Metro Menace

The light turned green and Courtenay Melroy stepped out onto the crosswalk.

“MOVE IDIOT!” screamed a lycra clad bike ninja as he flew by, inches from Melroy’s face.

Melroy stepped back with a start, tripped over the curb at his ankle and fell on his considerable backside.

“Damn gentrifying invaders”, he thought. “They should go back where they came from.”

Recovered from his fall, Melroy once again stepped out onto the crosswalk. He never saw the gold Escalade that ran him down. The driver didn’t see Melroy either. He’d been reading a text.

Melroy didn’t get up this time.

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Smug Cycling

“Why? That’s a great slogan!” My own kids have sought sanity in Mom when I gave them pronouncement instead of answers. 😉

I bike to work once or twice a week. Cycling to work fills me with inordinate, sinful levels of pride. Not that I strut around work bragging to co-workers. But silently, in my head, I’m thinking, “I biked to worked to day. I am SO cool.” Or when I’m stopped at a traffic light, I’ll look at all the cars stopped there and think, “Ha, ha suckers! I’m BIKING to work!” This is particularly irrational as they are all comfortable ensconced in their air conditioned vehicles and my back is drenched with sweat. And it’s not as if biking gets to me work faster. It takes half again as much time as driving.

It’s a particular smugness, as if I’ve cheated the system or gotten one over on the Man. I feel like I’ve conned the principal into giving me an extra recess period.  I don’t have the usual hangups about the Man. I’m not particularly concerned about the environment. I am, for instance, skeptical about predictions of catastrophic global warming (I’m over 40, so I’ve heard lots of The End Is Near predictions come and go over the years).  I don’t hate cars or Big Oil. Heck, I even love minivans. They’re so comfortable, especially for long drives.

Nonetheless, biking to work feels deliciously subversive. Like coloring outside the lines, but sweatier.  I delight in calculating how much money I save biking instead of driving. “Hurrah! At $0.56 per mile for my 7 mile round trip, I saved almost $4.00!” I revel in the “fact” that I don’t need a gym membership because I bike to work.*

It’s irrational and prideful, but heh, it’s healthier than smoking, so as vices go I guess it’s not so bad. So if you happen to see a sweaty biker looking smug at a stoplight, please forgive his irrationally conceited foible.  Don’t worry, I don’t run red lights! 😉

*And run 15 to 20 miles a week. But really, it’s the bike commuting that making me fit!

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Letter Writing Ephemera

Just finished To the Letter: a Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield.   It outlines the history of letter writing, while noting how the style and purpose of correspondence has changed over the centuries.

It’s also got all sorts of fun facts. Did you know that before the mid 19th century, the recipient of a letter paid for its delivery ? I did not. That seems like a good way to discourage letter writing.

Even with the invention of stamps in the mid 1800s, there was still the problem of what to do with a letter if the recipient was not home. Here’s the transcript of a public notice meant to solve this particular problem –

By Command of the Postmaster General
Notice to the Public
Rapid Delivery of Letters – General Post Office May 1849

The Postmaster General is desirous of calling attention to the greater rapidity of delivery which would obviously be consequent on the general adoption of Street-door Letter Boxes, or Slits, in private dwelling houses, and indeed wherever the Postman is at present kept waiting.
He hopes that householders will not object to the means by which, at a very moderate expense, they may secure so desirable an advantage to themselves, to their neighbors, and to the Public Service.

It’s remarkable how things we take for granted have to be invented in the first place. Of course the postman just drops my letters in my mailbox, what else would he do? Well, before the invention of the home mailbox, he’d have to hope someone was home, wait around for me or give up and take my letters back to the post office. Hurrah for home mailboxes and door slits!

Spread throughout the book is a series of letters between a WWII English soldier and his girl back in England. One of the games such couples would play would be to post “codes” on the back of their envelopes. One, for instance, was SWALK, Sealed With A Loving Kiss.” Some were a bit more racy. Like NORWICH – Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home. Or BURMA, Be Undressed Ready My Angel. It’s amazing the fun stuff you find in random books.

The author ends his book with what he considers the best epistolary sign off ever. The Queen Mother, writing to a close friend during WWII, dispenses with “Sincerely” and instead sign offs with a jaunty eff you to ole Adolf. “Tinkety tonk old fruit, & down with the Nazis.”

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Casual Friday

“May I borrowed a pencil?” he asked amiably.

“Sure,” I said, gesturing casually toward the cup of pens and pencils.

“Thank you,” he replied with a genial smile.

He walked to a nearby table and stabbed a patron with the pencil. Then he returned it to the reference desk and strolled out.

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Running Naked

I’ve decided I prefer running naked. Well, ok, mostly naked. I’m not so zen that I can run without my watch. There all limits after all.

For those not up on the latest running lingo, let me assure you, running naked does not mean running without clothing. I would not wish to impose such a sight on my poor, unsuspecting neighbors. And the moms at school would talk!

No, running naked refers to running without technology. For me that means no MP3 player or smart phone. Alas, it seems I can’t handle the tech. It distracts me from the run. I want to run with music, but it’s just not worth the hassle. Same with the GPS phone. It sounds so cool. I’m jealous of runners who can seamlessly integrate such things into their runs. I cannot.

I bought one of those phone holders you strap onto your bicep. This morning I tried it out. I started my music, loaded my phone into the holder and strapped it onto my shoulder. And off I ran for my long run.

9.34 miles! Go me!  Gotta get ready for the half marathon in November.

So I spend my 1/4 mile warm up fiddling with the strap on the holder to make sure it didn’t slip as I ran. Then I had to figure out what to do with the headphone cord. I ended up holding it in my hand to keep it from flapping. About 2 miles into my run, the bicep the holder was around started feeling sore. I checked the strap. It wasn’t too tight. I could put a finger between the strap and my skin. So I told myself to man up and ignore it. About 4.5 miles in my other hand caught on the headphone cord I was holding and ripped the headphones out of my ears. Then when I put the headphones back in, there was no sound coming out of the right earpiece.

I gave up. I took the headphones out and unstrapped the holder from my arm. I just carried the stuff the rest of the way. I could trouble shoot the headphones, or replace them. I could figure out some method of cord management. But it’s not worth the hassle. One of the chief appeals of running is its simplicity.

This is not the first trouble I’ve had with tech while running. It’s just the straw breaking that poor camel’s back. From now on, I’ll just run with my watch. Press a button to turn the stopwatch on when you start running. Forget about it for the duration of your run. Press the button to stop the stopwatch when your done. That’s enough tech for me, at least when I’m running.

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Quick 5k Follow Up

Just got the results from Saturday’s 5k.  I’m astounded at my time, 23 minutes 8 seconds. This is not just a 5k race PR, but a never run so fast ever PR. My pace was 7:28 minutes per mile. I don’t recall ever getting below a 7:40 ish pace in my usual 3+ mile runs.

I saw the time as I crossed the finish line. The school had teamed up with a local running store to administer the race and the running store folks had one of those big electric signs at the finish line. My time seemed too good to be true though, so I didn’t want to say anything until I could confirm it through the written results (Sigh. Yes, too often I am this persnicky. It can be annoying being me.) Part of me still wonders if they messed up the clock somehow. I timed the race with my stopwatch, but forgot to stop it when I got to the end, so I don’t have a second opinion.

And that 3rd grader I was trailing? His time was 23 minutes 7 seconds! He’s 9 years old. Wow. Go runner boy. I was slightly off on the places. I thought he came in 5th place, he was actually 7th. And the total number of actual runners was 149, not 170+. Still, 9 years old and 7th place out of 149 is great. I came in 8th place. Not bad for a middle aged librarian who used to read during recess. 🙂

My own 3rd grader place 5th out of the 32 kids in her age group. Go runner girl! She has a mean kick on the soccer field too.


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The Family that 5k’s Together

As predicted, I did not melt during yesterday’s soggy 5K. The rain wasn’t too bad actually, mostly just a drizzle. It was a bit chilly, in the 50s, but that’s a lot better than mid-40s, or , yuck, the 30s.

Me at the finish line.

Me at the finish line.

Races make me nervous, all those people and rules and prep and such. This one was quite different however. It was sponsored by my kids’ school. It couldn’t be more on my home turf. Of the 170+ participants, there might have been a mere dozen I didn’t know or at least recognize. So I could really enjoy the social aspect of the race. I was focused on making good time during the race itself, because I’m that way (this is not necessarily a good thing.) However, even while running. I enjoyed greeting the other runners and race marshals.  The real party begins after the race of course. Usually I avoid crowds and mingling even when I know folks, but the informal atmosphere of the race and the shared sense of accomplishment helped.

It was a K-8 school sponsored race, so there was a mix of kids, parents and teachers. It was great to see all the kids out there running. Two of my kids ran, as well as my wife. Go family! My wife had taken the kids out a few times to practice, but they hadn’t really trained for the race. They ran when they could run and walked then they couldn’t. It worked. The kids are old enough that neither my wife nor I felt the need to stay with the kids during the run. My 3rd grader outdistanced my wife as soon as the race started and was waiting for Mom at the finish line. 🙂

The course was well marked and the kids were surrounded by people they knew. Even if they ran into trouble, they could get immediate help from the adults right by them and we would have been quickly notified. It’s quite freeing to take the kids places where we don’t feel the need to be by their sides the whole time.

It was a tough course. Lots of hills. The first one was particularly steep. The race started and ended in the school parking lot. The neighborhood surrounding the school is residential, with lightly traveled streets. The one downsize is that it’s a hilly neighborhood. Definitely not a PR course. 🙂

One boy, a classmate of my 3rd grader, finished just ahead of me at around 23 minutes.  I was right behind him for a while before I realized who he was.  He and I were in the home stretch and I started joshing him about not losing to a middle aged man. “I’m 30 years older than you. I have grey hair. Don’t let me beat you!” He didn’t.  He came in 5th place overall and won 1st place for his age category.

The 1st place runner waited right at the finish line, in the rain, for about an hour to cheer all the other runners as they finished. As in, he didn’t even wander off to chat with his friends under a tent.  I know that cheering other runners is standard of course, but I don’t know if it’s expected that the 1st place guy hang out at the finish line for over an hour to make sure he cheered everyone. I thought it was quite nice of him.

A good race. Fun was had by all.

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My security run

When I don’t have much time and just want to get a run in, I can always rely on my 3.5 mile neighborhood run. It’s my default run. When in doubt, just run around the big block. I run it at least once at week. I know it well enough to anticipate which neighbors are likely to have trimmed their bushes and which will have let their bushes intrude over the sidewalk.

Tonight was a perfect time for that comfortable old slipper of a route. I needed to get out. I’d been dealing with children and patrons and patrons’ children all day. By dinner time, I’d given up on the idea of running today. A few hours later, after kitchen clean up, baths and bedtime, the thought struck me. I could run right now! It doesn’t matter if it’s dark. The neighborhood’s well lit. I have a runner light. Heck, it’s not even cold (mid 40s is balm compared to what this winter’s thrown at us).

So I threw on my running clothes, light grey pants and white shirt for extra visibility, and out the door I went. If you’re an astronomer, you’d hate my neighborhood. There are street lights every 4 houses. But it’s great for running. I almost don’t need the runners light to see. For most of the route, the street lights provide enough illumination. There are a few dark spots, however, where it’s good to have the runners light so you can see that there’s no debris on the ground in front of you. The more important point of the runners light is so that others can see me. For the most part, cars and I don’t mix along my route. They stay on the road, and I stay on the sidewalk. I do cross numerous side streets through, and once in a blue moon a car will be coming up that side street or turning onto it from the main road. I make sure to shine my light in their direction and they seem to see me just fine.

I encountered 2 pedestrians during my run, one dog walker and one other runner. He was dressed all in black. This seemed unwise to me, but I still saw him so I suppose he was visible enough. All those street lights after all.

I’m running a 5k sponsored by my kids’ school on Saturday. It’s suppose to rain. That’s OK, I’m waterproof.

Good night.

Oh, BTW. That snow that was predicted for Tuesday. It was nothing. It accumulated on the lawns, but not the roads or sidewalks. Schools were not closed or delayed. Thank the Maker!


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Ran anyway

On Thursday, I blogged about how I prefer to run on the sidewalk when running through my neighborhood. And everyone knows, that running on concrete is bad for you knees!

So since that run, one I’ve done a hundred times without problems, my knees have been wonky. I use the vague term wonky on purpose. I’m not sure what’s up with them. I don’t know that they hurt per se. But they are very sore and feel weak. (Eek! I’m weak in the knees!)  I really feel it walking down stairs. I rarely feel any soreness in my knees. Usually it’s my calves and thighs that feel sore.

I wasn’t planning to run on Friday anyway, so my weird knees didn’t matter to my running that day. I was, however, hoping to do a 8 or 9 mile run on Saturday. My knees were still feeling off yesterday though, so I slept in yesterday morning and saw Divergent (meh) in the afternoon. I was hoping to squeeze in a quick bike ride when I got back, but couldn’t do so. 😦

Anyway, my knees felt a little better this morning, so I decided to go for a run. I preface my runs with a 1/4 mile warm up walk. My knees felt OK, still a bit weak, for that 1/4 mile, so I said, OK, let’s run.

My concession to health was that I ran 6 miles instead of 8. I also tried to slow down, not something I’m good at. “Dammit Jim, I’m a runner, not a jogger!” I’m suppose to go fast. It’s an ego thing.

The run was fine. I didn’t feel particularly powerful, but my legs held up and didn’t curse me during the run or after. I guess my knees will survive another day. The still feel off, especially on stairs. Perhaps it’s time to look into compress tights or whatever it is they make for knees. Or, more probably, I’ll just ignore it and hope it goes away. It always has before! Denial, it’s not just a river in Egypt.

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Revolt in 2100 by Robert Heinlein – a review

Check out this book on Goodreads: Revolt in 2100


Tried sharing my latest Goodreads review with WordPress last night. Not impressed with the result. I figured it would share the text of the review, or at least some of it. Instead all it did was give a link (what’s above the line). Ah well, technology fail. Too many accounts, not enough time. Anyway, here’s the text of my review –

Executive Summary – A fun dystopian adventure story. Worth the read, but buy used or borrow from a friend or library.

I was expecting a novel, but Revolt in 2100 is actually a novella followed by two related short stories. I liked the 1st short story best of all. It’s about a clueless academic who’s exiled because of his bad temper. He’s read Robinson Crusoe, so he thinks he can handle living alone in the wilderness.

The novella was about a conspiracy to overthrow a religious dictatorship that controls America in 2100. There’s a lot in the story about the precise, scientific use of propaganda and psychology. The rebel group can conduct a psychological analysis of a recruit to tell if he’ll remain loyal or not. I found this faith in the future precision of psychology endearing in a silly sort of way. It was as if psychology would soon become as precise and predictive as physics once we learn just a bit more about the mind. Maybe such faith in the development of psychology made sense in the 1960s (when the book was written), but it seems naively optimistic now. Humans aren’t atoms. It’s not so easy to predict what we’ll do.

The novella addressed the abuse of religion of course. But it was surprisingly respectful of faith. The story’s attitude toward religion seemed to be that it was something that could be abused, but that faith is not inherently bad. Many of the rebels were people of faith who had adopted a live and let live attitude toward others (often fellow rebels) of other religions.

The second short story is about a misfit who leaves earth to join the solar system space corps. He’s assigned to a ship whose crew is installing a base on an asteroid and moving the asteroid between Earth and Mars. The asteroid is to serve as a refuge for ships in distress. What makes this story interesting is that the main character is a mathematical savant. He can calculate 1,453 x 73 instantly in his head, as well as much more complicated calculations related to things like orbital trajectories. He’s a bit awkward socially, but doesn’t appear to have autism or other severe social impairments. I wonder if this story is one of the first science fiction stories to use a savant character in its plot.

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