Inktober 2019 #3: Bait

I wasn’t really sure what to do for this prompt and finally settled on bashing Facebook in a weird, oblique way. But I got to draw a cool shark.

Inktober 2019 #1: Ring

I tried drawing a ring, like the kind you wear on your finger. It’s harder than you think. Harder for me, anyway. Then I thought of showing a phone ringing, but phones are hard to draw, too. I thought, “What is really easy to draw that also rings? A stick man!”

Well, actually, stick men don’t ring. So I improvised. Here’s my first entry in Inktober 2019, a stick men hanging over a pit of spikes on an exercise ring. Ironically, the one part I cheated on by using a shape is the ring itself.

This is actually one of several drawings I made. I spent a long time working on something else and it sucked corn dogs. Such is art.

Tools used:

  • Procreate (for the overall sketch) using the Studio Pen brush
  • iPad Pro 10.5 inch
  • Apple Pencil (the first one, which is approximately five meters long)
  • Affinity Photo for adding the ring (Windows version)

Photo of the Day, September 30, 2019

Cheating slightly, as I took this yesterday. The weather was about the same, though! This is looking toward Burnaby Lake from atop Cariboo Dam. As you might guess, it’s not a very tall dam.

I’m doing Inktober 2019!

No, really. I’m going to do an ink drawing (digitally on my iPad) every day, using the prompts, which are as follows:

I’m going with the “do whatever I can in five minutes” approach, so there’s no huge commitment. Will it result in magic or madness? We’ll find out starting tomorrow!

And just so I don’t forget, here are the official rules from the Inktober site:

  1. Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want)
  2. Post it
  3. Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2019
  4. Repeat

September 2019: Good, bad, not really ugly

September 2019 in list form:

  • The last day of the month was sunny and pleasant. Yay!
  • The days are getting noticeably shorter. Boo.
  • I ran a 10K…twice! Yay.
  • My fiction writing remains MIA
  • I read a little more than in August
  • At least I’m not turning into a couch potato
  • Early fall colors are pretty
  • It hasn’t really rained that much, all told
  • 30 days, just like every other September
  • I didn’t go out to see any movies
  • On the above point, I also don’t feel like I missed anything
  • Did I draw? I did not draw.
  • On to October!

September 2019 weight loss report: Up 1.8 pounds

September started off with an unusual and dramatic weight drop down to 162.5 right on the first day of the month. This lead me to believe I would break below 160 pounds for the first time this year before the month was out.

I was wrong.

And fat.

Well, fatter…a little.

I was actually doing quite well for the first half of the month, dropping further to 162, but then the weight started to see-saw up and down and by the third week I was peaking at a devilish 166.6 pounds. Not good. Evil, one might say.

In the final week the trend resumed heading downward, but not in time to undo all the damage, so I ended the month at 164.3 pounds, up 1.8 on the month, but still down overall on the year to date.

Body fat remained virtually unchanged, so that’s good. Maybe I was just adding muscle thanks to all the running. Yeah, that seems plausible, sort of.

Given that I’ve only lost 3.2 pounds since January, I’m not going to venture a prediction for October, but I’m still shooting for sub-160. My goal of hitting 150 pounds seems unlikely to happen unless I get super-strict with my diet and keep exercising a whole bunch. This could happen, but so could world peace.

The stats:

September 1: 162.5 pounds
September 30: 164.3 pounds (up 1.8 pounds)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 164.3 pounds (down 3.2 pounds)

And the body fat:

September 1: 18.3% (29.7 pounds of fat)
September 30:
18.3% (30.1 pounds of fat) (down 1.0 pound)

Run 638: It should have rained

Run 638
Average pace: 5:36/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 10:54 am
Distance: 10.03 km
Time: 56:08
Weather: Partly cloudy, sunny
Temp: 13ºC
Humidity: 40%
Wind: light
BPM: 161
Weight: 164.2 pounds
Total distance to date: 4780 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (140 km)

I don’t mean it should have rained because I wanted it to rain, the trail was just so packed with people today that a little rain would have kept most of them at home playing Jenga, drinking beer or both. But it was mostly sunny and not too terribly cold, so there was a lot of people.

To be fair, most were quite obliging at making room for me as I passed by. There were a few occasions when a group of three would span the trail and become confused as I got close (“Which way do I turn to get out of the way? Aiieee.”) and one little kid almost tottered right into my path because dad was too busy watching something fascinating on his smartphone, but generally it was fine.

An off-leash dog (almost all were off-leash today) managed to avoid poking me with the gigantic branch it was happily carrying clamped in its jaws, so that was good, too.

As for the run itself, although I had some dips in pace, this run felt a lot more natural in terms of where I was faster or slower. Speaking of faster, I came out of the gate flying. I wasn’t really aiming for that and suspected it would catch up to me quickly (it did) but still, the opening km was 5:07/km, the closest I’ve come to dipping below the 5-minute mark in a long time. I did not experience any of the creakiness starting out as I did on Thursday, so perhaps I was excited at being able to run without restraint.

The second km my pace drooped to 5:34/km–still faster than Thursday–then further still to 5:48/km. But over the next four km my speed improved until I finally started to tire at the 8 km mark. I flagged a bit at 9K (5:55/km) but finished the last km with a pace of 5:43/km and an overall pace of 5:36/km–just one second slower than my 5K three days ago.

I was very pleased with this.

Other than feeling a bit tired around 9K, I actually felt pretty good throughout, with no discomfort or other issues. Stamina was fine. Everything was fine, really.

I chose to wore my heavier long-sleeved shirt, thinking it might be a bit cool and breezy. It was on the walk to the lake and the temperature stayed around 13ºC or so, which is actually fine for running. When the sun came out, I was a smidgen too warm, but not terribly so. The lighter long-sleeved shirt or even a regular t-shirt would have been fine.

On the river trail heading to the lake I saw what I think were the same gaggle of runners I’d seen going topless some weeks ago at the lake. None were topless this morning. The clothing was all over–most had t-shirts and shorts, but some opted for long pants or long sleeves, and one also had a jacket. The guy with the jacket was definitely overdressed. I imagine he runs in a parka in December. At the lake I saw a guy wearing a muscle shirt…and gloves. I mean, even when it’s cool, my hands warm up and start sweating in minutes. With gloves? Yuck.

Walking back from the lake I passed a large group of cyclists, which seemed to provide a kind of symmetry to the runners. I liked that. Plus none of them rode too close or cut me off or anything. Nice cyclists.

Tuesday’s forecast looks good so far. I’m wondering just how gloomy it will be by the time I finish my run. The sun sets at 6:50 p.m., which is about five minutes before I get home (and roughly five minutes before I finish my run). The days of after-work runs are drawing to a close for another year…

The heat is on

Specifically, the space heater. Yes, even though it’s still September and less than a week since summer officially ended, I’ve pulled out the space heater and aimed it at my feet because it’s a bit chilly in here.

When I was heading back home around 6 p.m. it actually felt downright cold. I wasn’t even wearing shorts. Right now my watch is telling me it’s 8ºC outside. I just checked and apparently the average low for today is 10ºC , so this isn’t as outrageous as I thought, but still. I think the change from summer to fall hits harder than any other seasonal shift, because it feels so abrupt. One day I’m wearing t-shirts and shorts and people are complaining about how hot it is, then the next day I’m curling up by a space heater and the shorts have returned to the dresser for the next six months.

Okay, my feet are now too warm and the space heater is off. Maybe I just need to put on an itchy wool sweater or something. I promise my next post will not be about the weather. Almost guaranteed!

Run 637: Also inconsistent, but with bonus being slower, too

Run 637
Average pace: 5:35/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:23 pm
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 28:14
Weather: Clear
Temp: 15ºC
Humidity: 68%
Wind: light to nil
BPM: 168
Weight: 166 pounds
Total distance to date: 4770 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (130 km)

Conditions for tonight’s run were good, with the temperature only slightly cooler than Tuesday, but still dandy for running. I knew almost as soon as I set off that this run was not going to proceed as well, though.

For whatever reason–perhaps the shock of doing a full 10K, followed by a 5K and now another run–my legs were creaky and sore. Not just the knees, but the shins and upper leg muscles, too. It took a few minutes to warm up, but they were okay after that. This early stiffness convinced me to maintain a moderate pace–helped even more later by a stitch threatening to develop–and I correctly predicted I would end with a pace over 5:30, coming in at 5:35/km.

A few puzzling aspects, though. For one, my BPM was the highest its been in awhile at 168 and I’m not sure why. Because it was cooler and my body was working harder to stay at the same level? That seems like the likeliest explanation. I’m curious to see what BPM will be after the next post-work run (though there won’t be a whole lot of those left for the year, it was already noticeably dimmer running tonight vs. just two days ago).

The other puzzling part was a repeat of the wild inconsistency. As I said up top, I did not fire the afterburners or put in any extra effort, I just keep going steadily–and indeed, I felt fine stamina-wise–yet my pace is all over:

First km: 5:22
Second km: 5:42 (a whopping 20 second increase)
Third km: 5:49
Fourth km: 5:25 (a 24 second decrease)
Fifth km: 5:39 (14 second increase)

I would not have guessed that my speed shifted up or down so dramatically at any of the above points. It’s weird.

I’ve had two anomalous results now with the Series 5 watch, but maybe it’s just a coincidence. The overall pace for both runs seems about right, so in the end it looks okay, but the huge shifts in pace are strange. I’m curious to see how this will play out at the next run, which should take place at the lake. If the forecast stays accurate, my luck will hold and I’ll get another run free from rain. And I won’t complain. (I’m a poet.)

Book review: Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect

Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect

Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect by Mick West

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mick West was a video game programmer in the 90s who cashed out, retired early and became fascinated with conspiracy theories–and then more specifically in debunking them. With plenty of time to support his hobby of debunking, West went on to create multiple sites on the subject, with https://www.metabunk.org being perhaps the best known. This is his first book on the subject.

Escaping the Rabbit Hole delivers exactly what the sub-title promises. West devotes space to general techniques and methods on debunking conspiracies, with the aim of helping you (the reader) to help someone else (referred throughout in the book as “your friend”) break free from believing whatever conspiracy or set of conspiracies they are holding to. He also offers more specific information on some of the more popular–and in one case, more fringe–conspiracy theories, including the claim that a controlled demolition brought down the World Trade Center towers, that the Sandy Hook shootings never happened, the theory that contrails from planes are actually chemtrails either changing the weather or poisoning us (or both), and, of course, the flat earth theory. The latter may boggle any sensible person, because it is by far the most extreme and easily disproved conspiracy theory, yet West provides an example of someone who genuinely believed the earth was flat.

West accompanies each specific conspiracy theory with a shorter chapter chronicling how a particular individual escaped the rabbit hole (such as the aforementioned flat earther), showing how for some it can happen swiftly–in a matter of a week–and how for others it may take years. Often it is the patient work of a friend that pulls them out, but sometimes it is seeing a specific video or getting a critical piece of information at the right time that gives the conspiracist just enough pause to start questioning what they believe. West also shows how it can also be a matter of adherents to a particular theory crossing a line that the believer isn’t prepared to step over.

Throughout the book, West keeps repeating his mantra of being respectful and patient, urging the reader to avoid arguing and mocking the conspiracist’s beliefs, rightly stating that this puts them on the defensive and makes them less receptive to hearing other points of view. He emphasizes the use of examples and evidence, or actual demonstrations where possible that show how the conspiracy theory doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Anticipating one of the claims conspiracists will throw at him–that he is a simply a paid shill–West spends a chapter providing background on himself and how he came to be a debunker. Reading where he came from and how he ended up running metabunk as a hobby, I both envy and admire him for having the freedom and funds to not just pursue a hobby, but one that will genuinely help to make the world a better place.

He perhaps puts too much faith in the efforts of social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to combat bots, disinformation and conspiracy stories/videos. He is heartened by the work they have done (I am more skeptical), but still warns it is likely to get better before it gets worse, with AI growing ever-more sophisticated in its ability to present itself as credible-sounding “people,” not to mention the work being done in the area of deep fakes where pulling apart what is real and what is a fabrication will get increasingly difficult.

Escaping the Rabbit hole is a thorough, sensible and compassionate toolkit for getting someone you know out of the world of conspiracy theories. Even if you don’t know anyone personally who has gone down the rabbit hole, the book’s techniques and background are an interesting examination of modern conspiracy theories and the damage they can do.

Recommended.

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