Platitudes

As I said yesterday, “I understand that getting my hopes up about job interviews can lead to a crash when they don’t pan out.” Yeah, that. Let’s keep a positive attitude here, folks! Remember…

  1. “Missed it by THAT much!” (Maxwell Smart, CONTROL Agent 86)
  2. “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” (Japanese proverb)
  3. “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.” (General George A. Custer, US military officer)
  4. “If you are going through hell, keep going.” (Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister)
  5. “If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters – 204 if you’re in Japan.” (Claire Cook, author)
  6. “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” (Charles Swindoll, Evangelical minister)
  7. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” (Henry Ford, inventor)
  8. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” (Thomas Edison, inventor)
  9. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (Wayne Gretzky, hockey player)
  10. “Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.” (Julie Andrews, movie actress)
  11. “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” (Mario Andretti, race car driver)
  12. “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” (Babe Ruth, baseball player)
  13. “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” (John Adams, American revolutionary leader)
  14. “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.” (Vince Lombardi, football coach)
  15. “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” (Chinese proverb)
  16. “The best revenge is massive success.” (Frank Sinatra, entertainer)
  17. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” (Martin Luther King, civil rights leader)
  18. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” (George Addair)
  19. “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” (Dalai Lama)
  20. “Do or do not, there is no try.” (Yoda, Jedi Master)
  21. “Failure is not an option.” (William Broyles Jr & Al Reinert, “Apollo 13″ )
  22. “Failure is ALWAYS an option.” (Adam Savage, mythbuster)

The sun will rise tomorrow, I’ll drive the fancy convertible car in a parade (it’s a long story), and I’ll go back to being stubborn and persistent.

It’s something I learned running marathons.

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Flash Fiction: Three-Sentence Story #2

No, I haven’t forgotten that it’s Thursday and that’s normally “Flash Fiction Night” here, since the entries to Chuck Wendig’s “Flash Fiction Challenges” over on TerribleMinds are due by noon Eastern on Friday. But this week’s Challenge is another “Three-Sentence Story” contest, with the results posted directly to TerribleMinds. Here’s my entry for this week:


When she met him, he was funny, intelligent, and everything she had ever hoped for in a husband. When they raised their children, he was faithful, hardworking, and a pillar of the community. When she disposed of his body, he was heavy, unwieldy, and a pain in the ass to drag through the woods.


I did pretty well the last time we were given this task to complete, making the Top Ten list of Chuck’s favorites. This week’s entry didn’t necessarily have to be horror, any genre would do. I’m not sure what genre this fits into — maybe something like an “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode summary. Whatever, it made me laugh to write it and share it.

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Nantucket Sleigh Ride (Episode 1 Of N)

A “Nantucket sleigh ride” was a 19th Century whaling term referring to the ride that sailors would be taken on just after a whale was harpooned. The injured whale, attempting to swim away, would drag the small whaling boat at high speed (up to 35 mph, which in the 1800’s was really flying) for miles and miles.

More recently the term has become slang for a period of time in which things have seemingly switched into a higher gear as events, deadlines, and daily milestones seem to flying past at an accelerated rate. (It’s also the name of a 1971 album by Mountain that I remember fondly, but I digress.)

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a Nantucket sleigh ride for me, and I’m referring to this as “Episode 1 of N” because I’m thinking (and hoping) that it may be first of many to come.

Part of it is the fact that the Younger Daughter is here for about ten days, her first visit home from Asia in two years. Part of it is that activities at the CAF have been busy. Not bad, just busy. Part of it is a series of household plumbing issues and some car issues that have been (almost) all conquered, even though at least one of the high-adrenaline problems was solved when I stopped being a freakin’ idiot. (I hate freakin’ idiots — I really, REALLY hate it when I’m the freakin’ idiot!) Part of it is a couple of employment opportunities that have finally started to potentially be real and exciting, really good employment opportunities.

We’ll see. I understand that getting my hopes up about job interviews can lead to a crash when they don’t pan out (been there, done there, got the T-shirts) but I still get excited when something exceptionally good pops up. Getting through the process, I just got to keep “The Astronaut’s Prayer” in mind.

With some patience (I’ve gone through several 50-gallon drums of it), faith (I’m trying, I’m really, really trying), and maybe just a touch of luck (I’ll take whatever I can get) we may get to exchange this “long national nightmare” or something much more exciting and enjoyable, if not necessarily less stressful and exhausting.

Yes, I’m being a bit vague. Those of you who know me personally know what I’m talking about. The rest of you, I promise that I’ll keep you updated.

 

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LAX Night Landing – City Lights In Motion

I’ve always been interested in some of the more abstract and artistic things you can do with light, dark, and motion in photography. I think part of this comes from my first astronomy photographs as a teenager being star trails. (We haven’t done those yet, too much light pollution in the city, but it might be worth a field trip.) Photographs of fireworks also are related to this. It also goes to how ultra slow-motion photography and time-lapse photography can make you notice things that would otherwise go unseen.

In low light, trying to take pictures of pinpoint lights is a problem. To do it properly you need a tripod and a long exposure. Generally for this sort of thing you think of cityscapes or catching the moon rising or setting. For the most part, the subject of the photograph is static, motionless. As long as the camera’s also motionless (no wind jiggling the tripod, etc) then you can take a 30-second or longer photo and keep it in nice, sharp focus.

If you can’t keep the camera motionless, you’ve got problems. I’ve tried many times to take pictures of cities at night from 33,000 feet. There might be one or two that are at least kinda-sorta recognizable as the subject (Las Vegas is pretty good for that) but most of them are a blurred mess. A one or two second long photo of bright lights in the dark turns into a soup of blurred dots.

But what if you take that “problem” and take it to an extreme. Sometimes I’ve stumbled on things accidentally and later deliberately to try to reproduce and experiment with the technique. I find that it can give some beautiful and amazing results.

Here are a few pictures from a flight where I was landing at LAX at about 10:45 PM. All of the pictures in the series where I tried to actually capture the city lights as they looked, using 1/2 second and 1/4 second exposures? They’re garbage. But a few of them that accidentally got exposed for two or three seconds, combined with the motion and vibration of the plane, made something quite different.

(Remember, you can get full-sized images by clicking on these.)

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I really like the way this one shows an obvious effect when you’re moving as quickly as you are in a jet on final approach. The lights nearest you (lower right) move a long way during that 2.5 seconds, while the lights in the distance move much less. And the full moon in the far upper right doesn’t move much at all. Regardless of the reason, it’s a great effect.

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The most interesting thing about this one is how there are elements that are not moving in step with the others. Normally, all of the squiggly lines that are made by the motion are in lockstep (the lights are all still, you are moving and jiggling, the lights all take the same path) but there is the appearance here of some lights moving in radically different directions than the others. I think I know what caused it, but it’s still very odd.

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Possibly Inglewood under a layer of thin clouds. It makes me think of the portrayal of Los Angeles in Richard Kadrey’s wonderful “Sandman Slim” books.

Each of them could all be used as the background of a John Harris or Richard Powers painting. But that could just be me.

 

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At The Ballpark

Tonight I’m out at Dodger Stadium with the Younger Daughter.

Yeah, we’re wearing Dodger hats. When in Rome, do as the Romanians!!

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Happy July 28th Hallow-Thanks-Mas!

With kids scattered to the far corners of the planet (here, here, and here two years ago, other far-flung places now) the Long-Suffering Wife and I have celebrated the last few holidays alone. The Younger Daughter is home from Shanghai for a few days before heading off to a different continent altogether (!!) and the Elder Daughter came home for a long weekend so at least four of the five of us could be together.

The Long-Suffering Wife had a fantastic idea, so tonight we pulled out the good china, cooked up turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, yams, apple and pumpkin pie, and broke out the wine. We had a couple of years of July 4ths, Halloweens, Thanksgivings, and Christmases to make up for, and probably a fair number of future ones as well.

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It’s important to maintain family traditions, but to also be creative and flexible when circumstances change. It’s not the date on the calendar that counts, it’s being with family and making memories.

A good time was had by all!

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Yesterday I Was Sore, Today…

Big disclaimer to start: I’m not a doctor or a trainer, and you should ALWAYS consult and work with your medical professionals before starting any major exercise routine. That goes double for anyone just starting training for a long-distance race, even a 5K or 10K. Anyone with a heart condition who goes out and runs five or ten miles and dies because “Paul said it would be okay” is going to be looked at askance. Seriously askance. Let’s keep a firm grip on our common sense here, folks.

Also, when I talk about my legs “hurting,” I’m talking about the muscle-wide fatigue and “broad pain” from muscles that are being used and used hard to do things they hadn’t done in a while, if ever. I am not talking about the “sharp pain” that occurs in one spot, usually suddenly, that indicates that something really bad may have happened. If you have any reason to suspect that something might be broken or torn (“sharp, sudden pain”) as opposed to just exercised hard (“broad pain” the next day or so), STOP and get immediate medical attention. Again, I am not a doctor or a trainer, just someone who’s done this once or twice and wants to rant about it in the hopes of possibly giving others an insight into what’s going on.


As mentioned yesterday, I got off the dime and did my first run for the Disney World Marathon in January. Not a biggie, just three miles and change.

If you’ve never run, or more to the point, if you’ve never run and you’re thinking about starting, there are a few things “they” don’t tell you. I’m here to make a few observations and give you a heads up.

I just said, correctly, “Not a biggie, just three miles and change.” If you think that walking around the block is in the same category as the Bataan Death March, that sounds like a ludicrous statement. I’ve been there.

This is one of the reasons that running has lessons to teach about “life” if you’re willing to learn. The first lesson is that progress and accomplishment are made of thousands and millions of little steps. If you get out of your Lazy Boy today, out of shape and seriously obese, yes, you could very well DIE if you tried to run a marathon.

But unless you’re a complete idiot, or the zombie hordes have marched over the horizon after the EMP has fried every bit of technology in the world so you have no choice, you don’t do that. You simply start taking the first of those thousands and millions little steps, with some faith that you’ll get there.

You start walking. You walk to the end of the block and back. You walk around the block. You walk a mile or so. You walk three or four miles. You sign up for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and train over about six months, building up your endurance and strength, possibly (probably?) losing some weight.

Once you can walk a marathon distance in ten or eleven hours (that is not a killer pace – I set an aggressive pace and did it in just under eight hours, but they give you much more time to finish if you need it) and you’ve got a tremendous, hard-earned, well-deserved sense of accomplishment, then you can start jogging. You keep walking, but you start mixing in a bit of jogging. You can get with a training group and learn a “walk/run” pace. When I trained for the 2012 LA Marathon we had groups doing 5-1 (three minutes of running, one minute of walking), 4-1, 3-1, 3-2, and just walking (looking for an 8:00 finish).

The first weekend of training we did three miles (“Not a biggie!”) just to see how you feel and how accurate your judgement of your fitness level is. You run (typically) on Tuesday and Thursday (two miles each day early in training, building up to six or so) and then have a “long run” every Saturday. Week Two you do four miles, Week Three you do five, and so on. Every now and then you have a “cut back week” where you give your body some time to heal a bit. For example, in the middle of the training routine, you might be doing 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 8, 12, 14 miles on consecutive Saturdays over a two month period.

That first three mile run can catch you off guard if you’re not running regularly. You may have run in the past, but if it’s been a year (guilty!), you’ll do it because you know you can. Hell, you’ve run full marathons before, three miles is no biggie, right? Except that’s your head talking — your legs have gotten soft. So you’re sucking wind by the one-mile mark and while your head thought you would do the three miles in thirty to thirty-five minutes, a pace which would get you about a 4:45 finishing time, your legs barely drag you home in under forty-two minutes, a pace which would just barely give you a 6:00 finishing time.

And while you’re sore that evening, you keep moving and your body has lots of endorphin (and perhaps some ibuprofen) so you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. Then you wake up the next morning and all of those muscles have had a chance to talk among themselves and take a strike vote. Surprise! Every time you try to walk or sit down or get up or move you hurt like hell.

That’s where I’m at today, and that’s where you may be if you choose to travel this path at some point. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’m here to tell you — KEEP MOVING. It’s important on that next day, because you have to get through this, you can’t dodge it. As Frost said, “The only way out is through.”

Just keep moving as normally as possible, wincing a lot, and generally pissing off everyone else in the house. (Hi, Long Suffering Wife!) Then keep moving the next day and by about the third day after (probably Tuesday, if you did your “big run” on Saturday), when you start to feel okay again, go running.

That second run is going to be a bitch. Your brain is not going to want to go. About ten feet into it you’re going to be really tempted to just declare victory and go back to the Lazy Boy.

Don’t!

You’re going to run enough to get you loose and remind your legs who’s the boss, a mile or two. And on Wednesday you’ll be sore — but not nearly as sore as you were after the first run. Then Thursday’s going to get there and you need to do it again.

The third run, mentally, is in my experience the hardest to get yourself going on. Do it anyway. Again, just a couple of miles. Easy peasy.

The next Saturday is your next “big run” and you’re doing four miles. You’ll still suck wind — but not nearly as much. You’ll still be sore on Sunday — but not nearly as much. And after you do your short runs on Tuesday and Thursday, you’re now in a groove, on the bandwagon, with the program, and it will get a lot easier mentally to get going, to stay motivated. You’ve got a goal.

The oddest thing will happen. Every week you’ll push the boundaries, you’ll push yourself further. You’ll be so caught up in the process, so focused on the next increment, that you’ll lose sight of the big picture. Then you’ll hit one of those cut back days.

The “ah-ha!” moment for me was about a month before the marathon. We had done 16, 18, and 20 miles (all hard, but all accomplished successfully) when we had a cut back week to 16 miles. We were all thrilled that we had a “short” day, an “easy” day, a “fun run.”

A short, easy, fun run of sixteen freakin’ miles.

That really caught me off guard. But it’s real. You’ve done the 18 and 20 miles and lived, and in a month you’re going to do 26.2 miles and kick that course’s ass. You know it.

But looking back, you’re still less than six months removed from the mindset where you thought you would die after three miles. You couldn’t even conceive of running 26.2 and figured that you must be totally insane. And now you’re scoffing at how easy and short sixteen miles are.

That was an amazing moment for me. Not quite as amazing as getting to the finish line, especially at the 2012 LA Marathon, but it’s a good, close second.

So today I’m staggering around like I’m eighty-five years old. My thighs and shins are on fire every time I stand, sit, or move.

But I am moving. I’ll keep on moving. I will run again on Tuesday, and again on Thursday. On Saturday I’ll run four miles, maybe four and a half if the weather’s not too hot.

The greatest benefit you get from finishing a marathon is knowing that you can. When you know that, you know that you can do anything. And then you can do it again as you look for the next boundary to push away.

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