Sunday, April 29, 2007

Week in Review and Other Thoughts

What a week! Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I swear I spent more time sitting around listening to people talk than I did getting actual work done. Some of it was really useful, but as usual, most was not. Too bad there’s no way to do a Reader’s Digest version of meetings, where it all gets condensed down to the basics and you can go get more info on just the parts that matter to you.

I had planned to put my bike in the shop on Monday, but that didn’t come to pass because I was late getting home from work. Then it rained Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Thursday it was too late in the week and I was concerned about getting the bike back by the weekend. Now I’m looking at the calendar thinking I should probably just drop off the bike before going on vacation. That way they can do whatever needs doing, no time pressure, and I’ll get the bike when I return. It’ll also be one less item in the entryway to impede the pet sitter. Win/win!

Today’s run ended up quite a bit longer than I originally intended. I had a couple errands to take care of, so I figured I would take care of them while I was out. So I arranged my run so that I ended up at the bank at 9 am, where I deposited a check from my father. I already had the check and deposit slip ready to go, so it was just a matter of taking them out of the plastic bag and handing them over. Very fast.

Tip: Save all oddly-sized ziplocks from purchases. They’re great for stashing things on a run or bike ride, so they don’t get wet. Little bags are good for Endurolytes or Sport Beans. Slightly larger ones are good for cash.

The next place I needed to go didn’t open until 10:00, which led to some of my extra mileage. I could’ve gotten there by 9:20 or so, but had to invent extra loops and mileage, so that by the time I finally got home, I had run fifteen miles instead of the planned twelve. Oh well. It was a nice day for it.

After several weeks of feeling angsty and dissatisfied with Life, the Universe, and Everything, I’m doing better now. No particular reason, it’s just that either my hormones were out of whack, or I’ve found a way to cope. Maybe some of both. It will be interesting to see what my vacation does to me. I often come home feeling more than ever like the life I’m living isn’t real enough, and reality is “out there” somewhere.

While it’s true that much of modern life is very far removed from the essentials that matter, it’s also true that meaning is where you find it. A smart man I once knew said that he used to think he needed to go to India to “find himself,” until he realized that if he needed to go halfway around the world to figure out what was in his own head and heart, he had bigger problems that wouldn’t be solved by crossing an international border.

Wise thoughts. Putting wisdom into practice on a day to day basis is the tricky part.

Recent Workouts
Tuesday: 30 minute elliptical, weights
Wednesday: 35 minute spin, weights
Thursday: 4 mile run
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 15 mile run

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Product Review: LightWedge

You know the drill. One of you wants to sleep, the other wants to stay up and read. But you’re away from home, at a hotel, a relative’s house or in a tent. Lamps aren’t in convenient places and going to another room to read might not be an option.

But luckily for us bibliophiles, some clever person invented the Lightwedge! It’s a thin piece of plexiglass, lit by an LED powered by four AAA batteries. Just put the Lightwedge over your page and turn it on!

I bough the paperback size Lightwedge and it’s pretty cool. It’s small, light, powerful, and fits in a book just like a bookmark. It’s much more convenient than the book lights that were around in the ‘80s. If, like me, you like to read in bed all cuddled up with book, blanket and cat, the Lightwedge doesn’t get in the way at all. And you can keep it in your book when you’re not using it.

My only quibble is that the light arcs of the two LEDs overlap, creating a faint wave-patterned shadow on the page. This is an extremely minor flaw though, and overall, this is an excellent product. Four AAA batteries give you forty hours of light. That’s a lot of late-night reading while your spouse snores in the dark!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blog Apocalypse


The blogosphere is ending. No more blogs. Blog apocalypse. The internet is still working, the world is fine. But you can’t write anymore. Write your last post. Make it a good one. What is the reason you blog? What is the last gem of knowledge you want to leave? What do you want to be remembered for? Who are you? What is the meaning of life?

Okay, there really is no Blog Apocalypse. It's just a new meme making the rounds, and my blog pal Thomma tagged me!

Unfortunately, I don't think I've got much to say on something like this. No great words of wisdom to share, no summing up of my blogging experience. I don't know if I would even indulge in a whine about having to go back to lots and lots of email and forum postings. I'd just post one last fabulous bunny pic and take the fun to some other medium.

But hey, blogging isn't going away, at least not anytime soon. And if the idea of blog apocalypse isn't scary enough for you, an intriguing new game is going to get started on April 30. Check out World Without Oil!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Further Adventures in Caffeination

I’m experimenting with cold brewing this weekend. Although there are specially designed cold-brewers you can buy, all you really need is coffee, water, and time.

For the purpose of my experiment, I bought a box of Black Mountain Gold single-cup coffee “pods” of the Kenya AA variety. I put them in a glass jar with fresh-filtered water and set the whole thing in the fridge. The results are pretty good. The coffee is strong, mellow and non-acidic. It packs a good caffeine punch, too. It’s not as highly concentrated as I would like, but I think that’s just a patience issue. If I hadn’t been siphoning off some of my brew within 24 hours and had just let everything keep steeping, it would’ve gotten much more concentrated than if I hadn’t been pouring out some to drink and topping off the jar with more water. Duh.

Since single-cup coffee pods are expensive and wasteful, I’m going to look into getting some reusable cloth bags next time I’m at Whole Foods or Central Market. I can then use whatever kind of ground beans I like for my cold brew. I also need to find a better container for it than the jar I’m using now. I’d like something I can pour from more easily, but I don’t want anything plastic. I also want to find a small container I can take to work—something I can use to make just one or two cups of coffee.

But overall, I feel like my recent coffee experiments are a success, and I love the convenience of just pouring my coffee (whether from a jar or a Java Juice pouch), adding a little hot water and being ready to go!

Sunday Brunch

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Run and Musings

What a week. I’m going through one of my angsty phases again, fed up and annoyed with how fake everything feels. I’ll get over it, but for now it’s a struggle to keep plugging away at the office job and surviving in a modern urban society. Everything I do is so far removed from the real people that are affected by it, that I often feel like I’m living in some Second Life world, all made up and with only the illusion of significance.

Yeah, I need that vacation. Only a few weeks to go!

Today’s run was a modified version of my Memorial/Chimney Rock run.

I had a little trouble breathing at the outset, but it went away around mile 4. I wonder if I’m allergic to jasmine? There’s so much of it in bloom right now that in some places you can cut the scent with a knife. I love it, but I wonder if my lungs love it, too?

As I left Memorial Park, there was a train going by. Since it was moving fast and I could see the end, I waited rather than go under the trestle. I love watching trains. The Santa Fe’s tracks ran through my grandfather’s property in New Mexico, and me and my cousins would go out there and watch the trains go by. My cousins lived in Albuquerque and visited my grandparents often, so they knew all the train schedules. Sometimes we would sneak out late at night, running down to the tracks in the dark to watch the boxcars sway as they rolled by. I think of these things when I see trains, and it makes me smile.

After the train passed, I crossed the tracks and continued on my way. I felt pretty good, except for where my IT Band strap was chafing. It was a problem that would only get worse, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I ignored it.

The roadside garden was doing well today, and the trees were just covered in kumquats. I was wondering if I should go back later and pick some, when I saw an old man and young boy filling bags. Good. I’m glad someone’s eating them.

Once I got past Woodway, I was in somewhat new territory. I was on part of the Houston Marathon course, meaning I had run this way (going the opposite direction) twice in the last seven years. So in other words, it was almost as if I had never run it. I didn’t have landmarks identified, or a sense of how far things were. This kept me distracted, but not always in a good way. I was getting thirsty and fighting a case of "Are we there yet?"

Once on San Felipe, I started looking for good places to buy water and use a restroom. I only wanted water, but it’s good to know what amenities are available on any given route.

When I got to Rice Epicurean (a local grocery store), I went inside and bought a bottle of water. I had brought some electrolytes and calories along, so I fueled up, drank half my water, and wrapped the bottle in my ever-useful bandana so it wouldn’t slip out of my hand from the condensation. And then I continued on my way.

I had fun running up Post Oak, the scene of much of my twentysomething wining and dining. And then I turned onto Uptown Park Boulevard, which connected into the trail I followed last weekend. Soon I was back on Woodway, finishing up my run in the usual way.

I definitely like this new route, with all the places on San Felipe to get water and use a restroom. My Fuel Belt aggravates my hip problem and I don’t like to wear it much any more, so knowing where I can get water will be more and more important as the weather warms up.

I haven’t got much else to say about today, other than that I’m glad I’m not at the office. I’ve been invited to do a city ride early tomorrow morning, but we’ll see about that. It sounded good last night and this morning, but with my hip stiffening up tonight, I’m not so sure now.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 5 mile run
Tuesday: 30 minute spin, 10 minute weights
Wednesday: 30 minute elliptical
Thursday: 30 minute elliptical, 15 minute weights
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 14.5 mile run

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Product Review: Java Juice

I’ve been playing with this new coffee product for almost a week now. I gave packets to my husband and a friend at work, hoping for additional input, but my beta testers have yet to try it, so this review will have to be solo.

For starters, it’s convenient. I love being able to empty one of the single-serving pouches into a cup, add hot water, and have a perfect cup of coffee. It’s more convenient than instant (no messy powder, no stirring!) and tastes a lot better. It also saved my butt at a morning workshop earlier this week. I didn’t know if there would be refreshments available, but I did know that there was a water cooler with a hot water tap. So I slipped two pouches of Java Juice into my purse, and sure enough there was no coffee at the workshop. But there was coffee for me, and boy did I feel smart!

The only thing I’m a little unhappy with is the taste. It’s far better than instant, and it’s better than most office brews, but it’s not up to coffee shop standards, and it’s slightly bitter. The thing I love about cold-brewed coffee is its lack of acidity, so I was hoping Java Juice would have that same mellow flavor. No such luck. It’s no more acidic than a typical cup of brewed coffee, but anyone with fond memories of real cold-brew will be disappointed.

Nevertheless, I love the convenience of this product. Since the packaging is rather wasteful, I'm going to explore doing my own cold-brewing at home, for day-to-day coffee drinking. But I’ll be buying more of these Java Juice packets for our upcoming road trip and for office emergencies, like workshops where there is no beverage setup. It works well with hot or cold water, so I really can't go wrong with this stuff. I don’t need to ever again find myself someplace where I can’t have a decent cup of coffee, and that’s a good thing!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Huns and Visigoths

It’s been a busy month for school and workplace shootings. There was an office shooting at University of Washington on April 2, a workplace shooting near Detroit on April 9, and today the horror at Virginia Tech.

It’s part of a trend that's been gathering speed for years. In just this calendar year there have been high school shootings in Tacoma, Chicago, and Las Vegas, workplace shootings in Signal Hill and Indianapolis, and a mall shooting in Utah.

What’s wrong with our national psyche that seemingly ordinary civilians think the solution to their problems is to kill other citizens just going about the business of living their lives?

Usually I can take the historian’s long-range, high-level view of things. I try to see events in their larger context, in which the day-to-day minutiae of lives like yours and mine aren’t all that important. But I had a sort of gestalt moment today, watching the news unfold from Virginia Tech. And it wasn’t because I work at a university. It was something else, like one of those trick pictures where the two faces become a cup, and vice-versa. What matters isn’t what we see or think we see, but what’s going on in our brains that makes it so.

Something is wrong, and today my historian’s brain refused to save me from having to think too hard about it. I couldn’t take the thousand-year view of things, mutter something under my breath about Huns and Visigoths and brush it all off as “just what dumb humans do.” Aren’t we dumb humans collectively doing enough, with lies, wars, environmental destruction and waste of resources? Must we randomly shoot each other, too?

Anyway, it was all a little much for me today. So when I came home, I went for a longer run than usual, and really pushed myself. I didn’t care about my sore hip, or the fact that I was tired, my legs were stiff and I was hungry. I ran hard, hoping I could wear myself out enough to shut up my brain, just for a little while.

In the context of millennia, no one will even care about the things that happened on this one turn around the sun. But today, I cared, and I didn't want to. When you care, you're supposed to act, and I have no confidence that there are any solutions that won't be worse than the problem. I can only hope that someday our collective insanity will be played out, lost in the forgetfulness of time, remembered only by historians, who'll shake their heads over what monsters our society produced.

They'll mutter under their breath about Huns, Visigoths and school shooters, then go about the business of the day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Boston Marathon-- Stormy Weather

Looks like tomorrow's Boston Marathon is going to be brutal.

"Forecasters predict heavy rain, 20 mph winds and temperatures around 40 degrees."

I get the impression that it'll be mostly headwinds, too.

For so many age groupers (ordinary runners), this must be a terrible disappointment. They trained hard, in many cases for years, just to qualify for this race, and now they'll have to run the race of their dreams in the weather of their nightmares.

Tomorrow's going to be all about the mental game, folks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weekend Run

After a crazy Friday at the office where I was so busy I hardly had time to catch a breath, I was glad the weekend was here! The weather is still a little off, cooler than usual for this time of year, and very windy. But at least we haven’t been having big storms move through, like in other parts of Texas and the US.

Weather.com had promised rain for this morning, so I was anticipating a long morning at the gym. To my relief, all the rain had cleared out by the time I was ready to drag myself out of bed and face the day, so I did my Memorial Drive, Chimney Rock, Woodway run. Today’s sightings included turtles at what I affectionately call Turtle Pond on Memorial, a dead but largely intact armadillo, and lots of kumquats at the still-inexplicable roadside garden at Memorial and Chimney Rock.

I also found a new-to-me running path. It’s parallel to the 610 loop and goes from Woodway to Uptown Park. It didn’t add much to my overall route, but it opens up options for new routes. I think this path is the paved-over version of a muddy little trail I ran on seven years ago when I trained with Houston Fit for my first marathon. Most of us were new runners, and the coaches were teaching us how to safely build our mileage. We were scheduled for six miles, but the coach who took my group misunderstood and our route was eight or nine miles, nearly killing us! An extra couple of miles can be brutal when you’re first starting out. Sometime after you’ve built up to nine or ten miles your body resets itself and an extra two or three miles is no big deal, if you’ve paced yourself correctly. Seven years ago, I was nowhere near that point.

But I digress.

Today’s run ended up not being one of my better ones. I felt tired for some reason. And although I was doing better with the asthma than last week, I still wasn’t 100%. But I ran 13 miles, and it never rained in spite of all the dark clouds swirling around, so it was all good.

I earned my Indian food, and Dan and I spent most of lunch arguing over a political matter. The funny thing is that we were both on the same side. It’s just that he insisted on bolstering his case with sound bites and false information. I felt compelled to call him on it, asking where he got the facts that led to his conclusions, but he couldn’t say. Then he got mad and I had to remind him all over again that we were on the same side. I just feel like if you’ve got a good case, you should be able to back it up with facts and conclusions of your own, not someone else’s worn out clich├ęs and straw man arguments. But he's smart and I’ll teach him yet how to debate properly! At least Dan’s problem is that he never learned proper research and debate techniques. I can’t say the same for some of the talking heads on TV and radio, who seem to delight in spouting illogical nonsense intended to appeal to emotions instead of intellect.

But that’s a whole ‘nother topic that I don’t care to get into. This is a blog about bunnies and crazy human activities like running long distances. Besides, I’ve got important things to do, like check on the zucchini chips I’m making. Did I mention how much I love my new dehydrator?

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 13 mile run

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thinking? Who, Me?

Allie tagged me with the Thinking Blogger Award!




Hm. I do a lot of thinking, but I didn't know anyone could really tell, especially with all the bunny pics around here. Tidbit is known more for her beauty than her brains. But that's a different matter.

I was doing some thinking just today! I was at the office, tracking three-year leave accrual trends (yawn), and found myself lost in very fond memories of a yoga retreat I went on in 1990. The retreat was on a mountain near Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was on private property, surrounded on all sides by National Forest and reservation lands. You could (and I did!) hike for miles and miles on the old logging roads without ever finding so much as a gum wrapper, much less another human being.

There were twenty of us on the retreat, and due to space considerations, we camped outdoors. It gets cold at night at 9,000 feet, even in August! Two women cheated and took over a meditation room in the activity building, which I thought was unfair. Sure, living in a tent for a week isn’t comfortable, and even a little scary when you find bear tracks in the morning, but it’s not like we didn’t know all this ahead of time.

But it was wonderful to leave civilization behind for a week! We had no newspapers, no TV or even radio. The activity building ran on solar power, and although the building had a septic tank, we were encouraged to use the outhouse when we could. As outhouses go, it was a pretty nice one, so it wasn’t too onerous to comply with our hosts’ request.

Each morning we were woken up at 4 am by a gong calling us to morning meditation. This was a problem for me because you see, it’s impossible to meditate at 4 am. You close your eyes and the next thing you know, you’re nodding off, your face on a trajectory toward the floor. Splat! How this enhances spirituality is beyond me. I guess I'm just not there yet.

Breakfast followed meditation, and there was a no-talking rule, which I appreciated. I don’t like to talk or hear anyone else talk until I’m fully awake. So it was a pleasure to eat oatmeal and sip coffee, not having to answer any questions or hold up my end of a conversation. After breakfast, we usually went for a group walk, again in silence, followed by some yoga either in the activity building or in an aspen grove. Then we had free time and lunch, afternoon activities, more free time, and then supper and an evening program.

I spent a lot of time hiking and sketching. There was an abandoned goat herder’s shed that I liked to go to because it overlooked the valley and a little town below. At night you could just make out the lights of civilization. The glow of the moon and stars put it to shame. There was a full moon my first night there, and it was so bright I could go anywhere I liked in the middle of the night without a flashlight.

But the image that kept coming back to me today while I was at the office was of the afternoon we were given the option to help with maintenance and improvements to the property. This was strictly voluntary, but since we had paid next for nothing for the retreat and were getting so much out of it, most of us were happy to pitch in. Every 20 minutes, someone would hit the gong and we had to stop what we were doing and become aware of what we were thinking and feeling.

Sounds hokey, I know.

But what struck me was how annoyed I was with the interruptions. I was working in the log cabin where they cooked our meals, looking out the window from time to time where some of the guys (including the Rice grad student who had been flirting with me) were building something. I was so content, working at my own pace and minding my own business. And then they’d ring that stupid gong and I’d have to stop! It was the only time I got upset the whole time I was there, and I realized it was because I, like most humans, crave useful work to do.

How much of our sterile office work really feels useful? Most of us can point to a chain of events stemming from our paper-pushing, that results in positive things. But knowing that your spreadsheet helped people make decisions further up the food chain for an eventual trickle-down just doesn’t feel as directly useful as, say, cleaning the dust off a window or planting a garden, or cooking a meal. It’s no wonder so many people feel isolated and alienated, seeking refuge in mindless entertainment and shopping. What we do matters, but it rarely feels that way. It's hard to feel the same pride of accomplishment in signing a few papers and making some phone calls as fixing your car or bicycle with your own hands, or digging up potatoes you planted yourself.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. It’s just one of many things I’ve been mulling over today.

And so to satisfy the Thinking Blogger Meme, here are Five Blogs That Make Me Think:

Common Man Syndrome: Insightful posts about multi-sport and life in general.
Steps and Stories: Life in Puerto Plata. I love reading about life in other places!
Life of Riley: She’s 107 years old, and loves to share her memories! Fabulous!
Centre for Emotional Well-Being: Talia always finds insightful articles to share about stress, nutrition, and staying healthy in our crazy modern world.
Detroitblog: I’ve never been to Detroit, but I love the pictures and stories about the old buildings. In America, we are in the habit of thinking of perpetual progress. Detroit is a case study in how progress can stall and even reverse.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 4.5 mile run
Tuesday: 30 minute elliptical
Wednesday: 30 minute elliptical, 15 minute treadmill
Thursday: 45 minute spin

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter from Tidbit!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Breathless

I don’t know what's been in the air these past twenty-four hours, but it's trying to kill me.

I took my asthma meds last night just as I always do, but needed the emergency inhaler at bedtime. Then I woke up needing it at 5 am. And again when I got up at 7. I figured I’d go for a run anyway, since my lungs usually open up after about half an hour of activity.

Not this time. Not only did it feel a lot colder than 48 degrees, due to the wind and damp, but for the entire 12 mile run I had about 70% lung capacity. It was miserable. Not only is it no fun to be anaerobic at 10 minute miles, but the constant fight for air wore me down on a psychological level. No matter how good your mental game is, when you can’t get oxygen, it eventually messes with your head. Luckily, by the time I was at the mental breaking point, ready to find the quickest way home and say to heck with it, I was at a place where backtracking would’ve been no faster than pressing on and finishing as planned. So I finished.

Once home, it took two cups of very strong coffee and several hits on the inhaler to get me breathing well enough to no longer be distracted by my lungs. Instead I was now distracted by the way my hands were shaking from the jittery effects of so much caffeine. Well, whatever works.

Other than the lousy way I felt, though, it was a nice morning for running. It was supposed to be rainy, but instead it was merely cloudy and windy, and the sun even came out for awhile. It’s wonderful to be on the high part of a trail with dogs chasing each other way down below on the bayou, birds swooping through the air in the middle distance, and green grass and flowers everywhere.

If I had been able to breathe, it would’ve been fantastic.

And of course this had to be the day where nearly every runner I passed wished me good morning! Yeah, I could barely get two oxygen molecules into my lungs at the same time, and I was trying to choke out my requisite Friendly Runner Greetings to all and sundry.

I’m hoping all the rain this afternoon and tonight clears out whatever was causing me so much trouble. I’m doing a lot better tonight, but it’s still a few hours before I can take more meds, and I’m feeling a little sub-par. I probably just need some coffee.

Recent Workouts
Thursday: 30 minute elliptical
Friday: rest
Saturday: 12 mile run

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cool Product Idea - Java Juice

I read today about a new product: Java Juice. It's little single-serving packets of concentrated coffee that you can add to hot or cold water to make a quick cuppa joe anytime, anywhere.

Check out their site! Intriguing, isn't it? I once worked at a restaurant that had concentrated coffee that you could mix with hot water, and it was quite good. If Java Juice is anything like that, it's going to be fab!

I have some on order, so check back here for a product review sometime within the next seven days!

Recent Workouts
Sunday: 50 minute spin
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 4.5 mile run
Wednesday: 5 minute stairmaster (while waiting for an elliptical machine), 30 minute elliptical

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Rabbit at Rest