Archive for the ‘General’ Category

This fall, I’ve been helping coach my daughter’s 5-6 year old soccer team.  It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a moderately hefty commitment – along with being a present and active participant in every practice and game (besides the two games I had to miss due to conflicts), I’ve spent time planning drills, games, and rosters, sent emails coordinating snacks and practices, and had to leave work early every Monday to pick up my daughter and get her to practice on time.

That said, I had a blast and would definitely do it again.  Especially when I get emails from other parents like this one:

Matthew/Ross – you guys have done a FANTASTIC job with this group of kids.  We have been amazed at how well this team has come together and all that they have learned, both about playing and sportsmanship.  It is a big sacrifice to give your time to something like this and we want you guys to know how much we and Caroline have appreciated your efforts.

Yes, the kids have all improved considerably, and I take pride in the fact that I’ve helped them achieve some measure of skill and success in the game, but it really makes me feel that all my hard work and efforts were worthwhile when I hear this kind of feedback from the other kids’ parents.

14 years ago, I was a high school senior.  I was a straight-A student, a vocal-jazz singer, a bit of a nerd, but also a clearly defined runner.  Hell, my AOL account username was “RossRuns” (an affectation I have kept up through the years for nearly all of my new user accounts on various web services).  I had placed 8th in the Washington state Cross Country championship meet with my 15:24 5K time, and was seeded #1 going into the state track meet the following spring regional finish of 4:20 for the 1600m.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that running was an integral part of my life.

13 years ago, I was a walk-on to the UVA Cross Country team, qualifying with a 5 mile time of 25:25.  I had taken my running to the next level, racking up between 60-80 miles a week with the rest of the squad. I competed in a couple of invitationals but was sidelined with an injury during the winter and part of the spring – long enough to red-shirt my freshman year and leave me considering whether I wanted to continue with such a grueling training schedule in light of all the other college activities I was participating in.

10 years ago, after graduating college and beginning work in New York state, I occasionally ran on evenings/weekends, but I don’t recall it being according to any regular schedule or set training plan. I explained the “RossRuns” username to people as “Well, it’s a whole lot easier to remember than RossUsedToRun.”

8 years ago, I joined many of my coworkers in the “Corporate Challenge”, a 3.5 mile road race in NY.  I collapsed somewhere near/on/past the finish line (I don’t remember the finish to this race to this day).  Any notions of getting back into shape through regular running left me for a good while, after that.

3 years ago, while in India, I ran on the treadmill in the gym every morning before going to the factory, for 5 weeks straight.  I returned home and promptly failed to follow up with any running, whatsoever.

2 years ago, after “training” for a few months, I joined my wife in the Harrisburg NC YMCA 5K and finished 28th overall and 1st in my age group, with a 23:28 finish. My commitment to keep running ended just about the time it started to be 90 degrees and 90% humidity outdoors the following month.

Last year (Feb 2010), I ruptured my Achilles tendon and after surgery to stitch it back together, was banned from running until November 2010.  This restriction finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed to realize how much I was taking my own fitness and health for granted. I tentatively got back into training (as much as my poor leg would allow me) and started building up my endurance and strength again.

This past Saturday, I ran 5 miles (continuous) for probably the first time since my undergrad days 13 years ago.  Not only that, I ran it as part of a regular training schedule, on (or ahead of) pace and I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT.

Looking back on my running history above, it shocks me to see that the time I took off from running was over twice as long as the period where I had seriously considered myself a runner, prior to that (since Cross Country and Track in 8th grade).  I never realized the excuses and the inconsistency in my running history until I seriously sat down and charted my on-again, off-again habits.

I want to turn that statistic around, and proudly use the ID “RossRuns” because it is an indication that I’ve been running longer than I haven’t.  Sure, I’ll have little hurdles to overcome along the way, but I feel like I’ve revitalized my running spirit and my drive to stick with it. Only time will tell, of course, but already I’ve seen incredible benefits in my own life – everything from significantly reduced cholesterol levels to mental balance and acuity to increased energy and happiness – that make it well worth my while to try to maintain this lifestyle even if I’m feeling the running shtick on a particular afternoon.

I’m a Runner. I prove it by running. That’s all there is to it, and all I need to keep in mind.  And in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, and further into the future, I hope I can look back and do another of these posts, and be inordinately proud of what I’ve achieved and what I’ve done in my running life.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
-John Bingham

Hey!  You!  Do you even test these things out before you manufacture them?

I’m talking, of course, to the designers of yogurt containers.  Almost every single one of them has something wrong with the design that makes eating a container of yogurt more difficult than it should be.

1) The original Yoplait “inverted” container.  Great for stacking, TERRIBLE for eating out of.  The inverted shape means the top is just wider than the bowl of your spoon, while the base is almost 1.5 times as big.  You end up getting yogurt all around the stem of the spoon while trying to scoop out the contents.  And when you get to the bottom of the cup and are trying to scrape the remains onto your spoon, there’s only about two angles you can get the spoon to that will actually pick up yogurt.  I end up running the spoon around and around the inside for some ridiculous amount of time to pick up the tiniest amount of remaining yogurt.

2) Yoplait’s Greek yogurt.  Although this one has the right standard-cup-type-shape, it has a nice little notch on the inside where the cup flares out at the top.  You end up getting all kinds of yogurt stuck around on this rim, and you can’t take your spoon and scoop straight from the bottom to top without having the spoon “jump” from one edge of the cup to the edge where the rim is – if you’re not careful, you can lose a spoonful this way.

3) Dannon yogurt.  Same as #2 above, but not quite as pronounced.  However, if I recall, the bottom isn’t completely flat so it makes it difficult to scoop across the container when you’re nearing the end of the cup.

4) Activia. Seriously, have you ever tried to open one of these?  As soon as you peel one of the corners back enough to let air in, it rushes in and yogurt comes flying out and usually lands right on the crotch of your pants.  And when you try to clean up yogurt from the crotch of your pants, there’s only one thing in the world the resulting stain/mark looks like.  It’s pretty damn embarrassing.  Other than this, though, the container is perfect and you can get out all the yogurt without hassle.  My advice? Point it away from you (preferably towards someone else’s crotch) and open away, and then enjoy the obvious winner of the yogurt cup design competition.

The Monday Morning Haiku #2

Posted: 2010-10-18 in General

Whoever invents
OTC caffeine IVs
will rule our planet.

Not much to report today – Dee was diagnosed with strep throat this past Thursday, so I took off work on Friday to take care of the Color Princess and the Tenacious Bean and try to let the wife rest as much as possible while the antibiotics did their thing.  Luckily she’s feeling better in time to begin the work week without me around the house, so now we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that no one else in Casa de Bedlam catches a case of the dreaded strep. 

The CP had her penultimate soccer game of the season on Saturday, and played her best yet – I attribute it to a combination of my practicing with her during the week and talks Dee and I have had with her about being a good sport, trying hard, and  also trying to have fun.  If you compare her behavior to that of earlier in the season when she threw a pout-tantrum on the field when someone didn’t kick the ball her way, she’s improved so far beyond where she was it’s like a different little 5 year old out there.  Next up for the CP is the Daisies (i.e. youngest branch of the Brownies/Girl Scouts).  She seems excited after 1 troop meeting, and her cousin is in the same troop with her, so it sounds promising.

Yesterday, after taking the CP to Sunday School (and wandering around the mall for an hour with the Bean while waiting to pick her back up), we went over to that same cousin’s house for her Halloween-themed birthday party.  It was a really cute idea – all the kids got to dress up in their Halloween costumes a few weeks early, and get some extra use out of them.  Even the adults got in on the action; I picked up something cheap from Wal-Mart for myself, and it turns out that Wal-Mart’s default pirate costume is actually a gay pirate costume – I am getting up the courage to post one of the pictures here so you guys can laugh as hard and as long as all the rest of the adults did at the party on Sunday.  Trust me, Johnny Depp’s got nothing on me in this getup.  (Wait, let me rephrase that – Captain Jack Sparrow appears to be a drunk, TASTEFUL gay pirate. I, on the other hand, was a drunk, cheap tart of a gay pirate.  But you can call me Captain Tightpants.)

So today I’m desperately trying to stay awake while I play catch-up on the stuff I should have finished on Friday.  It’s going to be a busy day, I think, but being back home full-time means ANY workday feels like a little bit of a holiday, knowing that I get to go home and see my wife and kids at the end of the day.  Guess I’ll not take that for granted again!

L’Shanah Tovah!

Posted: 2010-09-08 in General

Happy new year to all those folks out there celebrating Rosh Hashanah starting tonight!  May you have a happy and blessed year, filled with peace, health, prosperity and joy for you and yours.

And I know it’s a repost, but I find this comic just as funny every time I see it – hopefully you will too!

With the recent announcement that Vox is shutting down and forcing everyone to either transfer their blogs or lose them forever by the September 30th cutoff date, I felt it was about time to make the leap and finally jump over to my new blog.  I was double-posting here and on Vox for a bit, in the attempt to get the feel for this site while still maintaining connections with the community over there.  That’s done, and I’ll only post here from now on.  Right before Vox shuts its doors forever I’m going to transfer over any comments people make on this post about their new blog locations (if they choose to have one) to this post, for record-keeping purposes.  Of course, you can feel free to post here in the comments instead, if that suits you better.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon – I’ve got a few more things to wrap up for work and then I’ll be back at the computer again and posting regularly.  See you soon!

I have a little desk clock that I keep by my computer.  It’s a little freebie-thing from Brookstone that I got for spending $40 there one day (I had a birthday gift card for the place) but I like it because it has a nice big clock face, displays the date and day of the week on it, and if you rotate it 90, 180, or 270 degrees, it turns into a thermometer, count-up timer, or world clock, respectively.

Just Enough ClockI’ve been out of the office pretty much since last July, so it was only this morning I noticed something interesting – instead of showing the year 2010 as ’10, my trusty little clock has rolled over to ’90.  Yes, I get to live the 90s all over again!

From what I can tell, the clock (made in China) uses some sort of cheap computer circuit board that was programmed with the minimum function set required to provide the features advertised on clock.  Rather than expand the memory/processing power of the clock to handle dates outside the range of 1990-2009, the designers decided to just let the clock roll over and never show the correct date after the functionality-imposed “end-of-life” of the clock.  Probably they expected that the hardware itself would only have a lifespan of a few years, anyway, so those folks like myself who got the clock in 2003 would never have it last long enough to see this bug “feature” in the design.

But my clock survived (against all odds?) and is a great of example of what I like to call the “Just Enough” syndrome.

“Just Enough” can apply to any number of aspects of your life, whether it be you doing just enough work in your job to get the task at hand completed, paying just enough on your credit card debt to stay off the “finance charge” list, cleaning just enough of your house/car/workspace to keep it from looking like a total dump, or studying just enough to get by on your test/presentation/speech.  The results of “Just Enough” work can be described by a single word – mediocre.  Mediocre can also describe the quality of life you might have if you employ the “just enough” attitude regularly.

However, attempting to go “Above and Beyond” on everything you do creates a different peril; spending so much time and effort on a single task could mean you end up not having enough time/resources to finish everything else, and have to sacrifice something to make up for it.  This is what I personally tend to struggle against, both at work and at home.

The solution, or course, like so many other things in life, is moderation.  The “Just Enough” attitude is perfect for throwaway work that you don’t need to deal with ever again, or things that would suck up your time without providing you with enough return on your time investment.  You can still go above and beyond on things that are important to you, whether it’s playing with your children, putting together that big report for work, cooking a fantastic meal, working to get out of debt, doing something creative, or participating in a hobby.  The key is thinking about what you’re doing, and really consciously deciding up-front how important the activity is and how much you want/need to invest in it.  Waiting until you’re halfway done (or sometimes, even after you’ve been done for hours/days!) won’t work – you’ve missed your chance to repurpose your time for more important things, and all you’ve got left now is a lesson to learn from for next time.

Do More or Less?I hope my poor little clock continues to run.  I’d like to keep it here on my desk to remind me to evaluate whether what I’m working on deserves more than a “Just Enough” solution.  And because that isn’t always the right answer, I’ve paired it with my Staples Easy Button to remind me that I often take things well beyond what is needed, and need to scale back my effort and time investment accordingly.  If I can keep my behavior somewhere in the middle, I’ll have a few new single-word handles to hang on my quality of life – Happy, Contented, Fortunate, and Worthwhile.