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Showing posts from 2020

May I Have a Word With You?

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Every year I pick one word to guide my actions, thoughts, intentions, practices and relationships throughout the year. Lots of us do. I find it is a much better way to remain focused on self-improvement than devising resolutions when you’re rested and hopeful and have yet to resume real work.   Last year’s word eludes me. Whatever it was, I obviously abandoned it quickly in favor of another: Survive. It sounds melodramatic, but in truth every single one of us, whether touched directly by Covid-19 or not, were thrust into survival mode.    We had to elude an unknown and unseen killer and take a harsh look at friends, family and neighbors who reacted in ways we didn’t expect, even as death tolls rose and public health officials implored us to think of others. We had to survive months of quarantine with people whose habits, hygiene, hobbies and humanistic shortcomings we could no longer escape. We had to survive being unable to hold, touch, even see our closest family members, especially

The Reformation of Me (and We)

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This fall I became one of the first people to sign up for a brand-new venture that combines my long-time love of writing and renewed interest in meditation. I’d earlier attended a much longer workshop led by one of the co-founders and saw my own work immediately improve.   During one group meditation in mid-November, our guide said something that stuck with me, both then and now. It was about accepting a situation for what it is and, with that acceptance, being released from some of the associated discomfort. In the days prior to that moment, I had been struggling mightily both at home and at work. An uneven work-life integration continued to take its toll on me and those around me.   Are you the same person you were at the beginning of the year? Think hard. If your answer is still yes, then please tell us what you’re taking and if you brought enough for the rest of the class. I mean, seriously. This was a very hard year, no matter if you made a lot of money off it or lost family memb

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

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Today is National Hiking Day. It’s also my husband’s (gulp) 60 th  birthday and the final day of #HokieHike2020 . This was a fundraiser for our alma mater that offered some great swag in exchange for going on a long walk in the woods and then making sure the world knew about it.  Last I looked, I was the only one from California to officially post, but there were several alumni from the West Coast on there. Some of the photos made me miss hiking on the East Coast, the Blue Ridge Mountains in particular. I have a history with those hills , one that brings me back now and then .    A lot of runners also hike, more than hikers who run. Some combine the two and run trails rather than walk them. I’ve cracked too many bones tripping on rocks and roots while running on trails so now I watch my step. It may take me longer, but I’m no longer in a hurry. Not most days.   Saturday was an exception. I had a lot on my plate since I had to postpone my original Hokie Hike due to a weekend of rain tha

Here’s to More Morning Runs Bathed in Blue*

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Fall typically comes late to San Diego, if it comes at all. The season is too often marred by furnace-like blasts of brutal heat and scorched earth rather than mottled clouds rolling in to christen thirsty landscapes with wave upon wave of downpours.    Fall was my favorite season as a child raised along the Eastern Seaboard. I looked forward to the drop in humidity and crisp air that signaled a fresh slate for the school year, the end of long hours of summer boredom or busyness. The best days were those that fell under Indian summer—cool at night, hot at the peak of day. Fall was my favorite season as a younger adult too, the nippy mornings heralding a change in routine and wardrobes, the sidewalks and roads littered with calico-colored leaves. Running always improved in the fall, with far more official opportunities to test speed and endurance on a USATF-sanctioned course.   We get a milder, delayed dose of that brand of season here, with deciduous trees lining road medians and posta

2020: The Return of the Blogger

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There haven’t been many bright spots since March, when half the world was forced to lock down to curb contamination from a deadly virus. But one has been blogging. Journaling in its various forms is making a strong comeback in the wake of a novel coronavirus pandemic. That includes blogs.    The  newest annual survey by Orbit Media  shows a similar uptick. That survey focuses on corporate blogging, but I’d argue that many running blogs are now so enmeshed with sponsored content and affiliate links that they are as commercial as those produced by a brand. And there’s nothing wrong with such promotion if the author is crystal clear about those business relationships and provides valuable content.    Journaling is also up, as people return to paper or keyboard to express their thoughts, process their issues and document their journey through troubling times.   The evolution of running blogs As someone who’s been reading running blogs since the early 2000s, I’ve noticed a familiar arc. Run

What I Talk About When I’m Not Talking About Running

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Last week I celebrated 20 years covering cybersecurity, the subject that  launched this blog back in 2005 . Even when I was employed full time in another industry, I still wrote regularly about ways to protect ourselves from malicious users trying to compromise our data.    While I was getting a lot of LinkedIn love for a post celebrating my milestone, the Employment Development Department for the State of California was demanding my company pay back taxes for an employee that did not exist. My first thought was that one of our independent contractors misclassified themselves, given the amount they reportedly made from us was $17,500. Our employees (a) make more annually and (b) rarely have their salary totals rounded to such neat numbers.    Then our accountant sent  a front-page New York Times article  and I realized we’d been swept up in a cybercrime in which bad actors made real unemployment claims using our company’s data. The heist screams of bots and automation and is why Califo

Miracle on Black Mountain Road

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  Just after my mother passed away, I convinced my dad to join us on a hike at  Smith Rock State Park . The volcano-induced spires could be seen from any vantage point in his neighborhood, and yet the closest he’d come to visiting the natural attraction was a late winter drive-by that I also encouraged shortly before my mother’s fateful cancer diagnosis.   The weather was perfect (I mean, just look at that brilliant blue sky!) as we gingerly made our way down “The Chute” to the river basin and crossed a wooden bridge to the most popular trails. We followed the Crooked River to the left and stopped to look up at the rock climbers. Some clung for life to minuscule crevices at improbable angles, while others dangled helplessly from safety ropes until rescued. We kept my rambunctious nephew in line and turned around at the “Snoopy Rock” since we didn’t want to push Dad’s physical capacity. He loved that trip and went back after we left, with plans to keep hiking through the summer and into

Summer, We Hardly Knew Ya

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If you happen to follow folks from California on social media, then you know our Labor Day weekend hasn’t gone as anyone intended due to a massive, killer heatwave and series of wildfires punctuating this holiday with exclamation points for all the wrong reasons.    My official start began Friday morning with an early beach run at low tide as the sun turned up to make it safe for solo runners like me. Just me and the piping plovers and seagulls for the first mile. And just 75 degrees at 7 a.m., which is warm for here but still way doable for morning exercisers.   A day later, temps soared and forests roared, generating evacuations, energy “flex alerts” and poor air quality warnings every hour.  We also woke to find our fridge wasn’t working, which just seemed so on theme for this year given I splurged at Trader Joe’s the day prior. Of course, the refrigeration replacement part won’t arrive until the middle of next week. But we do have a functioning air conditioner, and for that I am hi

So, Are Neck Gaiters Good or Not?

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I waited a few weeks to weigh in on the latest face cover controversy: whether or not to toss the neck gaiters that runners and hikers favor when encountering others on roads, sidewalks or trails. It’s convenient and allows someone to continue exercising at their current pace and capacity without exposing their exhales to those nearby. Or, so we all thought. A  widely publicized study by some Duke University researchers  cast doubt on neck gaiters’ efficiency in preventing aspirants from contaminating someone else’s space. Certain masks and bandanas are at risk too.   I read the article, and  those that followed , and then waited for the social media buildup and inevitable takedown. Anyone familiar with studies knows the one at Duke did not meet scientific standards—even the people performing the “tests” admitted as much. Their point, and those that publicized it, was to get people to reconsider their protective gear. I definitely have seen a drop in use since the study came out.   No

Safari Park's Roar and Snore: Glamping at its Best

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  I finally got to fulfill a planned adventure for 2020, even if it came four months late. Last weekend my sister, her son and I participated in the  San Diego Zoo’s Roar and Snore , an overnight camp in which you experience one of the area’s most popular attractions up close with other families or couples.  Our trip originally was scheduled over Memorial Day weekend, when my nephew turned 12, but that pesky virus shut down everything. Things still aren’t what they were, no matter where you go in San Diego, but the zoo brought back this popular program for the summer and, hopefully, well into the fall and following year.   Getting there : Safari Park (previously known as the Wild Animal Park) is located deep in Escondido. There’s a well-marked exit off the 15 freeway in North County and signs along the roughly five-mile drive to the park on San Pasqual Valley Road.   Parking : It’s $15 for most vehicles, and it costs everyone unless you have a top-tier membership. There is plenty of pa

The 1990s in Retrospect

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My current favorite song is  The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights . I liked it the first time I heard it, and I’ve heard it a lot since then. In the car. In the house. In the grocery store. One of my daughters theorized I probably like it because it sounds like a song from the 80s.    No doubt the 1980s music canon has proven to be far more enduring than the decades that have followed. Don’t believe me, then  read this . But, for me at least, the 1990s have shown with time to be my best decade in many other ways.    I hit all of the big adult milestones in the 1980s. I graduated from high school and college, married, had children and launched a long-term career, all before I turned 30. Those were definitely productive years, but I wasn’t at my best. I worked to put myself through  college , which led me to move through those four years with omnipresent financial insecurity and full course loads right through my last trimester. Only one friend from college—a roommate—remains on my Christmas car

New Adventures in Suburban Running

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  This morning I was moving along while listening to  this podcast  when I saw a coyote standing in the road about 200 feet from me. I slowed, expecting the feral creature to continue on his or her way. It didn’t. I slowed even more and debated what to do. Then a car slowly came up from behind me, stopped as the coyote passed, waited until I was beyond both the car and the coyote and drove off with a wave. A nice neighbor, to be sure.     I was able to pay it forward just minutes later when a woman and her golden retriever, whom I’ve seen on my daily walks and runs since this spring, was coming up the road.  I warned her about the coyote hiding out in hillside brush. Just a couple of weeks prior, another runner did the same for me while I was walking my dog. Both me then and this woman now were grateful to avoid a chase that would end badly for someone.    One thing I don’t see on runs: strays. A cat or dog that breaks out of its domestic barrier is doomed, thanks to packs of coyote an

Making the World Better

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Something amazing happened when we were all hunkered down earlier this year: The earth quieted down too. I’m not just talking about the sharp decrease in trucks and tankers and trains and white noise and run-of-the-mill congestion. The planet actually stopped coughing and shivering from all of our human hacking.    Don’t believe me? Then  read this article recently published in Science . See, humans are among the main producers of high-frequency “seismic noise.” Not only do we generate our own seismic activity both on and below the surface, but that activity tends to drown out simultaneous natural phenomena. When we all quieted down in quarantine, so did the seismographs around the world that record such movement.    I’ve been thinking a lot about how the pandemic is reshaping our relationship with our environment. I'm convinced we’re experiencing a Lorax-level reckoning and it both comforts and concerns me. On good days, I marvel that I can still get anywhere in the city without h

Veggie Tales

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I'm gonna go ahead and call it: The tomatoes are a bust.    It’s been close to three months and to date my yield remains three still-very-green tomatoes from one of six plants that produced ample yellow flowers but no fruit.    My peppers are doing better, but only one has turned the promised color on the plant card; the rest remain stubbornly green and several are now mottled.    So goes my first foray into my urban victory garden. Pretty plants, I can grow. But functional ones, not so much. Part of the problem may be the containers—too shallow to support the stakes I bought for the plants’ support. I think the soil is OK, but that will be determined once I’m brave enough to bite into my bounty. I also am no longer sure creating this container garden on my second-story walkout worked. Our local bees must have lost their invitation to the pollination party. I thought the plants were self-pollinating, but if that’s the case, they should have been way more unrestrained in that role.