Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sally's Facial

One of Sally's friends from Arbonne came over last night to help her with her make-up. I have no idea why this was necessary, but they were futzing around with it for a few hours.

Anyway, the results looked good. In person, I thought she looked very nice. I still don't think this photo quite does her justice, though.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stratford YMCA Sweetheart Run 2013 Race Report

Sally and I ran the Stratford YMCA Sweetheart Run over the weekend.  The course is four miles of sharply rolling hills through the residential neighborhoods of northern Stratford, CT.  It starts and ends at Booth Hill Memorial Park.
Of the two of us, I think I’m usually the one that puts more pressure on himself before a race, and Sally is the one who tends to take it as it comes, satisfied to do her best without any real expectations.  This race was a little different, however, because Sally won her Age Group last year for the first time ever at this race, and during the weeks leading up to the race, I could see that she was keen to defend her title.  Moreover, the Sweetheart Race is a four-mile run, and Sally is a runner.  Meanwhile, I don’t tend to think of myself as a runner so much as just a guy who runs, and paradoxically, I think that makes these pure running races easier for me, at least mentally.
Anyway, as I wrote in last week’s training diary, I decided early on that I was gonna work through this race.  So Sally and I ran a five-mile tempo run together on Monday, and then we ran separate easy three-milers on Wednesday, and I swam once early in the week and rode my regular commute ride into and out of the office on Thursday and Friday before the race.  I wouldn’t say that that was a tremendous amount of work or anything, but it was still a more-or-less normal schedule for me for this time of year.  Certainly it wasn’t what I’d have done for a race I was trying to go into rested.
Sally is an Arbonne Sales Consultant, and one of the reasons that she wanted to do this race is that she knows the Race Director well enough that he agreed to let her set up a table over by the check-in area.  As a result, we got to the race early, and while Sally was setting up her booth, I headed to a little covered area and started doing yoga.  I did about a half hour’s easy yoga and then went for a long warm up.  Well, it was long for me, anyway—I forced myself to run easy for ten full minutes before doing a set of three thirty-second pick-ups, and after that, I felt pretty good.  
I went inside, found Sally, forced her to go outside and stretch and start prepping for her race instead of just her sales opportunity, and then I sat down to wait for the race itself to start.  I had maybe fifteen minutes of just hanging out, and it was very reminiscent of waiting in the green room of a swim meet before Finals.  One of my goals this season has been to try to run a little more like I swim, so I suppose that on the “Waiting Around” section, I can go ahead and check the block “Complete.”
The Race
We finally lined up at about 10:00 am.  The weather was overcast and right around thirty degrees, and lots of folks were trying to figure out what to wear.  As I said, the course is hilly with a hard climb right at the three mile mark, so it’s easy to over-dress.  Folks were grousing about the climbs even at the Start Line, but Sally and I have now run this race four times, and while I won’t say that I knew that I was going to enjoy that climb at Mile Three, I did at least know what I was in for.  
As it happens, Sally and I found ourselves right at the front when we reached the Start Line.  We wished each other luck, and then BANG!  We were off.
I’ve been doing a lot of interval training this offseason, both on my own and as a member of the Woodruff Family YMCA’s Triathlon Club.  I’m the club’s (volunteer) coach, and a couple of my folks were very enthusiastic when I brought up the idea of doing some interval training this season.  So we’ve done halves together a few times already, and I’ve done them a few more times on my own, and when the gun sounded at the start of this race, I felt their impact immediately.  The leading pack surged forward as a group, and I let it sweep me along, for once running fast but easy through the first half mile or so of the race.  That first half mile starts as a moderate decline, but it quickly gets steeper until you’re practically flying down.  Then you hit the bottom, and it turns up, and you’re running more or less up hill for the next mile and half or so.  On the way down, I tried to keep a high tempo and let myself descend as easily as I could; then we hit the inflexion point, and I leaned in, working the hill but keeping myself carefully under control.  Around me, I could see folks struggling with the change, but I checked my own heart rate and breathing and decided, yes, this is me, and I’m really running like this, and it’s really going to be okay.
I hit Mile One at 7:22, and I was happy.  Then I hit Mile Two at 14:44, and I was excited.  I’m usually about an 8:00 miler, and I knew this was a hard course.  Being under 7:30 for two miles is very good for me, especially on a course with one weird descent and two short, sharp climbs in those first two miles.  But the best thing was that I’d run fast but kept myself under control.  In the recent past, I’ve been able to either run fast or run controlled but not both.
From Mile Two to Mile Three, the course has a long false flat ascent, followed by a short, sharp descent, followed by a bit of wavy flat.  I felt myself starting to tire a little at about two and a half miles, and I let go of a little push, instead falling into the simple, steady rhythm that is my normal running pace.  Not surprisingly, that third mile was almost exactly 8:00.  And then we crossed Mile Three and got into the big climb.
What is there to say about that climb at Mile Three?  The climb itself is only about a half-mile, but the first two or three hundred feet is probably a 12% grade.  I was towards the front of the race, and I still saw folks I would consider to be very good runners breaking down and walking.  I myself kept churning upwards, but like I said, I’ve run this thing four times and knew what was coming.  Anyway, after that initial piece, the thing levels out, and it’s maybe a 3% incline, although when you’re running it, it feels like it goes on and on and on.  But it doesn’t, and eventually we crested, and I found myself trying to find that same easy descending motion I had at the beginning of the race.  By the time we came around the last turn, I was leaning forward and fighting to finish hard.
 --- 6/13 Age Group; 36/152 Overall.
I was satisfied with that.  I was a touch slower this year than last year, but I felt a million times better doing it, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be more than a mediocre runner, I still feel like I’m improving generally.  Maybe I could have buried myself on that third mile and finished ten seconds faster (and equaled last year’s time), but this year I felt like I ran a smooth, controlled, intelligent race.  At this point in the season, that’s what’s important.  
Sally, meanwhile, finished almost exactly a minute and half behind me.  She came in at 33:03 (8:16/mile).  That was good enough to earn her another win in her Age Group and 49th place overall.  That’s also a good bit faster than she was last year, and considering how nervous she was beforehand and how distracted she was by all that Arbonne stuff pre-race, I’ll be honest and say that she exceeded my expectations by a goodly amount.  Plus, she got another trophy, and she left happy, so what more can you ask?
What’s Next?
I’m ready for the weather to warm up, I’m ready to get back on my bike, and I’m ready to start really training for triathlon season.  Sally wants to do another four-mile run in March—the St. Patrick’s Day Classic in Fairfield, CT—but I’m personally gonna skip that one.  The girls and I can cheer her on from the sidelines.
For me, I’ve got nearly two months until Brian’s Beachside Boogie, the first multi-sport race of the year, and I plan to put in some serious work between now and then.  After that, theY-Tri is on May 12th, and that’s not only the first actual triathlon of the season, it’s also my Club’s home race.  Even though it’s a short race, I would quite like to do well there.  Then theShamrock Duathlon is the next weekend, and after that, I’m either gonna do the Pat Griskus Oly in June or the Litchfield Hills Oly in July.  I haven’t decided which yet.
And that’s about as far as I’m looking right now.  Guess we’ll see how it plays out…

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Important Comic Book Question

My daughter Emma is almost 8. She's also a HUGE comic fan, especially superhero comics. So last night, I noticed she was reading Marvel's X-Men encyclopedia.

Question: can anybody think of a classic X-Men tale that's appropriate for an 8-yr-old girl?

Sneax & Elaina Emboo, Chapter 8

Our story so far:

Having defeated the evil Russitan Lassiter and escaped from the clutches of Drax the Fire Elf, Sneax has finally agreed to go live, at least for a time, with Melanie McGonagall, the priestess in charge of the House of Apollo.
And now... Chapter 8: Life Goes On.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Triathlon Diary: 2/18 to 2/24 (Week 2)

The Stratford YMCA Sweetheart Race was this week, and that made coming up  with a training schedule kind of a challenge.  I train on a four-week schedule, three working weeks followed by a rest week, and this was a scheduled Week 2, and given that the Sweetheart Race was more Sally's thing than mine, I didn't want to throw my whole schedule off just for that one four-miler.

But I still tried to arrange things to put as much of the week's work as far up front as possible because, let's face it, when you enter a race, you still want to give yourself a chance to do well.  Luckily, I had the first three days of the week off.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dan's Movie Recommendations

My boss is going in for surgery next week, and he asked for some movie recommendations for while he's recovering.  My list was:
  • They Live.  Starring "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.  Sci Fi classic.
  • Point Break.  Starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.  This one's probably my all-time favorite movie.
  • Enter the Dragon.  Starring Bruce Lee.  More because my boss is fixated on Chinese culture than because I personally love "Enter the Dragon".
  • Red Dawn.  Starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey before they did "Dirty Dancing," as well as a young Charlie Sheen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Mad Science: The PRC’s Asymmetric Response

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
 --Sun Tzu, from The Art of War
I don’t usually like to quote Sun Tzu because he’s one of those authors whose work is quoted out of context a lot by folks who really don’t understand what it is that he’s trying to say.  But how to else to start this week, the week we learned in the open press that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been behind a majority of the overseas hacking that’s hit American companies and governmental agencies since 2006!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

At Two Roads Brewery

We had some of Sally's family in town yesterday, her niece Monique and Monique's beau Jorge. So naturally I took them to Stratford's new brewery, Two Roads.

The place just opened, but already they have a winter seasonal, a very nice, hoppy pilsner, a white IPA (called "Honeyspot" after the road my kids' school is on & my personal favorite of their beers), and their signature beer, Road 2 Ruin Double IPA. Needless to say, we got the sampler and tried them all. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Our Trip to the Norwalk Aquarium

Sally and I took the girls to the Norwalk Aquarium yesterday.  The Aquarium is dedicated to teaching about marine life in Long Island Sound, although they also have animals from other areas.  We went specifically to see the penguins, but there was lots to see, and I took pictures.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sneax & Elaina Emboo, Chapter 7

Our story so far:

Sneax owes "rent money" to Russitan Lassiter, a dangerous thug from the Docks District of the port city of Wanderhaven.  Desperate to avoid getting her ears cut off for failing to pay, she volunteers to help Lassiter with a shady deal up at the Old Church, only to discover that the deal involves a Fire Elf!  

Sneax and her best friend, the apprentice mage Elaina Emboo, were put on lookout duty while Drax the Fire Elf and Lassiter finish their deal over a valuable alchemical substance called Distilled Tiger Essense.  But when the Tiger Essence is stolen, Sneax has no choice but to go after it at the City Guard Headquarters.  But she comes up empty, and then runs into Lassiter himself!  Soon, Sneax and Elaina are headed for the Docks--and a showdown with Fire Elf Drax.
And now... Chapter 7: Showdown!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Triathlon Diary: 2/11 to 2/17 (Week 1)

Got back in the saddle this week after last week's lethargy led me to take a Rest Week.  This week wasn't what I'd necessarily call normal, but it gave me time to do my longest workout of the season so far on Saturday, and that worked out nicely.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Life of an Elite Cyclist

I saw this and start laughing my ass off.  Sally saw it and started sobbing.

Needless to say, we've had some trouble in Paradise lately.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Mad Science: The Return of the Bomb

North Korea tested another, larger nuclear device this week, and when one considers that they’ve also recently tested orbital satellite technology, it seems reasonable to assume that the Hermit Kingdom is close to developing intercontinental ballistic missile technology that could target the United States.  That by itself is scary enough and probably worthy of comment on its own merits, but what really makes the story interesting, at least according to the New York Times, is the effect it’s likely to have on China’s new leadership.
Flag of the People's Republic of China
You will perhaps recall that Xi Jingping is China’s newly elected leader, and that prior to North Korea’s recent test, he had warned the country strongly against conducting it.  But now, with the North Koreans having defied him, Mr. Xi finds himself in a rather precarious position.  

Daily Confession

I really like Google+. The site is organized much more effectively than is Facebook, and because of the way you can arrange your Circles, it's safe to add strangers. Also: the Community structures are terrific. But.

Practically NO ONE I know is in Google+, and it's really annoying.

So. Your assignment today, should you choose to accept it, is to join Google+ and add me to your Circles. If you want, you can make an "Assholes" circle and stick me in it. But add me because right now it's just me and Steve from ASJ41 and a bunch of strangers, and as much as I like Steve, we need some company.

Friday Hair Metal: Bringin' on the Heartbreak

Because yesterday was Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Because its Valentine's Day.

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he 's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he 's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

I think that says it all, right?

Ash Wednesday

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and to celebrate my boss sent me a poem in the middle of the day, right out of the blue.  The poem was T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday”, originally published in 1927, and it hit me like a rocket propelled grenade.  Not so much because it’s a profound poem, although it certainly is, but because up until that point in the day, I’d been doing pretty much pure engineering.  
Besides me, my boss--also named Dan--was the only one in the office, meaning that basically all of the office’s routine tasks fell to me, and I’d been more-or-less happily noodling away on them for hours while listening to first NPR’s Marketplace podcast and then a few recent episodes from The Economist’s all audio podcasts.  So, yeah, my attention was split a bit, but the split was decidedly left-brained--between engineering and economics--so that when the poem came in, it was such a jarring shift that my mind threw a track and stopped dead.  It was a decidedly weird experience.
An experience that I’d like to share.  Which is why I’ve reprinted the poem below.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sneax & Elaina Emboo, Chapter 6

Our story so far:

Sneax owes "rent money" to Russitan Lassiter, a dangerous thug from the Docks District of the port city of Wanderhaven.  Desperate to avoid getting her ears cut off for failing to pay, she volunteers to help Lassiter with a shady deal up at the Old Church, only to discover that the deal involves a Fire Elf!  

Sneax and her best friend, the apprentice mage Elaina Emboo, were put on lookout duty while Drax the Fire Elf and Lassiter finish their deal over a valuable alchemical substance called Distilled Tiger Essense.  But when the Tiger Essence is stolen, Sneax has no choice but to go after it--at the City Guard Headquarters!
And now... Chapter 6: Coming Up Empty.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Triathlon Diary: 2/4 to 2/10 (Rest Week)

This week started with a whimper, but it ended with a bang.  The question of the day is, "How many aerobic points do you get for an hour of shoveling snow?"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dispatches from Ice Planet Hoth

I shoveled out a trench this morning so that the dogs could get off of the front porch and--hopefully--go pee.  But then I realized that we might be hit by Imperial Walkers at any time, so I came back inside.

The Yeti

"The Yeti", by Philippe Semeria.
File from Wikimedia Commons.

This particular yet doesn't look like he wants to eat you.  But I'm betting that not all yeti are as nice as this one is.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Keeping it Personal

“The personal, as everyone's so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way you stand a far better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference – the only difference in their eyes – between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it's just business, it's politics, it's the way of the world, it's a tough life, and that it's nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.”
     --Quellcrist Falconer
from Richard K. Morgan’s masterwork Altered Carbon

Friday Hair Metal: The Blizzard of Ozz

I wanted to do something with a snow or blizzard theme, but as it happens, that was a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be.  So here's a little 'tallica.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shadow Drow Commander

In my online D&D campaign, my Players are trapped in the Shadowfell.  So I'm considering having a crew from the drow Cult of Shar attack them.  I therefore needed a leader for the attack.

This is what I came up with.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sneax & Elaina Emboo, Chapter 5

Our story so far:

Sneax owes "rent money" to Russitan Lassiter, a dangerous thug from the Docks District of the port city of Wanderhaven.  Desperate to avoid getting her ears cut off for failing to pay, she volunteers to help Lassiter with a shady deal up at the Old Church, only to discover that the deal involves a Fire Elf!  

Sneax and her best friend, the apprentice mage Elaina Emboo, are put on lookout duty while Drax the Fire Elf and Lassiter finish their deal over a valuable alchemical substance called Distilled Tiger Essense.  But then they see torches approaching.  This turns out to be the Wanderhaven City Guard.  But while Sneax and Elaina succeed in distracting the Guardsmen, by the time they get back to Lassiter, the Distilled Tiger Essence is gone!
And now... Chapter 5: Breaking In.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Triathlon Diary: 1/28 to 2/3

This week was kind of a normal training week, and in fact, I feel like I’m starting to settle into a rhythm.  That’s a good thing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Track Practice Today

It's 7am, about 21-degrees, and in a couple hours, the Woodruff Family YMCA Triathlon Club is going to head out for some track work today.  Track really isn't my best thing, but I've done some research on the Internet, and I do fartlek intervals on the roads reasonably often in my own workout routine, so I suppose that I know enough to lead us through today's experience.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Mad Science: The "What Gives?" Edition

You’ve probably seen this by now, but I gotta say that I was astonished when I read that the US economy actually contracted a little in the 4th Quarter last year, and when I read that, I felt sure that equity markets around the world were about to take a massive dump.  But then the markets surprised me by closing near even for the next few days, and was left wondering what the Hell was going on.  After all, this was supposedly the economy’s worst performance since 2009, and it came as a surprise--and the surprise was a nasty one considering that the 4th Quarter is supposed to show all the profits from the Christmas season.
So what gives?

Friday Hair Metal: Eye of the Tiger (Live!)

I feel like I need a little something extra today.  And since I don't happen to have any Deer Antler Spray handy, I guess this is the next best thing.

Oh man, that's excellent!

True story: a couple of years ago, I saw Don Cheedle standing outside one of hte Trump buildings wearing a pair of leather pants exactly like the ones my man wears in this video.  

I soooooo want some.