Friday, July 10, 2015

Last Wednesday Odds and Ends Plus One Perfect Moment

It felt as if little was accomplished because I was not rushing around. Afterwords, when I toted it up, there was a lot completed:

1. Roasted four batches of coffee. This needed to be done first thing because we were all out. Plus, you need to open the windows and it was due to be very hot and humid, so better earlier than later.

2. Mowed the lawn and cut down some invasive vines. They have killed before (a tree I did not care for) but now they had their sights and tendrils set on a sugar maple, Japanese dogwood and something that looks like a black walnut, but I am not sure.

3. Changed the oil in the Subaru, also added air to the leaky wheel. As an aside: I was ready to throw away the air compressor. It leaked and hesitated while trying to start. The starting issue was fixed when I used a plug that was at a higher amperage and the leak was fixed when I replaced the drain cock. It stars right up now and has held pressure for a couple of weeks.

The oil change went well until I realized, once oil was pouring out of it, that the oil drain pan has a leak in it. I had some sawdust to throw in it and a good heavy rain last night finished the clean-up of the driveway.

Shower: Did I mention it would be hot and humid? Any parts of me that lacked grass and vines was covered with used motor oil and/or sweat.

4. I made some great guacamole and THEN realized we had no chips! Grocery time. Always a touchy subject. Me: I am going grocery. Wife: There is a huge list in One Note. Me: I don't want to get deli. Wife: You don't have to get anything! Me: I just want to get the things we really need and not spend all day at the store, I just want to get chips and not blow the rest of the day.

5. Went grocery and got just about everything on the list, minus the deli.

6. Got sucked into watching a dark and creepy movie with the oldest daughter: Nightcrawler. Not to spoil things (and note: I liked the movie) but it was essentially Jake Gyllenhaal as a psychopath who transparently manipulates everyone around him using glib b-school jargon.

7. Took middle daughter to "captain's practice" This is unofficial CC training run by the students themselves so it doesn't violate league rules.

8. Went for a short, 4.3 mile, run. Normally Wednesdays feature at least 8 miles but I was tired, it was crazy hot and I needed fast times to get back under 8:00/mile on the week.

9. Grilled the salmon I purchased at grocery earlier this day.

One Perfect Moment:

It had been a hard day a few weeks ago: Driving back on small twisty roads, stuck behind slowbots etc. Finally I was getting on the freeway for a few miles and it was moving well but really packed. I looked over my shoulder for a slot while on the entrance ramp and noted a motorcycle. I made eye contact to reassure him that he was seen and then he made a move which encapsulated elan. He braked slightly and then waved me in with a sharp leftward gesture of his head. It seems so little but I had been in a bad mood and I was cheered up the rest of the day.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

4th of July Double Header

Much like the races themselves, it is with some trepidation that I attempt to make sense of it all:

The plan was ambitious but doable and it would save me from a hard choice: There are two races on the fourth of July that I like to run. One of them is a two miler through the center of our town which takes the same route as the parade that immediately follows. The other (a 5-miler) is part of a grand prix series that I have been doing the last few years and you have to do all the races. There would be two obvious drawbacks to running both: Can I actually run a 5-miler that starts at 8:15 and then get to another race, 20 miles away, that starts at 9:30, on time? The second issue is performance: 7 miles is not such a long way but one would have to expect a fall-off in performance--at least in the second race.

The problems started with the first few steps of the 5-miler. I had worn thin socks since my racing shoes are too tight with normal socks and sockless was out since I tried that in Groton and ran well but got blisters from it. In warm-up everything was fine but when I accelerated up to speed at the start of the race, the problem became clear. The thin socks were slippery and my feet were sliding around inside of my shoes. I had a real hard time going as fast as I wanted to because my feet would start to slide if I went above 80-90% effort.

The course is hilly and of a distance such that there is some drama. Some people can really power their way up hills while others can fly on the down hill portions. In the first mile, the runners sort themselves out: The sprinters burn-out and slow down while the people who take a while to fully hit their stride, finally come up to speed. By the end of the first mile you are with the people who will be running with you for the rest of the race. At this distance I passed an older man who was breathing heavily, I honestly thought he would keel-over and I would need to administer CPR. Also there was a woman in her 30's that I caught up with. There were others, but in general they either passed me and were never seen again or I passed them and never saw them again. The lady stayed ahead of me while the old man and I would pass and repass each other. He would pass me on the up hills and I passed him on the down. Finally, there was the giant hill. The lady was walking up it and I passed her plus the old guy on this hill. The lady passed me again on the flats and some spectators had encouraged her by telling her she was 5th among women. So I thought some drama was afoot when I heard a very feminine wheezing coming up from behind me. It turned out to be the old guy who sounded even more like he was about to die. Whatever sounds he was making, he passed me and I never caught him again. As for the lady, I finished right behind her and could have passed her right at the end, but I am not that guy.

Last year, I was third in my age/sex group so I was tempted to stay around to see if I placed this year too. On the other side of that, I was about a minute slower this time and I had places to be. I got in my car and zoomed out of there!

I will admit that I exceeded the posted limits but I made it to Drum Hill with about 5 minutes to spare. I took the time to get those infernal socks off and get my feet back into the racing shoes and then jogged to the starting line. Or rather, mob. Harvard was a petite race of around 200 runners, Chelmsford had over 2,000 official runners and lots of non-official ones as well. The first few steps toward the start reminded me of how, even though I didn't run very hard in the 5-miler, I was still not my freshest. I had already vowed that anything under 15 minutes would be fine, so I posted myself in the middle of the starting pack. It took a mile to get room to maneuver, which was about 8 minutes. I bridled at the poor pace but it gave me time to work out the kinks and start to feel like pumping it up a notch. Based on the total race time, I must have done well under 7 for the final mile and caught up to a bunch of kids I knew from the high school cross country gang.

I should be happy: I made it to both races, and ended up taking 2nd place in my age group at Harvard. Still, the times were slow: I would normally have run about one minute faster in each of the races.

39/205 overall 2/20 M5059 37:34 7:31

256/2085 overall 25/128 M5059 14:40 7:20

Added: A couple of coincidences. In the Harvard run, the other runner from Chelmsford also took second in his age division. In the Chelmsford run, a girl I know who runs with my middle daughter on the HS cross country team came in just ahead of me and she finished in the top 20% of her age group 9/45 while I also finished in the top 20% of my age group, 25/128.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ginevra, Up Close and Distant

This portrait by Leonardo da Vinci is the only portrait by this artist to reside in America. In this first image, the young lady is beautiful if somewhat unapproachable seeming.


In this next shot, I was trying to get a detail of the background and ended up also getting the lower half of her face too. In this view, her lips look, inviting.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Groton Road Race AKA the first race of the year

I was a little apprehensive about the race this year, since I would be going into it about 10 lbs heavier than I have been in more than a decade. I place the "blame" on weight-lifting. No, it isn't all muscle, but you have to be in "caloric excess" to gain muscle and so I would say the extra weight is about half muscle and half fat. Either way, it is weight that needs to be carried around and the cardiovascular system is the limiting factor--or so I thought.

Since 2007, with one exception in a very hot race day, I have been running between 44 and 45 minutes for the 10K. This year, I went in cautiously and did not go all-out but still ran 44:44!

Here are some pics.

At the start, nervously clapping after the national anthem.


The lady in the plaid dress and I played cat & mouse the whole way: I thought I had buried her around mile 4 when I opened up a big lead after she had been 100 yards ahead of me. The 5k and 10k races joined together in the last mile and a half and I really blew my pace from dodging the slower runners. She finished about 50 yards ahead of me based on time--I didn't see her at the finish and my guess is that she went in with the 5k runners.


Passing slower runners in the last half mile.

Photos from Jim Rhodes of CoolRunning.

Added:

Shots of me and the woman that beat me at the finish:




Added: If you look at the second picture, you will see the woman who came in immediately before me and also a young man with a red shirt and sunglasses. In the final picture, you can see this same man behind me in the final stretch. It made me think that we didn't need to run 10k when we three were already together at the 1k mark.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stephen King: (Choose Your Adjective)

As I skimmed through this Stephen King piece in the Daily Beast, I struggled with which word best described the things he was saying: Dishonest, unhinged, illogical, I couldn't pick one and so will do a abbreviated Fisking.

I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, “How come I’m not paying 50?"

You want to pay more, but if the above is true, you are not even paying what is required by law: The current top Federal Income Tax Bracket is 39.6%

He quotes the Governor of NJ as saying:

"I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check—go ahead and write it.”

Good point Gov! The point is never really addressed because of the dishonesty of his premise. He doesn't want to be taxed more, he wants other rich people taxed more.

There is a kind of incoherence at work in the piece: He makes the claim to speak for "rich people" since he is one of them, but he clearly loathes them and perhaps himself in some way. If rich people were to elect a spokesperson, they would probably choose somebody who likes them. Unless they are all self-hating rich people too.

Why pay more tax?

The rich people he praises, including himself--though excluding by name, Mitt Romney (who gives far more to charity than King)--he praises because they donate money to good causes. None of them, including King, donates to the Federal Treasury. Why? That is where the money would go if taxes were increased. If it is such a wonderful place to send money to, why are you sending your money to a bunch of places that are not the Federal Treasury?

A tribune for the working man

Maybe he cares about the little guy, but what I am betting on is that he needs us to get at his enemy, other rich people. Stephen King cannot get tax rates raised by himself, he needs us voters to do it. So here is a guy who is worth an estimated $400 million, who earns as much in one month as most of us will see in a lifetime of work, trying to act like he is on our side. He is on his own side and wants to use us to punish his enemies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let's Not Rule This Out So Quickly

Hillary Clinton likes the idea of "...camps for adults," according to Newsday.

Her idea is that it would be a way to force people to listen to each other. I think a better idea would be to use it as a way to help us all focus a bit better. With our hectic life-styles and so many issues competing for our limited attention, we need a camp to help us gain the patience to really think for a long time on one issue at a time.

I'm just throwing names out, but how does "Concentration Camp" sound?

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Chutzpah Of Hope

1. Oppose a thing, claiming it will make the situation worse.
2. The thing is done anyway and the situation improves.
3. Claim credit for the improvement.
4. Do something that makes things worse.
5. Claim you had nothing to do with the thing that made things worse.

In Foreign Affairs:

Then-Senator Obama opposed the Iraq surge, claiming

"I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse,"

There is some debate about whether the surge worked or not, but certainly the situation improved rather than worsened. The state of affairs in Iraq by 2011 was so good that the President could claim victory.

Back in 2012, Obama took credit for removing all troops from Iraq,

"With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement," Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. "That’s not true," Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn't want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”

Now that Iraq is in chaos, not so much,

On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”

Both quotes from the WP

In Domestic Affairs:

“They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole,”
From Roll Call

This effort seems to be the main reason (besides the ongoing decline in labor participation rate) for the recent decline in unemployment.

The Impact of Unemployment Benefit Extensions on Employment: The 2014 Employment Miracle?

It is not clear-cut that he is taking credit, but he sure is't claiming that it is in spite of his efforts.

"Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999," Obama said to applause. "Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis."
CNS News (Quotes are also available in the transcript from the 2015 State of the union address.)

Interesting side note: from Wikipedia

The cognate of chutzpah in Classical Arabic, ḥaṣāfah (حصافة), does not mean "impudence" or "cheekiness" or anything similar, but rather "sound judgment".[3]

Friday, March 06, 2015

Unnecessary Violence Problem Solved

According to President Obama:

“As long as you can go in some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book, there are neighborhoods where it is easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable, as long as that’s the case, we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence,”
The Blaze

Since there are no neighborhoods where it is easier to buy a firearm than a book or vegetable, I guess we will not continue to see unnecessary violence.

Unnecessary? I guess we will only see the necessary violence that we really need.

Clips? I think he means a magazine. I never saw ammunition on a clip outside of the Marine Corps. That was rifle ammunition, is pistol ammo on a clip even a thing?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Intersections

We made a trip to NYC two weeks ago and engaged in some ad hoc activities and some events that were planned well in advance.

The first day was free and we came to find out from our dog sitter (who was also the breeder of our pet) that the Westminster Dog Show would be happening the week we were there. We went to the Monday session down at the Chelsea Piers and found out from the fact that everyone knows our breeder, that she is pretty famous and well-regarded in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels circles. The nice thing about the show at the pier is that you can get right up close to the animals and really appreciate how fine they are. Also, the breeders were very friendly and happy to talk about their dog's temperament, upkeep & etc.

Having gone to the show, we were following the competition during our stay by watching the happenings at Madison Square Garden on the hotel room TV. We even set a recording on our home DVR since we would be driving back on that day and might miss the show.

The final full day in NYC we went to a show: Matilda. Miss Trenchbull was scary and funny. The children were spunky and cute. The kind adults very humane as the bad adults entertainingly vacuous.

The trip came full circle once we were home, watching the dog show on TV. They opened the show with the cast of Matilda singing the national anthem or America The Beautiful.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

This Is How You Retract A Story (and this is how not to do it)

First: The Good. From The Daily Beast.

ON WISCONSIN? 02.27.15

Walker Unfairly Attacked on College Rape - ORIGINAL STORY RETRACTED
Scott Walker’s budget proposal to delete the requirement that universities report sexual assault cases has been incorrectly reported by the Beast and others.

Here is how not to do it, from the original source, which got it wrong:

Scott Walker Wants Colleges to Stop Reporting Sexual Assaults [UPDATE 2]
307,07237
natashavc
Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Update? Your headline still implies something that isn't true and update could be added information, not necessarily a fundamental change. Look! You screwed-up, this kind of half-assed correction only makes you look worse.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Misc. MoMA pictures

Klimt-Abstract and Concrete

If there wasn't the figure of a woman at the top of this one, it would be an entirely abstract piece.


this is a fairly concrete scene...


But a detail of the foliage could easily be an abstract painting of its own.


MoMA portraits

We worked ourselves from the bottom floor upwards and the art got progressively better as we went: One final bit were portraits and I liked them a lot.




"Self-Portrait with a Cigarette"  by Max Beckmann 




Another self portrait of the artist as he paints a portrait of a model.

Scenes from MoMA

Below are some phone pictures I took at the MoMA but first, an original composition of my own made from coasters acquired at the gift shop:


Wife and green swirly picture

Eldest daughter evaluating Jack the Dripper.


The first one was made of some 40,000 squares and the artist drew in red or blue based on if consecutive numbers in a phone book were even or odd. Tedious but anyone could do it. The other one seems almost impossible to execute: I couldn't even look at it very long, yet the artist had to make perfectly regular lines of even curve and continuous change to the thickness of the lines.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

MSM And A Tale of Two Stories

Mattress Girl Story:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

UVa Rape article in Rolling stone:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Both stories debunked:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Rape, both on and off campus have been declining for decades:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Rudy Giuliani suggests that Obama does not love the United states:
MSM--Let's talk about why this idea is pretty believable to many if not most Americans.

Kidding!

MSM--Let's attack the former mayor of NYC.
MSM--Let's attack any Republican that fails to disavow Mr. Giuliani's claims.

It is a lot like your run of the mill progressive: They will happily defend socialists, vote for them and support socialist governments around the world. If you call one of their politicians one, they will act like you are the reincarnation of McCarthy!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Validation: Very Late And Randomly Discovered

Some years ago, when we lived in Vermont, I got it into my head to swim across Lake Champlain. It seemed easy; there was New York just a couple of miles away. But it turned out to be pretty complicated:

--One needs to train, this wasn't hard. I swam at the UVM pool the Winter before and I got a beach pass and swam at North Beach every day after work through the Summer. By late Summer I was ready.
--One needs to find a place to start and a place to end and they need to be roughly across from each other and neither too far apart nor too close.

This second one was very hard. There were not a lot of public beaches or other access points across from each other. I found only one route that I thought would work: Essex NY to Charlotte VT.

Now 16 years later, I was searching for information on current ice conditions for Lake Champlain and found an article from last Summer in the Burlington Free Press where a group of 14 swam the lake. Their route: Exactly the same as mine--except they went in the opposite direction. This was very gratifying. I thought that my choice was systematic and rational but I had nothing to compare it against. Seeing that somebody with no connection to me came up with the same solution makes me think it was a pretty good solution.

I believe that my direction was better though. From the NY side, you cannot easily tell where the Charlotte beach is located. From the VT side, you can easily see the buildings of Essex. So my route makes navigation much easier.

Added: Images from the event (I took digital pictures of the photographic prints in an album)


Here I am with my mom and oldest girl (the other two children were not born yet).


Here I am with Andy. We swam "together" which means we started together but he was much faster and so was dressed by the time I came to shore. He was a monster and probably would have finished an hour ahead of me even without his wet suit. I went the Speedo route.


A shot just as I prepared to get out of the water. My daughter on the shore, nonplussed at me showing up and asking why I was swimming.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Do Non-Handy People Do?

We received about 33 inches of snow in the blizzard of 2015 and I waited until the snow was done falling before clearing our driveway.

Early into the task, I noticed that the snowblower was not working as well as usual. One side of the first stage was dead.

The shear bolt on that side had, sheared. I have a lot of odds and ends around and felt confident that I could find something to fit. What I found was an actual shear bolt that was from a batch I bought ten years ago, the last time this happened.

It was somewhat tricky getting the remainder of the bolt out and the repair took about half an hour. This effort got me thinking, lots of people are not very handy. They certainly could effect the repair as I did, but they just wouldn't. They would not even consider trying.

The problem is that the snow machine is too heavy to pick-up and put into a vehicle, so it is not easy to take to a repair shop. Are there repair services that will come and fix your machine on-site? I suspect that people who cannot fix their own machines just hire people to clear their driveways.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Limits To Self-Trickery

Last Wednesday, I lifted 145 lbs for the first time in a long while. Now it was Saturday and I knew, just knew that I was strong enough to do it again. But would I let myself even try?

The clean and jerk is a hard lift to do: It takes strength, of course. But it also takes a fair amount of nerve and coordination too. It is not dangerous--you can easily push the weight away if things don't go right. But it feels like it is dangerous and the result are half-hearted attempts at a lift, which leads to failed lifts.

I thought of this trick I had read about: You tell yourself that a task is easy, or you have done it before, etc. and even though you know it is untrue, some part of you believes it and you are given a boost. Often what I will do when I have failed on a lift, is to take 5 lbs off and lift again. So, without taking any weight off, I told myself that I took weight off the bar and then did the lift at 145. Even as I was doing the lift I could not believe it worked.

It has its limits though:

Yesterday this same trick failed to work. I think I know why though. On Saturday I had not done anything tiring and had not lifted since the Wed before. Yesterday I was fasting all day, ran 4 miles AND had run 11 miles on Sunday. I was pretty weak and all the trickery in the world couldn't change that.

I did lift 140 twice though.

Update: The next Wed, Sat, Mon and Saturday after that featured 145 lb lifts. The Monday was at the hotel and I was amazed that they had a barbell that was not locked into a cage. I had to move some things around to have room to lift and felt a little rushed as well. In that session I made 145 on the clean but did not put it over my head. The rest were complete. I am (hopefully) getting into the habit of making this weight.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Sophie's Choice

It has been a while since I saw the 1982 film but was reminded of my thoughts on it by NEO-NEOCON's post on "Coco".

Spoiler Alert! (Is this really needed for a 30 year old film?)

Sophie arrives at a concentration camp with her two young children (a boy and a girl) and the camp doctor tells her that she can only bring one with her, the other will go to the gas chamber.

I won't say what she does, but here is what I thought she ought to have done:

Sophie: Why should I trust a man who will order a child to be killed?

Officer: I do not understand...

Sophie: You tell me that I can choose which one will live and you will honor that choice. Why should I believe you? It is in your power to kill none of us, all of us or some of us. Perhaps I would say, "Save the boy"! and out of perverse pleasure, you will kill him first.

Officer: I will kill both children if you do not pick one.

Sophie: I will not be complicit in your evil. You can choose to kill one, both or neither. This is your choice. I have no reason to believe anything you say and will not cooperate. Even if I did trust you, I think that you may believe that my playing along will dilute your guilt. I will not allow this! You are responsible for our fate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

5,000 Years

Note to Reader: I have been noodling around with an analogy for some time but just couldn't quite get a grip on the scope. Finally I just decided to write it out and let the chips fall where they may.

In my lifetime there have been two major genocides which I would like to make a note of: Cambodia back in the mid 1970's, where something like 1/4 of the total population was killed and Rwanda in the mid to late 1990's where about 1/5 of the population was murdered.

To get some perspective, those who would like to ban the private ownership of firearms like to trumpet the US murder rate*, which is something like 12,000/year. At this rate, it would take 5,000 years for murderers to equal what was done in Rwanda in 100 days.

Now for the analogy: It seems like one could think of murder by criminals as analogous to side effects from vaccines. Each is tragic but far more lives are saved than lost. Could either of these genocides (or any genocide, ever) have been carried out in a well-armed society?

*The anti-gun folks are not even close to this honest. They will talk about "gun deaths" and never mention that 2/3 of these are suicide. Nor will they mention that in gun-free Japan, the suicide rate is twice that of the US.

Added: To give a feel for the span of time. It has taken only about 12,500 years for the Niagara Gorge to be formed from the origin of the falls to their present location. The gorge is close to 7 miles long.