Pimp My Ride

I mentioned a while back that some heathen had damaged the Popemobile. Insurance covered it, but it has taken this long to get it fixed. While it was in the shop, I also got the final paperwork for my papal license plates. I picked up both the car and the plates this morning.

Although I have many titles - Pontifex Niger, Dark Dali Lama, Sable Primate, Dark Lord of Free-balling, Ebon Cardinal, to name just a few - the one that has the greatest staying power is HSBP; "His Sinfulness the Black Pope." Since Wyoming only allows 4 letters on their personalized plates, it was a good fit. Of course, the state has no idea what it actually stands for - well, actually I gave them a very wrong idea so they would let it pass.

On the paperwork for the plates, it has a required space for what the 4-letter combo means. I pondered for a bit, and after ruling out "Hot Slutty Bald Pussy" and "Holy Shit - Blue Pez!", I came up with "High Speed BackPacker." Very ironic, that, because carrying my belongings into the wilderness on my back is nearly my definition of hell, and doing so at a high rate of speed would be the only thing worse.

This could be a dangerous move, I know, but I have made certain plans for the safety of the Popemobile. At all times, there is an honor guard of 6 BCPs in the trunk, awaiting deployment. They have been instructed to protect my vehicle and person at all times, and are specially trained in firearms, traffic offenses, and traffic offenses involving firearms...

For the Good Doktor...

...who asked what size kettlebell he should buy. As always, YouTube has the answer!

Sounds like maybe a 20 or 24 kilo kettlebell would be the ticket to start with.


When I was a kid, if we wanted to role play a sci-fi villain, we had to make a helmet out of a cardboard box...

Now, all that is needed by the young Who-head (my brother-in-law, the biggest Dr. Who nerd I know tells me the proper term is "Whovian") is this nifty Dalek Voice Changer Helmet.

If you wish to play a more versatile villain (or just one who can use stairs successfully) perhaps the Cyberman Voice Changer Helmet is more your speed.

Both of these fine products are sold by Voga, but only if you live across the pond - no overseas shipping.

They will, however, ship you a Tardis of your very own.
This one is actually a 4-port USB hub.

Kids are so spoiled these days...

What Were You Thinking?

Gods bless YouTube...

Virtual 5K Route

I found this cool thingy called mapmyrun.com that, um, like maps your runs, and stuff... You can use it to check the mileage of a course you've already run, or plan your next route. Here is the route I've been thinking about for the Wee Little Virtual 5K.

I haven't decided if this will be the one I actually use on race day, but I like this course. I like running in residential areas anyway - that way I am within crawling distance of someone's home, regardless of where I might be when I have my heart attack...

For those who are keeping score at home, I did my first week five run on the C25k program, and it wasn't too bad. I was all freaked out about the longer intervals, but they were fine once I got warmed up. I will be shooting for 20 minute intervals by this weekend.

Summer in the BVC

Summer in Black Vatican City is odd. It is a time of year owned by pale, blinking people, who crave yet fear the sun. They emerge cautiously from their dwellings, wearing dark glasses and clad in seasonal clothing from several years ago to scratch at their flower beds, drop frisbees, and expose their pasty limbs to the sun. They run, ride their bikes, strap on rollerblades, and generally flirt with heat stroke in anyway they can find.

Much of the local Flock is burned right now, due to moving Vanilla Fresh and Indian Princess into their new place. Aloe vera gel flows like water at Flock Hall, and I weep for our species. We have evolved (or devolved) to a point where the very sun that gave us life now threatens to kill us.

As I am gifted with uncharacteristically dark skin for an Irishman, and spent the better part of my youth outdoors in sunny places, I am not so afflicted. While others progress rapidly from white to pink to lobster, I slowly develop a healthy pre-cancerous glow, and stay that way. I have had a few epic sunburns, but I have to really try to let that happen - like falling asleep at the beach on Maui for four hours, or dozing off on my stomach while camping in Arizona (both of these misadventures might have been inspired by misuse of adult beverages). Even my scalp, which becomes more exposed every day due to my thinning hair, has rarely ever been burned. My skin, for the most part, is an excellent ally; it is my second favorite organ.

But that's a topic for another post, so... Put down that Wii-mote and get outside. For the good of the species.

The 53 Runner's Commandments

1. Don't be a whiner. Nobody likes a whiner, not even other whiners.
2. Walking out the door is often the toughest part of a run.
3. Don't make running your life. Make it part of your life.
4. During group training runs, don't let anyone run alone.
5. Keep promises, especially ones made to yourself.
6. When doing group runs, start on time no matter who's missing.
7. The faster you are the less you should talk about your times.
8. Keep a quarter in your pocket. One day you'll need to call for a ride.
9. Don't compare yourself to other runners.
10. All runners are equal, some are just faster than others.
11. Keep in mind that the later in the day it gets, the more likely it is that you won't run.
12. For a change of pace, get driven out and then run back.
13. If it was easy, everybody would be a runner.
14. When standing in starting lines, remind yourself how fortunate you are to be there.
15. Getting out of shape is much easier than getting into shape.
16. A bad day of running still beats a good day at work.
17. Talk like a runner. "Singlets" are worn on warm days. "Tank tops" are worn to the beach.
18. Don't talk about your running injuries. People don't want to hear about your sore knee or black toe.
19. Don't always run alone.
20. Don't always run with people.
21. Approach running as if the quality of your life depended on it.
22. No matter how slow you run it is still faster than someone sitting on a couch.
23. Keep in mind that the harder you run during training, the luckier you'll get during racing.
24. Races aren't just for those who can run fast.
25. There are no shortcuts to running excellence.
26. The best runs sometimes come on days when you didn't feel like running.
27. Be modest after a race, especially if you have reason to brag.
28. If you say, "Let's run this race together," then you must stay with that person no matter how slow.
29. Think twice before agreeing to run with someone during a race.
30. There is nothing boring about running. There are, however, boring people who run.
31. Look at hills as opportunities to pass people.
32. Distance running is like cod liver oil. At first it makes you feel awful, then it makes you feel better.
33. Never throw away the instructions to your running watch.
34. Don't try to outrun dogs.
35. Don't trust runners who show up at races claiming to be tired, out of share, or not feeling well.
36. Don't wait for perfect weather. If you do, you won't run very often.
37. When tempted to stop being a runner, make a list of the reasons you started.
38. Never run alongside very old or very young racers. They get all of the applause.
39. Without goals, training has no purpose.
40. During training runs, let the slowest runner in the group set the pace.
41. The first year in a new age group offers the best opportunity for trophies.
42. Go for broke, but be prepared to be broken.
43. Spend more time running on the roads than sitting on the couch.
44. Make progress in your training, but progress at your own rate.
45. "Winning" means different things to different people.
46. Unless you make your living as a runner, don't take running too seriously.
47. Runners who never fail are runners who never try anything great.
48. Never tell a runner that he or she doesn't look good in tights.
49. Never confuse the Ben-Gay tube with the toothpaste tube.
50. Never apologize for doing the best you can.
51. Preventing running injuries is easier than curing them.
52. Running is simple. Don't make it complicated.
53. Running is always enjoyable. Sometimes, though, the joy doesn't come until the end of the run.

My thanks to Joe Kelly.

Perfect for Father's Day

Or Mother's Day, if your mom is the gun totin' type.

Yes, it's 20 rounds of 50cal ammo in real milk chocolate. Only $8.99 at finer purveyors of firearms and chocolates.

Virtual 5K

Some of you may have noticed the new banner on the right for the Wee Little Virtual 5K. I've committed to running in it, and I hope some of you will too!

It's pretty simple - click on the link, commit to moving your body (you can run, walk, skip, crawl, etc.) for 5k (3.1 miles) on the 28th or 29th of June 2008, then report your time. You can also write a race report and have it linked on the page, too. I'm a terrible runner, but this gives me a goal for which to prepare.

I am on week 4 of the Couch to 5k program; it takes you from one minute running intervals to running a full 30 minutes non-stop in 9 weeks. To make the intervals easier to time, I'm using the Podcasts for Running created by Robert Ullrey. He recorded a podcast for each week of the program that tells you when to run and when to walk, and he gives pointers and encouragement along the way.

Many of you have heard me say terrible things about running - and I was right. In the brief time that I've been running I have encountered rain, sleet, snow, hail, angry dogs, angry old people, and huge clouds of car and truck exhaust. I've experienced back pain, ankle pain, knee pain, post-run giddiness, mid-run depression, and pre-run anxiety. It offers all of the sweatiness and misery of handball, with almost none of the exhilaration.

Yet, I like it somehow; perhaps I'm exploring my masochistic side. I like taking time for myself, away from everyone and everything, and just working on me - my heart, my lungs, my legs. (I also refuse to be defeated by a physical skill I mastered at the age of three!) At this point, there is no strategy, no planning. It's just one foot in front of the other, repeat as needed. That level of simplicity is good in my life these days.

Thus far I haven't had any real injuries, just occasional owies and soreness - nothing that doesn't go away before the next run. I am progressing at a very measured and reasonable pace that isn't tearing my legs up, and I'm allowing myself proper rest between workouts. In other words, I'm approaching this unlike any other sport I've ever tried. It's not that I don't have grand plans (like the Denver Marathon in 2009, for instance...), it's just a symptom of my age and size. I'm a big guy who has avoided running (other than the brief sprinting required by the games I play) for many years, so I'm easing back into it. I've finally become cautious with my body. I well recall the crippling pain of shin splints and sciatica brought on by running too much too soon. I'm not interested in being shut down by them again. Like I said above, I have a race to run soon!

The Dharma of the Game, continued some more...

Previous posts can be found here

The Naughty Smurfs (our volleyball team) has had a very rough time this season. After winning our first game, we have lost every game since. This Wednesday, we are playing what will likely be out last game of the season - it's the playoffs, and if we lose, we're eliminated. This season has been very interesting to observe. Some of my teammates have a lot of experience playing team sports and some do not. Some of us have come to grips with losing, and some have not.

In previous installments of this series of posts, I've talked quite a bit about playing to win. In order for the test to be valid, all players must give their all and respect their opponents chances of winning, etc. Most of us, however, have been in the situation where the mismatch is so great that we know the outcome long before the game ends. Such has been the case with the Smurfs this season. In many of our games, after just a few points had been played (sometimes just after watching the other team warm up!) it was obvious that we were going to be on the short side of the score at the end.
I know that some members of the team are deeply frustrated by this, but I welcome it. Of course it would be nice to win, but I have learned that losing is the more instructive sports experience. It is only when you lose that you are truly motivated to train more, and to learn new techniques and new strategies. If you look at it logically, there is no reason to seek to improve if you are winning all the time. Most of us are inherently lazy, and winning a game tells us that our skills are good enough. A loss tells us, in no uncertain terms, that our skills are lacking. In many cases, it tells us exactly what we need to work on as well.

I'm not saying that one should be satisfied with losing all the time - certainly, play as hard and as smart as you can and beat the other guy! - but losing should be embraced, as it is the more transformative element of sport. As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, the true purpose of sport is the spiritual betterment of the competitors. What better way to grow as a person than to face your own shortcomings, and develop strategies for overcoming them? When we examine ourselves privately, we may ignore weaknesses, be overly gentle in our assessments, and generally cut ourselves a lot of slack - but when we enter into competition with set rules and objectives, our failings are clearly shown. The final score, the fallen king, the feeling of your shoulders pinned to the mat for three seconds - THAT is irrefutable proof that you need to improve, and clear directions on where to begin. The opponent has become your teacher, and for that we should be thankful.

Obviously, there are other means to achieving spiritual growth, but competition gives you a chance to enlist every opponent you face, human or otherwise, as a teacher. It's certainly cheaper than taking long retreats at a monastery... In fact, I don't even like the term "opponent." I think that it is best to look at the other players as "partners." Although you keep score, you are really both working toward the same goal, and you take turns being teacher and pupil. The old metaphor is "two stones that rub together slowly polish each other." Together you are polishing the skills of each of you - without such friction, no growth takes place.

The Next Step

For the last few months I've been shifting from vegetarian to vegan. (I know that many of you are omnivores, and you're rolling your eyes and getting ready to click "next" on your blogroll, but hear me out, ok?) I have tried to go vegan before, but it was always just too expensive, required too much label reading, and took too much organization to be a realistic diet for me. I have waffled back and forth numerous times, and lately I have taken to calling myself a "public vegetarian, private vegan." By that I meant that I would eat vegan at home but allow myself dairy and eggs when eating out with friends. It was a rationalization that made me feel somewhat better, and it made going out much easier.

But rationalizations can only hold up if you don't examine them closely. Over the last few years, the universe has seen fit to surround me with numerous enlightened souls whose presence has forced me to examine everything I put in my mouth more closely. These folks have helped me in numerous ways - some have been inspirational, some are cautionary tales, and some have helped open my eyes to the next step on my path. A great example of this kind of person is G-Fresh - just about the only Christian I know who seems to actually adhere to the compassionate teachings of Christ... but that's a rant for another post.

She's an ovo-lacto vegetarian, and recently she's been doing some searching on the internet for more information on veganism. Since she's allergic to milk she has more reason than most to give it up, but she was exploring the topic fully before making a decision - 'cuz she's cautious and responsible like that.

A few days ago she discovered a series of podcasts on the issue. I am highly skeptical of podcasts as a source of serious information - I mean, if they let me and Flynn have a podcast, then they're all suspect, right? - but I gave it a listen.

Vegetarian food for Thought is a podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. She presents the vegan lifestyle in a reasoned, logical, and well-cited way without sounding preachy. She debunks myths, exposes folly, explores nutritional options, and generally makes sense in a way that many vegans wish they could.

When talking to omnis, I am famous for saying humourous but unhelpful things like, "It's the tears that make it taste good," or "a ham and cheese sandwich is a few hours work for the cow, but a lifetime committment for the pig." About a year ago, my favorite was, "You're ok eating that only because you're dead inside." These statements almost NEVER help, and usually make a dedicated meat eater want to have a cheeseburger on the spot. Colleen manages to get the message across so much better than I can, and she does it with statistics and facts from a plethora of sources.

She does it so well, in fact, that I no longer have any choice. The public vegetarian is dead - long live the vegan! I challenge all of you to listen to one of her podcasts and see if you don't begin to see the light. Try these...

What's Wrong with Eggs?
Milk is a Natural Food...
How humane are "humane" meat, dairy, and eggs?

I know that many people view vegans as angry, judgmental, and spiteful. I will admit to being all of those things, but it's not because I'm a vegan - I'm just made of pure sin. In truth, there are many vegans in the world who are peaceful and joyful, filled with compassion, and much closer to enlightenment than I. You can learn more about this concept below:

Being a "Joyful Vegan."

One Down, One to Go

I just turned in my Final Exam in Methods. There was a multiple choice portion worth 40 points and three take-home essays worth 20 points each. I think I did well enough that an A is still a possibility, especially since he grades on a curve and he loved our big group project. I also have to face this prof again next fall, so I'd like to leave a good impression.

My one remaining final is in Statistics, and it's going to suck. I am officially requesting that all you religious types out there direct prayers, supplications, sacrifices, and indulgences to the
god(s)/goddess(es)/impersonal forces/mass of noodles/personal power animals/ancestors of your choice on my behalf to help out with that (being inclusive and PC takes a lot of punctuation).

I'm going to dedicate several hours each day until the exam on Friday, but as my hero and role model Jayne Cobb would say, "I'm humped." It's likely that I am still going to need to retake it over in the summer session (I need a B, and I am a solidly established C student in mathematics). I have found that I tend to do better with math classes when I take them over the summer and can give them my full attention. At least I hope that will help...

I really do the see the merits of statistical analysis - it's just that I know there are numerous programs out there that can do it for me. I hate to spend time learning to do standard deviations and the like when even the lab terminal I am on now is equipped with SPSS and Minitab, both of which can do it faster and more accurately than I ever will. When it comes time to do major number crunching for my research, the first thing I'm going to do is hire a stats wonk (this place is lousy with them, actually), yet I'm still sitting here with my scientific calculator in hand.

I actually know what it takes for me to get an A in a math class. My best grades in math were when I took a class from a gorgeous female grad student. She was a tall brunette, a former soccer player, tan and leggy, with cute freckles on her nose. It was a summer session class, so she wore pretty sundresses or shorts everyday. She was smart and hot and she smelled like suntan lotion - I never missed class. Perhaps my Stats instructor this summer will be hot like that...

New Addition

I recently went to Avalon Aviary near Black Vatican City, to help out Fleur in her search for a bird of her own. She's looking for a small Poicephalus, like a Red Belly, Senegal, or Meyers. They showed her the Red Bellies they had on hand, and they were very tame and quite cute. I asked if they had any Meyers, and the staff said they did, but they were not tame, and one was missing all of her toes (sadly, a not uncommon injury among small territorial birds).

When an aviary worker says "not tame" what they generally mean is "evil, with a taste for human blood." I asked them to bring out the amputee anyway, figuring that Fleur could at least see what a Meyers looks like, even if she couldn't handle it. They agreed, and went to fetch Carmen.

I have met many birds over the years, and some have reacted very strongly to me (both positively and negatively) but I have never seen a bird behave like Carmen. For her, it was clearly love at first sight with me. She had flown to the floor to get away from her handler, so I picked her up, fully expecting to bleed for it. Not only did she not bite me, she immediately began tilting her head and making small clicking noises, while her pupils were dilating and contracting rapidly. She was interacting with me the way many birds do with the person to whom they are bonded. A few minutes later I turned her over and she rested comfortably on her back in my hand, like we had been buddies for years. A few minutes after that, G-Fresh asked me if I was going to take Carmen home...

The odd thing about Miss Carmen is that she is very much a sexist. She will step up for any male, but if you're female and you try to handle her, you're going to bleed. She will take treats from a woman, but warily, and she will sometimes actually rush across the room to bite a woman. Since we met her, she has bled G-Fresh, Little Tattooed Girl, and Jesse (LTG's sister). To prove that it's not just the women of the Flock that she hates, she drew blood on Suzanne, the owner of the aviary. In fact, when I went to pick her up, the aviary staff (all female) wouldn't take a chance. "I'll just let you get her out," she said as she opened the carrier. Naturally, she was as tame as a baby for me, and they were amazed.

Her toe injury happened when she was a baby and her owners dumped her, bleeding to death, on the doorstep of a vet's office. The vet did what could be done for her, but the toes were lost. She is quite nimble with her remaining stumps, however. I'd say that she is perfectly capable, as long as she has flat perching surfaces with good traction - like the Pope's Crocs. She lived at that vet's office for years (where she learned a lot of great animal impressions - her cat meow is quite realistic) and then came to live at Avalon Aviary for several years more. The aviary staff had hoped that she could breed, but because of her handicap she is not able to hang out with the boy birds - if they were to knock her off a perch with an egg on board it could kill her. So now, at the ripe old age of 12 or so, she has come to roost with us at Flock Hall.