Can’t We All Just Get Along? And Blog-Reading FOMO!

Why Can't We Get Along

Yesterday Suz posted about her ‘blog process’, and had asked me to join in the fun! I said yes and will be posting mine tomorrow. I definitely recommend reading her post here. But for today I just had a couple of quick items:

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

It is interesting how things tend to flow together in the blogosphere – we complain about the cold, then dealing with training for spring activities, then the post-race letdowns, then it is too hot, then losing mojo … and suddenly now we are seeing a wave of negativity and on many of the blogs I follow there is a bit of a backlash!

I loved Harold’s post today asking people to ‘Get a Grip’, referencing a number of judgmental posts he has seen:

When people write these words, (along with so many other judgmental comments that discuss what others are doing), they are putting their morals, opinions and how they think others should act/write/blog, while disregarding or belittling other people’s reasons for doing or writing about things they do.

I kind of alluded to this type of post in my ‘Clean Eating’ post yesterday, referring to people using the term ‘as a hammer’, meaning that they were deciding that what a blogger / commenter was doing was *wrong* and/or ‘not clean’ – and doing so in some harsh and uncompromising terms. It was based on those ‘absolutist’ stances I was taken aback and moved to write.

In her post yesterday, Susie also referred to a commenter who had obviously really upset her … but that she didn’t want to give them the power and control by focusing on it in her post … which reminds me of advice Harold gave me ages ago. It is interesting – I have dealt with trolls since the late 80s writing on USENET … but when it is your personal space and identity it is very different. I am all for spirited debate, but we’re all actual people on the other side of these screens.

Finally Laura at Fit Fresh & Funny opened a thoughtful discussion about having kids. Because she is awesome and open and always willing to chat, a bunch of people shared freely why they did or did not want kids, myself included.

It was a great post … but it came from a different place. She has been trying to find a ‘home’ on Facebook for people in similar situations, and finding many places too harsh or otherwise not a great fit, then came across an article that asked the basic question about why people want to have kids … but in a bizarre way.

I mean, at first I was supportive – the author was tired of being asked ‘when are you having kids / why don’t you have kids yet’ by rude people who presume it is their business. And as I wrote about … I dealt with all of those insensitive questions, and think they really need to stop.

BUT … she then takes a weird turn, polls friends about why they wanted or want kids, and then spends the article picking them apart. Um … gee, you are a wonderful ‘friend’? My thought is that you never build yourself up by tearing others down, and that instead of suffering fools in silence only to turn around and berate your friends – make sure that the fools know that your life is none of their business.

But the theme is common – insufferable negativity coupled with online anonymity to create a very negative space.

And really, who needs that? Sure i have been critical of discussions being too ‘agreement’ oriented on blogs, but taking it to the other extreme doesn’t help.

Let’s seek the middle ground, happily agree to have energetic debates, know we will often disagree, but always be respectful and kind. Our world could use more of that.

I Miss You

Blog-Reading FOMO!

As I mentioned before, the down-side of a 9-day ‘mostly unplugged’ vacation is that I have more than 200 emails in my Gmail inbox … whereas I had 18 when I left. I have sifted through everything I can remove, so what is left is pretty much all of the blog posts I have missed. And that doesn’t count my BlogLovin, Twitter and WordPress Reader queues.

As I barely kept pace with new posts today (ok, really I failed as I just looked and saw some unread posts from earlier!), I have come to realize that I will simply have to summarily read many of them and let them go.

But you know what? That is HARD and tweaks my FOMO (fear of missing out) – I had gotten my queue to the point where I could manage to post AND read all of my faves on a daily basis … so having to just delete a post I mostly-read in the email browser? Not satisfying. Especially when someone references a post from last week (happened twice to me yesterday) and I am left trying to figure out what I missed! Ugh!

As I said, it got to the point yesterday where I realized I was actually losing ground – I had more unread things than when I started the day. There were two options: cut down on my blog roll, or let much of last week go.

I will have to think about a strategy for this the next time, as I think there must be a more optimal solution … but for now this is as good as I can manage.

Have You Noticed the Negativity? And What Do You Do When your queue is just too deep to catch up?

9 Thoughts from My ‘Run-Free’ Vacation

You might immediately be wondering why I chose NINE thoughts? Well, as I started writing this it has been NINE days since my last run. No I am not injured, and no I have not ‘fallen off the wagon’ or ‘lost my running mojo’.

I was on a family vacation in New York City, and didn’t plan to run. Of course, I was prepared just in case – I brought a full running setup in my bag. But for me it was psychologically important that I prepare to NOT run for the entire vacation. So on the 4th I had my great 18+ mile run and assumed that would be it until Monday the 14th.

Of course, if you have read anything I’ve written here or posted on other social media, you know my family isn’t sedentary – so you can believe we were BUSY and moving the whole week!

20140714-042343-15823909.jpg

1. There are More Important Things Than Running

I have said that I don’t look at building towards a race as ‘training’ any more than I think of it as practice when I pick up my guitar/bass/keyboard or when I grab some random data set and work on data analysis or programming skills. These are things that bring me joy, and therefore when I engage in them it is because I love doing them, not out of obligation.

But you know what is MORE important? Sure you do – family. So while I could have gotten up early and headed out (I woke up between 3-4AM every morning), instead I rolled over and slept more, and was up with Lisa sitting with a cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the city, with the boys joining us slowly as they woke up (ok, Chris joined us and eventually we woke Danny up!). Bottom line – it made every day special and connected and perfect.

20140714-042344-15824146.jpg

2. College Tours Are Like A Window into a World … and Your Child

There were two main reasons we chose New York City for our vacation: the boys chose it, and it allowed us to do a number of college tours (since we have one going into senior year and one into junior year it is very timely for both). The two colleges of real interest for them were NYU and SUNY Purchase. Both offer great arts programs – and our older son is very interested in film, media and writing as areas of study; and younger son is interested in music.

Do you remember visiting your university for the first time? I do – I actually hopped on a bus and spent the weekend with a friend of my brother who was a sophomore while I was a high school junior. I got a great tour, got to sit in on classes and see labs and so on. I saw other schools … but never recaptured that feeling – so the decision was made.

I saw that look on Danny’s face at NYU – that was totally his jam. As Lisa and I joked in the bookstore after the tour “ok, we can see him here, all that is needed now is $65k a year!” But seriously, every other school now has to compete with that first impression.

SUNY Purchase was almost the polar opposite of NYU – it is small (4,000 vs. 40,000), in the country vs. the heart of Soho, and entirely arts focused. Danny liked it but was concerned he couldn’t get the dual film & business major, but Chris LOVED it and the atrs focus and the ‘studio composition’ major that allows for modern production and traditional composition tied together … and is pretty much what he is already doing in our home studio!

From the college tour perspective, the week was a rousing success!

20140714-043214-16334811.jpg

3. I Don’t Miss Traffic

General agreement was that the low-point of vacation was sitting for over an hour on the Cross-Bronx Expressway getting back home after SUNY Purchase. We had done lunch in Port Chester and 95S was convenient … but I should have ignored the optimistic GPS traffic assessment and taken myself back to the Hutcherson Parkway. Ugh.

On the way to New York our 4 hour ride became a 5 hour trip due to traffic on I80 in eastern PA. Heading from Jersey City to see my brother in Princeton the hour drive took closer to 2 hours … yeah, traffic.

For nearly 20 years after college I dealt with some type or other of Boston-area traffic, so moving to Corning and hearing people talk about traffic has always been laughable – because, really … there is none.

And you know what? That is just fine with me!

20140714-042344-15824722.jpg

4. Walking a City Rocks!

My family (I think it was mostly Chris) gave me a nickname a few years ago – The Map Whisperer. As he described it “he sees things on maps … and walks to them!” I would protest … but it is actually fairly accurate. Again, my family is active and we do loads of walking – I am just a tad bit extreme!

Some of the walking gave us flexibility – we walked the mile or so from our building to the ferry for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. This let us head into the city via Battery Park afterwards instead of worrying about getting our car again.

Other times it allows exploration – going from our play at the Cort Theater on 48th down to Times Square was a great fun walk, with great sites along the way. Similarly, walking all around NYU, Soho and Greenwich Village was a real highlight we would have otherwise missed. And after arriving at Battery Park we wandered all through the financial district, again a great way to see all of the lower Manhatten sights!

Of course, sometimes walking would be a waste of time – we were in Herald Square (34th) and needed to get to 73rd to Alice’s Tea Cup … and walking would have taken a very long time with no real benefit. The time was much better spent as extra time to walk around Central Park after our tea.

On average we were walking between 5 – 10 miles per day … including a couple of times doing the 30 flights of stairs from our room!

20140714-042344-15824828.jpg

5. Vacations are What You Make of Them

A few times over vacation we got to talking about OTHER vacations – Washington DC, Boston, Cape Cod, Ohio, Toronto, and on and on. And how much FUN we had regardless of whether or not everything was perfect. Our place in Burlington, VT needed to be cleaned before we felt comfortable, and the listing failed to mention the property was shared!

We were afraid when we arrived that this was going to be similar – because of the way the property was operated, nobody knew what we were talking about! Fortunately that was the only downside of the trip – but we talked about how we tend to make our own fun regardless of what else is happening. Sure we do loads of typical things everywhere we go – but we also will find a way to have fun heading late at night to the Duane Reed to get a deck of cards and have the security guard watching us because we were being silly.

There are plenty of people who will tell you what you SHOULD be doing on any given vacation … whatever, plot your own path.

20140714-042344-15824029.jpg

6. Big Stars Are Never The Whole Story

On Broadway we saw ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ starring Daniel Radcliffe. It was an excellent story and production, and the Cort Theater is an intimate setting that made it a joy to watch. But as we were eating dinner (Carmine’s in Times Square – great stuff!) and chatting, all of us thought that in spite of being the ‘name’, Daniel Radcliffe didn’t stand out as the singular highlight of the cast.

That isn’t a criticism, but rather high praise for the entire cast, the writing and the interplay. But it is a reminder that life is a team sport – there are always things that get all the attention, whether people, places, events or whatever … but behind all of them there is a team that has made it happen. The recent World Cup showed the value of teamwork in sports, and every song on pop radio is the result of a large team effort.

I always think about that with runners and bloggers – running a race is a solo event, but almost always we depend on others to help us along the way. Maybe it is our family who have supported us through training and given us the time to get out and run, maybe it is the volunteers along the course.

I personally got a pretty big recognition at work just before vacation, and my initial reaction was to discuss the team effort required, but the focus was really on my contributions and accomplishments. I have always found that a bit weird, because early in my career I realized that without everyone working together, very little would get done.

TL;DR – ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ is a great play you should see if you can. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent, so is the rest of the cast and everyone involved with the production.

20140714-042343-15823362.jpg

7. Apartment Suites Are Awesome

I mentioned that no one knew about the place we were staying, and that is because it is fairly unique (well, for us, but we are generally cottage renters). The place was Dharma Home Suites, and in a few locations in New York City and Jersey City they have chunks of high rise apartments that they rent out. They don’t own the entire building, so this isn’t a hotel experience with a front desk and so on. You are renting a furnished apartmemt for a week – which in our case was EXACTLY what we wanted. Check out the panorama I took of the main area:

Hotel Panorama

We got a one-bedroom suite, with two beds (twin and futon) in the living room. The full kitchen made cooking easy, and the apartment came with an incredible view, and access to an ‘amenities floor’ with outdoor grills and a pool. Sadly the tennis courts were closed off due to construction on an adjoining tower. But overall it was just an incredible place – it cost no more than a cottage on Cape Cod for a week, yet was a block from the Path train at Grove St. This is definitely something we will check out again in the future.

20140714-042343-15823656.jpg

8. Tourist-y Things Can Be Fun … or Not

On our first full day of vacation we went on the Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty tour, with the assumption we’d want to spend more time on the Statue and still leave time to head into the City, so we rushed Ellis Island a bit. Turns out we had it backwards – we loved Ellis Island and reading all of the history and stories and details, whereas after a short time after getting time looking at the Statue of Liberty up close we were done … then spent 45 minutes working through crowds of people who seemed either oblivious or unaccomodating to others, just to get off of the island!

In contrast, in Central Park, within 5 minutes of getting past the touristy entrance at Strawberry Fields we saw a couple getting engagement pictures done, a gay wedding finishing up, another wedding getting going, and a commercial for an Israeli jewelry line being shot. And everyone around was incredibly warm and friendly (well, for New York) and willing to work around what was happening.

We did loads of other touristy things – Canal St, shops in Soho, Madison Ave, Times Square, Herald Square, lunch in Washington Square park, and on and on … and in general we had loads of fun doing everything. It is all what you bring into the experience that makes the difference.

20140714-101606-36966350.jpg

9. It is YOUR Life … YOU Decide What is Most Important

While on vacation, we saw pictures from other people who were in places we had gone on vacation, and even others in New York City where we never quite managed to cross paths. Everyone does things differently, and even two people doing the same thing experience it uniquely. We have honestly never been a ‘shared vacation’ family, in spite of doing a few of them … and yeah, you can probably guess how we rate those experiences!

Doing our vacation, our way, was an incredibly fun experience – Chris wanted Starbucks (multiple times!), Danny wanted food truck food, Lisa wanted to check out the Macy’s in Herald Square (well, she was more excited about Alice’s Tea Cup, but I already used that picture) and I loved having lunch on a park bench listening to jazz in Washington Square Park. We all respected our other’s time, space, and desires … and as a result we had an incredible vacation.

20140714-135101-49861123.jpg

Bonus #1. Food is Good!

Interestingly I took very few pictures of food. That isn’t due to a lack of food in general or good food in specific – I really have no idea. Apparently I’m a lousy foodie. Our basic strategy is full breakfast at the apartment, late lunch out, snacks or light dinner at the apartment later. But we ate SO MUCH for those dinners that we were seldom very hungry when we got back. So on Thursday after SUNY Purchase we had a big BBQ on the 7th floor and cooked everything we had – two meals worth of burgers and two meals of chicken, and packed the rest in the fridge and carried it home, where it fed us until Sunday.

Highlights included the Maple Lawn Diner in Elmira, NY, which we hit on the way out, Carmine’s in Times Square, Alice’s Tea House on the Upper West Side, Pizza Mercato near NYU … well, and pretty much everything else!

Bonus #2. Oh yeah … RUNNING AGAIN WAS AWESOME!

I never got around to posting this on Instagram this morning, but the natural conclusion to this story is about me getting out on Monday morning and having a great run, right? OF COURSE! And that is exactly what happened! And since it had been 9 days, you can assume I took it slow, ran a shorter distance and … um, no. It was a great foggy, humid, sweaty 9.25 miles, where I at least wore my most comfortable shoes (Kinvara 5s), then home for ab work and just barely getting past 2 minutes on the plank – and every second past 1:40 was a struggle, aided only by our cat stalking around and rubbing against me the whole time.

20140714-101606-36966202.jpg

I am more than a week behind reading most of your blogs – and since I get most by email subscription that translates to ~150 emails sitting to go through until I am caught up!

So … well, I’ve missed all of you so comment on this or tell me anything you’d like?!?

From the Archives: Mostly the Miles are Just Boring

As a reminder, I am on vacation this week and planning to be ‘mostly offline’ – so I scheduled a few post ‘reruns’ from the very early days of the blog (when I had very few readers)! This one was originally posted here.

Back when I started this blog I was conflicted – I was planning to talk about running and ‘healthy living’, but wasn’t planning a hardcore running or foodie blog. At the time the blogs I most enjoyed were ones written by runners with more to discuss than just running. That caused me to reflect a bit. Here we go!

Run Route 10-19-13

Check out the route I ran on Saturday – it was ~12.25 miles, making it the 2nd longest I have run in nearly a month due to tapering and recovering from the Wineglass Marathon. I was happy with the pace as well, especially since I took a hilly route, and the wind was already blowing and the rain started coming down heavy and I looked like a drowned rat by the time I was done. The wind was crazy – I ran facing every possible direction and yet felt the wind was constantly bashing me around!

I posted my post-run picture on Instagram and had some interest in terms of people ‘liking’ it and sharing some comments either there, Twitter or Facebook. That is really cool – I love sharing stuff and getting feedback, just like I enjoy seeing stuff other people post.

However, I try not to share EVERY run, and never post full running summaries and so on – I even know some people who de-friend others who post too many ‘daily workouts’, along with too many motivational pictures, political or religious rants, and so on. It gets overwhelming pretty quickly – and isn’t very interesting for non-runners.

Here is one of those dirty secrets about running blogs: nobody who reads them is very interested in dry daily run logs. Not even other runners … heck, probably not even the person writing the blog! Some folks feel the need to include them because they think ‘it is a running blog’; others include them with other material or as part of a ‘weekly summary’; some people started doing things that way and probably just do it without thinking.

When I read my favorite running blogs, it is seldom specifically for the running. I mean, I like hearing how they are doing with their running – but always in service of a specific goal. Are they training for their first marathon? I want to hear how they are feeling with increased mileage. A PR (personal record)? Tell me how the speed work is going. An injury? Definitely want to hear about coping skills and be there to drop in a supportive comment (especially with what Lisa is dealing with now).

It is also fun to read about the non-running side of things, how runners with non-running spouses and families deal with things – or more precisely, how other normal people deal with us runners! And just seeing the three-dimensional views of a wide variety of people. We all share a passion for a sport, so it is interesting to see what else we share. As of now I have yet to find fans of Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Mary Halvorson in my running blog travels!

The reasons WHY nobody cares about that stuff are actually fairly simple: most of the joy and benefit of running is very personal and doesn’t translate well into a daily blog entry. Here is an example:

Last week the weather was pretty uniformly nice and a bit warm. The mornings were clear, and I was happy to get out in the darkness, put my feet one in front of the other, focus on my breathing and strides, see the occasional bunny or squirrel and even a skunk, clear my head and work my muscles, and get home to be greeted at the door by a sleek black cat ready for 2nd breakfast as I head in to wake the kids up to get ready for school.

And that is the week – I ended up with 52 miles, and by the end of the week I had none of the residual tighness in my calf from the marathon, and was starting to think about my upcoming half-marathon. That isn’t too bad to read in bulk, but doesn’t make for an exciting daily read!

So perhaps it isn’t completely true that the miles are boring – because for me they are a continuous source of joy, elation and satisfaction …

Sunday Vacation Day, Award-Worthy and Weekly Summary!

Happy Sunday! Well, actually by the time you read this I will already be on vacation! WooHoo! I will say in advance that my intent is to be ‘mostly unplugged’ all week … so I apologize in advance if I don’t reply to comments, read blogs, or answer emails in a timely fashion. But for me, these unplugged times are really important since I tend to be an ‘always online’ person.

In my absence I haven’t set up any guests to post … instead I have pulled out three of my earliest posts – ones that seem to really resonate even now. I reworked them all a bit and reposted – hopefully you will enjoy!

Award-Worthy

When I did my Very Inspiring Blogger award post I sorta cheesed on nominating others … and it has bugged me since. I mean, it was one thing earlier this year when I had two in a row and had nominated all my faves in the first one … or even when I did the mega-awards post more recently. This time? I just didn’t make an effort – and worse yet, I realized that there are a bunch of new awesome blogs I am reading that deserve attention!

So here is what I am doing – I am just going to list 25 30 great blogs I read regularly, including old faves as well as new discoveries. If they would like to do a ‘Very Inspiring’ post (which is really mostly about listing a bunch of things about yourself) – great. But either way I encourage everyone to check them out!

1. T-Rex Runner
2. Runnah
3. Ann’s Running Commentary
4. Loving on the Run
5. The Lyons’ Share Wellness
6. The Gluten-Free Treadmill
7. She’s Going the Distance
8. SuzLyfe
9. Run Salt Run!
10. Paleo Running Momma
11. Life Between the Miles
12. Darlin’ Rae
13. Fit Fresh & Funny
14. Spiritual Creaminess
15. Carina’s Running Career
16. The Girl Who Ran Everywhere
17. Running Southern
18. Running Sunflower
19. Cowgirl Runs
20. Running Boston & Beyond
21. Carmy
22. Candies & Crunches
23. The Passion of Running
24. Running Out of Wine
25. So Very Slightly Mad
26. To a 5K and Beyond
27. Blonder side of life
28. Snack Therapy
29. Amazing in Motion
30. The Big Man’s World

Wow – I love a lot of blogs 🙂

My Running Summary

Another week without a Sunday or Saturday … and in spite of the heat and humidity I really enjoyed my runs. That said, having the cool dry breezy air of Friday was just amazing! I’ll take 365 days of THAT every year, thanks!

The funny thing was hitting my driveway and the Garmin saying 18.73 after I hit the button … and I really just didn’t care enough to make it 18.75 … oh well!

Sunday: ‘Rest’ day (Hike the gorge)
Monday: 10.25 miles, 2:32 plank
Tuesday: 11.4 miles, Abs, 2:17 plank
Wednesday: 9.75 miles, Abs, 2:39 plank
Thursday: 10.5, Abs, 2:07 plank
Friday: 18.73 miles, Abs, 2:32 plank
Saturday ‘Rest’ day (getting ready for vacation!)

This was an awesome week with a couple of late nights (Chris went to Fallout Boy/Paramour and got home after 1:30), but somehow I managed a total of just over 60 miles.

Have a great week and I look forward to catching up when I return!

Friday Free-for-All – Look Twice, Save a Life!

Look Twice Save a Life - Runner

On Wednesday as I was out running I noticed a few lawn signs for the motorcycle safety campaign ‘Look Twice, Save a Life’. And since I had just done my ‘Slow the F Down’ post I was thinking how it would be great for drivers to be careful of all the runners out and about.

Here are some other thoughts this week:

Running – the weather has been hot and humid, but I am not complaining … it just awesome to toss on my shirt and shorts and GO! As a result I have been pushing it … I had done more than 70 miles last week, which caused me to look back: in May I’d done 29 of 31 days and over 250 miles, and was up to 14 out of 15 days in June with about 125 miles … and so I took off this Monday and will also be off all weekend and really try to get some rest.

Abs Challenge – I have been loving this challenge, but it has been a killer! Each day after my run I do my ab work and plank, and have happily gotten my planks well over 2 minutes, but they are TOUGH!

Rug burns on the elbows have improved by using towels, and my strength is definitely improved – carrying the air conditioners around wasn’t a big deal! The one thing – while my abs tighten, my skin does not … it is a reminder I will always carry with me.

Food – it is funny (and great) to feel like you are in touch with your body. As I have pushed the miles, my body has been very clear about wanting more, and so I have give it more. I have been happy that what it wants more of are fruits and healthy smoothies and veggies … but still, it is a great thing.

Also, I noticed just how many of my meals I cool are either Paleo or Vegan without even planning it that way – one night it was grilled Portobello with roasted vegetables and corn on the cob, the next grilled chicken with grilled veggies … it is amazing how these habits can enter into our lives so thoroughly that we don’t know they are there.

Why I care so much about ALL of this ‘Social Justice’ stuff

I have been asked a number of times why I have such a strong stance on ‘social justice’ issues, and I think I can sum it up pretty easily:
– Getting picked on for being fat in elementary school definitely had an impact. I am not a violent person, but all of my fights were in elementary school, and all come back to being made fun of for being fat. THAT has impacted my ‘view of the underdog’ throughout my life.
– I was best friends with the only ‘person of color’ in our baseball league … and I really had no idea about what that was like for him until seeing racism in action – what I got for being fat he got MUCH worse for something that was beyond his control.
– I had a few gay friends in high school, some who were ‘out’ and others who didn’t come out until later. Those who did took loads of abuse from so many people, which really bothered me (see above). Yet I didn’t know the extent of their abuse for many years …
– Going to RPI in the early 80s was a mostly-male world, and what women were there were typically stereotyped by the outside world in a certain way. In Troy there was an all-woman’s college (Russell Sage) … and THOSE women were stereotyped in an entirely different way (the ‘joke’ was that the most popular degree program was the ‘MRS’ degree). I knew women from both schools to be smart, funny and all-around great people. Heck, I even married one.

As a result I have always felt strongly about one thing: we are all people, and deserve to be treated fairly and equally. It seems so simple and obvious, yet it remains elusive as it seems that some will find the most irrational and unlikely reasons to pile hate on others. That said, I have seen progress in my life … and hope I continue to see more, and that I am right that so much of what we see are ‘last gasps of desperation’ from racists and misogynists and homophobes.

Did anyone get the reference?

I love how Cori and Laura have the ability to suggest songs into my head. I tend to drop a number of ‘lines’ and references into posts, some more obscure than others. In the ‘Slow the F Down’ post part of the title was ‘hey you there’.

That cracked me up as I included it … but realized that it was unlikely anyone would get it. So I have to explain it anyway – in the computer game Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, most of the game is excellent, but the Stormtroopers have little variety in what they said ‘stop Rebel scum’, ‘don’t let him get away’, and my fave – ‘hey you there’ … uttered hundreds of times through the 25 hour game! haha … well, I cracked myself up anyway 🙂

Speaking Of Video Games

Have you ever noticed that every main character in a video-game is a 30-something grizzled white dude? Well, if not … you haven’t played many games! I noted recently how a dozen years or so ago I was roundly thrashed in one particular game forum for noting the positive female image one game had presented. Um … yeah. And it hasn’t improved.

At the latest game conference (E3) publisher Ubisoft – whose games fit perfectly into the “Ubisoft: Straighter. Whiter. Duder.” description Shamus Young used to describe them.

Bottom line – video game development is a ‘dude bro’ culture, which is sad because ‘nerds’ were supposed to go against the ‘dude-bro’ culture. Shamus has a great take on it here:

I want to stress that I’m not coming at this from a social justice angle. This is about business and creativity. If Straight White Dudegames are really where the safe money is at (and I’m extremely skeptical on this point) then I’m really not going to demand a corporation like Ubisoft to deliberately make less money in order to make things more “fair”. I know some people do. That’s fine. This social justice stuff gets touchy, and in the end we’re all just trying to make the hobby the best it can be.

But like I said in the column, this is a hard thing to test and Ubisoft hasn’t even tried. (Read the article before nitpicking this.) And no matter which way the money goes, Ubisoft is still creatively impotent. Like, even if you can prove that games won’t sell unless the protagonist is a straight white dude, there’s still no excuse for Adrian Pearce, who has less personality than Gordon Freeman’s crowbar and less depth than the Adventure rectangle.

Further to the ‘Sexism in Gaming’ problem, NPR notes how one developer chose to compare a software service execution framework … to his girlfriend. With predictably sexist results.

And finally on the Ubisoft & E3 sexism front, GI.biz notes that it always seems to be inclusivity – different genders, races, nationalities – that always gets cut. It nicely rounds out the points that Shamus was making.

As I have noted, I am definitely a gaming fan, but although I was playing shooters from the very start (had Doom on a laptop right after it came out as we drove up to Maine for the weekend), I have never been a fan of the console macho-game culture. Right now I am playing ‘Might & Magic X: Legacy’, a continuation of the classic role-playing saga I had started playing nearly three decades ago.

Why the Amazon Fire Phone Will Fail

Did you hear that Amazon was launching a phone? Guess what? You probably won’t buy it – I won’t buy it, and nor will most people. I am predicting its sales will be rounding error compared to the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones … and not even hold up against the HTC phones and Microsoft’s anemic Windows Phone platform. Why?

I love this quote:

Amazon has spent years developing a phone that addresses zero needs and relies on features that no one wants.

There are definitely some cool things:
– Firefly recognition technology – see a book or piece of art or running shoes you want … point your phone at them and your Fire phone will help you buy them … from Amazon.
– Unlimited Free Photo Storage – this just stepped things up major-bigtime! Add to this a nice looking 13MP low-light capable camera, and you have a real winner
– 3D tracking with four low-power cameras. Advanced face tracking
– Tight Amazon integration.

But … then there is all of this:
– Mediocre specs – getting the Samsung Galaxy S4 from last year is a better phone
– Pricing – now THIS was actually surprising, but for a ‘mid-range’ phone you are paying ‘flagship’ prices – $650 for the base phone without contract.
– AT&T exclusive – by doing this they essentially throw away more than TWO-THIRDS of possible customers. I am sure that they are doing this because AT&T seems to be the place to launch for favorable terms (like the iPhone, Nokia’s Windows Phones, HTC’s ‘Facebook Phone’, etc). But … if that is the reason, why not attack with price?

The worst thing is that I should be part of the target audience for the phone, and I had made my decision before the product announcement live-stream was over.

Why should they want me? I have been on Amazon since … forever – I have order info going back more than 17 years. I am a long-time Prime member, have an extensive Kindle library, own Kindle, had every Kindle Fire up to the new Kindle Fire HDX, have loads of apps and games, am part of their digital video game system, have the new Fire TV with game controller, and we spend more money there than just about anywhere … basically I am pretty well committed to the Amazon ecosystem.

But I also live in a Verizon-only area, and with an all-iPhone house Amazon would have to give me a good reason to switch – and a load of stuff that does nothing for me but helps them sell more stuff is NOT it!

What about you?

Resiliance

I reblogged this yesterday, but I really think it is a great and important message. Here is the original.

The Passing of Another Legend Leads to a Reflection on Life

This past week has seen the passing of a number of celebrities and artists, and as often happens the majority are not widely known people who will be featured on news and entertainment shows, but journeymen artists such as jazz musicians Aaron Sachs and Jimmy Scott.

The two that crossed my news streams the most were baseball legend Tony Gwynn and jazz piano legend Horace Silver. There are articles everywhere about the two, but I love this take from Tony Gwynn’s batboy, and this retrospective on Horace Silver by Marc Myers.

When death impacts us directly it can be devastating – we get consumed by grief and sadness and despair. Yet what most of us want to leave behind is a legacy that makes people smile … for people to say ‘do you remember that time when … ‘ and have warm and happy thoughts.

I have been thinking about this because over the last couple of weeks there have been all sorts of other life-reflecting things: at work I know of people who have died or had cancer diagnosis or been hospitalized; same with friends outside of work – two friends from our past are dealing with cancer … and the sad reality is you know there is no guarantee. I know I am at that age when people start dying ‘young’, but from afflictions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes that typically impact older people.

Kind of a heavy topic, I know … and I guess my take-away is to say that you should spend your life creating the moments that people will remember rather than the money they can spend when you are gone.

Here is a great classic song from Horace Silver to take us out …

Hey You There – Slow the F Down!

keep-calm-and-slow-the-f-down-1

Over the last week or so I have either heard from someone else or found myself saying something along the lines of …

SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

Why? Here are a few thoughts:

Driving
– Almost every day while running I will see two cars coming down the road (not busy at 4AM) … but even with just two, there is less than two car lengths between them. Yes, tailgating – nothing new … but seriously, SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

– And then this morning, I was coming towards home and there is a 3-way intersection where most people turn left, and there were two cars with one tailing the other. The front one didn’t put on a directional, and it looked like the rear car assumed he was going straight because he started moving across the yellow line into the wrong lane to make the left turn when the first car made the turn … there was very nearly an accident, horns honked, and I heard more than a few choice words. Sure the front guy SHOULD have used his turn signal … but seriously, rear car? SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

– In Massachusetts on Sunday a runner was struck and killed by a guy in a SUV. “20-year-old Haley Cremer was out running when she was hit at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday.” The driver had a suspended license from three traffic offenses within 24 months, and had been found at fault in 10 accidents. The town of Sharon is right next to where I grew up so I can picture the scene – and it was at the intersection in an affluent residential area, and one of the streets was a cul-de-sac! Too many runners have been killed this way … please pay attention, come to a complete stop at an intersetion, look both ways, and SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

School
– My younger son pretty much summed it up: he is ready to be done with school for the year … but not done with being a sophomore. He is ready for life to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

Work
– An article at Monster this week made for an interesting read – it was about ‘why Americans don’t like vacations OR work’. It talks about how Americans lament that they have the least amount of vacation time in the industrial world (none is mandated), and yet in general people leave at least some of the time they DO get unused.

The glaringly awful Cadillac ad implies that the result of that is more work, but here is the thing: “Here’s the caveat: There’s actually no proof that working harder (and not taking time off) leads to greater success.”

But there IS proof that ‘down time’ has significant health benefits. So? SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

– Further to this, yesterday Megan posted that she had to ‘forgive herself’ because she was looking at a workout or recipe photo opportunity during her hyper-scheduled day … and took a nap instead.

Now I am not opposed to detailed scheduling at all – depending on my projects and life at the moment I will have somewhere between an incredibly detailed daily plan and just what is on the family calendar on the pantry door at home. It is all about what works for each of us. My point? Naps can be AWESOME, and are a great way when you are over-stressed, under-sleep, and so on … but if you feel guilty because you needed to stop and take a moment to recharge? Maybe it is time to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN! (sorry Megan! 🙂 )

The Seasons

– A few months ago I wrote and lamented that I felt like I was wishing away time because I constantly felt like I was DONE with the -20F days of winter, and at the same time we were dealing with some issues with our ‘hihg efficiency’ furnace. I was really down on myself about it – because honestly I am normally a ‘savor the moment’ type of person, and really want time to … you know.

– Last week Hollie posted bemoaning the humidity and its impact on her training, which I totally got. She said “I’ll continue to whine about the heat but in reality I’m logging injury free miles. Despite being slower, I know I’ll feel fabulous when fall rolls around again.”But looking at it and also many of the comments that were frankly whining about summer and wishing for cooler fall temperatures to arrive.

That led me to comment that there are essentially two seasons for runners: complaining about winter and complaining about summer, with about two weeks on either side of ‘happy time’.

And at the same time we have gone through warm and cold temperatures the last couple of weeks here, so naturally I have heard people complain about BOTH hot and cold, wishing for more summer and for hte fall to hurry up and get here. It is frustrating to me that so many people seem to spend each day wishing to be somewhere else in time.

How are we already half-way through 2014? Please someone tell this year to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

Rest

– This is interesting. We need sleep to survive, and also know that most people are chronically fatigued (and dehydrated) – rest is critical. But as the Monster article I noted before says, we are working more, taking less vacation, and resting less than ever before.

OK, so … ? When I did my ‘Three Films’ post there were notes about not being into movies, and when I and others did Liebster posts that included movies … I saw many people saying they didn’t watch movies – and one of the most common reasons was that if they sat down to watch a movie, they fell asleep. Guess what? If that is true, you are exhausted, and should Go The F to Sleep! Yeah, I am saying you need to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

Running

– I have already noted that I ‘call BS’ on so many people posting ‘easy’ runs that really make no sense in the context of what the person has demonstrated. Easy is different than ‘felt great’, and is more about building a base than doing focused training. Why do I care? Because there are only a few possible directions this all goes – it can fall in the ‘unreality’ bucket, reduce the effectiveness of training (too tired when you are supposed to do high impact training), or land you injured (again). If your plan for the day is ‘easy’ paced miles, I don’t care what you THINK as you head out the door – do yourself a favor and SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

– Another great post by Hollie talked about her week in training, but had some great perspective: “My miles this week weren’t incredibly fast. … As I said on Thursday, injury free miles are always my priority and they aren’t something I will complain about.” This is an incredibly important way of thinking about things.

Look – every runner wants to be faster, run longer distances and no one wants to be injured. But at a certain point there are choices to be made: there are a couple of ironic building sayings “tighten the screw until the head breaks … then back off a half-turn” and “no matter how many times I cut it is too short!” In context what I am saying is that there is a cross-over point where our pursuit of speed and distance runs into our attempts to avoid injury.

At that point we realize that you can’t ‘back off a half-turn’. And in this case when I say we all need to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!, I am talking about literally and figuratively – pace yourself through gradual improvements, and take the time to really analyze what you are trying to do.

Personally in the last two years I took ~40% off my ‘normal’ pace, most of it during the first year with more gradual gains this past year. I could have pushed more for additional speed gains, but after the PA Grand Canyon last year I had a long self-talk and decided staying injury-free was my #1 priority because it is love of running rather than any race or pace that is my passion.

Blogging

– I just finished a couple of ‘post campaigns’ – ’10 Days of You’ followed by my few ‘what caused my blogging hiatus and what I learned’ series – and they were EXHAUSTING! The comments were … incredible. I am constantly touched and moved by how awesome all of you are. Seriously. But as I say – exhausting. I really need to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

– So if you haven’t noticed I have already removed the ‘weekly post’ labels – this isn’t a ‘Take Care Tuesday’, there wasn’t a ‘Five Things Friday’ or ‘Motivation Monday’ and so on. Doesn’t mean those posts won’t happen, but by removing that weekly focus I can write when I want to. And so that is what I will do. Will I post tomorrow? Who knows. My focus is going to be more on writing when I want to and doing what I feel is worth sharing and taking your valuable time.

– In terms of reading, this week I’ve added about a half-dozen blogs to my reader, and not removed any. This I already know is not sustainable, and am already doing a couple of things differently with these new blogs:
* adding more blogs to my ’email me new posts’ list, and if I delete without clicking more than two times in a row – I will delete the subscription.
* Doing more from the iPad WordPress app. One thing I have noticed? Some blogs won’t allow me to comment or ‘Like’ their posts. It isn’t always a self-hosted thing either. Suffice to say, unless I already love you, if I have to click through to get value from your post (read other comments, post my own, like and share) … chances are you are gone. Yes I know it is probably about advertising clicks, but sorry … not sorry.

Being more efficient in my blog reading and writing will allow me to enjoy the blogs I love even more and hopefully continue to write with passion while maintaining my busy life.

Life
– As I said at top, our younger son will be a junior and our older son a senior in high school next year. That means college trips this summer and tons of time spent on essays, applications and so on come the fall. With our busy schedules it is hard sometimes, but so important to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN and take the moments like I did yesterday to ask about their last day, just chat for a few minutes and see how it is all going for them. I have realized that it is also one reason I don’t mind that much when I have to drive them to school …

– This morning Lisa and I sat drinking coffee on the porch as I ate my breakfast and the dogs watched and listened for anything of interest in the very quiet foggy morning. It was slow, lazy, and relaxing and awesome. Last night she didn’t get home until after 7PM, so by the time we’d finished dinner and cleaned up and were sitting down outside it was almost 8:30 and she felt like we should go for a walk, but was also totally exhausted. Relaxing is SO hard … but in reality we all need to spend more time in the moment, enjoy the people we love, and just …

SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!

Just to share – here is a music video Chris did of ‘Summertime Sadness’

Boy got m4d sk!llz! haha

In What Ways Do You or the World Need to SLOW THE F%$# DOWN!?

The (un) Reality of the Blog World

eating_disorders_2

Image Source

These last few days I have vented some of the frustrations I had with the blog world that led me to take a two week hiatus (sounds like nothing now, but in my head it was significant) a few months back … but as I have done the posts I have realized through my writing and the great comments that it was all about much more. My thoughts on ‘blogs as inefficient’ in particular turned into something that gets at the difficulty of being ‘present’ in the face of technology. And the comments in my ‘Schadenfreude’ post pointed to something else … that sometimes the blog world isn’t exactly the most honest or healthy place.

Telling it Like It Isn’t

A couple of weeks ago Hollie had one of the best picture/comment combos I have seen recently – she was out and saw tiny utensils and asked “why are the mini blogger utensils more expensive then the normal sized ones?”

Some commenters were ‘correcting’ her that they were baby utensils, but she made it clear that she knew EXACTLY what she was saying:

I was referring to them as blogger utensils since a lot of healthy living bloggers like to use smaller utensils.

There were many possible ways of interpreting that … but I was reminded of something Arman pointed out a while back:

I was informed that there are bloggers out there whom, using various camera techniques and angles- are able to make a minisecule portion of food look greater than it is.

In video games this is called the ‘bullshot’. In that context it is a misrepresentation that is intended to pique interest.

In the HLB context it is more often than not a misrepresentation of what someone is ACTUALLY eating … and really, there are only THREE reasons I can think that someone would do that – because that was only made for thepicture, or to hide overeating, or to hide calorie restriction. Neither of the last two is healthy.

Also unhealthy? Discovering that someone has been using supplements to avoid eating actual meals. I’m not talking about an occasional protein shake to fuel workouts (those are insanely filling!), but actually using nutrient pills instead of eating … and flying into a rage when questioned about it. It is very sad, but we’re all adults here and have to make our own choices and deal with the consequences.

Along the same lines, I used to follow a blogger who got injured, then within a few months was suddenly doing post-injury activities again … it capped off an entire cycle of behavior that kept getting revealed after the fact as less-than-forthright (being generous) … and was an immediate unfollow for me. I don’t handle dishonest people well – especially ones who will not allow questioning or dissenting voices.

More Specifically

There are really three areas where I have seen unreality:

Thinspo / Fitspo: most of us have seen ‘pro-Ana’ sites, which actively encourage anorexia and other dirordered eating. And most people agree that these sites are incredibly unhealthy. But if you really pay attention to some fitness and ‘healthy living’ blogs, you will find that many are pushing and advocating tremendous amounts of exercise while still restricting caloric intake, choosing ‘zero point’ foods like carrots and plain mustard after a 10 mile run, or a recovery snack of a half an apple and teaspoon of nut butter or whatever.

Fueling is incredibly important, and young women in particular are very susceptible to body image issues and the whole food industry push of ‘fat is bad’. Sadly there are some widely read blogs where either the person has admitted past disorders or is apparently dealing with one now, yet pushes their approach very strongly. I have managed to get myself banned from commenting on at least one of those … without personal attacks, profanity, or anything but direct questions …

Bad Eating Advice: aside from the ‘relentless pursuit of size zero’, there are those who through reading articles and some self-success and positive feedback have gotten an inflated sense of expertise. Reading about how a certain supplement worked for someone and using it yourself … fine, like I said we are adults here.

But when these bits are posted with post titles like ‘Ultimate Guide’ or ‘Everything You Need to Know’, and backed up directly or indirectly with educational and/or race credentials … well, suddenly it takes on a whole new meaning. Again, I have seen young kids and new runners take stuff on some of these blogs very seriously, like direct medical advice … and once that starts happening I believe the blogger has a more direct standard of personal accountability, and needs to understand the impact of what they are doing.

Bad Fitness Advice: most of the blogs I read are very clear about not offering professional or expert advice, and personally I am specific about recommending you stay away from what I do as a generally ‘good idea’. But I have seen an interesting trend in blog ‘meta-discussions’ (these are forum talks about a cross section of running blogs) … they tend to weigh advice higher if the person giving it is faster.

To an extent that makes sense – I mean, they have demonstrated proficiency at a higher level, right? Yeah, but some of them are IDIOTS … with tons of raw talent. Some of the discussions point that out, but others will look at a PR time and just assume that whatever that person says is “THE TRUTH’. My worry is obvious – someone WILL get hurt.

Our Insular World

Running and healthy living bloggers all share an understanding of much of the terminology (dreadmill, fartlek, burpees, etc), physical conditions (chafing, zombie toes, etc) and the general feelings of a great workout. In regards of enjoying a workout, we are like everyone else who does exercise, but endurance runners and people who try to sustain healthy eating to fuel that type of workout regime take it all to the next level.

As such many people who are not doing this feel it can become obsessive, but the flip side of that is we live in a rather insular world – only people who have gone through running 6+ days a week for a sustained period, fueled heavily and still been ‘hangry’, lost toenails, bought a huge supply of band-aids, and so on will really connect with the things we take for granted.

Because of this we can lose objectivity – it is good to have a reality check in our life … and we don’t ever want to get to the point that ‘getting injured’ is our reality check. When I look around the running / HLB world I have seen new people immersing themselves fully, taking ALL of the advice, surrounding themselves with like-minded people … and getting hurt.

True … From a Certain Point of View

Look – NONE of us reveals everything that goes on in our lives. Look at it this way – some of us have children, more are married and pretty much every blog I followed has discussed dating at some point. So it is pretty safe to bet that at least the overwhelming majority of us have had sex at some point – hetero, homo, whatever … but none of us really needs to discuss it or know about each other’s sex life … and that is pretty much all I will ever say on that subject. 🙂

My point – while we discuss many things on our blogs, and many of us actually reveal a great deal about ourselves (more than I would have ever guessed I would reveal) … there is always much we leave unsaid. Which isn’t a bad thing – certainly I view myself very much as an introvert and private person, and have no plan or desire to reveal everything about myself.

But aside from WHAT we say, there is also HOW we say it … in other words, we each represent a singular viewpoint. If we are talking about a relationship, we are telling (at most) 50% of the story. I love that my wife is open and free providing feedback and a reality check – while at the same time being incredibly supportive of my running and crazy eating!

But what happens when you don’t have an alternate view point is you can lose perspective. I laughed about how one morning I was running really well, felt great and was pushing the pace – which for me means I was in the 8+ minute range – and someone blew by me. Again, it really doesn’t matter, but it is also a reminder that everyone is in a different place, perhaps doing a different type of run or whatever. We have to avoid applying false context, but also remember that we can seldom see the entire picture.

And … so?

Here is the bottom line – there is no great ‘truth dispensor’ … and we need to be very careful about how much faith we put into the advice we read on blogs. But since most of the people reading this are at least a few years past high school, I feel that as adults we need to take some responsibility for the running / HLB community as a whole.

I have commented many times and found myself unwelcome because of questioning the blogger (when your supplement of choice has significant kidney & liver side effects and you don’t mention those … um, not cool) – but I won’t stop. I want every new runner to get a lifetime of joy and benefits from the sport just as I have.

And if there is a bit of advice I WOULD like people to take from me it is this … there is no supplement or diet or 2-minute workout that is going to transform you into Meb / Shalane … sorry, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of us even a lifetime of hard work and eating right will still leave us towards the middle of the pack … but hey, we will be the best possible versions of ourselves. And for me, that is what matters most.

Random Question … Anyone in the Houston Area?

OK, so next week (June 23rd – 25th) I will be in Houston courtesy of the HP Houston Labs, and while I am not sure I will have much of any availability or extra time … couldn’t hurt to check, right?!?

What Do You Think About ‘Warped Reality’ in the HLB Blog World?

Find Pleasure with The Failures of Others

Here is the thing – I talk about never having sustained a ‘lost time’ running injury … and I am willing to bet money that there is someone who will read this post that wishes I would get hurt, either out of spite or so that I would better understand those who are injured. Not any of my friends, but someone.

dilbert-schadenfreude

Schadenfreude is defined as “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” It comes from the German roots Schaden (meaning damage) + Freude (meaning joy).

What is Schadenfreude in Real Life?

I am pretty sure all of us have had at least one person in our lives who seemed to function best when others were at their worst. Sometimes this can be a good thing – the person who shines in bad situations, for example. But in general it is the person who seems to ‘be there’ for friends when things are down – but suddenly when you are happy they are either gone or finding fault with your happiness.

For us, there are a few things I could relate, but one in particular – the single person key to Lisa and I being together was not even present at our wedding, let alone a bridesmaid! Yeah, while I was fat and jobless and miserable, and Lisa was in Boston and contemplating moving to Albany for grad school and miserable … she fed off that misery and was ‘there for us’. But suddenly when Lisa and I became inseperable and happy and eventually romantically involved … she wasn’t happy for us – quite the opposite.

Why Would Someone Cheer for Others to Fail?

My first answer is ‘I have no idea’ … but the REAL answer is about self esteem. People can feel better about themselves because of the misfortunes of others. In the case of our friend, while Lisa and I were unhappy, the other woman was able to feel good about herself … but once we found happiness she was forced to confront her own misery – which she funneled into negative energy towards us!

Think about it – it seems easy enough to laugh at the poor woman who fell in this video:

But how would you react if you were there? Hopefully you would try to help and not laugh at her from the side of the road. That is also why I am not a big fan of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ – because the focus is very often on people who have unfortunate things happen and perhaps get hurt as a result.

There are places on the internet that seem to thrive on celebrating the misfortune of others or simply laughing at and belittling others. As I have mentioned, I’ve done reviews for a variety of sites for nearly two decades now. I did a video game review a dozen or so years ago, and this one RPG site really picked up on a comment I made about the way the game represented women as being very positive, non-stereotypical and non-misogynist.

This site had linked my reviews in the past, but the place I was doing most reviews for at the time had strict post size policies (i.e. very short) so there wasn’t the depth that would interest an enthusiast site. But suddenly there were DOZENS of posts on the topic … and ALL of them were completely shredding me in every way possible – from my feminism, opinions and possible sexuality to pretty much everything else.

What Does This Have to Do With Running Blogs?

One good thing about a product review versus a blog is that a review is about something other than you. So while the commenters were rather direct and intentionally mean, their barbs left no mark because ultimately they were about a disagreement over gender representation in a computer game. Who. The. Fudge. Cares. (and, no, I did NOT say fudge 🙂 )

But imagine for a moment that while I was posting my Loves or Fears from my ’10 Days of You’ stuff – some deeply personal items in my life – and I got belittling comments on the site (I have never deleted a comment due to content), or on a different site, or perhaps on a forum somewhere.

And to answer the obvious question – YES there are blogs that seem to exist to hate on other blogs, and perhaps some here will realize there are web forums whose main purpose seems to be to shred blogs and bloggers. I will not provide any of them with links. Because they don’t need the help of traffic … and I have seen a couple of my blog friends on those sites (as targets). It is REALLY sad.

Along those same lines – did you know that some people ‘hate read’ blogs, the same way people ‘hate watch’ some TV shows (reality shows in particular)? Again, neither of those is something I ‘get’ – I don’t wish ill on anyone on TV, especially seeing how many marriages and families have been torn apart in the pursuit of money from those shows. It is sad.

It is sadder still to hear that people read blogs – and I mean even ones in our fun little limited audience community of running and healthy living blogs – with bad intent. HOPING they succumb to eating disorders; HOPING they get injured; SPECULATING on infidelity and marital problems … I mean, UGH! Really?!?

And … ?

Seeing enough of this going on really disheartened me – as did some of the dishonesty and misrepresentation I was also seeing (another topic). Life is hard enough, running and staying fit is hard enough, marriage is hard enough, parenting is hard enough … it is ALL hard enough wihout adding all of that negativity to the mix. That contributed to me stepping back, removing some blogs from my feed, and readjusting my expectations of myself and other bloggers. Since coming back I have focused on my friends and new acquaintences. And on providing as much support and positivity – while keeping it real – as I can. If you guys win – we ALL win!

So what do I ask? If you are hate reading a blog? Stop. If you think someone has problems – talk to them. Maybe the issue is no one is calling them on it and they are feeding the negative habits with all of the positive feedback. I don’t know. Be the change – we want everyone we care about to be happy and healthy. Help them – and for those who are looking for help, reach out. One thing I have learned is that the group that comments here and that I see all around the blogosphere are some amazingly awesome people who would step out for a friend – one they have never and might never meet. Who knows … take a chance, these guys (including me) have got your back. Together we can make this an even more positive experience.

So What Do YOU Think About All of This?

Five Ways Things Were Better in the Pre-Smartphone Internet Days

20140613-064658-24418102.jpg

Happy Friday! First off I wanted to again thank everyone for so many great comments across the entire ’10 Days of You’ series … it was really amazing to read, and the realization of how much of myself I exposed through these seemingly simple lists makes the comments even more meaningful.

The picture above is my Day 5 collage from Megan’s ‘Ab Challenge’ … and I am pretty pleased with my progress – I am up over a 2 minute plank along with the rest of the ab work and continuing to get in my runs of around 8 – 9 miles every day.

When I took a couple of weeks to ‘step back’ from blogging a few months ago, there were a number of frustrations and other things I needed to sort out … which have ended up in three different draft posts I am finally dealing with. One is on how people treat others, another is on honesty … and this one is about the inefficiency of blogging as a form of communication.

But just saying that by itself doesn’t really mean anything without context, so I wanted to explain WHY I find blogging to be such an inefficient time-soak, and compared to what. As I did that I was thinking about a bunch of other ways technology has become more time-intensive without necessarily delivering more value over the last couple of decades … oh, and before you jump to the comments immediately to tell me how wrong I am, I rebut pretty much every one of my points later in the post!

usenet

1. USENET vs. Forums vs. Blogging

Does anyone reading this remember the days before the web? When I got out of college and wanted to continue to be able to communicate with friends, there was email. Modems were mostly 1200 baud (bits per second … about twice as fast as you can type), and used a phone line. But there was also this thing called USENET.

USENET groups were discussion groups that were handled on a distributed network of servers that replicated the discussions worldwide. You would have a single USENET reader program that would load all of your discussion from your assigned server. Your program would track read and unread, and also discussions you ‘starred’, started or participated in.

So if you were interested in new running shoes, instead of writing on your blog ‘hey guys, what would you recommend for me for running shoes?’ you would post the question to the group rec. running, and a discussion would start … you would supply details, get questions, probably have a side thread or two about certain manufacturers being crap, and so on. Very often the discussions took on a life of their own.

And how would you find groups? Search your server. If you had just listened to music and wanted to see about others who liked that piece, you might go to rec. music.jazz. Or if you had a programming question you could go to comp.lang.c++ and people from all over the world would try to help.

USENET was a very democratic area, where anyone could start a discussion, and once it was out there … it was no longer ‘yours’. But with the rise of the web in the 90s, special interest websites popped up everywhere, gradually killing off USENET participation. An early site I helped out with and participated on was JediKnight.net, which came out after the game Dark Forces as fans waited for the first Jedi Knight game that eventually arrived in 1997. There was news, but mostly it was about the discussions.

What happened with web forums was that the discussions of USENET were decentralized – so you could find a running site which would have all sorts of discussion topics about technique, equipment, and so on. Most also had ‘off topic’ areas where you could talk about music, politics or whatever. Suddenly if you were a video game fan you needed to track a dozen forums to keep up with all of your discussions! But it remained democratic to an extent – all members were pretty much equal, with moderators and site owners having the final word.

Blogs are different – my blog begins and ends with what I want to talk about. If you find my subjects interesting you can comment and follow my posts. But what I found when I started tracking running blogs two years ago was that within the comments were always MORE blogs … and many of them were really cool. So you’d follow another and another and … suddenly you have an out of control subscription list, and this is just as a reader!

But what happens is you have a question you want to ask? Do you search for someone else asking and hope their answers work for you? Do you put your own question in someone else’s comments? No … you make your own blog. And suddenly you realize that there is a lot to blogging:
– Creating content that interests you and hopefully some others
– Reading all of the awesome blogs out there
– Commenting on those blogs
– Responding to comments on YOUR blog!

So suddenly we look back over the last 25 years and realize that we have gone from an in-depth discussion of the harmonic implications of the song ‘Circle’ from Miles Smiles, including several thousand comments in a group with tens of thousands of ‘members’ across dozens of countries … to, well, me introspectively writing a blog article complaining about blogging compared to ‘the good old days’.

HP200LX_1

2. PDAs and Dedicated MP3 Players compared to Smartphones

First – MP3 Players. We all know that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, yet I cannot begin to count the number of people I see on their phones or ‘looking at their laps’ while driving. I know a number of people who use their smartphones as MP3 players. Here is a quick test – how many actions does it take you to stop the current song, change to a new artist, find a certain song on a certain album and play that? And how much ‘screen look’ time? Without doing the math, let em be blunt – it is MUCH less efficient, and MORE dangerous, than on a click-wheel iPod. Which is why I have one in my car.

How is something that takes more effort and distraction to complete a task more efficient? It isn’t! Smartphones are simply less efficient music players, and a bad choice for the car.

Similarly, our smartphones are amazingly powerful tools and the apps we now have are stunning in their depth and breadth. Yet if I had serious math to do on the go I would choose the 20-year old HP 200LX over any of them … in a heartbeat! With Lotus 1-2-3, a full HP scientific calculator, a hardware keyboard and dedicated numeric keypad … POWER! And that was one reason I held off on ‘smartphones’ until Android – ‘convergence’ devices were always inferior.

Look at the keyboard on the HP Jornada 728 from 2002, and you might realize how well it would have worked as something to carry to every meeting and type up notes, do (offline) email, and so on. Looking at the front you might realize it has dedicated hardware media controls – yes it was my MP3 player for quite a while!

It has taken a long time for these convergence devices to catch up – something like the iPad Mini in a Belkin keyboard case is a great replacement for the 728 in every way. But think about it – how great of an accomplishment is it to ‘finally surpass a 12 year old piece of hardware of similar price’ … and to need add-on accessories to do it?

Paar im Restaurant schaut auf Handys

3. Being ‘In The Moment’ vs. ‘Always On’

There is a joke that we are raising a generation that appears to have an unnatural and humorous fascination with their crotches … that is they think they are ‘sneaking’ cell phone use or somehow being more polite by keeping it under the table – but it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

Think about it – when was the last time your were out to dinner with friends or family and you DIDN’T have to repeat something because someone’s attention was on their phone? The priority order is skewed – we are more worried about who is on our smartphone than who is across the table.

My point? It has been shown that for all of the ‘social’ aspects, our smartphones have made us much less socially engaged and worse at handling routine interactions. That is NOT progress.

cell-phone-contract_thumb

4. Punctuality and Reliability

When I had my first job out of college, there were essentially no cell phones and pretty much all computers were desktops (and many people didn’t have external email addresses). If you wanted to have a meeting, you generally had to call someone – and if you needed to alter plans, you again needed to call them.

Just this afternoon I had a meeting to help someone with analyzing some data. At 5 minutes after the meeting was supposed to start at my desk, I got a text asking if they could have 10 more minutes and if we could meet at THEIR desk. I didn’t even think twice about it until I was walking to their office, but that sort of thing would never have happened even 10 years ago.

It all reminds me of this:

“In the US, where punctuality is usually seen as important, mobile phones make us later. We’re more likely to schedule things spontaneously, and then reschedule at the last minute via mobile phone.”

Oh – and THIS video pretty much sums it up.

blackberry-on-the-beach

5. Vacation and Off-Time

I remember going on vacation to Disney in 2001 when Blackberry was a new thing … and I had one of the models like in the picture (but they weren’t in color yet) and for the first day the constant buzzing bothered me and I felt ‘compelled’ to check. But the second morning as we were getting ready, I took one last look, shut it down and locked it in the hotel safe. I didn’t take it out again until we left.

When was the last time you took a cell-phone free vacation? Or brought your phone but actually limited it to taking pictures, keeping up basic communications and that was it? For more and more people it is like the actual number of vacationers has doubled – you have your family … and their phones!

Bonus. The Counter-Points

Of course, for every point I just made there is a counterpoint … and since they seemed obvious to me, I will make them!

The Joy of Blogging – it isn’t SUPPOSED to Replace USENET/Forums – Blogging is all about the celebration of the individual voice and the building of community. We love hearing what our friends have to say – both in posts and in comments. We have something to add and are interested in the reply for the original poster.

It is that celebration of voices and community that makes blogging so great – and worth the challenge of the hard work and time required. I think about the amazing people I have met, the number of folks I genuinely consider friends at this point, and how much faster I have learned so much about them, and shared so much of myself, by blogging and reading blogs. There are people I have talked with on web forums for 20 years regularly I know less about than bloggers I have followed for 3 months. It is amazing.

Also, those discussion I mention STILL happen – in web forums. If you want to talk music theory, head to All About Jazz, where there are incredibly talented people ready to talk – and share annotated links, multimedia files, and other stuff not possible 25 years ago. Same for optimizing virtual instruments in Digital Performer (MOTUForums), and gaming frame rates (numerous forums). Point is – they’re out there.

Also, my USENET example comes from a time when the entire population of the internet was about 100 times SMALLER than the number of people who have viewed the #selfie video. Think about that for a minute … this is even before AOL came along, before ‘text speak’ existed, before most houses had a computer.

Smartphones vs. MP3 and PDAs – When I use my iPhone for music in the car, I am not playing just from when I have remembered to load onto the device, but instead from my entire music library. Last week I wanted to hear ‘Black Radio’ from Robert Glasper (check it out) but on my iPod I only had the ‘Black Radio 2’ album. On my phone that is no problem.

Also, on my phone I have iTunes Radio, Slacker, Spotify, Rdio, Amazon Music, Google Music, and more to play music, Shazam to identify and buy anything I hear while out and about, as well as any number of musical instruments if I hear a tune and want to learn on the go.

Also, I have a full HP-15 calculator on my phone as well as full-featured statistical analysis programs on my iPad. I can go into the lab, grab data, analyze and graph, and report it out all from my tablet quite easily in a way I never could without a full laptop in the past.

Smartphones Require Social Discipline – if you are on a early date and look like the couple above … smartphones are not your biggest issue. Communication requires … well, communication. There are times when you WILL look like that, and sometimes it can be fun – there are times Lisa and I are hearing from the kids, or have posted a picture of us on a date and are getting responses and sharing them together.

It is up to us – technology really CAN add to the social environment … we just need to use discipline and always remember to prioritize the people we are with.

Smartphones Allow Flexibility – I remember getting crappy directions to a place in Cambridge way back in the late 80s, a part of the city I’d never been to, and struggling to find it. I finally found a pay phone, thankfully had change, and called the office to get better directions … which were only somewhat helpful as I had to call once again to notify them I’d be late.

With a smartphone and GPS none of that would have happened. Also, that scenario of the quickly changed meeting worked out fine (although notification BEFORE the start of a meeting would always be better). Social norms still need to apply – we need to be polite and respect other people’s time and feelings … but otherwise rapid communications allows unprecedented flexibility.

Smartphones on Vacation – you know that commercial of the family trip where the daughter seems totally disengaged and into her cell phone, yet at some point produces something documenting everything they have done with ‘best vacation ever’ capturing so many great moments? That is closer to reality … sure our devices tag along – but they also help us grab moments, because as the saying goes the best camera is the one that is always with you and ready to go!

So What Do YOU Think? Do I have any points, Did I negate them all with my counter-points, or is this just my ‘Grumpy Old Man’ showing?!?

Five Things Friday – Airia Shoes, ‘Anthrax Smoothie’ and More!

20140522-165601-60961538.jpg

Happy Friday! Crazy week we’ve had – how about you? It was one of those weeks where I was constantly off on what day it was, sometimes a day early, sometimes a day late. There were some things on the project at work that caused uncertainty on exactly how we are doing things and what sub-projects are doing which things in which order. I had a half-hour call with our HR about a work/employee situation that I was an observer/witness to … Confuzzling week, I tell you …

It has been so bizarre that we didn’t realize that it was today that the school was off, using up the last extra ‘snow day’ (there are bizarre rules around start and stop dates for school, and fixed test schedules for the state, so they can’t just chop off the end of the year). As a result the boys have a four day weekend – and with all of the AP tests, SAT tests, major projects and so on recently this will be a great catch-up weekend for them … and hopefully they can find some summer work!

As I said, the boys have a four day weekend. I have Monday off, but Lisa only has Sunday off. As a result we don’t have big plans – maybe get some bark mulch and work on the flower beds and gardens a little, plan out the revamping of our deck and some other projects … hopefully the weather will cooperate and we can even have a little bonfire in our fire pit.

Airia Running Shoes1

1. Airia Running Shoes

Have you heard about these funky new shoes? They are from Swedish company Airia Running, and claim to be ‘biomechanically perfect’. I haven’t taken them out for a run, but they are definitely the funkiest thing I have EVER put on my feet!

So wait – WHY haven’t I run with them yet? They ship with a warning sheet – telling you what to expect as you wear them, and how ‘different’ of an experience it would be. Yesterday I didn’t have time to really isolate to study myself, and relax for a mile run – and I wanted it on film and video. So I will check them out this weekend and report back!

Check out their promo video:

2. ‘Anthrax Smoothie’

Last week, Sara at Life Between The Miles had a review of the Vega Sport protein powder. She liked it but found it a bit gritty – I mentioned in a comment I’d never tried it, and she offered to send me a sample packet (so cool!).

It came in the mail the other day, and near as I can tell here is what happened: Sara put the pouch in an envelope to mail, but there was just enough air in the pouch so that when it went through the automated mail handlers it went POOF inside the envelope. Then further ‘careful handling’ means a small tear formed in the envelope, so when I came home there was a nice blue envelope on the kitchen table with some yellow-ish powder around it!

Anthrax Smoothie

As I moved the envelope around more powder spilled out, which everyone thought was hilarious – and we started calling it my Anthrax packed – though that really isn’t funny, it is. I decided to include it in my smoothie after dinner, which also had frozen banana (of course), mixed berries and almond milk.

My thoughts?
– The vanilla tastes artificial, and too sweet. Since I make this smoothie all the time it stood out.
– The grittiness reported by Sara (and also Megan and other recent reviews I’ve seen) is definitely there. I’m not ‘texture sensitive’, but my kids found it had a chalky and gritty texture.
– Holy crap adding 26g of protein made it filling! I managed half the smoothie at night, and had the rest after my morning run.

Would I buy it … tough call. I LOVE the packed proteins, but everything else was ‘meh’.

3. Blog Moms

Not to be confused with ‘Mommy Bloggers’! Bloggers are people, and we all have families – but generally they are a passive part of the story. I write about my family all the time, they read my stuff and talk to me about it, sometimes friends and family comment on Facebook – but generally this is my little corner of the universe. Sometimes blogger families enter into things more passively, through pictures and comments in a post leading to discussion between commenters, as happened with Cori’s mom.

Over at TheLyonsShare, I had had a few discussions with ‘Karen’ before I knew that was Megan’s mom. She was insightful and open to discussion, but clearly older than the other commenters. Most recently we had a discussion in a great post Megan had on Being Grateful.

Suz over at SuzLyfe has this phantom commenter called “Your Mommy, Clare”. It took me a bit of intense detective work but it turns out the person is Suz’s mom, and her name is Clare. True story! The post I link talks about a comment-discussion Clare and I had in a different post. It was flattering to be included, but it highlighted the fun and important point of how great comments can be!

Does any of your family participate in your blog? How do you feel if they do/don’t?

4. ‘What I See’ and Male Eating Disorders

OK, so back to seriousness – I have talked about myself as having ‘disordered thinking’ about food and that regardless of how healthy I eat, whether I get proper calories and nutrition … I will always have a disorder – and that I truly believe that ‘an eating disorder is for life’.

Over at Buzzfeed they had a great post with 28 quotes from Whisper from men with eating disorders. It is heart-wrenching because not only do they bear all of the normal shame and anxiety and self-loathing of an eating disorder … they bear secondary shame for being male and feeling totally alone and weak as a result.

huge_meal

Over at The Oatmeal he looks at a similar subject – what we see when we look in the mirror. For anyone who has struggled with weight I think this rings true. I know on a rest day I tend to feel fat … and that is stupid.

5. Sleep and Rest

Another great recent post from Megan was on Rest – you know, that thing that separates running around at night and running around in the morning?

With the new Garmin FR-15, I can track sleep movement. I just wear the watch to bed and then enter the sleep and wake times on my Garmin Connect page. For one lousy night sleep this week … THIS is what I got:

Sleep Pattern1

Yeah, about an hour of good sleep. Thing is, most of the week doesn’t look much different. I have written about it before, but since Christopher was born (16.5 years ago) I have slept very lightly and not needed as much sleep. That definitely reflects in my patterns – and one of the boys dropped their phone in our room (a requirement) before bed at 11:30 last night, and I could see it on my graph this morning – I remember it, woke up, then went back to sleep.

It makes me think – I am getting ~5-6 hours of sleep, loads of movement, yet feel well rested. Hmmm … not sure what to make of that.

Bonus: The TRUTH About Running

OK, so over at Competitor they have this ‘fake PSA’ video that is just hilarious … nothing more to say, just check it out!

So what do YOU have going on this long weekend?