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.

Thinking-Out-Loud

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!

Warm Run1

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!

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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?