Twittering and Running

There’s a group of Knoxville Twitterish types gearing up to run the Jingle Bell 5k here in Knoxville on December 13. Brandon over at Knoxify has more information, including team name and link to sign up. Oh wait, I can give you that here.

Come on out and run with us while you can still beat me. I’m making a comeback, this is my only race of 2008, and then it is ON in ’09.

I Don’t Get Out Much

 

Uggsly
Uggsly

At least not anymore.  But I was out for most of the day today, at least if you consider the mall and grocery store as “out”.  When I say I don’t get out much, I’m talking about the house and my pajamas.  I mean that I literally don’t get out of my pajamas much.  Here are some random thoughts I had throughout the day…

The mall was insanely crowded.  I’m sure the cold had something to do with it.  That’s the only reason we didn’t go to the park for a walk instead (kid with a cold).  Maybe everybody was just window shopping–dunno–but somebody needs to tell these folks that we’re in severe economic straits.  Isn’t that why we have a media.  Oh wait–the media is saying that.  Maybe it’s just that people don’t trust what they say so much.  Could all of the Fox News Alerts and CNN Breaking News flashes turned them into The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

The Apple Store.  Honestly, I don’t get it.  I think Apple has great computers, mosly because of the OS.  But the price…seriously?  As far as iPods go, I own a first generation Nano that I received as a gift and like. But I couldn’t justify spending that much on a player when all I want to do with it is run, especially when you can get one of these, which are bad ass, so much cheaper.  I think form follows function.  Actually, I think form follows price, which follows function in this case.  I just want something small and light that plays music while I run.  I’m too slow to impress to impress anyone, no matter what kind of player I’m using.

On top of that, Apple store can do all it wants to make me feel like I’m in Times Square while I browse their 900 square foot commercial, but I know where I really am.  Even if i didn’t, I’m quickly reminded of it when I walk out of the store and see this.

Next up, girls with tight, short shorts on and Uggs.  It was 40-something degrees today.  I wear shorts all the time when it’s too cold for most people, but usually out of necessity, not as a fashion statement.  It was too cold for me to wear shorts today.  I hope you don’t wake up in 15 years embarrassed about this.  Don’t worry, there’s a decent chance you won’t.  I have a pair of Skidz shorts I bought in 1990 that weren’t even cool then.  Even worse, I still wear them. But I may not be the fashion example you want to follow.

And to end on a positive note, several people were really nice to me at the Kroger on Middlebrook.  Although I was an ace at it a couple of years ago, grocery shopping is not easy for me any more.  I’m grocery stupid now–back and forth across the store several times to get everything most of the things a few of the things on my list.  I was waiting in line to check out and a guy came and told me that they could check me out in a different line.  He could see that I was struggling to hang on to a tasmanian devil, so he took my cart for me and even unloaded it before bagging my groceries.  Then, just as I was finishing up loading up the car, a nice lady grabbed my cart so that I wouldn’t have to take it to the return.  She didn’t even work there.

I plan on going out again for the next round of early voting or to stock up on yeast and copper line.

Best Post About Running…EVER!

I don’t know why, but the other day I thought about a post I read on a running message board a few years ago. When I read this post I immediately copied it and pasted it into an email to myself because: (1) It is one of the funniest and most insane things I’ve ever read, and (2) I (correctly) assumed it would soon be deleted off of the message board.

Crazy people–I love them. Especially when they have no idea how crazy they are. In this case, I made a smart ass response to the original post sarcastically agreeing with the author, and she quickly replied with a sincere “thanks for the understanding”. She really had no clue that I was just making fun of her.

Beware--Fast Runner Training
Beware--Fast Runner Training

I’ve protected the author’s name to save her further embarrassment, but this just has to be posted publicly somewhere. No, it’s not my original content, but she obviously wanted to be heard. Here’s her chance…

From: S******* C******
Category: Places to Run
Date: 29 Jan 2004
Time: 19:52:27
Remote Name: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx

WARNING- DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RUN AT THE INDOOR TRACK AT THE PIGEON FORGE RECREATIONAL CENTER IN PIGEON FORGE TENNESSEE!I joined the center in October and paid my yearly membership fund so that I could utilize their advertised indoor “running track.” I have been running for 14 years and have placed in every race I have entered in the past few
years.

The first rule of persuasive writing–establish authority. In this case I’m not sure if she was trying to build credibility or just tell us all how fast she is. “Real” runners shouldn’t have to put up with the abuse she endured as described below.

I generally try to run outside if it is 40 degrees or above because that is what I enjoy. However sometimes it is impossible to run outdoors, which leads me to my warning… Since being a member at the Rec Center I have had to dodge unattended children playing on the track, even though employees were in full witness of the event and doing nothing to prevent it. I almost ran head on into one that was running the wrong direction so I finally went and complained. The kids were removed from the track. Since that date I have constantly had to slow down (sometimes to a dead stop) to get around walkers that are taking up the full track four abreast.

Kids playing? People walking? At a rec center? Just who the hell do they think they are?!

On Wednesday of this week I attempted to pass two overweight ladies who were utilizing the entire track while talking and paying no attention to their surroundings.

Hold the phone. Not paying attention is one thing, but being overweight is quite another. See how she coaxes the audience (all readers of a running message board) to her side of the argument by emphasizing the fact that the walkers and talkers were overweight?

It says, “they’re not like us” without actually saying it.

I yelled out “track” twice and they finally looked behind them and moved over in the nick of time.

It is well known in the walking community that “track” means to move.

I went around the track several times, each time having to slow down and ask them to move over to the right. Once they didn’t move over in time and it resulted in a large bruise on my left elbow from scraping the wall as I tried to pass them without hitting them.

The first fallacy of this essay–no bruise on any elbow can be very large.

I went back around the track, still hoping that they may eventually start to follow the posted track rules (walkers to the right, runners on the outside lane).

Pay attention here. The “rules” are an integral part of the rest of this post.

As I came around the corner I realized that once again I was going to hit the wall because they weren’t getting out of the way. To prevent from hitting the wall (or running over her) I reached over and gently pushed her over to the right by her arm. I went on around the track and thought that would be the end of it.

“Gently” pushed her–that’s key. She didn’t slap the lady or trip her. She just pushed her…gently.

As I passed her again she yelled out something that I could hear over my headphones. I slowed to a stop and turned around and asked her what she had said. She said “Don’t touch me. Just ask me to get out of the way.” I told her that I had repeatedly tried to do just that, and would she rather that I had just run over her? I explained that it is very hard to stop when you are training and running a 6.5 minute mile.

Actually, I bet she would have preferred that. Any woman I’ve seen who does training runs at 6.5 minute miles on an 1/8 mile indoor track must be pretty low on total body mass. I bet this overweight walker would have gotten a real kick out of you trying to run over her.

I told her to please just stay on her side of the track (as the posted rules stated) or I would have to go complain at the front desk.

The Rules.

I continued to run again. Everytime I would pass her she would then stop, face me and make remarks. I tried to ignore her realizing that she would probably soon tire and leave the track.

She must tire out soon…she is overweight…remember?

She finally did. I didn’t complain on her when I left because I didn’t won’t to start any trouble. The next evening I was working out in the weight room minding my own business when I was approached by the Rec Center manager (S**** B*******)who told me that he had received a complaint on me last night that I had “shoved” a lady on the track. I attempted to tell him that it was totally untrue and tried to tell my side of the story.

Uh…I thought you shoving her was your side of the story? Oh, wait. You didn’t shove, you “gently pushed.” It was nice of you not to start any trouble by complaining on her though.

He didn’t wish to hear my side of the story, or see the bruise on my arm, or acknowledge that I was in full complaince of the posted Rec Center track rules.

Full compliance of the rules–because there isn’t a rule posted that says you can’t gently push people.

He did not wish to give me the name of the lady that complained. I told him that in addition to this episode, other runners had complained about similar incidents. I told him that other incidents had occurred in which individuals refused to comply to the posted track rules.

Complained to him, or complained to her? Were these real runners, or just voices in her head? How can we be sure?

I told him the night before there was also a toddler (2-3 years of age) that was also wandering the track. The manager told me that he didn’t have enough employees to monitor the track (even though they have cameras on every corner of the track). I asked him if he was telling me I couldn’t run there anymore. He responded that the track was actually a jogging/walking track, not for running and that it was perfectly okay for people to be walking the way they were (even though posted #3 rule stated “Please Limit Walking Patterns To 2 Wide).

The rule says it plain and simple!

He told me that I run “too fast” , even though I usually interval with 8 minute miles!

In other words, “You don’t know what fast is! This stuff I do in your rec center is Mickey Mouse compared to the times I clock when a wooden plaque and gift certificate to Smoothie King are on the line.”

I told him that the Rec Center advertised it as a running track when I joined and reminded him that Rule #4 stated “Walkers please stay on the inside of the track, RUNNERS on the outside.”

The rule says it!

He continued to argue with me and tell me that during January and February I should probably just run elsewhere or during early morning hours.

Wait. I’m confused. Was he arguing with her or was she arguing with him?

I told him that I wanted my money back if I couldn’t utilize the track when I needed it. He said okay “let’s go downstairs and get your money”.

Sounds like we have an agreement.

By then I was beginning to lose my cool. After all I had obeyed the rules and done nothing wrong.

This is where she lost her cool…not before. And because there isn’t a no shoving pushing rule, she obviously hadn’t broken any.

I looked at him and calmly said “Just keep my fucking money.I don’t need it and I won’t be back.” (I probably shouldn’t have said it, but he had pushed all my buttons by this point.I said it only in the presence of him.)

At least she remained calm. And by the way…she still hasn’t broken a rule at this point. It’s not posted anywhere that you can’t curse at the staff. The only part I don’t understand is why you would second guess yourself at this point. She asked for her money back, and he agreed to give it to her. It only makes sense to start dropping F-bombs and refuse the money.

He looked at me and said “That’s it! Your out of here right now or I am calling the Police.” I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I told him to go ahead and call the police because I had done nothing wrong and obeyed the rules.

The rules. Again.

I also told him I would be getting a lawyer. He did call the police and had me escorted out. I did not receive my membership fee back and it was a great embarrassment to me (especially
since I did not violate the rules).

I thought she told him to keep her f-ing membership fee? Was she embarrassed by his actions, or hers? Did I mention that she didn’t break any rules?

I intend on getting a lawyer and was hoping one of my fellow runners could suggest a good one since I will be going up against the City of Pigeon Forge. Thanks for listening to my story and any input you may have would be appreciated. In the mean time, please choose your running tracks carefully, if you are really into fitness training.

I wish I’d pursued law, just so I could offer up my services and meet this mental specimen. I’m left with only following her advice carefully because I am really into fitness training.

TRACK!!!!

The Perfect Run and Another New Balance Ad

Hungry Mother on “that” run:

I thought about my “magic run” back in 1977, when I was on sabbatical leave at Duke. On day, when I was doing a power walk, I jogged for 3 miles for the first time in my life. That run was smooth and effortless. I felt as though I could run forever.

I think everyone who’s ever run (or biked/paddled/whatever) somewhat seriously has had that day. If you’re really lucky you’ll get several of them in your life. To be fair, anyone who’s ever seen me run knows that I’ve never had an “effortless” training session in my life, but I have had a couple of days when it seemed like everything just clicked perfectly. In my case, they usually end with a violent vomiting session because as good as I feel, I’m really overheated or pushed beyond where I can run comfortably. Is that the runner’s high I’ve heard so much about?

As with most of my other successes in life, good runs for me are usually fueled by spite more than anything else. I ran my best 5k on what was supposed to be a recovery day after a 10 mile run that I completely bonked on and barely finished. Luckily, I was highly pissed off at the beginning of the race and was further agitated by a jobroni (he’d later become my running nemesis) who kept passing me then slowing down and letting me pass him back. With about a half mile remaining I decided that this jerk was not going to pass me again, and I ended up edging him out by about 15 seconds to take the title in the fat boy division of that race.

I’ve had a couple of training runs over 13 miles that seemed to go perfectly too. One of these runs started with all the people I was training with taking off at too fast of a pace for me–I’m very slow at the start, but usually accelerate as the run goes on and end up just kind of slow. Running alone gave me a few miles to stew, and I eventually began to boil. I think I ended up passing them somewhere around ten miles, and the site of them just fueled the fire–each mile after that got faster and faster. I actually ran a personal best for the half marathon distance that afternoon, although it doesn’t count since it wasn’t a sanctioned race. Unfortunately, it was also about 92 degrees outside. After I puked I almost passed out and had to go sit inside a nearby restaurant in the AC and sip water for about an hour.

I really showed them, huh?  Here’s some running zen to help you remember why you do it.

Running is a Bitch

This New Balance may be exactly what I need to get me to renew my relationship with her.  It’s really good.  There’s a whole new series of New Balance ads out, but this one is my favorite.  It perfectly sums up how I feel about running (when I’m fit).

[youtube bdeEPhdpay0]

If You’re Thinking of Upgrading WordPress

I’ve already received a few emails about this upgrade and keeping WordPress up to date.  First off, the one I posted about last night is a release candidate.  I wouldn’t recommend upgrading until the new version is actually released.  Example, I’m not running it on this blog yet, only on a development blog.

When you do decide to upgrade, I recommend Keith Dsouza‘s Automatic Upgrade plugin.  It handles all the steps required for a manual upgrade for you.  Make sure you make a donation to his cause…this plugin will save you a lot of time and hassle.  It even downloads the newest version of WP for you and prompts you when upgrades are available.

I do recommend doing a manual upgrade at least one time in your life.  First of all, it will help you appreciate the automatic plugin.  Secondly, you’ll be able to handle any odd issues that arise later on if you’ve been through the process.  To upgrade manually, there are a few basic steps.  WordPress has published a full article on upgrading, but here are the high points:

1.  Back up all of your files

2.  Back up your database (there’s a plugin for that too)

3.  Download the version of WP you want to install

4.  Disable your plugins

5.  The only potentially tricky part.  FTP the files for the new version to your server…DO NOT upload the wp-content directory and overwrite the one that you already have.  It contains your theme, plugins, and images.  If you overwrite it they’ll all be gone…good thing you backed them up, right?  Only overwrite the contents of the wp-content folder–not the actual folders within it.  In most cases, this is an index.php file that does nothing, and you won’t be in any trouble if you avoid the wp-content folder altogether.   You also don’t want to overwrite your wp-config.php file either.  This shouldn’t be a problem because there usually isn’t one that ships with the new version, but double check.

6.  Go to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php.  I’m assuming here that your blog is located in your root directory.  If it isn’t, just adjust the URL.  For example, if your blog is in the /blog directory you’d point your browser to  www.yoursite.com/blog/wp-admin/upgrade.php

7.  This will handle all of the upgrades and prompt you if there is a database upgrade (there is for 2.5).  It’s a very simple process and tells you when you’re finished.

8.  Reactivate your plugins

9.  You’re done!

Dream Ticket? Whose Dream Is This?

When MLK said that he had a dream that little black boys and little white girls would one day hold hands run on a presidential ticket together, is this what he had in mind? If so, we should stop referring to him as a civil rights leader and change his title to Republican strategist. Hillary Clinton thinks she and Barack Obama may be able to join their forces to fight sit-down-and-talk-with evil later this year.

“That may be where this is headed,” she told the CBS Early Show during a marathon set of appearances on the network morning news shows. “But of course we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.”

Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for President isn’t a dream for anyone except for maybe John McCain and those “near and dear friends” of his in Washington. The funny thing is that making Obama her running mate is really the only chance she would have of winning, but if Obama gets the nomination he’d be cutting his own throat by naming her as his running mate.

Sort The Viewers, Not The Movies

My buddy IB sent this article to me…very interesting.  Netflix is running a contest for data crunchers and offering $1M to anyone (or any team) that can beat their current recommendation system by 10%.  One of the leaders is a psychologist working by himself who is looking less at raw data and more at human nature.

One such phenomenon is the anchoring effect, a problem endemic to any numerical rating scheme. If a customer watches three movies in a row that merit four stars — say, the Star Wars trilogy — and then sees one that’s a bit better — say, Blade Runner — they’ll likely give the last movie five stars. But if they started the week with one-star stinkers like the Star Wars prequels, Blade Runner might get only a 4 or even a 3. Anchoring suggests that rating systems need to take account of inertia — a user who has recently given a lot of above-average ratings is likely to continue to do so.

I think this guy is onto something, and I’d like to see this move a step further.  Associating movies using k nearest neighbor is relatively straightforward, but attacking the other side of the equation (the viewer) is a lot tougher.  Here’s an example…

“The Outlaw Josie Wales” is one of my favorite movies, but that doesn’t mean that an algorithm could spit out a bunch of westerns and give me something I like.  Clint Eastwood movies wouldn’t do it either, but it would be a little closer.  The real way to suggest movies for me would be to look at some other factors that aren’t so obvious.  You need to be able to draw conclusions from my other favorites–“Fight Club”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Smoky and the Bandit”, and “Swingers”.  You may peg all of these as “guy movies”, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to like “Gladiator”.  In fact, I hated “Gladiator”.  A movie like “Thelma and Louise” is a much better suggestion for me than “Gladiator”.  Why?  Because it is much more quotable, and that’s something my favorite movies suggest that I like.

Just an example, but that’s the direction we’re going.  In order to make a powerful suggester for anything (books, movies, music, raincoats, etc.), it is now necessary to consider the individual making the purchase instead of a one-size-fits all approach.  How else can you help a guy like me who hates sci-fi but loved “The Matrix” and can’t stand to watch horror flicks but has seen “Scream” several times?

I’m oversimplifying it a bit, but this is a very difficult problem.  You’re basically tasked with generalizing a solution which has to consider literally millions of individual problems within the problem.  It’s very tough to quantify so many parameters in so many dimensions.

What amazes me most is that this is such a simple task for us to complete in our heads.  Computers are still so far behind us in our ability to do something as simple as watch a movie and think to ourselves, “That movie sucked, but my buddy really likes movies like this…I think I’ll suggest it to him.”

I Never Thought I’d Live To See It

Tennessee is the top ranked team in the nation? In basketball? Men’s basketball?

You have to understand, I attended the University of Tennessee during the reigns of Wade Houston and Kevin O’Neil. I was a pretty die hard fan back then. Of course it was easy to sit in the front row of the student section back then. But my memories of Tennessee basketball consist of Carlus Groves and Steve Rivers running their version of the shake and bake (mostly off the court bake), and poor Allan Houston carrying the load on his own. I guess that’s not totally fair. Houston had help from Token Lang Wiseman and Corey Allen. Of course they were canceled out by Gannon Goodson and Jay Price, both of whom I can vouch for as really nice guys, even if they weren’t great players.

Who would have thought back then that just 16 short years and…hang on, let me count them…four coaches later the Vols would be ranked #1?

Now that the big game is over and decided, it will be nice to hear local sports call in shows get back to talking about what really matters. Of course, I’m talking about football: “Guys, do you think we’ll beat Flarda this year?” and “When are they gonna git rid of Fulmer?”

See, basketball don’t really matter ’round here. Did you notice the players weren’t jumping up and down after the big win? It’s because all they care about is football too.

Or maybe they have class and they expected to win?

Yeah, What He Said

The other day I posted a meandering attempt at not ranting about information technology and the manufacturing sector. Today, Seth Godin wrote a post about basically the same thing. The difference is, his post actually makes some sense.

Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.

Stop whatever you are doing and read the whole post. If you don’t read Seth, you probably should. Whether you are the guy running the show or the guy who sweeps the floors at night, he has great insight delivered daily for free.

And here’s a nice bit of irony for you…Seth Godin’s blog (for whatever reason) is blocked by our corporate IS department. Luckily, the concept of RSS feeds and readers hasn’t trickled down to them yet, so we can still read whatever we want through them.

Give them a few years and they’ll get Google Reader blocked as well.