The injured falcon and the abandoned little dog (dream 6)

I am seemingly outdoors, but yet inside our house. It does not quite make sense, because there is a tree overhead directly shading the floor inside. Be that as it may, however, there is a commotion going on: Our cats are chasing around under the tree, either after each other or something else — I am not quite sure which.

Then I see it: some kind of animal they are attempting to get at and toy with, standing on the floor. It is injured, but this time I do not think the cats are the ones who have been the cause, as they usually are with a small animal they have cornered.

I go over to see what kind of animal it is, and cannot tell at first. But somehow it has found its way just inside our back door. I try to take hold of it and carefully shoo it out the door away from the cats for its own protection, but am unable to get a grip on the animal. It is mangled and struggles to come back through the door. However, doing so will continue attracting the cats who will want to play with and kill it. Despite my shooing, the animal keeps trying to come back in the door for shelter, either unaware of or despite the cats.

Though I am unsuccessful trying to herd the animal out, I manage to find a way to keep it protected from the cats by stooping over and loosely cupping my hands around its body to create a shield, my fingers lightly brushing against it as I do. And as my hands make this contact, now my eyes become enabled to see the animal more clearly: I recognize it is a wild but hurt and grounded falcon that has walked its way, not flown, into our house in its injured state.

As I corral the falcon inside the lattice of my hands and outstretched fingers to protect it, it warms to my presence and begins quieting down and struggling less. Now I can also see that the falcon is no longer able to fly because something has stripped off too many of its feathers.

Read moreThe injured falcon and the abandoned little dog (dream 6)

Are you hitting the point of negative returns with technology? (I am) Part 2

More from our disgruntled narrator in a salvo directed at some of today’s technologies that now bring as many, if not more, downsides as upsides to their use.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

Email gone rogue

There’s no doubt that email is very functional in today’s world of e-commerce. Like others with businesses to run, I rely on it heavily. Even though many of us now use texting and other forms of direct or private messaging or chat for many communications, email is still the lingua franca — the all-inclusive, lowest common denominator of electronic communications for conducting official business. The rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

But that said, for me the number of unsolicited, unwanted email intrusions from non-work-related companies I’ve made purchases from at some point or other over the years has recently reached epidemic proportions. Several months ago it had gotten to the point where almost every day I was besieged with “news” or “special deals” or solicitations that I never signed up for from these companies. Legal companies, I should add, but nonetheless behaving badly.

Since I work in a deadline-oriented field where prompt responses are expected, by necessity I’ve set up my computer to notify me whenever a new email arrives that I need to know about. These alerts go beyond incoming business email from customers, and also include that from personal friends, billing notices, etc.

(I should note that these alerts only apply to a fraction of the email I receive, much of which consists of other types of email, such as recurring newsletters, notifications of website security scans and successful online backups of computer data, or discussion-forum emails. For these, I’ve set up rules to automatically filter or archive them sight unseen into separate mailboxes for later scanning or reference, should that become necessary.)

Over time, the number of unsolicited emails had become an ongoing burden that I increasingly came to resent, because of the Chinese-water-torture-like drip, drip, drip of unwanted interruptions that, cumulatively, were stealing my time — and therefore life — away from me on the installment plan.

Read moreAre you hitting the point of negative returns with technology? (I am) Part 2

Are you hitting the point of negative returns with technology? (I am) Part 1

A tale wherein our intrepid protagonist, who in the past has eagerly tried all manner of high technologies, becomes grumpy at the failure of newer entrants in the lineup to live up to expectations. With examples of his sacrilege in returning to lesser methods of doing things, and pontifications regarding the follies of the tool-using species known as homo sapiens.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

I am someone who has always enjoyed new technology. Most of my life, I’ve typically been among the first of my friends and family to try out what’s new on the horizon when it comes to higher-tech offerings. Or at least those that are affordable to people like myself of modest means.

This inclination is actually more than just a technological leaning, and extends to other new things as well: I became a distance runner in the early 1970s, at age 14, when we skinny dudes (and it was in fact mostly guys) running along the side of the road were thought to be odd and sometimes harassed because of it. At age 16, I became a vegetarian when it was considered countercultural and effete (but which I abandoned 18 years later after it began taking a serious toll on my health, despite my best efforts). Following in succession after that were also yoga and meditation.

Later, I became aware of and got involved with the internet in the late 1980s before most people had heard of it. At this time, email and email list forums (plus a few walled-garden forums like America Online, The WELL, ECHO, and CompuServe) were “the only game in town” on the internet for the most part. The Worldwide Web had yet to be invented, which meant no blogs, e-commerce, news sites, or social media. So with the internet still something of a desert in those days except for a few such oases here and there, I was then moved to explore the alternative realm of underground zines and M2Ms (many-to-manys) — the paper-based forerunners of today’s online blogs and message boards, respectively— before moving back to the internet once it began taking off for good in the mid-1990s.

None of this was because of any desire to be “up” on what was in vogue (all of the above pursuits were very much regarded as fringe at the time), but just because I’ve always been one to periodically cast about for interesting or challenging horizons to explore.

For example, I’ve also been keen on the latest research findings in science my whole life — something which most of the American public is anything but interested in, to judge by our students’ abysmal science scores and general avoidance of elective science classes in school compared to those in other countries. (Except, of course, when it comes to the fruits of science in the form of catchy, often frivolous new consumer gadgets, which the United States is the undisputed heavyweight champion of.)

Read moreAre you hitting the point of negative returns with technology? (I am) Part 1

Ovum in a baggie with embryonic flower (dream 5)

I am in the reception room of an in vitro fertilization counselor’s office, waiting for her to arrive for an appointment I have scheduled with her. In my hand I am holding a clear plastic, zip-lock sandwich bag. Inside it is a tiny, ovoid egg about 1/8″ to 3/16″ in diameter, with the color and finish of a white pearl.

It is my wife’s egg from one of her ovaries. We do not have any children — the dream situation is odd because in real life my wife is retirement age, and I am not far behind.

Read moreOvum in a baggie with embryonic flower (dream 5)

Work has begun on the FontCompass website

Earlier this year, in mid to late January, I finally bit the bullet: I decided to begin work on the long-haul endeavor of turning my private FontCompass universal typeface classification system into a website. Since then, most of my spare time has been devoted to it. Not that I have had nearly as much extra time as I would like. (Does anybody, these days?)

FontCompass began life a number of years ago. Initially it was a project I began putting together to organize my own font library just to speed my graphic design work, and I took the first steps sometime around 2005 or 2006. I’ve written up the basic idea here, but essentially the project was to serve two purposes:

  • To quickly identify typefaces used in customer logos for which they could not furnish me the original artwork, to enable speedily rebuilding them (assuming the fonts needed were present in my library); and
  • To locate typefaces with just the right “look and feel” I wanted for a design project. Since I was trained primarily as a typographer early in my career — and am to some degree a layout artist but not an illustrator or artistically trained graphic designer, which limits my “arsenal” — injecting some typographic allure is a key aspect of my approach to design. Without that, I don’t have a whole lot to offer that’s unique, so FontCompass helped tremendously.

After a year and a half of spare-time work, I had completed the task of classifying all the fonts in my own library, and the creation and buildout of the FontCompass classification scheme itself was also essentially complete. Mostly I used the system for my custom car tags business, Leeward Productions, rebuilding customer logos and designing tags. But it was readily apparent that FontCompass could also provide considerable value to other designers, as well as advertising agencies, if it could somehow be made available to them.

Read moreWork has begun on the FontCompass website

Invasion of the hobby joggers, Part 2

On the comeback trail in my late fifties after over two decades of running primarily for fitness, I discovered that the phenomenon of “hobby joggers” had significantly changed the road-racing scene. It was good that more people had found running, but couldn’t they have done so without crashing the party?
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

When bigger is a bummer

Last fall, I was scratching my head after years away from competition, trying to find a road-running race where I would have decent room to run without literally getting tripped up. Sometimes race-event publicity and sign-up websites would proudly report the size of the event and how many participants finished the previous year’s race. Presumably they felt that this demonstration their race was a cool, super-duper “happening thing” would be a draw.

Most, however, did not mention the number, likely because they just didn’t think to do so, of course. I also wondered, though, if perhaps a few of the race directors or sponsors of these races might not want to broadcast how large their events had become for fear of appearing they had simply become too big, unwieldy, and crowded.

Because with too many entrants in a road race, logistics suffer unless the event is very well-managed: Insufficient, inconvenient, or distant parking. Delays picking up one’s registration packet and race number before the start. Lines at the toilets due to a lack of Port-A-Johns (and perhaps having to go find a tree quite some way off to pee behind). Faster runners getting stuck behind self-important but slower runners who have crowded their way to the front of the starting line where they don’t belong. And so forth.

Here’s the ironic thing. The races that come with the most troubles are exactly the ones that cost the most and are loaded down with the most crap: The useless participation medals just for finishing. The doughy, white-bread crowds pulled in by such trinkets. The unneeded water stations in short races like 5Ks. The gaudy carnival atmosphere with local radio personalities or other clowns polluting the soundscape with jangling, overamplified noise and pushing other foofaraw on everyone.

Read moreInvasion of the hobby joggers, Part 2

Invasion of the hobby joggers, Part 1

This past fall I got my feet wet running a few local road races again after many years away. In the process, I had to deal for the first time with the incursion of so-called hobby joggers that has affected the road-racing scene nationwide since the time I last competed. Here is my report.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

It is one of my first 5K races in almost 25 years, and I am now not much more than a quarter of a mile past the one-mile mark on a beautiful course that runs along the largest river in our state. It is an absolutely perfect fall morning for a race: 57 degrees, crisp air, a cheerful sun, and little to no wind or humidity. Cool enough to not overheat, but not so cool that my muscles might tighten up competing in the brief split-side shorts and T-shirt I am wearing.

At 59 years old, I am still feeling my way back from the long absence from racing. This current race effort is purposely more intense than my first couple of testing-the-waters forays the previous month, and I am beginning to feel and remember what a real competitive attempt is like again.

Flirting with the limit of my current fitness, I am pushing hard but consciously holding back a bit to avoid going over the edge so I don’t crash and burn. And also because I’m still not quite sure where that edge really is, or exactly what it feels like — or used to feel like — after such a long time away.

I don’t want to risk running on the “red line” just yet. I’m getting closer to that day, but it can wait till next spring. After the two earlier fall races run well shy of my capability, this one is a time trial to wrap things up for the season and assess my true fitness level so I can determine a few key paces to target in training this winter. So while I’m enjoying grappling with the challenge, I don’t want to spoil things by potentially overreaching and nosing over into a painfully drawn-out tailspin for the latter half of the race.

A first encounter with the species

Not far ahead of me is a younger, tallish, somewhat overweight (at least for a runner), probably early-thirty-something man who is laboring heavily. It is a level of fatigue he should not be experiencing until the very last half-mile of the race, had he been pacing himself properly. He appeared in my sights a couple of hundred yards back, and I have slowly been closing in on him. But now, crossing over a bridge spanning the river on the route, with every stride the gap is visibly diminishing.

Read moreInvasion of the hobby joggers, Part 1

Running renewal at age 59: turning over a new leaf with “Tinman” training, Part 2

Continuing our look at the training approach of Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, and its clarifying, rejuvenating effect in motivating my return to racing after many years away.
Be sure to check out the Tom Schwartz training info links at the bottom of Part 2 here, which point to articles, podcasts, and videos exploring his approach in more depth. If you find yourself drawn to train the “Tinman” way, don’t overlook the very helpful training calculator tool on his coaching site that’s linked to below as well.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

The art of “Tinman” training: putting the pieces together

Other than perhaps his take on “CV” intervals that purposely target Type IIa fast-intermediate muscle fibers to significantly increase their endurance (covered in Part 1), Tom Schwartz isn’t promoting anything completely new, of course. But then again, no one can really claim that mantle.

Most competent coaches and training systems these days incorporate multi-pace training year-round now, for example, varying the mix depending on the season. But the way Schwartz balances all the different elements is, if not unique, rare these days, and he consistently offers interesting, outside-the-box insights you tend not to find elsewhere, as well as simple, practical ways to apply them to training. And his deep knowledge of the history of training systems, his extensive education and training in exercise physiology, 25+ years of coaching experience commencing very early as an undergrad, and holistic grasp of how everything works together in concert — or should — is unparalleled.

Here are a few high points and key takeaways, to expand a bit on what was covered in Part 1.

VO2max intervals: easy does it. Schwartz does employ VO2max intervals as part of the overall system, but carefully and judiciously, specifically eschewing too many of them, at least by prevailing standards, even during the peak season. They are done less frequently, over shorter distances, and in significantly less volume per workout than insisted on by most coaches. This runs very much counter to the “conventional wisdom” these days.

But Schwartz has found through experience that most distance runners do not need much of this type of training to perform at a peak. A little goes a long way, and it is easy to overdo and burn athletes out. And besides, races themselves in the 1500m to 5000m range hit the body’s VO2max physiology hard as it is. Depending on how often an athlete races during the season, little additional VO2max-specific training may be needed beyond racing itself.

Read moreRunning renewal at age 59: turning over a new leaf with “Tinman” training, Part 2

Mother sister pregnant moon (dream 4)

This is a dream from 10 or 15 years ago that I happened to remember recently. Nothing special was going on in my life at the time, at least that I experienced as being particularly noteworthy.

I
t is the wee hours, about one or two o’clock in the morning. I am outside lying on my back in a grassy meadow.

It is a pleasant, warm, quiet night. A full moon bathes everything in its blue-white glow, in which I am basking.

I am still myself — a man. But I am fully pregnant and moments away from giving birth. It will not be a son or daughter, however. The person I am about to give birth to is… Myself.

There is no pain, just an exhilarating, quietly radiant joy suffusing my entire body and mind. I am completely in the moment, anticipating what is to come, yet already fulfilled, wanting nothing more, nothing less. My whole being is full, my heart filled.

As I look up, I see my mother and my only sister standing above me in attendance. They do not say anything but they too are happy, quiet, and expectant.

I am at complete peace, awaiting what is about to happen.

That is all.

Running renewal at age 59: turning over a new leaf with “Tinman” training, Part 1

Years down the road, with new motivation after a long hiatus from racing, I am finally taking the opportunity to try making a little hay from lessons I began learning about training long ago. Only recently have those lessons finally sunk in enough to make a difference.
This two-part posting includes my selection of “best of Tom (Tinman) Schwartz” links at the end of Part 2. These point to articles, interviews, podcasts, and videos covering his views on training, plus Schwartz’s handy online training calculator for targeting specific training paces based on a current race performance.
Go to: Part 1 | Part 2

Why race again after so many years?

It’s curious how life will sometimes toss a bone your way. In some cases it turns out to be just a dry bone lacking in marrow, and is better passed over. Other times, though, you gnaw on it a little, hesitantly at first, a bit distractedly, and then find, perhaps despite yourself, your appetite is whetted. Then with a little more nibbling and tentative chewing, the juices begin to flow.

What you might have viewed at first as something not really worth the extra bother, you begin to embrace. Then as time passes, you find yourself pursuing it with an extra enthusiasm you had tabled or forgotten. And you outstrip the original idea and begin taking it further than originally intended.

This happened for me recently when the idea of running a local 5K road race together “just for fun” was suggested by a running friend of mine. For a dozen years, I had been content to run a couple of days a week for fitness and general enjoyment, because I had always loved running and training just for their own sake. In earlier years, I had been involved in high-level competition — for several years in high school and college, and for another period in my mid-30s — but thought that “fire” had been burned through already. I did not anticipate ever competing again.

Read moreRunning renewal at age 59: turning over a new leaf with “Tinman” training, Part 1

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