Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Goals

Now that the basement remodel is nearly done, I can put the treadmill back out. I'll start running again. And what goals do I have for the new year?

- Get back up to 3 runs a week, every week
- Increase my distance again, and maybe run that 10K in April
- Continue staying fit after baby is born

Everything beyond that is going to be gravy, honestly. I have so much to learn about being a dad. That really is going to be what 2008 is all about. If I can somehow manage to not become fat and lazy in the process, I'll proclaim victory.

See you on the flipside of midnight, folks.

Hi Dad

Finding out you're going to be a parent is one way to force change in your life. For me, the most recent change is reconnecting with my father.

My parents divorced when I was 8, and things were a bit rocky from that point on. My mom did her best to raise my brother and me, but had her own problems. My dad was in his own world, which from what I understand included drugs, booze, and women. We visited him once or twice a week for a couple hours at a shot, but we never really got close.

Once I got married, I drifted even further from my dad, who had in the intervening years stabilized his life quite a bit and married again (they've been married over 20 years now). But we visited yesterday for the first time in several years, and just spent some time reconnecting.

No heavy conversation, nothing big, just catching up on life's little things.

He's going to be a grandfather soon. When I look at how big a part of my life my grandfather was, I can't deny him the chance to do that for my child.

I don't know where this will all go, but for now, it was nice to sit down and chat with my Dad.

Farewell to 2007

What happened this year? "Not much," tends to be what you say in casual conversation. But the truth is always more complicated. Here are the things I wrote about in my blog this year:

In March, I started running again after a long break.
In April, we hosted family Easter and weren't sure we wanted to have kids.
In June, I fell in love with running outside all over again.
In July, I shaved off my beard and immediately regretted it.
In August, I exercised every day and turned 34.
In September, I hit a major weight goal and went on vacation to Newport. Somewhere in there, my wife and I had a magic moment (ahem) and a tiny baby started growing inside her. Looking back at April, we obviously changed our minds.
In October, I ran a 5K.
In November, I went on vacation to ice-cold Vermont and didn't run.
In December, I told the world I was going to be a Dad, and hosted Christmas.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I bought myself a present

I bought myself a present today ... a domain name.

Yes, I finally got onboard and grabbed I would have bought it a while back but someone else had it and was hosting a rarely-updated blog on it (oddly enough, a blog they created via, which wasn't named eager feet .... ).

Anyway, on a whim I checked, and it was available again. For ten bucks, why not?

I may or may not get hosting at some point. For now, you can find this blog here at, and I'll tinker with the rest of in other non-disruptive ways.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How Brenda saved Christmas

So we made it through Christmas alive and well, with our joy mostly intact.

The plumbers finished their work on Wednesday the 19th, so we had two full days prior to our party on the 21st. Of course, I was working full days both those days, so a lot of prep work fell on poor Jessica (who did manage to snag from help from her parents on Thursday), and then on me in the evening. So, 3 very busy days in a row leading up Saturday's party.

Saturday, I dragged out the snowblower (only used once so far) to clear away parking spaces (about ten cars, in two driveways, means you need to clear some space on the lawn). It had a flat tire! Now, if you aren't snowblower-savvy, a flat tire may not sound like a huge deal. But putting air in a tubeless tire with no seal on it is kind of very difficult. I went into full-blown panic mode while Jess got the house ready. Our first guests were set to arrive at noon and the morning was disappearing fast.

I ran to the store, bought an air pump, and struggled further. Finally, I gave up on it and decided to wait until Steve and Brenda and the kids arrived (they were coming first, a good hour before anybody else) before doing more. I ran inside and started helping Jess, the whole time picturing the three of us (myself and the other two non-pregnant adults) shoveling this 18 inches of cold snow. Ugh.

Finally, they arrived, and the three of us struggled with the "put vaseline on the rim, tie a rope around the tire method" which they independently confirmed. We ended up using some A+D Ointment because we had no vaseline, and an old extension cord because we had no rope. It took us a few tries, but we finally got it going. (I say "us" and "we" but it was really "they" who got it going. I mostly watched and ran and got things. I'm really a lousy homeowner.)

Anyway, after we got it started, I saw the gleam of pure envy and realized joy in Brenda's eyes. Evidently she's some kind of snowblower addict, and with theirs broken down she hasn't been able to snowblow for a while. So, yeah, that's the story of how my sister-in-law snowblowed out parking spaces while I showered and got ready for the party. I kid you not about the extent of her snowblowing -- she would have cleared out our whole property if I had let her, I think.

In the end, we were all safe inside by the time the rest of the guests arrived (well, except for Jess's parents, who came while Brenda was still snowblowing), and I had spent enough time catching my breath to be sane.

The rest of the day was what family Christmas always is. Gifts, food, drink, games, laughter, telling stories outside by the fire (started by Brenda, after we had decided that the weather wasn't nice enough to start one), and all that. It was a beautiful wonderful time, as it always is. And we were completely exhausted when it was over.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Chain Mails

Instead of a blog, my family uses chain mails. They will mail each other a touching news story, a funny picture, or a survey, just like some of us use blogs. Of course, every single one comes with directions to forward on, and as a longtime net user such things ignite me with the burning rage of a thousand suns.

Well, maybe not that bad. But I was on the Internet before AOL was. I remember when forwarding a chain mail got your account suspended and you had to go beg a sysadmin with a beard and hobbit feet for it back.

Anyway. So rather than answer their latest chain and forward it, I'm posting about it in my blog. Here goes.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Depends on the package. Since I love ripping open paper, I love giving gifts wrapped in paper, but some gifts just don't go that route easily.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

3. When do you put up the tree?
The weekend after Thanksgiving, or one week later.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Depending on how dead it is, between Dec 26 and Jan 1.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Sort of, mainly as a delivery vehicle for spiced rum. My stomach is sensitive to dairy though, so I can't drink most egg nogs.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I only remember one Christmas as a child, and I remember getting cars that you pulled back and which launched forward when you let them go. So I guess that will default to my favorite.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
A small one, yes. I could write a whole blog post about this singular topic, and maybe I will when I have more time.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Probably Andy (my wife's cousin's husband, a great guy who has few vices or money-wasting hobbies, and who buys himself things he needs)

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Steve Sr. (my father-in-law, who never complains if you ask what he wants, and in fact will give you a list including something he probably needs for his work as a general contractor)

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Snail mail all the way.

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received
Nothing stands out. Off the top of my head I remember getting clothes that didn't fit, but that's about it. There are always gifts which don't get much use, but none of them stand out as "worst."

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Probably Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase. It gets me laughing and puts me in the holiday mood.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Mid-November, online. I tend to put off last-minute stocking stuffers for the final week though. I still need to buy some and probably won't until Friday.

14. Ever recycled a Christmas present?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Nuts & Bolts, my grandmother's recipe for homemade chex mix.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Both! No blinking, though, please.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Carol of the Bells, instrumental, or (There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays as sung by Perry Como.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I travel when I need to but enjoy staying home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Not without online assistance.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
It falls in Q4, which means work is usually crazy at the same time. I wish I had more time to relax and soak in season before the actual event.
That, and parking at stores. And driving near stores.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
To have a great party at our place, and to have zero traffic snags when we have to travel. Everything else is a bonus.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
Nobody reads my blog, so nobody.

27. Who is least likely to respond to this?
Jessica. Even if she read this, she would not have the patience to write one herself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Major Announcement

So, 3 weeks ago I said I had more details on the other reasons things are hectic for me right now. And then I never updated.

Sorry about that. It's been, well, like I said, crazy.

And part of the reason is that by midyear 2008, my wife and I hope to be a family of three, not just two. That's right -- we're expecting. Due date: June 18.

As a teen, I was certain that I wouldn't want to have children. I was the angry rebel, looking down my nose at breeders filling the world with more kids to use up our scant resources.

Things have changed a bit over the intervening years. And now I keep looking ahead to the future, to being able to create a new life out of the building blocks of my own and Jess's, and shaping a mind into someone who can hopefully make the world better.

The changing diapers part, well, not so excited about that.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


So, things have been a bit hectic this month. At work, we're in serious crunch mode. At home, we hosted Thanksgiving and have been busy getting things ready for a basement renovation (reworking the laundry room into a half bath). We've done some holiday decorating and shopping, as well. And in the process of all that, I haven't run in a couple weeks, and my diet has been mediocre to downright bad depending on the day. I wasn't able to make the race I thought I might make this month, and now can't make the one for next month either. Things are a bit mad, and time is flying by.

The next two months are going to fly by, too. In the coming weeks we have:
  • a friend's big holiday party
  • Christmas tree locate/place/decorate
  • New bathroom installed in basement
  • Heat installed in basement, including replacing old furnace/etc.
  • family birthday party
  • one work Christmas party (shared)
  • three other work Christmas parties (not shared)
  • Christmas shopping
  • hosting family Christmas Eve (on 22nd)
  • Christmas itself
  • Q4 ends (has work implications)
  • New Years
  • Week-long trip to Florida
  • NFL playoffs on TV
  • Superbowl
I list those last two because they are social time consumers, not because I am actually playing. Duh ;).

There's other stuff too, which I will write about in a week or so. Excitement!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Leave your cynicism at the door

(this is an edited version of an email I sent a friend yesterday)

Halloween is over, and we're on an accelerated course towards Thanksgiving this year.

I am ready.

I know I'm more of a holiday sucker than the average (and I pale in comparison with my lovely wife Jess) but this year, for whatever reason, I'm already feeling the love.

We're hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner again, for Jess's parents/brother/kids. We're hosting Christmas again, or rather Jess's mother is hosting it at our house, so hopefully we just provide the location and clean up afterwards :). Last year, it was awesome. I know that I didn't personally construct a meaningful holiday for everyone who attended. But I know they all had a great time, and have happy holiday memories, of time spent in my home. It's a tiny thing, really, but it's this silly little source of pride and happiness and I'm very excited to know I'm doing it again this year.

Anyway. I'm ready. I'm ready for cold weather, gloomy cloudy November skies, fires in the fireplace, and turkey in the oven. I'm ready for Christmas planning, for tiny white lights, for old
sentimental Christmas favorites flitting through the air.

I'm ready for all of it. Bring it on.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Great way to wrap it up

A relaxing breakfast with my wife at our favorite local diner? Check.
Getting all the laundry from vacation done? Check.
A 4-mile run in beautiful autumn weather, after not running for over a week? Check.
Some time spent getting to know the game that might turn into my new online addiction? Check.

The Patriots fighting tooth and nail to remain undefeated by beating the Colts in Indy?
Oh, heck yes.

Tomorrow I go back to work, but today I'm still on vacation, and enjoying every last minute of it.

Feeling refreshed

We're home today, after one week away. We went to beautiful upstate Vermont, which was past its foliage season but not yet into ski season. In other words, we were there during what is probably the region's quietest time. And we loved it.

Lots of quiet time, a roaring fire in the fireplace, easy scenic drives to various low-key activities, and way too much junk food.

The scale is mad at me today, and I've got some work to do to work off the damage I did to my body this week. But my soul? My soul is in pretty good shape.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Having fun at work

So, a co-worker and I were grabbing coffee out of our free coffee machine, and saw that a dollar was folded up and left on the counter near the machine. Each of us assumed the other had dropped it, but we quickly realized it belonged to neither of us.

We immediately began discussing the ethical dilemma of "found money."

But, hey, why not have fun with the situation? I added a dime. Whoever left that dollar, if they come back, will find it has grown 10%. Will they leave it there in hopes it grows further? Will people begin to think there's a need to leave money to pay for their coffee?

Either way, the laughs we got more than paid for the ten-cent investment I just made (but will it pay for the opportunity cost of not taking the dollar? Hmm....).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tough it out

We all look at moments of major effort as achievements and milestones. You remember your longest run, your PR races, your injuries that you recovered from.

The truth is, fitness is built on much less grandiose moments.

Yesterday's run was a simple half-hour treadmill workout. I was tired, because I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before. I was in a bad mood, after a stressful day at work and at home.

Honestly? That run sucked. I hated it. It never felt easy. I was uncomfortable, my ipod kept playing songs I wasn't in the mood to hear, and I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch on the TV. It was an unhappy run, but it wasn't even an unusual run. I just felt like shit, and the run did nothing to improve how I felt physically or mentally. I finished it just as drained as when I went into it. I didn't feel proud or anything, I just felt tired and sweaty.

But I did it.

It's not a glorious moment. It's not a tale of success that you can't wait to share with others. It's just the ugly truth -- sometimes it sucks, and you do it anyway, and that's how you earn the right to enjoy those other moments.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Six Miles

Prime distance running weather is upon us here in New England, and I took advantage this weekend. I laced up and did a newly extended route which turned out to be just over six miles in length.

This isn't quite a personal distance PR, as I ran a few 6-mile training runs and ran a 10K race in April of 2005. But I didn't run that distance again after the race, so we're looking easily at the longest distance I've run in two and a half years.

Four miles in, I felt indestructible. I said to myself, of course you can run a half-marathon next year -- look at this, you're going to do half that today (well, almost-half, you see).

Five miles in, my legs were tired and I had a mild side stitch. I said, hmm, maybe I should focus on running a six-mile run weekly first.

At completion, I was truly exhausted, but thrilled, and have reminded myself of the tremendous respect I have for true distance runners.

The rest of the day, soreness in my knees, which were still fairly uncomfortable this morning. Not sure how I feel about that....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hundreds of channels

I'm paying more money than I like to admit to bring hundreds of channels of cable television into my home. There are more specialized channels than I can count, including dozens I never even look at.

You'd think one of them would carry some Ironman championship coverage, no?

Instead I'm watching it in pixelvision on my PC. Good times.

Best of luck to all the racers in Kona today. You're all an inspiration.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For example

in reference to my last post ...

One way to exert control is to go for a run when what I really want to do is put on pajamas and eat junk food in front of the TV.

Now my back and knee hurt a little ... but I'm feeling much more in control.

Little things can do a lot.

I walk the line

One of the major themes in my life is control. I have a host of small neuroses which revolve around my control over my environment, for example, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I go through phases, where I feel like I'm in control of my life ... and I go through phases where I feel like I'm swept up in a tide. There are times where month after month the bills come in and I know what's coming, and I'm content with how I'm managing the finances. Other times, I'll get a bill and realize I had no idea I spent that much money the previous month.

Right now, I feel like I'm dangerously close to that boundary when it comes to my diet. I recognize some dangerous behaviors and I'm trying to exert control on them before I get caught up in them. Work is getting very stressful, and I'm noticing when I go to lunch in the cafeteria, instead of the salad and yogurt I'm getting a sandwich and a bag of baked Lays. It's not that a sandwich and a bag of chips is an unhealthy lunch. It's that I didn't make a conscious choice to have that. I went into the cafeteria and without knowing it, let my emotions drive my choice, and ended up "treating" myself, specifically because I was frustrated, tired, and so forth.

The leap from "salad and yogurt" to "sandwich and chips" isn't that different from "sandwich and chips" to "sandwich and fries." It's all a matter of degree once emotion starts driving the choices.

For the first time in months, instead of ignoring the dish of candy on the admin's desk, I eat a couple pieces.

I see these things happening. I know I have to exert control. I know I have to center myself.

It's time to reach into the toolbox of habits and coping mechanisms and figure out what I have handy. And if I don't have something, it's time to make something up. Because October is the wrong time to start feeling like I "deserve" to eat crappy food. I don't want to end up looking back at this season in January going, "oops."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

5K PR (not as impressive as it sounds)

So I skipped my long run today, and decided to strap a number to my chest and run a shorter one. I entered my first 5K (my only previous race was a 10K) in nearby Sturbridge.

It was a small race -- 92 5K finishers. I placed, well, 82nd. Given the size of the field, I was prepared to place DFL. So, it could have been worse.

It was awesome, though, to race. Just to be in the crowd of runners, see people of all ages getting psyched up to compete and have fun, was worth it.

I have plenty of room to increase my fitness, but overall I am happy with the results. Even on the hills, I stayed running, and my overall pace was just a few seconds over 11:00, which is the pace I do my 3 mile treadmill workouts at. Considering the uneven terrain, I feel good about keeping that pace in the race.

For some inspiration, check out these relatively local 10K competitors:

Yup, Team Hoyt showed up and did the 10K version of the race. Ran pretty fast, too :). Maybe it was the energy drink they were giving away (hmm, probably not).

I didn't register early enough to get a race T-shirt, so I bought a Team Hoyt one. I look forward to wearing it on a future run.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Here, have a new team

I don't usually post about work here, not just because it's often boring, but because I really don't want to get fired over something stupid like "you put your company in a bad light on your blog" or something :).

So, excuse this gap in my fitness blogging as I talk about some interesting work happenings.

Early this week, one of my developers came to me and told me he was leaving the company to pursue a great opportunity at a Big Software Company. I'm going to miss him a lot, but I honestly hope he does well where he goes. He's a young guy, just started a family, has a lot of promise and potential. I think he's gonna make his mark no matter where he settles in.

I went to tell my manager about this, and he let me in a day early on some bigger secrets that finally were broadly communicated within the group yesterday. A peer of my manager is moving within the company, and the "decision was made" (I hate that phrase, god, could you be more transparent about shirking responsibility?) to not replace him, but to re-organize the group. The re-org makes sense, but it's still very disruptive to people.

The end result is I'm going from my team of 5, to a team of 10. Granted, one of those people is leaving in a week, but I will (hopefully) be able to replace him eventually. Not only that, it's not like I have 5 and am adding 5. I have 5, am losing 2 to another team, and getting 7 new people (who all come from the same team, so have strong pre-existing relationships).

Anybody who knows anything about managing people will tell you the interpersonal issues with a group of ten are much more complex than with a group of five. It's not just "twice the work," as these combinatorics get ugly much quicker than that. Add the complexity of their pre-existing relationships and the fact that the "legacy" team members are only going to be two out of the 9 (or 10). It's ... interesting, to say the least.

Not lost on me is the fact that I'm now responsible for two distinct new areas of the application.

Several people who have seen the news have said "congratulations" to me. The ones who "get it" say, "Oh, wow, you're gonna have a crazy month." Month? Try quarter.

See you when I come up for air in January of 08 :).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I did

I promised I'd run today, and I did.

Everything else is gravy, right? I'll write about my situation at work when I've had a few more hours to think about it. Lots going on.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No reason, just an excuse

That's what I wrote in my fitness log tonight as to why I didn't get my run in. No reason, just an excuse.

Work is really stressful this week, beyond usual, and it's just the start of what's going to be a difficult quarter. My head isn't in the game, so to speak. I can't stop thinking about stupid work stuff. I had a nagging funny pain in my ankle a few times through the afternoon, including when I went on a short walk around the building with a co-worker. On that walk, I decided, "maybe I won't run when I get home."

When I got home, and my wife asked if I was hungry, I could have said no, let me run first. But I didn't. I said "yeah," and sat down and tried to forget my workday by talking myself out and eating with my wife.

It's too late now (not technically, but I have online plans for the evening).

I feel a little bad about it, but I'm not beating myself up over it. I recognize what I should have done, what I did, and I completely know why. It's a warning sign -- my fitness is supposed to help me deal with stress, but it can't unless I give it a fair shot.

Tomorrow I run. I promise.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Falling in love, all over again

I know the rest of the country is beautiful (well, not all of it, sorry folks), but New England in the Fall brings me such joy every year that I can't imagine ever settling down anywhere else.

Fall is starting to take hold, but Summer refuses to totally relinquish its grasp. The air is crisp and cool in the morning but warms with the sun -- sweatshirts in the morning, t-shirts in the afternoon, sweatshirts again in the evening! The woods are starting to carry the odor of Autumn, but fallen leaves and pine needles are not yet fully blanketing the rocks and roots. Apples are fresh and local, including some varieties you just never see the rest of the year.

We spent the weekend in love with New England fall. Friday afternoon was a work gathering, with BBQ food and outdoor games at a state park. That evening, my brother-in-law and his family came over, bringing some homemade pies!

Saturday's plans fell through, and my wife and I spent much of the day outdoors. We went to a nearby apple orchard and got some fresh fruit, and then went for a long hike through the woods at Wells State Park. With our appetites boosted by the exertion, we went to our favorite local restaurant and ate more than we should have (and found out our regular waitress is leaving!).

Sunday was a more quiet day, with a long quiet run in the morning and an afternoon spent doing chores, watching football, and making soup out of the leftovers from Friday's dinner. I was worried after the long hike on Saturday that Sunday morning's run might be hard, but it was fine. I really do love my long run! Then, I capped off the evening with my usual Sunday night online game group, where I got a chance to chat with some friends and kill some imaginary monsters. Geeky, I know, but that's me.

So let's pretend this morning that the bathroom scale doesn't exist. Instead, I'm just thinking about how great this weekend was, and how few of these weekends we're allowed to have in our short lives.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ow, my back

So, I pulled a muscle moving and plugging in what Tea so helpfully dubbed my footrest. It's funny how flexible and strong the human body is, and how fragile it can be at other times. I mean, a pulled muscle is no big deal, but all I did was stretch things in a way my body wasn't expecting, and I've been sore on-and-off since.

So, ow.

I shifted my running by a day this week, which means I'm supposed to do a 3-mile run on the treadmill this afternoon. However, we have my brother-in-law and his family (wife + 3 kids) coming over tonight for dinner and a movie. Whether I can run today depends on when I get home, and when they show up.

Gripping, I know.

Let's outline this weekend's perils to my waistline:
- Lunch outing at work today, to a local park for BBQ
- Family coming over tonight for dinner and movie
- Gaming at Clint's tomorrow night (we don't call it beer&pretzels gaming for nothing)

On the other hand, Jess and I have a tentative date to do something outdoorsy on Sunday. Maybe a nice hike in the early fall foliage....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New toy

I had originally told myself I'd buy a $200 tech toy for myself once I dropped beneath 200 pounds. I ended up spending a bit more than that, but my new toy finally came in the mail yesterday.

And there it is! A new subwoofer. Here you see the little troublemaker of the house (Pumpkin) sitting on it.

I got it yesterday night, and spent so much time playing with it that I skipped my run. That's ok; I got it in today instead, and can get my third run of the week in on Friday instead of Thursday.

Flexibility, people!

In related news, my back is killing me, as I pulled a muscle trying to reach an outlet behind the TV to plug this bad boy in....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Drunken Noodles

So, much to my surprise, the almighty bathroom scale did not curse at me this morning when I stepped on it. Don't get me wrong, it noted with protest the extra junk I ate this weekend, but it didn't try to use scare tactics or otherwise shock and awe me into submission.

So how do I reward it?

A peer of mine at work has just returned after a long health-related absence. We took her for Thai food at my favorite Thai restaurant, and though I lingered long over the healthier options I just couldn't deny my true favorite dish there -- the Drunken Noodles. From the menu:
Fresh wide noodles stir-fried with ground chicken, egg, onion, carrots, green peppers, basil, and scallions.
I'm not sure what they are drunk on, but it's good stuff. It's not exactly a salad and a yogurt, my usual workday meal, though....

Still, if you could taste it, you'd agree it was worth it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Well rested and well, heavier, I'm sure

Jess and I spent the weekend in Newport RI, and we picked a stellar weekend for it! Sunny, warm but not hot, the leaves are just starting to change, the place was lively but not overbearingly crowded ... all in all, a wonderful getaway. I'd show pictures but we didn't take that many (like ... 4. I'll see how they came out).

Anyway, I ate too much, but didn't go full on insane. Still, I'm sure when I get on the scale tomorrow it'll tell me that I'm stupid and fat and lazy (oh, wait, that's what I'll read into it -- it just tells me a number).

However, we did throw on our running clothes and head out for a wonderful 3-mile run before breakfast today. The Cliff Walk was a beautiful place to run, though a little unforgiving as far as shade went. I had no problem with it, but Jess is a little spoiled by running all her runs on the treadmill with multiple fans hitting her. She's not used to having any sweat :).

I considered doing another mile after we finished our route, but decided to just stay with her and enjoy the morning together instead of splitting up after a nice time together. Not bad.

In unrelated news, apparently the Vanderbilts were pretty insanely rich.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Run, fat boy, run

No, not me -- the title is a movie coming out starring Simon Pegg (who you might recognize as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead). Check out the trailer for some running-related humor, including the title line spoken by a fit-looking Hank Azaria (whose recently-canned TV show, Huff, I still miss).

I did run, of course, after work today. I'm enjoying my new "regular" treadmill pace of 11 minute miles. 10 is still too fast, but 12 feels too slow now. Baby steps, I know.

In other entertainment news, my not-so-secret addiction to Survivor was fed this evening as I watched the first episode of their latest season. I can't get enough of this stupid show, and have been hooked through season one, through all its ups and downs. This week didn't disappoint, with all the usual trappings of a first season episode. I love the folks who say it's so much harder than they expected. It's not like this show is hard to find on TV. Just watch a couple episodes....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Makin' a post on the intervent

Nothing serious today -- just a silly video clip.

Ran my usual treadmill workout today, trying to increase my speed a bit by running intervals at a higher pace than usual. It makes the workout fly by, but man is it tough the entire time!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend update

I was blown away by Tea's post about her 70.3 Tri this weekend. I don't know how someone can read that and not want to push themselves and test what they are made of.

My own weekend was nowhere near as exciting, though it was busy and fun. I drank too much Friday night (poker), drank more than a little Saturday night (gaming with friends), but ate well overall (well, mostly) and still got in my long run (another 4.8 mile neighborhood run) on Sunday. I finished the long run with plenty of strength left in the legs, which really makes me feel good about my prospects for increasing my mileage. Next weekend I'll be out of town, so I'm not sure exactly what route I'll run or how long it'll be, but when I get back I'll be running a modified neighborhood loop that goes up over 5 miles. Progress! My shortish-term goal is to get my long run to be 6 miles, and that'll be my baseline to train from for any longer races (like a theoretical half-marathon next fall).

I'm a little nervous about the coming months, just because I'm getting hooked on my long outdoor run. In a weird way, it's the highlight of my weekend. But the streets I run it on are fairly narrow, have no sidewalks, and will not be workable once it starts snowing. As soon as there are snowbanks, this route will be too dangerous to run. I guess I'll cross that bridge when that time comes. But the thought of pounding out 5-6 miles on the treadmill is a bit daunting.

In related news, I'm a card-carrying runner now. I joined a local running club! They offer free coaching, have weekly 5K runs (which are unfortunately 50+ minutes drive away), and help organize other group runs. It will be interesting to see what I can get out of it (other than discounts at the shoe store). My athletic "community" has always been virtual. Bringing it into meatspace is an interesting prospect.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staying motivated

Recently, someone complimented me on my weight loss, and asked how I "got motivated."

Getting motivated is easy. You spend enough time trying on clothes that don't fit right, looking at pictures of yourself, and getting out of breath on easy physical tasks, and you'll get motivated.

It's staying motivated that's the hard part. This journey can be a minefield.

Here's an example. I am a social eater and drinker. I can "behave" diet-wise 7 days a week for weeks at a time, but as soon as I go out to dinner with someone, have friends over, go to a party, go to a BBQ, I have to fight this strong urge to just let loose and do "whatever." This is actually quite sustainable, as long as your special occasions stay far enough apart. But there are three big things that can make this particular behavior tough on my mental state.

First, when I had a lot more weight to lose, my Caloric needs were higher. So it is obviously easier to lose weight. When I ate "right," I was dropping 2 pounds a week. When I splurged, I was still dropping a pound. Progress was steady. Now, 45 pounds lighter, my Caloric needs are lower. My margin of error is lessened. I can easily undo 5 days of good work with 2 days of splurging, and I can perceive an undoing of 6 good days with one bad day, even if that perception isn't reality.

Second, life isn't a smooth graph. Things come in batches. In a given week there might be four "special occasions." And suddenly there are more "bad days" than good, and not only that, the bad eating on those four days threatens to become a new habit. A vacation can not just cause a loss of fitness, but can create new habits that undermine or undo progress for months to come.

Third, I no longer feel like my physical state is in "crisis" mode. I look "normal" as compared to my peers. So I feel like I should eat "normal" as compared to those same people. So if they are eating/drinking a certain amount, I automatically want to follow along. I don't feel like, "Well, I have to be more careful than they are, look how much fatter I am."

So how do I address these?

First off, there's a mental state I need to constantly stay in. This is my life. This isn't some "thing" I'm doing, this is my life. If I'm behaving in a specific way with the goal of it being sustainable only in the short term, I'm doing it wrong. So I need to mentally check on that periodically. Am I doing this right? Am I living this as a lifestyle, or as a diet? If the behavior seems short-term-focused, I need to address it. If my motivation is "to fit into these clothes," it's a motivation that will fail soon, and won't necessarily carry me any further.

Second, I keep exercising. My fitness increases with effort, even if I have an "off week" as far as diet goes. So I may get frustrated at my weight, but I find that I can run for 5 minutes longer than I could the week before, or I increase my pace on a 3-mile run by a certain amount. It gives me a place to expend effort in a positive direction no matter what. (Well, give or take injuries -- we all know how that can undermine this precarious equation.)

Third, I need to constantly work on finding a new balance. This fits into my first point, in a way. But basically we all have to seek out a balance at all times between enjoying the moment and living life in a sustainable way.

That last part is the real trick, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 1975

Today the world (or at least our corner of it) pauses to remember September 11, 2001. I pause as well. It's impossible not to.

But 9/11 has a different meaning for me, as it does for a small chunk of the population (say, 1/3 of 1%). September 11th is Jess's birthday.

On September 11 1975, my future wife was born. On 9/11/1991, a couple months after I graduated high school, I gave her a handmade card I put together in Print Shop, which showed Uncle Sam's finger-pointing "I want you!" statement. Inside, I added, "to have a happy birthday." We weren't dating yet.

Every birthday since then, we've celebrated together. Six years ago, the events everyone else associates with 9/11 derailed our plans quite a bit. We spent the day in shock, both of us having left work and watching everything unfold live on CNN. We refused to let the day's events shut down our celebration entirely, though, and we still went out for a steak dinner. It was without a doubt the strangest dinner out I've ever had, and I hope none ever match it.

Yesterday, we had another steak dinner (a day early; we couldn't make it work tonight). And what did we look back on? Not 9/11/2001, but 9/11/1991, when an over-clever 18-year old gave his best friend's sister a slightly inappropriate birthday card. We were dating four months later, and haven't looked back since.

Happy Birthday, Jessica. They haven't stolen this day.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Long Run Sunday

We had a little last hurrah for summer heat this weekend (at least, I hope it was the last hurrah), but the heat broke overnight and today it was in the low 70s. It was stupidly humid, but it was still decent running weather. I went for my long run today, and felt incredible the whole time.

Sometimes, a run feels like a chore. You're putting one foot in front of the other, you're tired, you're hot, you're sweating, you're hungry, you're thirsty, you've got a little pain in your foot, you're distracted by worrying about work, you're wondering what's for supper, you're micromanaging your distance and pace, you're annoyed at how your shoes fit, you're sick of the song on the iPod, etc.

Other days, it's like it was today (let's not lie, the first mile was a little bit difficult, but it always is tough to start a cold engine). You feel strong, you feel light, you feel fast. You hit hills with determination instead of dread. You look up at the world as it comes, instead of down at your feet. Your eyes are wide open. You view distance and discomfort as challenges and rise to them.

4.8 miles, today. I took the 4.5 mile run I've done the past couple weeks and added a small extra loop onto it. It gives me a short hill in the last half mile, and it feels great to come down off that hill and know the finish is so close. I think it'll be my new default long route ... until I add more.

Like I said. I felt indestructible today. The way I felt today is why I run.

I'll try and remember that when my knees are crying first thing in the morning tomorrow :).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Two Hundred

Hollywood made the number 300 famous this year, but I fortunately never hit the 300 pound mark. Back in February I started taking my fitness more seriously, tracking my weight, exercise, and food intake on a daily basis. I weighed 245 when I started (245 and a half, but who's counting?).

Today, 200.

All my adult life, I've been hanging around at heavier weights than this. Sometimes 210, sometimes 230. Last time I was seriously running, I managed to drop below this weight and hold it for a few months, but that's it. And here I am again.

It makes me a little nervous. I know how easy it is to ditch the good habits and start bad ones. But we learn primarily from our mistakes, and I've made enough of them to learn a lot. I know what I'm doing differently this time. I know that mentally, I'm in better shape than I was at the peak of my running last time around. The body has to follow -- it has no choice.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Defining success

Yesterday evening, we drove out to a family cookout. The traffic turned an hour's drive into two, and of course made us an hour late. We arrived hungry and stressed out, and probably ate more than we should have. Such is life.

But later, sitting around a small fire, chatting with relatives, all was well in the world. Funny how a couple hours with family, a little baby's smile, the undisguised admiration of your 11-year old nephew, and a rousing game of whiffle ball can make everything seem much better.

My wife's aunt asked me to explain what I do for a living. It's hard to explain software development to someone, and explaining that you manage a software team isn't that much easier. "Ok, so what do they do?" Heh. But she asked me if, when I was younger, I ever expected to be "this successful."

I'm not sure exactly what she was referring to. And I wasn't sure how to answer. Looking back at it, though, I think I have found success. Just perhaps not in the way she meant.

Sometimes it's not about what you achieve, but what you reach for. I feel like, this year, I've found a way to reach for the things in life which matter to me. And that has nothing to do with how big of a paycheck I bring home, or what I do from 9 to 5.

Did I ever think I would find that kind of success? No. I don't think as a teenager you really have that kind of grasp on reality. But that's not an easy answer to give someone, is it? So I just settled for "I don't know, really."

(Workout progress this week is a long run, a fast run, and an upper-body workout. On schedule so far!)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

New look, Fitness update

I spent a little time today tidying up the blog, looking at some new templates and trying to find a look I liked. I plan to keep making small changes. I hope you like what you see.

I've taken the past two days off from exercise, and it's downright bizarre. I feel like something is missing out of the day. I plan to get back on board the exercise train before it goes back to being the other way around!

My plan for the month of September is roughly:

3 runs per week.
Try for one longer than the other two, and if I feel up to it, make one faster than the other two too.I know I should buckle down and learn about all the different kind of runs (tempo runs, paces, heart rates, etc), but right now I'm just looking to improve my base running ability and experiment with what I'm able to do. Maybe I'll change my mind and formalize it a bit, but for now, that's my plan.

2 Walk/Bodyweight days per week.
I know that formal weight training will do more for me than a few pushups and situps will, but without equipment and without the drive to get equipment, I figure it's better than nothing. I like what I've been accomplishing with a simple bodyweight workout, so I'm going to keep it up for another month and see where it takes me.

1 flex day per week.
With temperatures dropping and bugs dying off, it's time to start hiking again. Or, perhaps, it's time to start thinking about raking. Either way, I figure there's going to be a day a week where I'll sneak in some activity that isn't "measured" exercise but isn't sitting on my butt either. On the other hand, if my flex day is not very active, I won't cry any tears over it.

1 rest day per week.
Our bodies need some rest. I will probably get mine on Mondays.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Thirty-One Days

On August 1, I posted my crazy exercise idea for the month. Do something active every single day, for 31 days.

Today, I had to decide between running (what I wanted to do) and mowing the lawn (what would make my weekend better). I went with the lawn. 90 minutes of pushing, pulling, shoving, and purposeful walking later, my Augustathon was complete.

A rough breakdown of days:
  • 4 Lawn-Mowing
  • 8 walks
  • 12 Runs
  • 7 Bodyweight (all included walks as well)
I sort-of expected more runs, but that works out to roughly 3 a week. Considering I was going on zero substantial rest, I think that's a fair amount.

I ran both faster and further than I have in 2 years. I brought my bodyweight routine to 30 pushups and 60 situps, and I'm not sure who was more surprised by that - myself, or my wife. I pushed myself, but avoided injury. I learned a lot about what I'm made of, and why I shouldn't settle for less than something great out of myself.

Thanks to the folks who kept an eye on me, both here and in meatspace. Jess, you thought I was nuts, but in the end you were nothing but encouraging and helpful. Jank and Tea, your words of encouragement and frequent blog visits meant a lot to me. I look forward to staying in touch with both of you.

I'll post soon about what my fitness goals are for September. For now, I'm taking a day or two off!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Economics of being a geek

(this post isn't about running ... though I did get my workouts in yesterday [walk/upper-body] and today [another "faster" treadmill run])

My wife and I used to joke that I had an endless supply of toys I would want to buy in the $200 price range. She buys clothes, shoes, handbags, desk organizers, all kinds of stuff. But she buys it cheap, like "I got this tank top for 3 bucks" cheap. I, on the other hand, will go 6 months without spending any money on myself, and then turn around and declare I need a new video card for the computer, and it's going to cost $200.

What I noticed the other day, though, was that my little wish list had gotten more expensive. I now had an endless list of $3-500 things, and a few that cost more than that. My wish list video card isn't $200 any more, it's $400. My wishlist monitor is $500. I catch myself looking at a used casino-quality poker chip set at $440 and thinking it's affordable. I catch myself pricing 1080p projectors that cost 4x as much as 720p projectors. Etc.


Because I'm a geek. I research all kinds of crap. So when I read about something that costs $200, I can always find someone who can convince me that if I just spend $300, I'll be getting much better of a deal. And I know that if I can afford $200, I can probably afford $300, so ....

It's important to recognize this kind of thing. Because you don't need to be a geek about everything you spend money on. If I took the same approach I take to consumer electronics to, say, fashion, I'd probably be wearing $200 jeans instead of these Levi's I got on sale at Target for $20.

The fact is, sometimes the difference between $20 and $200 is night and day, and it's worth $200 to experience that. It's important to know when to stop that progression, though. It's important to know when to say no.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I am a runner

So, Monday's sabotage didn't end my exercise Augustathon. No sir!

I got home, had a light dinner, relaxed for a half hour, and then went down to the treadmill and ran my usual treadmill workout, at a slightly faster pace than usual. I was challenged but not beaten by the workout, and it was a huge ego boost to run the whole workout at a higher pace than usual.

In related news, my wife picked up some new running shoes and grabbed me a pair of "real" running shorts. I tried not to feel like a fraud as I was gave them a test run. :)

I had another moment of revelation yesterday, though. I was driving my mother to the grocery store, and as I rounded a corner and started to drive down a hill, a runner was running along the side of the road. This woman looked beaten, exhausted, spent, and yet fast, fit, and determined. She was making it up this hill come hell or high water. And instead of thinking, "What is that crazy woman doing?" I though, "You can do it!" I identified with the myriad of complex emotions on her face, her body language, her obvious strength and exhausted stance.

I don't know what kind of runner she was (I suspect her talent far outpaces mine), but I felt in that instant that we shared something. We spoke the same secret language, even if we speak it in vastly different dialects.

I always shy from saying I'm a runner. I say things like, "I'm doing some running to help get in better shape" or "I like to run sometimes."

Bah, to hell with that. I saw it yesterday. I'm a runner.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Yesterday's workout was pretty light -- confined it to walking, as my foot cramped up after just five minutes of warmup and I had to stop and stretch it.

I went to bed last night, and set the alarm for 5:30 so I could get a run in before work and my long Monday. I woke up refreshed and happy, and squinted across the room at the clock.


So, yeah, setting the alarm and actually turning the damn thing on are two different things. Quite a scramble to get both of us ready and out the door before 7 AM.

So, now I have to work out after my long day ... or sneak in a walk (in my work clothes and shoes) after lunch and call it good enough.

On the other hand, my body sure appreciated that extra hour of sleep :).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Feeling strong, feeling weak

This morning I did some walking and upper-body work. I did 30 pushups and 60 situps, along with a 30-minute walk. That's my third "weight" workout this week, and it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I feel stronger and fitter, knowing I'm doing things I couldn't do a couple months ago. I can see changes in my body makeup, even though my weight loss has slowed considerably this month.

But I'm feeling spent. The heat, the little cold I just fought off, the exercising every day, I feel like it's adding up. I wake up every morning just a little sore. My legs aren't recovering as fast as I want them too. I need more sleep, and I need a couple days off. I already think I will walk instead of running tomorrow, as my legs are a bit sore from chasing little kids around today (our nephew's 9th birthday party, including wiffle ball in the humid upper 90s).

Anyway, I'm going to finish the month out, and then Saturday, the first day after August, I'll be spending 12-14 hours babysitting for a toddler and an infant (with my wife, mind you). After that, I think I'll just rot on Sunday, and let the exercise pick back up on Monday (on Labor Day, how fitting).

How odd is it that I'm planning a two-day break from exercise like it's some kind of vacation? This crazy experiment really has changed my outlook.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wait, Summer again?

After a solid week of sub-80 temps, today we spiked back up into the 80s, where we'll sit for the weekend.

Personally, I'm ready for fall. Autumn is without a doubt my favorite time of year. It starts with my birthday, drifts into football season, and brings with it fresh apples, sweatshirts, cool breezes and the smell of fallen leaves. And even when it turns into winter, I stay happy -- cold slate-gray November skies just mean Thanksgiving is around the corner, the Christmas season after that, and then New Years and the Superbowl.

Let's not talk about February through April.

Anyway, today was warmer than I wanted it to be, so my almost-repeat of last week's 4.5 mile run was cut a bit short. I cut out the 3/4 of a mile with the big hill, and did a good 3.75 instead. It felt great, but I'm glad to be home and cooling down.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lack of willpower

Every Thursday my group at work has "tea time." We brew a pot of tea, and eat snacks. It's a break from the work week, a chance to socialize for half an hour to an hour. A lot of good conversations start at tea time, from learning about people's off-hours lives to finally getting a chance to have a face-to-face conversation about a bug that keeps going back and forth between development and quality engineering.

I am a very social eater. If others are eating, I am eating. I struggle with this every Thursday. I plan around it, play tricks on myself, eat a fruit immediately beforehand, etc. And every Thursday I feel guilty when I eat more than I should have.

Today was no different. I was the only manager representing my immediate team there, so I felt the need to stay there (and not go back to my desk after the first 15 minutes, one of my "tricks" to avoiding pigging out) and be social. Of course, that meant nibbling on jelly beans and cashews and candy-coated peanuts....

As I felt guilty about it later in the evening, I berated myself for having no willpower, for being weak-spirited.

And then I looked at the calendar. 23 days of exercise in a row, as of today.

I have plenty of willpower. I just have to focus it.

Side note: we've been doing a lot of experimentation with cooking at home, to save money and be more healthy. Today we learned we don't really like Sage that much, certainly not as the primary spice in a side dish. Anybody want some leftover white bean salad?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More concrete fitness goals

Inspired by Jank's post on goals (in which he referenced my post on goals, go figure), I put some thought into more aggressively focusing on specific fitness goals for the next year.

Here's an idea I'm kicking around.

What if:

- Over the winter, I work on slowly increasing my base mileage, speed, and strength
- In early spring, I harshly evaluate my fitness with the aim of ...
- Starting a 6-month training schedule for a half-marathon in fall of 2008?

I've never run more than a 10K. The 10K I ran, I ran too hard, and didn't recover well from the resulting vague injuries I suffered.

But in spring of '08 I'll have a good year of running on my legs (this time around), and should be in a good position to determine if I'm okay to push it to the next level or not.

I haven't committed to this idea yet. But it has a certain attraction.

The long term payoff for this plan, of course, would be to run a marathon before I turn 40. But that's crazy talk and I'm going to shut up about it now. The half is a crazy idea, never mind the big one....

A stupid rant

So I went to register for a race today. I figured I would do it online; I mean, who wants to print out an application, write a check (I write maybe one check a quarter, honestly), and put it in a mailbox (I couldn't even tell you how much stamps cost these days, I buy them so infrequently)?

I felt like I was stepping back in time, trying to do this. First off, the interface was terrible. But I'm not here to bitch about bad UI design (even though I could, trust me). What killed me is that the form which allowed you to enter your payment information was not secured! Plaintext http. No SSL. And they wanted me to type in my credit card number.

I do software for a living. I cannot imagine in this day and age that there are third-party websites you can outsource your shopping cart management to which don't use https. I mean, I can't believe there are ones which are still this bad. There are entire companies whose business model seems to be centered around this sort of thing -- gathering registration for races, collecting the money, etc. This isn't a novel problem. We solved this problem a half-decade ago, didn't we?

I was blown away. Here I am telling people how safe it is to use your credit cards online, because everything is secured, blah blah blah. I take it back. It may be 2007, but you still better make sure you're connected via a secured protocol.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


My 3-mile treadmill run today brought me to 21 consecutive exercise days. 3 weeks! It's officially a habit now, right?

Ha! :)

The truth is that I've learned a lot from these 3 weeks. The biggest lesson is that it's not that hard to exercise. I can always find the time. Sometimes I might need to plan ahead, but it's not rocket science.

So what do I want to do? What exercise plan do I want to set into motion going forward?

I'm probably going to register for a race in early October. So what will I do in September?

Monday, August 20, 2007

34 Years Old

I feel old today. I feel out of shape. I know it's nothing, and it'll pass, but this morning I just wanted to stay in bed. No such luxury available -- got up at 5:30, did my upper body workout (that and yesterday's lawn mowing keep my exercise Augustaton steady at 20 days), and dragged myself to work.

Yesterday I promised some thoughts on where I am, where I'm going, and all that. Here are some thoughts.

Keep doing what I'm doing. I feel like I'm in a healthy place as far as my attitude towards eating and fitness goes, so I want to keep things going in that direction. Fine tuning here and there, sure, but overall keep things going. The same is basically true for money -- I'm making better financial decisions than I was a year ago, and I don't feel like I need to make huge changes there.

Feed my joy. I need to remember to seek out the events that make for memorable joyous moments. Stumbling upon them is wonderful, but making opportunities for them to happen is even better. There's nothing wrong with enjoying my toys, my hobbies, my diversions. But at some level I need to remember that the way I use those things should always be directed towards creating opportunities for memorable joy.

Stay open-minded and eager. It's highly probable that big changes are on the way for me ... Jess and I are talking very seriously about starting a family, soon. I must not let my fear of the unknown taint what should be an amazing time in our lives.

So, my apologies if it isn't ground-breaking. There's more I could write, about how maybe I should be doing things differently at work, or some such. But as far as my home life goes, this is where I think I am.

We'll see how I feel in a year....

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nothing changes on New Year's Day

(did a short but good walk with my wife yesterday for my Augustathon progress -- 18 days down!)

Most people look at New Year's Day as a time to reflect on achievements, compose goals, and set direction for the next 12 months.

I've never really found that easy. For one thing, you've likely just spent some time over-indulging for the holidays. You're quite possibly stressed, having just eaten too much, spending too much, and hanging out with people you don't normally visit.

I've found my birthday to be a better time to do this sort of self-reflection. And so, one day before I turn 34, I set my mind to these kinds of questions. What have I done right and wrong this year? And what do I want to do better next year? What do I want to have true about me when I turn 35, on August 20 2008?

I'll follow up with some thoughts either later today, or more appropriately, tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sneaking out for a quickie at lunch

Friday, I often work from home. I generally work from home one day a week, and in the summer the best day for that is Friday, because the traffic on 495 and 90 is a real bitch at the end of the work week (I actually prefer working from home Tuesday or Wednesday; I tend to get more done, but oh well).

One of the pluses of working from home is being able to sneak in exercise time. So yesterday, I logged out of IM around 11 AM and tied the sneakers on. With temps below 70 and the sun just starting to peek out, it was a rare chance for a beautiful mid-day run.

I started out, as with all my neighborhood runs, with only a rough idea of how long I'd be out. In the end, I made just about all the "make the run longer" choices when they popped up, and I walked back up the porch totally spent but feeling incredibly satisfied.

4.5 miles, which is "not a big deal" for most runners, but is the farthest I've run in over two years. It's just a number, and not that big of one, but it made me feel amazing. Around 3 miles into the run there's this nasty hill, pretty steep but not that long. It's just enough to make you question your sanity before you get to come back down.

Anyway. My legs are complaining now, but man is my soul happy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A day off ... not really

So, yesterday I was feeling beat for some reason. I came home from work and just wanted to take a nap. My wife, who is struggling just as I am to overcome bad habits and replace them with good ones, wanted to get out of the house and get dinner out.

I knew if I went out to eat right then, I'd be in some serious trouble come workout time. I was planning to log into World of Warcraft at 8 in case I was needed in a raid (for you non-geeks out there, pretend I'm saying "I was going to a friend's house, in case a seat opened up at his card game." It doesn't quite mean the same thing, but that's the idea), and I can't really work out immediately after eating.

So I asked my wife to give me 45 minutes. I got changed, grumbling the whole time, and disappeared into the basement.

They weren't the best minutes of exercise I've had this month, but I got them in (walking, to give my joints a little of the "babying" Tea reminded me about yesterday). I came back up, cleaned up, and joined her for dinner at our favorite small-town haunt.

I ate a hamburger and some onion rings, but resisted the siren's call of the place's awesome selection of microbrews. A small victory, really.

But, hey, not long ago I would have skipped the walk, ordered an appetizer, and enjoyed a couple beers as well. So you take what you can get, you know?

I'll be better today, I promise :).

(I have to -- tomorrow is another BBQ!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A blog post a day

I didn't know when I started my Augustathon exercise experiment that it would also mean I was going to blog (almost) every day, but it seems to be working out that way. I'm glad, though, because writing more regularly (even if it's just glorified diary entries like this) is something I want to do in life.

Yesterday's run was hard, and I'm not sure why. Usually after the first ten minutes, I get into a groove (see my previous post). But last night I just felt slow and awkward the first 20 minutes. My groove finally hit in the final ten, and I considered doing another 5-10 minutes just to enjoy it a bit more, but my knee had been sore earlier in the day and I didn't want to push my luck.

I think I made the right choice -- the knee is fine, so far, today (though it was sore on and off until I went to bed last night).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How exercise taught me patience

I noticed something interesting the other day. I was mentally checking my progress on my Augustahon exercise experiment, and I realized I was just a bit over a third done. And right then, I told myself I knew I could complete it.

How do I know this?

I visualized myself on my treadmill. The clock said 15:00 ... 5 minutes of warmup, plus 10 minutes of a 30 minute run. And at that point, I know I'm a third of the way done, and I can do the rest.

I play all kinds of numbers games with myself, all the time. It's part of being so mathematically inclined. But the 1/3-done game is relatively new, and it certainly came from running such a regimented schedule during the latter part of my C25K program and the runs in the weeks immediately following.

The logic is relatively simple. Imagine you are at home. You need to run somewhere and back. Well, you immediately split that run in half. You know if you ran to someplace, you can obviously run back (I'm not crazy like some of you, running distances we clearly invented cars to traverse ;) ). Now, imagine you are running to your new halfway point. You are 2/3 of the way there ... clearly, you can handle the final 1/3, right?

You're 1/3 of the way done with your run, but in your mind, you've done the hardest part. You know you can do the rest.

Somehow, this stupid math/visualization trick has found its way into my daily routine. A third has magically become this milestone measurement.

After all, the hardest part is done.

(Augustathon update: upper-body workout with a side-order of "walking", immediately upon arrival from work. 25 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, skipped the squats, 25 minutes of walking. Next time, I think I'll go for 30/60 ... or put the squats back in....)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A case of the mondays

The alarm went off at 5:27 AM, and let me tell you, I did not want to hear it. I had gone to bed early-ish, but had not slept well. I felt like I wanted another two hours of shut-eye.

So of course I put on my gym clothes and hit the treadmill for 40 minutes. Because, hey, if you're tired and miserable, you may as well be burning Calories too.

I'm fine now, and quite thrilled to have completed my exercise for the day before breakfast. But at the time, it was a special kind of torture.

Monday is a tough day for me. I drive my wife to work, then I drive to work, have a busy Monday of work, then drive to my mothers' place, pick her up, take her grocery shopping, and then drive back to my wife's work and pick her up. Of course, she has a longer work today than I do, so she's dead on her feet just like I am (shorter work day, but a lot more running around). She usually drives home, and we often stop for dinner on the way back. This means we leave the house before 7 AM, and usually get home around 8. It's a long, tiring day.

That's why I had to get my run in when I did. Because getting on that treadmill at 8 after this day is probably harder than getting on it at 5:30 before it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eagerly choking

Yesterday's cookout was a good time -- got to see some friends, and some "friends of friends" (ok, really family of friends) that I don't know that well. My buddy Clint finally broke the news to everyone that he and his wife are going to be parents next year (congrats!), and we got to see the new baby that our friends who hosted the BBQ just had 3 weeks back (congrats again!).

And I smoked a cigar. Well, half of one.

I've never smoked a cigar, but what the hell? I mean, lots of runners smoke, right?

Seriously, though, I know it's not something I'd get into. I knew I would only get so much out of it. But you have to try new things, even stupid things.

You only live once, and I'm sure I've done (and will do) worse things on a whim than smoke a cigar :).

(Augustathon workout today was 1h45m spent doing yardwork, mostly pushing a heavy-ass lawnmower around.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August is 1/3 done

And my silly exercise experiment is going strong.

I feel stronger and fitter, even if every day I'm thinking, god, why did I do this, I just want to take a day off and vegetate.

Plenty of time for that in the Winter, right? :)

Yesterday I had every intention of mowing the lawn, but it poured all day. I went to do my upper body workout and my arms and abs reminded me I need more than just a day of rest on that. So I did a 45-minute brisk walk to save my legs for today.

Today, we hopped in the car and went to the state park, where we did a bit less than an hour of running and walking along some really hilly roads through the woods. My legs are a little sore now, which is exactly what I wanted! We saw a tiny little orange salamander (we see them squished a lot, this was the first one we saw alive), a chipmunk, and some birds. Running at the park is, to me, the payoff to staying in shape -- getting to just get out there and enjoy the beauty of New England on my own terms.

This afternoon, we are heading to a BBQ with some friends. Burgers, beers, and probably a few games of cards as the day wears on. Not exactly healthy, but what's the point of living longer if you can't have a little fun with the days you're earning?

Friday, August 10, 2007

The "reality" of it all

So, yesterday I did another treadmill workout after work -- 3 miles of wishing I could get into a groove of running in the morning but knowing my long commute makes that much more difficult than it used to be.

I watched my DVR'd copy of the first episode of LA Ink, the spinoff of Miami Ink. I'm not sure why I enjoy running to Miami Ink -- probably because I see a lot of stories of people who have conquered something big, or are in a period of intense transition in life. They are celebrating, they are taking note, they are doing something to recognize an important event by permanently modifying their bodies.

I don't know that it's something I'd ever do, but I admire the idea behind it.

This first episode of LA Ink, though, tried my patience. We watch as Kat goes to her old friends and tries to convince them to come work for her at her new LA shop.

It was ... painful. You know all her friends are going to say yes. You know they've decided before the TV cameras show up and film the conversation. I mean, come on. "Kat, why are you here with a film crew from the Discovery network?" "Never mind that, just sit and let them fix your makeup before I ask you an important question. Oh, sign this waiver, but don't ask what it's all about."

We're not that dumb.

But then I wonder ... are we approaching a world where having people in everyday situations with a small film crew following them around "for a reality show" is actually approaching normal? Are we getting close to where real reactions happen among people when they deal with a person like that? Or have we been there for some time, in places like LA and NYC? And if so, how can people actually ever be normal?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

That's just, your opinion, man

My job title may no longer refer to me as an engineer, but at my heart I'm still a problem-solver.

Last night, I decided I could afford to buy some new speakers for my living room. But I was smart, and before I pulled the trigger online, I decided to take some measurements. It turns out, they weren't going to fit where I wanted them.

I had trouble visualizing where they would fit, so I did what any good engineer would do -- I built a prototype. I sat down with some paper, made some folds, taped a few things together, and had a flimsy box that would let me see what the speakers I wanted would look like in various locations.

As it turns out, places I thought they would fit, they wouldn't. Places where they did fit, they looked too big. My wife patiently watched as I brainstormed different ideas.

I don't have an answer yet (I may just get smaller speakers), but it was strangely satisfying to perform the analysis.

In other news, the eighth day of my exercise marathon, I did an upper body workout with some walking thrown in to keep the heart moving. It wasn't that aggressive of a workout, and my body is thanking me for that (and the longer night of sleep) right now. So, 5 sets of (5 push ups, 10 sit ups, 5 minutes walking). The Big Lebowski was on the TV, and let me tell you, cracking up laughing is not exactly what you want to do while you're struggling to finish those last few sit ups!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

August is a week old

Seven days, seven workouts. My body is confused. I've gone through periods where I was working out 5-6 days a week, but seven straight days is something I'm not used to. Can I handle 24 more?

I did a treadmill run yesterday, 30 minutes of running with 10 minutes of warmup/cooldown. It felt great and reminded me why I enjoy running, even on a repetitive boring treadmill. My nasty work day disappeared and it was just me saying, "come on, you can do this."

This morning, though, after getting only 5.5 hours of sleep, it doesn't feel so great. I'm tired, and my legs are sore and weak. I probably would be fine if I had slept enough, but I didn't. And now I'm back and work and back facing the problems I made disappear yesterday.

But, hey, at least they disappeared yesterday. And I know they'll disappear tonight when I do whatever workout I decide is best for today (given how my legs feel, likely upper-body).

I do have to be smarter about getting rest.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Going back to the beginning

A little sore from my bodyweight workout, and still able to feel Sunday's run in my legs, I decided yesterday was a recovery day. I walked, instead of running, for 45 minutes.

It reminded me of how I started this whole journey.

All my adult life, I've struggled with my fitness, but it wasn't until 2004 that I decided to make serious strides to do something with it. Things were quiet, at work, and I started going to the gym every day an hour before lunch. At first, all I did was walk. It started me down a road that took me to running a 10-K in April of 2005, wearing sizes I could last fit into a decade back.

Of course, I made mistakes, I got lost on the road, and I lost all that fitness and more. But here I am again, in 2007, making steady strides in the right direction, with even more "wisdumb" of what works and what doesn't.

There was a strange feeling of returning to the beginning as I sweat out those minutes at a brisk walk. A sense of accomplishment and yet acceptance of the fact that this is all a cycle -- that we advance, we fall back, we learn and we forget ... but until the ticker runs out, we still have a chance to do the right thing.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I am not Ironman

Sunday I watched the replay on NBC Sports of the Ironman championship in Hawaii.

I am not a triathlete; I'm barely a runner. But it's impossible to watch this program and not be moved and motivated. The excuses I come up with to justify my lack of exercise seem beyond trivial compared to the hardships these people put up with.

I laughed when they talked about how the elite athletes had finished and now the "everyman" finishers were trickling in. "Everymen" who are fitter, stronger, and more driven than any person I know (in the "real world"). To see a 76-year old nun complete something I'd never dream of starting shows just how much room I have to grow.

I don't know where this world is going to take me. But I know that I'd be throwing away what I'm fortunate enough to have if I didn't push myself just a little harder.

Speaking of pushing, I went for an "easy" run yesterday. I call it easy because I went outside without looking at the time, with no set route, no distance, no pace, and no goal. When I got back, it turns out I had run 3.25 miles, give or take. Not bad.

My muscles are more sore today than yesterday, by the way. I am still not Jason Bourne. I'll check the mirror again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pros and Cons of Jason Bourne

(the movie itself is great; go see it)

The benefit of watching Bourne Ultimatum prior to your workout for the day?
You will want to push yourself to your limits. You will be motivated by the idea of having the kind of strength, efficiency of motion, and endurance that the character displays in the movie.

The drawback of watching Bourne Ultimatum prior to your workout?
You are not Jason Bourne.

My wife was on the treadmill and I decided to do some bodyweight strength training. This is not something I do often, but it's something I hope to integrate into my fitness plan. Forcing myself to exercise every day will make me do these more often, I hope.

So, I did 5 sets of:
- 5 pushups
- 10 squats
- 10 situps

I also did a few crab walks and bear crawls across the basement, which sound and look ridiculous but were damn hard. Through it all I added some walking to cool down, and some stretching. It was really ad-hoc, just trying different things out, getting a feel for it.

This morning, my muscles are still exhausted but not as sore as I was expecting. So that's nice.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The virtual world is abuzz

When I'm not trying to get in shape, I'm doing my best to get fatter by sitting on my behind and playing World of Warcraft. Today everyone's talking about the long-rumored second expansion to the game, which was finally officially announced. Those of you who even know what I'm talking about have already read everything about it.

One thing I keep hearing is that people are distressed that all their hard work is going to be thrown away, when the game "resets" everyone for the climb to level 80. This happened when the first expansion came out, and a lot of people quit.

Here's what I tell them:

I made a decision before I bought WoW, based on my experience with other games.

When I wasn't having fun, I wouldn't play. I wouldn't play in hopes of having fun later, I'd always aim to be having fun at the time.

If that meant progression, fine. If it meant playing 5 alts in rotation, fine. If it meant PvP, fine.

With that kind of attitude, there's no angst over a new expansion coming along and "ruining" what you've accomplished. You were having fun the whole time, so you got your money's worth.
If only real life was always that simple.

Speaking of real life, three miles run today. Progress!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Two down!

I've been linked! And now everyone knows about my crazy idea!

Jank dropped by and wished me luck, and even dropped a link to my meager blog over on his. So if you clicked that link and stumbled onto me, I apologize for not having thrilling race stories or epic trail run photo montages. You'll have to make do with my little public diary.

I shared my ambition for August with my wife, over the phone. There was a fairly long silence, and I said to myself, "maybe this is a mad idea." But she's being supportive, even if she isn't going to tag along every day. I explained my basic idea to her -- I need to exercise, and if I'm not running regularly, I need to find other things to fill in the gaps. Forcing myself to do something active every day will break down the flimsy excuses I use to end up sitting on the couch.

So, the tally so far:

Day 1: Mowing the lawn. This is not as trivial as it sounds; we have almost an acre, and the grass had almost 2 weeks of prime growing on it. In the late day heat, I poured out my day's sweat pushing a heavy mower around. Not a run, but certainly as strenuous as my usual workout.

Day 2: Took my wife out for a sunset walk around the streets of my neighborhood. We took some side roads we've never been down before, and ended up on a lonely dirt road through some woods. Half the mosquitoes in Massachusetts evidently live in those woods, and we ended up running to avoid the swarm. Far from a strenuous workout, but it's a lot more than I would have done today if I didn't have this plan in mind.

(And I would have stayed out an extra 15 minutes if I knew some of you were going to try and keep me honest!)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I've written about my running slump before, and while I have been running semi-regularly, I have yet to get back into an exercise groove. The flimsiest of excuses will stop me from exercising, and I know from personal experience that an active lifestyle is the only way I stay fit.

So, I got inspired by reading about some folks running an Augustathon. These folks are running every day for the month of August, 3 miles a day minimum. Now, that's not what my body is ready for, but I think I'll use August as a way of refocusing my fitness achievements. The fact that my birthday falls in August is a nice way to bring in some extra motivation.

So here's my August pledge. I will exercise every single day this month. My plan is to try a bunch of different things, forcing myself to stay creative to prevent injury and boredom. These are the types of things I will do:
  • 30 minute runs
  • 45 minute walks
  • 60+ minute lawn work
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Push-ups and other bodyweight training
This is a complete spur-of-the-moment idea, and the only way I'll actually see it through is if I post it here and hold myself accountable.

August begins today. Let's see where this crazy idea goes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

This generation's Lord of the Rings?

I was thinking about Harry Potter the other day, and wondering how it will be looked back upon in 20 years.

We know it's a huge commercial success, making JK Rowling more money than she can possibly hope to spend in her lifetime. And we know it's had a huge cultural impact, with nonsense words like muggles being meaningful to (probably) the majority of the population. We know it's getting kids to read again, though some folks question whether it's having any significant impact on children's reading.

I can't really call it this generation's LOTR, though. LOTR was counter-cultural. It took decades for a successful mass-market movie adaptation to be made. LOTR became, in some ways, a commercial success despite the intentions of its author -- Harry Potter, not so much.

No, I think it's more accurate to say Harry Potter is this generation's Star Wars. A huge commercial enterprise around something which, once you look deeply into it, is more fluff than substance, but fun fluff nonetheless.

Maybe in a couple decades these kids can have their "new trilogy" where Rowling writes a prequel about the early years of James, Lilly, and Severus.... And we can all smile knowingly when they whine about how it's ruined their memories of the pure originals.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Punished my legs on Sunday

So, I broke my non-running streak and went for a tough run on Sunday. After all, what better way to reintroduce your legs to running after a week than with a big hill? So, I can feel it in my legs today, but much more importantly I feel good about getting back on the road after a short break.

I hit a weight loss milestone this weekend too. I was hoping to hit this weight by my birthday (Aug 20) and I'm almost a month early. So, that's encouraging, and exciting.

In unrelated news, I spent much more time this weekend reading the new Harry Potter than you'd expect, given how nice it was outside. Oh well. Gotta read it before the ending is spoiled for me. I've already heard more than I want to just walking the halls at work....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A week without running

For the first time since I started aggressively working on my fitness this year, I've gone a week without running.

I'd like to say this is part of my big plan, and that I am saving up my energy or recovering from an injury. The fact is that I've been busy, and it hasn't been enough of a priority to push other things out of the way.

So I thought I'd write about it as a way of trying to understand why this is. Why was it that during my Couch-to-5K program, I made time 3x a week no matter what, but right now I've managed to not find time for seven consecutive days?

I think I can break it down into several factors:
  1. Running outdoors has spoiled me; I look at the treadmill and think boredom (but don't necessarily have time to do other than the treadmill)
  2. I'm doing well, fitness-wise, and am making progress without the exercise
  3. I'm not tracking towards a planned objective
So, assuming that I want to be a better runner (and I am pretty sure I still do), what can I do to address those three points?
  1. Find time to run outside, even if it's just around my neighborhood. Accept that some workouts are just to maintain running fitness, not for fun, and sometimes the treadmill accomplishes that just fine.
  2. Remember that I've never been successful at keeping weight off without maintaining exercise.
  3. Plan an objective and track to it (pick a race, pick a training program to reach that race).
On the third point, many training programs are 9-12 weeks. So if I were to find a race in 2-3 months, I'd be able to track towards it. I've been talking about a fall race for a while, so maybe it's time to pick one and sign up. That should give me a motivation boost, no?

At the same time, I also want to open myself up to other options for point number two. If I'm just slumping on my running, I may need to pick up the slack elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Series 3 "Lite"?

A few months back, I said that if the Series 3 TiVo was $299, I would have argued with myself but eventually bought it.

Well, looks like I may have to look at those words a bit more seriously, in light of some leaked news out of TiVo-land.

If the rumors are true, for $299 you're getting dual HDTV tuners, the big selling point of the TiVo S3. There are a bunch of other minor changes, but that's what it boils down to.

On the other hand, my cable box HDTV recently got its firmware upgraded. Most of the annoying bugs are fixed, and I've learned to deal with the feature gaps between the DVR and the TiVo. Is it worth $299 to close those gaps? Especially when we're talking about saving money? Probably not.

Probably not.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

See what I read

I've added a new feature to the blog; a rolling list of items I've marked from my RSS reader. This is mainly stories I found interesting ... you probably won't :).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The best things in life are free

(or at least paid for by other people)

Last night, we got a last-minute invite to head over to a cabin by a lake in Phillipstown, owned by in-laws of in-laws. Said in-laws (Jess's brother and his family) were staying there for a couple nights. With no other plans, and an unexpected free evening, we took the long (well, 45 minutes) country drive (one of the more pleasant drives I've taken in this area) north, and ended up on a narrow dirt road that ended by a cabin on a lake.

We stayed for a bit over 3 hours, and in that time we fished, swam, sat by a fire, made s'mores, burned popcorn, and stood quietly on a dock watching lightning flash in the sky so far away we never heard thunder. The lightning-watching was especially memorable. We were looking up into the hills that surrounded the lake, seeing far-away lightning take a pitch-black sky and illuminate the shapes of distant clouds. Sometimes the lightnings would come with startling frequency, sometimes you could even make out the shapes of actual bolts of lightning. Other times it was just a vague flicker of light from afar. Either way, we realized we were seeing something special.

I can't remember a single more relaxing evening I've had on a work night. Those moments were precious, priceless even, and all it cost us was a willingness to say, "Sure, we'll go for a drive."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Who is that (un)masked man?

I'd had this goatee for six months now. I started it over the Christmas/New Years holiday, and maintained it until yesterday.

I'd been itching for a change, though. It kind of aggravated me, though it shouldn't have, that I had the same style facial hair as both my boss and his boss. And as it got warmer, the goatee got less and less appealing, trapping sweat and generally increasing the feeling of heat on hot humid days, especially days spent outdoors.

So in a fit of inspiration, I stepped out of the shower yesterday and cut the damn thing off.

I don't recognize myself in the mirror. It's honestly freaking me out. I see shapes and patterns in my facial structure which don't equate with "me". I reach for my face and pull back my hand quickly, in shock, like I touched something I unexpected and unpleasant.

I don't know how long it will take to get used to the clean face, but I know it's not going to be fun. I miss the scruffy bastard.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Outdoor running, revisited

In regards to my post below, extolling the benefits of outdoor running, I will add a second thing that outdoor running adds into the mix.


And pain. In the knees.

Better today than yesterday, but still not planning to run today. I'll give my body an extra recovery day and run tomorrow. Long work day today anyway (and yesterday, ugh), so it's not like I'm brimming with extra energy to burn.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Outdoor running

So, I did my entire C25K program running on the treadmill in my basement. It was safe, the speed was controlled, and I could get more comfortable with my abilities that way. The benefits of treadmill running are very easy to understand and I don't need to spell them out here.

Since then, I've done a couple runs outside. Let me tell you -- it's a night and day difference. There's a certain confidence you get from saying, "look, I can run for 30 minutes straight." But the confidence of saying, "I can run from here to there, and back, without stopping," is entirely different. It's so much stronger and real.

Granted, there are cars to dodge, mosquitos biting, dogs barking, and all that. But it's worth it.

Today I feel like a fit man trapped with 30-40 extra pounds of fat on him. A few months ago I felt like a fat man wishing he was fit. It's a transformation I am very thankful to have made.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Success is a motivator

21 pounds down.
Running 3 miles a day, every other day.
Feeling better than I have in a year.

There's a sense of accomplishment there, but I have to weigh it against knowing how much more I have ahead of me. To just return to the level of fitness I had will take many more months. But there are no mysteries on the road there; I have the map, I have driven the course before, and I've put in solid time on it and know what's what.

And I find myself itching for a bigger push.

I'm in a dangerous spot with my running fitness, where I feel more fit than I am. I can and should add more miles, but not yet. I can and should work on running faster, but not yet. It's just out of reach. Two weeks more, or so, and I'll be up for that.

In the meantime, I should do what I keep saying I'll do, and that's start on some bodyweight exercises. I hate going to the gym at work, and don't always have time to anyway. But there's always time to add some bodyweight exercises. The main concern people have with bodyweight routines is that you can't push yourself to your limits -- however, being untrained this is not a big concern to me. My secret bodyweight goal? To be able to do a solid set of pullups/chinups. From childhood that's always been something I could never do, so in my mind it's as far away and impossible as running a marathon.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The ubiquity of information

It's Saturday afternoon. Jessica and I are in a motel room in New Jersey, getting ready for the wedding we have to attend in a few hours. I'm flipping channels on the TV. I come across a program focused on animal life in Death Valley. It catches our interest, and we see the tail end of a segment which is obviously about some kind of road race that is run there, which sounded pretty awful.

I pulled out my Blackberry, which I had brought to be able to retrieve maps online on the go. I did a quick search on the terms "death valley ultramarathon" and within seconds I was reading the wikipedia article on the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race where runners have to face a 13,000 feet elevation gain (running from below sea level to near the summit of Mt. Whitney). I had a great chuckle when they said that nobody had died on the race "yet."

Putting the Internet into our hands at every moment isn't just about being able to buy movie tickets or get directions to the closest pizza joint, no matter what the marketing suits tell you. Sometimes it's just about being able to satisfy your curiosity the moment it arises.

Don't get me wrong. I did use the Blackberry for more traditional things as well. We needed to find a specific clothing store on the way down to NJ, and we found one at a mall right by the highway we were traveling. And I even earned some points among the extended family by not just finding the closest Denny's for them, but giving them directions as well. And while I didn't need the Internet to tell me how crazy it would be at Denny's as part of a party of 11 with 3 children under 5, I could have blogged about it while it was happening, had I thought of it :).