Thursday, October 23, 2014

Iconoclastic rant, batten down the hatches!

Everybody almost certainly knows about the shooting in Ottawa yesterday. The news was full of it. I mean that in more than one way. You know what I mean.

Let's start by saying that, yes, it's sad that young reservist got shot. It's amazing that nobody else got shot, except the guy who started it. The news bleating about the whole thing had me tweaking my Twitter settings, and scrolling past a lot of crap on Facebook.

My first question on hearing about it, and hearing the label terrorist being applied almost instantly, was, why it wasn't terrorism when the 4 mounties were shot a few years ago in Mayerthorpe? Why wasn't it terrorism when Lepine shot 28 people in 1989 at Ă‰cole Polytechnique?

Is it just because he (apparently) has some links to Islam and fears that he has been 'radicalized', whatever on earth that means? Is it because he shot a member of the Armed Forces, and then stormed Parliament? Where is the line between some gun nut gone crazier, and terrorism?

Amid the bleating about why our various security forces didn't prevent the attack are cries that say security forces need more tools. More oversight. More intrusive monitoring. Greater ability to detain those suspected of being bad. All in the name of keeping Canadian's safe, of course.

My response is a very loud, very rude noise.

The average Canadian has a completely trivial chance of being killed by nutter carrying a gun, let alone a "terrorist" on a mission. Trivial. You're more likely to win the lottery. Take a deep breath. Think it through.

You know where your real risk is? Being in or around a motor vehicle. On average, a little over one person is killed a day in Alberta (400 per year), and 74 per day are injured, (27,000 per year). That's out of about 3 million Albertans. I don't worry about a nut with a gun, not for one second. I worry about the people driving the cars around me, every second I'm in a car, or near them.

Let's review here, shall we? In the bad old days of Kings, they could and did lock up or kill anyone that disagreed with them. Holding the wrong opinions too loudly could be fatal. This is why our structure of laws is built the way it is. The authorities have to prove that some particular person broke some particular law at a particular time and place. Not just say it happened, but actually demonstrate the proof.

Too often people say that criminals have too many rights, and that's bullshit. I want to see criminals having the right to a fair trial, complete with evidence, and the police following the rules. Every time. I want to know that the people deprived of their liberty are actually guilty, even if it costs me more in taxes.

Why? Because when we allow the police to get sloppy, and allow people to go to jail "because we know they're guilty", we are sliding down a dangerous slope to the bad old days of Kings. I emphatically do not want Stephen Harper and professionally paranoid secrete security agents collecting "tips" from the public. That's called East Germany, not that long ago.

We've already started holding trials where the accused can't see the evidence against them, because it would reveal state secrets. Another loud rude noise.

We've seen Revenue Canada threatening non-profit clubs with audits because they wrote a letter to a politician. Politically motivated audits are a fearsome weapon. They're also wrong. I completely support a Revenue agency that reviews the taxes that people and corporations pay, checks the numbers, and runs audits based on objective criteria to ensure that the tax laws are being complied with. Not an agency acting at the direction of a frightened little man.

Why do I care about this so much? Because I have opinions that some in power might take offense to. Stephen Harper is actually my MP, though I've never voted for him. I also think he's the worst thing to happen to Canada and Parliament ever. I don't think he should be re-elected, and I tell my neighbours that at every opportunity. Bullies and control freaks have no place in positions of authority.

So far so good, at least so far. Lots further along the spectrum we get into nutter territory, people that call for the violent overthrowing of the state, or assassination of various political figures, and other such nonsense. They hear voices, or think that God has told them to do this, or they blow some little thing all out of proportion, or they let some other nutter talk the into doing something stupid. Our police have their plates full of such, and I can see where it's hard to draw the line between the one that's really going to do it, and the many that are just going to talk about it.

But really, we have to keep the police on a tight budget so they prioritize on what they think is the real threat. If they had the budget to collect a file on every living Canadian, they would. And then someone would act on it, sooner or later. Likely sooner, for suspect motivations. Maybe their neighbour parked in "their" space in front of their house. Maybe they played the music too loud. Maybe guy with license XYZ 123 took his parking spot at Costco. Let's just take a quick peek at what the files say, shall we? Hmmm. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The middle ground is troubling. The Harper government has labeled as "terrorists" various environmental groups that wanted intervenor status in pipeline hearings. What nonsense! This is why we have to push back on the calls for enhanced security oversight. It becomes all too easy for those in power to use those forces to target those who disagree with them. At first it's the big things, but it will spread. And then we're back to the bad old days again.

Life is all about balancing risks and freedoms. Harper thought that placating his base was more important than trying to track certain kinds of firearms. I haven't the slightest doubt he will use this shooting to push for greater intrusions into the lives of ordinary Canadians, and that he won't make any changes in his position about a gun registry. There's an election a year or so away, and this will certainly be used to help him stay elected and in charge. Expect to hear all sorts of crap on this topic, and be prepared to push back.

I think it was Franklin that said, "Those who would trade their freedom for security deserve neither."

In other news, a pretty nice swim yesterday. Tired arms and shoulders. Then a yoga session that featured, you guessed it, shoulders! Yahoo, he said. Uhuh.

It's getting a little cooler here in the evening, especially when the sun goes behind a cloud. The 5K 35 minute run got a bit cool towards the end. RunMeter has failed me for the last time. Three runs in a row it hasn't picked up a GPS that RunKeeper finds perfectly acceptable. Deleted. The only problem is that RunKeeper is just a little bit rah rah rah for my taste. I may shell out for iRunSmooth. Any suggestions from you about which iPhone app is good for tracking running?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Good thing I didn't run, I think

So you know how some people post nothing but rainbows and unicorn poop? Here's some honesty tonight. I'm a bit cranky. Just a bit.

Let's start with a small rainbow. Monday's swim was really good. About 1.25 K or so, not sure exactly. A few intervals, and a bit of water running. Even though the water was cold, it was all good.

I am normally a knows where he's going kind of guy, and normally like to walk a straight line at a brisk pace to get there. Just lately it seems like people are getting in my way. They come out of nowhere, or stand around taking up the entire frigging sidewalk in front of the Palliser like half-slaughtered sheep. Then I have to maneuver around them, trying to restrain the urge to just trample over them. That isn't well thought of.

Normally I like the +15 system, but perhaps using it after a 12 hour fast isn't the best idea in the world. Yes, lab tests time. So there I was having to put in a couple hours of work on a complicated query, not just before coffee, but before breakfast. So to say I was eager to get into the lab to do the bleed and pees thing is a bit of an understatement. You'd think some of the people around me were deliberately trying to be obstacles, and not just to me either.

But I was channeling the time in Torino, going into the train station. I was tired, cranky, and wanted to be on the train. There was a longish walk to the doors, and a flood of people coming out. I was wearing a bright yellow coat (If sir will wear a coat of that colour out in public, he will find nothing of interest to him in this store.) and decided I simply wasn't in the mood. I locked eyes on the door, and walked an absolutely straight line toward the door. I was looking over people, paying them no attention at all, projecting the complete willingness to walk through them. The crowds parted around me. Linda was hanging onto the back of my jacket trying to keep up.

Then there was the guy this evening, tailgating me under 9th ave on 4th St SE. Turning right onto 11th Ave he goes wide trying to get around on the left, but I'd already signaled and was sliding over. He tried for the right, but someone was coming out of a parking spot. Just past the construction, as I had my signal on to go left, he cut through the end of the construction zone, and zoomed past me in the far left lane. I'm in the next to left, with two more over to my right. Then he zooms across in front of me to get over in the second to the right lane. We exchanged glares at the light. Then I nearly peed myself laughing as another idiot blocks the intersection on him.

Tonight, paying bills. Now, keep in mind I remember when you had to pay bills by mailing a piece of paper to each company, or visit their office in person, and wait in line. This was before paying bills at the bank. Now I can sit at a desk for a few minutes and shuffle money around. It's wonderful.

Except when you lose an envelop in the clutter on the desk. Oops. At least it was only the phone bill for the number we give to people we don't want to talk to. Then it was one of those times when everything seems to struggle. Unable to separate pieces of paper. Opening an envelop, using a tool designed for the purpose, that I've used only a zillion times in the past, was suddenly a difficult task. I checked all the math twice.

I signed up for some of my bills on e-post, and I'm seriously considering going back to paper. I have to remember to look at the bill, since only the mobile phone bill comes as an email, and even then I have to go looking for it. This time Direct Energy sent some bafflegab about account changes, but the bill finally arrived so I could pay it. No changes. Just late.

Tonight was to be a run night, but after a little bit of dithering I decided not not. My hip, quads, and hams are feeling just a bit tight, as if just the right stretch would click them and all would be good. I was feeling rushed and cranky, and decided that rest is better for me than the run. If my bike had been set up on the trainer, I might have done a short ride, but no. Getting that done isn't hard, but it isn't a task to be done when feeling cranky and tired. Even with the heat gun trainer tire trick.

And while it isn't quite singing you out with a rainbow, here's another nice sunset. This is actually looking south.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Well, that was spectacular

Today was a photo day. The sunrise was amazing. I was out there in my bathrobe getting the first couple shots, then went and dressed. Plus other photos in the morning light. These are all unretouched.




Our neighbor's evergreen tree looked much more brilliant green against a really dark sky. The photo doesn't do it justice.


One of our rose bushes out front.


Guess in the comments what this a picture of. Winner gets a free year's subscription to this blog!


Celina has been complaining that Curtis gets more photos in the blog, so I've been trying to balance things out.

This is after my mid afternoon run. The little sweat pervert is ready to get off on sniffing my sweaty bits.

After all that was a nice book club meeting, then out for a run. Supposedly this is my long slow run for the week, but my pace buddy is off doing a marathon today. I was left to run all by myself, dodging bicyclists galore on the path. This normally means I run faster than I should.

I ran up to the reservoir and back, trying to take it nice and easy. It ended up being 8.3 K in exactly an hour. What was funny is that my legs didn't particularly feel like running. They felt heavy and a bit stiff, but chugged along at a pretty steady pace. Considering I was on the bike yesterday I'm pretty pleased. Here's the RunKeeper graph. The RunMeter one was pooched.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Unexpectedly, several things

Here I am, sitting outside, writing. No parka and stuff. Not shorts either, I admit, but it's high teens, sitting in the back of the house in the shade. Lovely.

Where to start with unexpectedly?

Writing. Some of you may remember last year I did NaNoWriMo, and succeeded in writing a "novel" in the month. Technically, it doesn't have to be a novel with a beginning, middle, and end, complete with real live characters, stunning exposition, and an arresting plot. It could be a shopping list, as long as it's 50,000 words. I validated "The Sweet Elixir" with 60some thousand words, and when I checked the other day it had grown to just over 110,000 words. There should be a sequel to it, but I'm not there yet.

I have been musing about what to do for this year's contest, and unexpectedly, ideas have been coming to me. There is one scene I have in my head, where Dwen has an unexpected conversation on the stairs at the very south end of new aeration. And another of her in a dire situation. So far so good.

The first book I ever wrote is called The Bone in the Digester. I stalled on it for many years because it couldn't decide if it was a love story, a mystery, a thriller, or what. In the end, well, the road to the ending took a hard right turn into sort of science fiction, and I had a great deal of fun with it. There is a solution to the mystery, and so far so good. Two solutions actually, and a twin's thing that I'm not sure is a digression, or a major plot point. Plus lots of other good stuff I liked in the detour, and so far so good there too.

But now that I've written that out, it's begging for it's own sequel, the one that ties that story to Elixir. I've begun to map it out, and the ideas are coming thick and fast. Good thing I've got Evernote on my phone.

The interesting thing for this one is to start telling the story for people that have not read Bone, and that's all of you. I need to introduce some characters, though if you've read Elixir you've met some of them already. This is part of the challenge of writing a sequel, to not bore the people who've read the one before it, and not leave new readers completely out to sea. One of the characters changes quite a lot between Bone and Elixir, so that will probably get worked in too. (Pauses to make a note.)

So I think what I'm going to do is back up a bit, to that right turn, and have another run at it. Maybe this is cheating for Nano, but it's not a rewrite, or a copy paste dump. Now that I know what that says, I want to try taking it in a slightly different direction and tell a different story, aiming to get to a particular result. This ought to be interesting.

So there may not be quite as many blog posts in November. But wait! Another unexpected thing. Last November had 19 posts, and that was not the fewest that year. Which is a bit of a surprise to me. I sort of don't remember doing so many blog posts. Some of them had snippets. Is this something you want to see, or don't want to see? Leave a comment and say so.

But this year 19 per month has been my average, and if this continues the rest of the year my output will be the lowest since I started my blog. Not that I'm trying to go for raw production, oh no! I aim to produce a high quality blog for my readers. Just don't panic if the posts are a bit more spaced out next month.

Remember, I have this big orange literary cat that wants to be involved in the writing. Very involved. Linda says he resents the laptop, and views it as a rival object, but I think it's just that he wants to help. I'm pretty sure that with his razor sharp kitty senses, he thinks he can flop on the keyboard in such a way as to press the various keys sequentially to produce the great cat novel of the century.

Then there was yet another unexpected thing today. It was not just nice out, it was nice enough for even a bike weenie like me to go for a bike ride. So nice I work shorts and a bike shirt, just like during summer. Sunscreen even!

While my legs have been feeling better, I'm acutely aware that they haven't been feeling the bike love the last while. My thinking was today to head out and see what they thought. I figured Road to Nepal might be overdoing it, so I was out 22X to city limits. Then as I was turning around, in a completely unplanned way I met up with my neighbour and one of his buddies. We chatted right back to the house, me playing with the bike draft for most of it, but I did a bit of pulling too.

It turned out to be an hour, and 25 K overall, almost exactly. I'm very pleased with that, and unexpectedly, my legs are pretty happy with it too. I can feel my right quad a bit, and my knee wasn't as fluid as I'd have liked, but this is all good. Normally by now the bike is on the trainer big time.

There was an unexpected thing at work too, in that the manager of our group resigned. I was really looking forward to be working with him. Sigh. And an unexpected SQL thing that would be much too boring to explain, if you don't already know SQL.

I've been having fun with the new iPhone. The camera is fantastic! I'm seriously thinking about getting one of the actual camera apps that gives more control over the settings. Do any of you have any recommendations there? I've even taken some video of Curtis, and some slow-mo. I can remember when slow-mo replays were an amazing thing on TV. (What's that you say? That I'm old enough to remember TV itself being amazing? Hush you.) So getting them on a phone is pretty amazing to me.

Some photos as a reward for making it through all the unexpectedness.

Who wants to meet up for this? Was thinking of doing breakfast, heading over to Glenbow, and then maybe doing lunch after. Probably not during November (because we're all writing, remember.)


Here she is, the hard snoozer in the sun.

Curtis, the gatekeeper of the kitchen.

I totally love this pose, how he hooks his paws over the front, and looks over his kingdom.

So for comments, please and thank you. November snippets in or out? And any iPhone camera app recommendations?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Short, intense: So not me, but

The weather here lately is just amazing! I am loving it.

Wednesday was another strong swim. 1 K, 19 minutes exactly, not even trying particularly hard. Some intervals after, and my swim ended early because they were swapping some lanes around. Very pleased.

Then tonight is another great evening for a run. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm trying to work on consistency, so out I went. The RunMeter graphs are way better on the new phone. I don't know if that's because the phone sensors are better, or the software is better or what. Although the very beginning of the elevation line isn't right, I was going uphill at first. Here's the graph.



For whatever reason I really felt like running fast once I got warmed up. Even at the fastest I didn't feel like I was running really hard. It still felt natural and I could have run at that pace for a little longer. Not much, but some.

In the end I decided that if was going to go faster, I'd better also stop sooner, and not over do it. I'm loving having happy legs and don't want to get them cranky again.

Right at this moment I'm struggling with a large orange literary cat. He is insisting on "helping". This is getting difficult. His grasp of grammar is very poor, and spelling isn't his strong suit either. Or working a keyboard, for that matter.


We all know I love reflection shots. I got this the other day just after arriving at work.





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Still in shorts, outside, running

Calgary has had a whole lot of snow already this winter, to the tune of a million dead trees. The pruning and removing branches is still going on, and will be until next year. We've had several nights of frost already.

And you know what I found while running today? Bugs. Swarms of little bugs. Annoying. But that's the only annoying thing about the run. It was a lovely evening, high teens or so with a light breeze. I headed out to run whatever my legs wanted to run. Most of the run was regular deep breathing but no gasping. For those that don't want to squint at the chart, just over 6K, 41:30 minutes, feeling great.

I'm not sure if I'm on a different version of RunMeter now, but this elevation line is much more believable. The app interface has changed a bit, and I'll need to see if there are any new options to play with.


On the way back in I grabbed a couple shots of the garden. There is still some colour there, mainly in a bright blue plant. No idea what it is, though Linda will know. These photos are completely unretouched.


Still domesticating the new phone. The ordinary ring (old phone) is a little tinnier than on the 4, and I'm not sure I've got notifications all worked out. I've got it all set up to work with my ear glasses, so I"m happy about that.

I found the burst mode in photos by accident, and holy cow does it ever capture a lot of photos in a second. I haven't played with the video yet.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An overdose of feeling thankful

What a wonderful long weekend!

During Ironman training they talk about rest days, and knowing when you need one. It's true. There's a difference between being tired, and carrying on with the workout. Then one day you'll wake up with a planned workout, and you know you aren't going to do it. No thinking involved, you just know. You go back to bed, and go back to sleep.

Saturday had been planned to be a quiet day, and I woke up with that feeling reinforced. I didn't do anything other than hang around the house, doing a bit of writing, and watching me some Kona Ironman video. It wasn't as much fun as it has been in the past. Every other word out of the announcer's mouth was a product or company endorsement. The leaderboard webpage was a complete and total failure. When I can't figure out how a web page works, the GUI is a failure, and no further discussion needed.

As far as I can see the only story of the day is that Mirinda Carfrae started the run 14:30 down on the leader, then proceeded to catch her on the way to a 2:50:xx marathon and a 9 hour total time. I watched her blow by Rachel Joyce (who turned in a completely respectable 3:06 run split) like she was an age grouper. That's yet another new course record. In case you were wondering, the actual fastest marathon by a woman is 2:15 or so. I can only wonder what Carfrae could run if she wasn't all tired out from a swim and bike first.

I felt sorry for Sister Madonna Buder. Tackling Kona at 84, then DNF on the bike because of a simple mistake. Sigh. I am in awe of her, tackling something that I would be reluctant to do just now. I just hope I'm still around and mobile at 84. Doing any triathlon at that age would be nice, let alone Ironman.

Sunday, oh Sunday. Another lovely run with my buddy. We ran up to the new bridge going in at Sandy Beach. It doesn't look like it will be much longer. Coming back we stopped to admire the mountains beyond Glenmore Reservoir. The vantage point just behind the hospital is wonderful. The mountains looked huge, and looked like they started just beyond the reservoir. I'm surprised there wasn't someone there with an easel painting. The temperature was perfect for running. We ran just over 10 k in about 1:15, with a short break at Sandy Beach. No selfies, no mountains pics. Sorry. We were too busy enjoying the run and the chat.

After having cranky legs on and off for much of the last two years it's been really nice to be feeling strong and stable while running. I've been gently stretching and starting to do some core again. Rather than build milage or speed, I'm just going to try to stay consistent running about 25 K a week for a while and see what happens.

The rest of the day was house stuff. Oh, and I got a new iPhone. I decided the time had come. Spent some time domesticating it, but have still been startled by some of the noises it makes. I still don't know why the FaceTime call today with my brother went to the desktop, and not any of the other devices that I thought were set up for that. Now I do. He called my email address, not the mobile number.

Sunday Linda's cousin and his wife were coming over for brunch. Before that I got into the pool for a great swim, with the pool almost all to myself. 1K 18:55! Some kick, and 5 x 50 on 60 seconds all but the last  under 50 seconds. (sorry about the hashtag glop. That's what I get for inserting the less than symbol.) People often talk about getting bored while swimming. I don't get it. I could have swum much longer, thinking planning thoughts for NaNoWriMo, and generally being happy about where I am these days.

I don't mean to suggest it's all rainbows and unicorns, but I really am happy these days, and thankful about life. While I'm still not in the shape I'd like to be, I can go for a nice run with buddies. Swooshing up and down the pool is all good. It even feels like the bike love is coming back, just in time for winter. The recent doctor's appointment didn't find any concerns, though the lab tests are still pending. My health generally feels excellent.

We are coming up on 30 years married. Jokes about it seeming like forever aside, it's been a fun ride. Well, maybe a few exceptions, but everybody that's married knows about that. So far we haven't planned anything special to celebrate, like a trip around the world on the Queen Mary II or anything. We will probably hang out at home and drink some wine. If you have some suggestions about what to do between those two extremes, I will read your comments with interest.

The work I'm doing is enjoyable for me (I completely understand that most people don't like writing SQL queries and playing with data, but I do) , and I like the people I'm working with. The company is going through some pains right now, but that's to be expected the way the world is. Companies that are not changing are about to go out of business.

In the bigger picture, I (and pretty well all the readers of my blog( and thank you for reading)) live in the safest and most secure societies humans have yet created. Yes shit happens, (and if we could cut down on the numbers of idiot drivers it would be much better!) but by and large we live pretty peaceful lives. We almost all have enough to eat. We might wish there was no need for food banks and such, but it wasn't so long ago that people could and did starve to death on the street.

And disease. Everybody is all freaked out about Ebola, and yes it's a horrible disease, but the odds of a North American getting it are trivial. Republican paranoia aside, there are no legions of Ebola carrying ISIS (or whatever it's calling itself now) fighters massing at the border to infect you all, or worse, threatening The American Way of Life. You've a better chance of hearing you've won the lottery while getting struck by lightning.

The people you should be worried about are those idiot anti-vaxxers. What they're doing is child abuse, and a menace to public health. Claiming a religious dispensation for vaccination is saying you're unfit to live in the modern world. People like that, and those that don't follow their doctor's instructions about completing a course of drug treatment are one of the reasons why we have the so-called super-bugs.

We know beyond any doubt that a reasonable diet, and a reasonable level of exercise will lead to a much happier, and prolonged life. But lots of people don't even do that, and we wonder why the hospitals are full. To me, it's a no brainer. Here's a little modest proposal. How be people that complete a half ironman or equivalent be charged only half the medical portion of their taxes for that calendar year?

I was pushed aside by a bossy cat as I started writing the blog. Celina hopped up and pushed me over to the side of the chair so she could snuggle in. She's still there several hours later, though I've got up to have some supper and change chairs.








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