Back after a Hiatus

It’s been quite a while since I posted here – I embraced twitter, but that’s a very different forum for ideas

So – I’ll be making a conscious effort to post more regularly here and post some pics, some achievements, some thoughts on tech, etc.

What triggered this return?  I don’t know; just a threshold being crossed, a decision to take back some control over my life and take some new steps. I’m going to articulate some goals for the coming year in the next few days – get them out there and it will keep me accountable – even if the only person who sees them is me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone – especially to Kim who has been a wonderful, important part of my life for the past 2.5 years and I hope for many more.

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Winter in the UK

As a Brit, a Geographer, and someone has lived many places and traveled to many more; I am fascinated and puzzled by the British attitude to the weather.

I could fill dozens if not hundreds of pages about various UK responses to too much rain (any time), some snow or ice in the winter, some heat or sun in the summer, or some falling leaves in the autumn / fall.  Right now the news is that after a few mild winters, a normal winter weather pattern leaves the country in ruins.

Let’s recap – the United Kingdom is a NORTHERN European country.  London lies at 51ºN, Manchester at 53º30′, Edinburgh at 55ºN.  Compare these to Calgary (51ºN), Edmonton (53º30’N) and Moscow (55º45’N).  Equivalents for my friends in the Southern hemisphere are tougher, but Ushuaia in Argentina (when I was there last summer/winter, people were skiing at close to sea level and it snowed every day) is at 54º48′ S, closest thing for my Kiwi friends is Invercargill at 46º24’S.  Question – do you think people in that latter (non-UK) list put snow tyres on in winter?  Do their city and county councils have snow ploughs and gritters?

Yes, I understand the difference between a Maritime and Continental climate, and the influence of the Gulf Stream on UK weather, but I also know about the jet stream and persistent Northern Hemisphere highs in the winter and the fact that a country this far north is going to get hit by winter storms a few times each year.  Anthropogenic climate change is likely to increase the frequency of extreme events as temperature gradients N to S get out of equilibrium due to localized responses to increased CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.  I’m pretty sure that I’m also not the only person who has studied this and knows these facts.

So, why?

Travel networks paralyzed

Gatwick Airport closed for second day

6500 schools closed

And, yes, the usual suspects will be out saying that snow in winter disproves “global warming” when it does no such thing and all serious scientists have known for 25+ years that effects of anthropogenic climate change will be unevenly distributed.  The Lake District / southern Scotland is at the same latitude as James Bay in central Canada or Ketchikan in southern Alaska.  Will you buy some snow tyres, some winter boots, and a warm coat, please?

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NYC Marathon 2011

Well, the application is in for the NYC marathon next year and (unless I manage to screw something up), I should be in automatically with the 9+1 program through NY Road Runners.  I have run 6 races so far this year and and I have three more to go – a 4 mile on Nov 21, a 10k on december 5, and a 15k on December 19.  I even managed to register twice for the Kleinermann 10k!  Maybe I’ll get two shirts.

I also registered for the NYC half in March, which I ran last year, but that’s a lottery and no guarantees.

Who would ever have thought I’d be able to even think of running those distances?  But almost 400 training and race miles this year so far (and another hundred or so left in the year) and a couple of setbacks with a hip injury in the summer and a nasty chest infection in the fall, I guess I’m getting to be somewhat serious about this.

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Embracing my feminine side?

According to urlai.com:

Text analysis

raoulmiller.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 36-50 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.”
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Norway Run

And to make a change from the bitching about people like AT&T and AmEX – something positive.

I finished the Norway Run last weekend in 16:07 which is a 9:28 / mile pace.  Granted that’s a short race, but I’m getting back to the pace I ran in the spring in Brooklyn, so I think I just do much better with cooler weather.

I have three more races still scheduled for the year –

  • Poland Springs 5 mile in the park on 10/31,
  • Race to Deliver 4 mile on 11/21
  • Joe Kleinerman 10k on 12/5

I’ll probably throw a couple of extras in there too to make doubly sure I hit the 9+1 requirement for the 2011 marathon and then it’s right into training for that.  So even with three weeks off for this blasted bronchitis and sinus infection (which still isn’t cleared) I’m feeling like I’m on the right path.

So here are some more Goals:

  • Get pace close to or under 9 min/mile for 4 miles before end of year
  • Finish another three races (at least) and qualify for the marathon next year
  • Improve my diet along with the training and figure out how to get more protein
  • Add some spin classes to the mix
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American Express are thieves

In common with most of the rest of the parasitic “financial services” industry they don’t deserve to remain in business.

Their latest bullshit is to inform me that the “membership rewards” I earned by charging over $100,000 in business travel are now worth less than half what they were when I accrued them.  They’ve created some kind of second tier “rewards” program which requires more than twice the number of points to actually be able to redeem them for travel.  And they’ve also taken away the ability to transfer points from this program to airline miles.  I’m sure they informed me of this on one of this 3 point type newsprint mailers with 75 pages they love to send out, but I notice that they don’t have this anywhere on their web sites.  They are ashamed of this ripoff as they should be.

This is on top of what they did to me and tens of thousands of other people last year when they halved my credit line, then raised my interest rates to usurious levels because of the hit to my credit score that their unilateral actions caused.  Of course, when I paid my account off in full and my credit score went right back where it had been, the enormous interest rates stayed where they were.

Why do companies seem to think that screwing their loyal and bill-paying customers is a good and sustainable business plan?  I often charge thousands of dollars a month to my credit cards for business travel and I’ll be damned if any of that business goes to AmEx.  Our company even started a new program for company AmEx cards and I told them I wasn’t interested – I’d rather stick with my United Airlines visa.  Chase are crooks too, but not quite as outrageous as AmEx.  If I could buy air tickets, rent cars, and reserve hotels without a credit card I would.

And can someone explain why credit card interest rates are still at 20-30% when savings interest rates are <1%?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that they gave credit cards to college students with no income, dogs and dead people, and now they expect the rest of us to bail them out from their stupidity and greed?

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Sick while traveling

Always a pain.  Heading back to the US tomorrow and very much looking forward to getting home, rested and back to my usual diet, sleep habits and workouts.  I’ve been in Townsville, Cairns, back to Townsville, Melbourne, and now Sydney.  Hasn’t helped that it’s been cold and rainy here in Sydney and I’m coming down with a bad cold right before my flights home.  Oh well….

Townsville is a nice-ish quiet town with a great seafront called the Strand.  5km out and back which added up to 4 miles with the distance to and from the hotel (Holiday Inn salt shaker building if you’ve ever been to Townsville).  Then up to Cairns to visit my cousin Robert and his family up there.  Quite a bit further to drive than I thought but I had a great time – they made me feel very welcome and shared their wonderful house with me.  They really are living the Aussie dream up there although the sun and humidity kicked my ass!

Melbourne was cold and damp, but I finally got to run the Tan Track and really enjoyed that, although I was starting to feel rundown even then, so the hill halfway round was a bear.  Track itself is just short of 4km, but distance to and from my hotel at the far end of Flinders Lane in docklands meant that it added up to 5 miles total.  I was out there early Saturday morning after some joker rang my room at 5am and woke me up; and then flew to Sydney that morning – that’s probably where the downward spiral began because a hard run in the cold and damp  followed by a packed flight is a great recipe for respiratory infections.

One thing, though, in both places was the high number of walkers and runners out there which made me feel really good about being a part of that.  It’s probably why I should be heading to the east or west sides to run along the river rather than just stay on the treadmill at the gym next door.

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How much does AT&T suck? Let me count the ways

My original iPhone is finally dying and I decided it was time for the iPhone 4 upgrade.  In fact, I tried to get on board that train the first day of release, but AT&T’s crappy website left me without a reservation (just as well, it turns out, because I was told even people with reservations waited in line for 5 hours plus at the soho store).

Anyway, I finally ordered the phone a couple of weeks ago and, after some glitches on the order site (AT&T’s not Apple), it went through and my lovely device arrived Friday.  I was able to synch it immediately to iTunes as a clone of my existing phone which is great – everything came over, even including my alarm clock settings.  But as it had to resize 3000+ photos for the new screen it took a while so I left it to process while we went out Friday night.

Saturday morning, I’m excited to activate the new phone and call AT&T – but what’s this?  I can only activate my phone Monday to Friday?  What the fuck? Head online – fill out all the information (isn’t this the phone you sent to me?  Why do I need to type in two 15 digit strings and the order number that matches my account?  I’ve already authenticated with you.)  And…. nothing.  The page tells me it may take 15 mins to 4 hours to activate my phone, but 36 hours later there’s still no signal.  The phone itself works just fine – connects to wireless, uploads apps and gets iTunes, just no phone activation.

OK, well;  I’m waiting patiently till Monday morning and as of now (1020am), I’ve called AT&T three fucking times and have yet to get through to a person – I keep being put on hold for ten minutes or more then get a message saying they are experiencing “technical difficulties” and then disconnected.  “Difficulties?”  No shit!  You have difficulties running a business and not alienating your best customers who spend $3-700 / month with you.

Do I really like the iPhone enough to put up with this? (not even getting into the 6-10 dropped calls a day, while sitting still, in Manhattan!)  I’m starting to wonder; and every additional hour my $200 paperweight sits here I reassess some more.

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Die Antwoord in Brooklyn

If you don’t know who Die Antwoord are, go here to see the Ninja video and then come back.

Kim bought me tickets to see them last Sunday and we trekked into darkest Williamsburg to the Music Hall for the gig.  It was everything I expected and more – strange, loud, fun, compelling.

I still don’t know whether these guys are real or fake, but they put on a great a show and we all had fun (and they are better than 99% of music on the radio right now.

And anyone who was there for the warm-up DJ set will not forget that in a hurry – who were those guys?

Update: They have an EP available on iTunes – search for “Die Antwoord”

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Lemmy!

It was my birthday yesterday; Kim threw me a lovely party on the roof which was very touching and appreciated.  I’m not very good at letting myself be at the center of attention like that, but it was small group of friends and a lot of fun.

And then I got this as a gift – how awesome is it (and I mean awesome in the literal sense of actually inspiring awe, not the devalued sense so often used)?

I also got tickets to Die Antwoord show next weekend – if you don’t know who they are, you should. (Start here).

<< I’m guessing I may be the first person to link Lemmy and Ninja in a post >>

P.S. When is Lemmy: The Movie opening?

Posted in Friends, Life, Music | 1 Comment

Hot and cold

OK it’s weather rather than climate – but as we are in record-breaking heat in NYC, it’s record cold in Alice Springs.

But Michael Mann used the word “trick” in a private email that was stolen and published, so clearly all the science to date is junk and there’s no issue with climate change.

Climate change will cause more extreme weather events around the world and we will tend to see evidence for these before we see overall systemic change.  No individual extreme event can be attributed solely to anthropogenic climate change, but a pattern of them certainly bolsters all the other observational data and models.

How many more of these events do we need to have before people take notice? And how many people around the world will die so people in the US can continue to live in 6,000 square foot homes?

Oh, I forgot, Al Gore is fat and lives in a big house – never mind.

<sigh>

If you are interested in learning about climate, climatology, palaeoclimatology, and anthropogenic climate change – here’s a good start: realclimate.org.  In particular, look at this section.

Stay cool or warm – wherever you are.

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Take a moment to reflect on luckiness

I just picked up 5 rolls of film I had developed and printed at my favourite lab (Yeah, I know, I’m old school).  In that collection were some pics from Buenos Aires last year (great buildings in San Telmo), wonderful snow covered Lake District in the UK (from New Year), and four rolls from Australia on my last trip – Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach, Mornington Peninsula.

You know, sometimes all my traveling sucks really badly, but the upside is that I’ve had the chance to visit some absolutely wonderful places in the world.  Remind me of that next time you hear me complain about flying, jet lag, and hotels 🙂

Ill scan and upload some pics soon – actually look for links to a whole new photography site in the autumn / fall (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – opposite for my antipodean friends)

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Helpful sizing advice from Nike

“If your body measurement is on the borderline between two sizes, order the smaller size for a tighter fit or the larger size for a looser fit.”

Wow.  Add this to the list of things that really should never need to be articulated.

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I have a new work blog

Just in case anyone is interested, I started a new blog on Enterprise Architecture, Content management and Technology.  There’s a link over on the right, or just click here.

Recently I’ve just been bitching about AT&T and Apple, but that will pass.

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Friday Sesame Street YouTube mashups

I’m sure there are many, many more

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Two reasons why Melbourne / Victoria is the New Jersey of Australia

(probably most of interest to my American readers, but still… )

On my very first day in Melbourne I was walking down William street to Foster’s and I saw this strange sign

(remember USAians, that Aussies, like all right-thinking people drive on the left)

So – I watch people pull to the left to make a right turn and think of the only other place in the world that forces you to turn the opposite direction you want – the good old Garden State itself.

So imagine my surprise when I see this on a number plate:

Does Bruce know about this?

The parallels become even clearer – who loves their big V8s more than Aussies and Jerseyites?

Johnny 99

“Well they closed down the Holden plant in Pagewood late that month
Ralph went out lookin’ for a job but he couldn’t find none ”

Open All Night

“Early north Geelong industrial skyline
I’m a all-set Monaro-jet creepin’ through the nighttime
Gotta find a gas station, gotta find a pay phone
This turnpike sure is spooky at night when you’re all alone
Gotta hit the gas, baby. I’m running late
Victoria in the mornin’ like a lunar landscape”

(lyrics from here)

(updated 6/11/10 2:19 – Just want to state that I believe the lyrics above come under fair use / parody – if anyone disagrees let me know.  The last thing I’d want to do is upset the Boss)

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It’s been a while

Apologies for not updating in a while.  New job, new laptop, lots of things going on.  I was in Steamboat springs skiing for a week in early April (fantastic – will definitely be back there next year), then down in Melbourne for a couple of weeks as soon as I started with TEAM,  Been back almost two weeks and I’m heading back to Aus on Monday.

I’ll update with some pics over the next week or so, but I did want to reflect on a couple of things.

I posted some goals in late February and have already achieved 1 1/2 of them:

  • I started my new job with TEAM Informatics in mid April
  • I finished the NYC half marathon on March 21st in 2:22:32

The other thing is that the pile of paperwork, bills, files, and stress that has squatted like an ogre in the corner of my dining table for almost 6 months is finally gone.  The process of reclaiming order in my life is well underway!

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I’m starting to feel like a real runner

I ran the Al Gordon Snowflake classic 4 mile race in Prospect park the weekend before last and finished in 38:12.  So that’s over 1’30” off my time over the same course a couple of months earlier and I felt so much better I can’t tell you. In fact, I probably could have finished faster if I hadn’t been caught in traffic in the first mile or so.

So I feel really good about that (and felt good later that day and the next too).  I’ve also upped my mileage as I get ready for the half marathon in ten days time – I ran 8 miles on Monday and plan on running ten on sunday or monday.

Who knew I’d ever be pysched to run like this?

Thanks to Kim for coming out and supporting me on a cold early Sunday morning in Brooklyn.

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This year I will….

  • Run at least two half marathons and continue to train for the NYC Marathon
  • Get a new job
  • Have a photographic exhibition
  • Visit at least one new country
  • Be debt-free (apart from mortgage)

Anything else I should add to this list?

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Snowpocalypse!

Greetings from the Aloft hotel in Ashburn, VA where I’m watching over 24″ (60cm) of snow fall and now blow all over the place.  It’s fun to be part of snowmageddon or sn_omg, but I’d much rather be home than stuck in a hotel even though I do get to watch stupid TV and movies and just be lazy.

The really annoying thing, though, is that I was supposed to be running the NYRR gridiron 4M tomorrow morning and now I won’t get home in time – which is a bummer.  Who’d ever have thought I’d be upset about missing the chance to run 4 miles in below freezing temps early on a Sunday morning?  Oh well, at least Kim will get to sleep in and stay warm tomorrow.

It’s funny because I keep bringing my Dulut sensibility to this event – where it wouldn’t have been that big a deal.  I forget that I’m in Virginia with a rented Chevrolet rather than Minnesota driving a Saab with Nokia snow tires or the 4×4 suburban. 

Before I decided to stay tonight I walked out to the main road and it doesn’t appear to have been ploughed at all – this is a major 4 lane highway, not a side street!  The hotel staff also told me that roads all around here are blocked by fallen trees as well.  Plus the drivers on I95 in Philly and Baltimore are suicidal on a good day, so probably not a good idea to be out there today.

So thanks to United Airlines for putting me in this position.  Thanks for not communicating the status of flights at IAD (as Kim says, I get 4 twitters an hour when the weather is bad in ORD or SFO, nothing this time) until it was already too late to outrun the storm.  Thanks for not cancelling the flight until 1 hour before even though IAD was essentially closed the night before.

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