Monday, December 8, 2008

Typical Monday Morning

Before I begin, allow me to acknowledge that I recognize the below events are a sign of a life pretty well lived. As a good liberal Democrat/NY Jew, I feel I need to start with a little self guilt. And, given that I haven’t slept much in the past few days, this entry is just as much about capturing the events for posterity as it is for sharing the stories.

And now, on with the show.

I made it to work today. That, my friends, is an accomplishment. This past weekend was a whirlwind, mostly due to my father in law getting remarried and the surrounding events. I came in to the office slightly hung over, majorly fatigued, and with the hopes that it would be quieter than home.

Last night was the actual wedding and reception. It was a rather intimate, and quite elegant, affair. Honestly, the only downside of the night was the DJ, who only played songs that made me feel like I was at an 80’s Bar Mitzvah (think “Shout,” “Twist and Shout,” “We Are Family” and any other overplayed song you hear at these types of events). I would have been a better DJ. For serious.

P’s siblings were split between various tables, which I was initially nervous about, as it meant I’d have to pull out the shiny interactive me, as opposed to the quirky introverted me… These things can always be a crapshoot, and I am quite certain I am not the only one who has war stories of the people that were altogether inappropriate, dull, or otherwise incompatible.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry at all in the department, as P and I spent a large portion of the evening speaking with our table companions. The couple across from us were fantastic. New York dwellers who love living in NY. One of them was a writer for, well, let’s just say a TV series P and I kinda worship. And to her credit, she was cool with periodic gushing about how much we loved her show. On top of that, she and her fiancĂ© were genuinely cool people. Thus ensued lots of clever jokes, funny stories, and general revelry.

I think I want to be their friends. I have a bit of a crush on their personalities.

Having brought the Wii with us to our hotel room (which I think is an entirely reasonable thing to do thankyouverymuch), we invited them back for some intro to the world of dorky gaming. Luckily, they were just as tired as we were, and didn’t take us up on it (although I totally would have played – being tired has never gotten in the way of my ability to indulge in a video game), although they did come by with their sweet dog to make an introduction.

We’re totally in.

P and I got to bed around 1am, and were up by 7:15 to squeeze in a few more minutes with sibs who live far away. I dragged my bum out of bed and into the freezing cold morning. A muffin helped calm my tummy from the past evening’s activities.

We got home to the reminder that our roof is being repaired today. Great for the house and all, but entirely unpeaceful if you want to have some quiet time before reengaging with the outside world. Our poor kitties were all hiding under the beds, and looked at us as if to say, “Are you going to kill us now?”

I went to go hop in to the shower to wash off some of the aforementioned revelry, only to discover that the roofer was working directly above the skylight in the bathroom. I wasn’t so much in the mood for a nudie show, so I skipped the shower and threw on work-ready clothes.

Truth be told, I kinda dressed up today because in my head tardiness is offset by how well you are dressed. It isn’t logical, but it makes perfect sense in my head.

So let’s do a brief recap: late night, with lots of good food and perhaps some alcohol involved, chatty chatty with new people, up early, no shower, loud banging as if the ceilings are about to fall in due to work on the roof.

My only chance for quiet was to head in to the office. As I am getting to my car, the woman who cleans our house every couple of weeks pulls up. I could swear this is not her week to come, and our house is a total disaster from having just arrived home yet not unpacked one iota. Could she show her friend around the house, who is going to be cleaning on her behalf while she visits family over the holidays?

Of course, I say, trying not to blurt out the fact that I wish her luck poking her way around the mail and other papers that’s been tossed about thanks to the freaked out cats, the laundry that is awaiting folding, and the sheer amount of crap that is all over the porch from the roofers.

I got out of there pretty quick, and found respite in cubicle land. Never did I think I would hear myself saying this, but it was actually more relaxing to come to work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Your cube farm or mine?

Today I received the following email:

Attached is a listing by department of teams in [current office location]. As part of the planning phase for the [new office location] buildout, I would like to ask each person to review this list and be sure that your name is listed with the correct team. If there are any revisions please let me know. After this list has been validated we will sit with each department to map out seating arrangements.

What I learned from this email is the following:

  • The official names of each department for those that work in this office (which changes frequently enough)
  • Who works in what department (which changes frequently enough)
  • My office is moving

I guess that's the official nonofficial word that we're packing up our cubicles and heading to new ones in the near future!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

We don't need no stinkin' mouse

As I am sitting here individually copying every single class I have ever taken past high school into a centralized application system (which I should write about in full someday, if for nothing else than posterity of this annoying task), I am finding that I am lacking in knowledge in the Mac keyboard shortcut arena. I am, if I may say so myself, a fairly expert user of keyboard shortcuts in the PC realm. I scoff at the mouse at work. On our home computer (a Mac Mini, which I love outside of this keyboard shortcut thing) I am less savvy.

So I turned to our friend Google for some help, and was provided with any number of pages that gave me the help I need. The learning has begun.

I thought to myself, "self, you've created a handy keyboard shortcut one pager for your friends. It's just as good as any of the sites you've seen. Why do you keep it hiding on your computer, where no one can find and benefit from it?"

So, here you go. A listing of all the keyboard shortcuts for your PC life. Note that these should work in most Microsoft Office programs, and in some cases (like ctrl+P) they are fairly universal.

Nerdcore, beatches!

ctrl + A = Select all
ctrl + B = Bold
ctrl + C = Copy
ctrl + D = Change font
ctrl + E = Align center
ctrl + F = Find
ctrl + G = Go to (page)
ctrl + H = Find/replace
ctrl + I = Italics
ctrl + J = Align justified
ctrl + K = Insert hyperlink
ctrl + L = Align left
ctrl + M = Indent
ctrl + N = New file
ctrl + O = Open file
ctrl + P = Print
ctrl + Q = Reset paragraph
ctrl + R = Align right
ctrl + S = Save
ctrl + T = Hanging indent
ctrl + U = Underline
ctrl + V = Paste
ctrl + W = Close window
ctrl + X = Cut
ctrl + Y = Redo last action
ctrl + Z = Undo
shift + → = Highlight letter by letter right
shift + ← = Highlight letter by letter left
shift + up arrow = Highlight line by line up
shift + down arrow = Highlight line by line down
ctrl + shift + → = Highlight word by word to the right
ctrl + shift + ← = Highlight word by word to the left
ctrl + shift + up arrow = Highlight paragraph by paragraph up
ctrl + shift + down arrow = Highlight paragraph by paragraph down
ctrl + → = Jump word by word right
ctrl + ← = Jump word by word left
ctrl + up arrow = Jump paragraph up
ctrl + down arrow = Jump paragraph down
ctrl + home = To beginning of document
ctrl + end = To end of document
ctrl + enter = Page break
ctrl + pgdn = To bottom of page (or to next tab in Excel)
ctrl + pgup = To top of page (or to previous tab in Excel)
ctrl + del = Delete word by word
ctrl + backspace = Backspace word by word
F2 key = Rename file (in some programs and on the desktop)
F1 key = Help
F3 key = Find file (on desktop)
Shift + tab = Go back one tab (or field by field)
ctrl + [ = Decrease font size by 1 point
ctrl + ] = Increase font size by 1 point
ctrl + alt + del = Emergency exit, view task list to end stuck programs
alt + ← = Go back a page in Internet Explorer
alt + → = Go forward a page in Internet Explorer

- in Microsoft outlook, hit ctrl + M to check mail
- in Microsoft outlook, hit ctrl + N to create new message
- in Microsoft outlook, hit ctrl + enter to send message

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All Hallows Eve - in the middle of the day

Manchester is a weird town. It’s a place where I’ve watched a man shout “ah, shut up!” at a passing ambulance’s (apparently annoying) siren. It’s a place where the local motel has a sign reading “Stay for a night… Or a lifetime.” It’s a place where, if I walk or ride my bicycle to work, people are astounded.

I only live about two miles from my office.

The political aspects are fun, as we are an epicenter of sorts for the NH primaries, as well as the presidential race in general. It’s certainly true that you are provided with multiple opportunities to meet any candidate on any ticket. The day after the elections, however, it is as the circus left town, pulling up the stakes and hurrying out on a midnight train. Even they don’t want to linger. Then we are just left with the town itself.

I’ve been here for nearly five years, and I can’t wait to leave.

One of my ongoing peeves is the insistence on “celebrating” Halloween on the Sunday before, in the middle of the day. Thus, last Sunday, (October 26), from 1-4pm was the “official” time for trick or treaters.

We also celebrate the fourth of July on July 3rd.

This year’s non-Halloween Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day. It was broad daylight. It was not Halloween. As a result, there wasn’t much Halloween spirit in the house minus our two black cats. Who, incidentally, were sleeping in the sun as it was the middle of the day.

The amount of kids that show up varies year to year. In our early years here we stocked up on candy (which we put in a special cauldron, even) only to have three kids show up at the door the entire time.

Two years ago, the neighbors’ grandson (who I’m guessing was around 12 at the time) came to the door dressed in a basketball jersey, big jeans, and sunglasses. I asked what his costume was and he said he was a rapper, pointing to a stretch limo parked on the street. Apparently his grandfather had rented it/borrowed it from one of his potentially crooked friends (a blog story for another blog day) as the cornerstone of his costume.

He was trick or treating for candy, but wasn’t going to walk? No effort and all the reward? I was not impressed. I thought I’d make him work for it, which was admittedly not the nicest thing I could have done. I asked him to show me his skills. Give me one small rap. Show me something in character. Even I can bust out the lyrics to “Jump Around” or numerous other 90’s gems upon command.

He looked at me quizzically and pointed at the limo again. No rap emerged.

I still gave him a full size candy bar, as that’s the kind of girl I am.

Slowly but surely we’ve cut back on the candy purchasing, until this year, when we finally didn’t bother at all. All we had to work with was some leftover items from a night of making s’mores.

(As a side note, that meant we had both plain chocolate bars and peanut butter cups. Try branching out with the s’more making components– delicious!)

And, well, you know where this is going… We had a small crush of kids this time around, all looking very cute in their various witch, ghost, zebra, action hero, etc. costumes. I tried to avoid them, but I made the mistake of stepping onto the stairs (I’d been hiding upstairs), thus exposing a living human being to the eyes peering intently through our front window.

I opened the door to at least 10 kids eagerly hoisting bags at me, and I didn’t have enough for all of them. I made some sort of silly joke about how they were going to crush my entire supply, and then tried to pick those kids that looked like they were holding lesser-full sacks. I ran out completely, and some kids simply had to go without.

Not without candy, mind you. They seemed to have plenty of candy. Just without candy from me. Still, I felt pretty bad that I had to look in their little eyes, shrug my shoulders, and simply wish them a Happy Halloween. Even thought it wasn’t Halloween, and they weren’t looking for my good wishes. They just wanted the sugar.

It was a small costumed nightmare, and I am so happy that this is my last year of this silly non-Halloween Halloween.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Marching band - A way of life

I took a different route to work this morning, and on my way passed by a sight that took me back in time: the local high school marching band was practicing. They were in a local park next to a very busy road, giving them an ever changing, yet ever present audience to show off their evolving formations and semi-rehearsed songs.

All through middle and high school I was a bit of a band geek. I played (and still play, sort of) both the cornet and the trumpet. First the cornet, as that is what my brother played. Then the trumpet, as it turns out only my brother played the cornet.

Where I went to high school, marching band was a big deal. If you wanted to play in the regular band, you had to play in the marching band. As a result, we had just under 200 kids in the group, which in a school of 800 is significant. Our band leader was a traditionalist, favoring old standards (“Old Man River” comes to mind), rather than the more contemporary stuff (“Eye of the Tiger” comes to mind, as, after all, it was the late 80’s/early 90’s). And we always stayed in long straight lines, unless we broke off into lines of eight people to make circles. This was cause for lots of teenage angst, as we wanted to be the cool marching band (think “Drumline”), but we did what we were told.

What we lacked in panache we made up for in numbers.

I think I could still do some of the routines if pressed. I could certainly play several of the songs, along with our fight song and alma mater.

A highlight each year was going to the annual Marching Band Festival, held at Hofstra University. It was a total showcase of good, clean dorkiness, and we took it very seriously. Extra rehearsals (two a days!), extra practicing at home, lots of chatter in the cafeteria…

It was a televised event.

As the biggest band, we often went last, and we stormed the field each year with our time-honored entrance of running on to the field in precise steps, with eight steps equaling 10 yards. Each step was counted off in a mumbly way, except for when you hit each 10 yard line and the final stop, at which point you shouted.

If you can imagine, it sounded something like this:
ONE two three four five six seven eight
TWO two three four five six seven eight
THREE two three four five six seven eight
FOUR two three four five six seven eight
DOWN!” (<-- = stand at attention)

The hometown crowd loved it. Man, those were heady days.

Oh – the uniform. As with any marching band, that was a critical component. Ours were a bit brutal – dark green wool pants, matching blazer, a thick vinyl overlay for the jacket with a big “H” across the chest. Plus, a stiff green and white top hat where the requisite tall plume was attached. And white gloves. It was head to toe boiling hot, particularly on Memorial Day, where we marched in the hot sun for hours.

I will say that the polar-ready uniform did come in handy in the winter months. For example, we played at a Jets game every few years (see where marching band can take you?) and I remember it being particularly frigid there. I am sure I had some sort of hot-coals-in-my-pocket contraption to keep my fingers from chipping off my hands.

I went to look up the uniforms to show you what I mean, but apparently they’ve changed it up a bit. Here is what they look like now. Lucky them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I’ve been lazy with the blogging as of late. However, after a super fun dinner party last night, I’m reinspired to give it another go. Hats off to JordonCornblog for reminding me that they can be about anything, and they are fun to read.

Thing is, whenever I sit down to type an entry, I suddenly lose all the clever thoughts I have been thinking since I awoke. Any moment of the day could be blown out into a full entry… Some examples from this morning:

  • On my way to work, I passed by Olympian Joanne Dow out for a workout. She is a speed walker who probably walks faster than most people run. She and I overlap with our standard routes, it seems. Although I am guessing she doesn’t notice me in the same way that I notice her. I’m just another silver Jetta, not an Olympic athlete.
  • About three minutes after seeing what it takes to be an Olympian, a man on a Segway rolled on by. It isn’t uncommon to see these machines around here, as they were invented in our fair city. Still, they always strike me as sorta goofy. I kinda want one, but in the same way that I kinda want to walk Ari the Cat on a leash every day – that is, I think they are good ideas, but I’m not sure I want to be seen doing it in either case.
  • We have some new security posters in the office. They have goofy sayings like “Loose Clicks Sink Ships” (with, of course, an image of a ship going down). You can see the full repertoire of posters here. A silly reminder that I work on the set of Office Space, complete with TPS reports. Yes, we really have TPS reports.

All this, and it’s only noon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We're gonna make it after all....

Tomorrow I leave for Reach the Beach. Our team has cycled through many potential participants, and finally picked up the 12th runner yesterday. I am hoping my team mates are avoiding risky activities like, I dunno, walking or taking stairs. We’ve already lost one runner to a broken foot.

At this stage, I think that most of my organizing duties are done, and I can safely speak about them in the past tense. In the end, I think what it most needed to play this role of captain is patience. And, if I were to do it again, a set of rules on payment (and, more importantly, any expectation of refunds if you drop out late in the game).

Course maps are printed, my clothes are laid out on the bed, we’ve divvied up food, we have safety vests and blinky lights, the vans are rented, and the weather is looking to be pretty darn fantastic. Now all I have to do is run!

And the excitement begins…

Monday, July 7, 2008

The perfect toy

Ari the charming cat has a habit of getting up with the sun. In the summer that means he is in your face around 5am, yelling at you to get up and play.

I admire his energy.

Last night, the most wonderful toy he could have ever imagined arrived. And it arrived at around 2am: a lightening bug.

Just as Guitar Hero feeds my love of both music and video games, this insect fulfilled Ari’s desires for a toy that a) moves constantly, b) lights up, and c) never gives out.

Both P and I were awoken by Ari’s running about, and I quickly realized what exactly the fuss was all about when I saw a little dancing light come and land near my head. The lightening bug buzzed about the bedroom for an hour or so (at least it seemed like that), going back and forth from the window to the bedroom door and back, with intermittent stops at the ceiling light right above our bed.

The only object between the window and the bedroom door is our bed. Thus, in human terms, this translates to an eight pound weight being bounced on you over and over, with periodic stops on top of your body if you happen to be near the middle of the bed. Plus the added noise of a chatty cat alternately meowing and attempting to climb the (very thin) curtains.

It was a circus. And even though P and I are both rather sleep today, it was very sweet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Up and running again

Ok, it's been a while since I posted. Stuff happened.

Two things of note in my running life:
  1. I just checked the Falmouth Road Race site, and I'm in. I expected it as I got in by lottery last year, but there was a small part of me that doubted the "one in, always in" theory. So August 10 I'll be running under some garden hoses in Falmouth.
  2. Today is the "official" kick off on a Reach the Beach training program. Not that I haven't been training already... I do have a 12 week program that I printed off for half marathon prep that I'll be using. The distances suggested aren't the main concern - it's more the consistency of getting out there to run, and cross training. I am going to be a bit more disciplined in when I do what, essentially.
As for running in general, I had a moment (ok, a week) where I couldn't get the fun factor to emerge. When I first started running lo those many years ago, my only rule for the hobby was that it had to be fun, and when it wasn't fun I'd stop. So I took off a few days without feeling guilty. This past weekend I was back at my favorite local rail trail and had a really, really lovely 7 mile jaunt. It smelled like warm pine almost the whole time. The next day, I mapped out a new-ish route on local roads which totaled around 4.5 miles. It was mostly quiet, and while not as constantly pretty as a rail trail, it did have it's moments.

I think the unfun spell is broken. And just in time!

I've made some changes that have also made a difference: I'm back to my old Polar A3 HRM, aiming to stay within a specific range (and walking if I go over it for too long) rather than a specific speed. I haven't used the Nike+ thing for a while, and while I miss it sometimes, I think we're better off apart. I also have put away the Garmin 205 that I had switched over to post Nike+ aggravation. I have also resumed the running log habit.

Lastly, I have often gone running without any music. Unusual for me, as I live and breathe music most of the time. Given that Reach the Beach doesn't allow headphones, though, I started training without, and I've really enjoyed the quiet. If anything, I listen to talking - This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me are the most frequently tapped podcasts. Given that they are each a minimum of 45 minutes in length, there's a consistency in cadence (unlike songs, which shift every 3-5 minutes) that I like.

Oh - and I was recently reminded that I am doing a mini-triathlon (just for kicks - no aspirations here) in about a month. Methinks I should find a pool.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

One small nod to the greenies

One of my coworkers put the following message as a part of her signature file, and I thought it was worth sharing:

"Do you need to print this email? Think about the environment first, print later (or not at all)."

One small way of encourging a little conservation. Amen to that!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Culturegraph, take 2

My culturegraph made it up to the website this morning - I even like the title they gave to it.

With the bug in me, I am on a bit of a tear. Basically, any song can be detailed in this way if you are so inclined. Not all achieve clever results, though... While it's still fun, though, I'll submit a few more.

Here are my latest that are worth sharing. Hopefully soon to be found on culturegraph as well. The first is a departure from the standard charts and graphs, but I thought it was fitting for the song.

The second is, admittedly a bit obscure. not in the song, which is well known, but in the presentation. My first shot at a visio approach:

If nothing else, it's a fun way to exercise both the right and left sides of my brain...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Very necessary

My good friend introduced me to a site called culturegraph, self described as "accountants meet pop culture." Essentially, pop culture references are transformed into charts and graphs with very clever results. Here are a few of my favorites, but as I don't understand all of them, you should check it out on your own.

I'm always singing something in my head, and P and I often make puns using pop culture references, so I feel like I've been practicing for this type of exercise for years. Here's my first attempt:I also considered creating a mock math equation to read:
The actual line goes, "The difference between a hooker and a ho ain't nothing but a fee." Figured that level of detail might be too obscure, though.

Both are from the same song. Can you guess the reference?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

iPod iNclinations

I like to listen to my iPod using the shuffle songs feature. With over 7500 songs to choose from, I can get stuck in ruts and forget all the great stuff that is packed into this little magical device. I may have mentioned this in the past, but I am convinced my iPod prefers some artists over others.

I swear, it thinks. It has moods.

For example, I had to take a large amount of Led Zepplin off if it as iPod would always try to get me to listen to them. Once in while, sure. But not every other song...

Today, it is in love with Melissa Etheridge.


I am in the process of writing up an evaluation proposal at work. To get a reminder of the more technical terms for some qualitative research methods, I headed over to Wikipedia. I've come to use this site as an entry-level shortcut, when true depth of subject matter isn't required.

I searched the term "qualitative research," and one of the page editors had added the concept of coolhunting as a methodology. I was struck by this term, knowing it from William Gibson’s novel “Pattern Recognition,” so followed the link. Embedded in this page was the term “uncoolhunting” which I hadn’t yet heard, along with a suggested external link. I followed. The Uncoolhunter seemed like more of a blog, listing a few stories and stating their manifesto. One of the stories, dated 4/8, was about Leslie Hall, who I had seen on youtube a couple of years ago, showcasing the song “Gem Sweater” and other fantastically unfantastic ditties (one of which was clearly filmed in my former home of Jamaica Plain, MA). Turns out she has a mobile museum of the sweaters, along with a pretty fab photo gallery.

So I started at a genuine research question, and ended up at Gem Sweaters. All in the span of about 5 minutes.

And that is why I love Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dolly in the house

I'm sitting at my desk, listening to HRH Dolly Parton. A lesser-known track entitled "Baby I'm Burning" just came on, which is a disco/pop-tinged ballad that played B-side to a more popular country-sounding tune titled "I Really Got the Feeling."

The A-side made it to #1 on the Billboard hot country singles in 1979. The B-side, which the record company called a second A-side if such a thing is possible, broke into the top 30 pop singles chart in 1979. There was even an extended dance mix released for play at your local discotheque. I've never heard that version.

Both evidence Dolly's ability to flow with the times, showcasing the keyboard as a central sound element, and foregoing any major guitar action. IRGTF also has some orchestration - truly, it could have been arranged by the same people who brought you "Believe it or Not," the theme song to "The Greatest American Hero."

Listen to them side by side - you'll see.

Anyhoo, near the beginning of the song, there is a line that goes:
"This red hot emotion/puts fireworks in motion/it looks like the fourth of July"

Followed by a falling cascade of keyboard notes. At the moment the keyboard kicked in, all of the papers tacked to my wall bew as if a great wind had blown.

Perhaps it was the fireworks in motion?

Dolly, are you planting some seeds of excitement for what is in store for May 5?

Friday, April 4, 2008

You spin me right round baby, right round

To follow up on my previous post, I haven’t done anything about the Nike+ sensor situation. I spoke with someone at a Nike store who said I’d likely get a positive response if I sent in a comment, but that inspiration has not hit me yet. I am liking the return to running sans gadgets.

So, it’s April 4th, and this morning it snowed in Manchester, NH. I have this memory of my birthday (which was about a week ago) being in warm weather. That hasn’t happened in years, yet still I hold on to that memory – which may have been one birthday for all I know – and expect that each year will be like that.

I shouldn’t really complain, as I did technically spend my birthday in the sun. We were in California, dividing a week between San Francisco, the PCH, and a brief stop in LA. It was a terrific trip, even if it made the return to our “spring” weather even more jarring…

Lately I’ve been checking out the spinning classes at my gym. It’s one of those things I’ve wanted to investigate for a while, but never made the time for in my day. Given the icky outdoor weather lately, I’ve been less inspired to run outdoors, giving me the perfect reason to get on the bike.

The first time I ventured in I tried the morning class. The leader was a nice guy, and did the appropriate amount of pushing-not-forcing for that early in the morning. However, did I mention that the class is at 6am? I consider myself a morning person and all, but 6am means waking up pre-6am, and that just wasn’t very pleasant.

So I switched to the evening class, and I’ve stuck with it. I’m looking to make it a regular habit, and as such I’ve formed some opinions on the sport and my evolution therein. For example: foregoing bike shorts is a mistake. Learned that one on the first time out… My poor bum.

The thought I kept returning to in the most recent class is the relativity of the 1-10 effort scale that we are instructed to follow. I don’t have it memorized, but it is, essentially:

1-5: Don’t bother even remembering what these mean, because classes never involve being in this zone.
6: Warm-up, some effort involved
7: More effort involved
8: Out of comfort zone. Quads on fire. Talk to self to keep going, and hope your neighbor can’t hear you.
9-10: Can’t continue.

Why is the “can’t continue” zone two numbers? If you can’t continue shouldn’t it just be that zone?

Also, pain is a very subjective thing. My 8 may be your 6, or vice versa. If I may speak as an Aries, I’m a bit competitive by nature, and loathe to admit – or even realize – that I may need to ease up. If I may speak as a girl who like to psychoanalyze herself, I know myself well enough to know that I am pretty terrible at admitting to physical weakness, a trait that has gotten me into trouble more than once. Not my best trait, but it’s how I’m wired.

Mind you, I keep going back. While it hurts, it’s a good kind of hurt. The kind of hurt that makes me think I will be stronger for it. And it sure beats running in the April sleet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gadgets, gadgets everywhere, and nothing that will sync

It’s snowing again. Pretty and all, but I am now on the bus with people awaiting the arrival of more spring-like weather. However, given the white flakes falling down, I made my way over to the gym to get in a 4 mile run and some weights.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have become slightly addicted to my Nike+ sport kit, using it to track my miles and pace. Even on the days I don’t listen to music, I still tote along my Nano and use the Nike+ tools. For someone who is looking for basic tracking contrivances and not a lot of extra stuff, this setup really does work well.

However, I do need to lodge a complaint: the sensors suck.

This wasn’t always the case. My first shoe sensor was fantastic, lasting for just over a year. This seemed about right to me given my general weekly mileage (in the 15-20 mile range last year). The sport kit costs $30, and given all the running-related things one can spend money on (jackets and socks and shirts, oh my!), it was, arguably, a cheap investment. Heck, any large race will cost you 2x-3x as much.

But, as all electronic things go, it eventually died. This was in November 2007. I ran for a while without it, but missed the little guy and started thinking about when I’d get a replacement. Fast forward to December, when I discovered it was now possible to simply buy a shoe sensor, as opposed to a whole new kit. $20 instead of $30.

Bought one. The short version of the story: It never hooked up with my Nano. Picture me banging my foot, or just an empty shoe, around to try to get them to connect… After searching around for help and not finding any, I gave up/gave in and bought the whole kit again. $30.

The new sensor kit worked immediately, but showed up as a new user. Thus, any previous runs I’d logged were not accounted for, and any of the online challenges in which I’m involved didn’t count my miles. Mind you, I’m not really winning any of the challenges – as with my actual racing life, my online racing life is one of a middle of the pack runner – but I still want it to be known that I’m trying.

It took a while (end of December-ish), but finally I got the two users (i.e., me and me) to speak to one another. Yay! Back to the regularly scheduled program.

Now, only two months later, the sensor is toast. Less than 250 miles logged, and it’s done for. Let’s do the math… $20 for non-working sensor, $30 for short-lived sport kit = $50 of unhappy me. And Apple won’t take them back (although I’m not done with that part yet… I’m still pressing to get something for the poor product quality).

I am so frustrated with the situation, and possibly even more frustrated for letting the situation make me frustrated.

So, this morning, as I hit the treadmill, it was just me and some music. No sport kit. And I still ran four miles. And it still counted.

I think I’m reverting back to the GOFRL (good old fashioned running log). Runner’s World happened to send me one last week – I think as a thank you for my subscription oh, two years ago – and tonight I’ll log a few miles into it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ain't nothing gonna break my stride...

How many running blogs have used that title? Allow me to be the latest one...

I headed out today for a 5 mile run. It was supposed to be 8, but I managed to whittle enough of the day away doing who knows what to pinch the amount of time I had for a relaxed run (i.e., not worrying about time) and shaved off a few. Perhaps that was a subconscious thing; I'm choosing to not read in to it too deeply.

It started off as a pretty eh run - I went out of the gate too fast, and started to feel the repercussions in the first two miles. My bad. I know better than to gun it at the start, particularly as I live in a rather hilly area, and on top of that I live at the top of the hill. Thus, the early part of most runs is heading downhill, and the last stretch is mostly uphill.

Good training for races, sure, but sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a flat area. Like Arizona. Here are topography maps for my standard paths:

My usual three mile route:

My usual five mile route:

My usual eight mile route:

It's like a really long, really slow roller coaster.

Today was the five mile path pictured above, and after allowing myself a bit of a walking interlude post starting too fast, I finished pretty strong. My ego was boosted a little when I realized that I was jogging my way all the way up the final stretch of hill. I realized that this was happening about half way through, and spent the rest of the time trying not to think about it too much, lest I start to wonder if I was fatigued and start to psych myself out.

Instead, I thought about the fact that I was hitting a stride (hence the blog entry title), and it felt good. The legs were going, the breathing was steady, and my body was relaxed. It's been a while since I have felt like a little machine moving along, a feeling I generally enjoy.

Given that my team is now officially registered for Reach the Beach (my credit card is on fire a little from laying out the hefty entry fee), I have started to think more seriously about the training involved. I have a few races planned, and even a teeny little triathlon for kicks. More on those another time. For now, I'm just happy that my body is starting to get back the muscle memory it had a year ago, and that I'm finding my stride again.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Trade the PC hat for a trucker's cap!

I was invited to go to a hockey game this evening - our local minor league team, the Manchester Monarchs. I like hockey well enough, so sure, I'm in.

Yesterday, I found out that this won't be just any night of hockey. It's mullet night!

Here's the official promo:

Mar 7, 2008 at 7:05 pm
Mullet Night: Redneck Edition
It’s back! “Mullet Night: Redneck Edition” will be filled with Redneck activities, music, on-ice entertainment as well as the distribution of 3,500 mullet trucker hats and Redneck teeth, courtesy of Sanel Auto Parts! So dust off your old mullet wigs, throw on your best hunting gear and join us for another unforgettable Mullet Night with the Monarchs.

Not just mullet night - but mullet night, redneck edition. Heavens.

What are redneck activities?

I'm bringing a camera, and a zoom lens.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

I was duped by the weather report yesterday. It was predicted to be cold, windy, and rainy for most of the day. Looking out the window, all of that was true. Not in the mood to gear up for a windy, chilly run, I opted to head to the gym and run on a treadmill.

I don’t love running on a treadmill, but it does the job when necessary.

Anyways, after chatting with the cute membership girl who initially signed me up for the place, I headed over to my usual spot to get on the belt and jog for a bit. I tend to go to the same area as a) there is the option of not having a television screen in front of you, and b) I have certain objects along the warehouse-like ceiling that I generally stare at while I visualize being outside. I am a creature of habit.

About 2.5 miles into the run, the strangest thing happened – I started to overheat. Not just get sweaty, but more akin to an internal kiln being lit. It seemed like the air wasn’t moving around me (perhaps in that part of the gym it doesn’t really), and my internal temperature rose by a couple of degrees. I stepped off to the sides of the moving belt for a minute to slowly wave my arms (I’m sure this looked quite odd) and create some sort of faux breeze, and then resumed. A mile later I had to do it again.

Of course, once I went through this self-cooling behavior a couple of times, I started to second guess myself on what was happening. Was I tricking myself into thinking that I was overheating, so I could cease with the day’s run? Should I really have gone outside despite the rain?

Stupid brain – it doesn’t really like to shut off. It just spins and spins.

I had this conversation with myself for a while (which, I should add, also included me cheering myself on and thinking about my longer-term goals), until I hit my stated goal of five tread-miles and moved on to the stretching portion of the workout.

After taking a cold shower to shut off the kiln, I got dressed and headed outside. Where it was totally beautiful and sunny. Almost like a perfect fall day. Damn.

Monday, March 3, 2008

T minus 5 days


I am technically supposed to be working, but it’s my last week at this job and I don’t have a heck of a lot to do. I am past the point of trying to look busy. Or caring if I don’t. I’m closer to the feeling of, “what are they going to do, fire me?” which gives me plenty of time to do things like write a little blog entry, or take care of administrative items on the home front.

On an semi-related note, I have been here at my desk for hours and spoken with no one. I’ve gotten emails from people who are two desks away, but no spoken words. It’s totally weird how little they talk to each other some days.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I made a commitment to run this year’s Reach the Beach relay. I took advantage of this non-busy work time to organize and register my team. We’ll soon be paid up (which is the point at which you are really, really registered), and then I can start to turn my focus from logistics to the actual training.

The race isn’t until September, which is long enough away from now that I feel like I have some luxury of time to set out a plan and ramp up to actually following it. While I have been fairly consistent with my running/strengthening, this is just the excuse I need to take it up a notch. First step in that is getting organized. Rather than just, “I think I’ll go for a run,” I need to start thinking about some sort of schedule and more attention paid to what I put into my body. Which roughly translates as how can I still answer my sweet tooth and maintain proper nutrition on the whole.

I also wouldn’t mind taking my mile time down a bit, and I know that’s entirely possible if I put in the effort.

Yesterday I went on a little cross training adventure, heading over to the Boston Rock Gym with a climbing-enthusiast friend of mine. If he could climb his way to the office and repel home, I’m sure he would. My climbing skills are novice to say least, and while I was technically belay certified at a college gym, I liken that to learning to SCUBA dive in a resort pool – it just isn’t the same.

After practicing my figure 8 knots for a while and learning some climb-related lingo at said enthusiast’s house, off we went to the gym. I passed my test with semi-flying colors (perhaps walking colors is more appropriate) and we proceeded to pick our way through some of the various climbs offered all along the walls.

Was it a superfuntastic time? Mostly. Being nervous that I would screw up and let him drop 30 feet to the ground below (or have him land on top of me) made it a little harder to focus on the fun aspect. And man, does it give a workout to the fingers and wrists… Owie.

I am also new enough to the sport that I can’t help but be periodically distracted by the way the harnesses, um, exaggerate certain parts of the anatomy. Not to mention highlighting any extra cellulite on the thigh area. If that’s not a reminder to get thy ass to the gym/hit the roads, I don’t know what is.

Still, today I am proud of the soreness throughout my arms, as it’s a sign of the effort exerted yesterday.

Tonight I’ll focus on the lower half. Given this is my last week of commuting to Cambridge regularly, I’m trying to head out on the Minuteman Path frequently. It is (was?) a nice perk of this office location. Four miles is the minimum I’ll aim for, and, pending weather, it’ll hopefully be more like six.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Music makes the people come together

My iPod was totally feeling me this morning. After listening to a podcast or two, I shifted over to shuffling songs, and this is what it produced:

S.O.S – The Breeders
Paranoid Android - Radiohead
Rudi, a Message to You – The Specials
Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
Violently Happy - Bjork
Phantom Bride - Erasure
Shame on You – The Indigo Girls
Nth Degree - Morningwood

Not a skipper in the bunch, and som that I hadn't heard in a while. I even let the last song play out as I sat in the parking lot of my office building, savoring the last few moments of “me” time before heading inside for the bulk of the day.

I have been using the shuffle option more recently, partially in response to a recent loss of all of my playlists and rankings. We switched over to being a Mac household (hello, mini!) and I had to convert the iPod over to a Mac-format. The net result of this was losing all the work I’d put in to organizing my music.

As a side note, while the loss of playlists/rankings was initially maddening, I’ve come to look at is as a way to listen to my music collection with a new ear. Re-rank, etc. I’ve even gotten P into the game, sharing with her my selective approach to assigning the number of stars (between 1 and 5, with 1 meaning they are removed at next sync, 2 meaning they can stay on the iPod, 3 meaning I like them, 4 meaning I like them more and wouldn’t mind if they were on the “I don’t know what to play but people are coming over” playlist, and 5 meaning they are truly, truly great. I rarely grant a 5).

I don’t know how others approach or arrange their music, but I am particular in this regard. When I relied on my CD collection, it was organized alphabetically by artist, minus soundtracks/collections which were placed in a separate section (generally the lower right hand corner of the rack). If a new CD was acquired, everything was shifted to accommodate. If a CD was selected to play, its jewel case would be placed, cocked open and standing, on top of the player so I know what’s in there. Everything was always put away.

It was the same when I relied on cassettes, although that was harder given mixes and the less-than-optimal storage options. This was usually a series of 60 cassette “briefcases,” each laden with stickers from all the bands/activities I thought were cool. I still have one of these cases out of nostalgia, and a couple of cassettes (the soundtracks to Pretty in Pink and Footloose) live on our desk in the home office as happy little memories. Has my youth has become kitsch?

What can I say? Everyone has their “thing,” and mine is that I am particular about how music is treated. It treats me well, and I return the favor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Back to the middle and around again

Things I've learned about having a long commute: it isn't very good for finding the time to blog.

It also isn't very good for the environment, but I knew that part already.

After four and a half months of a new job, I'm leaving. This has been a whole new experience for me, and I think it's been a good one. In short, I like the people I work with, but the job itself isn't a good fit. So when the opportunity arose to return to my former employer in a new capacity, I went for it.

Two weeks left at the current post. They are going to both fly and drag on at the same time...

Honestly, I really should avoid talking about "what I do" with anyone. I think it's just confusing to try and follow me; even I'm bored by it at times. I've become rather adept at avoiding the question, responding with witty retorts or diversions. For now, I'll continue with that approach, at least until it feels more settled. And as far as the resume is concerned, this job will have never existed.

Instead, I'm focusing on things like my commitment to head up a team for Reach the Beach this year. I've wanted to do this race for years, and finally committed myself to doing it. It isn't until September, but having that goal really helps me to shift from my normal run-for-sanity routine to something that feels more like training. I.e., pushing myself to be a little faster, go a little farther, dig a little deeper.

I know most of the people on my team, and am very excited. Great group of people, all in it for fun (with a dash of competitive spirit). I tried to cherry pick friends who have the capacity to make the best of any given situation, knowing that we'll all be smelly and tired at some point during the race. And when those situations arise, you can either become cranky, or laugh it off.

I do not want cranky. I do not respond well to cranky. Not this Cranky, because I do like him... the other, more generic kind.

As team captain, I see myself as a bit of a cheerleader, and can't bring myself to say things like, "No whining allowed!" At least, not directly. I'll say it - and have said it - in other ways. I also need to keep thinking of nice ways to encourage the slower runner to pick it up a bit. I doubt we'll run out of time given the full makeup of the team (that would totally suck), but there's always that little part of my brain that can't help but worry.

So, once again, I am in transition. New job, new commute, new training plan. All of this is good news to me!