Busting the comfort zone and annoying others

I may not do it well, but I'll show up and annoy you anyway.

I may not do it well, but I’ll show up and annoy you anyway.

I’ve mentioned many times that I swim, run and bike.

I’m pretty sure I’ve also mentioned that I do none of them especially well. In fact, last place and I are pretty good friends.

I’m reminded of that every time I see a results sheet at a race or a meet. People wonder why I don’t have apps on my phone to send my results and keep me informed of the competition. I don’t have a smart phone (I am getting one next week, which will certainly be fodder for another blog post) and how excited should I be to see that I’ve come in last, on a tiny little screen, no less?

The whole idea of busting out of the comfort zone is nothing new. We’re encouraged as kids to try new things, from food to sports, and told that we only have to “try it just this once.” Sometimes we decide to hate it out of spite. Or pretend to love it because our friends love it, or our parents pressure us.  How many of us played a musical instrument, played baseball or danced for far too many years, with no talent or hope of progress to show for it, just because someone else wanted us to participate? We feel bad for slowing down other people, we feel dumb for looking bad next to better people and spend years wondering why we do it. Then some of us have kids and put them through the same thing.

As kids, we had no control over where our comfort zone ended and adventure began. As adults, we don’t have to ask permission or look to the bleachers to see if anyone is cheering or not. If it’s affordable and the time is available, it’s doable. Don’t look around to see if anyone thinks you’re awesome. Their opinion doesn’t count. Just go play, and in the process, you will likely be showing someone else with more fear than faith in their own ability that the impossible can be done and the goal attained. And you’ll be annoying the more accomplished souls in the process, because they’ll wonder why you’re having such a good time.

Note: This post is dedicated to Raife Snover, a cyclist, trainer, swimmer, dog trainer, barrel racer, pilot, wonderful son, husband and a guy his fellow swimmers miss very much. Thanks for letting us all know how much he meant to you.

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Filed under Exercise, inspirations, Running, Swimming, thought

Dear Apple, You’re A Customer Service Zero

To the staff at the local Apple store,

You suck big, slimy rocks covered with sharp objects.

Imagine being such a big moneymaking company that customer service takes second place. A very distant second place.

Someone comes into your store, wanting to do the right thing: turn in a lost and very expensive new iPhone, hoping you can find the owner. And you don’t even allow that person into your store, let alone stoop to performing such an act. “That’s for the police to do,” you say. Really now? The local cops have the time to stop chasing crime, plug in every new phone that comes down the tech pike and hunt down the owner? That must be the twenty-first century version of the fireman showing up at your door to get Fluffy out of the tree.

Must be nice to be able to make a lot of money and diss people. But then, you know it’s a throwaway society. Lose a phone…oh, well. Just go buy a new one. Or get Mom and Dad to buy it. No big deal, right? You know that a certain percentage of people will lose or break phones rather than treat their purchases with care, and be right back in your consumer clutches, begging to be allowed to spend money on a new one.

Call me a Luddite, but at least plugging the phone in would tell you that it’s either locked or the battery needs charging. As I sit and write this, I’m attempting to charge the phone with a power cord from my iPad. If it fails, it goes to the scrap dealer, along with the old iPad. I’ve been looking for a reason to part with that anyway, and you’ve just given me that reason.

I was considering several brands in my quest to buy a smartphone. At least the list just became one brand shorter. My decision won’t make a bit of difference in the Apple juggernaut, I know. But take that, anyway.

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Filed under consumer products, recycling, technology, thought

Visions of Chicago: good brews, blues and ethnic eats

I just returned home after spending a week in the Windy City.

I’d be happy to return pretty much anytime.

It was my first visit, and initial impressions were of a big, brawny metropolis, full of new skyscrapers and too many fast-food joints, but also a place that respects the past by refurbishing old buildings, brewing great beer,  promoting seedy little blues clubs and maintaining a long, loud love affair with its sports teams.

A friend once described Chicago as “New York with cleaner streets, nicer people, weird pizza and ridiculous hot dogs.”  I cannot honestly argue. The streets were incredibly free of trash, locals offered directions when we looked lost and while The Husband ate a Chicago dog and deep-dish pizza (on the same day), I was not tempted by either. OK, I did have a bite of the pizza. Not as doughy as I expected, but it’s still not pizza as I know it.

Chicago seems to have a lot of emergencies involving the need for an ambulance. The constant cry of the sirens never seemed to let up. One afternoon, while having lunch near Michigan Avenue, we saw the same ambulance by our restaurant five times. Werethere multiple incidents that necessitated the ambulance, or was the crew doing drive bys,

It's not all about the alcohol, but Chicago breweries do great work.

It’s not all about the alcohol, but Chicago breweries do great work.

looking for the next pickup? We never did figure it out, and later heard that the firefighters, in addition to getting an 11% raise this year, will also get more ambulances and paramedics. Good for them, but hard on the hearing.

Then there’s the Lake Michigan Effect: an odd weather phenomenon that provides slightly cooler air along the lakefront than in the downtown metro area. It’s nice to walk along Lakeshore Drive and feel the difference, especially in the summer. In the winter, however, there is lake effect snow. I have seen lake effect snow in October while in Cleveland and do not ever want to see it again.

Beer is brewed and coffee is roasted in Chicago and the immediate environs. Both are outstanding, and you should make an effort to bring some of each home. The food scene is as varied as the neighborhoods. Be willing to take the Red Line south to Chinatown for real Chinese food and north for Ethiopian food , the Blue Line for Polish food or walk to the east side of the city for the Irish food scene in the bars and pubs. There is more to Chicago than deep dish pizza and hot dogs slathered in neon-green relish.

Speaking of things to do, there are world-class art and history museums, theater, year-round professional sports and festivals almost every week. One of the best things about our trip was arriving a day earlier than planned, and attending the final day of the Chicago Blues Festival. One band, the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, was worth the walk and the long wait until the gates opened. There’s nothing fancy about this festival, only a few food and souvenir booths. It’s all about the music, played on multiple stages throughout the day and night. Admission is free and you can bring chairs and coolers to the venue.

Downtown hotels aren’t cheap, and nearly all of them charge for parking, since few have their own parking lots or garages. You can stay cheaper in the Chicagoland area (as the suburbs are called) and catch a train into town. But it’s an experience to stay in the city, hear the noise, eat and drink with the locals and get to know the streets and waterways. Take a riverboat or bus architecture tour your first day, just to get acquainted. Then get out there on foot. Chicago is a city that deserves to be known at street level.



Filed under food, travel, vacation

Score: Road Rash 1, Me Zero

I’m working in shorts today. Turns out it’s better for the road rash on my right leg, though not a good office fashion statement.

Ooops. Courtesy of Wikimedia

It’s the usual story: me on a bike, met up with a car (driver on a cellphone)…and you pretty much know the rest.

I have to tell you, I not only ran a 5K the day after the accident, I did a swim meet five days after it happened. Heck, I paid for both of them. The 5K was fine, but I was probably still working off adrenaline. The swim meet was tougher, because I have an odd cadence to my kick, at least until the skin on the knee comes back.

Of course, the adrenaline wears off and then this stuff hurts. And you cannot really use road rash as an excuse to call into work. It’s not contagious, it’s no longer bleeding and you’re still mobile. I’ve had road rash before, and covering a far greater area of the body, but I was much younger, more resilient and pain was not a four-letter word that described my normal day.

It’s all getting better slowly. I’ve gone back to running, and I will be riding my bike this weekend. Of course I’m going back out there. No one who rides thinks it’s going to be their day to faceplant the pavement. You just have to accept that the odds are in favor of it, put on the helmet, get on the bike and ride.


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Filed under automobiles, Exercise, Running

Leaving life in style and five-inch heels

Cousin could wear them, walk in them and make it look she was born in them. Wikimedia Commons.

I went to a cousin’s funeral yesterday. Hard to believe, even after nearly ninety years of a life well and usefully lived, she’s gone.

Cousin was just beautiful: tall, red-haired, impeccably dressed and coiffed at all times. She was in the workforce over sixty years, full-time and by choice. She raised two sons, lived in several fine homes, stayed married for fifty years and drove mostly big, showy American cars (one of her earliest was a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air). She was a rebel from her youth, leaving home at sixteen to work thousands of miles away because she needed an adventure. She fell in love with the airline industry in the 1940s after a twenty-six hour, nineteen-stop flight from Tuscon to New York. Hey, that was a “direct” flight in those days.

She worked for the airlines for almost forty years, retiring just ten years before she passed away. She loved her work and her coworkers, never forgetting a birthday, always remembering to treat them as special and worthy of attention. She was not fond of retirement, saying that work gave her a purpose and made her a contributor to society.

She had a repertoire of one-liner jokes, and her bluntness could invoke a blush from anyone who heard her opinions. She was not the type who called attention to herself; attention always managed to find her first. She loved old films; On the Waterfront was her all-time favorite. She was never the classic mother and wife; she loved working first and foremost. But she was there for her sons when it mattered, and they lacked for nothing when it came to parental love.

She was laid to rest in a designer suit and five-inch stilettos. A former foot and leg model, she made walking in those shoes look easy, right into her eighties. She was stylish to the end.



Filed under death, family, travel

I Should Not Be Here Today

Smashed car

Crunched and smashed…or how I should have ended up yesterday. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

I nearly died yesterday. Or so it looked from my rear view mirror.

I was stopped at a red light, and I happened to look up. I saw the end coming in the form of a speeding pickup truck. The driver was not looking forward, possibly due to his attention being focused on a cellphone conversation, text or some other distraction. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do except brace for impact.

The impact did not happen. The truck swerved to my right, tires screaming, and went through the red light, missing the traffic that had the green light, and he just kept going. Until the gray sedan by the side of the road flipped on his lights and siren and went after him. Who says there’s never a cop when you need one?

So why me? People die on the highway, killed by distracted drivers, drunk drivers, ignorant drivers or their own foolishness many times a day. I guess I’ve got some unfinished business somewhere, or something I must accomplish. There’s no reason for that driver to have missed me.

I should not be here today. And since I am, I have to say that it’s literally a beautiful day in every neighborhood.



Filed under automobiles, death, thought

A Runner’s Summer: It’s Getting Hot Out There

Run and drink and run and drink….. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

For most of you, the end of the winter to end all winters is a welcome thing.

You don’t ever want to hear the phrase “polar vortex” again. The next time you pick up a snow shovel, you will probably use it to clonk a TV weatherperson over the head. The words “road salt” are four-letter words of the very, very bad variety.

So the athletes among you are digging out the running shoes, oiling your bikes and making sure your workout gear still fits.

For us, the season is coming to the end. It’s getting hot out there. I know this because I did a 5K this morning. And on an overcast morning, with the threat of rain in the air, plenty of people agreed with me; it’s getting hot out there.

I finished, but not a PR by any means. I did see plenty of runners become joggers, and joggers turn into walkers. A lot of water was consumed, and EMTs were kept busy at the finish line, attending to the confused and overheated.

Hot-weather races feel and smell different, don’t they? The rest rooms/portable potties take on that “ripe” smell a little faster, running shirts get stripped off sooner, water stops get more use and runners move a bit slower after it’s over. And you can tell by the food consumed after the race as well. Fewer pancakes and bagels, more frozen ice pops, oranges and a sports drink in each hand becomes the rule in hot-weather sports.

Oh, and more bragging. Far more bragging about getting out and getting it done in hot conditions. After all, it’s about staring down the elements and beating up on Mother Nature.

So enjoy your racing season, those of you in temperate climates. When I travel this summer, I may try and find a race or two, just for the fun of doing something in a new venue. But in the tropics, it’s too hot to trot.



Filed under Exercise, Running