Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sketch in My Notebook (Part 16): Safehouse (Part 3)

Last week's piece was a little longer than normal.  This week's is a little shorter.  This may also be the last of this for a little while.  I need to get to work on this year's Christmas story.

As always, if you want to start the story from the beginning, click on the Sketch in My Notebook tab.  You’ll find it there.


The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 11: Safehouse (Part 3)

“Easy buddy,” Frank said.  “Nobody wants any trouble.  Why don’t you come back another time, yeah?”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quote of the Day

"All my life I have been the rock in the pool. I make a splash and ripples rush out, but after that?  The pool settles and is as it was.  I cannot protect you...  I can make no difference to the evil of the world--indeed, sometimes I think I add to it."

  -- David Gemmell's John Shannow, the Jerusalem Man, in Wolf in Shadow.

Offseason Swim Workouts: Week 4

If you’ve been working your way through this series, you will almost certainly have noticed that although the series is meant to help you get faster in the water, we’ve done very little actual “sprint” work.  Instead, we’ve done fartlek-style work, which is great for building overall aerobic capacity and for giving you a little bit of burst at the end of a longer effort, but which is less apt to make you fast in an actual short-distance race.  This is by design.  This series is meant primarily for triathletes and is therefore tailored to longer distance swims, even though we’ve done mostly up-tempo work.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Post Game Reactions

Paging Rich Ellerson...

Triathlon Training Basics: The Points System (Metric)

My friend Axel (Iron Rogue) is Canadian.  He liked the Points System post last week but wanted a metric version.  Not an unreasonable request, but one that I had honestly never before considered.

That said, I thought the challenge of building a metric version of the system sounded intriguing.  Of course, there’s not actually a need for one.  If you use the points system, I think it’s implied that you will use it with a spreadsheet, in which case you can embed the conversion formula right into the other formulas on the sheet.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Scoping Out the New TV Season

Glory hallelujah, it's finally Friday!  Looks like it's gonna be a good one, too.  My New York Giants laid 45 on Washington last night, this weekend is my daughter's birthday, and if the Football Gods are good, Army might even win one this weekend.

It’s also finally fall, which means we've got a ton of new TV out there.  I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve liked what little I’ve seen so far.

Let's get to it.
1.  Gotham
Fox’s new non-Batman show Gotham has gotten much better reviews than I’d expected.  I’d not have through taking Batman out of a show about Batman would be a good idea, but I enjoyed the series premier and have every intention of watching next week’s episode.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Triathlon Training Basics: The Points System

I do my triathlon training using a points system.  I did not invent the system, I found it on slowtwitch, but I’ve been using it since 2008 with good results.  However, it feels like I’m constantly explaining the damned thing, so this post is meant to be the one final, definitive explanation.  From now on any mention of the system will simply link to this article.  
I hope you find this system useful.  But even if you don’t, understanding the system itself will at least help you understand what the Hell I’m talking about whenever I write about triathlon in my own life.  If you follow this blog, that will become a necessity eventually.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Army Football Preview: at Yale

Last weekend Army dropped a completely winnable game to the worst team in the ACC Atlantic Conference.  Can the team recover, or will this be yet another season of ill-timed fumbles and lost opportunities?  Only time will tell.  Army travels to Yale on Saturday for its fourth game, and they badly need a win if they’re going to have any shot at redeeming their season.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sketch in My Notebook (Part 15): Safehouse (Part 2)

This week's episode of "The Return of Dr. Necropolis" is a little longer than I meant it to be.  You probably won't mind, but it took me a while to put it all together, so...  Well, there you have it.  It was tough finding a stopping place with enough action to make you want to come back next week.
If you want to start the story from the beginning, click on the Sketch in My Notebook tab.  You’ll find it there.
Let me know what you think.

The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 11: Safehouse (Part 2)

Frank spent the next several hours rewiring salvaged equipment.  The zero-point energy projector in particular was useful because it would deflect bullets, shrapnel, or even enraged ultrahuman mobsters if necessary, although the power it required would eat up Frank’s makeshift system’s battery in a Hell of a hurry.  Even with the efficiency he gained by splicing in Kid Zulu’s repurposed super-capacitor, Frank figured he had at best a half-dozen charges with either the projector or the electromagnet-belt before the system itself would need to be recharged.  That was substantially better than nothing, but it wasn’t like Frank could take on the whole of New York’s police force by himself or anything.  He could maybe rob a bank and make good his escape, but creating industrial-strength mayhem remained well beyond his capabilities.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Round-Up

That was a very disheartening loss on Saturday.  I’ve been an Army Football fan for a long time, and by now I suppose I should know better, but man, I let myself buy in big-time coming into this weekend’s game.  Army Athletics has been squawking non-stop since hiring Jeff Monken to coach the football team, and I let myself get way excited by the prospects.  I even did up the blog in Army’s colors Saturday morning.  This is me trying to show team spirit.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Offseason Swim Workout #3

This is the third in a series of offseason swim workouts that I’m writing for one of the members of my triathlon club.  As before, these workouts are intended for accomplished swimmers, with an “accomplished swimmer” being defined as someone who can comfortably race an open water mile for time and know whether or not their swim was a good one based on how fast they swam and how tired they were when they came out of the water.  
There is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on drills to become a longer, more efficient swimmer.  If you can’t swim an open water mile easily, that’s what I recommend you do.  However, this workout series is not geared for that.  These workouts are meant to take experienced triathletes who’ve spent an entire season building long, efficient strokes and give them a boost of speed and power.  They can then build on that new power when next season’s training starts in earnest.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Starting from Scratch

Happy Friday!  I don’t know about you, but I am beyond ready for the weekend.
Let’s get to it, yeah?
With a sweeping majority far wider than had been forecast, voters in Scotland rejected independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum that had threatened to break up a 307-year union, according to the final count on Friday.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's missing from this picture?

Army Football Preview: at Wake Forest

I think we’re all ready to move on after last week’s game at Stanford.  As I wrote on SundayArmy’s defense played a good game, but the team itself was as overmatched as one might expect when facing one of college football’s truly elite schools.  This was especially evident given that Stanford’s strength is its run defense.  Without any appreciable offense, Army’s defense eventually broke down, leaving the team at a loss for answers.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 14): Safehouse (Part 1)

This week we get back to the story of Frank MacGuiness, aka the infamous Dr. Necropolis, now an escapee from Sing Sing prison.  I’m excited because when I started this story, this was the chapter that I outlined first.  It’s taken eleven chapters to set the idea up, but now--finally--it’s almost time for sex, violence, and utter mayhem.
If you want to start the story from the beginning, click on the Sketch in My Notebook tab.  You’ll find it there.
While we’re talking, I have stats that show that a bunch of folks checked in to read last week’s entry.  If you were one of them, do me a favor and let me know a little about yourself.  I don’t need your name, but believe it or not, it helps a lot to have a general idea of who one’s audience is.
Thanks in advance!

The Return of Dr. Necropolis

Chapter 11: Safehouse

Frank was down for three full days with a fever.  He was lucky, he knew, because he’d managed to get all the way to his old Mott Haven safehouse before the fever laid him out, giving him a chance to ditch the ambulance and its drivers on a North Bronx side-street and then catch a subway line south.  The subway ride had been a misery, but he’d managed, and anyway, his obvious illness had at least kept other passengers from looking at him too closely.  Since then, he’d lain flat on his back in utter misery, shivering while his body fought itself and surviving on a diet of ten-year-old ramen noodles and cans of vegetable soup he’d put away against just such emergencies back in better times.  His dreams were fevered and confused, haunted by memories of Jaynie and prison.  Images of his cell in Sing Sing mixed with the Hell of swimming the Hudson River at midnight in late fall.  Thoughts of Jaynie interspersed with those of the Owl or Scott-fucking-Grossman.  Orange jumpsuits and black lace.  Handcuffs and beatings.  Pain and heartbreak.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Lawyer's Answer

I'm reading Rick Atkinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the U.S. Army in North Africa, An Army at Dawn. I've mentioned this before.

I was discussing it on the train just now with a guy I know, a successful Midtown lawyer.  I said that I found the book heartening because of how screwed up everything was back then, how despite the fact that we think of those guys as The Greatest Generation, they damned near lost the war in 1942 in North Africa.  And my friend says, "The greatest lesson of history is that it's all about personal relationships.  I'm sure somebody there said something to somebody important, and that's why we won the war."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Reading Room: Tell me why we played Stanford again?

It's been a few weeks since we've run a "reading room" post, so maybe now's the time to look around the Internet and see what's what.  I'm still a little sad and hung-over from Army's crushing loss yesterday, so we'll start there.

No. 15 Stanford rebounds from loss to USC, shuts out Army (ESPN)
"The defense might be as good any Stanford has had during its recent run of success...

[WR] Devon Cajuste caught a career-high three touchdowns and finished with 52 yards receiving, and Ty Montgomery had two TDs to help the Cardinal (2-1) overcome a sluggish start on offense. Stanford led 14-0 at the half before overwhelming the Black Knights (1-1) in the final two quarters.

The Cardinal outgained Army 415 to 207 yards."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Offseason Swim Workout #2

I caught a little flack on last week’s post from a Master’s swim coach in Connecticut who told me that he thought my speed workouts were liable to get swimmers injured.  I have my doubts.  
I agree that if you’re a mediocre swimmer, speed work is not the way to go.  You should first learn to swim comfortably and correctly, using proper form.  That said, swimming is a non-contact, no-impact sport.  Swimming hard may make you sore, and it’s vaguely possible that you’ll even get a little overuse injury from doing too much too soon.  That’s possible in swimming the same way it’s possible in any other kind of sport.  However, swimming is an order of magnitude safer and less impactful to your body than many other sports, and no one’s telling you not to do something like CrossFit.  This despite the fact that CrossFit involves complicated movements with heavy weights that can definitely lead to injuries if not done correctly.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: at Stanford

Happy Friday!  Let's get to it.

Schools have increasingly siphoned money from need-based financial aid that has traditionally helped middle and lower income students and reallocated cash to merit scholarships for wealthier students. One reason why schools are throwing merit awards at rich teens is because they are more likely to help institutions fare better in the rankings game.
These affluent students tend to have better academic backgrounds and higher standardized test scores, which are highly correlated with income. You can learn more about how this policy is devastating for disadvantaged students by reading Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind by Stephen Burd at the New American Foundation.
Yes, it’s that time of year again.  U.S. News and World Report just put out its annual college rankings.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Army Football Preview: at Stanford

Army opened last week at home against the University of Buffalo Bulls, and it was glorious.  Not a perfect game by any means, but easily one of the most entertaining contests Army fans have seen in several years.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 13): The Other Shoe

Last time we saw Frank MacGuiness, aka the infamous Dr. Necropolis, as he made good on his escape from Sing Sing.  This week, we check back in on FBI agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania, and her new partner Blaine Winters, aka the new Centurion, as they try to recover from the ass-kicking they got at the hands of Frank's old partners, the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie.

You can read the story from the beginning using the Sketch in My Notebook tab above.


The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 10: The Other Shoe

Tiffany came awake slowly.  Her eyes were glued shut with tears, her mind was stiff and drowsy, and in waking, she felt as if she were crawling from the abyss of the grave.  She was twisted into something, and there were straps around her arms with tubes rising up above them.  Her vision cleared, and she saw pale pink walls alongside long bars of light running across the ceiling behind frosted glass.  Something was beeping off to the left side of her head, softly but steadily.  
A heartbeat monitor.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weekend Update: Football and Beer

It was a relaxing kind of weekend.  Hannah and Emma both had friends over Friday night, which would have been a pain in the ass a few years ago but was actually easy to manage now that the girls are almost-eleven and nine, respectively.  Hannah and her friend took their Barbies and disappeared into the basement.  Emma and her friend took a different set of toys up to the girls’ room and stayed up there.  Sally ordered a pizza; I wound up not even having to do dishes.  

I got up early Saturday morning to swim.  I laid out the workout in a post that morning, so if you want to see what I did, you can find it by scrolling down a couple of entries.  As with my run on Thursday last week, I felt okay at the start of my workout, but between vacation and my stay in the hospital, I’ve lost a few steps.  Rebuilding my fitness is gonna be a major project.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Reading Room:

I wouldn't say it's been a great news day, but a few things caught my eye.

Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching? (NY Times)
"Ed­u­ca­tors, ad­vo­cates and law­mak­ers fight bit­ter­ly about tenure, aca­d­e­m­ic stan­dards and the preva­lence of test­ing, but one thing most sides tend to agree on is the im­por­tance of rais­ing the sta­tus of teach­ing so the pro­fes­sion will at­tract the best can­di­dates...  The me­di­an pay for an el­e­men­tary school teacher is now about $40,000."

Book Review: The Last Ridge

The Last Ridge is McKay Jenkins's account of the 10th Mountain Division's training and combat experiences during World War II.  It's a tremendously inspiring and sad account, based on a combination of official and unofficial correspondence as well as on what I can only imagine were an exhaustive set of interviews of the division's survivors who were willing to sit with Jenkins and talk about their experiences.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Offseason Swim Workout #1

As a triathlete, you probably spent the season trying to swim efficiently.  I don't blame you.  You can't win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose one there, especially if you swim inefficiently and burn through all your energy reserves.  Triathletes don't need to be fast in the water.  They need to be long and comfortable.  You want to hit the beach feeling like you have plenty left, and if you're not too far behind the field when you get on the bike, that's a bonus.

But.  The season is over now, or it's nearly over.  Which maybe means that you're ready to start thinking about offseason training.  This in turn means that now is the time to work on getting faster in the water, rather than constantly trying to swim comfortably.  Aerobic paced swimming is great, but it will never put you at the front of the pack.  If that's where you want to be, offseason speed work is the answer you've been looking for.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Quote of the Day

"When I think of the greatness of my job and realize that I am what I am, I am amazed, but on reflection, who is as good as I am?  I know of no one."

   -- Major General George S. Patton in a note to his diary, fall 1942, just before the invasion of North Africa, codename TORCH. As quoted in An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson.

There's another great quote a page later that Patton sent to his subordinate generals just before departure:

"If you don't succeed, I don't want to see you alive.  I see no point in surviving defeat, and I am sure that if all of you enter into battle with equal resolution, we shall conquer, and live long, and gain more glory."

The man was like a Viking God, and it's an indictment of our society that we would almost certainly have no use for his particular brand of leadership in today's world.

Five Things on a Friday: Football is Back!

I'm still talking about Army's game against Buffalo tomorrow, so if you haven't read my preview of the game, go back and read that first.  I'm no football expert, but having done a little research, I now feel like I know what to watch for tomorrow, and that's got me all fired up.  I've even got a growler of beer I bought in Maine that I've been saving just for this occasion.

“Army is coming off a 3-9 season in 2013. Enter Monken, who came to West Point following four successful seasons at Georgia Southern…  
Army will continue to run the triple-option offense under Monken, who served as an assistant coach at Navy and Georgia Tech, and offensive coordinator Brent Davis.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

College Football Preview: Army vs. Buffalo

Army Football kicks off its 2014 season at noon on Saturday in Michie Stadium against the Buffalo Bulls.  The game hasn’t seen a lot of mainstream press, but Army is favored by 3.5 points, so I guess that’s something.  Also: the Army Team is rolling out a slightly new uniform.  That can't hurt, right?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Army Spirit Video

This is the 2014 Army Football Intro.  It's pretty amazing.  Army's audio/visual department has come a Hell of a long way in the last two decades.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WdH1: The Fire-Breathing Elephant Expedition (Campaign Summary)

This is the third in a series of posts that collectively define an adventure module for the new (5th) edition of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) called "The Fire-Breathing Elephant Expedition".  The module is set in Wanderhaven, the homebrew campaign setting in which my kids and I play and in which I set my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  It's meant to bridge the gap from "The Lost Mine of Phandelver" in the D&D Starter Set to the forthcoming adventure The Rise of Tiamat.  As such, it's a short campaign, taking the Player-Characters (PCs) from mid-5th to 7th level.

This post makes use of the following previous posts:
Today we go through the Campaign Summary.