Saturday, November 28, 2015

PCC- the first attack

The first of many, I think.

Pre-Christmas Crankies. I get them. Maybe you do too. There we were, driving to work much later than usual on Friday. Linda had an appointment in the building next to my office for 9:30. I am carrying a small surplus of hours this month, so I wasn't in a hurry to get into the office. Therefore we were going past Chinook mall at 8:45. Northbound on McLeod trail, in the left lane because I know I'll be making a left eventually.

Well, no, not quite. The left turn lane into Chinook is backed up and spills over into the left through lane. I eventually get out and around the backlog of cars, marveling at all the space between the cars in the turn lane. Drivers oblivious to their surroundings, focussed only on impending shopping delights, though only I figured that out later. I noted crappy parking already taking place, bad enough I could see it from the road, while driving. Sigh.

In the office, a couple people were planning some shopping. As near as I could tell, this wasn't anything they actually needed, it was more like a smash and grab raid merged with a free the hostages objective. If they planned their work that well, nothing would ever go wrong.

As most of you know, I and my current boss and a very few others are the only survivors of The Great 5th Floor Massacre of last September. After work yesterday some of those people met up in a bar. My entire old team, as constituted at the time of the aforesaid massacre, showed up. It was lovely to see them all and get caught up. I text with a few of them, but had lost touch with the rest. Of the 7 of us, the score is 3, 3, 1. Three are working, Dan, Meby, Patricia. Three are not yet, Debbi, Dahlia, Richard. And me, still there.

My best remark of the night. My one colleague has a 2 or 3 year old son. Another has a pair of late teen daughters. One of the daughters was babysitting the son at a nearby mall. They'd sort of arranged a 7pm end time. At 7:30 the daughter plaintively texts, and asks what's happening. I almost got the phone in time, and said while they were replying, "Tell her to sell the kid, take the money and run, two happy sets of parents result." The daughter's father laughed out loud. The son's mother was saying "Wait, she can't do that!" My response? "Black Friday, people will buy anything."

And so they will. I don't get it. I've only lined up for a sale once, and we saved $3000 on a plasma TV, way back in the day when such things were still fairly rare, and the "standard" 42 inch screen retailed for about $8000. Yes, I know. Times have changed.

Generally if I actually need something, I'll figure out where to get it, and pick it up at some convenient time, or have it shipped. I do try to find local suppliers, and pick up in person when I can. My thinking is that money spent locally is more likely to stay local, or at least some of it is. Plus the local shops are employing people in my community, which is a good thing.

I've been buying stuff in Calgary on and off now for 35 years, and some days I think every damn thing is still in this house, breeding more stuff. Outside of consumables like groceries, there isn't much I actually need to buy these days. There are wants, though, and boy do the advertisers push those wants!

The consumer debt numbers are frightening. I'm appalled by people making quite good money, even by oil patch standards, that have to visit the food bank within a month of being laid off. Does nobody save money any more? Does nobody else realize Calgary has a very cyclical economy, and if you want to get through the bust times, you have to plan for it during the boom? There used to be a bumper sticker, "Please God, let there be another oil boom, I promise not to piss it all away this time." Well, I've seen several of these booms come and go, and people are still pissing it away.

One guy, laid off in September, is waiting till January to put in his EI claim. He was well paid enough that some of it would be clawed back if he took it the same year of earning salary. His thinking is to take the 8 months of EI, not working next year or at least not for a salary, then line up work for 2017. He was mentioning complicated calculations about RSP withdrawls, taking some tax losses and rebalancing his investment portfolio. At least he has money to play with, for now. 2017 will come quick. He did mention he had very little cash to carry around from now till the new year, and had to be careful of what he spent.

Back to the bar last night. For a city where at least 18,000 people have been laid off recently, the bar was so full we couldn't reserve a table in advance. We had to scrounge, and promise not to stay past 8 pm. The place was full, and the wait staff run off their feet. We shut it down about 8pm, as the bar was picking up steam. People were hovering to snap up our tables. I did not have to invoke my iron-clad leaving the bar rule.

I only had two very tasty beers, and was home about the time I normally go to bed. The transit system was fairly quiet, only one somewhat obnoxious drunk. Still, at Chinook our fairly empty train car was invaded by dozens of people. Suddenly the car was rush hour full. All happily chatting to each other in not-English. There's probably a story there, but I don't know it.

Then I got caught up with Linda's adventures in traffic as well. No damage, but a lot of frazzling. She bailed on some of her planned destinations because the traffic was so crappy.

The consequence of the beers is that I didn't plank last night. Technically I've broken my streak. But I'm planning to plank this morning in conjunction with morning workout. I'm still dithering between a spin or a run. It's nice out. Then later this evening, I'll do another plank. So I'll have to be careful, saying "averaging a plank a day", to be correct.

I'm trying not to be maudlin about this year. There's still a month to go after all. But Christmas. Ho Hum. I'm not quite to Bah, Humbug yet, but I'm working on it. I'll probably get there in time. These photos make me feel better. How could it not? Curtis is so regal in the morning sun, and it's cute how their tails had all twined together as Celina snoozed hard.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The unmentioned tusk

For the last little while I've been growing a tusk. My doctor said it was nearly exactly the material our fingernails are made of, and it was on my nose, so tusk is reasonably correct. It started growing quite suddenly. At first I thought it was a scab from scraping my nose somehow, then it kept growing.

At my annual physical I mentioned it, of course, and he said it was easy to deal with, and likely not a big deal. Today was the day for removal. A needle, a knife, and a bit of gauze later it was all over but the analysis. He doesn't think it's anything untoward, but wants to be sure.

Which led to this exchange.

So there it was on my nose, for several months. Not one person mentioned it to me. I figure there are two possible explanations:
  • They noticed, and were too polite to say anything, for fear I would burst out with intimate details of my peculiar backwards nose leprosy.
  • They didn't notice. 
I'm not sure which explanation I prefer.

(There was a long bit here where I segued from the not noticing, to the technical shortcomings of our vision, to the handicaps our thinking places on our vision, to the current refugee issues. But it all got out of control and I don't think it made much sense, so I cut it out.)

(Then there was a segue into this being the most recent example of my body breaking down, to organizational breakdowns in the Alberta economy, and federal transitions of power, which tied back to the first one, on seeing the problems clearly, and dealing with them as such. But that got out of hand as well, so I cut it out. This could well be the longest blog I didn't actually publish. Now that I think of it, maybe I should have saved it as a draft. Oh well.)

In other news, the plank streak is still alive, but I've been a slacker otherwise. Yoga was more like a pilates session. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

I did four

Sunday started with a swim. Well, no, it started with this, trying to persuade Curtis to let me have my flip flops.

1K 19 minutes, nothing special, but feeling better. I tried the center line snorkel I bought, and that was interesting. Trying to sort out just enough roll for the stroke, but not to breathe was a bit of a change. Totally different feel pushing off the wall. 3x100 on 2 and ran out of mojo.

Water ran with Katie after, with Mr Splash beside us. Only at the end did she realize that he had been splashing her towel with every splashy flip turn. She is such a temptress, trying to talk me into all sorts of things that she says will be good for me.

Then the hardest spin in a while. On the bike 1.25 hrs, with 10 minutes at 200 watts, feeling pretty good. Then some short (very short!) very high watt intervals. This got me all sweaty, which got Celina all excited. Nothing like a good spin workout to get all sweaty. I'm feeling really good about the bike just now, settling into longer workouts as my butt gets toughened up.

Planked during the stretch session. I got all full of hubris and decided to try pushups. I can't remember the last time I did any, it was such a long time ago. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured since the planking had gone much better than I expected, I thought maybe that would be true for the pushups. Not so you'd notice. I was hoping for 8 or 10, and I did 4. Only 4. Captured by weenie-ness again.

Slept like crap. Curtis was singing the song of his people at top volume, and flinging himself against the door. I was expecting the neighbours to be banging on the door wondering what on earth we were doing to the cat.

Barely got out of bed and off to work. Dragged my butt all day, till I got home. Since it hadn't snowed, my legs felt like running. 5 K, 36 minutes, nice and easy and relaxing. The last K felt a bit harder than the rest, but it's uphill all the way. In fact it was just a little bit slower. I got nearly run over only once, even though I was wearing my reflective vest, so that was pretty good. I'm not really used to it getting dark so early, so quickly, and I think the same is true of other people. I see lots of people driving around with just the daytime running lights on.

Stretched, and kept the plank streak alive. 90 seconds. I'll give it another week, and maybe try the push ups again. Maybe.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

It seemed so simple then, and UTOASN

The good news, the plank streak is continuing. 1:45 yesterday. Shorter today, but still over a minute, starting on some of the variations. Wouldn't want to get bored, of course.

The news I thought would be bad, turned out to be good, Friday early afternoon, was that my boss's boss walked into my office, shut the door, and asked if I had a minute. Whoops! For a moment I thought my time had come. Then it turns out his status had changed from transitioning out of the organization, to accepting an offer to stay in. He and my boss will be sorting out their roles and responsibilities. In other news, things go on as they are, till they change.

The ugly news is the traffic last night. I bailed out of work, thinking I would head over to Strides to buy another pair of the running shoes I have now. I like them, and I anticipate doing some indoor running this winter. Part way there I heard about a collision (a demonstration of driver incompetence, as I like to say) on Glenmore near 14th St.

No problem, I figured I would sneak out 38th and down Sifton. They didn't have the shoes, but called the other store, and they agreed to hold them for me. By the time I got out of the store the traffic was backed up everywhere, including the streets I was going to use to sneak out. Gridlock everywhere.

Eventually I got over to the aquatic store, with Siri trying to get me lost along the way. (Did I buy a skimpy Speedo swimsuit?) I bought a few more swim toys, and had a nice chat with the staff. Then I heard traffic had been closed northbound on Crowchild, and they were dumping traffic onto 33rd. Glad I wasn't there.

The sunset was beautiful, and I picked up the other shoes no problem. I was wondering how I could not know there was a Strides on Canyon Meadows, but they've only been open 6 months or so. Whew! I'm going to put an old set of white laces into those shoes so I can tell which are the indoor, and which are the outdoor. White, you know, purity?

I'm just dying to go for a run inside at Talisman. I will turn on iSmoothRun, of course, and I will post the map. That should be cool.

Michelle and I ran along the ridge with a beautiful unexpected view of the mountains. 8 K in a little over an hour, nice and easy, chatchatchat, stopping at turnaround to arrange coffee. We met up with Sue and Kevin and had a wonderful chat.

While running and chatting I was thinking about the unhappy state of the world in many ways, and how good we have it here and now. I'd seen a video about Syria, how it started with protests, then a civil war, then it got worse. Then worse again as more players joined the confusion.

Back in the day, such as what we call World War II (The winners of the war call it The Great Patriotic War), there was a limited number of enemies, with clearly defined borders and combatants (essentially everybody on the other side of the border, but still, that's clear). How nice it must be to have that clarity. Syria, and all the associated issues is such a mess it's hard to know where to begin to start making it better. So far, dropping bombs has not noticeably made things better, so maybe we should stop doing that.

But where I'm going with this is data. I'm a data driven kind of guy. To solve or mitigate the many very complicated problems facing us, we need all the data we can get. We need to massage it into information to build practical policies. We need to track outcomes, and build feedback loops so that we know what works and doesn't, and when to start changing what we're doing.

Just one of the problems is the faith based idiots mucking up the works. They believe the "End Times" are here, and there is no need to think about a future. They appear to believe their mission is helping to mess things up so their prophecy is fulfilled, and the Rapture happens, or Jesus returns, or something. Maybe it's aliens coming to take them away, and I could cheer for that one.

Faith is the opposite of data and information. Faith is creating problems, and doing nothing to help them get better. An example? Sure. Two of them. Christianity is rich in prophecy about the return of Jesus, starting from a few days after he died about 2000 years ago. Every few years someone rears up on their hind legs and says the date is x, usually a short time ahead. (send money, they say.) It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it's ever going to happen. Deal with it. Let us deal with problems rationally.

The other is this peace on earth thing. If there is one thing all faiths have in common, it's that they pray for peace on earth. This time of year particularly you hear a lot of that. Now, look around. Do you see peace on earth? Locally yes. Not so much elsewhere. Why would that be? Here, we have good government, with a stable society governed by laws and mostly honest politicians. Even Harper, an extremist by Canadian standards, was honest, pragmatic, and fairly successful by world standards.

What else? A system of courts and mostly honest hard working police. Corporations working in a stable framework of laws that make it harder to engage in a race for the bottom in an orgy of corporate greed. A lack of gun toting nuts that think they are the "good guy". A medical system that helps cure or mitigate many conditions that used to be the scourge of humanity, and still are where such a system can't operate, or the anti-vaccine idiots are left to run free. Why is there less peace elsewhere? I'd submit for discussion that there is too much faith.

Canada used to have a civil service that was the envy of the world. In a relatively non-partisan way it provided data to the government of the day, and we've built ourselves a pretty good world. The key is data, and people that can organize and make sense of ever more complex data. It isn't just storing it in databases, or even spitting out the canned reports. No, we need people that can think about the various reams of data, and organize it in different ways to make sense of it for various issues. Then we need politicians to act on that, changing public policy to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

So, a fairly simple thing, in the great scheme of things. Bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the dead of winter. I cry "Shame on you! to the people that say we should close our doors out of fear. Even what little I've read of the refugee vetting process as it is now, seems cumbersome and slow, and some people want to make it even harder. Let's get a grip, people. If someone wants to come to Canada and do bad things, it's easy enough to do. Emulating a refugee is making the problem far more difficult, from a bad guy perspective.

Now lets get complicated. Climate change. Holy doodle, the issues never stop! Here in Alberta we get most of our electricity from burning coal. That's horrible stuff, even with the best scrubbing technologies we want to afford. You still have to deal with the ash. Ok, so how do we stop burning coal? Even retrofitting the plants to natural gas, which is tres cheap right now, isn't easy, and we're still burning a fossil fuel, albeit a cleaner one.

One of the concerns is an economic one. How do we account for the sunk costs of building and operating those plants? They were built according to the regulations of the day, and have been periodically updated as the regulations have changed, but these things can't happen overnight. But how much time do you allow? If you regulate the industry out of business, how do you compensate the people that invested in what was a legal enterprise?

Then we get into renewable energy, the whole wind and solar thing, and perhaps others. I disagree with the people that say it isn't economic now, therefore it will never be economic. I disagree with those who say that we can't do it because the wind doesn't blow every day, or the sun is behind clouds, and that will shut off all the lights. Bah! There are technologies of power storage, and that industry is advancing in leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so.

There are lots of moving parts here, and we need to let the smart people work on it. I've read that half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive now. Let's give them the data. Let's let people fold, spindle, and arrange the data. Let's look at the facts that emerge, and act on them. Enough of making things up, or pretending they are the way you want them to be. Enough of letting corporations manipulate affairs so they continue to make a profit, just because they have been. Let's grow up and deal with the world as it is.

Oh, and UTOASN?
Runners will know this. I had a lovely run, but there was a minor distraction, what with the impact running has on the guts. As soon as I got home, I had to deal with an Urgent Task of a Solitary Nature. At least this is a simple task, free of complexities here. In other parts of the world, it is much more difficult, and dealing with the corresponding flows from many people is an urgent and ongoing problem. We know how to solve it, yet can't seem to.

Let's get that sorted out, so we stop that source of pollution. That gets us into supplying everybody with clean drinking water, which will cut down on disease. This should give us lots of experience solving problems of moderate complexity and build confidence in dealing with more complex problems. Let's be about it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2 hours is not enough

Swim was better today, stretched out and relaxed. I could feel my stroke oscillating between the new version and the older version. It was sort of a weird feeling. Still feeling a bit pummeled from the massage yesterday. Stretched on the wall, and did a bit of water running.

We had a nice pasta dinner, and a bit over 2 hours later I was thinking it was now or never for the bike. That felt pretty good too, settling easily into 85 rpm fairly quickly. Did some short bursts at gradually higher watts, with some easy spin in between. Pushing ~200 watts for 5 minutes gets my heart rate up into the mid 130s, and felt pretty good. About 230 watts was pushing too hard.

The problem was that I was still feeling a bit full from supper, and I didn't want to push too hard. I've done that before and came close to regretting it. The 45 minutes went quick and were a good lead in to some stretching,


plank! Only 60 seconds today, but keeps the streak going, 5 days now. Other stretching was good.

I was asked why I hadn't yet blogged about Paris, terrorism in general, political stupidity, and other related topics. To be honest, I don't have the heart for it just yet. I'm saddened at the whole darned thing and everything connected with it, especially the people that should know better. I've had different pieces of it going through my mind, but there's nothing coherent enough for a blog. Maybe it will come together, or maybe not.

Something that made my day was my buddy Janice's blog, full of pictures from a recent Scotland trip.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've never done this before, she said

Swim Tuesday was a bit clunky. Well, a lot clunky. I had no mojo at all. Not sure why, nothing especially hurt, but nothing was working very well either.

I found out Wed afternoon at massage. Lovely, but she was working on my arms, and where a particular tendon anchors into the bone near the inside of the elbow. It was making odd noises, and the muscles on it felt really stiff. She told me the name of the tendon, but I don't remember.

She said that she'd never had to work on anyone like this on those muscles and tendons and asked what on earth I had been doing. Well, it turns out that these are what is working to catch the water and get your forearm vertical during freestyle. I demonstrated, which is hard when you're lying flat on your back.

In one sense, it's proof that I've been changing my stroke, but maybe I'm working too hard at it. Something to think about. I think an easy relaxed swim tomorrow if I can get a lane where I don't have to keep up, or keep track to get out of the way.

No run. It rained, then it snowed. The sidewalks are crap. I should go get another pair of shoes like the ones I have, only for indoor running. I think it's going to be a long sloppy winter. Talisman track, here I come.

Still at Penn West, even as many other companies are laying off. I'm dreading to hear the numbers of people over at TransCanada. I have buddies there. There's been so many layoffs, and I suspect nobody is getting a year end or Christmas bonus. I don't think the retailers are going to be very happy this year.

Somehow, we've got to get off this oil and gas roller coaster. It isn't good for anyone, or the industry, or the economy at large. I wish more people would see climate change as an economic opportunity, rather than a cost.

Still struggling with novel edits. I'm not getting the time to dive in and concentrate.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The spin didn't, but

I was so pleased myself, getting home, feeding the cats, and getting on the bike for a spin session. Celina was very pleased with the new (old) crunchies, and inhaled them. Curtis is very suspicious, but I don't think he's caught onto the true depths of the perfidious humans. He got the same old. There is still another can of the wet that he doesn't like but will eat, eventually, but Celina won't eat at all.

The spin didn't go so well. It took 23 minutes of slowly speeding up to hit 100 rpm for a short time. A very short time. By the time 30 minutes rolled around, no, rolling implies smoothness. This was clunky and both knees were feeling weak. At 30 minutes I called it and went over to my yoga mat.

Yesterday I did something else in the new but old category. A plank for the first time in forever. A whole minute! I was amazed. Getting off the bike today I was determined to see if that was a fluke, or what.


1:15! Yay me! I even did a bit of (pathetic) side plank. That felt very weak. I tried a few very gentle, shallow squats to give my weak and feeble butt the idea it was going to get some action. Tomorrow. Let's see if I can keep a plank thing going every day or not. I think the longest I've done it before was a month or so.


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