Wednesday Wandering Mind – The Usual Nonsense But Mostly Health Stuff!

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Now here is something interesting – I didn’t post on Monday. OK, maybe you noticed that, maybe not … but I sure did. While to an extent I could blame it on my busy anniversary weekend, or the sh!tstorm I knew I was walking into on Monday, or the kids starting band camp, or whatever. But none of it was true – the reality is I have 24 drafts in various states of completion, yet I just came up blank. So I let it go … but given how easily things have flowed lately I found it interesting. Apparently whatever was ‘stuck’ broke free …

1. Food Pyramid for Runners

I really love the food pyramid from Runner’s World, one of those classic ‘what they think, what I think …’ things, but with a twist.

The interesting thing I have talked about in the past is that for many years I was in the “I run so I can eat whatever I want” camp, and while most of my food choices were good, I regularly dipped into the lower part of the pyramid. But as I ramped mileage past 40 miles per week back in 2012 my eating shifted much more into the ‘fuel zone’, and I became very particular about what I put into my face.

So it struck me the other day when a runner friend grabbed ‘one of everything’ from an assembled ‘carb overload’ table that resulted when a few different people had coincidentally brought items the same day. And he said ‘this is why we run, right’? For me, the answer was ‘no’. Homemade stuff? Sure – and I had a great macadamia nut cookie … but not any of the store-bought items. Just me … but the ‘run to splurge’ thing isn’t important to me.

2. Take Time to Celebrate Your Victories!

A while back there was an article at Runner’s World called ‘Bask Now, Analyze Later’, which emphasizes taking time to celebrate what went well – and particularly focuses on one thing: I crossed the finish line.

Then a couple of weeks ago Nicole had a great post called ‘Things I did right during my last race’, which celebrates some of the things she did well – and that is SUCH an important thing to do. And something we rarely do …

Think about your last race or long run – what comes to mind first? Probably how it could have been better. I look at my long run from just over a week ago – I did 18.79 miles. Two thoughts – I didn’t get to 20, and I under-fueled. But … c’mon, I ran almost 19 freaking miles! Can I not celebrate THAT for a second? Sure it is important to visit our mistakes – and I did, which helped me to a properly fueled run over 23 miles this weekend. But I never really took the time to celebrate what I had accomplished.

So that is my challenge to you AND myself: celebrate your accomplishments. And if you leave a comment – tell me something awesome about yourself that you are celebrating today!

3. Drink More Water, Gain Less Weight!

We all know how important hydration is, especially as we burn through the summer months as runners (though as we know, winter hydration is just as important!). An interesting study from a while back that was covered at Runner’s World showed that drinking water – and other non-sugary drinks – led to less weight gain.

After controlling for several factors that could affect weight gain, the researchers found that people who drank water, coffee, tea, and diet beverages gained less weight each four-year period than people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice.

Of course, we know that diet soda definitely doesn’t help with weight loss – and might even work against it due to how it confuses your body into expecting real sugar and when it doesn’t arrive it causes another hunger cycle to get back the resources it dumped before.

It all comes back to the basics – just like with foods, so too with drinks it is best to stick with things like water, infused water, coffee, tea, wine, and so on.

4. Reminder that ‘All Natural’ is Meaningless

OK, so I have gone on and on about how all of those ‘all natural’ protein powders and supplement pills and so on that people use and say ‘hey, it is all-natural, it must be good’ … is not guarantee. And recently on Buzzfeed there was an article about just how meaningless the ‘natural’ claim really is. From the post:

Can you spot anything actually found in nature in this product?
Ingredients: Citric Acid, Potassium And Sodium Citrate, Aspartame, Magnesium Oxide, Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Lemon Juice Solids, Acesulfame Potassium, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, BHA (Preserves Freshness).

Though my favorite has to be the ‘all natural’ Cheetos … seriously.

5. Another Cautionary Thought on Anti-Oxidents

Yeah, I already went off on the whole Supplement thing, but it bears noting a more recent article discusses how some of the core thoughts behind the mechanistic workings of antioxidants could be wrong, and how we could be negating benefits of exercise by our ‘couldn’t hurt’ mentality:

“A supplement industry now worth $23 billion yearly in the U.S. took root,” he notes.

Taking antioxidant supplements before exercise actually negates some of the well-documented benefits of physical exertion.

And yet, antioxidant pills have proven to be a bust. In February, a group of independent US medical researchers assessed 10 years of supplement research and found that pills loaded with vitamin E and beta-carotene (the stuff that gives color to carrots and other orange vegetables) pills are at best useless and at worst harmful—that is, they may trigger lung cancer in some people. Just this month, a meta-analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that antioxidant supplements “do not prevent cancer and may accelerate it.”

And a 2009 study found that taking antioxidant supplements before exercise actually negates most of the well-documented benefits of physical exertion: That is, taking an antioxidant pill before a run is little better than doing neither and just sitting on the couch.

Again, I don’t consider this to be remotely conclusive science, but it is interesting – and gets back to what I keep saying: know what you are putting into your body, and when in doubt – don’t.

6. Debunking “Chronic Cardio”

Michele wrote a post asking ‘is running healthy’ which brought up a post from ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’ that claims that, basically, our current methods of exercise are ‘bad for us’. When I read the article, I had a few issues:
– The ‘summary’ block wasn’t a summary but a sales pitch. Anyone using an obvious ‘click bait’ title, then leading with a sales pitch has already hit an 8 on the ‘BS meter’.
– Looking to the end, it is clear that the goal is to make recommendations that align with the primal / Paleo ideals. Which isn’t surprising since the opening was a sales pitch.
– The intro claims that the ‘conventional wisdom’ is “45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity” … but that isn’t true at all. The REAL recommendation is “150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise”. In other words – the basic assumption of the article is WRONG – and since finding the CORRECT information took me less than 5 seconds … it is not unreasonable to assume that the article was INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING.

So it is simple enough to discount the entire article, and quite frankly it undermines the credibility of the entire website. But someone took the time to actually debunk the points that were made in the original article:

One of the main reasons that Mark is against running – it decreases fat metabolism – isn’t supported at all. In fact, this study shows that aerobic training like running burns more visceral and liver fat than resistance training.

And this study shows that running is better than strength sessions for weight loss. This isn’t to show that you have to choose between the two – both have an important part in any healthy exercise program – but aerobic running is actually better for general weight loss.

Now one thing that came up with Michele’s post and in the comments was the ease of over-doing things. In other words, if you tend to be an extreme person who refuses to recover and just does extreme exercise all the time … well, maybe you will see negative effects.

Sure – but I have two thoughts: first, you will likely be injured well before any of the stuff in Mark’s article is a major concern … and second it is pretty much like arguing that water is bad for you if you choose to drink 47 liters per day. Um, yeah. Stick with reasonable training and exercise programs, folks.

tl;dr – running isn’t bad for you, anyone who says it is probably is selling something.

7. Could ‘Intermittent Fasting’ be Good For You?

This one is pretty far out there – and the general thought could be a trigger for those already dealing with restriction and with a history of restriction and other food-related issues (i.e. me).

You can see some of the articles here and here and here and here. From one article:

The human metabolism does not grind to a halt if you skip a meal (or three). For it to slow down by even ten percent, one would need to fast for 72 hours straight (don’t worry, no one’s recommending giving up food for three days)[1][2][3][4]. In fact, even 48 hour fasts have been shown to have no negative effect on metabolism, cognitive performance, or fatigue[5][6]. That’s not to say fasting can’t be a little uncomfortable — we’ll get to that later.

But why would anybody want to fast? For starters, IF shares many of the benefits of following a low calorie diet, such as a lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases [7][8][9]. Fasting’s effect on the heart is especially interesting: One study concluded just one day without food per month can potentially halve the risk of developing coronary artery disease[10].

8. Barefoot Running – It isn’t Bad For You, But Some Shoes Aren’t Good For You!

The whole debate over barefoot running has seemed like a he-said/she-said back and forth nasty debate since I got serious about running and shoes a couple of years ago. As I started back, I began with what are described as ‘minimal-ish’ and ‘ultra lightweight’ shoes. And I tried shoes that were lighter and thinner and dropped from 4mm to ‘zero drop’ … and eventually got to the Merrell Vapor Gloves which are zero-drop with 2mm cushion (compared to the 12+mm on most shoes) – and it was just too little shoe for me.

There was a big backlash, and last year loads of reports came out noting that the science for the backlash wasn’t there … and then a few months ago courts found that Vibram had mis-represented their shoes and the potential benefits in order to increase sales.

What is reality? I’m really not sure – there are articles about why barefoot-like shoes are ‘not best for most runners’. And I think that for people starting out, finding something with moderate cushion to start seems wise – and THEN working on different shoe drops and types to see what is optimal for you, consulting with people who can observe your stride and footfall pattern. Gradual, informed changes are always your friend.

9. FDA Closes the Trans-Fat Loophole

Have you heard about the 0.5g *per serving* trans-fat loophole? That loophole has now been ‘closed’ and if the rules go into full effect foods will no longer be allowed to claim ‘no trans fats’ if there are any present at all. Here are more details:

After thirty-odd years of everyone knowing trans fats are bad for us, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed measures to ban all trans fats in our food. The move comes after decades of research finding consuming trans fat is strongly linked to heart disease and obesity. The ruling is just preliminary for now, but when (or if) it comes into effect (the timeline is kinda fuzzy), there will be some big changes on supermarket shelves.

It turns out a lot of our favorite treats are laden with the stuff, even though brands often claim otherwise. This is thanks to an egregious loophole that allows a product to be labeled “trans fat-free” if there’s less than 0.5 grams of the stuff per arbitrary “serving.” Right now, the best way to tell if a product contains trans fat is to check the ingredients: If there’s partially hydrogenated oil, there’s trans fat.

10. Psychological Effects of Exercise Deprivation

Pete Larson from Runblogger highlights a study at Science of Running that had athletes take two weeks off … from the article:

“Following the layoff, the athletes saw significant increases in feelings of tension, depression, anger, confusion and total mood disturbance. Additionally, there was a decrease in vigor. These changes in mood aren’t terribly surprising, but it’s pretty profound when you think about it. Just by taking someone outside of their norm of aerobic exercise for 2 short weeks, people’s mood states were significantly impacted.”

I think many of us can relate in some way to taking time off and really feeling like our overall state was altered. For those who have been injured, what is your experience?

What Health Issues Have Been Tweaking You This Week?

Inspiring Blogger Take 2, the Epic Story Edition!

Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday – yeah I know I skipped posting Tuesday, but when you see the length of this post you’ll understand why! haha

A few weeks ago I did a post based on nominations for the Very Insiring Blogger Award, and rather than the 7 things I chose to do a ‘TMI post’ … which was fun. Since then, I have been nominated 4 more times for the award! Yay! So I wanted to take the time to do another post to share more useless info about myself!

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As a reminder, the steps for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks again!
2. Add the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post-done
3. Share seven things about yourself.
4 & 5. Nominate a list of bloggers that inspire you and (5) Post on their blog about it.

I definitely want to thank Laura, Sara and Kate – two of my very favorite ladies and a new blog I am following!

I have decided to do ‘7 stories’ similar to Spiritual Creaminess … though not taking the ‘full post narrative’ approach! I decided to do a set of ‘small’ anecdotes … let’s see how it goes!

1. The Story of Our Dogs – And the Nearly-Fatal Cookie Platter

If someone ever told me I would pay $2000 per dog for pure-breeds rather than getting a dog from the pound … I would have laughed at you. Lisa and I had talked about it – we loved breeds like beagles and so on, but wanted the kids to be a few years older before getting a dog. As the kids started school we decided we were ready to start looking at dogs, but there were two fairly major things:

– Lisa had always had allergies (including significant dog allergies) … but after having kids they got worse.
– Christopher was already taking allergy shots, because if a dog licked him his entire face would break out with hives.

So we had to do some research, and find dogs that would work with Lisa & Chris’ allergies. We came up with a few breeds of terriers and poodles. The boys loved the looks of the small-ish terriers – Norwich, Norfolk, etc … not small and fragile like a Yorkie (more of a toy dog, really), but a classic ‘sporting’ terrier that was high energy and ‘sturdy’.

We found a breeder in our area and were able to basically ‘pre-order’ a puppy … basically we were on a wait-list depending on the size of the litter. We needed to sign a ‘no show’ and ‘no breed’ agreement, which was fine … and 8 weeks later we had our baby Rosie! She was all terrier – led by her nose and nearly boundless energy, she was mountain climbing with our cub scout troop at 3 months old, and has never stopped since.

Two years later we got Riley … by this point the breeder had closed their ‘shop’ and moved to central Massachusetts and focused exclusively on breeding and showing rather than being a full-service kennel as well. When we were getting Riley, they were still building out their house, yet had one litter of Norfolk Terriers, and THREE Weimaraner litters at once, with more than 22 babies all at the same time! Riley ended up with worms – they said they were having an issue – but even worse, we put Riley there to board because we were going on vacation a week later and thought it made more sense to board there … and he ended up with Lime’s disease, which deteriorated his vision. Yay.

But ever the indomitable spirit, that winter Riley taught us the value of crating. We used to have the dogs gated in the kitchen & dining room area of the house when we went out. They were too small to get over the gates, too big to get under or between them. It was holiday cookie swap time, and we had a big tightly plastic wrapped tray set for a party the next day … but since it was up on the counter, no problem – right?!?

Well … when we got home the platter was on the floor and there were NO cookies left and Rosie was panting and looking BAD … OH. NO.

What we surmised happened was that Riley got up on the chair, then to the table and counter, dragged the platter around and knocked it down … but then couldn’t get down to get at the platter. Rosie figured it out and ripped through the plastic and ate most of it before Riley jumped down.

Riley was fine – a little sick to his stomach, but no big deal. Rosie spent a week in the emergency vet center near us in a very bad state, really not good for a couple of days … but made it through. That week we went and bought a fold-up crate that goes everywhere with us, and they are in if we leave the house. As for Rosie, she STILL leads with her nose and with a ‘eat first ask questions later’ approach!

2. Taking a Pay Cut for a Better Standard of Living

I am not one to get into personal details such as money, but something Suz said about affordable beer reminded me of the learning experience I went through when job hunting back in late 2007. As Laura is talking about her upcoming move, Ange had a rather sudden move, and Sara recently moved as well. Whenever you move, you need to realize that you are getting into not just a different physical location – but perhaps also a different economic environment!

Before coming out to Corning, I had four offers – in Boston, Seattle, Charlotte and Corning.

Now anyone familiar with those locations can guess hat no two have the same standard of living (well, Boston and Seattle would be closest). That makes evaluating offers very difficult – and also meant a load of time making lists and using spreadsheets. Ultimately it came down to Seattle or Corning – much as I love Boston, I saw now future with the company and the economy was already flailing there.

Seattle and Corning are very far apart in terms of pretty much everything, but for us the main things were good schools, decent house, not a huge commute, and overall cost of living. In Seattle, the best schools were either in super-expensive areas or a long commute … and the more we looked, the more the compromise wasn’t going to work. But along the way we had to get past the $ number on the offer … and that went back to something I remember as a 23 year old sitting at a job fair with a guy who was about the age I am now, offering me unsolicited advice:

Don’t get so focused on the dollars that you lose sight of what goes into them.
Corning is pretty much a one-company town, so coming here meant committing to this company, because if things didn’t work out we’d pretty much have to move. But at the same time we were able to get an all-new house with more than twice the square footage as we had back in Townsend … and the schools are incredibly well resourced and equipped (so long as you are in one of two ‘Corning employee centric’ towns, that is).

So while the number on the offer might be smaller, that doesn’t mean you are actually getting less.

3. The Strip Club Story

Despite apparently being a creepy basement dwelling troll (according to GOMI, anyway), I really have never had an interest in strip clubs. In fact, one major thing I told my brother before my bachelor party was NO strip clubs; heck, I’ve never been to a Hooters! The whole thing … well, I shouldn’t have to elaborate on exactly WHY it bugs me at this point of my blog-life …

But I have been to a strip club … once.

It was the fall of 1985 and I was a college sophomore and an ‘associate member’ (pledge) in my fraternity, and one activity we had to do was called a ‘pub chase’. The drinking age was just shifting to 21 with everyone 19 and older when it changed was ‘grandfathered’ … so it was a different time. The rules of the ‘pub chase’ were that we had to find a bar and stay there from a start time until a finish time, and if we weren’t found we would ‘win’ and they would serve us dinner, otherwise we would have to serve them the next night. The interesting question you probably DON’T have is how we check in at the end of time? We call back to the fraternity house at the end, then the brothers check in to get our location. Ah the days before cell phones!

We were given an hour head-start, and since Saratoga is relatively close to Troy, it wasn’t a big deal to get there. When we did we hit a gas station and asked about local bars, then went to a ‘local’ bar (that was way too obvious) and asked some guys at the bar about the most off-beat bar they knew. One guy responded immediately and we said ‘no, that was too quick’, then another guy had an idea but the bartender shot that one down as too familiar for college kids. Then someone on the periphery said ‘ooh, I got it – Shooters’. The rest of the crowd was silent and puzzled, then a couple of nods started as they realized where it was and explained to those with no clue – we had our place!

So we head to the bar … a non-descript dive in a non-descript small plaza on a less traveled road way outside of the normal popular areas. And we waited … and waited … and no one showed up. Every time a car entered the plaza we thought we were done. But not – no one ever showed. So we won. And let me be clear – we were NOT supposed to win. This was SUPPOSED to be an exercise in futility, concluded with us buying drinks and then cooking dinner and serving MORE drinks the following night as the brothers had a laugh at our expense and we ‘learned’ something. Being honorable guys they followed through on their end … but were not pleased to have lost. But that is another story …

We called the house and let them know, said our goodbyes to the bartender (this was NOT a hotspot), and headed out.

As we were on a road none of us had traveled (I forget, maybe 9N?), we got directions back to Troy from the bar, and headed out. A short distance down the road there was another bar, but as we got closer it was clear it was a really awful looking strip club. The person driving said ‘let’s go in’ … and while for a couple of us it was very much ‘not our bag’, we were all pumped up after winning the challenge so we went with it!

And once inside the no-cover-charge strip club and it was every bit as bad as it seemed from the outside. We were informed they were in between shows so we sat down. Half us WERE ‘grandfathered’ and half were not, so we got a mix of beer and soda (though alcohol to kill anything in the glasses was probably advisable). Soon there was a girl wearing very little clothing carrying a boom box onto the small ‘stage’. She pressed play, started dancing and taking off the little clothes she was wearing (and yes, it was as sad a situation as it sounds, even without hte filter of time and age). A few people threw dollar bills on the stage, but largely the crowd was quiet and motionless – we all found it more than a little bizarre.

Then the song ended and there was silence between songs while the girl continued to dance, and suddenly from the other side of the bar a guy said, not too loudly … “I got a boner”.
The music started again, I looked at the other guys and we all nodded that we were ready to go. But before leaving we all left a dollar – I said ‘that moment alone is worth at least a dollar’. We headed out to the car and were all howling with laughter – when we got back to the house no one could believe we’d actually gone IN to that place, and the story has lived on.

4. I Only Ran >5 Miles ONCE Before 2012 … By Accident!

I have talked a lot about my running history, saying that until 2012 I never really ran more than ~15-20 miles per week. But back in the early 1990s I was traveling for work and was in Gainesville, FL doing installation and training on a research instrument at the University of Florida, and of course I wanted to head out for a run.

So I glanced at the map I got from the car rental place – again, pretty much no cell phones, no web, no GPS – and saw a route that looked like 4-5 miles. It was winter and due to flight schedules I had come out on a Sunday, so I was actually running in the late afternoon.

So I was out running, it was about 70 degrees (compared to snowy and 20 back home), and I really wanted to relish the time I had – so I looked down the road and saw another set of lights a short distance away and kept going, figuring adding another block wouldn’t be a big deal. But without a map or GPS, I didn’t know that at the next light the road sloped sharpy away, and didn’t have another intersection for a while. And since I was only planning 4-5 miles … no water.

So I kept running … and running … and running and was finally back heading towards the hotel. I got there, drenched and exhausted – and I checked my mileage, again using the basic estimate off the map. I had done over 9 miles … about DOUBLE my longest run to date … and a distance I wouldn’t see again for another 20 years!

5. Don’t Worry – Everyone Speaks English!

In high school I took Latin, and while it is not really taught anymore, I give it a lot of credit in helping me with linguistics through the years. Lisa says it is more that I am a natural with languages, but I think Latin helps!

When I was working my first job and doing the joint project with a professor at UPenn, the lead scientist at the main company research center in Germany was also involved. So naturally there were visits all around, and finally I was headed to Germany! I had taken some time to learn German, and it seemed to flow pretty naturally, and I had practiced on a couple of German-speakers and felt OK.

Side story – this was the year before Lisa and I got married, we were engaged but she was still living in Albany. The weekend before I left, our friends were getting married – actually they were Lisa’s friends, but all four of us quickly became friends and I ended up as an usher at their wedding. Cut to the chase, Lisa got ‘blotto’ at the wedding, and was in rough shape the next morning … but I had to drive back to Boston, grab my bags and head to the airport. Her father was giving her crap about being sick and hung-over, I was trying to say goodbye … it is one of those ‘funny looking back’ moments.

So I flew to Germany, and given it was 1991 I was surprised to see airport security with full military gear and automatic weapons by where they were checking passports and bags. Again, changing times. I was able to get through customs, get to the train station, get a ticket and head towards Karlsruhe. There wasn’t a lot of conversation needed, and it gave me the chance to say a few words in German.

Once in Karlsruhe I was supposed to grab a cab to the facility – and the driver didn’t speak any English. Fortunately I knew how to put together enough sentences to get myself where I needed and pay him for the ride. I had flown the red-eye so I got in relatively early in the morning, and actually had a bit of time before people arrived – so I wandered around the area a bit, and ran into shops and people … none of whom spoke English either at all or very well. It set me off guard a bit, but I was rolling with it – again thankful for my studies and skills.

At the research center that day, I was ‘buddied up’ with an American ex-pat for most of the week who enjoyed having an English speaker, but laughed at my being told I didn’t need to speak German. Sure, he said – if you plan to not do anything local you can get by. And since my desire was to actually experience the culture – Karlsruhe is in that area that has gone back and forth between Germany and France through the centuries and bears marks of both cultures.

So I spent every evening the rest of the week entirely out of my comfort zone, mangling the German language with people who enjoyed my attempts and youthful enthusiasm … I had great food, great beer and a great view of the culture I’ll never forget.

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6. Lost at Sea!

For our honeymoon we went to Sandals in Antigua, and it was just an incredible time – we didn’t join in too many group activities (except when Lisa volunteered me to play with the band), no separate boys & girls things … just the two of us having an absolute blast the whole time. We played lawn-chess, took out kayaks, lots of tennis, hot & cold baths, read on the beaches, had fancy and casual dinners, did snorkeling, hit town and so on. Like I said, it was awesome.

But one of the most memorable / embarassing moments was when we took the two-person paddleboat out. It was getting later in the day, and we were having fun and headed out pretty far from shore … but then the tide started going out and we were struggling to get back in. Now we were both young and in good shape, and also full of pride so we weren’t going to give up easily.

We kept paddling and slowly we overcame the tide and started making progress towards shore … but then a power boat came up and one of the very friendly but insistent beach workers said ‘ya mon, we want to go home now’ and they had a great chuckle at our expense.

And when we got to shore, everyone there was joking with us – one person saying the boats weren’t made to go to other islands, and so on. It was funny but definitely embarassing!

7. The First ‘Date’ That Nearly Wasn’t

My beautiful picture

I write all the time about my family, most of all my wife Lisa. That is because she is the center of the universe and has been for the majority of my life at this point. This year we celebrate 22 years of marriage, and have known each other more than 27 years. But there was one pivotal night that could easily have destroyed any chance of a future, but instead cemented our relationship and made us inseparable. I wrote about it here, but I think it is a pretty cool story, and want to share it again.

Lisa and I met in college through a mutual friend at a fraternity party at my house (Theta Xi). It was fairly typical – girls traveling as friends, but as soon as our friend met up with her boyfriend, she ditched Lisa. We hung out at parties several times that year (she was a senior, I was a junior), but never connected after she graduated. To each other we were just nice people we had met and would never see again.

Fast forward to after I was out of school and living back in the Boston area. Our friend was coming out for a visit, so the three of us got together and had a pretty fun time, but I was in the midst of my weight loss and she was living in a crappy apartment and dealing with other stuff, so neither of us made contact and we didn’t connect again until the following spring. Again our friend was visiting, and she and I met and then headed to Brigham & Woman’s Hospital where Lisa was working. When she came out … well, it is a moment I won’t forget. I was in a totally different place, and so was she and we hit it off from the first moment and it was just an epic great day.

Lisa was planning to head to Albany the next weekend and I had planned to visit the fraternity, so I offered her a ride there (we were coming back on different days) and we had a great chat across the 3.5 hour drive. We both wanted to hang out again, so set up to go out the following weekend. When she was back we made more specific plans – we were going to head to Chinatown for dinner, hang out around various places in Boston, and generally just have a relaxing night. Oh, and most importantly, we decided that a great central place to meet would be the Dunkin’ Donuts at Park Street station.

The only problem – there are TWO Dunkin’ Donuts at Park street … one on the inside that only people coming from the north can see, and the other on the street where people coming from the south would depart!

You can probably see where this is heading – in an era before cell phones, where there was no way to reach each other unless we checked in at home, there was little to do but wait. I hung out up top for about a half hour, then hit a pay phone and called her answering machine (cost me a dime, too! Talk about old school!) Waited some more and then called again. During that time I did head back into the station as far as I could go without paying again a few times.

Needless to say I was pretty crushed. I was dressed nicely and ready for a great time.

The last time I headed down I hit a crowd coming up from the trains, and looked through to see if Lisa was there. But then as I came back up and looked back over towards the train station – guess who I saw emerging from the other stairway? That is right!

And as I headed over, Lisa turned and spotted me … and we ran and met each other with a massive hug! After a little bit we got a bit awkward and separated and all of that anger and disappointment quickly turned to laughter as I pointed out the Dunkin’ Donuts up top and she pointed out the one below! From there we had a great night in Chinatown, Faneuil Hall, and so on. We walked around and ended up back at her Somerville apartment late, where I crashed on the couch.

She had gotten dressed up as well and looked really nice, and we had the most fabulous time. I call it a ‘date’ because we wouldn’t kiss for more than two months after that. We had grown into friends so quickly, and she had a neighbor who spoke to me in a way that seemed to assert ‘territory’ with her, and honestly I didn’t think she was into me ‘in that way’.

When I look back at the beginnings of our relationship there are two moments that come to mind – meeting eyes with her that day at the Brigham, and the hug and subsequent night in Boston. You see, we had communicated only a casual ‘hanging out’ … yet both of us were very much dressed up. And neither of us gave up – it meant a lot to both of us. Nor did we hold grudges or seek to assign blame – it was an honest case of miscommunication, and it dissipated as we had a great night, turning now into one of those stories our kids have heard hundreds of times.

Of course, today this entire thing would have been solved in two quick texts and a chuckle. I wonder how that would have changed things?

Do you have a story from the time you met someone in your life?

Nominations

I have been following a couple of new blogs and wanted to get them to share some TMI stories in whatever way they wanted. Here goes:

Sami from Peace Love and Ice Cream has just re-started her blog after several months away!

The Running Schlub

Comments? Still awake? Alive? I apologize if you planned a post for today, but apparently I used #allthewordz!

Randomly Random Stuff of Randomness

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It seems lately I have had a steady stream of rather serious and heavy posts, but at the same time I have been amassing drafts and filling up my ‘junk draft’ with stuff – so it is time to purge with a ‘thinking out loud‘ theme! And so … let’s get to it …

Thinking-Out-Loud

1. You Really Never Know!
In a comment last week Megan said “I just have no idea how you put out so MUCH content without putting junk out there” – and here is the thing … neither do I.

This was originally where I had what became the Continuous Trust Fall post. It is still interesting to me what gains traction, and also how I can have an idea that seems like a throwaway and then suddenly there is a post! Like today … what started as a random collection of recent stuff gained at least somewhat of a theme as I went along … hope you enjoy! 🙂

2. Dreams Followed

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Here is a random one based on the ‘passion over paycheck’ post – last week in our area one of the engineers in our group found a new bakery that had opened. Turns out that it was someone a couple of people had worked with, and he had always expressed interest in opening a wood-fired bread bakery when he retired.

He calls the place “Ash Hole Makers of Dough” – yeah, the name … but the bread? Awesome! Oh – and if you are ever doing the Wineglass Marathon or coming through Corning, check it out!

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3. Diner Micro-review: Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant

OK, I love how Hollie does her diner reviews, they are fun and seem like they would be functionally useful for folks in the area. Plus it is never bad to look at pictures of the monster cakes and sundaes she gets!

On our way to New York City for vacation, we asked around about a place to go and were told about the Maple Lawn Dairy Restaurant, and since it was along the way … we stopped.

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Atmosphere: it really IS both a dairy and a restaurant! You walk through the ice cream place as you go to get seated … and in that moment you want to stop and say “I think I’ll have a sundae for breakfast!” The place looks more like a family-style casual eatery than a diner, with plenty of windows and natural light – so we could also see it was really clean.
Coffee: diner coffee, but good! We only had a couple of cups each – because we still had more than a four hour drive! But it was good enough that we would have had more.
Food: Between us we had two specialty omelettes, one Belgian waffle, and I got the jumbo breakfast wrap. The portions were huge – none of us left remotely hungry, and there was food left behind on most of the plates.
Price: Four people, huge breakfasts, and a total including tip of $50.
Overall Thoughts / Would I Come Back: One great thing – our waitress brought us a French toast sample plate while we decided, and the staff in general were incredibly friendly and helpful. They have a rewards program that immediately gives you a discount coupon – and my older son and his girlfriend already returned for another awesome breakfast.

This is one of the best breakfast places in the area, a bit off the highway and about 30 minutes east of Corning. Again, if you are coming for Wineglass or just driving through the area – worth a stop!

4. Amazon Kindle Unlimited and Prime Music

Do you love to read? If so check out Kindle Unlimited – it is $9.99 per month, on top of Amazon Prime if you have it. The selection is somewhat limited now, but does include audiobook versions of more than 1200 books. It includes things like ‘Life of Pi’ as well as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games series. The estimate I would make is that if you read more than a couple of books a month it pays for itself.

If you DO have Amazon Prime … you should really check out Prime Music. They JUST added hundreds of thousands more songs (it launched with over a million), and also hundreds of cool pre-fab playlists. The really cool thing is that you can add the music included with Prime directly to your music library, and can then download to your devices to play on the go without any internet access.

5. Running For a Reason

I have talked about Laura’s run across America before, and this week she wrote in frustration about the challenges in finding sponsorship for her cause, which is sexual violence. It is sad that what seems like such an easy cause to support should be proving difficult:

As women, we view the world differently because of what we’ve been told to be afraid of. We may even trust differently, and have learned to be suspicious first. We’ve also been told that rape could be our fault if we behave in certain ways, and I know that is a thought that has passed through my mind as I make decisions (although I contradict it, it’s still there). Please note: it is never our fault.

As I spoke to a potential corporate sponsor on Friday, she was initially excited about the run. But then she found out what cause I was running for, and I was told, verbatim, that this was “not a cause they would choose to align themselves with.”

Again – I find this really sad. And so I want to again encourage everyone to check out her site, her fundraising page, and even her Amazon Wish List and see what you can possibly do to help.

6. 8 Signs of a Relationship Gone Wrong

Speaking of Laura’s cause, over at UpWorthy this week they provided the following graphic and also the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. It is sad that any of this needed … but it is, very much.

Relationship Gone Wrong

7. My Family Went to New York, and all I got …

Was a new debit card.

True story – last Thursday night Lisa and I were paying a few bills and noticed an odd $0.25 charge from a New York parking garage. All I could think was it was possibly related to our parking garage where we stayed, or maybe the Metro … but none of it seemed right. We made a note to keep an eye on our account.

The next morning Lisa got a call from our bank (Corning Credit Union), who had detected suspicious account activity … and we discovered that the $0.25 was the second ‘test charge’ (the other one was immediately reversed) and that someone had attempted a shopping spree with the card before it got shut down.

That afternoon we were in the branch office going through everything, and they had dealt with all of the charges except for a few that were still pending, and none of it was our responsibility. They shredded my card and issues a new one, and everything was handled incredibly quickly and easily.

I had gotten a new card because I made one trip to Target before their whole system got hacked, and now I just got another one. But what really struck me was the level of fast and friendly customer service we got during the whole process. It made a potentially awful situation much less stressful.

8. Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I loved the post by Harold at Runnah.com where he did his own version of ‘Overcoming Negative Thoughts’ … which was a great post by Christine at Love Life Surf.

Here are her basic thoughts:
1.Write about it.
2.Let it go.
3.Remember what you have accomplished.
4.A good coach helps too.
5.Believe you can fly.

Both posts are great and worth reading, and a great reminder of how negative thoughts can consume us and how important it is to purge them from our lives.

9. Speaking of Runnah.com

When I did my ‘blog process’ write-up, I nominated three wonderful people. But then I was surprised to see that Harold had done his own process post! Why? Because he is generally not a huge fan of these things … but I LOVED that he did it, so wanted to share it here.

Since I am off the running routine for a bit (one of those freak injuries), I have looked for things to blog about and after reading Mike’s blog today about the Blog Writing Tour, I decided to invite myself into the party :-).

I know, I know it probably is not good form, but…hey this seemed like fun and sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and do it.

Check it out, and also Lauren, Michele and Sara!

10. Watching Out for Emotional Manipulation

As all of us know, there are many ways to cause pain that do not leave a mark. Many of us deal with emotional manipulators in our lives – they are easy to spot, because they are the ones who will do something to you (or not do something they promised) and yet YOU end up apologizing. There is a great post on 8 ways to spot emotional manipulation – and freeing yourself from emotionally manipulative relationships can be one of the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself:

If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now – but only ten times worse. It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish – or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother – TRUST your gut and walk away!

11. GOMI Good or Bad

Hollie referenced the ‘snarktastic’ site called ‘Get Off My Internets’, or GOMI, in a post this week. The basis of the forum site is based on people creating threads that reference a site in a number of categories. Most of the sites I track and that comment on mine are in either Running Blogs or Healthy Living categories.

In general, no one creates a thread for a positive reason. Sure there are supporters of bloggers who will post, but the preponderance of thoughts are negative – hate reading, criticizing content or style or appearance … and most positive comments are made in the context of a comparison used to criticize someone else.

As for me? I get a single reference in a thread about Sara at Loving On The Run … . Given that (a) I’m older than most of the people I follow by at least 10-15 years (b) I’m a guy and most of the blogs I follow are by women and (c) that I write the comments I do … well, I wasn’t surprised by what was written:

mirulhi said
Plus: Who is this self-righteous weirdo (https://txa1265.wordpress.com/) who comments daily on her crap? Maybe it’s just me, but for some random, old, married dude to be excited to read “a peek into who you are as a person, wife, and runner” seems super creepy. Besides, he posts on his own blog too many late-middle-age man full-length mirror selfies. *shudder*

I KNOWWW!! Everytime that guy comments I get super creeped out. I just know he’s at home, poring over her blog/Twitter/Instagram having dirty thoughts. He loves to dole out relationship advice too.

If you read anything else in that thread you’ll see that I make out better than Sara. Similarly I find many people are pretty harsh on Hollie … and when I was looking there I noted they now have a thread on The Suz … ugh, just not nice. Personally I can’t change the gender and age distribution of our community, and since I thoroughly enjoy our interactions, my approach has always been total transparency with Lisa about, as she calls it, my running cult’ 🙂

To be honest, GOMI is FAR from the worst or harshest forum site I have spent time on, and a lot of it comes across rather pedantic, as well as tired, hackneyed, petulant and immature. Certainly compared to some game forums it is positively sedate!

But it is also worth noting that there is a place for this type of criticism. I have talked about the lack of constructive feedback and the overly-positive nature of things … GOMI helps provide an outlet off-blog for people to talk about things. Of course, I think a firect approach would always be better – if you have an issue with a blogger, drop an email.

12. Oldest Sub-4:20 Miler

Since I am 48 I was drawn to this article about a 48 year old runner becoming the oldest to run a sub-4:20 mile. On the one hand I think I look younger … but on the other I look nothing like him rounding the track! haha Check out the video:

13. Random Randoms

– Danielle has a great new featured column at Women’s Running’s Competitor site about sweating – it is awesome and 100% Classic T-Rex! Check It Out

Shamus has fun poking at the new music service Milk … which is basically radio. Not reinvented, not ‘for the next generation’ … just radio.

– Worst Conflict Resolution Ever – So a guy emails his wife about why he won’t miss her on her 10 day trip, using a tabulation of denied sex requests as a backdrop. So yeah, actually you should head to the original Reddit page … great comments, really sad situation. Nothing is clear except that the level of communications and intimacy in the relationship is dreadfully poor. As many there say, if he has a 7 week detailed spreadsheet with verbatim responses … how long has he been mentally tracking, and how long has it bugged him before … and what was his level of communication about the situation, and how involved was SHE in any of this. To be at this point at 26? Wow … even MORE sad.

– New ’10 Days of You’ posts – you know that Sara got me hooked on this (and is down to her 3 films), and now Laurel has picked it up with her 10 secrets post. My faves? Her talent for learning song lyrics and “I will sometimes sleep in my running outfit so I have one less excuse”. haha!

15 ‘Not to Do’ List Items – one way Megan is changing up is posting more things that would be blogs on Facebook – like this. My only addition would “Don’t allow others to dictate your personal boundaries.”

14. Colby Callait’s “Try” – Great Message

Lisa was singing this song and wanted to share it, so we looked on YouTube and found the video and played it. The video was about honestly representing yourself – no Photoshop or other dishonest alterations.

Here is the video:

Sara shared the video as well based on this powerful message. And linked to a site where Callait shared some thoughts:

When I see gorgeous models and singers and they look perfect on their album covers, it makes me want to look like that, too, and it makes me feel like if I don’t Photoshop my skin on my album cover, I’m the one who’s going to look a little off and everyone else is going to look perfect. And that’s what everyone is used to seeing.

They’re used to seeing people on the album covers completely Photoshopped. On one of my album covers, my arm was shaved down and it made me look very skinny. I think that gives a false reality.

So What Random Thoughts Do You Have Today?

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Just about two weeks ago I got a message that I had been nominated for a “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” by Running to Her Dreams … which is really cool and I want to thank her for thinking of me!

UPDATE: This morning as I went to check out the latest from #mamaSalt I found out that she had also nominated me … and also Sara’s blog mentioned below! So check them both out if you aren’t already following.

The steps for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks again!
2. Add the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post-done
3. Share seven things about yourself.
4 & 5. Nominate a list of bloggers that inspire you and (5) Post on their blog about it.

I had planned to skip #4 & 5, but then a new blogger – friends with #mamaSalt so you KNOW she’s cool – launched her blog this week, so I am nominating Sweaty Mess Mama! I’ll let her know on her blog!

This will actually be my FOURTH awards post this year! I had the ‘Sisterhood’ post, Liebster Award post, and a Many Awards post! This means you already have had to endure too much nonsense about me, so …

I have decided to use the ‘TMI Survey’ Aimee posted about here:

1. What are you wearing?

[Jake from State Farm voice] Khakis. Seriously, typing this over lunch at work, so … my famous #FlatsFriday shoes, khakis and a blue button button down shirt. Preppie much? Yeah – I have worn the same thing for 30+ years!

2. Ever been in love?

Yes.

3. Ever had a terrible breakup?

Fortunately NO! I’ve had my heart broken, been strung along and used … but I guess one upside of being obese is that most people will stop leading you on when you express romantic interest and they are using you (oh, you thought because I expressed interest and said ‘yes’ to going to that formal couples-centric dinner-dance that I was interested in you THAT way?!?!)

4. How tall are you?

6’1″ … which used to be tall until my boys passed me!

5. How much do you weigh?

~175-185lbs, last check was 180. My doctor and Lisa would like me at 185, I like me at 175 … so right now this works 🙂

6. Any tattoos?

No, never, never, no. Totally not a ‘me’ thing.

7. Any piercings?

See tatoos.

8. Favorite song?

I wrote about this here, and here is the quote:

within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

And it really is one of the singular pieces of modern music, featuring a double quartet (two drums, two basses and two keyboards) as well as multiple ‘world music’ influences and contributions from rock and classical and funk music. Yet it has a harder edge than so much ‘free jazz’ of the period while remaining harmonically tethered and loose all at once. The musicians were young and dynamic, and so while they had no preconceived ideas of what was happening … once the recording started they let loose with some of the greatest music of the last century.

Here is a live version from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival (in Western Massachusetts):

And here is the original album version … all 27 glorious minutes …

9. Quality you look for in a partner?

Honesty.

10. Favorite quote?

No damn cat, and no damn cradle.” Kurt Vonnegut, from ‘Cat’s Cradle’

11. Favorite actor?

Tough one as nobody jumped to my mind as THE one … but when I did my Films list, the actor I would pull from there is Clint Eastwood (from The Good The Bad and The Ugly)… so there you go.

12. Loud music or soft?

I find ‘loud’ or ‘soft’ an odd set of descriptors … I might go ‘ordered’ or chaotic’, ‘melodic’ or ‘atonal’ … but hey, since I like all of that stuff, let’s just play it LOUD! 🙂 I definitely surprised the woman walking her dog this morning with my blaring early 1950’s Miles Davis tunes!

13. Where do you go when you’re sad?

For a run. Or sit in our formal living room.

14. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

My elapsed time from wake up until I leave for work is usually 3 hours … including

15. Ever been in a physical fight?

Not since the 5th grade when Vinny Eisenhauer drew a picture and called me ‘elephant with earrings’.

16. Turn on?

Warn & honest eyes, inviting smile.

17. Turn off?

Deception, meanness, lack of eye contact.

18. Fears?

Another one I covered in my ’10 Days of You’ series!

19. Last thing that made you cry?

‘The Fault in Our Stars’.

20. Last time you said you loved someone?

Texting Lisa while typing the response to #15.

21. Meaning behind your YouTube name?

‘txa1265’ is a long-standing name – it is as simple as my fraternity (Theta Xi Fraternity, Alpha Chapter), and my roll number 1265.

22. The relationship between you and the last person you texted?

I’m her husband.

23. Favorite food?

Really tough – choice between pears, sweet potatoes and ice cream … just impossible.

24. Place you want to visit?

London with the whole crew.

25. Do you have a crush?

My heart still flutters when I see Lisa walk in the door and she gives me that wonderful smile and a big hug.

26. Last time you kissed someone?

This morning before I left for work … but she was only half-awake 🙂

27. Last time you were insulted?

Hmmm … hard to think of anything.

28. Favorite piece of jewelry?

My wedding ring followed by the claddagh ring Lisa gave me after the boys were born. Actually those are the only two things I wear.

Wednesday Wandering Mind, “I Run …”, Stopping the Streak, and My ‘8 Fears’

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It has been a while since I did one of these Wandering Mind posts, but not for a lack of randomness! Since I have so much stuff … let’s get right to it!

1. Shaking Up The Workplace

A really interesting article at HuffPo last week looked at the worst places in the world to work. The worst places had obvious problems such as “murder and disappearance are regularly used to intimidate workers”. Denmark was the only country to meet all 97 worker’s rights criteria. How did WE do? Not so great … and really not a surprise to me.

The U.S., embarrassingly, scored a 4, indicating “systematic violations” and “serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers.”

OK, that is fine – but what should YOU do?

Well, a few articles this week look at a variety of options. First off, you might need to deal with shifting workplace standards like this woman who suddenly found herself with a much younger boss. Personally for me the difficulty has always been the boss themselves, never the age – old, young, same age … who cares, doesn’t matter is they are good. Actually doesn’t matter is they aren’t good either – except that perhaps there is the opportunity for feedback to help them out more if they are younger (and if they are older and are lousy, that is really unfortunate).

You might even try to make big changes at your company – I know I read these posts about good and bad habits of various companies and see both sides in pretty much every company I have worked for or worked with.

But, ultimately maybe you have found yourself in a job or company you know you hate – check out this list of 10 reasons you need to quit your job in 2014 and see if it is time for a change.

2. National Running Day

Cori is hosting a link-up for National Running Day, and while we discussed the insular nature of many of these sorts of things (i.e. most of us will ‘run for running day’ … same as any other Wednesday), I still think that any effort to get people moving is a good thing – even if it is a ‘greeting card holiday’ (e.g. Brooks is sponsoring some of the efforts around, which gives them free advertising).

For my ‘story’ … well, I am going to be lazy and just refer back to my posts on the story – because it was just last week! Here is part one, and part two – which point to my guest posts for Laura here and here.

For today? Like I said, I got up and ran. And with no watch, no GPS, nothing – and I tried to mix up my route as much as possible in the time I have. Did about 9 or so miles, and felt lighter and speedier than I have since last week.

3. Powerful, Poignant Slam Poetry

My kids participate in an after school club called ‘WAS”, which stands for ‘wider arts society’. My older son did a slam poem at one meeting recently, and he previewed it to use … powerful stuff. This video was put up on YouTube a month or so ago and I have had it in a ‘drafts for later’ post ever since. It is something everyone should watch … and if it doesn’t move you, check your pulse.

4. On the Santa Barbara City College Shootings – Yes, The Onion is Satire, But …

I don’t even know where to start with the recent mass killing in California, but it was interesting that The Onion did a take that was poignant enough that there wasn’t the normal confusion over whether or not it was real, and people on my Facebook link just expressed sadness. I am not sure exactly what to do with that … but I’m pretty sure that it is meaningful.

Also, Mark Manson has an article on how we miss the point on these shootings. Thought provoking stuff.

5. Ending My Runner’s World Streak

I talked about the brutal hill repeats I did with my 12.5 mile run on Sunday on Instagram, and coming after my 14.5 mile long flat run on Saturday, as well as coming after 3 rest days in all of May … well, my body was telling me on Sunday that it was exhausted.

So I woke up on Monday ready to NOT run … and that was exactly what my body was telling me. I got up out of bed … then went back to sleep. Because a running streak is essentially meaningless – but listening to your body, is incredibly important.

6. Own Your Happiness

The other day Suz talked about regrets, and Sara in her ’10 Day You’ post ‘called BS’ on people who “don’t have at least one thing they wish they could go back and change.”

Over at Greatist, they take it a step further – rather than looking backwards, they look at the NOW. What can you do NOW to be mindful of all the little decisions we make every day to control our happiness? It is a fun little read – and it is always worth looking at the things we can do to improve the quality of our lives.

7. OK … just randomness

I love this video of a reporter trying to keep up with elite marathoners at the Stockholm Marathon.

What happens to our body when we stop drinking water?

More on Water – from Medium: ‘An Explanation of Water and Our Bodies’:

I drink lots of water but still feel thirsty!
This happens to a lot of people. Some research groups have calculated that about 95% of North Americans are constantly dehydrated. Normally trying to drink the right amount of water every day can fix this (side note: the ‘correct’ amount of water for you is half your weight in ounces, meaning a 150lb person should drink 75 ounces per day, equal to 2.25 liters), but most people don’t drink that much.

I have talked before how I really don’t like all of these artificial ‘love’ and ‘celebration’ days – Valentine’s, Mother’s, Father’s, Bosses, Grandparents, and so on. I love this Penny Arcade comic on the subject … because regardless of what we say, there are almost always at least minimal expectations.

I am often posting about the BS of the music business, and how much of what we think we ‘choose’ has been force-fed into our brains. So if you think music has become more diverse, or your tastes are ‘I will listen to just about anything’ – there is a REALLY big chance you are very wrong. Why? Because 1% of Artists Earn 77% of Music Revenue. So those few names you hear? The industry makes sure to concentrate YOUR dollars there to keep up their (the executives) revenue streams … which in turn makes a very few people very, very rich. All of whom are mainstream and have massive teams who do most of the work behind whatever you hear.

Are you a fan of the classic story Strega Nona? Here is a Barnes & Noble ‘Online Storytime’ feature on the book.

And finally – and assuming everyone knows already how I would feel about this … “11 Signs You’re A Men’s Rights Activist”

1. You have no problem with the gender wage gap. But you hate having to pay for dates.

2. You insist that it’s a scientifically proven fact that men are stronger than women. But you complain about society believing that it’s worse for a man to hit a woman than for a woman to hit a man.

3. You believe that the age of consent is unfair and that there’s nothing wrong with having sex with teenage girls. But when you find out that a teenage girl enjoys sex, you believe she’s the biggest slut in the world.

4. You hate when a woman automatically assumes that a man is a douchebag before getting to know him. But when you like a woman who likes another man, you assume he’s a douchebag just because he’s not you.

5. You believe that if women want equality, they should be drafted into the military. But you also believe that the military is not a place for women.

6. You hate when women assume that men are like wild animals. But you believe that a woman who doesn’t cover up and make herself invisible to men is just like someone wearing a meat suit around wild animals.

7. You hate the fact that men are bullied for not conforming to their male gender roles. But when you find out that a man disagrees with your beliefs about women’s rights, your immediate response is to try to emasculate him by comparing him to a woman as an insult.

8. You hate when women assume that there are no nice guys. But you call yourself a nice guy and act like it’s a rare quality that should cause women to be all over you.

9. You hate when women assume that men just want to get laid. But when you find out that a man is a feminist, you assume that he’s just doing it to get laid.

10. You hate when women make generalizations about all men. But when a woman calls you out for being sexist, you claim that all men think like you.

11. You insist that women should be responsible for protecting themselves from being raped. But when they follow the one piece of advice that actually works, which is being aware of red flags, you complain about them assuming that all men are rapists.

10 Day You Challenge

OK, so now I am up to Day 3, and the theme is Fear.

Day Three: Eight Fears

1. One of the boys dying – they say there is no worse feeling as a parent than losing your child … and honestly I never want to find out.

2. Lisa dying – at this point in my life I know people who have lost spouses. Not to freak accidents, but to cancer and heart attack and so on.

3. Being Unable to Provide for My Family – Getting laid off put the impermanence of things in perspective … and coupled with the info above about the US as a not-so-great place for workers, I worry that something will happen and I will not be able to work and keep us going financially.

4. Being stuck someplace confined – I don’t have severe claustrophobia, but I remember being a kid and having a narrow spot between rocks to get through … twice, and barely making it. Being larger than the other kids didn’t help.

5. Becoming Mentally Incapacitated – the threat of Alzheimer’s disease is very real and very scary. On the good side I look up and down both sides of my family and there is no history of dementia. But the thought of being unable to function in that way scares me.

6. Losing my vision – I am very fortunate to have great vision, but I have also noticed in the last couple of years that my up-close vision isn’t as strong as it used to be, to the point where for really small print I will just use the magnifier on my phone. I know reading glasses are in my future – which is fine … but the thought of being completely unable to rely on good vision? Not fun.

7. Losing My Love for Running – I hope to always remember that awful feeling of trying to restart running in March 2012, because (a) it makes me appreciate how far I’ve come, (b) it helps me empathize with others just starting out and (c) it is a reminder how different my post-thyroid landscape is.

8. Getting Fat – Yeah, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know it is one of few things on this list entirely under my control, but it is still a deeply held fear that motivates me in many good and not-so-good ways.

Bonus. Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett – Last Concert of the Bitches Brew Era

From November of 1971, a DVD was made of the Miles Davis group that disbanded later that month. The group consisted of Miles on trumpet, Gary Bartz on saxophone, Keith Jarrett on electric piano and electric organ, Michael Henderson on electric bass, Leon Chancler on drums, and Mtume and Don Alias on percussion. The band represents the last links to the “Bitches Brew” era. The concert is sublime, and as the DVD is out of print, a YouTube version is available that no one seems worried about taking down.

Here is the entirety of the concert:

So what is wandering through YOUR mind today?

Thinking Out Loud – Sixteen Candles, Americans Hate Jazz and More

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After some heavy stuff recently, a nice casual romp sounded like a fun idea. A few quick things that are not related to anything particularly serious. So let’s jump into it!

1. Awesome Wife is Awesome

This week in our house has been largely dominated by Advanced Placement and antibiotics! Advanced Placement courses with proficiency tests at the end have been around for a long time (I took them ages ago) and promise to dress up your college applications and possibly earn you college credit (my AP tests meant not needing to take any humanity courses at all!). Both of my boys had tests this week – Danny had American History yesterday and Chris has World History today. These are challenging, multi-hour tests that do not replace the final exam for the course (or even the Regents exam in New York). So final study and prep has loomed over the house for the past few weeks.

At the same time Danny has been fighting a cold, had one sick day and ended up in the ‘walk-in care’ doctor’s office on Tuesday with a sinus infection – meaning he took a 5 hour AP test 24-hours into anti-biotics! Yay, fun!

Then yesterday morning we really were worried about our older terrier Rosie – she is 10, has some heart issues and we really feel she is headed towards congestive heart failure. But two days ago she started ‘hacking’ and wheezing and had some rough breathing, and it was even worse yesterday morning – so we got an early vet appointment. Fortunately it turned out she had a small infection, and her trachea was irritated and inflamed, and her lungs were clear and heart sounded good! Whew – just antibiotics and a cough suppressant. Today she is already clearly starting to feel better!

After I headed to work yesterday Lisa got in her workout – after I gave the dogs breakfast Rosie normally lays down in bed with Lisa while I go for my run. But she sounded so bad that Lisa was freaking out (her words) and I abandoned my run so we could sit together. It was a long day, and after dinner Lisa was exhausted and just wanted to relax, do her nails and get ready for a work trip today and watch a bad Lifetime movie. She encouraged me to head out for a run, knowing that I am always better with a run and had missed my morning run, filling the space with loads of stress instead! It was awesome … and I really appreciated it! The picture at top is from after my shower …

It reminded me of the post on SuzLyfe about her relationship with her husband and the challenges and how sometimes the best thing to do is to push your spouse to do what is right for them even if they won’t ask for it themselves.

2. Sixteen Candles Turns 30

The fact that I not only saw this in theaters but also paid my own way and drove there along with friends tells me something – I’m old! Haha …

Sixteen Candles is a classic 80’s John Hughes film, with Molly Ringwald as the lead character whose birthday is forgotten in the frenzy surrounding her sister’s wedding. Anthony Michael Hall is perfect as ‘The Geek’, and even John Cusack has a minor role. This is one of those movies I have always loved and seen a million times, and falls in with my favorites of the era – Real Genius, Better Off Dead, Revenge of the Nerds, War Games, etc – as a great ‘must watch’ movie loaded with memorable quotes and moments.

Here is a classic scene with Gedde Watanabe as Long Duk Dong:

Have you ever seen Sixteen Candles? It is one of those that seems to come and go from Amazon Prime and Netflix (rental-only on Amazon now, DVD-only on Netflix).

3. Acclimating to Heat & Humidity

The other day Sara posted on Instagram talking about not being used to the heat, and I snarkily chided her that she wasn’t allowed to complain after the winter we just had! But the reality is that there IS an acclimation period when the temperature shifts very quickly – which is exactly what we’ve seen!

Abby posted a link to an Active.com article looking at what happens as you get used to the heat.

Some of the changes that occur during heat acclimatization include:

– Decreased heart rate, skin and body temperature for a given exercise level
– Blood plasma volume increases, keeping core temperature lower
– Rating of perceived exertion decreases
– Electrolyte concentration in sweat decreases
– Sweat rate increases, allowing more effective cooling
– Renal (kidney) electrolyte concentration decreases, preserving electrolyte levels
– Cutaneous (skin) blood flow improves
– Blood pressure stability improves
– Circulation of blood to muscles improves
– The threshold for sweating decreases and evaporative cooling begins earlier in exercise
– Less reliance on carbohydrate catabolism during exercise

How do YOU deal with it when the temperature suddenly jumps?

4. Why American’s Hate Jazz

I have shared my love for jazz here before – and in particular my love to so-called ‘avant garde’ jazz, stuff that unlike the great Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ (which is both great art and highly accessible) will not simply sit in the background. In college one of the guys in my fraternity drew a picture of a saxophone being tortured which was hilarious. It is my type of music, not for everyone … and I am decades past worrying if anyone else likes it, or debating the merits of the art.

But the fact that jazz accounts for about 3% of total sales means that this great American art form is being practiced by people who need to be willing to trade off money for art. An article over at Dyske.com delves into why Americans (in specific) dislike jazz and improvised instrumental music, with a number of things that are likely to tick some people off … which doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Here is one:

To be able to enjoy instrumental music, you must be able to appreciate abstract art, and that requires a certain amount of effort. Just mindlessly drinking wine, for instance, would not make you a wine connoisseur. Mindlessly looking at colors (which we all do every day) would not make you a color expert either. Great art demands much more from the audience than the popular art does.

He goes on to discuss how the limited musical scope of most popular music of the last 50 years has slowly eroded the ability of an audience to frame an emotional context around non-lyric-based music. Here is one thing he says:

The same happens to instrumental music. If there are no lyrics, that is, if there is nothing for the minds to interpret, projecting of any emotional values becomes rather difficult. As soon as the lyrics speak of love, sex, racism, evil corporations, loneliness, cops, etc., all sorts of emotions swell up. Jazz to most people is like a color on a wall; unless you hung something on it, they don’t even notice it.

I have all sorts of music on my iTunes collection, from jazz to classical to pop and rock and death metal to rap and hip-hop and funk and R&B and folk and electronic and on and on. And I definitely notice that particularly current pop modern hip-hop has shrunk the musical vocabulary to a fairly extreme extent. Generally you can think of it this way – in the past you could play multiple parts of a song (rhythm, two or more harmony patrs, melody) on a piano and have it recognized. Now rhythms are very common and very often replicated from song to song, same for harmonies – and often hip-hop songs are nearly devoid of a core harmonic structure, and that leaves the melody (or key guitar riff in a song like the Stones’ Satisfaction).

The issue isn’t about something being ‘better’, but rather about the potential musical implications of an entire culture eschewing complexity and depth of musical structures. Does it matter? Who knows … all I know is I like what I like, and respect that everyone has their own tastes. So check out the article, or dismiss it as yet more alarmist elitism. 🙂

5. Random Cool Videos

By now many people have seen the ‘cat saves kid’ video, but I’ll share it because it is cool. Basically something is wrong with this dog who works around a minivan and leaps and attacks and drags a kid off his tricycle, only to have the most amazing ninja cat came to the rescue! Check it out:

Another fun one is more of a commercial for the GoPro action camera, but it is so sweet I really don’t care!

Any cool videos
6. More ‘Make You Feel Old’ Stuff

My older son’s girlfriend is a high school senior, headed to Cornell in the fall as part of the college class of 2018. My boys are high school class of 2015 and 2016, and every year there are a number of ‘stuff kids entering high school will never know’ articles.

Buzzfeed looked at “58 Extremely Disappointing Facts About The Class Of 2018”. As always, most of the references are to either outdated technology or forgotten pop culture things that mean something to their parents (or the 20-somethings running Buzzfeed … most of the stuff wouldn’t mean anything to the parents of the class of 2018 either). Anyway, here aer a couple of my favorites:

“Roll down your window” has no meaning.
34. Neither does “don’t touch that dial.”

7. The ‘Outlet Mall’ Ripoff

I think most of us who have shopped at outlet stores for more than a couple decades have seen the changes from when they were messy side-rooms off of a main location where a company could sell off ‘second quality’ or unsold merchandise at a huge discount that would otherwise end up as trash.

The changes I see is the use of ‘outlet malls’ as a secondary retail space – you go to the stores, see many full-price items, some clearance, and some things that SAY they are mark-downs but don’t seem like a great deal.

Over at BuzzFeed they look at the trend of outlets using ‘look-alikes’ – in other words, knock-offs – of their own stuff that they sell at a seemingly low price with a high MSRP that would reflect the first quality goods when originally made.

Here is a quote:

J.Crew, like many other retailers, notes in filings that it sells “a specific line of merchandise” through J.Crew Factory that’s “based on (full-price) products sold in previous seasons” — in other words, it’s kind of a knockoff of itself.

Have you noticed this trend? Do you shop outlets, and if so how do you discern a good deal?

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Since I’ve been rambling, I will link up with Amanda for a ‘Thinking Out Loud’!

Bonus #1: Infographics That Promote Reading!

I love reading – though not to the extent of what Laura was tackling earlier this week – and think that things that promote reading are great. Ebookfriendly rounded up seven infographics that promote reading. Here is one:

Reading-is-the-road-to-success-infographic

Bonus #2: More Jazz for You to Hate!

Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity (no live recording available, sadly)

Derek Bailey – a fave of mine, abandons precepts of rhythm and tonality.

Anthony Braxton – ‘structured freedom’, based on logical and mathmatical concepts.

Peter Brotzman – raw power and emotion, totally visceral stuff.

Sam Newsome – more solo stuff, love all of his recent albums.

Mary Halvorson – my favorite young guitarist, really enjoy her concepts

So what is wandering through YOUR mind today?

Quickie Five for Friday – More Random Stuff!

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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.

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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!

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.

Five Things Friday2

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!

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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!

Thinking-Out-Loud

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?

Wandering Through Thursday – Throwback, MiMM, Thoughts and Tasty Tunes!

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Wow … holy ‘what happened to Wednesday’, Batman!?! Actually I know EXACTLY what happened … and it is a good thing. Aside from craziness at work, three areas I have talked about addressing – dawdling before my run, doing bodyweight exercises, and no computer in bed – have all been going well, and that immediately cuts into the time I would use for blogging.

So Wednesday’s post had already been changed around (hopefully all these changes means next week will be smoother), but I never finished it and ran out of time, so today I have a whole bunch of stuff crammed together – so let’s get to it!

Throwback Thursday

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This isn’t too old – just last year. We brought Danny to East Stroudburg University for the American Music Abroad program, and before they headed to Europe they had a few days of intense rehearsals. That left Lisa, Chris and I to do things for a few days. One thing we wanted to to was hit NYC for the day … and while the weather was pretty miseable, we had a blast.

Going to a music store if you are a non-musician is boring at best, but for musicians Guitar Center is a blast! The Boston store is better than the one in NYC, but they are both loads of fun. Since I play guitar, bass and keyboards and have a digital music studio … I could lose myself for the day if I wasn’t painfully aware of how awful it is for Lisa. But apparently I lost myself enough while noodling on a cool semi-hollow jazz guitar that Lisa grabbed this picture of me. Chris was in his element working the CDJ-2000! If only he had a spare $10k it would have been his!

New York City is one of the places we are considering for vacation this summer, because we have never all gone together, and there are colleges both kids want to visit – which is a key element to our vacation plans. I’m sure we’ll find a bit of Guitar Center time in there as well!

Hurray for Spring!

I was so thrilled Tuesday morning when I woke up before my alarm and was ready to head out on my run. It was made better because the temperature hadn’t dropped close to zero as was predicted, and was 19F with light winds when I started out. That was still cold, but rather than worrying so much about being warm enough, I could just toss on a pretty standard outfit and go!

Wednesday was an odd one because the thermometer read 39, but it was windy … and the wind was quite chilly, making it feel more like 25. Still … 25F is pretty nice running weather! The issue is always getting too warm when the wind is blocked and then chilled when the wind kicks up.

And for the first day of spring? Again it was 39, but the wind was much warmer, and it was just a glorious day for running!

Oh, and how I talked about ‘working my plan’? By Thursday most weeks I would have about 26 miles done (not counting Sunday) … this week? 35 miles Monday – Thursday! And still home by 6AM every day! Sorry I’m not sorry that has messed up my blogging and writing for other sites!

Marvelous in My Monday Wednesday

On Monday I whined talked about dealing with the winter blahs … but what that really meant for me was how to get the weather out of the way so I could enjoy my run. Apparently expecting -2F and getting +20F was JUST the thing! So suddenly things went from ‘blah’ to … marvelous!

MiMM

And as I thought about it, another draft-in-progress got kicked to next week, as I decided a hybrid of sorts was in order – my normal ‘thinking out loud’ along with a ‘marvelous in my Monday’. I loved Arman’s take this week, and want to link up for MiMM with … so here goes:

Danny Tux

Marvelous is – a picture of my older son in his tux at a fitting, seeing how much he has grown into a young man and how great he looks.

Chris Mens Wearhouse

Marvelous is – a selfie from my younger son from the same location, just hanging out being him.
Marvelous is – practicing ballroom dancing with Lisa, not being very good, but laughing and banging into each other and other things and getting the dogs all riled up.

Marvelous is – my running. I am not the fastest or best by any stretch. I am me … and that is good enough.

Marvelous is – reading. I had really wanted a minimum of a book a month, but haven’t finished ANY yet; with my Lenten commitment to keeping the computer away, I have been SO much better, and am nearly finished with ‘Night Watch’. Will I re-read the full series before the new one? Who knows … but at least I have a good start!

Marvelous is – my ability to get up tomorrow and run. I never take it for granted. I am not yet old, but certainly not young … and I know too many people who cannot do it.

Marvelous is – Food. In every sense. I talk about my disordered dealings with food, and it is a constant challenge for me. I am happy with how I am balancing fueling and control … I am not gorging myself, nor am I denying myself or restricting. Balance.

Marvelous is – my marriage. For whatever reason, yesterday we each had people at work remarking positively on our relationship, which always feels good – after so many years we don’t need external validation … but hearing that those feelings shine outside of ourselves is pretty cool.

Marvelous is – my wife, who makes me proud and happy and giddy all the time.

Marvelous is – our dogs, who are so full of love and joy and spirit.

Marvelous is – our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ Leo, who we decided not to have treated two years ago … and he is still happily tormenting the neighbrhood!

Marvelous is – Dolly, the 9 or 10 year old cat we have been ‘cat sitting’ for three years …

Marvelous is – music; I wish there was more time for me to work on playing and writing music … but what time I DO get fills my heart with joy.

Marvelous is – reading all of the awesome race summaries from last weekend. There were great reads from Cori, Hollie, Lisa and Lauren among others. Each has loads of interesting insights and details. It is a reminder that no two races are the same … which is true even when it is the same race.

A few other things (since this is a Wednesday):
The Post-Google Post-Buzzfeed World
We all see the headlines like ‘5 Power Mega Super Marathon Tips You MUST DO NOW’ … and of course the article tells you ‘hydrate, build mileage, fuel, practice race pace, and taper’. Um, yeah thanks.

The reality is that bloggers live in a world where Google’s page rank dominates search traffic and makes people use SEO as a guiding light of life. The result is that more and more blogs look like Buzzfeed (or Upworthy) with a bunch of over-blown titles that claim the universe.

Depending on who is reading this, there might be one or two recent articles that come to mind. I am not singling anyone out – because it is much more of a cumulative problem!

I was cleaning out my various feeds – Feedly, email subscriptions, Bloglovin and WordPress – and I have a HUGE number of feeds in differemnt areas. I track stuff from running, health, music, technology, video games, gadgets, deals, statistics, science, humor and offbeat stuff, and so on. And guess what – ALL of those areas are moving to the SEO-centric view.

The problem when you are confronted with dozens of titles with ‘Must Read’ or ‘Ultimate’ or ‘Essential’ or whatever other hyperbolic terms you can imagine? They stop being eye-catching and become annoying. And when I start to feel like I am being ‘gamed’, I bristle. I had friends at blogs in the past who I have stopped following and commenting … and when they asked why I would say ‘when you stop with 300 iPhone link-bait posts during the pre-announcement cycle I will come back’.

Fortunately there were very few of my running/health blogs falling into that category … and those that are, I am willing to cut some slack for a bit …

The Power of Optimized Mediocrity

I love this article called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People”, on accepting that most of us are not the whiz-kid billionaire types, but still want to do well and make a good life.

As far as I can tell, Larry Page has never failed. He went straight from graduate school to billions. Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and a few others. But again, by definition, most of us are pretty mediocre. We can strive for greatness but we will never hit it. So it means we will often fail. Not always fail. But often.

I often read there motivational images about ‘being anything you want’. That is a nice aspiration, but the reality is you should focus on figuring out who you are and becoming the best version of that!

Totally NOT Marvelous Race Reports

As much as I love reading a great race report, there was also some tough news out of this weekend.

At the Shamrock, 16-year old Cameron Gallagher collapsed seconds after finishing and never regained a heart beat. It is a sad and tragic story …

But according to Runner’s World not the only one. In the UK at the Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon, an unidentified 40+ year old man collapsed and died near the end of the race.

And at the NYC half-marathon, a runner collapsed but was resuscitated quickly.

It is a sad reminder of the risks associated with any physical exertion – and that a half marathon is not a trivial challenge.

Still not sure about the ‘student athlete’

Because we are plunging into ‘March Madness’, it is time once again to remind ourselves that these kids are supposedly ‘students’. Of course, most are SINO (students in name only), having been recruited based on non-scholastic skills, put into ‘academic’ programs designed around the athletic department, and so on. Realistically, these kids are pro athletes, in the business of playing a sport for a school rather than a city.

I think my biggest problem is the distinction between ‘pros in college’ and ‘student athletes’. When I was at RPI the hockey team won the national championship and was a major powerhouse. The school also gave scholarships for other sports, but it was different. The hockey players had their own housing, whereas my first roommate was on the basketball team. Hockey players were almost all in the same academic program, basketball players were accepted into the school and THEN given scholarships.
Of course even hockey players were not all the same – there were some ‘pucks’ as we called them who had little academic skill to offer, others who might not have made it in without hockey, and still others who were both smart AND good players.

Lauren at WillRunForBoston talked about it recently, about how “In college, running wasn’t a hobby. I was on scholarship at a Division I team and I had to give cross country and track 110%.”

But I also draw a distinction between a more ‘pure’ athletic pursuit like track, and the ‘road to pro’ sports such as football and basketball. Think about it – I remember that Larry Bird went to Indiana State and Magic Johnson went to Michigan State … and those schools use that information to get more money for everything they do.

How You Game vs. How You Work

While my constant chatter on video games gives some a case of MEGO, there is a lot that can be learned about people by how they play games. This study just came up again, and talks about different types of video games and how the players approach work and other problems.

I was going to talk about this for Friday, but it really isn’t worth it … I am an engineer and statistician, whose life every day includes planning experiments, analyzing results, and so on. It is not surprising that strategic games or number-heavy role-playing games are most interesting to me, as well as story-centric action games.

And for this totally random brain-dump I’m linking up with Amanda once again. I have really enjoyed doing this, if you can’t tell …

Thinking-Out-Loud

This week’s JAM is Jack DeJohnette ‘Special Edition’ box set

This isn’t really new, but is one of those things that I never gave proper attention when it came out a couple of years ago – it is a remastered box set and I own two of the albums already. But rather than immerse myself, I just listened to the new versions of what I already owned and then moved on.

Last week I had the song ‘Third World Anthem’ in my head, so I pulled out my CD of ‘Irresistable Forces’, from the 1987 incarnation of Jack Dejohnette’s Special Edition. The CD is out of print, so when I left it in my car but wanted to hear it in the house I realized I hadn’t imported it into iTunes … and that the version from ‘Album Album’ WAS on my iTunes. So suddenly I was listening to this amazing four album set …

Here is the press info:

Special Edition – a band with revolving membership and an incredible cast of soloists including David Murray, Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman – was one of the most sophisticated vehicles for Jack DeJohnette’s all-around talents. This set brings together the albums Special Edition (ECM 1152), Tin Can Alley (ECM 1189), Inflation Blues (ECM 1244) and Album Album (ECM 1280), underscoring the excitement of invention and possibility one can hear in this era of DeJohnette’s career. The recordings reveal him as an artist in touch with tradition even as he sought the cutting edge of the day, paying homage to his jazz heroes yet experimenting with new sounds. There are echoes of old New Orleans grooves and Swing-era big bands in this collection, as well as material crafted with the techniques of ’80s pop singles; there are ambitious suite-like compositions, and there is spontaneously lowdown rhythm & blues.
Recorded 1979-1984 and remastered from original tapes for ECM’s Old & New Masters series.

Across the four albums we hear the following musicians:

Jack DeJohnette on drums, piano, organ, congas, timpani, melodica, vocals; David Murray on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone; Chico Freeman on soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, bass clarinet; John Purcell on alto and baritone saxophones, flutes, alto clarinet; Rufus Reid on bass, electric bass; Peter Warren on double bass, cello; Baikida Carroll on trumpet.

What I love about ‘Special Edition’ is that it is a free jazz group working in a highly composed environment and led by one of the great drummers of jazz. DeJohnette played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and On The Corner amongst others – he could play straight jazz, fusion, funk and free.

The rest of the group is like a who’s who of the late-70s free jazz movement, so if you look up any of them on AllMusic and look at their output you will find some real gems. Rufus Read is responsible for one of the ‘must have’ books for bass players (The Evolving Bassist) … and all of that knowledge just spills out on these recordings.

Ultimately ‘Album Album’ remains my favorite recording from this collection, but that is largely because of ‘Third World Anthem’. Check it out below!

The albums are available on ECM Records for 19.90 Euros (converted)and Amazon for $28.49.

Here is a live recording of the 1988 band playing Third World Anthem:

So … what is running through YOUR mind this Thursday?