, “Atomic”. It’s good until you get to the bridge or whatever them fancy music people call it because the song slows down a lot at that point. It feels like a good place to rest, whether it is or not.
  • Bananarama, “Venus”. More disco, hooray!

The music not only provided ample distraction, I think I actually jogged faster than before and when “Rasputin” ended after the third 5-minute segment, I checked my stopwatch and found I had jogged almost a minute longer than I was supposed to. Madness!

I like it.

A brief tour of China Creek Park

As mentioned previously, I jog at China Creek Park, which is near the Broadway campus of Vancouver Community College and the proverbial stone’s throw from the Millennium Line SkyTrain station. Here, via the magic of pictures, is a glimpse of the park from a non-satellite perspective.

First up, a wide shot of the park (click for a larger version):

chinacreek-overview

Here you can see both baseball diamonds and the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines on the left. You can also make out the mulch-covered trail that runs the perimeter of the park and is where I jog. The trees provide meager cover on a hot, sunny day but the park overlords have thoughtfully provided a fountain:

chinacreek-fountain-far

Unfortunately, cretinous youths sometimes stuff reeds into the fountainhead (which can’t be removed with your fingertips), causing the fountain to spray water in a whimisical but not practical-for-drinking manner. And I know it’s kids that do it because all kids are evil.

Also evil, however, are crows.

chinacreek-fountain-close

At first I was ready to blame the appearance of soggy bread in the fountain on some spoiled child with a fussy palette (“I don’t like crusts!”) but then I espied a crow a short distance away with a great hunk of bread stuffed in its beak. It watched and waited as I took my picture, then flew over to dip his bread, au jus-style. I have to confess, it’s not really evil for the crow to do that. If nothing else, it suggests he is more civilized than many of the people who use the park. For example…

Here we see the small playground area and how the gravel has spilled onto the path. The fence is there to prevent tots from being brained by errant baseballs, a good plan if ever there was one. The jog before I took these pictures, there were a pair of kids here, each standing on one side of the fence. The one on the playground side was playing the game “Let’s throw gravel through the fence at the other kid!” The other kid did not seem to like this game so much.

chinacreek-gravel

The small brown sign warns about coyotes in the area and offers advice on what to do in the event of a coyote experience. I forgot to get a picture of it but will try to do so on a future visit.

Finally, what I had cheekily called rice paddies in the Google Maps image turned out to be a community garden growing along the hillside on the northwest corner of the park. Apparently poo has a special place there, for it gets its own sign:

chinacreek-garden

The garden is a variety of flower beds, trees, bushes and vegetables, very nice and in full bloom this time of year. Although festively colored, the poo sign kept me from entering into the garden directly. It was too reminiscent of a minefield warning and I’ve played Company of Heroes. I know what mines can do.

The book of Faces

Tonight I de-activated my Facebook account after posting this:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I find Facebook annoying and not very useful but I realized I was hasty and so I have re-activated with the intention of utilizing this wonderful Web 2.0 communication tool to its fullest. Everyone on my friends list should be afraid.

This just in: Michael Jackson is still dead

Wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson’s death continues unabated while Farrah Fawcett’s demise slides off the main page. I bet the news people are kind of relieved because who wants to say “anal cancer” on the air? Wolf Blitzer probably giggles every time he says it, that jerk.

Here is an exclusive news clip that was linked to me by my pal jackrabbit, who has his pulse on celebrity news like some guy that holds onto something and won’t let go, even if you pull really hard:

Along these lines, I watched a bit of CNN’s live feed yesterday (I am sans cable, so no TV for me) and to fill in the airtime, they started reading viewer comments. “This is from Christy. Christy says ‘I am so sad!'” Later they needed to fill more airtime and they returned to the viewer comments. Curiously, they chose Christy’s again. I guess her sadness was so profound it had to be shared repeatedly. I flipped over briefly to ABC News’ live feed and their approach was a bit different. They just let the camera roll while nothing was happening. The reporter was milling about, adjusting her hair, chatting to people off-camera, all of it live and in pseudo high-def. This is bleeding edge stuff, folks. It’s like watching the future happen.

And as much as I mock it, I’m still going to link to a CNN story on Jackson’s death temporarily crippling the Internet. And I quote from said link:

Twitter crashed as users saw multiple “fail whales” — the illustrations the site uses as error messages — user FoieGrasie posting, “Irony: The protesters in Iran using twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of ‘Michael Jackson RIP.’ Well done.”

MSNBC had comments from celebrities and other notables, including Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez (!) who may have had the best observation of all: Yeah, it’s sad but man, you guys are just going on way too much about it. Note that the media frames Chavez as a bad guy, so it’s okay to dismiss anything he says (and he does often say the darndest things). Hang in there, Christy!

We’ll always have Saturn 3 and The Wiz

Today saw the strange spectacle of a celebrity death getting overshadowed by another celebrity death.

Farrah Fawcett, of “Charlie’s Angels” and the best-selling poster of all-time fame died today at age 62 after battling anal cancer for several years. There’s two words that should never go together: anal cancer. Her death was not unexpected, as her health had been getting much worse lately, but it is still sad to look at the insanely toothy grin on that poster and contrast it to how painful her last days must have been.

But the memorials for Farrah were just barely getting started when word came in that Michael Jackson had suffered cardiac arrest. Not long after several media outlets were stating he had died and later in the afternoon it was confirmed by members of his family. He was 50. This is probably the biggest celebrity death since Princess Diana died in 1997 and I’m expecting saturation coverage to go on for some days. Only a major disaster (natural or man-made) can bump the story right now, which is curious when you think about it. After all, he’s dead and that’s not going to change. I don’t think the coverage will be as excessive as it was with Diana’s because the media is a lot more fragmented these days and attention spans seem that much shorter. A lot of the “coverage” will effectively go unseen, too, by being posted to Facebook or Tweeter or blogs (like this one). There’s also a bit of a difference in terms of where each person was at when they died — Diana was freshly divorced, only 37 and was still riding high in the public eye. Jackson, on the other hand, was plagued by health issues, exhibited increasingly eccentric behavior, fought off charges of child molestation and had a career that stalled out nearly a decade earlier. He was, in fact, only weeks away from a big “comeback” tour that was to also be his last.

That said, there is no denying his musical legacy. Thriller was insanely popular (I didn’t buy it because I was going through that “I’m a teen, anything popular must be crap and I shall shun it!” phase) and for much of the 80s he really was the biggest pop star. But man, what a slide after that. Still, 50 is awfully young to go and who knows what he might have done musically if he had pulled off the tour.

And as usual, dying is a great way to boost your sales. This is the iTunes top 10 album list from the morning of June 26th, less than 24 hours after Jackson died. He holds 8 of the 10 spots:

itunes-06-26-09

Save

Homeless fun in The Sims 3

A fellow who goes by the online name roBurky began posting about his experiment with a homeless father and daughter in The Sims 3 on the Quarter to Three forum. Their not-so-excellent adventure is now chronicled in a blog he has created and it is replete with screenshots covering their ups and downs. Their many many downs. Recommended.

Alice and Kev, a Sims 3 adventure in homelessness.

CNN: Your Most Trusted Source For Inane Polls

It is fashionable to poo-poo the mainstream media these days. The reasons range from the old and unsurprising — news companies are increasingly owned and controlled by larger and larger corporate entities that have a vested interest in pushing a narrow, specific point of view across not just editorially but in how they present every aspect of the news, from what gets covered to how it gets covered. The favorite media punching bag is probably Fox News, a phrase that almost works as an oxymoron depending on the particular story in question — to the more modern, as blogs, Twitter (shudder) and other web or Internet-based media provide a more immediate and less corporate view of events around the world.

This is all a big and serious-sounding buildup to me making fun of CNN not because they are beholden to their coporate masters or because they slant the news in disingeuous and even dangerous ways, but because they are silly. Two examples below.

Many news sites offer “non-scientific” polls on popular issues of the day, sort of the online equivalent of the “man on the street” interviews of yore. And you know how thoughtful and articulate those men on the street were! CNN has preserved some of this in its polls by asking questions that are at times utterly inane. A short time ago George Bush Sr. turned 85 and celebrated by making a parachute jump, a tradition of his. He jumped with a buddy in case something went wrong. Or maybe it was a Secret Service agent. Details. Anyway, here is the poll question:

cnn_poll1

One can only imagine the polls that got vetoed to let this one in. “Would you ride in a boxcar with a hobo?” “Would you collect shellfish with a B-list movie star?” “Would you limbo with an NBA team?”

Here were the results later that day:

cnn_poll2

45% of the people who took the time to participate in this non-scientific exercise in voting said NO, they would not skydive with a president. If I was a president, I’d be feeling a little hurt. America, why do you hate your presidents? Look for CNN to follow-up on this.

A recent story on CNN concerned the appearance of a UFO. The particulars of the story don’t really matter but here is the summary as it appeared in their headlines section:

cnn-ufo

UFO is an abbreviation for Unidentified Flying Object. We all know this. CNN knows this. Skydiving presidents and the people who won’t skydive with them know this. For most people, it is thought of as a term to describe “flying saucers” — extraterrestrial craft from outer space or dimensions unknown that may be ferrying aliens who may find us curious or delicious. But while this is the most common usage of the term, it literally means any object in the sky that cannot be properly identified. The fact that CNN put quotation marks around UFO suggests either the object was not really a UFO — which is not the case — or they have chosen to effectively mock the whole thing by suggesting that UFOs (flying saucers!) are silly and not real. All of them, you dummies! This comes during a time of unprecedented UFO waves appearing all over the world, so it dovetails nicely with the idea that mainstream media automatically rejects anything that doesn’t conform to their take on things, whether it’s UFOs, the “war on terror” or who won American Idol.

Oh, and the little short symbol next to the camera (the camera means it’s a video story)? It allows you to conveniently buy a t-shirt related to the story, like all important news, you know.

Fashion no-no’s

When wearing clothes is wrong.

  • Spandex + 400 pounds overweight. People will try rolling you back into the ocean to save you.
  • Button-up shirt + sweatpants. You know how well oil and water mix? This is the equivalent in clothing form.
  • Plaid shorts. Crossing a street while wearing plaid shorts can cause road rage. Scientists have proven this.
  • Leg warmers when your legs are not cold. Or ever.
  • Shorts + knee high black socks. This was the fashion back in 1887. It is no longer 1887.
  • Pants with the waist so low 80% of your “hip” boxer shorts are visible. I suspect this will eventually lead to a trend of wearing boxer shorts on the outside of pants.
  • Wearing more than three shirts at once.
  • That sweatshirt you keep tucking into your pants? Desist!

I’m joking, of course. I don’t really give a flying fig what people wear but if I did and had a blog and could complain about their lack of taste in clothing, I’d write…this post.

There be tin men here

Today as I was enjoying a beverage with a date at Melriches on Davie Street I had a guy come up and ask me if I liked hip hop. I asked him to repeat the question because my brain was pretty sure he had not just asked me if I liked hip hop. He repeated it and sure enough, he had asked me if I liked hip hop. I don’t really think of myself as the hip hop type but I was wearing a black baseball cap. Maybe that’s some code I was unaware of that says “big fan of hip hop here!” It turns out he was trying to sell or generate interest in his own CDs, several of which he held out for me to see. I truthfully told him that no, I was not into hip hop, so he moved on to the nice old ladies at the next table.

After having said beverage, we strolled down to Stanley Park because it was another gorgeously sunny and warm day. It’s weird because I normally expect June to be largely soggy (that may happen this coming week). We ventured as far as Third Beach then instead of reversing back along the seawall we cut across the park, following one of the main trails (mostly a service road, from the looks of it) to Lost Lagoon. Along the way we passed women pushing strollers, joggers, bikers, all the usual sorts you’d expect to see. And then off to the left I noticed some tin foil wrapped in sections around a tree. There was a large video camera resting on the ground nearby and someone with a shirt that read “Stunt Crew” on the back was holding a container of tin foil and was wrapping it around a person standing in front of him. By the time we arrived, this tin man was almost completely covered from head to toe. As we walked by and looked back, the wrapper looked to us and we all kind of chuckled and kept walking. The wrapper, well, kept wrapping.

I have no idea what they were doing. Were the strips on the tree just for practice? Did the guy getting wrapped up lose a bet? Was it the world’s lowest budget science fiction movie? The worst part is I had my camera in my man purse* but totally forgot about it. Then again, if I had taken pictures, they may have come after us with ray guns or something.

After leaving the park we found ourselves in the middle of the Denman Car-free day, featuring an assortment of festivities ranging from a band performing “Only the lonely” to kids playing chess on the street using pieces about half a meter tall to a Hedy Fry re-election booth. Since there is currently no election, perhaps she knows something and isn’t telling. Either that or it was just easier to haul out the election stuff rather than make new “Hedy Fry Denman Car-free Day” signs. Lord knows with all the elections the paint on those signs is probably still tacky.

It was a pretty good day, in all.

* I am told this is the correct nomenclature, although some will also accept “murse”. It’s really just a small shoulder pack. A manly shoulder pack.

Short story reviews

I like short stories.

Among my many books, you’ll find a pile of short story collections and anthologies. I’ve just added two more today–Flights Volume 2 and 20th Century Ghosts, a collection from Joe Hill, son of Stephen King. Because I suck at recalling details of short stories later on (I’m good with the broad strokes but always amazed by people who can recall the most subtle of storytelling nuances years later) I thought I’d start offering mini-reviews of short stories as I read them.

The current collection I’m working through is called Dark Delicacies. It is modestly sub-titled “Original Tales of Terror and the Macabre by the World’s Greatest Horror Writers.”

Ray Bradbury, “The Reincarnate”. I actually read this story months ago and don’t recall the details (see what I mean?) but leafing through it quickly, it’s written in second person, so everything is about you. You talk to her, you go there, you do this. I have never liked the second person POV for fiction, it just rings wrong, as if the story is being dictated instead of simply unfolding for you. Sorry, Ray!

Lisa Morton, “Black Mill Cove”. A straightforward suspense tale in which a man and wife go camping and have an argument. The man heads off to the cove in the title to catch some abalone, hoping a full haul will help patch things over with his wife. As he threads his way into the difficult-to-reach tide pools, he comes across what he thinks are the remains of a shark attack. It turns out to be more sinister than that and he faces a life or death struggle before the twist ending. No spoilers here but suffice to say this is a nicely presented tale o’ terror.

Whitley Strieber, “Kaddash”. A heavy-handed satire that imagines an alternate America after “Obliteration Day” in which a nuclear attack strikes Washington, leading the country to a full conversion into a Christian theocracy. The main character is a warden at a Texas prison who oversees executions of secular humanists and other troublemakers. This is completely over-the-top stuff and is presented as such knowingly, contrasting the ultra-religious fervor of the populace against the banalities of everyday life–shopping at Walmart, rooting for the high school football team. It’s a serviceable piece but I felt it could have been funnier and still made its point. Still, it had Fox paying $11 million to broadcast executions, so there’s that.

Robert Steven Rhine, “The Seer”. This is a classic Twlight Zone tale, complete with twist ending in which a man can foresee the (inevitably) terrible ways people will die, including his own. The story is sad and funny and there is some suspense in seeing whether the protagonist can cheat his own fate.

D. Lynn Smith, “The Fall”. A story told in the present tense about a boy and his family who are apparently being attacked or hunted by demon-like creatures that can assume human form. This one felt a bit rote to me and features people behaving in ways that serve the plot but are not necessarily believable–a big pet peeve of mine. The ending is especially unsatisfying as the boy simply does not act in a way that has been credibly built up prior.

F. Paul Wilson, “Part of the Game”. An extremely racist cop threatens to bring down a horde of detectives on the illicit activites in Chinatown unless he gets a 50% cut of the illegal gambling revenue. “The Mandarin”, through the haltingly-spoken English of his representative, rejects the threat and the cop finds himself sleeping with a very poisonous–and pregnant–millipede. As the poison begins working through his system, the cop finds himself indeed “part of the game.” The ending is nicely satisfying, though I felt the racism was depicted in a cartoonish manner that was unnecessary.

Roberta Lannes, “The Bandit of Sanity”. I didn’t care for the title of the story, since the presumed “bandit” doesn’t really come off like one. A well-heeled psychiatrist begins to show symptoms of what he first thinks is some kind of mental disorder, possibly even multiple personalities, leading to a Jekyll and Hyde-like life. As he realizes an old case has literally come back to haunt him, the story works toward a reasonably predictable conclusion. This is not really a bad thing, as it works. My biggest complaint is how brand names are thrown around like excerpts from a James Patterson novel, as if we need them as reminders of how successful the guy is. Yes, he has Donghia chair. Oh, look, he’s sitting in his Donghia chair again and has Hugo Boss slacks. WE GET IT.

Brian Lumley, “My Thing Friday”. The lone survivor of a spaceship crash discovers he is on a planet inhabited by a group of interlinked and intelligent species he comes to call The Pinks. Some are winged, some are quadrapeds, some are biped and more humanoid. They have a great reverence toward the dead and the survivor’s journal chronicles his efforts to understand them, in particular, one that seems to follow him around as he ekes out a living on this strange world. Things turn stranger indeed as he better understands The Pinks. I quite liked this one. Told in the first person, Lumley captures a whimsical tone that remains believable, right to the disturbing finale.

Nancy Holder, “Out Twelve-Steppin’, Summer of AA”. A pair of middle-aged rock stars who happen to be cannibals try to “go straight” by attending AA. Despite the premise, it’s not quite as funny as it sounds and the ending is a bit left field. Still, a breezy read.

Why I am not an engineer

Last week I officially™ began the Couch to 5K running plan. Or so I thought. Thanks to my awesome math skills I figured I needed four circuits to complete the Week 1 jogging regimen. It turns out it was actually eight, so I now consider that to be Week 0 and began Week 1 properly this past Monday. If I was an engineer my bridges would collapse, roofs would cave in and babies somewhere would cry.

As mentioned previously I am jogging at China Creek Park. Despite the fact that there has always been a baseball game in progress (and sometimes two) I have yet to be beaned by a baseball. One did actually land on the jogging path ahead of me once on Wednesday (foul ball), making an impressive plume of bark and dirt kick up. I always keep my eye open when jogging within batting distance.

The park has been quite nice for running and so far easing into the routine has gone well. There is even a fountain ready to deliver a welcome sip of water right along the path, although on my last jog there was a half-eaten crawfish in it. Ew. When not being grossed out by fountain food, I enjoy the spirit, nay, stink of fitness that permeates the area. Every evening there have been other joggers, walkers, people doing aerobics, playing badminton, croquet or baseball or just hanging out. It makes the exercising just that smidgen more pleasant than it would be if I was humping along a sidewalk through the neighborhood.