Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Note to self, and to other guys

First of all, what about that sunset the other night! This is unretouched. You can hardly see the moon, but to my eyes it was huge.

Monday, swimming in the big pool! This is the first time swimming long course since I tweaked my stroke. I had no idea how that would turn out. I'm often about a minute slower per 1000 m in the 50 m pool. I didn't want to go all out or anything, just wanted to see where I was.

I was feeling a little clunky at first, but settled in, working on various parts of my stroke. It took about 700 m to feel warmed up. I ended up swimming the K in 19 minutes almost exactly, nice and relaxed. In the short course pool I'm 18:30 nice and relaxed for that distance. Make of it what you will.

5x 100 m on 2 minutes, all were done in about 100 to 102 seconds. Those felt pretty good. Cool down.

Tuesday I was feeling a bit of hip niggles throughout the day, but I still headed out for a short run. 3K 22 minutes. Started feeling clunky and out of breath. The clunk went away, mostly, but a 7:15 pace should be chatchatchat, and it wasn't. I wasn't gasping, but I was breathing harder than I should. Good walk and stretch after.

The note to self comes in while getting ready. I was putting on a pair of tights, ones I hadn't worn since last fall at least, and maybe even last spring some time.

These are the only tights I own where the cord is actually a loop. They came that way. At first I thought it was a great idea. I've had to go digging into the waistband to retrieve a cord that disappeared. Tonight I revised that opinion. The tights are a bit small, and I was yanking up firmly. I failed to consider exactly where the loop was during the firm yanking process. Let's just say I'm glad some nerve circuits are still working and leave it at that, shall we?

A couple more photos for you, just because. Anybody want to guess what this is?

I took this on a whim, to show a buddy what sunglasses that fit over prescription lenses look like. She was very complimentary. A buddy at work said I had to put it on my blog. The things I do for my readers.

Re-wrote the first chapter of Bone, based on a chunk I had set aside. It doesn't have quite the same creepy atmosphere of the current opening, but it introduces the main character right off, and sets the stage for her better than the current opening.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Battery recharging

No, not NiCad. Or even Li-Ion ones, though that is a regular thing here.

This is Keith batteries getting recharged. We slept in Saturday, and it was wonderful. That doesn't happen to me much. Normally I don't sleep well, so when I'm awake I get up and do something. Stabilized the Riesling wine. It's going to be a beautiful light straw colour. I had a nice stretching session in the evening, but no thunks.

After a slow start we ended up at a budget round table hosted by our provincial MLA. Wait! Don't go! This is important!

I was a bit impressed by Dave Rodney. He actually kept pretty good control of the meeting, and while moving things along, actively looked for people that hadn't spoken yet. He kept asking for the specific things the government should do, and there was no shortage of advice.

There were about 3 dozen people there, most of them our age or older than us, but a few younger, which was really nice to see. I have no idea exactly what is going to happen to the questionnaire we filled out. Only 3 dozen responses isn't exactly a statistical universe, so they could probably cherry pick any results they wanted.

Some of the comments were foolish. One guy wanted to lay off provincial workers till the budget balanced. I guess he figures he doesn't need health care, or has no children that go to school. One guy was totally on about gays getting more rights than the rest of us. Rodney sidestepped that one a bit clumsily, but did it. I don't know where he stands, but his point was that people were here to talk about the budget. There were lots of angst about raising taxes, but then when he turned it around and asked which services get cut, people were all over the map.

Some of it was cut civil service pay. They couldn't think of any reason why Alberta should be paying the highest rates for such people, but the 800 pound gorilla is the oil and gas industry. They can, and do pay well for their people, and that drives up other costs. We fortunately didn't hear the phrase "gold plated pensions". What these people are not considering is that almost all the money paid to the civil service gets circulated back into the economy, and that's a good thing.

I'm pretty sure I heard the phrase "respect the existing union contracts" and that's a good thing. Bargaining hard for the next one is fine, but keep in mind there are a ton of people on the verge of retiring. Push them too hard, and they'll go. Then who takes care of you when you have to go to the hospital?

Supposedly there is no thought of a provincial sales tax, which is dumb. The no thought part, not the sales tax. I'd happily trade the Alberta income tax away in exchange for a sales tax. Why? I don't buy much stuff. A sales tax is not regressive, like the current flat Alberta provincial tax.

But let's take it at face value. On the income side, here's my suggestions:

  • Sales tax in place of income tax.
  • Get together with the other oil and gas provinces to coordinate royalties, and raise them. The oil and gas companies are getting the raw materials at a bargain basement price. There aren't that many other places to go, and they're all more expensive. Put the royalties on a sliding scale related to the world price of oil.
  • Health care user fees, tied into the tax system so that low income people get it rebated. Everybody should get a statement of how much their health care costs each year, with a note about the average, mean, mode, and peak costs.
  • Raise corporate taxes. There's room to go up, and still be the lowest in Canada. What's more, make the big companies pay more, so it's a progressive tax.
  • Double cigarette taxes, or more. Earmark some of those funds to preventing people from starting in the first place. The rest to health care. Increase booze taxes, but not so much. People can't grow tobacco in their back yards here, but they can make booze in their bathtubs.
  • Raise gas taxes.
  • Borrow money if required. It's cheap now, and will be for a while yet. Require paying it off early when oil prices go back up.
On the cost cutting side:
  • Health care is the single biggest driver of the budget. When you think of it, nearly everything can be marked up as an improvement to the health of Albertans. The big way to cut costs is to stop people from getting sick. I'd love to see tax incentives for people to be healthier. 
  • Injuries and deaths from auto collisions (driver incompetence) are a huge burden on the health care system. Invest in driver training simulators, similar to how airline pilots train. Everybody goes through them every time their license is renewed. Standard and objective testing standards will weed out the testosterone fueled teenagers and the seniors who can't cope anymore. Anybody that is in a collision goes through retraining before they can drive again.
  • Rather than trying to manage all the hospitals as if they were one facility with one set of spending controls, set up hospitals as individual units. Let them experiment with ways to improve service and cut costs. Share best practices. People can understand one hospital, where a province wide system is incomprehensible. 
  • Promote the use of bonds for capital investment. The long desired cancer hospital and the SW Calgary ring road are examples of billion dollar infrastructure that will be there for generations. Encouraging people to buy bonds that are paid back at reasonable rates over a long period is one way to spread out the cost of funding these. Especially if people could put such bonds in their RSP or TFSA.
  • The most vulnerable people in our society cost huge dollars in emergency services. Find the people that cost the system the most, and solve their problems. Don't manage, solve. Build or convert a residential building for the highest cost users. There is evidence that giving them an apartment helps build the stability that keeps them out of the emergency services system. The apartment and a social worker are much cheaper than the hospital emergency room.
  • Stop funding the post secondary institutions. Fund the people that want post secondary education, instead. Let them figure out where they will get the most bang for their buck and have institutions compete for those dollars. What the province gives to them for education gets paid back over time through the tax system. The current institutions are white elephants. Use internet technology to share knowledge.
  • Yank out the VLT's. They are a bad deal. Yes, the government gets a cut, but the social costs are far higher.

Sunday was a sleep in day, and once it warmed up a bit I was out for a run. Lovely. 8K in an hour, legs feeling pretty good. Perfect weather for a winter run. Hanging out and cuddling cats is the rest of the day.

Oh, and The Bone in the Digester. I was going over some material I'd deleted, and thinking about new ways of organizing the book. I had an idea. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A good bad movie

It's been a heck of a work week. Way too many hours. Probably the most stressful deadline week on this job. My poor boss. I'm reasonably certain we saved her from being fired. That's what work is these days, right? Working like a dog, stressing over an artificial deadline that you had no input or control over.

I could explain the structural details of the Maximo database that were the real hurdle for us, but I won't. You can thank me later with dark chocolate.

When I got home Thursday night after the longest work day in several years, I was in no mood. I poured a big glass of wine, got some cheese and crackers, and settled in for a good bad movie. There are times when that's exactly what you need, and the one Linda picked out was perfect.

Sharknado. Need I say more?

We happily chortled our way through it and I was feeling much better when it was over. Bedtime right after, sleeping like a log.

The plan was to go for a swim on Friday, but I didn't. For the first time in a long time I didn't want to. I rolled over and slept in a bit more.

Now I'm home again, sipping wine, writing this blog. There will be a bit more wine, and I'll sleep in tomorrow. There is wine stuff to do. I'm sure I'll be busy, but I hope not too busy.

Curtis has done something to his left paw, and is favoring it. But he wouldn't limp for the vet, so he asked for some video footage. Given people love photos of him, you ought to be falling all over yourselves to watch a short video of him. I confidently expect there to be a zillion views by morning.

You can totally understand how well he blends into the floor, and how he's nearly been stepped on a few times. Not that the cat judge will believe it.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We touched the bridge

Tuesday, swim. 1K warmup, feeling clunky, 18:35. 10x50 aiming for 45 seconds on 1 minute, getting 45 at first but most were bang on 47 seconds. Those started feeling pretty good.

Really pleased at no hip crankiness. Got a nice meaty slow thunk in my back while doing some core.

Wed, run. Again, yes, I know! I'm so pleased. Michelle tried to talk me into running from work. Just as well I didn't have my gear with me. After work we ran from my place down into Fish Creek, touched the first bridge, and ran back. Nice and easy, chatchatchat. She ran on to her house and picked up her stuff later. The sunset on the way back was stunning! If we'd been a few minutes later I'd have had to stop for some photos. This is after the main show as I was getting home.

Our pace was a bit slower than usual, but that's ok. It was so nice to be out running again. No niggles, no breathing hard except maybe a little up the hill out of Fish Creek. That's the first time down there since about October.

Still no runner's high, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was musing that at my age it's nice to be able to go for a run. Lately I've read in the news of people my age or younger dying, and that's a sad thing. I'm sure eventually I'll be decrepit, but I want to put that off. I'm positive that if I hadn't started getting active a decade ago, I might or might not be having muscle aches and pains, but I'd almost certainly have diabetes or some form of heart disease. I think I made a good choice there. Here's the splits.

There was a moment on Twitter this morning for me. I've been shoveling through a mound of crap data that has to be sifted very carefully. Just at the end of the day I realized I might have goofed on something, and need to check. Fortunately there was a fire alarm so I didn't have to. It will still be there tomorrow, but I can get a cup of heavy duty coffee to fuel me up. Not hard, just tricky, like so much else I deal with.

Anyway, to save you squinting at the photo, it says "We all want to be data driven, But you know, sometimes the data has had more than a few drinks and really shouldn't be driving." My coworkers love it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The old future

Once upon a time Star Trek was the most amazing thing on TV. I'm talking way back in the day, the one with Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelly. The Enterprise went between the stars at many times the speed of light. There were sensors, tractor beams, phasers, photon torpedoes, and many other staples of science fiction. While never a Trekker, I always looked forward to getting home from school to watch it on a black and white set. There were some spin off books I read and liked.

I watched the first episode of TNG, and wasn't impressed. I'd drifted away from the science fiction community by then and was busy with other stuff. The movies came along at some point, but after I fell asleep during the first one (so disappointed!) I didn't pay much attention. Well, there was the whales one, it was ok at best. There were other spin offs, and I passed over them too, though I did see a bit of Voyager while on vacation. It didn't give me any desire to get the DVD's and work through it. I don't think I'd recognize Deep Space Nine if I saw it without the opening credits.

We were in the library the other day looking through their selection. Let's just say it's eclectic and move on. I found these. (detour because, of course per Saturday's rant, the photos are not on this laptop. Grrr.)

I picked them up without hesitation. It was great watching in colour. In a kind of horrified way I enjoyed watching Kirk strut about. What little we could see of the corridor design made much more sense than the starship in SG-1. But I couldn't get over the buttons! Buttons everywhere! Mechanical buttons that clicked! I'd forgotten how often the control panels blew up, implying the designers had forgotten about fuses. The sliding doors were so cool, and now every supermarket has ones that work better. Why would you only have one way on or off the bridge? And those communicators (A Piece of the Action) looked clunky even in comparison to the rest of the tech around them.

Aside from a warp drive that we don't know how to build, we could make a much more modern looking starship now. There are a bunch of places where the story goes clunk, but part of that is TV show conventions from then. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, drinking wine, inhaling most of a large pizza, and binge watching a show from my childhood.

One of the reasons I was so hungry was being in the water for almost a couple of hours, mainly doing drill. The fun part was watching Michelle put together her best swim to date. For the last part we worked getting her to bend her elbows as she swims. She is looking more and more like a swimmer every time.

Monday was a sleepy day to start, which is really nice. Eventually I was inspired to run by the enthusiasm of the cats.

It turned out I guessed right about what to wear for the run. This is a complicated issue here, sometimes. Tights, jacket, gloves, cap and glad of it. There was a stiff wind out on the bike path. I wasn't sure what to expect, but 5K in 36 minutes totally exceeded my expectations. My feet felt light for almost all of it, though oddly enough I wasn't feeling really strong. I chugged along and throughly enjoyed it. There was the slightest niggle in my right hip, but barely noticeable.

When I was running regularly, this would be a so-so run, not too far, not too fast. But in the context of not running regularly since mid-Novemember, I'm really happy with this one. So nice to be out and feeling pretty good. Let's see if my hip is cranky with me in the morning. Here's the run splits. Considering I wasn't trying to run fast at all, this is good. My breathing was just slightly beyond chat chat pace. I'll have to see if my run buddy will put up with me some more, to keep me honest about pace.

The rest of the day was enjoying an extra day off, and puttering with reorganizing The Bone in the Digester. I thought I had a grip on what needed to be done, but I didn't. I have struggled with this one right from the beginning. Elixer is straightforward, though a couple readers have said there's lots to keep track of. There's a few little bits to add here and there. Bone to Elixir is still very raw, with some scenes I'm not so sure about. It's a bit tricky since it starts where Bone leaves off, and I don't have Bone nailed down yet. It's also the most science fiction-y of the 3, and will be the jumping off point for an entire series, if I get up the energy and imagination.

I think I need to go back to pen and paper and sketch out the story for Bone. I know who dunnit, and how, even why, so it ought to be easy, right? Not so much. Then again, I've been working on this a couple decades, what's a few years more?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Organoleptic again, with an e-rant

A little while ago our book club read The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. It was delightful. Last night, completely by accident, we discovered it had been made into a movie. Even better, the move is equally delightful. If you haven't read or watched, do so. Both. Thank me later.

One of the fun things about making wine is the process. It's generally the same for all kits, though there are subtle differences. They would have you believe that you have to follow the instructions exactly to get drinkable wine, and their process is specially tuned to that exact kind of wine. As if.

Consider it as an overall process. Each kit starts with grape juice, some bentonite, and yeast. Later on there are some agents to help settle and stabilize the wine. Some kits have oak dust, oak chips, special yeast nutrient (that I suspect is sugar), whole or crushed raisins, or wine sweeteners or finishers. How much different can the process be? As long as everything gets added in the right order, about the right time, it will all work out. Give the wine time to do it's thing, keep your equipment clean, and all will be well.

Today is the day to transfer a Meglioli Nebbiolo kit from the primary to the carboy. Their kits have all sorts of extra instructions, and I find they are poorly written. Most kit instruction are very clear.

The extra in this case was some dried raisins added at the start. They should be crushed and the juice added back to the wine. This adds to the oranoleptic qualities of the wine. It says so right there in the instructions.

The first few times doing that, many years ago, were a little fraught as I was trying to figure out the best way. Today that all went smoothly. The Brunello started the degassing process. As always, using the right tool makes the job so much easier.

Putting the chuck in the drill itself is a little trick I learned years ago. I once spent the better part of a weekend looking for a chuck, when I knew perfectly well I had three. Somehow three, in spite of only owning one drill.

It's nice out and my hips are feeling pretty good, so I tried a run. That was just over 2 K, feeling heavy all the way. Nothing actually hurt, but it was work. More work than I like, so I called it off. Walked and stretched after, no big clicks.

Settling in for a quiet afternoon puttering about.

Back again after a very frustrating event. I had promised Gerald I'd send him some photos we have of Bernard. They are in my iPhoto. I'd flagged them so they were handy. This was on my laptop. First surprise is that they are not flagged on my desktop where there is email. Second surprise was that I couldn't deal with them as a folder. I didn't like any of their sharing options. After a bunch of floundering around I managed to get a folder of photos on my laptop desktop. From there, eventually after more floundering, onto dropbox. This was all a lot harder than it needed to be. From there I made it public and sent a link. Even that was hard. I had to copy the link to another app, so that I could open another browser window to get at Twitter. At some point we will find out if that actually worked. If I must, now I can email them one at a time. I think. I hope.

I can see why people get so frustrated with computers and related technology. I'd just assumed that iPhoto kept my laptop and desktop folders synchronized along with the photos themselves. Now I need to go and see what organization has been done in various places. I've been meaning to get Photosweeper and do a major clean up on iPhoto, and make sure, again, the photos are backed up in a normal folder.

The problem is that there is a new photo app coming, and I'm terrified. I barely understand iPhoto some days, and this is all cloud related, which I most emphatically do NOT want. I do not want my photos in the cloud. I do not want to be shelling out a few dollars a month for all eternity to keep my photos, and paying cellular rates every time I want to look at one when I'm away from home. I want them on a hard drive I own. Call me old fashioned if you must.

Back in the day when you had to plug in your phone or camera, and iPhoto transferred things, I understood what was going on. Mostly. Things went where they were supposed to go. Mostly. Every month or so I'd plug into the computer and update things. Life was good. Mostly. The advantage was that you knew when it wasn't. Now we walk along, our head in the iCloud, never knowing when we will bump into something, or what to do about it when it happens.

Now, there are days I seriously contemplate life without the whole digital thing. I have to forcibly prevent my devices from updating themselves. My laptop nags me, and it doesn't seem to understand that I LIKE IT THE WAY IT IS NOW!!! I don't want it to change. Change means getting a new, abominable version of iPhoto. Change means having to learn new ways of operating programs or apps, when I've barely mastered the old ways.

I now have zero patience with apps. If they don't work, or I think the interface is stupid, I delete it. I used to like Evernote. The idea is brilliant. The problem is they keep changing it. Every time I want to use it, I have to figure out the interface again, and it isn't easier, it's harder. I haven't deleted it yet, but I've come close.

Back to photos and iPhoto. I take pictures on my iPhone 6. Linda occasionally tries to take photos on the old 4, and adventures happen. Rarely, I take pictures with the iPad, but I will occasionally dress up photos using Snapseed on the iPad. The saved photos go into the camera roll, and are supposed to go into my photo stream. Mostly they do, except for the one that I want to use in my blog, which I write on my laptop. Then I'm trying to force it to update. Or I'll save the blog, check the desktop, if Linda's not on it, see that the photo I want is there, and finish the blog. Such a pain the behind. The only way I know of to force photo stream to update is to turn it off, then turn it back on again, and wait while it refreshes the last 1000 photos, or whatever it does. I will admit to not fully understanding it.

One of the things that bugs me is that the file numbers are starting to overlap. Why can't we tell our devices to use a particular numbering system for photos? A file name like KCIP6_20150205_0001.jpg is perfectly nice but there are others. It should be a configurable setting.

Once upon a time I could pick something up and know how to use it in a few seconds of playing with it. That time is long past. I once stared in baffled anger at an "updated" phone bill I could no longer understand. They had stopped listing the date, time, phone number, and cost of each call. There are days I love and loathe my various electronic devices. I have much more sympathy with people who ask their children or grandchildren to explain "the google" once more.

Don't even get me started on damnyouautocorrect. Just don't.

I know you've had e-adventures, and probably recently. Feel free to vent in comments.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

54:45 but no fight. how to swim

This isn't a history lesson, and even if I'd been 5 seconds faster there still wouldn't be a history lesson. I see some blank looks. Google is your friend.

I'm on about swimming again today. Roll your eyes, I don't care. I'm a very happy puppy. The other day I did the fastest K in many many years. During yoga class I was thinking about that and what it meant for my longer swims. I was doing math in my head and ended up with this.

An 18:30 K was a fast swim a short while ago, but I was thinking I should try to maintain that pace. I've been wanting to get in a 3 K swim for a while, but it hasn't worked out for one reason or another. Here's how it turned out.

Distance Planned Actual 100 M pace
1K 18:30 18:25 01:50.50
2K 37 37:05 01:51.50
3K 54:30 54:45 01:51.50

So I'd say that was pretty consistent, though at the beginning of the 3rd K I blew a couple of flip turns and had a couple of poor laps. I lost my concentration doing some mental math about timing. Note to self.

What made the difference is keeping my elbows high and recovering with my thumb close to my ears. I tried to keep the kick a little stronger, which helps my body position in the water, which is the main reason I'm going faster with less effort.

And make no mistake, this was the least effortful swim in a long time. I was relaxed, barely breathing hard for most of it. The third K I worked it a bit to make up for the time I lost, but I was never even close to being short of breath. Most of the time I was gliding along, passing the people in the lanes beside me that were working much harder.

My hands were on top of their game, getting a good catch. My roll was coordinated with the pull in a way that I don't often have happen. I could feel my shoulders working in a way I hadn't noticed before, helping me stretch out before the catch. The only thing I missed was that I didn't count strokes at all, so I have no idea about that. I didn't have to worry about anybody else in the lane. This was short course, and it seemed like I was doing a flip turn all the time. It would be fun to try this in the long course pool.

Best of all, I didn't have to stop at 3 K. I could have kept going, but I thought this was a big enough step for one day. Plus, there is this day job thing. They don't really care when I get there, but I have lots of work to do, and a deadline next week. A lot of people are going to be looking at my results.

I can hear you asking, so how do I do this? Easy. Swim lots, thinking about every stroke, trying to make it perfect. Time every lap. Some swims are relaxed and longer. Others are shorter and faster. I think the CSS thing helped. Get a video of your stroke and someone that knows their stuff to critique it. Then apply what they say. Think about the water feel. Look at the bottom of the pool. Relax. Commune with your inner shark or dolphin. The water wants to be your friend.


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