Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday News and Notes

I'm drinking coffee right now, procrastinating my trip to the pool.

"Humans may soon have to look to their laurels as the planet’s dominant species. Turkeys, heretofore harmless, have been exploding in size, swelling from an average 13.2lb (6kg) in 1929 to over 30lb today. On the fairly scientific assumption that present trends will persist, The Economist estimates that turkeys will be big as humans in just 150 years. Before 6,000 years are out, turkeys will dwarf the Earth itself."  Link.

Friday, November 28, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: Black Friday Edition

It's Black Friday, and I don't mind telling you that I ate too much last night at dinner.  It was worth it.  We had tons of Sally's family over, along with Hannah's best friend and the best friend's mom.  That's a total of thirteen people!

With that many folks, I thought we might struggle to feed everyone.  However, we had a seventeen pound turkey, at least two full trays of stuffing (including one gluten free!), a whole roast pork loin, and tons and tons of other stuff.  We wound up eating much less than half of the food we prepared, but as Thanksgivings go, this was a good one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Grill Your Turkey (Part 1): Brine

At this point, you will need a turkey.  I hope for your sake that it is already at least partially thawed.

We started thawing ours yesterday in a giant pot full of cold water, changing the water every two hours.  In roughly twenty-four hours, we got to a point where the turkey was ready for work, so I suppose that if you start right now you might still make it.  Granted, you're looking at a couple of midnight wake-ups to change your thawing water.  But I think it can be done with a bit of diligence and determination.

15 Reasons to be Thankful this Thanksgiving

1.  We’ve all got our health.
This was not a given.  I found myself in the hospital in August after a spider bite.  The back of my leg became infected with an antibiotic-resistant form of the streptococcus bacteria, and it took several rounds of antibiotics and four full days as an in-patient to clear it up.  Not fun.  But I’m better now, and I’ve been slowly but surely working my way back into form in anticipation of the coming triathlon season.

Sally and I are both over 40, and we’re both in good shape.  This puts us markedly ahead of where my parents were at our age, and I don’t take that lightly.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sketch in My Notebook: Wolfgang & Salamatu (Part 3)

I started publishing this thing mostly because I got stuck in the middle of writing of it, and I needed inspiration.  Last week I finally hit my groove, but in the meantime, I've been surprised and pleased to see how many folks have come by and given it a read.  True, I've only gotten one comment back--privately from my friend Alan, who told me that he didn't think the editing on Part 1 was up to my usual standard--but the blog's statistics show clearly that lots and lots of folks have come by and given the story a chance.  Thank you for that.

The story itself is changing.  I finally realized how to integrate the Naomi plotline, and the next chapter cuts back to Sneax and the crew from the original novels, which means--unfortunately--that I can't show it to you without giving away major spoilers for Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  That in turn means that this is it for Wolfgang and Salamatu and "Sketch in My Notebook".  I hope you liked this chapter, but...  If you want to see how it ends, it looks like you're gonna have a long wait.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Offseason Training Log: 11/17 to 11/23 (Rest Week)

After six weeks of slowly building endurance work, this past week was a Rest Week.  I needed it.  Instead of just resting, however, I also tried to use the week to reintegrate weight training into my workout regime.  That proved to be something of a challenge.

I need to add weights for two reasons.  The first is simple good sense.  Building strength is always useful for triathletes as long as you’re careful not to compromise your endurance training.  You don’t necessarily want to get heavier, but it’s great to get stronger, and anyway, doing resistance training will also help reinforce your bones and joints for the toll that the coming season is inevitably going to take.  The second reason is personal.  I put on five extra pounds during my last trip to Albany, and I’ve struggled to take it back off again.  It’s been several weeks, but that weight is still hanging around.  By increasing muscle mass, I’m hoping to speed my metabolism during endurance training, thereby increasing my calorie burn.  In conjunction with some diet changes, this approach should get me down about ten pounds.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pictures from the Fordham Game

Emma and I took Sally's cousins Donna and Jay up to Michie Stadium for yesterday's triumphant win against Fordham.  The Army team is now 4-7 and poised for a breakout game against our arch-rival Navy.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Comic Review -- G.I. Joe (Vol. 4): The Fall of G.I. Joe

After a five-month hiatus, G.I. Joe is back at IDW with G.I. Joe: The Fall of G.I. Joe, written by Karen Traviss, art by Steve Kurth.  I started reading G.I. Joe (Vol. 3) in the wake of the last G.I. Joe movie, the one that starred Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson as Roadblock, and I liked it.  Full disclosure: I don’t usually concern myself over-much with whether or not G.I. Joe makes any sense or is at all realistic.  My girls and I enjoy sitting down occasionally to watch some of the old 80s-era G.I. Joe cartoons onNetflix, and I’ve read several volumes worth of the old Larry Hama comics via Comixology.  None of that stuff is overly serious, but it’s presented in a genuine, rarely cynical action-movie spirit that I can’t help but enjoy.  But.  Traviss was a Naval Reservist and a defense correspondent, and she and IDW both go to some trouble in the new volume’s back matter to let readers know that hers is the “realistic” take on G.I. Joe.  
That’s fine.  If that’s the way they’re playing it, I can certainly play along.

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: The New Dance is a Chicken Dance

If you came looking for the new Faith No More song, then I'm afraid you're bound to be disppointed.  But don't worry.  I've got something even better!

Let's do this.
“Ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna next week, there are some contradictory theories about why Saudi Arabia is content to keep oil cheap for the time being. One is that the Saudis want to nip the U.S. oil boom in the bud. American shale oil is more expensive to produce and needs high prices to remain competitive. As one analyst put it when the kingdom cut prices for U.S. customers earlier this month, ‘the Saudis have basically declared war on the U.S. oil producers.’
But there’s a competing narrative, or ‘conspiracy theory’ if you prefer, that the Saudis are waging war in cooperation with the United States, against their mutual enemies Russia and Iran.
The problem with this analysis is that there’s no “or” here.  The Saudis have the largest production capacity, and they are using it to control the market.  That’s it.  Oil production is their niche in the global economy.  They are using market power to defend their position.  That is not news, nor should it come as a surprise.  Nor, for that matter, is it the first time they’ve done it.  Their actions may well be the final proof of the success of American production—the market leader has had to take steps to bring its new competitor under control—but that’s still not telling us anything we didn’t already know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Army Football Preview: vs. Fordham

That was some drubbing on Saturday.  I thought in the early going that Army might have a chance, but a bad snap went over the punter’s head, and then Army’s kicker botched a chip-shot field goal.  After that, the game was never in doubt.  This year’s Black Knights are not the kind of team that can come from behind.  In the second half, Western Kentucky looked like world-beaters.  Well, we knew it was gonna be a shoot-out.  Army needed to run the ball, score points, and manage time of possession successfully, and for most of the first half they did exactly that.  However, giving up a short field early was not on the program, nor was allowing a 50-yard Hail Mary to go for a touchdown right before the half.  This year’s Army team has been maddeningly good in spots, but they are an inconsistent bunch playing a style of football that requires a high level of consistency.  They have heart and athleticism, but they make mistakes and can’t overcome them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sketch in My Notebook: Wolfgang & Salamatu (Part 2)

New story.  This one is supposed to be a Christmas present for my wife.  Between you and me, I'm not sure the story is working yet, but I'm hoping that if I can at least get a draft story structure in place, I'll be able clean up the scene structure and language later.  Of course, I've got to get to a stopping place and do that before Christmas...  That's the challenge.

If you missed part 1, it's here.


Wolfgang &  Salamatu
Chapter 1: The Hunt (Part 2)

Time passes.  Lunch is taken, and the courtiers’ spirits revived.  The dogs lap at the water and play, slowly getting their energy back.  The hunt begins gradually to revive itself.  At length the King stands and belches, takes one last swig from a flagon of ale that one of his minions has produced from somewhere or other, and announces that it’s time--at last--to hunt some boar.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Offseason Training Log: 11/10 to 11/16 (Week 6)

I got out of the hospital in late August, spent ten days recovering from an infusion of massive antibiotics, tried to come back too quickly, spent three more weeks recovering and slowly building my fitness, and now, finally, I’m six weeks into an informal offseason program in preparation for the coming triathlon season.  I still haven’t done much hard training, but after month and a half of steady work, I started feeling it this week.  I kind of hit the wall.  I’ve still been able to work up to a decent effort at times, but I’m starting to feel like it’s time for a Rest Week.  Fact is, recovery is a necessary part of training.  This being the offseason, now is hardly the time to overwork.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Today's Swim Workout

Haven't been feeling real great in the water this week.  Overall, I've been feeling tired this week.  This is Week 6 of my offseason training program, and I'm about ready for a break.  I've put in at least 100 points every week for the last six, and that's okay, but it's wearing on me a little.  Given that this is the offseason, that's not the plan.

I built today's practice with a bit of fatigue in mind.  I wanted to put in 3000 yards, but I did not want to turn it into a long, grinding style workout.

Saturday Morning Movies

This video is amazing...

The game afterwards wasn't bad, either.

Friday, November 14, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: Fifty Shades of Creepy

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...

1. Nukes and Shale Win The Day in U.S.-China Climate Deal (Bloomberg)
Natural gas drillers and nuclear power producers can celebrate aggressive new emissions cuts promised by the U.S. and China, even as other parts of the fossil fuels world push back.

Goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are inevitably bad for companies relying on dirtier fuels like coal and crude oil, which already have been under pressure to clean up operations. The measures announced today provide more support for cleaner-burning gas, which the industry has promoted as the “bridge” to renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Army Football Preview: at Western Kentucky

Saturday’s game-winning interception against UConn was easily the best moment Army Football fans have had all season.  Unfortunately, however, the events leading up to it were hauntingly familiar.  Army got off to an early lead in Yankee Stadium, moved the ball well, executed an excellent fake-punt, and controlled the game’s time-of-possession.  As great as the early-going was, though, even a fourteen point lead wasn’t safe.  Army went up 28-14 with less than four-and-a-half minutes left to play, and then all hell broke loose.  Once UConn started opening things, the Black Knights’ defense broke down.  Connecticut scored quickly and then recovered an onside kick.  
We’ve seen so many blown chances this season, I know I wasn’t the only one dreading another.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran’s Day.

I want you to know that I appreciate your service.  People say that shit all the time, I know, but I really mean it.  I do.  You have no idea.
Life is great.  We live in an amazing country.  If folks are not smart enough to figure that out and take advantage, I don’t know what to tell you.  America is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing place, and I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I find myself wondering at times if maybe you don’t need to spend a little time overseas to properly appreciate what we have here at home.  Granted, I only spent time in Korea, and it was hardly the worst of the available choices—the biggest danger we faced was alcohol poisoning—but still… I came back with a finely tuned appreciation for what makes America great.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Glory Hallelujah! Army beat UConn!

That was a great, great game.  Easily the best, most exciting Army Football game I've attended in years.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Today's Swim Practice

Finally made it to the pool this morning. It's been kind of a chaotic week, so I was left trying to fit a whole week's swimming into a single workout. Considering that I haven't been in the pool in almost two weeks, figuring out how to get this done was something of a riddle.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A realistic appraisal of why America is great

Sorry for all of the politics these past two weeks.  I've been personally busy, and on top of that, I got a little caught up in the national elections.  They're over, and it is no doubt time to move on and let this go.

Before we do, I want to take a minute to acknowledge what the President said Wednesday at the end of his press conference.  The conference itself was something of a grilling, with reporters basically asking him to fall on his sword over the election results.  His party got killed, and most observers think it's because Obama himself is personally unpopular with voters.  There's lots of back-and-forth, and by the end of it, you can see that the President is physically tired.  Finally his guard comes down, and with nothing left to lose--and very little to gain, politically speaking--the President launches into a casual but very stirring case for American optimism.

This struck a chord with me.  His reasoning is absolutely sound, and I found myself nodding along as I listened.

5 Things on a Friday: On to 2016!

Congressional elections are over, and as a result, the 2016 Presidential Election Season has officially begun.  In many ways, it feels like the 2016 Election cycle has been undereway longer and with more enthusiasm than this year’s mid-term elections ever managed, but even so, the elections this year produced a clear, decisive winner.  The people have spoken.  If their expressed will doesn’t get the country moving in at least some kind of direction, I know that I personally will be quite disappointed.  
The GOP now has an opportunity to prove something.  If it wants to win in 2016, the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt had better get to work.  It needs to show people that it can do more than just heckle from the cheap seats, or it risks again being banished to the wilderness like it was in 2008.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Operations Order: Getting the Band Back Together

I. Situation
   A. Enemy Forces: The University of Connecticut is having a down year, and at this time it is unknown how strongly Connecticut partisans will be operating in the area.  Most enemy presence is expected on the train, going to and from New York City.  UConn’s football team is currently 2-6, but they are coming off of a win against Central Florida.  It is expected that they will play well in front of the Yankee Stadium crowd.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sketch in My Notebook: Wolfgang & Salamatu (Part 1)

New story!
We have a rule in our house.  Every year at Christmas, every member of our family has to make a Christmas present for every other member of our family.  This is how my book got started.  For the past two years, my “made” present has been a Sneax and Elaina Emboo short story for my girls.  I’m writing a short story this year as well, but this time it’s not for my girls, it’s for my wife Sally.
As before, this story is based on our families’ Dungeons & Dragons characters.  We played a lot of D&D as a family while we were up at the cabin in Maine, and in the course of that experience, Sally and I invented new characters.  These we named Wolfgang and Salamatu, and they were meant to better reflect our true-to-life personalities as expressed via the fantasy of Wanderhaven.  Sadly, we’ve not had time to  play any actual D&D since we got back, so this story is the very first time these characters have seen the light of day.
This story doesn’t yet have a title.  Right now I’m calling it “Wolfgang and Salamatu”, but I doubt that’s how it will stay.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Offseason Training Log: 10/27 - 11/2

I’ve been training at a steady aerobic pace with only very limited use of moderately-paced intervals, and so far it seems to be working.  This being the offseason for triathlon, I’ve made a point of focusing the emphasis of my training on my weakest discipline--running--by doing at least three runs per week.  I’ve tried to get in two swims on top of all the running work, but this week I ran out of both time and aerobic points.  

The three disciplines of triathlon.
My previous high point total this offseason was 116, set the week of October 6th through the 12th.  In the two weeks since, I’d not gone over a 100, and with that in mind, I didn’t want to go over 120 this week.  Besides which, 120 points is an entirely decent number for an offseason training week.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday News & Notes: Odin Comes Through!

I'm still trying to catch up with all the news that I didn't run on Friday's 5 Things.  This was a busy week full of bunches of awesome stuff.

Let's do it.

I know where there are a bunch of happy cadets this morning.