Monday Required Reading

Administrivia. Every time I write critically about the President, a humble blog regular and close friend whose opinion I care about, rips me for spreading “hate” and sowing “division”. Given that predicament, I guess I shouldn’t link to any of the numerous articles about our President’s Saturday phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State which Carl Bernstein called “way worse than Watergate”.  

1. The Plague Year: The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy. Lawrence Wright’s damning deconstruction of “America’s coronavirus tragedy” details the President’s complicity which my friend might think of as hateful and divisive. Not to worry though, it’s WAY too long for him. Everyone writing books about this simultaneously let out an “Ah shit!” upon finishing Wright’s piece. I could excerpt endlessly from it, but there’s other reading to get to.

2. The challenge of chess – learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions – is also the challenge of life.

3. Walk, run or wheelbarrow: We moved our bodies forward during the pandemic. Our second born walked 153 miles in December!

“. . . my eldest walks. She carries a backpack loaded with her journal, a beanie, whatever book she’s reading. She dons her mask and canvasses our Atlanta neighborhood at New York speed, striding purposefully as if she has somewhere to be. When the sun starts to set, she sits on a patch of grass or a park bench to catch her breath and stares into the sky, tracking the light until it bleeds into darkness.

She does this every evening because, as she explains, it gives her ‘something to look forward to.’

When she comes home, cheeks flush, hair windswept, my daughter does seem happier, lifted. The simple act of walking underscoring her autonomy, reminding her that she is still a human capable of breathing fresh air, of shuttling from point A to B, that she is still a human at all.”

4. Shearing Sheep, and Hewing to Tradition, on an Island in Maine. Love, love, love the pictures. They have the same effect as an engrossing foreign film, they totally transport me across the country to the island. Long live the Wakemans and their way of life. 

Live Wireless Or Die

It’s easy to forget what life was like before global position satellites revolutionized sports technology. I remember rolling my front bike wheel next to a wooden yardstick in my parent’s garage in a desperate attempt to calibrate my sensor that was attached to a couple of spokes. And then using electrical tape to align the wire that ran to the head unit along the fork and head tube. Cumbersome is putting it mildly. And what did I get for all my efforts, a precarious, only mildly accurate set up that constantly needed attention.

Fast forward several decades. Bluetooth, wireless GPS, and (almost always) automatic syncing which results in extremely accurate data recording with a tenth of the effort. Check out what my wrist computer generated during this morning’s run.

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When I first returned to rehab running from my hamstring injury, my average stride length was only 1.16m as opposed to the normal 1.2m. How cool is it that satellites in Outer Space confirm that not only do I feel better, but I am better.

A question for the nerds (used affectionately of course). Why is there a net gain of 35 feet when I started and stopped in my driveway?

The more important question is why do we fret about whether life is improving when we don’t have to wrestle with rulers, electrical tape and wires anymore?

Be The Rower

Early one morning last week I cycled indoors because Blanca is injured.* Afterwards I plopped into my desk chair to swat back the day’s first wave of emails. All while looking at the Salish Sea.

A rowing scull suddenly materialized. The solo rower probably launched from OAR’s (Olympia Area Rowing) downtown marina dock. With steady strong strokes, they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Then, five minutes later, after reaching their appointed turn around, they shot by again heading south back to the dock no doubt.

I thought about the probable outline of the rower’s morning—waking early, driving to the marina, lifting the boat from its rack, being on the water at dawn, and rowing a long ways on beautiful glassy water with real purpose. And as required for all Pacific Northwesterners, stopping for the daily latte on the way home.

Then I thought about the rest of the rower’s day and despite everything—the ‘rona, the impending forest fire smoke, the faux electronic schooling, the negative national politics—I bet they had at least a decent, if not good, if not great day. How could they not with that kind of start?

Be the rower. Wake up early. And move. Outside**. Walk, bike, swim, run, paddle, row, skate. With someone or alone. Add some caffeine. Then try to have a bad day. I dare you.

* long sordid story starring a real duffus

**once the fire smoke apocalypse is over

Wednesday Required Reading

1. Canceled Races Aren’t Stopping Endurance Athletes From Setting Wild New Records. I’ve been lethargic lately, postponing and/or bagging workouts altogether. Maybe I should try to take one of these records down, but which one? Wonderland in 18 hours? With the help of an electric mtb.

2. Is Your Blood Sugar Undermining Your Workouts? Uh, maybe that’s my problem seeing that I’ve been hitting Costco’s cakes hard all summer.

3. Garmin reportedly paid multimillion-dollar ransom after suffering cyberattack.

4A. Liberty University Poured Millions Into Sports. Now Its Black Athletes Are Leaving. 4B. Photo appears to show Jerry Falwell Jr. with zipper down and arm around a woman. I recommend college presidents, to the best of their abilities, keep their zippers out of the news.

5. Shira Haas of ‘Unorthodox’ on Sharing the Joys of Her First Emmy Nod. I dare you to try to watch Unorthodox’s four episodes over four days.

6. Make Pizza … On Your Grill. Then invite me over.

Book of the Week—Geezerball

I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.

Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.

Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.

The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.

“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.

Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.

The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?

This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.

In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.

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On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a weird example of social contagion because the refreshing of the calendar is an odd catalyst for self-improvement. If anyone’s serious about self-improvement, why wait until such an arbitrary starting point? You shoulda got started yesterday.

Despite that cynicism, I’m all-in on alternative types of resolutions—ones grounded in greater self-acceptance. Maybe people should resolve the following types of things:

  • To accept that I will not eat as healthily as I probably should.
  • To be okay with the fact that I will not exercise as much as I probably should.
  • To not beat myself up for not saving as much money as I probably should.

The Slate staff has taken this one step further by advising that you mark the New Year by embracing vices instead of resolutions—whether sleeping in on weekends, driving when you can walk, or having a cigarette.

Count me in on Slate’s contrarian, probably tongue-in-check thinking, as another viable alternative to most people’s constant striving for some sort of idealized perfection.

Wouldn’t our mental health be better if this year we dedicated ourselves to trying to accept our limits, our insecurities, our imperfections?

I’ll lead the way with this overarching resolution—I resolve to expect less from myself this year. “Friends” will wonder how that’s possible, but they no doubt mean well.

If you think I’ve finally totally lost it, knock yourself out trying this.

Postscript: Via email, a PressingPause loyalist replied thusly:

“I agree the goal of embracing ones imperfections is one of the most valuable, but how does having a goal in general mean someone is striving for idealized perfection?  Also, I like having society wide markers like holidays. I think it makes us feel more like a community.  And some people may stress over breaking their resolutions, but not everyone.  I just think it’s just the idea of new beginnings. Like baptism or new growth in Spring.”

 

 

Friday—Garmin 230 GPS Running Watch

Two fiddy here. And the definitive review with over 2,100 comments.

I like the large, sup clear screen and long lasting battery. I turn the gps and auto pause off while swimming and use it almost like an on-deck digital clock. As a bonus, the fact that it (sort of) measures my light and deep sleep weirds The Good Wife out. The purple is almost as posh as my jump shot and putting stroke.

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