Saturday, 6 September 2014

Mental Paella

What happens when you wait too long between entries? A backlog of all kinds of dumb, frivolous, unfiltered ideas that need expunging. Get out of my head, thoughts.

As personal penance, I'm retroactively listing 31 observations for the month of August. 

1. Experimenting with my phone's "memo" function for writing notes while I have an idea. Not technically an app, per so. I don't have roaming-based functions for a simple reason: what percentage of my time do I honestly spend outside of free wifi zones? Home: wifi, work: wifi. Running: don't need internet. Walking: rater be thinking. Downtown Dhaka: probably don't have coverage anyhow. [I wonder what percentage of apps are made for single people? ]

2. Running and chess: Here's basic comparison between running quality as applied to chess titles (and the associated percentiles compared with all competitors). I used US chess data plus Boston marathon finishing times. There's a big jump from SM to GM, but that's because GMs are pros, whereas SMs are very good amateurs (hence why I felt justified in dividing Senior masters into two categories, A and B). 

3. Watching Joel Plaskett as I wrote some of this. This is the 6th time I've watched him live and it occurred to me his styles is that of Sesame Street songs for adults.  

4. There exists in my archives a half-finished opinion about other runner's blogs. It's a faux-pas to discuss other's blogs in anything but positive terms. But here I criticize on my tiny soap box: I don't have any problem with a blog post infrequently updated, or that overemphasizes weekly training. In fact the latter type is a very reliable model to keep postings regular and bite-sizes. I hate when blogs are abandoned due to injury or lack of racing. Recently Reid Coolsaet hinted he's writing less for this reason. Jeff's philosophy running blog has almost been mothballed since he stopped competing, and "Shoeless Coolis", who's monthly blog updates were proportional to her weekly mileage have reached a nadir in 2014. Counter-example: Krista DuChene has been very open about her long recovery from a bone fracture back in April 2014. Why can't more people write about running, or anything for that matter, beyond the immediacy of their daily run? 

5. Personal update: I'm racing the zoo run in Toronto. I'm not feeling at my best these past few weeks. Ever since coming back from holidays something is off. Too much too soon? Probably. My trip will be a little bit zany, as I'm leaving straight to Brazil from T.O. for a conference, then off to Buenos Aires to install some instruments. Trying to find ideas for free time in the trip.

6. Cookbook: I've been collecting some recipes together. The common theme is they are reasonably healthy and fast. Most important the meals are scalable and freezable. And no wasted time separating eggs. Not many recipe books emphasize leftovers, either. Chilli, meal-type soups, and couscous with chickpeas are extremely easy to assemble and can feed 100 people if need be. Making cornbread muffins instead of skillet-sized (three times faster). Surprise discovery: Stir fry, though fast, is actually a nuisance with all the prep work and it doesn't freeze well. I found If I had to give this collection a title, it'd be "Food is for Eating (so put away the damn camera)".

7. Pool running. With regards to item #5, I'm pseudo injured (a.k.a. I could run but probably shouldn't  physio said it was ok. c.f. point #29). As such I spend more time in the pool. Luckily I don't mind pool running. Always rejuvenating and never makes soreness worse. Good for un-stressing, limbering up, and using new muscles. Surprisingly I don't see many (any) running books discuss it in detail. Were I to ever write a running book it would contain a pool running chapter. 

8. Atrocities. September 3rd was the 75th anniversary of World War 2. Growing up, the details of wars were rather abstractly taught; territory, generals and tanks and that sort of thing. A real-life Axis and Allies. Lately I'm looking at war through a different lens: unmitigated human suffering. It started with reading Max Hastings All Hell Let Loose, and watching Come and See. Then came the book Atrocities (a.k.a. The Great Big Book of Horrible Things), which helped remind me that historically 85% of casualties are civilian. The Congo Free State killed perhaps 10 million people, nearly all of them non-military. This picture will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. These days I find history buffs excitedly discussing military technology to be off-putting. Time equally well-served would be spent describing the act of cutting someone in half with a chainsaw. 

9.  TV. Recently I've been watching "good" TV. Shows include Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Parks and Recreation, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Moone Boy, House of Cards, and one episode of Downton Abbey (meh). Collectively they put old-style sitcom TV to shame.  

10. Investing: I've begun to use a Tax-free savings account (TFSA). It's a small start, but since getting steady work with a retirement package could be a pipe dream, may as well be proactive. I chose mutual funds, which is safe enough without being pointless.

11. Conversations. They say you're an introvert if conversations take energy away, and extrovert if they add. I'm the former. Two hours of talking is as tiring as two hours of running.  

12. Watches. I don't wear watches anymore. Sometimes for running intervals, but since I can guess with 5% accuracy how long my runs last I don't see the point for easy days. 

13. Babies: Got to look after a friends' baby for a day. Babies are cute. It was not a stressful experience. Ironically having a child around can save you money by preventing needless restaurant visits and wine purchases. Depends on your habits I guess. 

14. Running and Measurement: Science is about measurement, and art is the act of getting away with as little measure as possible. Or at least making it look that way. I noticed I've stopped logging mileage because I don't need to. A habitual painter doesn't measure every paint stroke. 

15. Racing on a budget. For 2014 I picked races that would cost as little as possible. Here's a rundown:
  • April 6th: MEC 5k race. Cost of race: $20, cost of travel: 0$.
  • April 27th: Montreal Half Marathon. Cost of race: 0$, cost of travel: ~200$.
  • May 3rd: ANS 5000m warmup. Cost of race: 25$, cost of travel: 0$.
  • May 18th: Bluenose half marathon. Cost of race: 80$, cost of travel: 0$.
  • May 31st: Penguin 5k run. Cost of race: 25$, cost of travel: 5$.
  • June 15th: Johnny Miles 10k. Cost of race: 55$, cost of travel: 0$.
  • August 4th: Natal Day 6 miler. Cost of race: 20$, cost of travel: 5$.
  • September 20th: Oasis Zoo Run 10k. Cost of race: 0$, cost of travel: ~100$.

Even with all the corners I cut this add to $535; that's a good chunk of change. But what about cash prizes? Although I won six of the above races, I did not technically win any money. I did however win a free trip to the Zoo run, hence why flying to Toronto is only going to cost me $100 (assuming meals out, etc).

16. Videogames. I used to play video games (Sega, Nintendo, and Playstation). I still have a PS3, and have flirted with classics via emulators. Now I can't seem to get into them as much. Recently had a nostalgia trip with FFVII and Earthbound. Tried Cyclomaniacs 2 the other day for something fresh. I know there's more out there (Super Meat Boy, Braid, BioShock). I might see what Quora recommends for an ex-gamer looking to return. Dare I try Diablo III?

17.  Boardgames. Speaking of gaming revival, since I prefer hand-assembly over computer programming, I have been taking a recent foray into modern board games. Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, but also Agricola and some experimental ones (Quoridor). I have a two game designs of my own that stalled on the early development stage: One is quantum based, the other global warming. Neither all that good.

18. Reading fiction versus non-fiction. I used to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, but lately its been all non-fiction. There's the above-mentioned Atrocities, End of Nature by Bill McKibbin (didn't like it as much as I hoped to), and Oppenheimer's biography. Tried starting Lonesome Dove, but I need to create new habits. On the whole not reading that many books. Too much time on the internet and making posters.

19.  Speaking of internet, I've only been spending time on a few sites. Jason Kottke's, news sites, runner's blogs. What on earth am I doing with my spare time? Oh right.

20. Speaking of reading, I'm considering an e-reader. After shopping around, The Kindle Paperwhite has the best reviews. At $120 it's also not a bad price tag (though I hear there's some ads unless you pay more). I really want to get the SolarFocus accessory, as this in theory extends the battery life from months to forever.  I also noticed that for some reason e-readers are somehow a "feminine" product. I don't care, except I think the Kindle dimensions reflect buyers with tiny hands (mine span 25 cm).

21. Halifax and running: Halifax has two good things for all runners: hills and mild weather. Sure we have snow, but it melts a lot.

22. Aerosols: Halifax is very clean. As I work in aerosols I know for a fact Halifax has very clean air. This is good for anyone doing cardio sports, naturally. I think it'd be a good promotional tool for the city.

23. Dal Interview: I had an interview with the Dal student newspaper, but I don't think it'll see the light of day. Not a ego trip; I just wanted to promote our aerosol project, so no worries.

24. Sponsorship and running: I thought about sponsoring our running group with a local shop, but it fell though when we couldn't agree on what we wanted to commit to. Maybe next year we can have another go. I'd like to save some more money. Even with all the cheapskating I did this year, I still spent over half a grand on running.

25. Joggling: I joggle occasionally. It's not a real sport, on par with the beer mile. But the world records are a lot more vulnerable than actual running. Now I've heard there's a second runner in Halifax who does joggling too. I should go find him.

26. Sub-par sports is better to watch than mediocre art. I wonder if that's true. I'd rather watch amateur sports than stare at an amateur painting. Then again, maybe it's just a matter of taste.

27. For all the talk about drugs and sport, I can't think of many (any?) fiction movies about doping. I noticed a Belgian short at the AFF titled Cadet. Also a nice new paper linked by Alex Hutchinson about giving EPO to sedentary people to see what happens. Neat stuff, deserves more discussion than I'm giving here.

28. Running physics: after having spent a long time thinking about the physics of running. I might borrow a copy of Swimming Fastest for new inspiration. I read The Physics of Baseball in the spring and really enjoyed that. For some mixing sports with math is like combining a butterfly with a chainsaw.

29. Physiotherapy really does work. After a month of dragging my feet I finally saw my physiotherapist and she make my legs feel better. Always get a second opinion.

30. Moving: At some point my postdoc in Halifax will end. In year, or slightly longer, but it will end. I have learned to use all kinds of toys while here, while getting some basic programming skills in to boot.  Can't complain one bit. I'm only sad to think I'll have to live in Toronto with its flat, busy streets. Good for business, not good for running.

31. What I think when I run: Some of the above or all of the above, though usually not that many things in one go, save for 2+ hour runs. I clear my mind by thinking about things. It's better than bottling up thoughts. 

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