Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review: Assessing Last Year’s Goals

Setting goals is a good way to focus one’s efforts.  However, goals are no good without reassessment afterwards.  We therefore need to reexamine 2014’s goals before setting new goals for the coming year.
These were my goals for 2014:

Monday, December 29, 2014

D&D Homebrew (5e): the Swordmage

I've written before about the difficulties of trying to imagine myself with my actual background as a D&D Character.  It's frustrating because I like to take elements from my actual life and drop them into fantasy as a part of my writing process, but doing that in Dungeons and Dragons never yields quite the right feel using the existing D&D class structures.  It was a little easier with D&D's 4th Edition because you could create a multiclass Swordmage / Artificer or Artificer / Warlord, take the Soldier background, and come up with a useful quasi-melee build that makes at least some sense in the contest of my family's would be party of adventurers.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Interview

Threats from North Korean hackers and terrorists notwithstanding, Sally and I sat down to watch The Interview last night.  It's available as a rental for $5.95 on YouTubeGoogle Play, and SeeTheInterview.Com in both HD and SD, and as we sat down last night, Sally said, "Wow.  This is really convenient.  We should watch movies like this all the time."  I agreed completely.

Friday, December 26, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: After-Christmas Special

All week folks have been expressing their regret that I’ve had to work, and all week I’ve been at pains to explain to them that there’s no reason for them to feel bad for me.  chose to take two weeks off in August to go to Maine.  Truth is, I’d much rather take my vacation time when the weather’s warm and I’m missing actual work, not when it’s crappy outside and half the office is out.  Granted, I’m off today, but still Christmas has never been my favorite holiday.  
Now that it’s over, I’m beyond ready to get on with my life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: Death of the Interview

Wow, what a crazy week!  Holy cow!!!
Let’s start with The Interview.  I was really looking forward to seeing it; Sally and I even talked about going Friday on our date night.  Bu that ain’t gonna happen, it seems.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Last Night's Swim Was Stupid

I was flipping through Twitter yesterday afternoon on the train ride home when I saw where a guy had posted his swim workout: 10 x 200 freestyle.  He said he was "coming in at" 2:50, which means, I think, that he was averaging 1:25/100 swimming with rest breaks between 200s.  That's not bad, especially for an adult age-group swimmer without a deep swimming background.  I had my own workout to plan last night and decided to simplify my life by adopting his plan almost in it's entirety. I made it 10 x 200 @ 2:50.  This is a little faster, of course, but it makes sense given my background.

I "Mustache" You a Question

My friend over at Axel over at IronRogue nominated me for another one of these pay-it-forward blogging projects.  This one is called "I mustache you a question," and it's not super-different than the Liebster Award, but I liked the questions better this time.

I have a mustache, but it doesn't look as good as this.
These questions all come in fours.  

Are you ready?  Here we go...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Tree 2014

We finally got our tree trimmed last night, and in spite of everthing, it’s beginning to feel like Christmas.  The kids were fired up, singing Christmas carols, and even I felt a little pang for days gone by as we pulled some of my family’s old ornaments out of their boxes for another year.  Some of these ornaments have been around a while, and I know that for me, my memories of Christmas are intimately tied to some of our specific tree ornaments.

Our Christmas Tree.
You can't see it, but the kids also installed an electric "Christmas train"
around the tree's skirt.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Card

That's about as good as it gets as far as Christmas Cards are concerned.

Monday Morning: Weekend Round-Up

What a weekend!
Back when I was in the Army, the thing we used to practice all the time was breaching obstacles.  It was a different Army back then, and I suspect that the emphasis on breaching came largely from the experience of the First Gulf War when the Iraqi Army spent six months digging in, and America and its allies then had to breach to get at the enemy.  It’s also possible that we practiced breaching simply because it’s a tremendously complicated and difficult operation, and by practicing it, we were effectively working our combat command structures in a useful way up to the battalion and brigade level.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Final Thoughts on Army-Navy

The Army team came up short yesterday, but I feel a lot better about the rivalry than I did at this time last year.  Army went into the game with a better plan, and they kept it close despite the fact Navy has an undoubtedly better team.  It looked like a rivalry game.  For the time being, that's going to have to be enough.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday News & Notes: #ARMYNAVY

I'm gonna swim, hit the gym, and then start getting ready to have some friends over this afternoon.  Only one thing matters today, and that's beating Navy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Mad Science: Thoughts on Swimming and #ArmyNavy

The Army-Navy Swim Meet was last night, and I sprang for the $9.99 monthly Knight Vision pass, so I could watch it.  I’d been considering driving up for the meet, and a couple of my classmates had been talking about meeting me—we were all convinced that Army had a good chance to win this year—but we ultimately decided not to.  Mostly because the meet was on a Thursday this year, and we all have to work today.  All things considered, it’s a good thing we didn’t.  Army got blown out of the water.  It’s left me a little confused as to what’s been going on with Army and Navy Athletics, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Army Football Preview: The Army-Navy Game

After a long, oft-disappointing season, it’s finally here.  The game.  Army-Navy.  In many ways, the other games barely matter.  If Army can win this one, the team will salvage its season and bring hope to soldiers and veterans serving around the world.
The Army-Navy Game is Saturday at 3:00 pm.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekend Update

How was your weekend?  Mine was pretty good.  Busy, but good.

Last week was chaotic in terms of my workout schedule.  My train was late getting in on Tuesday, causing me to miss swim practice that night, and I never got caught up.  Part of the problem is that I’ve been sluggish since getting back into the gym to lift weights, but a larger part is down simply to bad sleep and the effects of the very short days we have this time of year in New York and Connecticut.  Sally thinks I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I don’t know what that means, exactly, but it’s true that the weather impacts my moods. 

I’m like a Venus Flytrap.  I need plenty of sunlight.  When I don’t get it, I tend to snap at the things around me.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki

Wanderhaven is the city with everything, the gateway to the world and the capital of the Kingdom of the Western Isles. The streets are hard, though, and for a teenaged street-urchin named Sneakatara Boatman, they can be cruel, too. “Sneax” will do anything to escape the grinding poverty and hopelessness she’s known all her life. On most days, she’s lucky just to survive. Sneax’s lone friend is an apprentice wizard named Elaina Emboo, a rich girl from a nice family who hates the life that her father has planned for her. Elaina envies Sneax’s freedom but doesn’t understand what all that freedom actually costs.

When the infamous fire elf smuggler Draks comes to town, Sneax gets a chance to maybe change her life. But change is dangerous, and a fire elf will kill you as soon as look at you.

Read it now!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Morning's Swim Workout

My buddy Ben and I did a butterfly workout this morning, it was something of a ball-buster. Ben's contemplating a run at Master's Nationals this season, competing in the 100 Fly among other events. So we've been doing a little more stroke work lately, and let me tell you, it hasn't been as easy as it used to be.

We wound up doing lots of up tempo work, and as a result, the workout itself took a bit longer than I thought it would.  What can you do?  It was still hard as Heck. 

Anyway, here's what we did:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Final Cover

We went back and forth on quite a number of little issues on this thing, but finally, this is it. This is the one we're using.

5 Things on a Friday: It's All About Taylor!

There was lots of news this week, but I made a conscious decision to try to keep this list light.  I’d never consider the casting announcement of a new James Bond movie news, for example, but it’s either that or talk about something serious, and who wants to be serious on a Friday?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Desciption

I'm still working on this, but here's what I've for so far:

"Wanderhaven is the city with everything, the gateway to the world and the capital of the Kingdom of the Western Isles.  The streets are hard, though, and for a teenaged street-urchin named Sneakatara Boatman, they’re often cruel, too.  “Sneax” will do anything to escape the grinding poverty and hopelessness she’s known all her life.  On most days, though, she’s lucky just to survive.  Sneax’s lone friend is an apprentice wizard named Elaina Emboo, a rich girl from a nice family who hates the life her father has planned for her.  Elaina envies Sneax’s freedom but doesn’t understand what all that freedom actually costs. 
When the infamous fire elf smuggler Draks comes to town, Sneax gets a chance to maybe change her life.  But change is dangerous, and a fire elf will kill you as soon as look at you."

Well?  What do you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Getting Close...

We may still play around with the fonts a bit, but this is very like what I have in mind for the cover.

So?  What do you think?

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.

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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Super-Quick Primer: Air Force at Army

This is a very quick primer for tomorrow’s game, Air Force at Army.  I’m writing it because nobody read my extended preview, which was so evil and mean-spirited that I couldn’t bring myself to post the link anywhere.  Really, I should have kept that fucker in my diary.

Okay.  Here is what you need to know:

5 Things on a Friday: Looking Forward to 1992

There was lots of interesting news this week.  I could easily have put together ten things for this particular edition of “5 Things”, but my goal isn’t to make this a weekly treatise on the crap that I personally find fascinating.
Fair warning: with next week’s elections, this week’s column has a lot of politics.  I tried to keep it non-partisan, but my own views are slightly left-of-center, and that my well come through.  You’re more than welcome to drop competing viewpoints in the comments.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Army Football Preview: vs. Air Force

It’s Air Force Week, and I’m trying to be fired up, but I’m struggling with it.  As of this writing, Air Force is favored by 3.5 points on the road, and after Army’s debacle against Kent State, I’d personally take Air Force to cover.  On top of that, it’s supposed to rain all day on Saturday with high temperatures in the low- to mid-40s.  We’ve got tickets, but if I’m being honest, this is shaping up to be a miserable game-day experience.  
Go Army!  Beat Air Force!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Race Report: Fit For All 5k 2014

Sally and I ran the "Fit For All" 5k in Riverside Park, Manhattan, on Saturday.  The race was organized by Manhattan's West Side YMCA, but we ran as part of my company's corporate team.  Sally works for the YMCA in Milford, CT, so this particular race offered us a chance to both support an organization we believe in and make use of our various corporate connections for a day in New York.  After the race, we grabbed showers at the West Side YMCA and then took the kids to the American Museum of Natural History, where my company is a corporate sponsor.  All told, it was a pretty great day.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Family Pics: The American Museum of Natural History

After the race yesterday, Sally and I took the kids to the American Museum of Natural History.

I'm not sure exactly what role Theodore Roosevelt had in the museum's creation, but he has his own rotunda inside, as well as Theodore Roosevelt Park immediately outside, and what has to be the nation's single greatest equestrian statue at the museum's front.

An equestrian statue with two Native Americans accompanying.  Wow.

If the measure of a man is that they don't just put up a statue for him, they put up an equestrian statue, then TR went to the next level.  It fits the man, I suppose.

Friday, October 24, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: Age of Ultron & Other Stories

This week's reading is
The Dark Defiles.
I feel like I’ve been a little distracted this week.  I’m reading Richard K. Morgan’s new book, The Dark Defiles, third and final volume of “A Land Fit for Heroes”.  It has sucked up all the time I usually spend writing.  The whole trilogy is an elaborate deconstruction of epic fantasy, and I've enjoyed it thoroughly.  This third volume in particular has been reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, save that it’s not nearly as pretentious, thank God.  It's compelling, though, which is why I’ve sort of let the book take over my life this week.
I’ll review the whole series when I get a chance.  In the meantime, there was a lot of movie/comic/TV-type news this week.  Since that news beats the Hell out of news of a more serious variety, let’s talk about it a bit, shall we?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Race Goal Revisited

I have my first race in over a year this weekend, and if you read yesterday’s post, then you will already know that my initial goal time for the race was 24:00. 

The race is a 5k; 24:00 is hardly a blistering finishing time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Offseason Training Update: 10/13 – 10/19 (Week 2)

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.  I was in Albany last week, which threw my training schedule a little off but also gave me a chance to shift the emphasis of my training a little.  That was a welcome change. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tomorrow, One Last Time

Hannah reprised her role as Annie this weekend at her studio's fall show, probably for the last time.  I'm sad because I loved her as Annie--and also because her turn as Annie represents her first real triumph.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reflecting on the Mind of a Champion

Track Star Grinds Out a Bumpy Transition (NY Times)
Alan Webb holds the American
record for the mile.  He is currently
working with USA Triathlon to
transition to Olympic distance
"'Peo­ple gross­ly un­der­es­ti­mate the psy­cho­log­i­cal com­po­nent of what he did and what he had to live up to in the run­ning world...  That just wears on you. If he didn’t go out and give an in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance and set a record or win by an ex­or­bi­tant mar­gin, it was deemed a fail­ure.'

"Part of the prob­lem was that Webb did enough to make the ex­tra­or­di­nary look al­to­geth­er at­tain­able. In Ju­ly 2007, at an oth­er­wise sub­dued meet in Bel­gium, a se­ries of pace­set­ters guid­ed Webb through the open­ing laps of the mile be­fore he was left on his own, his stride some­how length­en­ing as his closed on the fin­ish line. His time, 3:46.91, broke Steve Scott’s 25-year-old Amer­i­can record by al­most eight-tenths of a sec­ond.

"In an in­ter­view af­ter­ward, Webb sound­ed eu­phor­ic — not nec­es­sar­i­ly be­cause of what he had ac­com­plished, but be­cause of what he be­lieved was still pos­si­ble. He was con­vinced that he could run even faster."

I remember those days.  I was never as fast as Webb, of course, but I remember hitting my first AAAA time in swimming as a high school freshman, placing fifth in  the San Diego CIF swimming championships, and then coming back the next day to face two guys who had just come off runs in the Olympics--and beating them!  Granted, the Jorgensen brothers were not butterfliers, and they probably also weren't at the peak of their season, but it was still quite a heady (if private) accomplishment.  At fourteen, I was already 5'10" and at the top of my sport.  The Olympics seemed like a real possibility.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday News and Notes

Happy Saturday!

Scarlett followed me on Twitter this morning.  I'm now up to 175 followers, which means that soon I will be able to take over the world!  Mwhahahahaha!

Friday, October 17, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: with the Cool Kids

It's been an interesting week in Albany, but I'm more than ready to go home.  I know some folks don't mind traveling for work, but I personally hate it.  Seriously, I don't know how some of you guys do it.

The mainstream news is mostly filled with the #EbolaApocalypse, so I'm gonna spend some time this week talking about comic book stuff.  I'm betting we'll still be alive in the next few years to see the stuff that got announced this week at the New York Comic Con.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Offseason Swim Workouts: Week #6

We set our Cruise Interval (CI) last week, and my plan was to use it this week to transition to a more aggressive, speed-based series of workouts.  However, I started writing this series of workouts for my friend Alisha, and in talking to her, I learned that her back's been hurting and that doing speed work risks aggravating it.  We started doing this series because her back was sore--she was looking for an alternative to running as a form of offseason base training--so making her back worse was not an option.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Army Football Preview: at Kent State

Last week was a tough week for Army football fans.  The Army team has played a number of close games this season, but last week's game against visiting Rice was not one of them.  Army got beat badly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and if you watched the game, you could easily see why.  Rice's O-Line must've outweighed Army's D-Line by an average of fifty pounds or more per man.  It was tough sledding.  This is a new week, however, and Army has a chance to rebound at Kent State.

This is a game that Army ought to win.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There's good news, and there's bad news...

The good news is that the New York City Comic Con was held over the weekend, and Marvel used the event to release some footage of its new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Offseason Training Log: 10/6 to 10/12 (Week 1)

I was in the hospital with a leg infection the third week of August.  I was on some heavy-duty antibiotics, and at the end of it the doc told me it was gonna take some time before I started feeling like myself again.  He said that the ordeal had cost me some aerobic endurance, and that I would have to build that back slowly.

This proved to be correct.  I started riding my regular commute the first week of September, tried to step straight back into training the next week, and wound up exhausted.  Since then, it's been a slow, deliberate slog back to regular training.  But last week I finally got back to something like my normal offseason training volume.  I'm still not crushing it out there, but I was finally up over a hundred points, and I am slowly but surely starting to feel like myself again.  All things considered, that seems like something of an accomplishment.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reflecting on Yesterday's Game vs. Rice

It's one thing to say that Army's defensive line is overmatched against most FBS schools' offensive lines.  It's something else entirely to see it live.  This was the first game we've been to this season, so maybe (hopefully) this Rice team was a little larger on the O-Line than Army's other opponents will be this year, but the size differential was striking.  Army's interior D-Line must have given up fifty pounds per man.  Even Rice's wide receivers looked like NFL tight ends against Army's secondary.  Army defenders were frequently in the right position to make plays on ball carriers, but they missed a bunch of tackles because the guys they were trying to bring down looked like ogres.

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: The Curious Case of Kim Jong-Un

I feel like I’ve been waiting all week for the coming weekend, and it’s made the week drag badly.  We have a lot going on this weekend.  Sally and the kids and I are going up to West Point for the game against Rice, and after that, it’s a three-day weekend.
But we still have to get through Friday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Friday Speed Work

If you read Monday's post, then you will know that I came into the week with a plan for my workouts.  Well, I wound up switching it around a little.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Army Football Preview: vs. Rice

Last Saturday’s game against Ball State was a terrific win for Army.  It was everything we’ve seen so far out of this year’s Army team—a fast start, an early fumble, the team hanging tough and taking an early lead, and a lot of downhill running.  For a change, they also managed to hang on to the ball late in the game, and when Ball State mounted their comeback, Army intercepted a pass and put the game away.  All told, it was a beautiful game in a driving rain storm.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Swim Practice Tonight

This is the first time I'll have been able to hit the water mid-week in quite some time. Here's the plan:

Hannah & Gabe "Shake It Off"

As promised, here's the video from the weekend's performance.  Our daughter Emma is the one who keeps photobombing the shot.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Weekend Update: Army Wins & Hannah Sings!

I don’t know about you, but my weekend was great.  It started Friday when I survived two near misses on my bike.  Both times trucks tried to put me into a line of parked cars along the side of the street, and both times I was able to dodge out of the way.  In the words of the immortal Hines Ward, “I always keep my head on a swivel.”
Friday night was pretty relaxed.  We ordered pizza, and eventually Sally, Hannah, and Emma went over to a friend’s house to do whatever it is that girls do when they go out.  I stayed home and watched TV, and then when Emma got home, the two of us caught up on the premier of Star Wars: Rebels.  We all still made it to bed by about ten.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Offseason Swim Workouts: Week #5

For the past four weeks, we've been doing swim workouts that build aerobic endurance with spots of uptempo work to build speed.  As we've said before, triathlon training is endurance training.  This makes it difficult to train fast during the season.
However, we've now reached the offseason.  Without any major races looming, we have a lower total training volume, and this allows us time to train harder, rest more, and hopefully get faster.  This in turn sets us up for the resumption of base training when the new year arrives.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Triathlon Training Plans

As I wrote yesterday, I spent part of this week trying to figure out how to design a training plan for the coming triathlon season to meet my body's obvious need for longer, slower training.  The results are below.

The basis for this plan comes from Team Oregon and their article "SLOW DOWN! and Run Your Best 10k Ever!"

Friday, October 3, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Taking a Bite out of Apple

It’s been an interesting news week.  The world is changing, hopefully for the better, though I suppose we won’t have enough perspective on it to make any meaningful judgements for a while.  
I tell people all the time that the past is past, we are where we are now, and we can either deal with it realisticaly and move forward or else stay stuck in a fantasy of our own imaginings and regrets.  One of these options is clearly better than the other, but I suppose your mileage may vary as to which is which.
“For distance runs, we rarely need more than occasional water stops and, if the run will last longer than a couple hours, a gel or two. For harder workouts, however, we’ll need a recovery plan.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Army Football Preview: vs. Ball State

This past Saturday saw Army drop another heartbreaker in the final moments.  This was the second tough loss in a row, and it torpedoed a season that started with unexpected promise.  Yale had a lot of emotion coming into Saturday’s game, and as we said last week, they are not a team that gives up.  They did exactly what we expected they would do: they made adjustments at halftime and came roaring back from the brink of defeat.  They honored the one hundred year legacy of Yale football in fine fashion, though it was unfortunate that their triumph came at Army’s expense.  Now the Army team needs to rally.  After three weeks on the road, the team comes home to Michie Stadium to face the Ball State Cardinals, out of the MAC West.

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.