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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Run to lose weight?

It's not easy. I go out, run six miles and burn 600 calories. I come home and I'm really hungry. I eat some soup, a bowl of ice cream, some fruit, some raisin toast, a couple handfuls of candy, a glass of milk... I'm still hungry and I'm WAY over 600 calories.

OTOH, my waist size went from 31 to 35 in a few years just before I started running. After I started running my weight dropped from 162 to 154 and my waist down to 33. 11 years later my weight is back up to 160, but my waist is still 33.

I'm not seeing too many of my peers with 33 inch waists nowadays, and most of them seem to be constantly trying to watch what they eat. So SOMEthing is working. Maybe it's true that your metabolism stays high long after you've finished exercising?

Enough blogging, I'm hungry!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Win some, lose some

In the short term I'm a better financial advisor than political prognasticator.

On April 2 I fearlessly predicted that Hillary and Obama would come to a deal whereby she would agree to be his running mate. It still could happen, but my two weeks are up and it's looking less and less likely every day.

The same day I offered some investment advice: VGSIX (since up 8%); AAPL & LUK (up 20% each); KHD (+15%); FLVCX (+11%). During this time the market as a whole is up 6%.

In fact, of the 13 investments (7 funds and 6 stocks) in my retirement portfolio, all but one (Vanguard Health Care) have beat the market (on average my 12 winners have done twice as well as the S&P this month).

I don't own the following but recommended them as well: DODFX, PRASX, FAIRX, JSAVX- together they have more or less matched the market.

And the stocks I advocated (but don't own) were: WFR (-22), MTW (-3), BUCY (+26), FCX (+31), GFA (+6), & NVDA (0) since I added them to my watch list on 3/24 (S&P is up 3.3% since then). I've since taken WFR, MTW and NVDA off my list and added SNHY, LAYN & TRN.

Yes, late at night, when I'm too tired to read and other people are watching TV or playing video games I play stock games with myself. And Sudoku.

You can check out the performance of my virtual mutual fund here. I like the part that says, "For the six month period ending December 31, 2007 Runalong outperformed 95.9% of the other funds on our site."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stuff About Me #2: Skunks

About a year ago I was out running at dusk and as I turned a corner in the woods (bet you didn't know that there ARE corners in the woods) and started downhill I heard a fairly loud aerosol-type sound. Weird. Ran a few yards then stopped to see if there was really anything back there. Mr. Skunk had taken a point-blank shot at me from behind the bush, but missed because he flunked out of quarterback school and forgot to lead me. He shot where I had been, not where I was, if you catch my drift. Fortunately I didn't catch his. It's a heady experience to have a skunk shoot at your from close-range and miss. You should try it someday.

Also last year I turned another corner (same woods) and found a skunk in mid-trail staring at me. I turned and ran slowly away, and HE STARTED CHASING ME! I decided it would be a good time for some speed work and Thumper gave up after a 100 yards. I didn't say, "neener-neener."

Several years ago I came around yet another corner (the woods is full of them) and found myself face-to-"face" with the business end of a skunk, about 10 feet away. Nothing to do but keep running on the curvy trail so I did. He was a little slow on the release so I got by unscathed. Its a heady experience to find yourself running toward the b.e. of a skunk, tail up, cocked and ready to fire and escape unsprayed. You should try it someday.

My non-escape was about 7 years ago and I never even saw the skunk. Approaching home after dark, Teddy the Wonder Dog (occasionally she wonders if she is a dog, but quickly dismisses the thought), ran ahead toward a culvert. I kept walking and found myself in a mist of nuclear-strength odor. This is not like the smell you smell when you pass a dead skunk on the roadside: that smell is not so bad. This is a smell so powerful it hurts. This is a "never-ever-ever-again-if-I-can-help-it" smell.

After a moment I couldn't smell it anymore, on myself or on Teddy. Strange. Maybe we had some sort of skunk-repellent shields that kept the cloud from sticking to us? Just to be safe, instead of walking right in the house I knocked on the door to ask Mrs Runalong if perchance she smelled anything. She opened the door, I said, "Do...", and she slammed the door and ran away screaming something incoherent. Apparently the blast was so odorific it caused my olfactory nerves to completely shut down. The nose knows what to do in such situations! This was not a heady experience and I don't recommend it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I have my own "Discovery Channel"...

and it doesn't require a TV. But I like this promo anyway:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black America

"Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight..."

You know the song.

Most of us who are white don't understand black America very well. We say we aren't racist, because we don't feel anything negative toward blacks, but we still tend to stereotype them according to some broad commonly held categories. Ask a white Christian about blacks and get him or her talking and you'll hear pretty much the same simplistic talking points repeated over and over as if that's all there is to be said or thought about the matter.

Who is my neighbor? You don't mean even the Samaritans, do you, Jesus?! If we are serious about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, the first step is to be serious about understanding our neighbor. I may not agree with everything in the article linked below, but I wasn't really reading it to agree or disagree, I was reading it to understand.

So I offer you, my fellow persons of pallor, this link (by a black man) if you'd like to expand your thinking a little bit. Of course reading is no substitute for incarnational learning, but here in Redding it isn't all that easy to even meet black people, much less develop a relationship that goes past the point where they are just saying the things they know they are supposed to say when they are with white people (it just isn't worth the hassle to be more honest).

This excerpt isn't exactly typical of the article, but it upended a couple of my stereotypes:
Part of what drives Cosby’s activism, and reinforces his message, is the rage that lives in all African Americans, a collective feeling of disgrace that borders on self-hatred. As the comedian Chris Rock put it in one of his infamous routines, “Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people … It’s like a civil war going on with black people, and it’s two sides—there’s black people and there’s niggas, and niggas have got to go … Boy, I wish they’d let me join the Ku Klux Klan. S--t, I’d do a drive-by from here to Brooklyn.” (Rock stopped performing the routine when he noticed that his white fans were laughing a little too hard.) Liberalism, with its pat logic and focus on structural inequities, offers no balm for this sort of raw pain. Like the people he preaches to, Cosby has grown tired of hanging his head.

This disquiet spans generations, but it is most acute among those of the civil-rights era. “I don’t know a better term than angst,” says Johnnetta Cole.

Do you see what He sees?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What do bars, church buses & granny's house...

...have in common?

And if air freshener seems like too superficial a solution, you can get deeper results with:

As seen on TV!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Awareness Test

Dedicated to Ted, Tod, John, Bob and their like:

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

Speaking of transparency...

... I have to have a colonoscopy next week. I promise not to post the pictures.

Wouldn't it have been a lot easier if God had made all of us creatures like this:

Now that your taxes are done...

... you can laugh about it, right? Dave Barry can help with that part.

Though, if you use his system, you may have had to file an extension, in which case you really need a good laugh right about now:
The way my accounting system works is, when I get home at night, I take off my pants. (Usually inside the house.) If I find what might be tax-related documents in my pockets, I put them into a two-ply grocery bag labeled TAXES.

At tax time, I go through this bag, hoping to find receipts that say things like, ''BUSINESS SUPPLIES TO BE USED FOR BUSINESS -- $417.23.'' Instead, I find some ticket stubs for Shrek the Third and several hundred wadded-up snippets of paper on which the only legible printing says ''Thank You.'' Now, because I am mentioning Shrek the Third in this column, I can legally deduct the $10 cost of my ticket, plus a large popcorn, which I estimate cost $53, for a total of $63, or, rounding off, $250.

Just because...

... you stand up in front of God and all your friends and family members and pledge to love each other "till death do we part" doesn't guarantee you won't get divorced.

But it sure does help!

Not only does "living together" have a poor track record but so does... well, before I tell you I have to admit that this next sentence, taken out of context, is pretty funny:
Those couples who married in the 1960s who were virgins were much less likely to divorce than the sexually active — only 30 percent of virgins divorced, while 50 percent of the sexually active divorced.
OK, when I first read that I couldn't help but think: "Sure, it's nice that virgins have a low divorce rate, but aren't they sort of missing the point of marriage?"

But he means (natch), people who were virgins PRIOR to marriage.

Sore Quads, Pretty Flowers, Angry Snakes

I went down to Tehama County to help Alan Abbs mark the course for Saturday's "Sunsweet Tehama Wildflowers 50K" (motto: "Sunsweet Prunes will keep you running!"). And yes, kids, there are still openings in both the solo and relay divisions! Temps are expected to be in the low 60s.

Alan is fast (he came in third at Diablo; though unlike me, he's slower than his spouse) and I tried to keep up with him (and he tried to go slow enough for me) but I soon realized that I was far from recovered from last Saturday's Diablo 50M. When we were through, I was through.

While attempting to tie a flag to a rock (the trees are sparse in places) I heard a rattling noise come from about three feet away and saw a small rattler showing me his fangs before he retreated back down into his wine cellar.

I'll be sweeping the course (I only have to do half since it's an out-and-back) Saturday, so if you are really slow please enter the race so I only have to keep up with you!

Here's a pic of Alan walking through the wildflowers while he waits for yours truly to catch up:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Diablo

Hugh took lots of pics (check out #21- nice!) and Leslie has a nice report with lots of pictures and she took this picture of me washing off my wounds at the horse trough near Juniper-

Monday, April 14, 2008

Descent from Diablo

These are from miles 11-16 of the Diablo 50M race. By the last picture it was starting to get really warm and Steve and I parted ways and I put my camera away and focused on the task at hand.

I did the second half slower than the first half, but managed to pass about 15 of the people who were ahead of me at the turnaround.

Going back up Diablo at a speedy 24 minutes per mile (!) and I was passing folks "easily".

No one passed me after mile 10, but with 3 miles to go another runner suddenly showed up right behind me out of nowhere.

Bummer! I figured if he was going to pass me I was going to make him work for it. I put myself into a gear I didn't think I still had and finished 1/2 minute ahead of him. He's probably still laughing about it.

Diablo Summit

Shortly after 9AM Saturday:

On the way down I managed to slide off the trail on a steep traverse, leaving behind a goodly portion of shin skin. It's OK, I washed it off in a horse trough near the Juniper aid station. BTW: Chihping Fu has lots more pics of the day.

Climbing Mt Diablo

I am a man of many ages.

I started running when I was 42. 11 years later and now I'm 41:

Maintaining aerobic fitness through middle age and beyond can delay biological ageing by up to 12 years and prolong independence during old age, concludes an analysis published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

On the other hand, two days after Mt. Diablo's 50 miles of trudging up and down steep hills in record heat, I feel this morning more like I'm about 95.

Steve did Diablo too. We ran together for the first 20 miles, but he suffers from the heat more than I do since I do most of my running in the late afternoon and he does most of his in the pre-dawn chill of morning. So the race was about 20º hotter than I was used to and about 40º hotter than he was used to.

I saw him near the turnaround and he was really struggling. I was hoping he wouldn't drop out but the heat was so unbearable that over 30 of the 110 entrants never made it to the end- I saw lots of them sitting at the aid stations, looking dessicated and defeated. Steve was probably feeling at least as bad as most of them but he's one of those guys who doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit" (though he does still grasp the concept of "whine"!).

He just kept going and going and going. I told him he could use the little back-up flashlight I had brought, just in case, and only later realized that I hadn't changed the batteries in awhile. Since the final 8 miles involve a steep treacherous 3000' descent, I was worried about him getting half-way down, exhausted and miserable, only to have the flashlight go dead and leave him out there lost in the dark on the side of the mountain.

We started at 7AM and by the official 11PM finish, still no Steve. The RD went out in a jeep to look for a woman who was reported to be down and incoherent on the trail, but there's no jeep access to most parts of that trail. They found Steve instead, about 1/2 mile off course, light still working, and he got in before Sunday. If you hold the finisher's list upside-down, he's in first place!

An amazing, gutty performance, pushing himself in ways most people could not comprehend!

(I'm buttering him up because he probably hates me now for talking him into this thing. Plus, he deserves the praise.)

Editorial in the Times

"The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."
Chicago Times editorial - in response to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dance of the Porcupines

Steve and I are off to the Diablo 50M run, with temps in the 80s (yuk!). Meanwhile, this clip from the early days of live TV is an absolute classic:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Stuff About Me #1: Korea

Joe's list inspired me to begin a new series called "Stuff About Me". I'm doing this for the benefit of humanity. The more people who realize how fascinating I am, the better off humanity will be. This series will be for true stuff. If I make up stuff I'll figure out a different heading.

#1: My dad was in Korea when I was born. My mom was in Indiana. (Guess where I was?). My dad was shipped by the USMC to Korea six months before I was born and met me when I was one month old. Had he been shipped to Korea much sooner I guess I would have been inconceivable. Some people still think that I am.

I've got a bad case of Joe envy.

One of my favorite sites is Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost. I met Joe once and I would say that he's a pretty forgettable guy, but then- I remember him and he doesn't remember me. Before you check out EO, you'd better know what you're getting into: Here are a few items from Joe's Resume´ -
I once solved the mysteries of the Navier-Stokes equations but forget the answer before I could write it down.

The Pirahã people whistle an epic tale of my grandeur.

The Canadian Forces Dental Branch has a standing order to kill me on sight.

I can tear holes in the space-time continuum and repair them with a quantum duct tape that I created.

The best job I ever had was the summer I worked as a roadie for Lawrence Welk.

The scent of my pheromones has been known to ease birthing pains in Chinese pandas.

It's been said that my face resembles a Picasso painting.

Tom Wolfe wears white suits as an homage to my virtue.

I once quelled a riot in Chile by singing "Muskrat Love" in fluent Spanish.
Yeah, I'm definitely jealous. The most impressive thing I can say about myself is that once a skunk shot at me from point blank range and missed. OTOH, at least my story is true!

Causation vs Correlation

Just because one thing happens right after, or in tandem with, another; does not mean that the two things are causally related. If your newspaper is delivered every morning at the same time that your automatic coffee maker turns on, that does not mean that your coffee maker causes the paper to be delivered, or vice versa.

Of course you know all this. Too bad lots of journalists don't. Sometimes I think that people who love science but aren't smart enough to become actual scientists all become science journalists instead. Or health writers.

Today's headline: Seven or more eggs a week raises risk of death

Oh really? Here's the last paragraph:
Men who ate the most eggs also were older, fatter, ate more vegetables but less breakfast cereal, and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise...
So the headline SHOULD have read: Seven or more eggs a week make you older, fatter, and more inclined to drinking and smoking. Why aren't any of the presidential candidates addressing this dire health threat?

Please Washington, for the love of humanity:
Ban eggs now!!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Housing prices are probably bottoming out.

Since I have one daughter trying to sell and one trying to buy, I've been trying to figure out which way the housing market will go from here. This is a pretty compelling argument that prices won't go significantly lower (second half of the article).

Chemistry is a cinch...

... if you attend a Christian school:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Internet? World-Wide Web?

That is sooooo 2007.

Finally got my taxes done.

"The Truth Isn't Out There".

The Unitarian Universalists have another of their silly ads in Time Magazine. In part it reads,
Many of us yearn for a spiritual community that is guided, not by a set creed or dogma, but by an open-minded quest for truth...
In other words, you're welcome here if you are searching for truth. But if you find it, keep it to yourself or leave. It's OK to seek for truth if you believe it's a fruitless, hopeless search. It's OK to seek truth as long as it's just posturing and you never actually get anywhere.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cut your risk of heart disease by 1/3!

Just get thee to a cattery!
A new study suggests cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people who, well, don't own cats.

And no, dogs don't do the same trick.

The study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that feline-less people were 30 to 40 percent likelier to die of cardiovascular disease than those with cats.

Yet dog owners had the same rate as non-owners. "No protective effect of dogs as domestic pets was observed,"
We have three cats and a dog. We're practically immortal!

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

The surface area of a human lung is equal to a tennis court.

The aorta is nearly the diameter of a garden hose.

A full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball.

During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools.

A fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months.

About 32 million bacteria call every inch of your skin home.

Every day an adult body produces 300 billion new cells.

Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.

And 92 more here.

10 best rollercoasters on earth

You can take a virtual ride on each of them here (no lines!).

Here's #1:

That does it: I'm old.

25% of all Americans now alive have never known a world without the internet.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You have not because you whine not?

Yesterday I whined:

"Mainly I'm just hoping that it won't be long before running is fun again"

Today I went for an 8 mile run and guess what? Yep, felt great. Lots of energy & Lots of fun. First time since HURT! I don't even remember actually praying about it - does God answer whines too?

Fearless Prediction: Obama-Hillary deal

Sometime in the next couple of weeks Obama and Hillary will make a deal whereby she drops out and he names her as his VP pick. You read it here first!

What we need

People today who are civil often don't have very strong convictions.
And people who have strong convictions often are not very civil.
What we need is convicted civility.

Martin Marty, paraphrased by Richard Mouw

That which does not kill you...

... only delays the inevitable.

(thanks Lisa!)

Never get investment advice from a Rev (pt 2)

I actually have outperformed most mutual fund managers this decade though! But the last six months have been tough. Nevertheless I just did some research for my semi-annual retirement fund rebalancing and thought I'd share what I found. Please don't take my advice- just use it as a starting point for further research.

In mutual funds I still recommend all things Vanguard. Both their index funds and their actively managed funds. This is where most my money is. I just got back into their real estate fund after selling my shares in it 14 months ago (just before RE tanked). Vanguard has consistently above average returns and below average expenses.

I haven't ever invested in etf's (exchange traded funds), but it might be a good time to look at VFH- many think that financial stocks will do well over the next couple years.

If you want a risky fund with a great track record over the long haul: CGMFX.
If you want a pretty safe fund with a great track record over the long haul: DODFX
Other funds that actually manage to do well consistently: PRASX, FLVCX, JSVAX, FAIRX

In stocks I still love Apple (AAPL), but I sold off my Garmin. I bought KHD at the wrong time last fall, but still like it. I just bought Leucadia (LUK) last week and it's up over 10% already.

I haven't bought WFR, MTW, BUCY, FCX, GFA, or NVDA but they're at the top of my watch list. My stock picks tend to be a little risky since I have the bulk of my money in safe Vanguard funds. We'll see if I can keep my winning streak going for another year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When the lion lies down with the lamb...

... I don't think it will look QUITE like this...

Probably more like this:

Multiculturalism Sensitivity Training

Just in case you need to talk to any white people this week, go to this site first so you know what to talk about, what to say, how to react, etc. You don't want to commit an embarrassing faux pas*.

Example: #27- Marathons
In life, there are certain milestones of physical activity that can define you. A sub 5 second 40 yard dash, a 40 inch vertical leap and so forth. To a white person, the absolute pinnacle of fitness is to run a marathon. Not to win, just to run.

White people will train for months, telling everyone who will listen about how they get up early in the morning, they run when it rains, how it makes them feels so great and gives them energy.

When they finish the marathon, they will generally take a photo of themselves in a pair of New Balance sneakers, running shorts, and their marathon number with both hands over their head in triumph (seriously, look it up, this is universal).

They will then set goals like running in the Boston Marathon or the New York Marathon.

If you find yourself in a situation where a white person is talking about a marathon, you must be impressed or you will lose favor with them immediately. Running for a certain length of time on a specific day is a very important thing to a white person and should not be demeaned.

Also worth nothing, more competitive white people prefer triathlons because Kenyans can’t afford $10,000 specialty bicycles. If the subject ever comes up, just say that triathletes are in better shape than football and basketball players. It’s not true, but it will make the conversation a lot more genial.
*What is a faux pas, you ask? Well, if you pronounced "faux pas" the way it is spelled, that would be a faux pas. Got it?

March runs into April

Sometimes I wonder if I've recovered from HURT even yet!

I took it really easy for 6-7 weeks after the race. Not counting the race itself I only ran 180 miles total in January-February, about what I normally do in a month. My goal was to do about 280 in March to prepare for the Diablo 50M with it's 12,000' of climbing (and descent) on April 12.
My body had other ideas and I kept lowering my sights: 270... 250... 240...

I ended up with 234 but 90% of my runs were slow hard slogs: sore legs and minimal energy.

Now I'm starting to taper and feeling a little better and I'll probably do alright; might even be able to keep up with Steve. Last time (2004) I finished in 12:23, middle of the pack, but I was taking it easy since it was two weeks after I'd set a PR at the AR 50 mile and two weeks before I ran the super-tough Miwok 100K (I was training for Hardrock). I even spent a half hour sitting around at the midpoint waiting for my pacer to show up.

So, I'm not in peak condition, but if I start slow and then taper I should do fine; hopefully even beat my old time. Mainly I'm just hoping that it won't be long before running is fun again!