Freedom Run

Most of you know that I am an avid runner. Well, maybe not so much since my hip replacement a little over a year ago. Since my 1 year checkup showed that my implant has been incorporated into my skeleton I have given myself a license to return to my addiction.  Kind of.

I went for a 4 miler yesterday and did something I haven’t done in at least 5 years. I didn’t use a running app on my iPhone to track my mileage and time. Sure, I took my phone because having that lifeline is good, just in case. And pictures. I like to take pictures.

What has changed?

A few things. While recovering, maybe regenerating is a better word, from the surgery I started to read about the human body. I bounced around among tomes on evolution and fitness. As I read more, I started to focus in on a couple of areas – biomechanics and anatomy . NOTE: The links I just provided are a sampling of what is written and represent my gateway reading. There are many other books and articles. I encourage you to read all you can.

As my recovery continued I found myself looking for a job. That process, which is worth its own post or two, took several months and occupied a lot of my time. There was a guilt paradox going on. I had the “free” time to do more cycling and running but felt guilty if I wasn’t pursuing a job with that time. When I did find a job (a great one that has been very much what I hoped for) I committed to a long commute that kind of puts a twist on my typical morning workouts. I’m still adjusting to the timing.

All I’m saying is that my ramp up to distance has been slower than it would have been a year ago. And that has turned out to be a good thing. Since I couldn’t run, I read about it, and I found alternate forms of exercise. All of that informed my running going forward.

As a writer, I decided to start a book about what I’ve learned and to distill that learning into something readable and prescriptive. In taking my own medicine, I’ve re-thought how I run. Not my form, but my pace and mindset.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

I used to run to a clock and work on specific workouts. Statistics embraced me at the end of each run and were automatically uploaded to social media. I loved it because I got in contact with other runners, many of whom have become friends beyond the running. All of it reinforced my process. Was I addicted to running or to the tracking of my running.

Admittedly, I am not fast. I’m average or a little better, but I will never win a distance race. Period. Why was I working on speeding up my running? Did I really enjoy that?

On a run one weekend I was thinking about running. It was only 3 miles, but for my point in recovery, that was my goal. I looked around and started to play a little as I ran. On a wintery, Sunday morning in the New England town in which I live, the roads are quiet and the woods are stark and graphic. Sections of snow and ice make force you to pay attention, and I ran out into the road to avoid some of the obstacles. Then I started to run out and around in the road just for fun, like a kid pretending to be an airplane or stepping around some obstacle course. I smiled without thinking about it.

The run became fun. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this was a different kind of enjoyment. I still had my iPhone app running, but I was having too much of a good time going down some side roads I hadn’t traversed and stopping once in a while to hear a woodpecker hammering on an oak tree. That sounds carries on a cold, brisk morning.

Yesterday, taking advantage of a warm spell, I went out and followed my instincts. Although I didn’t run on a trail, I am able to use the margins of our country roads to good IMG_5122effect. My neighbors don’t seem to mind me running on the edges of their lawns. As you can see, that area is usually offered up to the gods of snow plowing anyway, so I’m not doing much damage.

I continue to use a natural style of running, meaning it stems from a barefoot mode of movement that prevents overstriding and encourages a forefoot to midfoot landing. What I have found is that it isn’t about how your foot lands, it is about not overstriding. In other words, your foot should not extend out beyond your knee when you step forward. The only way to do that is to keep a bend in your knee, which eliminates heavy heel striking. You can still heel strike, but without an overstride, you significantly reduce the impact.

That said, I do wear shoes. What I wear are have a low lift – only 4mm – and a nice wide toebox. IMG_5128

These are Saucony’s and besides the low cushion, low lift they have a cool color. Why shoes? Well, the side of the road is not a prestine trail. There are many interesting deposits which are the outcome of human activity.

 

The shards of glass are pretty common. The computer remnant was a bit unique, but there is always something. True, you hardcore barefooters will rightfully say that over time my skin will thicken and these things won’t matter. I started down that path and found that shoes don’t hurt in pursuit of good form. Sorry. Plus, I can take a running break at Starbucks and not have worry about putting on those gauze booty things.

More important, I gave myself permission to not worry about time or distance. Just run and enjoy the motion. Those times when I felt the pace going up, I slowed myself down to where I was breathing normal and not huffing too much.

What’s it matter?

Slower, means better form. Better form means less injury. I’ll post more about that sometime, but not right now.

This is about enjoyment of an activity I have done the majority of my life. I’m in it for the long run, so to speak. I already admitted that I’m not fast and my 3hour, 37minute and change Hartford Marathon is going to be my best. I managed a sub 47 minute 10k, too. That was my best at that distance. I’m okay with those times. Clearly, I’m not setting any records and improvement means taking a “work” perspective to running. That’s not my mode anymore. I’m running untethered.

What I’ve learned is running is about finding your pace and enjoying motion.

RUN FREE, RUN EASY

 

 

Same Sex Marriage and Information Technology

An odd combination for a blog topic, but not really.

In the world of IT the pendulum of control has found a logical resting place. For the majority of enterprises those services within the enterprise that are considered common are under the  management of a central IT department. Services like email, data center servers and storage, shared network, remote access, security, and local connectivity are examples of services that fall into that category.

Before the pervasive use of IT, each line of business was best served by doing their own thing and focusing on their own bottom line. As technology became pervasive and the enterprise recognized that information was foundational, the recognized the need to share and interconnect systems. Barriers were quickly seen in technical, process and financial areas and acceptance of common standards developed to resolve those differences and make information readily available so the lines of business could focus on generating revenue.

handshake

You see, most enterprise leadership recognizes that IT is too complex and having each line of business do their own thing is not only inefficient, it leads to high risk from a security and financial perspective. Consistent delivery of connectivity, server, storage and desktop services provide benefit to the enterprise. Even for applications that are specific to a business process, there are still basic guidelines that are followed – not using static IP addresses in code, as an example. It is all for the common good.

The millennium transition (remember Y2K?) and a need for constant security readiness have taught most enterprises that they need to accept and enforce the right level of common infrastructure and standards. Times have changed and business has adapted.

global IT

Now, think about our national infrastructure. What would it be like if Eisenhower and Congress had thought to let each state make it’s own highway decisions? We’d have varying gauges a roads and different numbers for the same streets. Yes, there is a lot of local influence and investment in the national highway system but the foundational structure and rules of operation are mandated by the central authority.

US interstate

The examples of “common good” mandates can go on for quite a while. In almost all cases there is a transition point where local authorities or lines of business are given control, but they have to play within the standards that promote the common good.

When it comes to the rights of individuals, the common good in the United States is synopsized by the first 10 amendments of our Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

It was primarily penned by James Madison and is one of the most eloquent and simple statements of human liberty ever made into law. My favorite of those amendments is the first one, which guarantees freedom of the press, speech and religion all in one simple sentence.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is the entire amendment. It means that people have the freedom to practice religion in their own way without government interference. The counter is also true. The government can not force a religion onto its people (no law respecting an establishment…). This is a fundamental difference between what is civil action as expressed in law and what is moral action as expressed in individual religious belief.

Constitution and gavel

Kind of a simple construct. You may legislate civil actions but you may not legislate morality. Morality, expressed through religion, the press, and speech is an open forum, within the tolerances of civil action. Civil action is all about guardrails. Killing someone in a premeditated manner is murder and, as a society, we have decided that it is wrong. There are religions that concur with that fundamental, but it is not because of those religions that we hold it true that murder is wrong. As a society we have made that compact. Clearly, we do not agree on the consequences for murder, but we do agree that murder is wrong.

Marriage is both civil and social. We have wrapped legal fabric around an action that is a social construct so that there are basic rules that we follow in terms of licenses and dissolution. Even then, there are nuances in every state when it comes to how marriage is created or dissolved.

If the only reason for stating that gay marriage is not allowable is because of a religious cannon, then that is not defensible from a constitutional framework. The first amendment does not allow the government to make a law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

We the People

If your religion mandates that gay people can not marry, then do not allow that, but do not force your beliefs on the rest of the country. When it comes to the law of the land, you are totally allowed to follow your beliefs, but a) you must accept that other beliefs are just as valid under the law and b) you can’t ask the government to make your religious cannon into law.

I’ve tried to write a better ending to this post than the paragraph above, and anything I say beyond that seems trite or argumentative.

I often end my blogs with the wish that you run free. That, to me, is the purest expression of freedom. The freedom to move under the power of my own body and enjoy the world around me. Today I exhort you all to celebrate freedom. It can be difficult to hear what other people say, but at the end of the day, we should all be grateful that we have the freedom to say what we think.

Be Free

Just an Average Guy

I am an average guy. But, I am not normal.

And that is a good thing.

Very few things are average when it comes to people. Let’s start with the basic question: How do you measure a person? Height? Weight? BMI? Years of education? Income? Age? How many pushups they can do? How often they have sex?

I don’t want to ruin my reputation as a writer, but I did a lot of math and statistics in college. The first thing I learned is respect for the numbers. The second thing I learned is that with the right perspective, the numbers can be made to represent lots of things. It is a statistical thing. How you measure determines your results. In graduate school I did a really interesting (Hey! It was for me.) thesis that used all kinds of statistical machinations to see if my hypothesis was true. I won’t get into the gory details, but I will say that along the way I had to make decisions on how and what to measure. I was able to find all kinds of research justifying how I did it. I’d be fooling you and myself if I didn’t think I could have found the same amount of research to justify a totally different approach. And that was before the world wide web and Google and wikipedia. I had to use a real library and keypunch my statistical analysis onto Hollerith cards and batch run them in a thing called a mainframe.

hollerith01

Melancholy over numbers taught me one thing; I could measure an entire population, calculate the mean (that is the statistician’s word for ‘average’) and find that no specific sample equals the mean. It happens all the time. So why does average matter? For manufacturing I think these kind of statistics are priceless, but for people? I’m not convinced. Sorry Dr. Oz, psychology and the weight loss industry, but I think you have it all wrong. We don’t exist on a normal density function (normal curve, bell curve, whatever). Only the measurements do.

normal curve

If I look at my height (5’5″) I am in the negative side of this normal curve. But, if I look at the number of men over 50 who have run at least 3 full marathons, written several books, have a graduate degree, most of their natural hair, a US patent, and a hip replacement, I think I’d be on the very end of that long, positive tail.

Like everyone else, I exist on many curves. The average of me is the sum of many measures, many of which are not normal. And I am okay with that.

multi curves

By blurring reality with summary statistics, analysts are missing the micro-trends of normal. Normal is context driven and very subjective since there is no such thing as objective perception. Sorry Ayn Rand. Objectivism belongs in fiction, not in reality. Normal is a blend of traits, attributes and myriad other characteristics that make each of us different.

Why is this important? 

It demands a change in perspective. We focus on all the wrong things when we equate average with desirable. Think about body style, food consumption, exercise, and don’t even get me started on how fucked up our educational system is because we quantify all the wrong things and then apply them to our children.

What is normal?

As I am often willing to do, let’s take it back a few million years. Back when we were developing as humans and became the greatest hunters on this planet. The only animal that has learned to survive in all areas of the planet – well, except for cockroaches.

We didn’t understand statistics while we evolved. (Yes, evolution is a fact.) What we understood was that every person could contribute. I am assuming that unless you were a liability to the pre-history man, you were considered a positive resource to have. That meant that the range of acceptable characteristics was measured by contribution, not focus on a specific attribute. I say that because survival was about getting enough calories to sustain while we had sex to procreate, which led to the need for more calories. During that 2 million year period of pre-civilization our DNA got wired in. We learned to dream because we learned to track animals. Successful tracking meant we had to project our minds into the animal we were tracking to understand where they would go when we lost the trail.

Zip forward to today. (Sorry for the whiplash.) I am seeing people beginning to fight against that averaging of expectations. In some cases they are fighting at the outer edges of the curve (#StigmaFighters) in other areas they are fighting in the middle of the mix (Virgin Industries and other employers who focus on people). There are men and women I know who have found new strength in accepting who they are and then building on it in a positive way. Some lift weights that are heavier than me, others craft words that melt my mind, and others move across the world with fleet feet and strong hearts, touching the essence of what made man dominant – distance running.

You homework is to find one trait you are most average about and one that you are least average about. First, humor yourself that you are the product of 3 million years of evolution. Then have a beer. Then be proud of being just an average guy (gal). Then celebrate not being normal.

Run Free. Run Smooth.

The Lost Art of Picking Up Women

This was one of those mornings where my blog subject is a gift of circumstance. Talking with a friend this morning who was out for a night with her girlfriends. While enjoying their company in the bar she was subjected to the latest style in men picking women. It is called a bump, followed by an “Excuse, me.”

My first thought was, “Hey, it worked in grade school, why not in adulthood?”

I filed that tidbit of information in my back pocket. I’m not in the market, but if the need ever asserted itself, at least I was armed with the latest hipster move. I felt happy as I commuted to work. At least with this approach all I had to work on was my aim. I figured the bump had to be direct enough to get their attention, but not so direct that it would knock them over.

The-Continuing-Evolution-of-Man

Stopping for coffee at McD’s I took a seat within earshot of a coed group of septuagenarians and older. There was a nice banter going on and at one point a woman made mention of having heart palpitations. The man sitting next to her rejoined that he would be happy to give her mouth-to-mouth. My day was made. I guess a really cliche line works in every generation because the subject woman giggled like a school girl and I expect added days, if not months, to her life from the pure joy of flirtation.

Photo Jan 21, 9 19 53 AM

Then, the writer in me took over. You know, that part of the brain that starts to think about these events and tries to figure out what sinister plot lies beneath. As a story teller I am geared to make up continuity between scenes I witness that have no relevance to each other. That is why I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Stick with me here. If you have read any of my previous blogs you know that if I drop right into the evolution of man you won’t be surprised. Here’s the deal. Three million years ago we didn’t have language. We had gestures and noises and, well, that was about it. In those days, if a man wanted a woman he bumped her. Sound familiar?

As we started to wander out from the rainforest into the ever expanding savannah (don’t you just love that word?) we developed language for two reasons.

  1. Complex verbalization, or language, was needed to be able to hunt prey or keep from being prey while we walked and ran out in the open.
  2. Language was needed to pick up woman.

Beyond those two survival skills, any other use of language is, arguably, just showing off. That is until we became civilized. When we gathered in communities and cities people would often bump into each other just because of proximity. Clearly, the ritual of picking up women had to change because bumping was now a generalized activity. In response, men turned to words as their means of access to the feminine favor. Let’s be honest. I say men you and I both know women had to coax and cajole us into becoming literate and finding ways to craft words into rhythms that made their pulses race and skin glisten. For the next millennia all things invented by men; art, literature, science, football; were invented with the sole purpose of picking up women. The pickup line dates back to the earliest of pre-Roman civilization when a man would look at his sleeping mate with amorous thoughts, lightly slap her on the arm (a modified bump) and ask, “Hey, you awake.” That line is the first instance of foreplay that has been documented. We’ve come a long way since.

As the 21st Century began the art of the pickup line had reached a peak. There were books and movies and personal trainers, an entire cottage industry, around how to pick up women. Then hipsterism hit and the bump began.

In defense of hipsters, they are the unknowing subjects of the new lord of technology. They have been smart phoned and twitterated into reverting to our Paleolithic roots. Most days are spent walking while looking at a 4×2 inch rectangle of illuminated glass. And literacy has been suppressed to 140 characters at a time. The punctuation which gives the spoken word the ebb and flow of conversation has been suborned by emoticons. Men still have a need to pick up women and given there is no more practice in the art of verbalization, the primal instincts have moved to the surface.

My goal here is to see if I can turn that tide and help my fellow men address the fair sex in a manner that women deserve. To get to that point, there are a few prerequisites for men who are interested in having women open their flowers for them.

Before taking that first verbal step, read a book. NO. Read three books, two fiction and one non-fiction. The two fiction should consist of a modern classic (like To Kill a Mockingbird (chicks love that book)) and a current edition. The current can not be something like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Fifty Shades of Grey. It doesn’t have to be heady, it just has to be fairly decent, like a good murder mystery. The non-fiction has to be something other than campy prose (no psycho-babble or self-help). It can be about sports medicine, the history of anything or political/technical revelations. No, books by anyone who works at Fox News do not count. These should be real books, not ebooks. Nothing against ebooks, but to do this right you need to feel the weight of the words you are reading. Reading gives you a baseline for actually having a conversation. Trust me on this.

By reading you’ve stimulated the latent intellect that has been stilted by social media. Doesn’t it strike you as funny that social media has led to the current pandemic of lack of social skills? Go figure. That is a hole different blog that I might take a shot at.

As you move into the real world and muster the courage to take that first act to talk to a woman you have never met, there are some basic rules.

  • Please, use complete sentences. Do not talk in the syntax of Twitter. It is okay and often admirable to take more than 140 characters to make a point.
  • Be yourself, not your avatar. The only place in the world where you can be an avatar and have it work is Las Vegas. Everyone is being someone else there, so go with it.
  • The easiest way to talk to a woman is to shut the fuck up and listen. Really. It seems like some kind of inversion principle, but it works.
  • Keep the conversation going by…asking questions. It is fine to pepper the dialog with a bit about you or answer a question from her, but listen and ask relevant questions. Don’t be patronizing with the questions because…
  • Women are smarter than men. Period. Just deal with it. Sure some of us may know more science, but that isn’t what smart is. Smart is knowing how to read other people and be good at social interaction.
  • Most important, put the phone away. Period. Your attention should be on her.

Now that you have mustered the courage and know the rules, let’s talk about pickup lines. There are a massive number of pickup lines, but I have the one that works. When I was single I experimented with many lines and finally honed it down to this one line that achieves the open door to conversation almost every time. I’ll save you the all the learning and let you skip right to the gold mine. Here it is”

” Hi, I’m (insert your name here).”

The most effective way to augment this opener is to tag on a complimentary observation like “That nail polish is great. What color is that?” or “You’ve got a great smile and I just had to come and talk to you.” or “When you walked by, I noticed that scent you are wearing and I just have to find out what it is.”

It goes on.

Okay. I have to confess. I didn’t really discover this line by extensive trial and error. In my single days at the bar in Houlihan’s in Phoenix I saw an attractive woman having a drink with friends. I thought I would be clever and went up to her and said, “What would be a good line for a man to use to start a conversation with you?” My expectation was that she would throw out one of those cliches. I was wrong. She looked my in the eye, smiled and said. “Hi,” usually works with me.

The sound of enlightenment could have been heard all over the bar. The DJ stopped the turntable wondering what had just happened. I ignored it all and started a good conversation. So, as you can expect, I got the best direction on how to approach a woman from a woman. Not being too stupid, I have relied on that advise for just about any social situation.

As you have that conversation she might giggle or laugh, just like the woman I heard in McD’s. When that happens you have gifted her with an extension of her life. She’ll now that and be grateful.

And there it is. The most effective social mechanism is not acting like you do on social media. It is acting like yourself.