Saturday, November 24, 2012

MS Coast Half Marathon - 2012

Have I ever revealed my hatred of running? It is profound. And deep seated. I hate the sweating. I hate the breathing. I hate the tedium of an endless rhythmic gait. And I hate the ungodly slow boredom of miles creeping under my feet.Yet, lunatic that I am, I take it upon myself to run a half marathon this morning. Deep. Seated!

Started off cold. Low forties. Somewhere around six hundred frozen tots enjoyed the freezer burn, too. Me all blacked out. Including OJ-style beanie. Grizzly from NoShaveVember. Either running thirteen something miles today or getting sized up for a pair of Buno Magli shoes. Probably more socially responsible to run. So I ran.

First three miles rocked. All ha ha and fun fun. By the time I said goodbye to Mr 5K, I'd lost the sleeves. And the gloves.

The second three miles started to get on my nerves. Well, mainly it was the knife-like wind howling down from the arctic that gnawed on my face and chest. But what's a little bitey bitey between friends? So I don't hold any grudges.

Third set of three miles. That's when the relation started to sour. Was still sticking to the intervals. But they were getting harder. And the voice of the lizard started to buzz in my good ear.  You know, that ancient reptilian bastard that doesn't like fitness, challenges or personal improvement. Sneaky thing, he is. Loves to eff with my head. But I didn't listen those first 9 miles. No much at least.

Last set of miles. (sigh) They sucked. Because they were actually four miles. Plus point one tacked to the end. For good measure. 4.1 miles of double extra suckitude. At mile 9, the lizard personally builds a huge brick & mortar wall in front of me. Stands atop it and declares: YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Little green bastard then proceeds to scream in my ear with each step. Telling me I cannot do it. Telling me I ain't got the chops. And telling me that I need to stick with being a geek, because I'm no damn athlete! Four point one miles of that. Trying to figure out why I shouldn't quit running. Do my legs hurt? No. Breathing off? No. Cramps? No. Dehydrated? No. So WHY QUIT? Because of that damn lizard! Standing atop the wall of my private fears. Telling me how bad I am.

That's exactly how it went down. Exactly. But, skip to the end. Two thousand calories later. I finished! Goal of 2:15:00. Actual time of 2:19:30 something. 175th place. Despite the wind. Despite my recent injury. And despite the lizard. I finished. Another notch on Ol' Jon's belt.

So. On to the next adventure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

MOVIE - Broken Flowers

Bill Murray stars in this  minimalist melodrama about a man's search for a son he isn't sure he fathered. An amazing supporting cast. Sublime, witty acting. Excellent dialogue. Good pacing. And thought provoking themes (from director Jim Jarmusch) all come together to make a beautiful, Oscar-worthy vignette that was completely ignored and barely broke $10M at the box office. Thankfully, it appeared on Netflix.

Bottom line: if you like good writing with a superb cast, Broken Flowers is a great movie. Lots and lots of things to love about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving - 2012

Beautiful day. Beautiful family. And friends. And food. Couple of striking thoughts came to mind. Rather than narrate them, I'll just spit them out.

First: mine is a generation of men raised by women. And I need to spend more time with Grandma, while I can. At 85 she is in great shape. But things spin out of control quickly. It was great to see her, give her a ride home, just hug her and let her know I love her. Sometimes, she doesn't remember. And she usually asks me if I've lost a lot of weight recently. I'll miss that. So I enjoy it while it last.

Second: Amid the usual Facebook noise, I spotted a quote I enjoyed:
It's not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.
And I think that holds true for me. When I switched from the endless pursuit of material wealth to the enjoyment of life, people, and experiences around me, I was far more thankful for everything I had. And happiness followed. Sure, I had a bigger house, I had more computers, we had new cars, and made much more money. But were we happier? Sadly, no. We weren't. But the only constant in our lives is that everything changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes. Well, sometimes not better.

Third: I read an article that suggested during Thanksgiving, the average person consumes up to 4500 calories. To put that in perspective it is almost 3 times the average daily consumption. To work it off would require four straight hours of jogging. A full blown marathon. Or nearly four hours of crazy, high impact aerobics. I'm pretty sure the list of people planning to do that level of activity contains exactly ZERO names. (At least for people in my neck of the woods.) So I moderated, across two lunches. No rolls. No pie. No sweat tea. Just a bit of stuffing. And mainly turkey.

Finally: I actually STARTED my day with a private little 5K run. Record pace. Record time. Twenty five minutes and some change. No intervals. No water. Just running and breaking personal records. All of which, I'm thankful for!

Friday, November 16, 2012

On The Run

Decided to try a little run. (Since swimming went well.) And survived a private 5k around the neighborhood. Nothing spectacular, but the miles went by. And nothing felt broken. Or painful.

Needed the open space. And time alone. Swat all these angry wasps. Buzzing inside my head. Sting sting sting. Buzz buzz buzz. Mostly noise. Distractions. Amber wings brushing the back of my head. Traveling from Point A to Point Z. Had to put some space between us. Those angry bugs and Ol' Jon.

The trip went well. I survived. The swarm got lost. And I got found. Good to be back on the run.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In The Water

My first training day in a week. And I pick up where I left off: at the pool. Took it easy. Forgot to stretch. Cranked up the music. Breath. Reach. Twist. Clean kickoff. Breath. Reach. Twist. Forty laps. Non-stop. Trying to forget about last weekend.

All these beautiful moments happen. Small victories. Then they're gone. And I'm left clutching the memories of them. Becoming half-lit shadows. Trying to catch what fragile pieces I can. Hold them a little longer. As they sift through my fingers. Like so many pale grains of sand. Under the surface, nobody can hear me scream. So, it is good to be back. In the water. A clean start. All over again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Odds

Not keen on starting work at 0530. Especially on cold days. Not a drop of sunlight as I ride down the beach. No coffee. And plenty of room for disaster.

Replaced a couple of fiber switches. Actually no big deal, as it turned out. Finished in record time. Didn't set off any alarms. Or rouse any dragons.

But, then. The damnedest thing. On one of the servers, two drives in a RAID5 died. Same server, same day, same array. What are the odds? Have to approach Power Ball level stuff there. Been doing IT approaching twenty years and I've never seen it happen. Never!

Fortunately, good hardware support from the vendor and good backups saved my pale narrow butt from the fire. A day of downtime for the users who needed access to the server, but it could have been far worse. No data lost. And I'm rocking two new fiber switches. I'll drink to that!

MOVIE: Cloud Atlas

Vast. Breathtaking. Immersive. Visual. Intertwined. Romantic. Exhilarating. Grandiose. Philosophic. And remarkable. Just a few of the words competing for space in my head after catching a showing of Cloud Atlas this evening.

Based on the 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, the movie does a far better job than I thought it would do. The settings (especially Neo Seoul!) were perfect and unique unto themselves, helping keep the different pieces of the story clear without being distracting. The special effects almost kept themselves out of the way, but felt contrived in a few places (especially Neo Seoul, lol!) Excellent pacing. Fairly good writing (maintained by sticking somewhat closely to the book.) Pretty good dialogue. But some unremarkable acting in a couple of places. I felt the visual aesthetics played a more critical part than the character performances. And the message of the movie was in the unfolding of the story, not in the accomplishment of the actors.

The original book told six separate, but inter-connected stories. Their settings spanned several centuries, and countries. Mitchell fastened everything together with over-lap characters whose adventures manage to affect all of the other characters and stories with the intricacy of a finely crafted, perfectly balanced pocket watch.

The central theme of Cloud Atlas is that we are all appearing at different points in time, and our paths are crossing infinitely, moving through these ascents and descents together. Sometimes heroes. Sometimes victims. Sometimes villains. But even though our perceptions are fixed, all of time and all of these stories are unfolding simultaneous. Everything at once. What we call the past, present, and future, are all one event. And all of our selves and our partners in these adventures are affecting one another at the same time: the past affecting the present, the present affecting the future, the future affecting the past. Each of our choices touching everything, everywhere.

As Mitchell wrote:
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
Have you ever met somebody you instantly liked and knew things about them quicker than you should? Somebody you felt so comfortable with that you notice their absence? That having them in your life feels as natural as two pages of one book next to each other? That's the connection. We have pasts, presents, and futures with certain people in our lives. Trapped in orbits that we're trying to escape. But our private gravities keeps pulling us back to each other. Again. And again.

Two things really bothered me in the translation from book to movie. And it takes a bit of background to get to the heart of my discontent. So hopefully you'll bear with me.

First, the novel contains six very distinct and individually separate stories that are being unfolded to the reader by the characters either reading or recounting those stories. It all starts (and ends) with "the Pacific Journal" by the character Adam Ewing. The reader follows Adam's voyage directly, but eventually Adam literally writes "the Pacific Journal" that (a century later) is read by the next character, Robert Frobisher. Frobisher (a talented but inexperienced composer) is enthralled by Ewing's novel and later produces a musical piece called the Cloud Atlas Sextet. That music (a sort of story) is picked up by Luisa Rey (third character) in the 1970s, who eventually writes a manuscript, called Half Lives, of her adventures. Tim Cavendish (forth character) is an elderly, modern day editor who considers trying to publish the manuscript but ultimately finds it boring and works on a screenplay for his own adventures. Two hundred years later, Somni-451 (fifth character) begins a rebellion influenced by her viewing of a fragment of a movie called The Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish. And finally Zachry (sixth character) believes in a religion based around Somni-451's "declarations" that have been handed down for generations based on a holographic message (an "Orison") that she made before the end of her adventure.

SO! That's a long way of saying that each part of Cloud Atlas starts with somebody's story, they create their own story, which is later picked up by another character, who creates a new story. I don't think the movie was verbose enough about that. Stories within stories and nothing new gets created without the contribution of other people on our lives.

Second, the novel did a fantastic job of depicting our brief moments of absolute lucidity where we realize time is just a fragile human concept and we are actually able to grasp our present as it sits next to what happened before, and what will happen later. The concept of the future affecting the present or the past is a tough one. I don't think the movie did a good job with it. It was easier to see in the novel because the stories actually reversed the direction of influence very clearly: Zachry's granddaughter likes that Somni-451's declaration" is inclusive of everyone and everything, which reaches back and influences Somni. Somni's last wish is to watch Cavendish's movie, which shifts to his story, and backwards, and backwards, until we arrive where we start, with Adam Ewing. Again, I thought the book was able to articulate a difficult concept far better than a movie. However,it took  days to read the novel, and not even three hours to view the show. So I guess a film has to make due with a far more limited experience.

But over all, an incredible movie. Glad I saw it on the big screen. Thrilled to have so many lessons from the novel refreshed in my mind. Especially one from Zachry:
“...there ain't no journey what don't change you some.” 
I may not enjoy the outcomes of all my adventures. But they all change me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Liam's Symphony Training

Late night becomes an early morning. Up with Liam, driving to Hattiesburg, MS.

Liam's strings instructor invited him to USM's Fall symphony training. To  listen to one of the world's greatest bass players, hang out with other musicians, and pick up some additional tips and techniques.

Hopefully, some of it stuck in his head. He already understands so much about music that it boggles my mind. And the way he intuits everything, from one instrument to another, is nothing short of amazing. Gifted, talented kid. Doing my best to keep involved and motivate him. Not easy when it's a teenager involved. But he stuck with it. Even though he was the youngest person there. And rocked during the two hour jam session.

Long but pleasant day. Nearly twelve hours from beginning to end. With some Mugshot's thrown in, for lunch. Kept me distracted from the cauldron of anger and rage boiling behind my eyes.

If I can heal and keep from going super nova for a couple of weeks, maybe I'll be able to put all this behind me. And, maybe not.

Good day though. Taking them one at a time.

Friday, November 09, 2012

70.3 Training - Final Week

Supposed to be another taper week for me. Took it all kinds of easy. 5K runs. One hour rides. Three quarter mile swims. Nothing even remotely challenging. Recovering. Resting for the big event.

Supposed to be sleeping in New Roads, LA, right now. Resting for an early morning adventure. But, of course, somehow I derailed the whole thing on Wednesday. And I get to back out of my first 70.3. After more than two months of training... That's just great, ain't it?

Par for the course.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Slight Sting

The night before I leave, and I feel a slight sting. (Pointing to my head.) That'd pride effing with me. Eff pride! Pride only hurts. It never helps. I gotta fight through this spit. (Compliments of Marsellus Wallace.)

Now I'm crushed. Defeated. Embarrassed. Grim. Depressed. And bordering on an anxiety attack. My woes from late yesterday continue. Something below the belt is sprained. Not badly. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is no more than a 3. But taking a 3 with me to an Ironman event will result in a long term 9 or 10.

I cannot risk surgery, then six weeks of recovery, and six months of therapy just because I want to maintain my pride. I stayed home today to rest and soak and try to recover. Not sure how much, if any, good that has done. If I still feel this way in the morning, I have to do the unimaginable and throw in the towel. Cancel my room, cancel my drive over, cancel the whole damn thing and NOT compete. Not do what I've been training eight weeks to do.

Yeah, Marsellus, I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it really badly. And I don't like that sting. Not one damn bit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Um... This isn't good. Not good at all. Did an extremely light workout today (3/4 mile swim, 30 minutes on the bike) and hours later I'm feeling something entirely too uncomfortable below the belt.

An old wound? Not sure. But if this keeps up, I'm not going to be able to do a 70.3. Something lightly injured will become something VERY injured by the time I finish. If I finish.

Not liking this!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Not So Close Afterall

Everything I heard from both sides of the media was a paraphrase of: It is going to be a close race. 

First: It wasn't a close race. Second: I was wrong. Third: Many people were far more wrong than I was. 

Barack Obama was re-elected in a crushing mandate of a victory. The momentum Fox News promised for Romney did not appear. The Undecided voters Fox News promised would vote against the incumbent did not vote against the incumbent. Women and Latinos did not vote "for the economy" instead of "for their rights." The youth vote showed up. And hard-working, middle class white folks came out against Romney. Almost everything I heard Carl Rove say for the past week was absolutely wrong. (Despite his Ross Perot-esque attempts to explain his version of voodoo political math where uncounted ballots from urban minority districts were somehow going to turn the tide in Romney's favor in Ohio.) 

However, I'd like to openly confess my predictions were wrong. I predicted Romney would take FL, NC, and VA. In fact, he did not take VA and it looks like he may not take FL. He  is only the clear winner in NC. 

I was also wrong about the popular vote. That wasn't close, either. I predicted 0.05% - 0.08% for Obama. The counting won't be complete for a while, but the media is predicting it could be as much as 1.5% for Obama.

Despite the explosive outcries of "No!" and a myriad of tears at his headquarters when Fox News called the election for Obama, Mitt Romney had a gracious concession speech. He challenged his supporters to pray for the President, pray for the country, and work with their opponents to cross the divide in order to help restore the county. 

I propose we all line up, give each other high fives, and say: Good game. Regardless of which team won, it was a good game. 

Now let's clean up and go home!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Predictions 2012

For the last couple of weeks I've been fascinated with the STATE polls coming out for the election. Let me be clear: NOT the national polls, but the much more narrow state polls conducted usually by people and organizations within a very specific region. Historically, they appear to be more accurate and less biased, to me. As opposed to the national polls, which generally have a slight leaning in one direction or the other. So I pay far more attention to the state polls. Especially since they don't appear to get much media attention.

Based solely on my reading of the state polls, and focusing solely on the SWING STATES, it doesn't look like too many states are actually close. The tightest races only appear to be in Virginia and Florida. 

I know what you're saying, "But Jon, what about Ohio! Romney has been picking up momentum since the first debate, there are lots of undecided voters who traditional vote against the incumbent, and women are going to vote for the economy and not their subjective rights!" 

Hey, whatever. I'm only looking at polls. Not asking specific questions of specific people. And if you look at the 14 polls that came out today, 13 of them give Obama the lead, and only one says it is a tie. Exactly NONE of the Ohio polls put Romney in the lead. I do not think that indicates any kind of a tie. OH, PA, WI, NV, and CO all show similar tracks: Obama wins. 

FL and VA have more mixed signals, but they slightly (less than 1%!) favor Romney. And North Carolina favors Romeny. 

"So, Jon, what are you saying?" you ask.

Here's what I'm saying: In the critical swing states, Romney will win NC, Romney barely wins FL and VA, but Obama will win the others, including OH, PA,  NV, and CO. Obama wins the electoral vote. 

"But, JON!! The electoral college is a dinosaur and needs to be put out of our misery! What about the popular vote?" you cry. 

Given the fact that the Republicans have lost the popular vote in four out of five of the last elections (Bush v Kerry was the only popular victory since Reagan!) I think Obama wins by 0.5% - 0.8%.

"Yeah, but what if you're wrong, smart guy?"

Romney could still win. But the bookies give him only 1 in 4 chances. I'd give him as little as 1 in 10. That still means he'd win once if the elections were held ten times. And maybe 2012 is that once. If Obama does NOT get the young vote (like he did in history measure in 2008) then he could lose. If women and minorities do what Fox News says they're going to do, then Obama could lose. If there really are hordes of Undecided voters and they really vote against the incumbent, as Fox News says, then Obama could lose. So I'm not saying that Obama will win. I'm just saying it is much more likely. If he loses, I'll admit I bet on the wrong guy.

And, no, I'm not saying all of this because Obama is "my guy." Ron Paul would be "my guy." John Hunstman would be "my guy." Obama, is not my guy. However, the polls clearly favor him. Despite all the cries of "it's going to be close" that we hear from the media. 

But who knows? Until this time tomorrow!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Minor Reunion

Sometimes, Facebook proves invaluable. This weekend, for example, I saw that one of my old middle school friends had come into town, from Tampa, FL. Plus, I needed a drink. Put one and one together, and you get: Downtown Gulfport. Rooney's. The Quarter. Bacchus. Met up with John H. and Melva C. for a minor reunion.

Amazing what time, marriage, and kids can do to people. John was a chef in NOLA and FL for a few years. Now manages his father-in-law's legal practice. Has a three year old son. Fishes every chance he gets. And has probably lost three times as much weight as I did, when he stopped being a chef.

When last I saw Melva, she was a foot taller than me and I had no chance of taking her in a fair fight. These days, she's married to the owner of a local auto magazine (with several hundred thousand subscribers). And no longer taller or broader than me. Though, I probably still couldn't take her in a fair fight.

Things went along the normal lines of adult reunions. The usual dialog over a couple of drinks (I practiced excessive moderation!) in a loud Saturday night crowd. Bridging the gap between the modern 21st century and the chaos of the raging Eighties: What are you doing these days? How did you end up doing THAT? How long have y'all been together? How many kids? How old? Yeah, it is crazy tough being an adult and raising the next generation of hooligans!

Not sure when we'll meet again. Good to catch up. A brief trip back in time. When things were simpler. Enjoyed it while it lasted. Everything changes. Nothing changes. We're all still those awkward young rednecks inside, regardless of the weathered exteriors.  Well. At least I'm still awkward. And uncomfortable. And unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. But. Too late now.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

70.3 Training - Week 8

The race is one week from today. In fact, I should be finished by now, hopefully recovering after my first 70.3 Ironman.

This is my first of two "taper" weeks. In theory, I pull back a little and peak the day of the race. Having never done ANYTHING like this before, I just follow instructions from my trainer: Luke.

Bought new tires. Bought new cycling shorts. Both worked well on a 30 mile ride. Swimming wasn't strong this week, but I've been training with 1+ mile swims for a while now. Running was only a 5K and a 10K, but I did well on both of those.

This coming week is even slower. But I'm going to nail down my fuel plan, stretch, rest, and hydrate. Overall, I'm much more confident than I've ever been. If I can "stick to the plan," and keep positive, I'll do well. (At least by my low standards.)

Radish Festival 2012

Long Beach held their inaugural Radish Festival today. Town green. About two dozen booths. The usual Farmer's Market vendors, plus some other newcomers. For their first one, it turned out nicely. Helped to have beautiful weather. And a friendly crowd.

One of the local farmers brought out some of his cows. A great big ol' girl. Crazy full of fresh moo juice. Sadly, forty something years old before touch a cow. Then, woo hoo, we milked that ol' girl! Surprisingly easy, too! Meg gave it a shot. And she was able to rock that cow's world! At one point, there were like three kids around sitting around and tugging on the udders. An old fashioned Southern milk war!

Walked around the festival for a bit and completely found an area setup for  bocce ball. Yet another first for Team McDougal! Time to get some! I'd never played it, let alone seen it. And the kids were all about it. Then played a couple of rounds while I hung out with Molly Dog and enjoyed the weather.

Speaking of Molly Dog, forgot to mention we took her with us. And she met a BUNCH of new friends. Surprisingly odd number of small white dogs at the Radish Festival! Seriously. Like half a dozen of them. Funny to see their odd greeting ritual. Sniffing and such. Always the same dance each time Molly would find a new friend. Thankfully, no fights or bloodshed erupted amongst pets.

Ended the visit with some snacks. Cookies from local bakery and milk (no, not straight from that cow) the Country Girl Creamery. Liam cracked me up with his selection of an Elmo cookie. And Meg went for (surprise!) Hello Kitty. Some crackling for me.

Hopefully next year will be bigger and better. We'll be there!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Man Parts Saved

Ordered some new biking shorts. Needed to diminish the medieval torture-like pain I experiencing after a couple of long bike rides. Something akin to a midget practicing his tee shot directly under my 'nads.

Aaaaanyway... Took a thirty mile ride this morning. Clocked it at 18MPH average at 27 miles (my goal) and afterwards, so pain in the nether region. Definitely taking the new shorts to the 70.3 with me. And I think my sensitive man parts are saved from further woe.