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Showing posts from September, 2005

Turning Up the Heat

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If you checked the weather button on this blog this afternoon, that was no mistake: The thermometer hit close to 100 for the second day in a row. Welcome to fall, Southern California style. We're in a Santa Ana, which means hot and dry weather that crisps outdoor vegegation, creating excellent kindling for brush fires. It also does a number on us humans exposed to the elements. It occurred to me I might actually have to run part of my marathon in this mess, so I waited until it had cooled to 89 degrees and set out this afternoon for a run around Miramar Lake. Knowing my typical Thursday tempo run was not gonna happen, I strapped on my heart rate monitor and hit the lake's dirt trails for a change of pace. This is a rare treat for me since I'm usually spooked by the sights and sounds of slithering creatures and highly uncoordinated when it comes to dodging sticks, stones and mud bogs. I can't gauge speed on such rocky terrain, so I use my heart rate to ensure I am in

Why Blogging is Good for the Brain

Most of you probably don't know that as a young coed, I studied economics and have remained fascinated with the discipline since. At present, we're in work stoppage mode due to yet another internal network flare-up, so I've been catching up on my reading and came across this great essay by a Cornell econ professor on how writing assists learning. The piece focuses on academics, but it made me realize that one of the benefits of transcribing weekly routines and random thoughts so publicly in Web logs and other online forums is self-learning. Sure, you quickly deduce by my ramblings that I'm dedicated yet easily distracted, serious but quirky and able to find humor or deeper meaning in just about any situation. I've learned those things too, but only by culling from my vast library of memories, some just minutes old, and committing them to computer screen. Many of my favorite moments and lasting friendships, I now realize, began while I pushed my pudgy body along s
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There's an old adage that the best writers "show, not tell." Well, sometimes the mediocre do too. I trudged to the top of Lake Miramar to capture the early evening sun setting...because it beat running in the 88-degree heat instead. 

Remembering 'Ronald L.'

One of the greatest men I had the privilege of knowing passed away yesterday. It is very difficult to describe what made Ronald L. Speer unique, but Tony Germanotta, with assistance from Cate Kozak, does a nice job of it in today’s obituary. Even more difficult is putting into words how influential Ron was to me and, by extension, to those around me. At least at this moment it’s difficult, even with the crying jags now three or four hours apart. Ron retired a few months after I left for Massachusetts, and though I didn’t keep the letter someone read aloud at his big bash, I remember some highlights that tell a little about him. But just a little. He knew squat about pop culture. After covering a visit by then-President Bill Clinton, I wrote a column and included a reference to Forrest Gump. Ron said he didn’t know who this Ferris Gump was. So after arguing over his ignorance and strongly suggesting he see a movie now and then, I went back to my computer terminal and cranked out a

Dishing About My Sunday

I’m now on my third dose of Extra Strength Tylenol. The pills are not so much for tightening muscles but some pretty nasty abrasions from where my bra rubbed me raw. Chafing is common for me, but this time I really “topped” myself. I got up at 4:15, lubed up, dressed and made tea and toast I would not eat. Around 5 I headed out. The memories conjured up earlier in the week made me realize that I could just as easily run in my immediate neighborhood, as I’d done in NC, until dawn, and feel slightly safer. So I set my Timex to stopwatch mode at the edge of my driveway, hit start and began a series of .6 loops. It’s a little hilly, but at that hour quite doable. After the first loop, I looked at my watch under a street lamp. 3:33. Huh? No way I just ran a half-mile that fast. Next loop I did the same and this one said 10:53? What the--?! I ran another set, and my watch told me I’d just done two miles in 23+ minutes. No way. I ran inside to use the bathroom and this time got a clearer

On a Much Sober Note

Less than a day after retelling the story of my 'run-in with a robbery,' I learned that an elderly woman who lived on my street was brutally murdered this week. While reading one of the news accounts , I came across this passage: The crime rattled Dawson’s neighbors in the residential neighborhood southeast of downtown Elizabeth City. Most residents in the area keep their lawns tidy, and many people ride bikes, jog or take walks through the community, which offers sweeping views of the Pasquotank River at the northern border. Needless to say, it really hit home. My condolences to Ms. Dawson's family and to all my former friends and neighbors in Elizabeth City who've been rattled by this.

Bringing in the Reinforcements

I invited my sister in San Gabriel to come to the Long Beach marathon in about three weeks. I also alerted my parents in Lake Forest. If they show, it would be the first time either's seen me run. Meantime, I just stumbled upon this story about the marathon and immediately saw a surge in the psych factor. Hallelujah. Mind and body remain ready to tackle this weekend's crucial 20- to 22-miler. Potential family (the Blacksburg, Va. clan) appearance on ESPN Game Day this weekend. Stay tuned for details.

Memories of Being in the Dark

Hitting the road in the early mornings here reminds me of when I lived in Elizabeth City, N.C., and did about 80% of my running before, or just as, the sun came up. During the fall and winter especially, I ran a 3- to 5-mile loop weekdays from a health club near my house. It might seem strange to not run from home, just a few blocks away, but this way there was always someone who knew when I left…in case I didn’t return. During summer marathon training, to escape the worst of the heat and provide minimal interruption to the family, I started my long runs as early as 3:30 a.m. on Saturdays or Sundays. I was fortunate to live in a neighborhood in which I could repeatedly run 3.2-mile loops that never left me more than about a half-mile from my house. It could get monotonous, but at that stage in my life the familiarity and solitude were just what I craved. Plus, I could stop for a drink on the porch and hit the bathroom as needed. Other than the occasional thunderstorm that snuck up o

One Step Beyond: Weekend Wrap-Up

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You Should be Dancin'...Yeah The big news here is Elise made her university’s dance team. She’s one of three freshmen to earn a spot on the competition team, best known on campus for performing at basketball games. Her practice schedule sounds a bit grueling, but she’s young and athletic and can handle it. Congratulations! We’re all very proud of you in San Diego. Another resounding football victory Elsewhere in the collegiate world, we don’t have ESPN-U, so we weren’t able to watch Virginia Tech skunk Ohio 45-to-zip during the first home game at Lane Stadium. Go Hokies Go! Running in the Dark Finally, being as this is primarily a blog about running, I should mention I completed 18-plus miles yesterday. All week I’d been dreading it, which is unusual for me. I don’t mind solitary long runs at all, provided I have the time to enjoy the scenery and can go at my own pace. But I realized last week that I needed to hit a course close to the terrain of Long Beach, and that means fl

What Would You Do If You Couldn't Run?

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I’d completely forgotten about a visit from ASICS reps prior to a springtime track practice. An attractive 20something and her camcorder-toting colleague were asking San Diego runners a simple question: “What would you do if you couldn’t run?” She explained it was for an upcoming advertising campaign and they were essentially gathering research from real people. I remember fake-stretching on the Astroturf field inside the Balboa Stadium track and watching the duo work the crowd. I had my oversized Oakleys on, so it was easy enough to spy and eavesdrop without drawing attention. As they inched closer to me, I wondered if I’d be among the chosen. I’d started to pick up that some people were passed over, while some others didn’t pass the initial test. I found this all fascinating, especially since I couldn’t hear any of the answers. When they were two people away, I decided I should be ready with a response. “Excuse me,” the young woman said in my direction. I looked up from my hamstring

Case of Mistyped Identity

Runningwise, not good. I was forced to bail last night after my stomach erupted in nausea about an hour before I was due to leave for Balboa Park. Could have had something to do with earlier grazing of carmel squares, potato chips and dip, Ramen noodles, Brach's cinnamon candies and overripe nectarines -- all washed down with diet Fresca. So much for my stern self-lecture. I now understand why my kids don't listen to me. Doing my cursory scans at work, I stumbled upon this case in Kansas where someone at Cox Communications typed in the wrong address and an apparently law-abiding couple was hauled into the police station for downloading child porn. Two things stand out. One's their lawyer's comment that this ruined the couple's week . Yeah, I guess everything was golden after 7 days. And, in light of the gravity of the task, shouldn't someone at Cox be double-checking their work?

Risky Business

Do you take more chances with your computer at work than at home? You're not alone. The practice of unsafe computing is alive and well within corporations, if a new survey I just wrote about is any indication. U.S., German and Japanese workers confessed to opening odd e-mail attachments and surfing suspicious Web sites at work -- not home -- because the office's IT department would bail them out if they got infected with a virus, worm, spyware, etc. Here's the story, in case you're interested: IT's presence may prompt risky behavior

The Final Stretch

An apt title for today’s entry since last night ended my Yoga for Runners class and this morning I officially entered the hardest three weeks of marathon training. I know the drill. No more lollygagging. Time to focus on quality miles ahead and actually stick to the schedule. Even if this race is just for the “fun” of the run, there comes a point in the practice that self-doubt soars and muscles mimic that rising tension. Strained relationships come even closer to snapping. Eating habits shift. Sleep either comes more easily, or it doesn’t come at all. And every slight twinge is treated as major cause for concern -- and whining. Tonight, I will let go on the trails within Balboa Park and actually do all the core exercises instead of taking my time and miscounting crunches as usual. When it gets tough, I’ll attempt the ‘Darth Vader breath’ I learned last night in yoga. Used primarily to achieve focus and balance, it sounds like a long hiss on the exhale. I’m also starting to immerse my

From tattle-tale keyboards to killer football

One of our most popular news stories last year was an offbeat report from an IEEE conference on ‘whispering keyboards’ about a possible hack attack using of the unique sound of keystrokes to determine what someone was typing -- such as passwords and ultra-private chats, etc. The technique is again getting buzz thanks to a new paper published by UC Berekely scientists . Princeton professor Ed Felten blogged about it in semi-layman’s terms last week. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t had your daily dose of fear and suspicion yet. If you aren’t in IT or computer science, better take some Tylenol first. This really is just an excuse to bring up the weekend’s outstanding Virginia Tech football team. They skunked the Duke Blue Devils 45-0! No wonder no one from Durham bothered to show up for the game. Next up: Ohio, and on the Hokies’ home turf.

Dim Flames Meet Dire Consequences

It’s Friday. Time for something offbeat that’s, um, on my beat. Today I bring you a tidbit from Down Under, where a petty fight between two legal office workers has developed into an international incident thanks to the fine folks at Slashdot. To summarize: a secretary in a big law firm lost track of her ham sandwich and sent an officewide e-mail demanding some explanations. One respondent suggested she just misplaced it, and a heated e-mail exchange ensued. Some coworkers decided this was too good to keep within office walls and e-mailed others; thus, the flame war outgrew itself. A firestorm erupted when both women were fired for their electronic cat fight. Disciplinary action against those who sent e-mails outside the company is expected. This should serve as a cautionary note to anyone inclined to send inner-office communiqués beyond corporate borders. Those are considered private and proprietary information. Especially if you work for Australian lawyers, who apparently have a lo

A 'Reporter's' Field Notes

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As a card-carrying journalist, I felt compelled to report firsthand on the age-defying theory presented in the previous post. And as an advocate of immersion journalism -- sort of like method acting for reporters -- there’s only one way for me to truly test beer’s health benefits. Here are my notes, as best I can decipher them a day later: 5 p.m.: Open a bottle of Bass ale to go along with dinner, which consists of a sandwich and reduced-fat Ruffles. We normally eat better, but preparations for this experiment ate into meal prep time. In other words, I took too long at the convenience store. The beer does nicely compliment the dish. Yes, I decide, it’s the perfect beverage to accompany a meal of bread (oh hell, it’s not even wheat!), lettuce, tomato, avocado and stale potato chips. Midway through the repast, I ponder: Does 12 ounces truly constitute a “tall one”? Hmmm, let me drink about it. 5:40 p.m.: My “long tall cool” glass of water as the backup beverage is largely ignored in f

Who needs Botox when there's Budweiser?

Another interesting snippet from iVillage to pass along to those trying to halt the aging process. Along with the usual advice -- reduce stress, get more sleep and stay out of the sun -- was this tip for taking years off your looks: Putting your feet up and having a tall cold one is actually good for you. One or two [alcoholic] drinks a day can lower the risk of dying from heart disease by a third or so, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found. Women are advised to limit intake to one a day, men to two. But don't imbibe more than that, or you'll up the risks of ill health, including strokes and cancers of the liver, throat and breast.

From Sunrise to Sunset

One of the biggest benefits I've discovered from my pared-down marathon training schedule has been fresher legs. Because quality is emphasized over quantity, and so-called "junk miles" do not exist, I'm again looking forward to Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekend long runs. And with the aid of yoga stretches (and, really, just general acceptance of stretching), my recovery days aren't downers either. Yesterday was a good example. After a day off following a 3-hour run on Sunday, I headed to Miramar Lake to run 800s on the only semi-flat surface in Scripps Ranch (besides the off-limits dirt track at the high school). The course is marked every quarter-mile, so it's perfect to do speedwork. I started just as the sun was peeking over the horizon -- a visual treat. Then that evening I drove down to Balboa Park to do hill repeats with the track club. I didn't think I'd enjoy running up and down 6th Avenue six to eight times, given the hard workout that morni

Quit and Go Legit, Please

I remember a few years ago when my kids begged to be allowed to download Kazaa, Limewire, Morpheus or any popular file-sharing software onto our family PC. The answer was always a resounding NO! because I knew the sites trafficked illegal music files. They also were magnets for malware. I promised they'd be rewarded for their patience, and indeed they were among the first of their friends to get an iPod on which to download their favorite, legally obtained music off iTunes. Meantime, I was getting eyerolls from my college students, whom I warned to get Kazaa and other P2P network share software off their PCs. When the lawsuits from the recording industry hit hard here, I felt vindicated. I'm again feeling smug as I read about an Australian court's decision to hold Sharman Networks, which created Kazaa and its siblings, financially responsible for the royalties lost to musicians for letting its members trade copyrighted music at will. U.S. courts are expected to rule sim

Balboa 4-Miler from a Volunteer’s Perspective

Waking in the wee hours on weekends is never a problem for me; working is. I had to be at Balboa Park with friend and fellow volunteer Louise R. by 6:15 today and that’s early -- even for me. But it was worth it to help the San Diego Track Club put on its annual Balboa 4-Miler cross-country race. First, I helped cut up oranges for 30 minutes and didn’t complain once about the citric acid stinging in my finger cut. Thumbs up for me! Next, I helped align cones that had to be realigned and spent so much time marking chalk arrows and asking some stranger on a park bench to help keep racers honest that I had to run to my own post after suddenly seeing hordes of mostly high schoolers come into my peripheral vision. The race, which was dedicated to our fallen comrade Ursula R., had started while I yakked. This was my first time as a course marshal. I’ve done water stops, registration and finish lines. Because the four-mile course is mainly off the roads, plenty of people are needed to kee

Trying to Picture the Horror

I admit I've done little between work and errands besides read up on the latest news coming out of the Southeast and especially the hell that is New Orleans. Best blog is from a guy down there trying to stay afloat: The Indicator's LiveJournal Best commentary putting this tragedy into historical context: The Storm After the Storm by David Brooks (nytimes.com) Best commentary from my profession, on what we are and aren't seeing on TV and whether that's good or bad: Distortion by Omission, Not Commission (CJR.com) Word of warning, in case you haven't heard already. Beware of giving online to sites that look legit but are actually scams. "Anonymous" in the past post points you to a list of some credible charities. The American Red Cross is leading the relief effort and is easy to find online. There also are plenty of local operations you can visit to drop off a check or cash if you prefer.

Crazy, mixed up world we live in

I went online seeking a pleasant diversion from the increasingly distressful news coming hourly out of New Orleans. The degradation in human behavior and relief efforts has forced me to hit the bottle. As in Diet Coke bottle. Anyway, I decided to check out the track club message board and discovered a well-known and well-liked member of the SDTC family was hit by a car after track practice on Tuesday night in Balboa Park. No details yet, other than she's in a hospital intensive care unit. Pull through, Ursula. Please pull through.