Quickie Five for Friday – More Random Stuff!

Warm Morning Run1

I am still finishing up my summary from last weekend – not so much because it is so long (it is), but rather that I am trying to be careful about many of the things I say. In many ways – not to be too melodramatic, preachy, not too many personal details about others and so on. But neither do I want to be generic and vague … and I chose to do 15 points for the 150th anniversary – and rework every one! So it is taking longer than planned – and I am still working on my ‘Liebster Award’ post (and I got another nom from Abby this week, yay!). Maybe one of them will finish today, maybe not – so in the mean time I figured I would put out a quickie ‘Five Things Friday’ … here we go!

1. Running Is Great Exploring

This was something that was very clear to me this past weekend but I hadn’t really thought about before. In years past, when I traveled I would just get there, and try to go running around the hotel while there. But since I got ‘serious’ about running in 2012 everything has changed – even in August 2012 when I went to Park City, Utah I researched running around the resort before I left. I had my routes all planned when I headed to Coronado, CA a year ago, and when work travel took me to Kentucky weekly last year I chose the hotel with the best running routes rather than the best internet or rooms!

So naturally heading to Troy, NY last weekend … I checked out routes and planned a couple of run paths for myself. And the great thing it – it makes even the old seem new seeing it on a run.

2. I have more ‘Facebook Stalkers’ than I realized

My running was a frequent topic of conversation last weekend, with several people – including some younger alumni I only knew through the Facebook group – commenting on enjoying my mid-winter ‘eye-cicle’ exploits, weekly distances, and so on. It was very interesting to me to hear those things – because I think it would be boring reading ‘still sub-zero, still not happy about it, still ran my 6.75mi anyway’ again and again! 🙂

Then returning home, I had a number of comments at work as I was in meetings with people I haven’t seen since projects a couple of years ago, and also from other friends. It is very motivating and inspirational to me to have someone say that me getting out there regardless of weather inspires them to try to exercise more.

3. The Non-normal Nature of Running ~60 miles / Week Was Reinforced

Again, I think the story of me running >3000 miles last year is boring – I just ran between 50-70 miles every week all year long. Thing is, I had runners telling me that isn’t normal – you normally ebb and flow, train for a race then back off … not just keep on going, and not at our age.

I guess it is just another weird thing about me – and I show no signs of stopping, since returning home the weather has been warmer (40F+) and I have really enjoyed my runs! So I’m up over 50 miles despite taking Sunday off. Apparently this isn’t a normal thing. Thing is … I really don’t care! Normal is over-rated!

4. Sometimes Technology is a Pain

I have talked about my love of the Magellan Echo – rather than having its own GPS it uses the iPhone GPS, and is a very flexible display and controller. Well, this week it got a firmware update that changed around some functionality, improved the display and added stop-watch capabilities for non-GPS activities.

But for me it turned it into a self-rebooting wrist-band. At first it would just shut down the display and I could reboot it, but now it just tries to connect to the phone and shuts down again … and again. It is a reminder of the limitations of technology.

At the same time I have been working on re-establishing my old music studio. It has been going pretty well, but most of my stuff is from the 90’s and early 2000s … and is more limited and specific in connectivity. Working with this stuff is a trip down memory lane – when there was a definite ‘learning curve’ before you could get functionality out of your technology.


5. The Lives We Take Into Our Homes Matter

Yesterday I posted a picture of our cat Dolly, and talked about how much we’ve worked with her in the 3.5 years we’ve had her. She is over 9 years old, and had a pretty rough life – but when we took her and realized we weren’t just ‘watching her for a bit’, she became part of our ‘pack’. The picture above shows the rest of the crew (except for the fish) – our two Norfolk Terriers that we actually bought from a breeder due to allergies, and our ‘cancer kitty’ Leo, who is 13 and we decided not to treat with chemo, etc because it would mess up his quality of life … and he is still the terror of the neighborhood. Even our fish have a story – where Lisa was working they got two new fish and one teacher was going to let them die as part of an experiment – but Lisa said ‘no way’ – and we had two fish! Then I won her one at the NY State Fair, and we have added more and some have died as fish will do.

The point is – when you bring a living creature into your home, it is your responsibility to give it the best possible life. I don’t believe in ‘pets as gifts’ for that very reason – too often kids gets kittens or puppies for Christmas, bunnies for Easter …and the shelter ends up with a mess a few months later.

Happy Friday!

Five Things Friday – Random Fun Weekend Thoughts!


Happy Friday! Today I am taking a rare vacation day – and even more rare a solo vacation day – and heading away for the weekend for my fraternity 150th anniversary celebration as I mentioned yesterday. In fact, as you read this I am probably close to Troy or already there. As I noted to a friend on Facebook, in contrast with past visits this will be the first time I ever went running in Troy, and there will be much less alcohol consumed than when I was young! But I am anticipating loads of fun!

So I wanted to just blast out a few random things on my mind – and hope everyone has a great weekend!

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1. Invisible Fence

If you have dogs and own your own home, Invisible Fence is definitely something you should know about – it is a system comprised of a collar with electrodes and a buried wire that runs around the perimeter of our property. When the dog gets close to the boundary a high pitched been starts, and when they cross the line they get a shock. It might sound a bit nasty, but generally the dogs will stop even before hearing the sound after a bit – and the result is they have free reign of the yard!

We’ve had the system since just after we moved to New York, and the dogs love it because they can run around outdoors, bask in the sun, and generally watch the world go on around them.

Well, we’ve been on the annual battery plan (new batteries every quarter for each collar), and kept putting off replacing them, first because they were still working, then because of various other things … then we got lazy!

We have seen them start pushing the boundaries and a couple of weeks ago when Lisa and I were going to go for a walk without the dogs Rosie followed right along. But neither ever left the property … so naturally on Thursday Rosie decides she’s going on a great explore of the neighborhood. Lisa texts me about the adventure getting her home then I get an alert from the Whistle app that she already met her activity goal (Whistle is like Fitbit for pets).

Fortunately it all turned out fine – we made a priority stop to get new batteries, and the dogs quickly readjusted to their borders. Whew!


2. Mark of the Unicorn

Way back in 1985 I took my first electronic music class at RPI, and the software we used was Performer from MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn) running on a 512k Mac. After using it in the lab for all those years, when I bought my own Mac, naturally I grabbed Performer, which was probably version 2 or 3 by then.

I kept upgrading until version 6, when MOTU end-of-lifed it and replaced it with Digital Performer, which brought in video and audio capabilities. I upgraded THAT a couple of times, but then let things lapse for a number of years.

After moving I never made sure I had all of my registration info, so when I recently decided to get my studio back together, I searched everywhere physically and electronically for the information … to no avail.

So I send an email to customer service with my name, the last address I THINK I used to register, a couple of potential emails, and the versions I thought I had. Total crap-shoot … but they came back in minutes with my info, and when I asked about versions for older PPC and 040 Macs (I might be getting an old one back after many years) they said they’d send an installer CD for those as well as the brand new version.

Oh, and they even sent me the digital registration for the newest version – so I was able to quickly get things going again! It was pretty awesome! Great, great customer support!

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3. Wedding Rings!

I think it is a very common thing to twirl and twist your wedding rings – and they tend to spin on their own as it is. The problem – particularly for someone wearing multiple rings (engagement, wedding and anniversary bands) – is that all that spinning translates into wear on the rings. This is exactly what happened to Lisa’s rings – the prongs holding the diamond in place were worn, and the channels were wearing down and the channel stones were starting to get compromised.

Last year she had a mall store jeweler look at the prongs and they ‘repaired’ it – but not all that well. Fortunately we have a good jeweler in the area, and this week they replaced the setting, repaired everything and soldered the rings together. The channels are still very worn down (amazing contrast compared to mine!) but things are safe and secure and it buys us more time.

Speaking of which – since our 25th is coming in a few years, it seems like an opportune time to possibly replace the entire ring set … and we saw a cool set that we will keep in mind. But for now we are just so happy to have Lisa’s set safe and looking better than ever.

The big thing for us is the sentimentality – these have been part of our lives for a very long time (just past 23rd engage-aversary), and it isn’t about the money or value or size or carat weight or whatever. It is about us, and the meaning of these rings. Hopefully our current set will last for a while longer, but we know it won’t be forever. On Instagram Megan mentioned having done hers already after 2 years, and I encourage everyone to consider it.


4. Bringing Back the Garmin

For some reason this week I wanted to get my Garmin back out and start using it again – actually I know exactly why, Garmin launched a new version of their connect site with a separate app for syncing up your device.

It was fun getting the FR-10 back into service, having to sit it on the windowsill as I put on my running shoes to link to GPS, and so on. The fit and feel are great, but one thing I noticed after having used many other devices over the last several months? The elevation was considerably ‘off’ from the rest, and there was a patch that was installed that … you guessed it, dealt with making elevation more accurate!


5. Nutri-Bullet!

So yeah, three weeks in and I continue to use my Nutri-Bullet every day. Generally it is breakfast and dessert – which makes for such a great way to get an ice cream-like dessert that is much healthier.

People at work have taken an interest – one friend was thinking about it for her and her husband, so we were talking, then another person in that group got hooked in, and another … it is kind of crazy. But it is a really fun way to mix things up!

Oh – and thanks for the recipes and pointers! I have used some of them and variations of others … great and yummy stuff!

Bonus: Walking Season!

The picture at the top is from the end of a walk Lisa and I took with the dogs this week. The weather has just started to warm up to the point where we can go for evening walks – the dogs love it, it is so much better than sitting down after dinner, it feels great, and is a great way for us to get to chat even more!

So … what are your weekend plans? Do you like going for walks with spouse / friends / family / pets / alone / etc?

Six For Saturday – Totally Random Things

Five Things Friday3

Hey everyone and Happy Saturday – and Happy Good Easter Weekend for Christians and Super Happy Weekend to those who didn’t have to work Good Friday and have a great long weekend! We are all together tomorrow, and looking forward to a fun and relaxing Easter before everyone heads back to ‘real life’ of school and all of us working and busy.

I have a few posts I am working on that I had grand plans to finish … but y’know, life and stuff. So instead, here are six totally random things … enjoy!

1. Kids Trip to Washington DC

The boys just came back from a three-day whirlwind trip to Washington DC with the marching band, playing at the WWII memorial and at a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As it turned out, the Washington desk of our local news station headed out and did a little feature. Check out the video:

Oh – and someone also recorded part of their performance at the WWII memorial and posted it on Facebook. Enjoy!

2. Yay for Amazon!

Last week I talked about screens, and how the light from LCD screens messes with your sleep. As noted my Kindle had died, leaving me to read on my Kindle Fire HDX – not optimal! Someone suggested contacting Amazon, knowing the worst they could say was ‘no’ … and long story shirt, they were Amazing as always, and between their service and using some of the credit I had from the ebook settlement, I now have a new Kindle Paperwhite. It really is the most amazing ereader I’ve ever used.

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Also cool? For my birthday my friends from Gear Diary (thanks!) got me the new Amazon Fire TV. Our Roku was dying, and was really slow and unresponsive after having it for several years (it was the first HD version). The Fire TV has Amazon Prime video, Hulu, Netflix and more. I know it is supposedly lacking some things compared to Roku, but considering 95% of our time is between Amazon Video and Hulu … it is great.

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Also, they have gotten me the gaming controller (still waiting for it to arrive), so it will be fun to see how that works. I haven’t played with the ‘second screen’ feature using the Kindle Fire HDX yet, should be another cool addition.

3. What Technology the 1964 World’s Fair Got Right (and Wrong)

It seems just yesterday that everyone was laughing about the idea of a video phone, and yet last year when I was traveling back and forth to Kentucky the twice-daily FaceTime calls home were a major part of keeping me sane.

The New York Post has a quick article about the technologies that were predicted in 1964 that have come to pass and those that haven’t. The ‘picture phone’ is one that has happened – though likely in a different way than anyone would have envisioned!

They also talk about the first real use of touch-tone phone technology … and for me that is interesting since most people I knew had rotary phones into the 80s. The dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) technology was actually introduced by Bell in 1963. But perhaps the bigger thing than the adoption of touch tone was the ability to use your own phone on a line (before that the phones were leased from Bell). I also remember that as the regional lines got updated phones had a ‘Tone/Pulse’ switch (anyone else remember that?) and you would press buttons and hear the rotary sounds.

4. Kids React to the Walkman

Speaking of old technology, a friend forwarded me a great video showing a bunch of kids – aged 6 – 13 – reacting to and attempting to deal with a Walkman. Just … just watch the video:

Of course, since I have fond memories sitting on the beach of Cape Cod with a single-speaker transistor radio discovering we could get AM radio from Long Island … yeah, I remember being amazed at the Walkman! So small, sleek, portable and easy to use!

Of course, this week I also came across some sheet music from a jazz harmony class I took as an undergrad – which was blue from the mimeo machine. And we were laughing at words like ‘rewind’ that are meaningless, disc icons for saving, and so on. And just think about the wide swath of movies that would be totally changed if someone had a cell phone!

5. The Yoga of (My) Body Hatred

This article was shared by Laura on Facebook, and I just love it. I had really planned a more elaborate post because there were other similar topics lately, as it seems that rather than improve things for women, we’re making them worse for men!

Because, while Ms. Kalafatas accurately points out that “96 percent of sexually objectified images are women”, we are also hearing that “18 percent of boys are very concerned about their weight and physique”.

I really recommend reading the whole article – and ask yourself some honest questions about how you feel about yourself and others. I think that while there is a natural human instinct to do some assessment of others (i.e. profiling), but what she discusses goes beyond that.

As someone who was very obese for a while, thin for many years with occasional bits of ‘overweight’ and then became obese again only to be very thin and athletic now … I have seen dramatic changes in how people look at and deal with me – and sadly I have seen changes in how I deal with others and myself. These are not proud moments … but they exist.

Do I hate my body? No, at this point I am fairly OK with it (that is supposed to sound wishy-washy). I know I am in great shape, that I am thin but healthy … but I also know that the ravages of obesity will never leave, and coming to this fitness level in my late 40s means not reaping the benefits of youth. The worst is that there will always be ‘more skin than there is Mike to fill it’ … which puts me into constant self-evaluation mode.

6. The Loss of Threaded Conversation

I’ve talked about the fact that I have issues with blogs and blogging in general (yeah, talking about it here – ironic!), and while I have a draft to detail some of that stuff, one of my big complaints is that we seem to be devolving in terms of discussion. Again you have to join me in the way-back machine, back to a time when you could actually type faster than your modem could transmit!

0. Modems – I just did Speedtest on my phone, and it is running at ~22Mbps – that is 22 MILLION bits per second, or a 3 minute song per second. Imagine back in the mid-80s, paying more than $200 for a box that worked at 300bps – which comes down to ~25 characters per second. I am a hack typist and I do better than that! At 300 baud your screen would take about a minute to load, and you could literally watch your characters appear after you typed them!
1. ListServ – chronologically these came after USENET, but they are smaller in scope. What you would do is sign up by email to be part of an ’email discussion group’. You send messages to a server, and then your message is sent to everyone on the list, either immediately or part of a ‘daily digest’. These were great ways to centralize discussions, but also turned into email nightmares (I remember having more than 12,000 unread emails coming back from one vacation!).

2. USENET – my personal fave and I resisted leaving until the late 90s … These were ‘discussion groups’ – with a hierarchy of things like ‘alt’ for alternative, ‘rec’ for recreation, ‘comp’ for computer and so on. Under each heading there would be subheadings, and so on. So it could be Comp.lang.c++ or Rec.music.jazz.guitar and so on. Technically, basically you have a distributed file server backbone replicating discussions globally. Each server would contain some subset of groups, and your message would be quickly replicated globally. Someone with a newsreader anywhere would see your new post in rec. running and reply to your question about shoes or whatever. Then everyone who subscribed to that group would see the discussion. You could have thousands of comments in a given thread … and it could be insanely helpful. Because it was all in one place, it was also insanely efficient.

3. BBS / AOL / Compuserve – these bridged the 80s and 90s, and provided services you would dial into and had a bunch of possible things going on. BBS sites would generally have discussion areas, possibly files if they were related to programming, games, or whatever. Sites like Compuserve and AOL were the first place many people ‘got online’, and tried to provide a one-stop-shop of services … but were ultimately outgrown.

4. Web Forums – as more and more websites started up, people wanted to gain and keep visitors, and the best way to do that was to allow for users to have some discussions – like they did on USENET and BBS sites. Forums became commonplace, and would typically cater to the audience of the site itself – so a tech site would discuss the latest gadgets, gaming sites would have areas to talk about different genres, and so on. Most would have ‘off topic’ areas as well. The problem? If you liked more than one site, suddenly you are tracking topics in several forums on several sites … and it can get exhausting!

5. Blogs – OK, this isn’t a fair comparison, as the focus is very different – but my point is about conversation and ‘community engagement’. Continuing the paring down, these are single-point sources, where the blogger writes on a topic, and others can comment. There are thousands of blogs on every subject, and thousands of subjects. Each one is a distinct site, and there are multiple ways to track new entries – but no single way. Engaging with the community involves having your own blog as well as commenting on others, finding new blogs to follow and comment on and so on …

In my opinion we never have done better than USENET. Think about it – one place for all kinds of people from around the world to hook in and discuss things. For example, it is rumored Nike is killing off their wearable hardware division. On USENET there would already be a thread with a thousand comments. I’m sure there are multiple threads on various running forums about it this morning. Yet I haven’t seen it on a running blog yet, and when we do it will be a quick comment (like mine) and will have a small discussion – and then a different discussion on a number of other blogs. This decentralized discussion naturally limits the breadth of sharing and learning … and while I love blogs for many reasons, they are also very limited in terms of actually adding value through shared learning.


OK, at this point I am definitely on the ‘Thinking Out Loud’ train … so I’ll link up with Amanda!

Bonus. Oh yeah, RUNNING!

We are coming up on the Boston Marathon, and with the weather improving, I see more and more people out running, or talking about running outside on their blogs and so on.

For me, I am excited for the Boston Marathon, and just pray that everything goes well for everyone who is there.

I also think about how it seems with each weekend of full and half marathons we also learn about someone who died in or after the race. There were a couple of runner deaths last weekend again in Raleigh, as noted here. It is a reminder that we need to keep a close eye on our health … and even still there are no guarantees in life.

Personally I have had ups and downs this week – we started in shorts and t-shirt weather, made it through single-digit wind chills, and by Friday is was above 30 again but windy enough I wore my heavy hat and gloves. The next week or so looks to have similar conditions – riding the tights/shorts, heavy/light glove boundary. And honestly … I am fine with that! Because none of it involves 4-layers and my brain in ‘self preservation mode’.

Have a great weekend, and for Christians, a Happy Easter!

Five Things Friday – Inspiration, Perspective, Screens and More!

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Happy Friday! I have to confess that Wednesday I woke up and while running I thought it it was Thursday … and had an ‘aw crap’ moment realizing it was just Wednesday! It has just been one of THOSE crazy kinds of weeks!

Well – I am glad it is Friday, not just for the weekend, but also because the weather is supposed to be awesome this weekend … before possibly dumping more snow on us next Tuesday! The image from the top is this morning – which is 30 degrees warmer than yesterday!

I wanted to do a Five Things list of stuff that has been on my mind this week, and hook up with Amanda at Running With Spoons for her ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series. Here we go!


Running (and Biking) for Dummies

Being a year-round outdoor runner, the month of April reminds me of the first snowfall – suddenly you have loads of drivers out who seem to need re-training on basic snow driving procedures every year, resulting in loads of accidents and dangerous situations!

And I have already seen it – bikers riding side-by-side along a road that is already narrow for two cars, runners with headphones running the wrong way down the street, not paying attention when crossing, not wearing bright and reflective gear in the early mornings and so on.

Every workplace talks a lot about safety – the mantra is that no one comes to work with the desire to get hurt … and the same is true for those heading out for a run! We go out for exercise, to clear our mind, or whatever … and should expect to come home in the same condition as we left – well, perhaps a little more sweaty and smelly!

So PLEASE be careful, and if you see someone being an idiot, don’t hesitate to tell them. And if you are driving, use extra caution to avoid hitting the people who might have forgotten that the road has different challenges than the treadmill!

Screens Before Bed are Ruining Your Sleep

One of my things for Lent was to limit pre-bed screen time. I have not been perfect, but my goal was to get back to reading more – and also to focus more on getting more and better quality sleep.

For a while now, research has shown that electronics before bed – video games, social media, whatever – tends to act as a stimulant and mess with your ability to get to sleep and have a restful night. There are a load of resources on this, so feel free to search it out if you have questions – or just ask in the comments and I can follow up.

Now we also know that the artificial lighting from LCD-type screens emits radiation that suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps us from getting restful nights of sleep! This BBC video talks about how our obsession with ‘one more check of Instagram’ can be ruining out sleep.

Back to my Lenten challenge … the problem? My Kindle died, and I have been using a Kindle Fire HDX – which is no better than using an iPad or laptop because of the screen technology. So while I have solved half the problem (by reading) the other half remains! Fortunately the people at Amazon are amazing, so between working with their service and using some credit I have built up … I will soon be reading on a Kindle Paperwhite. Yay!

Runners and Perspective

Are you a runner? Chances are you have uttered the phrase ‘easy’ or ‘quick’ related to one of your runs … and chances are that any non-runner around you rolled their eyes.

Last week I ran a ‘double’ – 8.5 miles in the morning and 9.5 in the evening, for an 18 mile day. On Instagram I used some of the typical runner words ‘quick’, ‘easy’, casual or whatever else. When Lisa got home she told me how annoying it was – that is the honesty that comes from 25 years together, and I appreciate it!

Early this week I was bringing my younger son to percussion ensemble rehearsal and they had to run the mile as part of their annual physical fitness assessment, and he was asking about how far I usually run in the morning, and I said ~7.5 miles or so on average. And he said ‘that’s insane, I just did ONE mile today and my lungs were screaming and my whole body still aches’!

He is young and active and not overweight … which puts into perspective exactly WHAT we are all doing … and highlights that we all tend to lack perspective! When I was running ~12-15 miles per week, the thought of running 7.5 miles was a big deal – this morning it was just a great relaxing run. Running a mile in less than 9 minutes? Not something I would have thought about even 2 years ago – now that is pretty much EVERY mile.

So when you talk about your ‘quick 10 miles’ or your easy 50 mile week or whatever … if there isn’t someone there to roll their eyes at you and call you annoying, remember that for most people, that falls somewhere between a landmark achievement and bragging.

I am wondering … WHY are you here

Have you ever looked at the little ‘about’ blurb on many blogs and seen something like “I’m __, a 20/30-something boy/girl from ___ who is trying to balance fitness, healthy living and a busy life, and sharing my journey”? Yeah, too many times to even count!

And that is fine – but what about when you look deeper? What is it that you REALLY hope to accomplish? That is what Harold asked this week in one of the most thought-provoking posts recently – about the larger sense of WHY he blogs.

When we are young, we all want to think that our voices will be heard by some grand audience who will appreciate the unique things we have to offer, to make some grand mark that will cause strangers to know about us in times to come. But the reality is that of the more than 7 billion people in the world, perhaps 0.001% will have a lasting document created for them.

The rest of us? We have friends, family, pictures, and other things. Here’s an example – I had a plaque at my undergrad alma mater with my name on it that a few years ago I found out had been stolen, and wasn’t replaced, but instead the area of the building was redone and new things are on the wall. Sure it had been 25 years, but it is a little disappointing to have your time gone by so quickly.

I don’t pretend that anyone outside of Lisa and my boys will really remember me more than a year after I’m gone … and I am OK with that. I would love to leave a bit more behind – create more music, maybe finish writing one of the books I’ve started for NaNoWriMo … but ultimately I am good focusing my energy on helping my boys realize their dreams and helping them build the lives they want.

It is something to think about – what sort of legacy are you trying to build, and how does blogging fit into that?

How Much Time Do You REALLY Have?

Going from morbid to MORE morbid, amongst the inspirations for my ‘Take Care Tuesday’ was a post by another of my absolute faves, Danielle at T-Rex Runner, called ‘Plenty of Time’. She talks about a friend of hers who died tragically at a horse show 11 years ago, and it is a reminder that none of us has a slip of paper telling us when we or our loved ones will die. The answer is simple – live every day like your last, and love those around you as if you will never get the chance to tell them you love them again.

This week has been filled with sadness in my extended family and friend group: an uncle of mine died, and my parents are down for the funeral. An aunt would have been there, but they discovered cancer in her mouth and she is dealing with that. Another aunt is in terrible health at a young age, and my parents are stopping to help her, but it is unclear if she will ever leave assisted living.

A friend from our infertility support group in the mid-90s (they ended up with twins) has cancer, and the treatment isn’t going as quickly, easily or successfully as initially thought … which is really hard for the family. And two Facebook friends I went to high school with lost parents this week … it is just that we’re getting to that age, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I remember being a little kid and having a girl named Kimberly who we played with all the time, but who had a bad heart condition. She had numerous surgeries and was proud of her scars. But one summer – we were all of 10 at the time – she never came home from the hospital. It was a very sad and confusing time for us, because pretty quickly the family moved away.

I have also talked about the difficulties when Christopher was born and how for a little bit I worried that I might be going home without a wife OR son!

We don’t know how much time we have, all we know is we have NOW. So take a second and look over at the ones you love, make a call, send a text or email, and let them know that they are important to you.

The Vocabulary of Runners

I love when sites put together lists with runner-specific terms and expressions and ‘translations’. This week, Competitor put out a ‘Runner’s Dictionary’, and Carina had a post about a ‘Google Translate for Runners’, from which this one made me laugh (because I know my family would laugh as well):

“Yeah, I enjoy running.”
Translation: “Let’s hope I never have to choose between running and my firstborn.”

But over at T-Rex again, Danielle talks about her dislike for the ‘running as therapy’ line. Her point is she has spent enough time in therapy – and running – to know the difference, but being sidelined with injuries and upcoming surgery, she appreciates the ability of a run to keep you from ‘going over the edge’.

That is something I definitely see as true for myself – running allows me to center myself, focus my thoughts, and distance myself from situations … my kids have asked me when I am ‘edgy’ whether I’ve gone for my run.

But I also agree with T-Rex’s sentiment – my issue is that I don’t like using serious conditions as casual joke-terms. Therapy is a helpful and important thing and is only more recently being viewed as a serious thing to do rather than something for crazy people or Woody Allen neurotic types. The same is true with terms like ‘obsession’ (which should be a negative term for over-the-top attention rather than something you think is cool), ‘OCD’ – again, a serious disorder, and my favorite for runners – eating issues. I will talk more about that in an upcoming post …

I AM Enough

I have said this before and will say it again, but this week on a blog I consistently love the message came up again and I needed to share. Kate Bortell’s ‘Serious Thoughts Taken Not Too Seriously’ has a Christian focus which would often be something to drive me away (even as a Catholic) – but she is smart, funny and sassy and always writes stuff that makes me think and laugh.

Her topic this week was ‘Yes, You ARE Good Enough’. Which is absolutely true … so go check out her post and remember that you ARE enough!

Well … that is about it for me! This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous – we’ll be getting the boys ready for their trip to Washington DC with the marching band, hopefully getting some yardwork and shopping done … oh, and of course some runs as well. But this won’t be quick, easy or casual – they will be hard, grueling and stupid-long! 🙂

So what are YOUR weekend plans?

Five Things Friday – Vacation Ideas for 2014 and More!

Monday Musings Pics2

Happy Friday! This week has been crazy and exhausting, and the weekend looks to be pretty much the same – it is junior prom weekend and my older son and his girlfriend are going along with a bunch of other friends. I have already decided to take the weekend off from running, so if I DO end up heading out it will be a bonus. Through efficiency and good weather I’m already over 50 miles, so a weekend off with family with be great.

In my ‘marvelous’ post I mentioned that the new ballroom dancing class Lisa and I were taking has been a blast and something we are looking forward to … but this week it got canceled due to a sick instructor. Not to miss out on a chance to be together, Lisa and I had a date night at TGIFridays … any opportunity to be together! I dropped a picture on a href=”http://instagram.com/p/lzuuI3iao3/”>Instagram. Apparently now I am the Mayor of our local TGIFridays, which leaves me with a question … WHY do I still use Fouraquare?!?

This past couple of weeks much of the discussion has been around vacation ideas for the summer, which I alluded to on Thursday. Normally by this time of year we’d already have something booked and planned, but as the kids get older the considerations change as their schedules become less flexible. Last year, for example, with Danny going to Europe for most of July after several ‘prep days’ in East Stroudsburg, PA, our vacation ended up wrapped around that.

Also, this year we have one son finishing his sophomore year and the other completing his junior year … so college visits are a priority. Both boys have interest in media arts, and since Danny producted a documentary that took him to state finals, has been used as an example shown to the school board and has become an example used by the history department … film schools are of great interest, with a cool list of great schools found here.

Of course we can’t take a vacation that hits every college that might be interesting, so we identified a few places that we wanted to vacation that also have schools of interest.

Has to meet these criteria:
– Decent beach access: not necessarily ON the beach, but an easy drive
– Some sort of non-college activity to occupy most of the week
– At least one ‘high interest’ college
– At least one ‘activity of interest’ for each person
– Reasonably affordable

So here is what we are thinking!

New York Times Square

New York City

Of course, NYU and Columbia are great schools regardless, but they both have fantastic film and journalism schools. These are highly competitive and expensive schools that mesh a top-notch education with all the benefits (and distractions) of a big city. There are a ton of other great schools in the city as well as music, culinary and other great schools.

As I mentioned, we have never visited New York City as a family, and Danny has never been there at all. So getting to check out the sites at a more relaxed pace should be a blast. Beaches in New Jersey (and my brother) are close, and we will definitely not suffer a lack of things to do.

All of this a quick four hour drive from home, with some decent hotel options we have scoped out … this is the front-runner.


Boston / Cape Cod

OK, I’ll be honest – this is MY first choice, because I can never get enough of the area. We were there two years ago and there is really no need to go back, but … well, I just love it there and would love to return ‘home’ to Massachusetts someday. Boston University is one of the dozens of top notch schools there, and the media school has evolved with the times, noting:

“Instead of making students choose between film and TV, now all of the undergrads are film, TV and new media students with equal access to the full range of courses.”


Orlando Florida

Perhaps in support of Disney and the other surrounding parks needing loads of talented media people, central Florida has a great set of schools of various sizes, including University of Central Florida which has a great media program.

We have been to Disney with the boys a few times through the years and always had fun … there is so much to do, and now that the kids are older we can do things all over the place rather than just Disney World. Plus you can get to either coast pretty quickly.

Los Angeles Hollywood

Los Angeles / San Diego

With Hollywood being ‘movie/TV central’, it is not surprising that there are tons of great schools in the area. USC, UCLA and on and on – great universities with tons to offer. Just down the road a few hours is San Diego and even more great schools.

Then there are beaches, hills and valleys and endless sighseeing opportunities. I have been to San Diego, but none of us has visited LA … it would be pretty much awesome.

North Carolina or San Francisco

There are actually loads of other great media-centric schools in Connecticut, Chicago, the Pacific northwest, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and so on … but two other places we would love to go are North Carolina and San Francisco.

North Carolina has huge education centers in Charlotte, Raleight-Durham, and Winston Salem, and some excellent beaches as well. There is plenty to do, and close proximity to get to Virginia and Washington DC if we wanted to do things that way.

The Bay Area is a place I visited regularly with Shipley/Rohm & Haas, and I miss going there. Between San Francisco and San Jose I was there close to 20 times through the years, and don’t remember a bad trip. The area is loaded with fantastic schools for any interest, and so many things to do – and friends to visit – that I know a week would end in a flash.

Any other thoughts? Never opposed to anyone pitching a school or location you think might be interesting!

Four OTHER Things

OK, so while I already did a ‘5 things’ on vacations … why not now turn the vacations into #1 and do four more?!? Hey – this is MY list and I’ll do what I want! 🙂

2. Stronger Support for ‘Big Bang’ Reported

Big news this week in the field of astronomical physics, as there was a report of a discovery that supports decades of theoretical and observational research into the origins of our universe. The report talks about the researchers involved, the development of the ‘cosmic inflation’ theory and so on.

These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background—a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.

Because the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.

One striking thing – these data were collected and analyzed for more than THREE YEARS before the report was issued. It is a reminder of the depth and complexity of research and analysis done in these cases … and at the risk of getting political, this should be used as a reminder to those who like to devalue the work ‘theory’ by making it equivalent to a ‘wild uninformed guess’.

3. Hiring Bias – Even Women More Like to Hire a Less Qualified Man

Here is the reality of hiring: all else being equal, the man gets the job. In fact, even if things are NOT equal, it is likely that the man gets the job, according to this article at INC. Check out these depressing details:

The study, conducted by business-school professors from Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago, asked male and female managers to recruit people to handle simple mathematical tasks. The applicants had equal skills, but managers of both genders were more likely to hire men.

The male candidates boasted about their abilities, while women downplayed their talents, but the managers didn’t compensate for the difference when making hiring decisions. When the managers were explicitly shown the women could perform the tasks just as well as the men, the result was still that men were 1.5 times more likely to be hired. Even worse, when managers hired a job applicant who performed worse on the test than a fellow candidate, two-thirds of the time the lesser candidate was a man.

There are really three main ways to deal with this: change your behavior, change your mind, or change your systems.

Changing behavior means teaching women to boast and possibly exaggerate their skills and accomplishments … which is not really a particularly positive goal. Changing your mind means realizing that there can be gender-based differences in responses based on how an individual was taught through the years.

Changing systems means addressing the reality that if this survey shows differences, then you can assume that the output of this bias exists throughout the organization. This means that the systems involved in recognizing talent and potential are likely biased as well. Un-biasing a system is difficult and will take years, but in the end will result in an organization that recognizes talent equally and provides a positive and productive workplace for all.

4. Productivity – Getting Stuff Done

Who doesn’t want to get more done, amiright?!? This week I came a cross a number of article focused on productivity, including this one on the differences between successful and unsuccessful people, a bunch of ways to get more stuff done, and even ways to NOTHING and be more productive! Here is my favorite quote, from the ‘Do Nothing’ article:

Do nothing when you’re angry. Some people think anger can focus emotions, but it doesn’t. It’s like focusing on a kaleidoscope. You’ll walk straight off a cliff. Anger is a roadmap off that cliff. You have to wait until it settles down and you get perspective. Time is the morphine drip that soothes the anger. Then you can act. Anger is just an outer reflection of inner fear. The fear might be correct, but the anger blurs it.

5. Strange Cat Behaviors Explained

We love our cats, as I mentioned on Thursday. But make no mistake … they are BIZARRE! OK, here is a great slideshow talking about some strange things cats do:

Brings You “Presents”It’s what you’ve always wanted: a dead rodent or insect at your feet. Behaviorists have many theories about why your kitty insists on doing this. As a kitten, her mother might have brought back dead prey. You might actually be encouraging her behavior by paying her more attention when she offers you “presents.” Your generous feline might share her prey to thank you for feeding her, or she might simply be sharing her successful hunt with you, acknowledging that you are a member of her “friends” group.

Our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ remains the scourge of the small mammal population in our area … she doesn’t just bring US presents, she brings them to the dogs as well! Maybe she watches them bark in frustration as they fail to catch the squirrels and birds (terriers are NOT stealthy!). We tried the ‘bell’ trick the article suggested, but he either gets tid of the bell or entire collar!

As for our poor twice-abused adopted Dolly … she has no idea how to ‘play’, but wants to. She is also a totally love – after 3 years she really just wants to spend time with us, and we give her run of the house when we can. But when the dogs are inside she lives in the (finished) basement. And when I have to go upstairs she will come towards me and bat me with her paw. At first she didn’t know what to do next, but now it is a game between us and she manages to keep me a bit longer by doing it.

What bizarre things do YOUR cats do?

Bonus: 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer

I always love The Oatmeal, for a great combination of humor and information. His running series is just incredible … and now there is one on beer. I will close with a part of his infographic, for the rest of it head here:

20 Things about Beer

So what cool stuff did you see or read this week?!?

Five Things Friday – Links and Stories Worth Checking Out

Processed Foods

You know what is funny – today was -2 when I went for my run, but after being this cold all week I found today to be quite comfortable. In fact, rather than focusing on my cold hands I was noticing that the front of my thighs were cool as I ran – something I hadn’t noticed at all before. Funny how you adjust to just about anything.!

For ‘five things Friday’ I am shamelessly ripping off Megan’s idea of sharing some links to interesting articles … because I think it is an awesome idea. These are things I have left open in my browser, read at least once, and thought that other people should know about. There is a mix of heath and non-health stuff … oh, and I am also not shy about offering some relatively harsh opinions.

1. Oxfam Healthy Eating Report – I have never been shy at saying that I think much of the ‘obesity epidemic’ in the US is not only self-inflicted but is also orchestrated by large food conglomerates and with government support in the form of helping farmers get corn put into everything (and thereby making any farmer who likes money a corn farmer). Certainly there is individual responsibility, but it is trickier as we have learned that the chemical make-up of our so-called ‘healthy’ foods actually messes with our natural ability to detect fullness.

So I am not surprised that we didn’t do all that well when ranked against other countries in terms of ‘healthy eating’. Here is quote from a report called “Why the U.S. Sucked Big Time in Oxfam’s Report on the World’s Healthiest Eating”

“one clear explanation for America’s high rates of unhealthy eating has to do with what food is available, not just how much. Processed, high-fat foods are often significantly cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. Despite many Americans’ efforts to eat healthier, not everyone can prioritize healthfulness over sustenance.”

One thing that has always bugged me is the ‘processed foods are cheaper’ thing, and for a couple of reasons. First, if you actually plan out full meals in both systems then you find it isn’t as true as it initially seems.

Also, it shouldn’t be remotely true – because my manufacturing brain reminds me that in any process the raw materials are only a fraction of the cost, and that each ‘value add’ step brings in additional cost in terms of overhead, machinary, and on and on. What that tells me is that to be price competitive, processed foods need to have considerably cheaper raw materials – aka FILLER!

2. Global Income Disparity – ‘The Rich get richer, the poor get poorer’, ‘income elasticity’, and so on – these are all things used to describe how year after year the wealth of the world gets concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. This isn’t meant as political commentary – it is just a reminder that in all areas where money can make a difference, there are fewer people weilding more of an impact with each passing year.

From Yahoo Finance:

An Oxfam briefing has noted that the richest 85 people in the world control the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. That means about seven dozen people (the number of people it would take to crowd one subway-car) have as much of the world’s wealth as 3.5 billion people put together.

About half of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest 1% of the population and that wealth (all $110 trillion of it) is 65 times the wealth of the bottom half of the population.

To put that 3.5 billion into perspective – you would have to add up the 7 most populous nations (China, India, US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria) to approach 3.5 billion.

If you are really interested in some of these dynamics, you can read more about why it is nearly impossible to ‘lift yourself up by the bootstraps’, how the richest folks got richer during the recession that should have hit them hardest, and another reminder that more than ever the financial status of parents strongly defines children and grandchildren as ‘income mobility’ remains a real problem.

3. OK, let’s jump into a ‘hot-button’ issue – Guns. I really don’t plan to get into the 2nd amendment vs. ‘right to be alive’ debate. Instead this week there was a report that many people considered common sense and others are challenging – as usual based on politics. Here is a bit from NBC News:

Studies looking at homicide found that if people had access to guns, they were two to three times more likely to be killed themselves.

“Firearms cause an estimated 31,000 deaths annually in the United States,” they wrote in their report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “Data from the 16-state National Violent Death Reporting System indicate that 51.8 percent of deaths from suicide in 2009 were firearm-related; among homicide victims, 66.5 percent were firearm-related.”

While it seems like a simple leap that having guns around would lead to more gun use, and since guns are designed with a singular purpose (i.e. death), increased use would mean increased death. However, much of campaign against gun control centers on getting MORE guns into the hands of people in order to DECREASE death. This report indicates that the ‘more guns theory’ doesn’t hold in the face of reality. Of course it is also one of those ‘correlation not causation’ things, and doesn’t provide answers … just more questions.

4. Detox – for me that is a bit of a catch-word. Because it has been shown pretty convincingly that your body is ALREADY a detox machine and therefore juice cleanses are not needed, and can actually be disruptive and potentially dangerous. When done carefully they can make you feel great … but as this article at Greatist shows, perhaps a better idea would just be to focus on clean and healthy eating:

The word “detox” tends to bring to mind scary-intense juice cleanses or a gluten- dairy-meat-grain-sugar-caffeine-free diet that will make you run away screaming (and hungry). But never fear — when we say “detox,” we’re talking about refocusing the mind, body, and palate on healthy, tasty, and nutritious foods. Instead of going crazy-restrictive and nixing all food groups except kale and steamed fish (not exactly a sustainable diet), let’s use the first weeks of 2014 to explore new tastes, textures, ingredients, and cooking techniques. Most of these recipes are based on healthy staples like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and both vegetarian and meat protein sources.

5. Supplements – There is much discussion on supplements, including a load of great info at links from Megan’s first ‘7 links’ post and her post specifically on what she takes, so I won’t tread on those, but over at Candies and Crunches I came across a huge infographic about how you can get many of your needed vitamins and minerals through fruits and vegetables. (she also had a cool Periodic Table of Vitamins from Daily Burn)

Again it isn’t about whether or not you should supplement, but instead about how to get those vitamins in the first place so that a supplement might not be needed at all. The article didn’t link to the original graphic (tsk tsk), so I wanted to share it from the original site that created it:

Most Commonly Eaten 25 Healthy Fruits and their Health Benefits Infographic
Most Commonly Eaten 25 Healthy Fruits and their Health Benefits Infographic

Bonus: While we are talking supplements, I know a lot of folks are into protein powders. I have always wondered about those – particularly when people talk about them linked to ‘clean eating’. Something about powders made in a factory doesn’t scream ‘real food’ to me. Apparently I am not alone, as I came across this post with some links questioning the benefits of protein powders, saying:

Alarmingly, the amount of lead in a single serving in 8 of the tested protein supplements would require a warning label in the state of California.

I really don’t know what to think – I know loads of people are into using them to mix into smoothies and so on, I would just advise everyone to be careful and make sure that they are balancing all of their nutritional needs – and to ALWAYS check into the stuff you put into your body!

And how about an added crazy bonus?!? Any Supertramp fans? I remember when they were HUGE back in the late 70s / early 80s, and their ‘Breakfast in America’ album tore up the charts. Now according to the UK Mirror, a poster on the David Icke forums cites a whole conspiracy around the Supertramp album and the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. It is super-crazy in every way … yet somehow I think that ‘Eve’ should be given creative control of a TV show RIGHT NOW! Who knows what would happen!

Happy Friday and I hope everyone has a great weekend! Keep warm!