How I Know I’ll Be Married A Long Time

It’s not secret that two things that real­ly pull on my wife’s heart strings are pup­py dogs and lit­tle, gray-haired old men. Then there’s pup­py dogs who resem­ble lit­tle, gray haired old men (as in these). She can bare­ly stand to look at them with­out run­ning the risk of get­ting emo­tion­al.

How­ev­er, it’s the fact that she can get teary eyed at the death of a dig­i­tal­ly ani­mat­ed lizard on a sci­ence fic­tion tele­vi­sion show that wins me over. I mean, who can’t love a woman who tru­ly empathizes with a C.G. mon­ster that is killed on tele­vi­sion? That’s just one rea­son why I know we’ll be marred for a long time.

Update 12/1/2005 — Appar­ent­ly, Angela isn’t the only one who felt a spe­cial con­nec­tion to Nim­rod. Thanks, Dooce.

Happy Thanksgiving

Angela and I have my moth­er vis­it­ing us for a week this Thanks­giv­ing. The three of us went out to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rich­mond for the annu­al Turkey Trot 10k this morn­ing. What a great way to kick off the hol­i­day. U of R is one of the most beau­ti­ful cam­pus­es in the coun­try and, as we will all agree, also one of the hilli­est. How­ev­er, it was cool and sun­ny and we all had a great time. We also were able to run the hills in time that are even worth post­ing on the inter­net:

  • Jason — 56:28
  • Angela — 1:20:00
  • Bren­da — 1:32:34

What’s more, we even all fin­ished feel­ing great. We stopped off at Star­bucks for some cel­e­bra­to­ry cof­fee and snacks. Now, we’re going to enjoy sit­ting around the house and hang out in the back yard some before start­ing some din­ner prepa­ra­tions.

Angela's Thanksgiving Menu

Ange­la’s menu this evening con­sists of a free-range Turkey, green beans, beer rolls, pota­toes au gratin, stuff­ing and pump­kin pie. Note, that is sup­posed to be a turkey, as inter­pret­ed by Angela.


We all went to see the Christ­mas lights at Lewis Gin­ter Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Rich­mond’s North­side. The lights were real­ly well done and there was a lot of vari­ety to them; more than you might expect from just Christ­mas lights. I took a lot of pho­tos, but sad­ly I still have a lot to learn about night­time pho­tog­ra­phy. How­ev­er, you can see some of the bet­ter ones in a new pho­to-set I’ve added on Flickr.

Inci­dent­ly, if you aren’t already doing so, you should try using the recent­ly added fea­ture in Flickr for order­ing prints of pho­tos. I was even able to pick them up at the Tar­get just down the street with­in an hour of plac­ing the order (although I think you can also have them mailed). The price is great and the qual­i­ty is real­ly quite good, too. For 15¢, it’s almost as cheap as print­ing them your­self and might even be less has­sle.

2005 Fall TiVo Season

Anoth­er Fall is com­ing, and with it a slew of new shows on our TiVo.

Anoth­er Fall is upon us, and with it a slew of new shows on our TiVo. Many of them are me-too copies of last years suc­cess sto­ries. I sat down on the sofa one night a few weeks ago to cre­ate some new Sea­son Pass­es in the TiVo. The obvi­ous inten­tion here was to record some shows that I thought might be worth watch­ing this year. Now, I’ve actu­al­ly been hunt­ing-and-peck­ing on this post for about two months now (since Sep­tem­ber), which explains why it’s so long. How­ev­er, I fig­ured there’s no point in break­ing it up now.

Science Fiction

Angela and I recent­ly got the first sea­son of ABC’s Lost on DVD (see also ABC’s site).. I had down­loaded the first part of the pilot episode over bit tor­rent in the Spring to check out what all the buzz had been about1. I was real­ly impressed. It is a very stripped down and ele­gant sus­pense dra­ma. While there are no overt sci-fi or hor­ror ele­ments, you get the feel­ing that aliens from anoth­er world, dinosaurs, or zom­bies are about to pop up from behind a tree at any moment. I high­ly rec­om­mend this DVD set for your next 24 hour obsess-o-thon. So far, the sec­ond sea­son is not dis­ap­point­ment, either. In the same vein of The X‑Files, one of my all-time favorites, for every answer you get, at least two new ques­tions are raised. Mad­den­ing­ly addic­tive stuff. So far, this sea­son has been just as mys­te­ri­ous and fas­ci­nat­ing.

This brings me to the fact that sci-fi is see­ing some resur­gence on tele­vi­sion this sea­son, with three (count ’em, three!) alien inva­sion shows: Thresh­old on CBS, Sur­face on NBC, and the sub­tle­ty named Inva­sion on ABC. I’ve set the TiVo to record the first two on their first-run time slots. Inva­sion is up against Law & Order on Wednes­day nights, which is a pret­ty dumb move in my opin­ion. Who puts a 120-pound teenag­er up to fight the 500-pound goril­la of net­work cop-shows, even if the genre is dif­fer­ent? Well, at least they (CBS) have the good sense to re-broad­cast the show on the fol­low­ing Sat­ur­day evening (or at least they were for a while, and Sci-Fi Chan­nel is re-broad­cast­ing Sur­face, which is very cool).

Any­way, I was look­ing most for­ward to Thresh­old, which cen­ters on a super-secret gov­ern­ment team which was put togeth­er fol­low­ing a pro­to­col for the event of an alien inva­sion. The author of the pro­to­col, Dr. Mol­ly Caf­frey (played by Car­la Gug­i­no), is the com­man­der of the Red Team. Very ear­ly in the show, we learn that the aliens mean us harm and it is up to the Red Team to stop them, but if only they new how. I was excit­ed about Sur­face, if for no oth­er rea­son than it has an ensem­ble cast that includ­ed Peter Din­klage (The Sta­tion Agent), Brent Spin­er (Star Trek TNG’s Data), Charles S. Dut­ton (Roc and Alien 3), among oth­ers. All things being equal, an ensem­ble cast lends itself to much rich­er and more com­plex plot lines and an near­ly end­less sup­ply of sub-plots. Fur­ther, those are some damn fine actors. Of course, that all then depends on the writ­ers. So far, after watch­ing four or five episodes of Thresh­old, I’m not so impressed with the writ­ing. The tech­no-bab­ble jar­gon feels like just that; just a bunch of words that nei­ther the writ­ers nor actors seem to com­pre­hend the mean­ing of (which was always my prob­lem with Star Trek2). Also, the whole plot-line seems to have a less grit­ty feel than I would pre­fer for this sort of show. One rea­son for per­haps all of this is the fact that Bran­non Bra­ga, pro­duc­er of the past few Star Trek incar­na­tions, is the Thresh­old’s pro­duc­er (although he’s recent­ly announced no more Trek for him, for now). This might explain why it has some of the feel of Deep Space Nine or Voy­ager, which aren’t a cou­ple of my favorite shows. Last­ly, while a two-hour series pre­miere was great, since then I can’t help but feel like that was set­ting up the for­mu­la for the rest of the episodes: aliens are loose, tune in each week as the cast cap­tures the next one. That sort of thing may work for Law & Order or a sit­com, but not on a dra­ma. The plot has been devel­op­ing some­what, but noth­ing that is real­ly mak­ing me come back each week. I’ll keep my hopes up and keep watch­ing, but I think this show’s got a short lifes­pan.

So far, Inva­sion is my pick of the three. The show is the sto­ry of a small Flori­da town in the Ever­glades recov­er­ing from a recent hur­ri­cane, which brought with it some mys­te­ri­ous lights. A large por­tion of the town’s cit­i­zens begin to act slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly after the storm. Focus­ing on the lives of the extend­ed fam­i­ly of two ex-spous­es, the show is full of mys­tery revealed in incre­ments just large enough to believe and just small enough to make you want more. The show has a cast of most­ly as-yet-not-known actors. The only actor I was at all famil­iar with was William Ficht­ner, who plays the stone-faced Sher­iff. The char­ac­ters here seem to have so much depth and per­son­al­i­ty. This, along with incred­i­ble cin­e­matog­ra­phy, gives the show has a much more appeal­ing and real­is­tic tone when held up to the light and com­pared to Thresh­old. Also, I enjoy the slow­ly unfold­ing plot line here, as opposed to the dumped-in-your-lap-and-clean-up style of Inva­sion. Each episode leaves me more inter­est­ed than the last and dying to know what’s going on.

Over at the once dra­ma pow­er­house that is NBC, there’s Sur­face, which is a sto­ry about a series of indi­vid­u­als who have each, in dif­fer­ent ways, come to real­ize that the world’s oceans are now host to remark­ably large sea crea­tures. The show focus­es on a marine biol­o­gist from Car­oli­na (Dr. Lau­ra Daugh­tery, played by Lake Bell), a good ‘ol boy from Louisiana (Rich Con­nel­ly, played by Jay Fer­gu­son), and a teenage boy in South Car­oli­na (Miles Ben­nett, played by Carter Jenk­ins). These char­ac­ters, along with the rest of the cast are excel­lent in the show. While Bell seems a lit­tle uncom­fort­able with the sci­en­tist role, she han­dles the jar­gon bet­ter than most on Thresh­old. The CG effects for the crea­tures are some­times a lit­tle goofy and I get the impres­sion that these things are real­ly just Falkor from The Nev­erend­ing Sto­ry. How­ev­er, the writ­ing is good, the act­ing engross­ing, and the score by W.G. Snuffy Walden, who wrote the theme to The West Wing, is some of the best music on any tele­vi­sion show. I’m sure to tune in each week for this show.

Smal­l­ville is hands down the best Super­man on film (with add due respect to the late Christo­pher Reeve, it was­n’t his fault, it was the direc­tors’). Shows why tele­vi­sion is a great medi­um for com­ic book style seri­al­iza­tion. The new film is going to have a rough time con­vinc­ing peo­ple that Tom Welling and the rest of the cast should­n’t have been in it. Plus, as Angela keeps remind­ing me, this show has some real­ly good look­ing peo­ple on it.

Back for one last sea­son is my gen­er­a­tion’s favorite TV-girl kick­ing butt on Charmed. (Yes, me and many of my friends dis­cov­ered that we real­ly did like girls by watch­ing Allysa Milano on tele­vi­sion.) This sea­son, so far, has been one of the best yet. Angela got me hooked on this show and as much as I hate to admit it, I real­ly do enjoy it. Of course, some­times the girly-ness gets so bad that I just have to grit my teeth and hope that they’re wear­ing tight cloth­ing. Yes, the estro­gen flows strong with this one. Oh, in case you had ever won­dered, Ange­la’s Flickr I.D. is a play on “the Charmed Ones.”

Comedy

On the fun­ny-front, I’ve set messieur TiVaux to record The Office, both the orig­i­nal on BBC Amer­i­ca (re-runs) and NBC’s Amer­i­can­ized ver­sion. I was impressed that the Amer­i­can show cap­tured the humor in the Eng­lish show. A lot of that cred­it goes to Steve Car­rel (The Dai­ly Show). He’s made a career of play­ing the fool­ish ass that Ricky Ger­vais wrote and act­ed so well him­self. If you haven’t giv­en the NBC ver­sion of this show a chance yet (pos­si­bly because of the whole Cou­pling deba­cle, you’re miss­ing out. I’m also record­ing NBC’s My Name Is Earl, main­ly because I’ve been will­ing to give Jason Lee a chance at enter­tain­ing me. So far, the show has been one of the bet­ter half-hour sit­coms I’ve seen. The premise is fair­ly unique and the afore­men­tioned Jason Lee has real­ly found a great char­ac­ter. The sup­port­ing and guest cast also help to make the show very fun­ny and inter­est­ing. I was con­cerned that the show was going to be over­ly for­mu­la­ic, but so far, each week has giv­en some vari­ety and also fur­thered an over­all plot line (you know, that thing that most half-hour come­dies lack).

In the same vein as my Lost dis­cov­ery last Spring, I also decid­ed I’d check out Fox’s Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment. Okay, it being Fox and hav­ing seen some com­mer­cials that the net­work put togeth­er, I had very low expec­ta­tions. How­ev­er, I gave it a chance because peo­ple who’s stuff I read online seemed to hold it in high regard and usu­al­ly that many award nom­i­na­tions don’t go to com­plete­ly worth­less shows. Well, I only wish I’d start­ed watch­ing the show soon­er as it is one of the best come­dies I’ve ever seen. I typ­i­cal­ly find sit­u­a­tion com­e­dy some­where between uncom­fort­able and annoy­ing, but this show strikes some sort of per­fect cos­mic bal­ance. I real­ly fall for shows where the char­ac­ters are just a notch over-the-top; just too much “char­ac­ter” to be for real but not so ridicu­lous that it seems forced and Devel­op­ment real­ly hits it on the nose. I’ve actu­al­ly main­ly been catch­ing up on this show via Net­flix and it is like some sort of sick addic­tion. A new disc comes in the mail and I can’t do any­thing for the rest of the day oth­er than watch the show and every last delet­ed scene.

Sad­ly, as I’ve men­tioned, the fate of Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment nev­er looked very bright. Just like so many oth­er great shows, it seems to have nev­er been giv­en much of a chance (think Fire­fly here). It seems as though Fox as nixed the show dur­ing it’s third sea­son. I can only say this: if this show were to be put over the inter­net, in DVD for­mat only, or film, any­thing; I’d buy it. It’s just that good.

Drama

Will the new sea­son bring about a new admin­is­tra­tion on The West Wing, pos­si­bly Repub­li­can? The show is start­ing to show some age by reliv­ing some of the for­mer sea­son’s plot lines (what, cri­sis in the mid­dle east, Don­na and Josh have trou­ble com­mu­ni­cat­ing, peo­ple are run­ning for pres­i­dent?). Of course, isn’t that just like life: same news, just dif­fer­ent faces? Some­times the plot­lines that echo the head­lines feel a lit­tle shoe-horned into this show, espe­cial­ly since Aaron Sorkin quit writ­ing on the show. How­ev­er, I will con­tin­ue to watch as long as they keep bring­ing on the incred­i­ble act­ing tal­ent and writ­ing that has made this show the pow­er­house it is. This sea­son, par­tic­u­lar­ly the two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates played by Jim­my Smits and Alan Alda, have lived up to pre­vi­ous sea­sons. The live debate episode left Angela and I won­der­ing why could­n’t real politi­cians act like fake politi­cians?

Law & Order is still around, of course. The show has a great cast, as always, and man­ages to pro­duce some real­ly great episodes play­ing on the lat­est scan­dals and tragedies. How­ev­er, as my mom point­ed out, it would be nice if they would actu­al­ly let the females play the lead on more episodes. I mean, after so many years, they’ve got the room to exper­i­ment. How­ev­er, the most for­mu­la­ic show on tele­vi­sion seems to just not want to play with what works. Of course, that may be why Inva­sion now gets record­ed on Wednes­day nights while Law & Order gets to wait until Spring re-runs.

There is no one left on the show of the orig­i­nal cast on ER, and I’m still inter­est­ed. Okay, so that most­ly has to do with my long time crush on Mau­ra Tier­ney (big Talk Radio fan, here) as well as my fan-boy attrac­tion to Par­min­der Nagra. The new tal­ent and the writ­ing is still con­sis­tent­ly some of the best dra­ma around and the show is will­ing to take risks and mix things up some­times (but not enough, in my opin­ion). How­ev­er, Angela takes some real offense at how phar­ma­cists get por­trayed on the show, and I can’t real­ly say I blame her. It seems like there some as-yet untapped sub­plot lines to be found there, but no, they seem to just get ordered around by the doc­tors and nurs­es. If they can have social work­ers guest for episodes, then why not a phar­ma­cist char­ac­ter? In all seri­ous­ness, the writ­ers real­ly should look into hav­ing a real char­ac­ter in the hos­pi­tal phar­ma­cy or pos­si­bly a pharm stu­dent doing some rounds on the show. If you write for E.R. and are inter­est­ed, please con­tact Angela. Seri­ous­ly.

Numb3rs makes me have hope for Amer­i­ca that a dra­ma about math could be so pop­u­lar. The shows back for it’s sec­ond sea­son with a slight­ly dif­fer­ent cast but also with some more devel­oped plot arcs which run from show to show. I would­n’t mind if they even showed some fali­a­bil­i­ty in the hero math­e­mati­cian at this point. After all, we’ve all fig­ured you can do any­thing with math, so let the guy screw up for once.

Reality Television (?)

Jamie and Adam of the Myth­busters seri­ous­ly make me con­sid­er chang­ing careers. I’d love to get to hang out with them, at the very least, any­way. I have a hard time stom­ach­ing most real­i­ty tele­vi­sion, but this show gets it right. There’s enough of their per­son­al­i­ties in the show for that “good tele­vi­sion” aspect, but also enough sci­ence and wacky inven­tions to enter­tain your inner geek. I was real­ly glad to see the “build team” also get­ting some billing on the shows title sequence, as well. They’re also great tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties.

The Dai­ly Show is pret­ty much the only rea­son I haven’t fled to Cana­da since last Novem­ber. Now, Steven Col­bert has his own show, The Col­bert Report, which is equal­ly enter­tain­ing. How­ev­er, I still love Stew­ards dis­arm­ing sense of humor. He real­ly seems like the guy in col­lege that we all want­ed to be friends with. Col­bert is some­times a lit­tle bit too much like Bill O’Reil­ly; that is to say, a total jack-ass.

Angela also has got­ten hooked on NBC’s The Biggest Los­er. I have to say, giv­en my total dis­gust with real­i­ty tele­vi­sion, it actu­al­ly does seem to be the best of the lot3. At least they pro­mote health and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty.


  1. I down­loaded the first part of the pilot of Lost sev­er­al months back. I had read good things about the show and thought I’d give it a try. I did­n’t want to see one of the episodes from the mid­dle, know­ing that the show built upon all the pre­vi­ous episodes. So, I got to down­load­ing. Angela got into the show after a lit­tle bit and we decid­ed we’d like to see some more, thus buy­ing the DVD set of sea­son one. I hope ABC under­stand that even though I broke the law, they and their adver­tis­ers are now mak­ing rev­enue they would have nev­er got­ten oth­er­wise. []
  2. Okay, per­haps it’s unfair of me to sin­gle out Star Trek for this. How­ev­er, they always seemed like the worst offend­er in all of sci­ence fic­tion. Have a prob­lem with your warp dri­ve? Well, just have the engi­neer­ing staff build a quad-dimen­sion­al, time-shift­ing con­fab­u­la­tion out of their com­mu­ni­ca­tors and some chew­ing gum. You’ll fix the flaky plot device with an equal­ly goof-ball gim­mick. The best sci­ence fic­tion does­n’t use tech­no-bab­ble for plot lines. I mean how often inter­est­ing would a peri­od film be if all they dealt with was tech­ni­cal []
  3. I also hear real­ly good things about CBS’ The Amaz­ing Race, but I’m real­ly not that inter­est­ing in get­ting into the real­i­ty com­pe­ti­tion scene any deep­er. These are gate­way shows that lead to things like Amer­i­can Idol and The Real World. []

TiVo Nearly Has IPTV

TiVo Won't Transfer Downloaded Content

TiVo won’t trans­fer con­tent that has been down­loaded over the inter­net. Click image for full view.

Just recent­ly, TiVo announced they would pro­vide week­ly down­load of prod­uct reviews by CNET. While not near­ly like hav­ing C|Net back on the air again (I miss Richard Hart and Gena St. John talk­ing tech on C|Net Cen­tral), it was pret­ty cool to be get­ting their con­tent via my TiVo. TiVo has also announced a down­load­able doc­u­men­tary about Hong Kong movie stunt­ment called Red Trousers (the film, not the stumt­ment). All this is very cool, and I’ve signed up to receive both. I actu­al­ly watched the first C|Net review of portable dig­i­tal music devices ear­li­er today. It was breif, but no less so that most tele­vi­sion reviews. The pro­gram was about twelve min­utes, total, I think. Now, just to be clear, so every­one under­stands. Nor­mal TiVo con­tent is sim­ply record­ed over the cable to the tele­vi­sion, just like a VCR would. This con­tent, how­ev­er, was down­loaded over the inter­net straight to the TiVo, like you might down­load some­thing to your PC or Mac.

Now, here comes the bad news. (P.S. — There’s always bad news with TiVo).

When fir­ing up my TiVo Desk­top to trans­fer some pro­grams (over my new, secure Home­Plug net­work con­nec­tion), I found that I was­n’t able to trans­fer the C|Net con­tent. I’m not say­ing I was even want­i­ng to trans­fer that, but what about when they have some IPTV that I do want to save. If they’re not going to let me save a twelve minute long C|Net piece, some­thing tells me there’s lit­tle chance I’ll be able to trans­fer and burn-to-DVD Red Trousers or any oth­er full lenth film. What if, in the future, I can buy con­tent via an online store to have down­loaded to my TiVo? Oh, say, like an iTunes Video Store? Will they let me have that con­tent to keep, or even for more than a week? TiVo, do the right thing here: let the con­sumers have the stuff. They’ll love you more for it.

What’s In A Name

I could­n’t ever use super_structure.com (or .org, .net, etc) because it was­n’t an allowed name.

About a year ago, I decid­ed I’d put a new face on my crusty old web site and start blog­ging. You’ve heard the sto­ry about how I start­ed on Blogger.com and then moved to host­ing my own Word­Press blog (okay, so Jason John­son & Dreamhost do most of the heavy lift­ing as far as that goes). Well, back when I was sign­ing up at Blog­ger, I need­ed a name for the site. It felt an awful lot like nam­ing a band, for some strange rea­son. Some peo­ple just use their own name, oth­ers come up with stuff that I have no idea what it means. Oth­er’s use some com­bi­na­tion or play on their names, which I real­ly like.

How­ev­er, I want­ed some­thing that sort expressed my engi­neer­ing side as well as the idea that this would still be a per­son­al site. Some­where, I decid­ed on the term super­struc­ture, which of course is the part of a build­ing or bridge above the foun­da­tions. How­ev­er, just the word seemed bor­ing and not quite tech/geek enough. Some­how, in my mind, adding a bit of ran­dom punc­tu­a­tion was just enough of a twist to make it dif­fer­ent. So the word super_structure was born. Lot’s of web pages, image files, and e‑mail address have under­scores instead of spaces to pre­vent that whole   or %20 thing. I thought that by sep­a­rat­ing the words, the word just had a dif­fer­ent empha­sis.

Lat­er, I real­ized that while you can have an under­score char­ac­ter in the direc­to­ry or file name, you can’t have one in the domain name. I could­n’t ever use super_structure.com (or .org, .net, etc) because it was­n’t an allowed name. So, I just stuck with jasoncoleman.net while con­tin­u­ing to use super_structure as the title.

There was cri­tiquing, to put it nice­ly.

I final­ly decid­ed to try and make a change today. You’ll notice that the under­score has been replaced by an en dash char­ac­ter (ful­ly sanc­tioned for domain usage). I have also reg­is­tered super-structure.org Yeah, I know, would­n’t it be nice if they were both .net or .org, but just like dates to prom, the good ones are always tak­en when you get around to ask­ing.

So, you’ll notice the uni­verse, at least as in regard to this Jason Cole­man, has now moved from super_structure to super-struc­ture, and what’s more, you can now just type super-structure.org into your web brows­er to get here. The re-direct is on me.

Note: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, as of writ­ing this in the wee hours of Sun­day morn­ing, super-structure.org was still just being parked by GoDad­dy. Hope­ful­ly, that will be cor­rect­ed soon. It’s all good.

Blogging Hack

I have a Microsoft Office Key­board and Wire­less Explor­er Mouse on my home desktop(s). I love the extra func­tion­al­i­ty of these devices due to the forward/back brows­er but­tons (among oth­er but­tons). I’ve even bought a sec­ond Office key­board for my office desk­top because I found the copy/cut/paste and the appli­ca­tion switch but­tons to be so handy in data post-pro­cess­ing (I’ll spare you the gory details on that one…).

How­ev­er, one of the real­ly frus­trat­ing things about web-form blog­ging (as in my Word­Press blog you’re read­ing now) is that I occa­sion­al­ly hit the back but­ton on one of these devices by acci­dent. This sends me back to the pre­vi­ous admin page, of course, and com­plete­ly emp­ties the web form in which I was typ­ing my post. Hope­ful­ly, I’ve saved often, but usu­al­ly even los­ing a para­graph is very annoy­ing. Since I real­ly don’t want to give up my fan­cy-pants key­board and mouse, I’ve had to come up with a way to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing.

Essen­tial­ly, I open the Write Post link in a new Fire­Fox brows­er tab, which then does­n’t have any page his­to­ry of its own. I can then acci­den­tal­ly hit those back but­tons to my heart’s con­tent, know­ing that I won’t loose any­thing. You can accom­plish the same thing by mak­ing use of the Press It book­marklet fea­ture in Word­Press, which essen­tial­ly just opens up a Write dia­log in a new brows­er win­dow, but that’s not how I gen­er­al­ly work while blog­ging. The new tab seems to be the most straight­for­ward method for me.

Hope this helps some oth­er fat-fin­gered blog­ger.

Running The Marathon

My mind, in a mat­ter of sec­onds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

Last Sat­ur­day morn­ing was the 2005 Rich­mond Marathon, which was the first marathon for both Angela (my wife) and myself. We could­n’t have pos­si­bly asked for a bet­ter day to run a marathon, or for that mat­ter, bet­ter con­di­tions in which to have pre­pared for the marathon over the past six months. We’ve been mem­bers of the Sports­back­ers Marathon Train­ing Team, which is an out­stand­ing orga­ni­za­tion here in Rich­mond which has become one of the largest of its kind in the coun­try. I thought, since I’ve spent so much of the past six months post­ing updates on the blog, I’d write a final recap of the event, includ­ing what I was think­ing at the time and what I’ve learned in doing this.

Pre-Race

I had a good night’s sleep on Fri­day, save for the three times to get up to use the bath­room (I’ve nev­er been so well hydrat­ed in my life was already look­ing for­ward to dry­ing out). I’d been told I’d be lucky if I slept at all, but any ner­vous­ness I was feel­ing was­n’t real­ly keep­ing me up. I was forc­ing myself to only con­cen­trate in get­ting to the start line in order to pre­vent the over­whelm­ing thought of hav­ing to run for hours on end. I’d wor­ry about the imme­di­ate step and just wait for the next one to come.

Angela at the pre-race get together - courtesy of Angela Robinson

Angela bun­dled up in the cold as we take some pho­tographs of the train­ing team groups (pho­to cour­tesy of Angela Robin­son).

Angela and I left to meet with the train­ing group before hand for some large group pho­tos. She was able to locate her run­ning bud­dy but I kept los­ing her all morn­ing. The last time I saw her that morn­ing was as we were find­ing the UPS trucks serv­ing as bag checks to hand over every­thing we weren’t run­ning with. I tried hunt­ing around for my wife right up until the mass of run­ners began surg­ing for­ward as I want­ed to give her some last words of encour­age­ment. It turns out she did­n’t real­ly need it, but I had the next four-and-a-half hours to feel bad about it.

The First Half

The course rep­re­sents most every part of the city (save the East side) and is real­ly very great scenery. Since I had lost my usu­al run­ning part­ners (the ones who made the race, at least) while look­ing for Angela, I was on my own for most of the whole race. That was okay with me, since run­ning has always been my “me time.” I am usu­al­ly per­fect­ly con­tent to just enjoy the views along the way. I end­ed up see­ing a few famil­iar faces along the way, both run­ners and bystanders alike, which was good enough for me.

Mile 17 - Main Street (courtesy of Brightroom photography)

While run­ning in a tank-top and high-step­pers seemed like a good idea, it result­ed in an uncom­fort­able run (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

The tem­per­a­ture had warmed up so much in the sun­shine that I ditched my jack­et and gloves after only a mile or so, while still on Broad Street, just in front of the Sci­ence Muse­um. I had been wear­ing one of those throw-away Tyvek jack­ets and a pair of cheap cloth gloves which I would­n’t feel bad about not return­ing home with. My race dress con­sist­ed of just a team sin­glet and high-cut shorts for the entire race. Since these are essen­tial­ly what the elite run­ners wear, I felt good about wear­ing these. As it turns out, that was my biggest mis­take of the race. Look­ing back over my train­ing, I think that cor­rect­ing for that was quite obvi­ous. How­ev­er, I had con­vinced myself that if that’s what the fast, elite run­ners wore then it must be ben­e­fi­cial.

My body chem­istry is such that my sweat leaves behind an extra­or­di­nary amount of salt crys­tals. You remem­ber that steamy Heart Shaped World video for Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game; the one where they rolled around in the beach sand? Well, I look just like that, once you’ve removed all the sexy and cool. That being the case, I had brought along a small stick of Body Glide to help ward off the skin fric­tion. I stopped just past the half-way point, and even again at 18 miles, but to no good. Drag­ging a waxy stick across grit­ty, raw flesh just only makes the prob­lem worse. Also, run­ning and sweat­ing only makes the prob­lem worse, but that’s just what I had to do for anoth­er 13.1 miles. I fig­ure wear­ing a pair of tight, span­dex shorts and a t‑shirt would have pre­vent most, if not all, of these prob­lems. It was far too late to do any­thing about that now, though.


Running By The Crowds (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

The crowds cheer­ing for me and all the fin­ish­ers near the end of the race felt incred­i­bly great (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

A sim­ple lit­tle run­ning hack I learned from oth­er mem­bers of the train­ing group who had been through the pro­gram before is that many run­ners in the “rest” of the pack write their names across their rac­ing shirts. It is real­ly hard to describe just how great it feels to have strangers in the side­lines cheer­ing you on by name. There’s that small drip of adren­a­line that comes from hav­ing your named called out that lifts your chin up and makes you run tall. Run­ning through a large crowd with peo­ple stand­ing rows deep on each side can shave miles off of the run already behind you. Of every­thing that I did just before the race, tak­ing ten min­utes and a Sharpie had the high­est div­i­dend. I can’t imag­ine real­ly doing this on just a 10k, but I hon­est­ly don’t know how I’d fin­ish a marathon with­out doing it. It real­ly is that encour­ag­ing to have so many peo­ple out there cheer­ing you on in the cold and treat­ing you like the hero of the, if only for just a split sec­ond.

The Twenty

Angela runs along Riverside Drive (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela enjoys the views and the sun­shine along River­side Dri­ve, just before reach­ing mile nine (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

Some­where around mile 15 (I think), I saw one of the coach­es for the train­ing group who worked with Ange­la’s group (her name is also Angela). She rec­og­nized me and told me she had talked to Angela just a short while ago and that she was look­ing great. That was a great boost. Just think­ing about my wife’s smil­ing face when she’s around peo­ple always cheers me up. Of course, I’d soon find that think­ing about my wife too much was going to bring up too many emo­tions.


Lee Bridge - Mile 15

I stopped just before run­ning onto the Lee Bridge at about mile 15 to take a snap­shot of the run­ners spread out ahead of me.

I car­ried my cam­era-phone with me to take a few snap­shots of the race course along the way. I stopped at either end of the Lee Bridge and took some pho­tos. I did­n’t need the break too much at that point, but to see all those peo­ple run­ning across that bridge was kind of an awe­some sight. I don’t think my lit­tle cam­era quite cap­tured the moment, but then again, there’s a lot of things that are hard to even describe about the race. I did real­ize, though, that I was­n’t there as a jour­nal­ist but as a run­ner. Of course, there were oth­er peo­ple snap­ping pho­tos all along the way and I can under­stand why. This is a huge deal for most of us, and we want to remem­ber it and share it with oth­ers. One thing that amazed me was the fact that so many peo­ple were talk­ing on their cell phones dur­ing the race. While it’s easy to dis­miss this as cell phone addic­tion, I can appre­ci­ate the idea of hear­ing from some dis­tant fam­i­ly or friends to bring some encour­age­ment dur­ing the course. My broth­er, Dave, even tried call­ing me but I did­n’t hear the phone ring since it was buried down in my Camel­bak.

I had essen­tial­ly been walk­ing at every water stop along the course, just long enough to get down a cup of water and then run on. Stop­ping for a pot­ty break at mile ten had added some more time as well, but none of those had real­ly been because I need­ed a break from the run. After about mile 16, though, I began need­ing walk about a block dur­ing the water stops, which were about every two miles. I kept telling myself to just run a lit­tle bit fur­ther; just to the next water stop and then take a break. Then, I had to fall back to tak­ing a break every mile. This was becom­ing sort of a men­tal chal­lenge now, and I need­ed to pre­vent myself from hav­ing to take any more breaks than nec­es­sary.

The Last 10K

I had reached the 20 mile split at just under 3:30 min­utes, which was faster than I had run any of the three 20 mil­ers dur­ing train­ing. That was a great feel­ing that picked me up for just a bit. I had man­aged to main­tain a fair­ly even pace for the first 20 to keep on track for fin­ish­ing in my goal time of 4:30. How­ev­er, I still had 6.2 miles to fin­ish. While I had run fur­ther on my own, pri­or to this train­ing a 10k was the longest race I had ever run. I knew I was going to fin­ish, the only ques­tion was how many walk­ing breaks. I would need for between here and then end.

One of the things I real­ly had­n’t expect was the emo­tion com­po­nent of the run. A friend had told me how he irra­tional­ly sobbed for near­ly a mile while run­ning past the 22 mile mark on his sec­ond marathon. I imag­ine when a per­son­’s body starts reach­ing this lev­el of exhaus­tion, it can be expect­ed that their nerves start to become a lit­tle raw. It effects every­one dif­fer­ent­ly, some peo­ple not all, I’m sure. I found myself suf­fer­ing from a next-day soup of emo­tions any time I though about Angela. From hav­ing a over­whelm­ing sense of pride in what she was doing, con­cern for her since she’d had some prob­lems with shins and cramps ear­li­er, as well as regret for not see­ing her imme­di­ate­ly before the start; it was all start­ing to wear on me. I was hav­ing to force myself to con­cen­trate on oth­er things, name­ly the task at hand, and not on her. How­ev­er, mak­ing one force their wife out of their mind can be equal­ly emo­tion­al­ly trou­bling. So much so, in fact, that my eyes began welling up sev­er­al times uncon­trol­lably. I did my best to refo­cus and in fact, run­ning by sev­er­al crowds helped to take my mind off of it long enough to calm down.

Oth­er than the emo­tion­al trou­bles, there was also the fact that the flesh on my legs and and under my right arm was look­ing increas­ing­ly like raw meat. The cold, wet hand tow­els being passed out at mile 23 were like a sog­gy piece of heav­en. I was able to clean off the Mar­gari­ta rim like salt crust off of my fore­head as well as try and wipe off the salt crys­tals in some of the more dam­aged areas caus­ing trou­ble. Then, I ran out of sports drink in my Camel­bak just before mile 24. Not too much of a prob­lem, in real­i­ty, but there’s noth­ing like suck­ing on an emp­ty water hose to fill you full of that “you’re done for now” feel­ing. I was drink­ing two cups of red sports drink at the mile 24 water stop to reas­sure myself when one of my coach friends from the train­ing team came run­ning up beside me. He asked if I was doing some sort of run/walk thing, which was no doubt a sin­cere ques­tion and he was sim­ply check­ing in with me. My raw nerves took this as a accu­sa­tion (of what, I don’t know) and I answered that yes I was walk­ing the water stops to give my body some short breaks. How­ev­er, it jolt­ed me into the real­iza­tion that with just over two miles to go, now was not the time to be walk­ing. He also asked if I had had any mus­cle prob­lems dur­ing the run. I had been extreme­ly for­tu­nate in the fact that I had not had any sort of mus­cle cramps for over four hours, but I was begin­ning to notice some in my calves. I took one last moment away from run­ning on the Belvedere bridge over I‑95 to stretch both legs and then ran the remain­der of the race.

Crossing the finish line (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Cross­ing the fin­ish line in just under 4:40. My final chip time was 4:36, just a few min­utes more than my goal (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy).

The last half-mile of the race (maybe more, actu­al­ly) is all down­hill into a fun­nel of cheer­ing fans and blar­ing com­men­ta­tors. Hear­ing those peo­ple shout­ing and then the announc­er call my name and num­ber as I came up to the fin­ish line was like hav­ing blind­ers tak­en off. Had I real­ly just done all that? My mind, in a mat­ter of sec­onds, retraced the route I had just been on. Sure enough, I had just run a marathon.

After The Race

Finish Line - Mile 26.2

Run­ner’s receive medals and are cov­ered in foil blan­kets after cross­ing the fin­ish line. They’re also hand­ed a bot­tle of water and have their tim­ing chips removed from their shoes before head­ing out of the cor­ral.

Upon cross­ing the fin­ish line, you’re giv­en a foil blan­ket, a bot­tle of water, and a fin­ish­er’s medal. The medal is the sort of thing that nor­mal­ly would feel some­what cheesy to me. I did­n’t exact­ly come in for bronze, let alone first place. How­ev­er, hav­ing some 20 year old kid put that chintzy piece of steel around my neck felt spe­cial. If a per­son can actu­al­ly have a huge smile at the same time they’re cring­ing in pain, then that’s exact­ly what I was doing. The achieve­ment pales in com­par­i­son to what so many peo­ple ran that day, includ­ing a win­ner with a new course record. How­ev­er, the achieve­ment was mine. I just need­ed one last reminder of that.

Just as I was leav­ing the chip removal cor­ral, I saw the own­er of one of the local run­ning stores. This guy has treat­ed my wife and I like crap every time we’ve gone in his shop (and most friends tell sim­i­lar sto­ries). I felt like telling him “You know, I just ran a f^@*ing 26.2 mile race, so next time I come in, why don’t you at least treat me like a cus­tomer, huh?” But why? I did­n’t run it for him, or any­one one else. I did this to prove to myself I could do it. I had to know, and now I did know. I was capa­ble of going fur­ther than I had ever before. I just walked on past him. He will prob­a­bly nev­er con­sid­er a guy like me an ath­lete. How­ev­er, I don’t have shop at his place and frankly, I don’t con­sid­er myself an ath­lete, either. I’m just a guy who enjoys run­ning and just learned his lim­its are way beyond where he ever thought they were.

I walked down to the UPS trucks which had held onto my bag for the past few hours. I found a small side­walk edge near an alley to sit down and put on some pants and a long sleeve t‑shirt. I put all my things away, but kept out the medal and my race num­ber. I want­ed peo­ple around to know that I belonged. More than that, I real­ly want­ed to enter the run­ner’s food tent for some­thing sol­id and not sug­ary. Luck­i­ly, they had piz­za and bagels. I sat down for a while eat­ing my slice of piz­za and drink­ing some more sports drink. After all the sug­ar I’d had all day, I real­ly did­n’t want any­more, but at least this was a dif­fer­ent fla­vor. I found myself obsess­ing about brush­ing my teeth.

Angela smiling as she approaches the finish line! (courtesy of Brightroom Photography)

Angela is just beam­ing smiles as she runs towards the fin­ish line. You did it, baby! (pho­to cour­tesy of Bright­room Pho­tog­ra­phy)

After a while, I got up to walk back uphill to the fin­ish line. There was no way I was going to miss Angela com­ing across that gate. I cheered for the run­ners who were still flow­ing down the hill. They had all been out strug­gling just as much as I had with the same course and and been endur­ing it for even longer. They deserved to have peo­ple cheer­ing for them, too. After a while, I saw Angela run­ning down the hill. Her coach had said she looked great, and she did. She looked so cool and col­lect­ed; as if she’d just been out for a casu­al jog and not the six hour ordeal she’d just been through. Her run­ning pal, Heather, was run­ning along the far side line cheer­ing her on and we both met Angela down out­side the cor­ral.

After hav­ing some time to col­lect myself ear­li­er, I was much more sta­ble emo­tion­al­ly than I had expect­ed to be. Angela checked back in with the train­ing team tent and found some food to eat. We walked back to the fin­ish line to cheer on some of the last run­ners and then head­ed home. We’d both suc­cess­ful­ly run the race and had one anoth­er togeth­er again to con­grat­u­late our­selves. It was a long jour­ney, which real­ly last­ed six months, not just six hours. The feel­ing of know­ing a lit­tle more about what we car­ry inside of us is going to last a lot longer.

Intelligent Design of School Curricula

Since Pat Robert­son has now damned the good vot­ers of Dover, PA last week and the state of Kansas has turned back the clock there by about 80 years, I thought I might put forth my opin­ion on the con­cept of Intel­li­gent Design. Per­son­al­ly, I am all for the the teach­ing of Intel­li­gent Design in pub­lic schools: in phi­los­o­phy class. In the end, the leap between the hard facts of sci­ence and the assump­tion that all the uni­verse around us has been cre­at­ed by a high­er being is one of faith. To dimin­ish this by demot­ing faith to some class­room instruc­tion does a dis­ser­vice to those who believe in such things. While it may be a very remote anal­o­gy, let me ask this: my wife and love one anoth­er very much, and it is the rea­son we are mar­ried and togeth­er (arguably) for the pur­pose of repro­duc­tion (par­ents, don’t get your hopes too soon, I’m just mak­ing a point). How­ev­er, it would be ridicu­lous to teach love in biol­o­gy class. It is psy­chol­o­gy.

And so it is with Intel­li­gent Design. I, as a Chris­t­ian, believe in a high­er being and that He cre­at­ed the uni­verse and all the things, both liv­ing and non liv­ing, in it. I also believe in sci­ence. These two have nev­er felt like a con­flict to me, as one requires facts and the oth­er faith. Sci­ence is the pur­suit of truth based on evi­dence with blind igno­rance toward pre­con­ceived notions. Faith, on the oth­er hand, is a belief of some­thing that can­not be known. I do not believe in a God because of some proof laid about before me, but often times, in spite of all evi­dence that may actu­al­ly con­tra­dict such a belief. That is what makes one’s faith spe­cial and unique: belief with­out know­ing (that is, in fact, the very def­i­n­i­tion of reli­gious faith).

Let’s applaud the peo­ple of Dover, PA (not curse them, Pat). They’ve decid­ed that they’re reli­gious beliefs (and their right not to believe if they so choose) and they’re chil­dren’s beliefs need not be ingrained in sci­ence class. Biol­o­gy will con­tin­ue to be based on the clear­ly defined the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion and reli­gion— reli­gion will be held in its tra­di­tion­al high regard, as some­thing that tran­scends the phys­i­cal world we learned about in biol­o­gy and physics.

Clueless in Tampa

Back in the late Spring of 2003, I was locat­ed in Tam­pa for two-and-a-half months for busi­ness. While there, I had a great deal of time to catch up on read­ing and, for what ever rea­son, decid­ed to spend it on polit­i­cal sci­ence books. While pick­ing up a cou­ple of books at the local Barnes & Noble one evening, I was being checked out by a woman who looked to be in her mid for­ties and who appeared to be per­fect­ly sane, at first:

“Hey, those seem like two great books! We don’t get too many peo­ple buy­ing these down here. I’ve nev­er heard of this one, but I like the title: The Emerg­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Major­i­ty.

“Yeah, I read a piece by one of the authors, in The Nation, I think, and I thought this book seemed inter­est­ing. It’s most­ly wonky, sta­tis­ti­cal stuff, though.”

“Well, we need some­thing to turn this coun­try around. That oth­er book (The Con­science of a Lib­er­al: Reclaim­ing the Com­pas­sion­ate Agen­da) by Sen­a­tor Well­stone is sup­posed to be great. We’ll sure miss him.”

“Yeah, he was a great man.”

“I just can’t stand this cur­rent Bush admin­is­tra­tion. I did­n’t real­ly like Clin­ton because he could­n’t keep it in his pants, but he’s a male and your all that way, so I just have to be under­stand­ing. But these peo­ple are just despi­ca­ble.”

silence

“My hus­band and I worked on the Nad­er cam­paign in 2000. We real­ly helped to get a lot of peo­ple inter­est­ed here in Tam­pa.”

“You live in Flori­da and you worked to get peo­ple to vote for Ralph Nad­er?”

“Yes, I think he’s some­body who real­ly could help Amer­i­ca.”

I prompt­ly dove across the counter and stran­gled a per­son who, along with her hus­band, might have for­ev­er ruined my beloved coun­try. Okay, that part’s not true at all. How­ev­er, you can imag­ine the per­son­al restraint on my part to resist such a com­pul­sion.

“Hey, ______ (can’t remem­ber names, don’t want to), are you going to talk that guy to death or check him out. He’s just stand­ing there with a blank look wait­ing for you to hush and ring him up.” says the lady at the next reg­is­ter, unwit­ting­ly not­ing my defense mech­a­nism.

“Oh, of course. Sor­ry about that. It’s just nice to see some­one who thinks the way I do.”

“Uh-huh.” (!?)

She pro­ceeds to ring me up for my two books and I walk out, think­ing how I final­ly met one of those wacky moon­bats that Rush Lim­baugh is always going on-and-on about and just astound­ed at the fact that she was sure she’d found some kin­dred spir­it in me. I kept look­ing over my shoul­der for the Kick Me sign that was sure­ly taped on there.

Monarch of the Banana Stand

Well, no soon­er did I get my first disc of Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment from Net­flix than Fox announced they planned to can­cel the series

Arrested Development - Season One

Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment: Sea­son One on DVD or at Net­flix.

Well, no soon­er did I get my first disc of Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment from Net­flix than Fox announced they planned to can­cel the series. I sup­pose it’s been hang­ing by a thin thread all along any­how, but I feel a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed after I fig­ured out what so many peo­ple had already said: it is real­ly a great show.

After watch­ing the first six episodes, I can’t help but think of it as a sort of Amer­i­can­ized ver­sion of anoth­er one of my favorite series, the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen (which, in turn, seemed a bit like a Scot­tish North­ern Expor­sure). Monarch is the sto­ry of a unwill­ing sec­ond son who comes to save his boy­hood home and fam­i­ly estate upon return­ing as a grown man. He comes to terms with his eccen­tric fam­i­ly, proves to be a savvy busi­ness man and com­mu­ni­ty leader, and even finds love (in the char­ac­ter of Lexy, played by the remark­ably hot Dawn Steele).

Arrest­ed devel­op­ment is the some­what sim­i­lar sto­ry of unwill­ing sec­ond son who steps in to run the fam­i­ly busi­ness after Dad is tak­en away to jail and they lose every­thing. Jason Bate­man plays a won­der­ful heavy named Michael Bluthe in a cast of com­plete­ly absurd Amer­i­can aris­to­crats. It seems that even well-mean­ing Michael can’t save this fam­i­ly from their own inep­ti­tude. Sure, some of the jokes are a lit­tle crude, but there’s some­thing of a charm­ing inno­cence about it that comes from the char­ac­ter’s com­plete clue­less­ness about just how bad their sit­u­a­tion is. That, and the fact that Ron Howard (exec­u­tive pro­duc­er) nar­rates the show (Lil’ Oppie Cun­ning­ham can add instant inno­cence to any­thing).

I do find the show some­what poor­ly edit­ed, though. The jumps in plot lines seem real­ly con­fus­ing, albeit for­giv­able since it’s the humor your in for, not intri­cate dra­ma. Watch­ing some of the delet­ed scenes real­ly made me real­ize this, as in when I final­ly fig­ured out why Michael actu­al­ly want­ed to find the records for the com­pa­ny jet in the first place. I guess the edi­tors just assumed we real­ly would­n’t care, since it’s not as thought Michael was ever going to get them any­way. I just chalk it up to more of the show’s quirk­i­ness.

Sad­ly, the show’s quirk­i­ness and charm could­n’t save it from get­ting the ax at Fox. I sup­pose it is all about the rat­ings, but shows like Arrest­ed Devel­op­ment, Fire­fly, and Monarch of the Glen all make me wish that stu­dios would just cre­ate direct to DVD pro­duc­tion of hasti­ly can­celed series.

Call­ing Mark Cuban… I see a busi­ness plan, here.

Update: Well, appar­ent­ly LostRemote has some very inter­est­ing ideas, although they still might need some guy like Cuban to put up some cash (via The Long Tail).