Who is in Control? The Fitness Tracker or You?

If there’s one thing I always try and do, it’s to see things from the perspective of others. It doesn’t have to mean that I’ll agree with the person or even think they’re also in the right. But sometimes I come across someone who sees things so differently that I can’t quite comprehend how they could see things so differently. The funny thing is that this doesn’t involve the biggest divide in America now – politics. Rather it’s a lack of self-control that, perhaps, makes me sound like the old man I’m becoming?

Within short order I came across two similar articles. The first article appeared on 538 and was entitled, “How My Fitness Tracker Turned Me Against Myself”. The second was on Tech Radar and was called, “I’m a runner and I just joined Strava. I regret it”. They each have their subtle differences, but the main point of each could be boiled down to, “Now that I have data, I’m a Fitness Slave.” And I just don’t understand a mindset that has to work that way. 

Ever since I got my first Garmin (maybe 5-6 years ago at this point?) I’ve enjoyed everything about it. My first Garmin was a Garmin Swim and it helped me count my laps so I wouldn’t have to keep losing count when doing more than 200 meters (more than 8 lengths at the pools I swim at). I could be free to think while swimming and use the time for “shower thoughts” instead of wondering if I was on length 15 or length 19. A few years ago I got (as a Garmin mea culpa for a Garmin Swim that was twice RMA’d) my first Forerunner. I’ve told before of how that helped me lose what is at this point somewhere around 40 pounds simply by keeping me accountable to my workouts, my estimated calories burned, and my steps (forcing me to get up from my desk at work). I like looking at all the data it collects, but I rarely do anything based on that data. I looked at my SWOLF (swimming golf – your stroke count) score and tried half-heartedly to do something about it. Then I shrugged and went back to just having it count my laps and (eventually with a newer Forerunner) my heart rate. I also store entire workouts on there so I don’t have to keep the whole workout in my head. 

Well, Eric, you may say. That’s fine and dandy, but you’re you. Do you have other examples? Why, yes I do. My wife was curious about the amount of steps she takes and how her treadmill workouts were going. So she received a Garmin for Christmas. She is the 100% exact opposite of both of those articles. She never even looks at the Garmin app on her phone. Yeah, she’ll turn it on when she goes for a walk outside or a run on the treadmill, but she gets the MOST use out of the fact that it pushes notifications to her wrist so that she doesn’t have to have her phone with her at all times. Half the time when I get home from work she’s not even wearing the watch. 

My kids all have the Garmin kiddie watches because my brother-in-law got it for them one year for Christmas. The first thing my wife did was to ask them a question. “If you forgot to put on your watch today and it didn’t record your steps, did you still take those steps?” With a kid’s honesty they all replied, “Of course”. Neither of the girls obsess over it.  They usually remember there’s a step goal (actually for the kid watches it’s an activity time goal) when the watch tells them they’ve reached it.  Sam is 90% likely to not even wear his watch. 

Since age has made me even more cynical, part of me wonders if those articles are just part of the content machine needing to be fed. Write more articles for your Google score. Write controversial stuff or stuff that will create conversation to increase engagement. In other words, believe one thing, but write another. But the other part of me just really does wonder at the mindset that causes someone to hate their watch or the website they’re using. It’s understandable if you’re 100 steps short to make some excuse to go walk those extra 100 steps. It’s not understandable to have some algorithms run your life. I’ve literally taken a few extra steps around the house if I’m short by a few hundred steps; or if I’m one or two stair climbs from my goal. Otherwise I just let it go, it’s not that big a deal. But I guess it’s just the way some people are wired – just like how I can spend 15 minutes on Twitter and not have it take over my day while other people get on Twitter and can’t get off. 

Setbacks

I’ve already communicated this with most of my family and friends who support me in running, but I’ve suffered my second setback of 2022. The first one was back in January when I had to miss out on my first chance to do an in-person half marathon due to catching a really bad cold or flu. I don’t remember which, only that it wasn’t COVID.

Now, a few days away from my next 10K, I seem to have developed a pain in the ball of my right foot. I will be seeing a doctor to find out what it actually is, but there’s a 99.99999% chance that it would not be a good idea to even attempt to run the 10K at a slow speed if I want a chance of recovering in time for the marathon this fall.

It’s funny, last week I thought my post about the 10K would just be about me admitting that beating 40 minutes was a bit ambitious even though I definitely had it in me to beat my previous times. But these are the curve balls that life throws at you.

As most humans do, I spent today going through the grief cycle. (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) Well, to be honest, I spent the last week in denial which is why I allowed myself to go a little harder on my workout yesterday and get me to the point where seeing a doctor ASAP was in order.

But today I went through the rest of the stages, informing my family and friends. They were all incredibly supportive, which was awesome and I think helped me get through to acceptance. At this point I’m hoping that even with my denial, I caught things early enough to have a quicker recovery. That way I can maybe at least be prepared for a marathon run, even if it can’t be as fast as I wanted. I also hope I can do the other races I signed up for. I was really looking forward to most of them.

After this year, and this maybe this is me sliding a little bit back into depression (the stages aren’t just something you move through and finish without any back-sliding), I want to re-evaluate my distance goals and the reasons I have those goals. It is just a fact that the more I run, the more stress I put on my feet, knees, etc. It may be better to find a distance that works best with my body and doesn’t work those joints, tendons, etc as hard as a marathon goal does. Or maybe simply getting past this treatment regime and getting any necessary orthotics (like a metatarsal gel or bump) will give me a few more years of injury-free running at whatever distance I want.

I do think that I would like to find a good program (perhaps a triathlon program) that would help me ensure I’m getting as much cardiovascularly out of low impact exercises like swimming and biking as I do from running. I really have not been this healthy since high school. BUT in high school I was only swimming – so maybe there’s a way to make it work (although then I was swimming 2 hours a day 5 days a week at a pace to train for meets).

Anyway, a lot of this is just me getting my thoughts out of my head to continue to help ferry myself along the grief cycle. We’ll see with some distance from the injury how I feel about things. I am not sure why, but this time really hit me harder than my previous injury. (Perhaps because I have a full race schedule set up this year that has now been thrown into disarray)

If you get a LEGO Boost set and can’t update the firmware…

There’s apparently a bit of a software fail for the LEGO company. When you launch the LEGO Boost app, it won’t continue until you’ve updated the firmware. It asks you to connect so it can update it, but it never actually updates. As I learned in this reddit thread, you actually need to get a different app and use that to update the firmware. Having to use a different bit of software while making you think the software you expect to use can handle the firmware upgrade is a HUGE fail in my book. Hopefully they fix this soon, but if they don’t -at least this resource can be here for anyone searching Google for the answer.

Fedora 36, KDE Plasma 5, and Wayland Part 2

After using Plasma with KWayland for about a week, I had to go back to X11 because it’s not yet ready for me. There are 3 main issues I’m having:

  1. Occasionally, when I come back to my computer after locking the screen it would say that the screen locker had crashed. I would need to go to antoher TTY and type in a command to unlock it. After I did that, coming back to the TTY that has the GUI just remains black with a mouse cursor. So I would need to reboot the machine.
  2. Context menus would appear in the wrong place and I actually filed a bug about this one.
  3. I cannot drag and drop video files to upload to YouTube with Firefox. I have to click the button on YT and then navigate to the folder that has the video file. (Not sure if there are other things that can’t be dragged in – photo upload to Flickr, for example)

I’ll keep looking to see if they improve things. But for now I’m staying on X11.

MxPx – Plans within Plans

After spending the last year and change filling in the holes in the MxPx discography from when I last was an active fan with 2000’s The Ever Passing Moment, I have arrived at the final full album I was missing, Plans within Plans. I still have a couple EPs to buy, but this will probably be the last MxPx album review I write until they release their next album. As we went through the discography we saw the band evolve a bit and, either under label pressure or from wanting to explore musically, seem to veer into the territory of bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic! At the Disco. Plans Within Plans is MxPx finally coming full circle towards their original sound while also having evolved since their early albums. To me, this album sounds like MxPx just being MxPx, not sounding like any other band. They’ve learned and grown and both the music and lyrics reflect that, but they’ve come to appreciate who they really are as a band. This was one of those albums that took a few listens for me to truly appreciate. Onto the tracks.

  1. Aces Up – The chorus is what really makes this song for me, especially: “Life don’t just deal aces, you may have to bluff some times”. Essentially about how we have to soldier on through life sometimes, but the rocking track makes it an easier listen than it might be in another band’s hands. 
  2. Screw Loose – The only song on this album I’m not a fan of. MxPx seems to have one of these hard rock, almost screamo, songs every other album or so and I never enjoy them.
  3. Nothing Left – The song seems to be about a relationship the singer has let lie fallow or maybe they had a falling out and it was the singer’s fault. It’s quite abstract and hard to tell for sure.
  4. The Times – A song about taking the reigns to make yourself happy.
  5. In the Past – Essentially a song about working oneself up with the knowledge that the bad stuff is in the past, don’t dwell on it.
  6. Best of Times – Naturally, as the members of MxPx have grown older (they’re currently in their mid-40s) some of their songs have focused a bit on reminiscing about the past. (Culminated currently with Let’s Ride on 2018’s MxPx)
  7. Stay on Your Feet – I feel like this song takes the same themes of In the Past and does a better job of expressing them.
  8. Lucky Guy – This is my favorite song on the album. It’s a song about how the singer really appreciates his girlfriend and knows he’s not some amazing person that anyone would want. 
  9. Far Away  – In this somewhat somber album (overall, not every song) this one has the singer admitting that life is tough, but that they and the person they’re singing to (a friend? A girlfriend?) can work through life better together.
  10. Cast Down My Heart – A break-up song. There seems to be an average of one every other album.
  11. When It Comes To You – Seems to be a companion song to the previous one with the singer asking for their heart back since their girlfriend seems to have moved on.
  12. Inside Out – On the other side of things, this song has the singer asking either a friend or girlfriend to open up to them and share themselves fully. (lyrics: I wanna see your insides on the out/ I wanna know the things you think about)
  13. Nothing’s Gonna Change – Almost the punk version of a self-affirmation – the singer telling someone (or themselves) that they need to change in the way they want and not allow themselves to be defined by others.

Sonically and lyrically, this album is more or less right down the middle of the MxPx discography. It has neither the greatest nor smallest number of songs I enjoy. After releasing an LP every other year since the early 1990s, this wasn’t a bad place to leave things until the 2018 Kickstartered album. That said, I really liked 2018’s MxPx and would love to see the bad return to a more frequent release schedule (although I know that COVID has probably messed with that a bit since they didn’t get to tour as much as they would have wanted before COVID struck).

Wayland on KDE on Fedora 36

I upgraded to Fedora 36 so I wanted to see all the latest updates to Wayland. I’d been reading about the updates in the KDE and wanted to see if it was more stable. I had to redo my latte dock profile. Other than that, SO FAR the only issues are that the scroll wheel on the mouse scrolls WAY too far on the page, making it almost useless. And Yakuake (the KDE drop down terminal) appears at the middle of the screen instead of at the top. I went to file a bug, but I saw a comment that this is fixed in the next version of Yakuake, so it seems I just need to wait for an update. Otherwise, so far it seems to be working OK.

NYRR: RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon 2022

Before Race Day

Ready for the Race!

I think I’ve become addicted to races. I really missed having races between April (Cherry Blossom) and the end of May (BK HM) although I did that on purpose to allow myself to rest and train. July, when I once again will be sans race, is probably going to be hard for me. 

A couple weeks after the Cherry Blossom race I reached out to my coach to give them my goals for the NYC Marathon this fall. The coach adjusted my training schedule and told me they wanted me to run the race as 10 miles followed by the fastest 5K I would run this year. I was aiming for a time of 1 hour 30 minutes for this race. That would require me to run the ten miles as fast as I had run in DC for the Cherry Blossoms and then do another 5K on top of that, and do it quickly. I set my Garmin to try and do that.

As the race day arrived, I started studying the course. This would be the first race I ran that wasn’t a loop. I would be starting in Prospect Park and ending at Coney Island. During the NYRR session about the course, they mentioned it would be a bit packed in the park as well as some hilly sections. They said not to overexert ourselves in there and we could make it up on Ocean Parkway, which made up about half of the race and was at a slight down grade. 

Unfortunately, I started off race week with horrible allergies that kept me from sleeping well. So I spent Wednesday and Thursday indoors as much as possible to get that back under control. By Wednesday night I’d cleared nearly all of the pain in my throat and most of the sniffles and sneezing were gone. I already had to do a no show for the Fred Lebow HM In January due to a cold the family members had passed around ever since our Christmas trip. This was not going to happen again! (Don’t worry, I didn’t have COVID-19 according to some home tests)

The RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon Pre-Party

Finally, Friday arrived and it was time to head to Brooklyn’s Pier 2 to get my bib at the pre-party. The pre-party was well put together with a DJ, some games, lots of backgrounds to take photos in front of, and lots of race information. Additionally, the tent where we got our bibs and race participant shirts had a New Balance store (they are the official partner for NYRR race apparel) as we as some booths for the race sponsors. Basically a mini-”health expo” as the these little capitalism sections of pre-races are called. I didn’t stay too long because COVID-19 is once again on the rise and I was also by myself. I did get a good selection of photos before leaving, though. 

Dinner the night before was relatively simple – griddled, thinly cut pork shoulder, rice, and some bok choy. 

Race Day

clothing and bib set out for race day
Ready for race day!!

I woke up about 2 minutes before my 0425 alarm. I had approximately 30 minutes before I was supposed to leave the house to catch the train and arrive at the Prospect Park station at 5:40 (as the organizers had requested). Breakfast was 1.5 cups of Wegnmans granola cereal with skim milk. With one final check to ensure I wasn’t forgetting anything, I headed out the door.

foggy corral area for the first wave
The fog was still thick when I arrived at the first wave starting corral

During the walk to the train there was a thick fog as if I was in a Dickens novel. It turns out that we were to have fog during the entire race (at least while I was running – it may have cleared before the race was over). It was slightly cool, but for once this year I wasn’t freezing as I headed to the train. Once the train arrived I experienced something that had never happened in previous races in Central Park: when I entered the train, everyone in the car was a runner in the race. If it wouldn’t have been rude, i would have taken a photo of the car full of runners. Even more entered as we approached Prospect Park. It was magical to get out of the train and see runners coming from every direction and filling the station. We walked in a seemingly never-ending like for about a mile or so to the finish line, friends and family chatting. I just listened idly to the conversations around me and thought about my race strategy. Would I be able to pull it off? What would this first, in-person half marathon be like? 

I finally arrived at the corrals and the enormity of the race began to dawn on me. Full comprehension would not truly arrive until I started taking photos of the corrals just before the race started. I made a urine stop at the porta potties and then started my 10 minute warm-up. Then another visit to the jon before getting into my corral. (Luckily, unlike the DC Cherry Blossom, I didn’t start the race feeling like I had to pee)

With about 10 minutes until the gun, I had about a handful of raisins at the starting line. I hadn’t made time to test out SIS gels, so I wouldn’t be consuming any during this race. (Nothing new on race day!) I’d already been part of quite a few corrals where I wasn’t in the first one so I had to march with the others to the start line after the race started. But in this case, the race was so massive that they had the two waves of corrals each facing each other. After the wheelchair athletes started, we began our march to the starting line. With nearly somewhere around 10 thousand runners surrounding me, it was an incredible walk and the race hadn’t even started. And then it was the national anthem and we were off. 

many runners running in Prospect Park
Early on, at Prospect Park (Taken by MarathonPhoto)

Running through the park was beautiful although, as usual, I had to split my attention between the scenery, the road (there were lots of puddles from rain the day before), and runners around me. I knew the park was about half the race (we did a 10K before even leading the park), but near the end it seemed to go on forever since I was waiting for the promised downgrade on Ocean Parkway. 

Before getting on to how the pacing strategy I’d worked out with the coach went, I just want to go over a few moments from the park section of the race. I’ve used my bib holder with compartments (essentially what we used to call a fanny pack plus strings to hold a racing bib) before, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever had it this loaded. So even though it’s a “no bounce” model and hasn’t bothered me as much before, it was a bit bouncy. I’ll have to test it fully-loaded between now and the next race so I can adjust how tight the straps are. (In fact, that night I felt tender where it was bouncing. It was still slightly tender the next day)

Early on (somewhere inside the first 5K) someone was running holding their phone in their hands. It slipped and they ended up essentially throwing it to the ground. So they had to stop, turn around to run against “traffic” and pick up their phone. 

Later on, somewhere around mile 5 there was a mother jogging while pushing a baby stroller (pram to our British English friends). (This was not a racer, no strollers allowed in this race) We were running faster than her, but not so fast that we immediately passed her. Instead we slowly caught up and slowly passed. It was definitely … well, demotivating would be too strong a word, but seeing her essentially keeping pace while pushing a kid. The only consolation was that she may have just started and/or certainly didn’t have to sustain it for 13.1 miles. 

This was the first race I’ve been to where there seemed to be a few too many people who didn’t have good water station etiquette. The stopped or slowed to a complete walk while the rest of us were trying our best to get water (or gatorade) while slowing as little as possible. It ended up causing someone to swerve onto me and step on my toes. He apologized and I let him know that I knew it wasn’t his fault, but it was still annoying. It made me avoid a few more water stations than I might have done otherwise. 

OK, it’s time to discuss pacing and how things went with respect to the plan the coach set up for me. As I told my coach the next day, the race was a mixed bag. I wanted to finish in 1:30:00. I finished in 1:34:34. I think, for my first time doing a half marathon at race pace, I did quite well. (And we’ll discuss some adverse weather stuff near the end of this post) But the idea of 10 miles followed by a 5K sprint, alas, did not work out. Here’s my watch-recorded pace (being aware that there is drift such that as the miles pile up it’s calling the end of the mile sooner and sooner compared to the race’s official mile markers):

As the organizers, and my coach, said, the park was very crowded and it was hard to maintain the pace I wanted. So the first mile is very low. I had set my watch with a pace for the 10 miles followed by goal paces for each mile in the 5K portion. So the Garmin shows an average pace during the 10 mile portion. To correct for the slow first mile, I apparently went into 6:48 territory for 2 miles. (I had no idea I was going that fast) Still, up to mile 10 I was very happy. I got to 10 miles (by my watch) in 1:11. That’s just one minute slower than my Cherry Blossom time. That was key to making my goal time! Then it was time to pick up the pace for the 5K portion. I did alright for mile 11, but then it all fell apart in mile 12. I don’t know if it was mental (people started dropping out – going to the medical tents, walking instead of running, etc), the weather (again, more on that later), the fact that I didn’t do the gels (I hadn’t trained with them and nothing new on race day!), or just that it was my first time doing that distance at race pace. I’ll be talking to my coach about how to do better next time if this is still the strategy he wants me to do for the next half marathon on my calendar. 

I want to take this moment to send a shout out to my sister-in-law who surprised me in mile 12 when I was at my lowest point, disappointed that I couldn’t do the 5K sprint. She is pregnant and yet she got up early, tracked me via the NYRR site, and showed up to cheer me on and take a couple photos. I am not exaggerating that it gave me a boost of energy when I really needed it. 

One of the photos Dina took while cheering me on (Taken by Dina Nguyen)

Eventually I got to the part where we turned into Coney Island. I was once again happy, I was close. I KNEW I would make it now! (see my face in the photos?) Although I think it’s very cruel after almost 13 miles to have to climb up the ramp to the boardwalk. I saw the sign for 200 meters. I found a reserve of energy. They were blasting Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (one of their songs I really enjoy) I found the energy to yell out “BROOKLYN!” along with The Boys. The boardwalk crowd was cheering. I found another reserve of energy and was able to sprint the last 100 meters to cross the finish line. I was overjoyed! I’d done it!

My emotions cycled between elation and disappointment as I grabbed my ice-water-soaked rag and walked to get my medal. By the time I had my medal, all thoughts of disappointment had faded. I was just happy to have come in so close to my goal time. (Although I wasn’t sure how close it was to the time my watch had measured) As I walked back to my in-laws (first race where I didn’t have to take a train back), I cheered on the runners in corrals H and beyond that were coming in. Then I had second breakfast.

So, how did I do, here’s the results image:

An overall place of 1,400 of 18.770 finishers (Top 7%!!! My best ever for a big race!). Gender place (NYRR this year does male, female, and non-binary) of 1,200 of 10,015 (11% better than usual). Age group 259 of 1854 (13% – better than my usual top quartile) Also, some very awesome splits! FASTER than the 10K I did this February!!! 

Let’s talk about physical feelings post-race. Immediately afterwards, I had pain going up and down stairs and some pain on the balls of my feet. They had started hurting around mile 11 when I picked up the pace. No pain in my tendonitis spot. After driving home that day I had a massive headache from the shoulders up. It could have been from slight dehydration – despite drinking 12 ounces of water on the way home (plus a cup of milk with my second breakfast), I didn’t have to pee during the whole 3.5 hour drive. After taking some ibuprofen for the headache, I just had some milk pain with the stairs. I decided that night to soak in Epsom salts and I iced my knees and tendonitis area. After sleeping for 9 hours (something I haven’t done in years without being sick) I was just mildly sore on the day after.

Late on the 21st I learned that someone had collapsed and died at the finish line. There were also 16 injuries. On the running subreddit there was discussion about the death and someone mentioned the 90% humidity that partially came from the fog we were running in the whole time (notice it in many of the photos throughout this post). The same person specifically mentioned how they are an experienced half marathon runner and the weather reduced them to walking. This made me feel a lot less upset about my ability to do the faster 5K at the end. We hadn’t had all summer to acclimate, so this was a huge weight on performance. I would still like to think I could have trained (or steeled my mind) to do better, but weather is no joke and I’d rather finish a little more slowly than end up with a DNF. 

selfie in my Brooklyn Finisher 2022 shirt
selfie in my Brooklyn Finisher 2022 shirt

So now I’ve finally run an in-person half marathon. What was incredibly easy for me at an 8 minute mile pace was pushing my body to its current limits at an average pace of 7:13. It really put into perspective how much of a difference each additional mile affects the runner. 3.1 miles more after 10 is (or can be) quite a bit more taxing. This performance has put a healthy respect in me for the marathon. I have to do this weekend’s performance TWICE to get the time I want for the full marathon. There’s lot of training to do! But there’s also a bright side – my Garmin watch had been predicting (based on what it knows about my body – training and sleep) a 1:33 half marathon and I got 1:34. So when my watch now says I can do a 3:28 marathon, that tells me that it’s definitely in my grasp (based on what it knows about my body). Even though I need 3:10 for a Boston Qualifying time, I’d be overjoyed with a 3:28 marathon time. Additionally, with the time I achieved for my 10K in THIS race plus Garmin’s current prediction of 39:33, I’m excited for my upcoming 10K race. This week is recovery with a virtual 5K on Saturday and then it’s back to training. 

This race was special for me for a number of reasons:

  • First in-person half marathon
  • Finished at Coney Island (where my wife and I shared many courtship and early marriage memories)
  • The race turned 40 this year and so do I

I’m glad I ran it and am looking forward to the rest of this year’s races. 

Also, check out this neat video that Marathon Photo made with some info about the race and then a video of me finishing (they’ve never had this on offer for the Cherry Blossom, so it’s the first time I’ve seen something like it):

My MarathonPhoto custom video
RBC Broolyn Half Marathon Medal
RBC Broolyn Half Marathon Medal

Diversity Panels at Conventions in the 2020s

Earlier this morning I came across this tweet by Mary Fan, an author I met at the Farpoint convention and whose books I quite enjoy:

I gave a short reply, but I felt Twitter was inadequate to truly express myself. Of course, Diversity Panels have been around long enough that by 1997’s Chasing Amy (source of the header image), they were already making jokes about how some folks were always relegated to the Diversity Panel (click to play):

Chasing Amy in which the characters discuss Alyssa’s constant appearance on Diversity Panels

I also attended the diversity panel at Worldcon last year where the big topic was on the diversity of protagonists. Mary Fan’s tweet made me think about the utility vs the negative (if there is a negative) of having diversity panels as well as a bit of a meditation on the fact that they’re still extant. Let’s take these one by one.

So, what’s the utility of the diversity panel? The biggest utility I see is when other writers from various marginalized groups are in attendance. It’s been shown that seeing others that share your identity (whatever that means to you) doing whatever it is you would like to do shows you that it’s possible. Until recently if you’re an Asian actor you might think your only Hollywood roles are kung fu master or exotic babe. Then we get Crazy Rich Asians and it paves the way for Always Be My Maybe and suddenly both Hollywood and would-be actors learn they can have “regular”-person roles instead of being stuck stereotyped. The same goes with authors. Back in the day, many women had to write SFF under pseudonyms, the most famous example being Alice Bradley Sheldon, who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. But as more women have been recognized via awards like the Hugos, more women have joined the fray, seeing they can make it and get awarded. To the point where there was a very sad, very lame backlash.

What are the potential negatives? I’m reminded of my undergrad years at Cornell, 2001-2005. At that time (not sure if it still exists) there was some affinity housing. There was an African-American dorm named Ujamaa and there was a Latinx one, but I can’t remember the name. At any rate, the affinity housing existed as a potential place (especially for Freshmen) to get acclimated to a college that was majority white. (And also at least seemed majority from the North East USA) To those who loved it, this was a literal safe space (not the metaphorical one that has been fought about for the past decade or so) to recover from culture shock and microaggressions (even though we didn’t have that word yet when I was an undergrad). To those who were against it (oftentimes, but not always, members of the Young Convervatives club), it was a harmful segregation, even if it was self-imposed. Like many things, I think the reality lies somewhere in the middle. I think it could definitely be a bad thing for anyone who retreated so much that they did not gain experience with others outside their affinity group. So, bringing it back to diversity panels at cons – there’s a chance that these become ghettos of a sort. Yeah, the same old folks can be on the main stage. But it’s OK because we have [name your identity: women, latinx, African-Americans, wheelchair riders, etc] in the diversity panel. It dovetails with what RF Kuang said when Tor.com made her guest editor – when are we going to move away from Asian SFF and just call it SFF? And the author just happens to be Asian. Sometimes these things can be self-perpetuating.

And finally, there’s the sad fact that this conversation is still taking place in 2022. I mean, it’s somewhat unsurprising. The Japanese Internment (I know others have other words besides ‘internment’ to use here) was just 80ish years ago. But it wasn’t until 1988 that the US Government apologized, and that’s only 34 years ago. And around the world things seem to be slipping backwards in terms of progress. After this week’s Supreme Court leak, even anti-miscegenation laws seem to be back on the table with a potential overturning of Loving v Virginia coming.

So just maybe we need to keep the panels going for now. To provide hope for other writers who feel marginalized. To show others that success can be had no matter what. And to push, even in this small way, against the back-sliding of the equality we’ve spent so long building up.

Dealing with the Illusion of Change

This week Our Opinions Are Correct aired an episode about the Illusion of Change. They do an excellent job explaining what it is – when long-running fiction (comics, Soap Operas, etc) has to eventually return to the status quo. They cover infamous examples like that time that Satan dissolved the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Finally, the hosts cover the biggest reason the corporations that own Marvel and DC always resort to the status quo: so that folks jumping onto the series don’t have to deal with 50-100 years of backstory in order to understand what’s going on with the characters now.

In the past I’ve covered many possible ways around this issue, starting with the fact that we have the Internet now. Fan could always quickly catch up with any important storylines. But the solution that stood out the most to me while listening to the episode is actually pretty simple. I think what the big 2 companies could do is have 2 lines of books. For example, for Batman they could have one series that is just a series of Batman cases. He could always be in his 30s and any reader could jump in. The other Batman series could allow Batman to continue to age and tell stories about him growing older. It’s not as though there isn’t a market for this – people loved The Dark Knight Returns and the cartoon Batman Beyond. As I said before, there are stories to be told about getting older and the evolution of how you see yourself in the world. We’re robbing ourselves of these stories by not letting our superheroes age. And this doesn’t even take into account the lack of stakes when we know the big events and deaths don’t stick – the biggest reason I’ve moved on to creator-owned comics, which usually have an ending in mind.

Programming Update: March/April

In March I went back to Advent of Code 2016. In an effort not to get stuck, I decided to go as far as I can in Python before going back around and working on the other languages. So I did days 6 and 7 in Python. Overall, relatively easy Regex problems.

And that’s it. It was not a big month for programming. I mostly focused on playing with the kids and cooking. May/June are looking like they’re going to contain quite a bit more programming, at least relatively speaking. I’m hoping to both get back to work on some of my projects and also get back to Advent of Code.

2022 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Race

Last fall I finally got to race the official Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 mile course. This year, I FINALLY was able to run the race on the course in the spring. It was nice for the race to return to its place as the “Rite of Spring”. Although the cherry blossoms reached peak bloom a week before the race, they still made a nice, pretty setting for the race.

It was also the first time I had someone I knew watching me at the race. My mother, who had wanted to see the cherry blossoms in DC for nearly a decade, came this year in order to also watch me race. She was right at the beginning of the race as I took off. Thanks to the fact that the course has tons of loops, she was also able to be at a few other locations and also be near the end when I finished as well. This was great for mom’s enjoyment and also getting some great photos (which will be sprinkled throughout this post) as well as seeing the beginning and end of the race. The only bad thing (and that’s stretching the word “bad” a bit) was that she was in very crowded areas so I didn’t see her or even hear her calling for me. So this photo is an amazing coincidence that I’m looking right at her.

a photo of me running (also other runners and spectators)
I didn’t hear my mom calling me, but ended up looking right at her! (Taken by Carmen Mesa)
gym bag full of racing gear with the event's big on top

Pre-Race

I love getting my bag ready the night before. it really brings a certain finality to things. The race will be here tomorrow.

As with last year, I was using runCoach.com to train for the race. There are many ways to train for a race, but I find this one to work very well for me. I’m not sure if it’s because this year I was doing a bunch of NYRR races, but for my long runs, it never got anywhere as long as it did last year where they had me doing up to 12 miles. Nonetheless I felt extremely well prepared for the race.

Pinning on my Bib in the Reagan Center garage
Pinning on my Bib in the Reagan Center garage

As I did last year, I woke up at 0445 with a goal of leaving the house by 0515.  I had one measured cup of cereal and forced my body to empty out so that I wouldn’t have to stop at a porta potty during the race. Something happened with my mom’s alarm (maybe AM/PM confusion?) so we left a little closer to 0525. We drove to DC and parked in the Reagan Building. Got my bib attached to my bib belt, put my cell phone in there, and we headed upstairs. I took another chance to pee since I knew it wouldn’t be crowded. Heading out onto the sidewalk I felt slightly chilly – I was wearing the Tracksmith Merino Wool Thaw shirt, Thaw half-tights, and Thaw cap. I knew I’d be OK once I got warmed up and the sun came up. 

Last year I didn’t have enough faith in myself to do what runCoach recommended and have a 10 minute warm up before my race. I thought I might waste energy I needed for the race. But this year I’ve been actually doing the 10 minute warm up before my NYRR races without any negative consequences. So I ran my 10 minute warm up around the base of the Washington Monument. 

Afterwards I made one more trip to the restrooms near the base (much closer to my yellow corral than the porta potties) and then it was announced that it was time to fill the corrals. 

I had my raisins with me, but so close to the start I decided not to eat any. I put them in the half tight’s pockets in case I needed them later.

Many thousands of runners begin to cross the starting line

The Race

The horn goes off; you start your watch; the adrenaline flows

It was great this time to be up front where I could see the elite women take off for their start at 0718. As I waited there while we went through the various festivities and ceremonies before the whole race and between the women’s and men’s starts, I found that even though I’d already peed 4 times before the race (and drank less than a cup of water before the start) I had to pee. Well, I wasn’t going to leave the corral, so I hoped it wouldn’t get bad enough that I’d have to stop at one of the course porta potties. I might need to do that at a half marathon or full marathon, but I was going to try not to do so for this 10 miler. As a consequence, I only grabbed water at 2 of the 4 or 5 water stations. I wanted to stay hydrated, but I didn’t want to have to pee so badly it was a choice of stopping my race or peeing on myself.

This race was my first time using Garmin’s PacePro feature. Previously I’d just used the watch and checked my pace vs the pace I was trying to achieve. This is OK for a simple or short course, but harder the longer the courses get and if they have hills or other things that would keep you from running an even pace. The other thing is that either you need to have run the race before and recorded a GPS track OR someone else has to have done so and made it public. This allows you to tell Garmin your finish time and Garmin looks at the course, elevation, etc and comes up with a pace per mile for you. You can also tell Garmin if you want to do positive or negative splits and work harder on hills. I left it at neutral for everything for this particular race. What worked best for me is that it keeps track of how ahead or behind you are for the entire course. Once I reached an ahead of 4-5 seconds during a hill where I ran a little faster, I decided to try and maintain that by staying on pace for the rest of the laps. The only disappointment was the fact that we went under a few overpasses and that messed with the GPS. For a car they would have been no big deal. But at human speed, it caused PacePro to lose track of where I was for a bit and that meant it was up to me to try and keep pace by keeping my legs at the same speed. Sometimes it took 30 seconds to get it back, sometimes a minute or more. Easier at the beginning than at the end. Overal, it was a bit positive and I will DEFINITELY use it for any race that I’m running for the second (third, etc) time. 

The course was great other than mile 6 seeming to have way more potholes than any other mile on the course. It was hard to make sure not to twist my ankle or fall. Since I’d just run the course this fall, I still remembered a lot of details about the end. As we did the final southern loop, I felt great. Unlike last time I didn’t feel like dying around miles 7-8. I started feeling a little tired at mile 9 / 15k mark, but I still had energy to push it hard at the end. I felt good at the end with my legs slightly sore. It might just be me or maybe a few folks finished at once, but I didn’t hear my name at the finish line (and they WERE announcing folks). That was a slight bummer as it’s my favorite part of finishing a big race.

I thought about maybe consuming the raisins around the halfway point of the race if I felt like I was flagging. But, as has been drilled into my head over the last few weeks, NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. And I hadn’t done any training runs where I ate raisins while running. So I just left it alone. 

The race went extremely well for me. Last fall I wrote in my blog post that it would be incredible to go from 1 hour 14 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes. It would have required me to go from a 7:30 mile to a 7:05 mile. And yet that’s exactly what I did. It was the most incredible surprise and points to the fact that I may not yet have discovered my running peak (having come to this so late in life and on my own without a true coach. According to the records kept by Garmin I also got new PRs for my 5K and 10Ks. Since that’s not something that typically happens in a longer race (where one has to conserve energy) I think it means I should be able to get some nice PRs later in the year when I do my scheduled 5K and 10K races. Looking at my Garmin watch now, based on what Garmin knows about my fitnes level it predicts the following for me:

  • 5K – 18:42 – 3 minutes faster than I ran at the Washington Heights 5K in March
  • 10K – 39:42 – 7 minutes faster than I ran the 10K in February
  • Half Marathon – 1:31:27 – I have not yet tried an in-person HM at race pace, so I have no comparison here. I believe runCoach predicts a 1:37 HM for me.
  • Marathon 3:30:33 – I haven’t tried yet virtual or in person

Results

Those are results to make one proud! (not even counting dropping 4 minutes off my time!) For the age group that’s top 14% (148/1053). Gender is top 13% (838/6315). And overall top 7%!! (1085/14665)

Garmin Data

Let’s first take a look at the GPS track:

2022 CU Cherry Blossom GPS Tracks over Sat Map
2022 CU Cherry Blossom GPS Tracks over Sat Map

Taking a look at my heart rate and and pace as recorded by Garmin:

Pace and Heart Rate
Pace and Heart Rate

You can see the pace was incredibly stable. And you’ll see that soon on the image comparing my splits to the PacePro recommendation. It looks as thought my heart rate was relatively low for the first half of the race. After that it picked up quite a bit, but seemed to stay pretty stable. Here’s my time per heart rate zone:

Heart Rate Zones
Heart Rate Zones

When you look at the PacePro splits below, be aware of the GPS caveats I mentioned above. After all, the watch thinks I maintained a 7:01 pace while the official race pace is 7:05.

Garmin PacePro Splits
Garmin PacePro Splits
me crossing the finish line with another person. Other runners behind

Post-Race

It’s over. Time to think about your accomplishments and plan for next time.

After the race was over, mom and I took some photos and basked in the glory of the end of a race, especially once in which I’d earned a new PR. Then it was time to head back home. By the time I got home I was famished! I had a full bowl of cereal with a focus on Kashi Go Crunch Peanut butter and Trader Joe’s Just the Clusters Pecan cereal (I like to pour a mix of cereals into my bowl for a mix of textures and tastes) A couple hours later I had a lunch of some bratwurst that I’d grilled the day before in a sub roll. I didn’t eat the bratwurst yesterday since eating fatty foods can lead to unfortunate results during a race. 

I had some of the usual tibial tendon inflammation that I get when I race really hard so I took a couple ibuprofen that morning and iced my ankle before bed. The inflammation stuck around for a few days, but had mostly faded by Thursday. My legs were a little sore going up the stairs, but by Tuesday my legs were fine.

What’s Next 

What’s literally next is a half marathon in a couple months. But, thinking about my running as a whole, I’d like to see how fast I can push myself on my 5K and 10K. I also have another 10 mile race later this year and I’d like to see if I can bring my time down even lower. I didn’t feel “dead” at the end of the race, so there might be room to veer into the sub-7 minute mile pace. If I can eventually get to a 1 hour 10 mile race, I think I’ll be very happy with myself. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Cherry Blossom run. Part of me thinks it’s silly to imbue any particular number with any significance. Why is 50 more important than 49 or 51? But part of me is still a human with human psychology and would like to try and be a part of that milestone. The race organizers are also planning something special to commemorate. We’ll see if I win that lottery selection.

Podcasts I’m Listening to in 2022

This time around I’ve written a Python script to take the OPML file from Podcast Republic and generate the list along with URLs and official descriptions for all the podcasts. If I have additional thoughts I’ll add them after the official description.

The World Around Us

99% InvisibleOfficial Description: Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.

Freakonomics RadioOfficial Description: Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know(but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers.

Nice Try!Official Description: Nice Try’s second season, Interior, is all about the lifestyle products that have been sold to us over and over, and the promises of domestic self improvement they have made, kept and broken. From Curbed and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Reply AllOfficial Description: “‘A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” – The Guardian. Hosted by Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi from Gimlet.

The AllusionistOfficial Description: Adventures in language with Helen Zaltzman.

RadiolabOfficial Description: Radiolab Eric’s Commentary: Radiolab is a lot like This American Life except with a much bigger focus on sound effects. It is, in a way, the descendant of the old radio shows of the 30s and 40s.

Music

Alt.LatinoOfficial Description: Alt.Latino is a spotlight on the world of Latinx arts and culture through music, stories and conversation.

Television and Movies

Boars, Gore, and SwordsOfficial Description: Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott break down every episode of Watchmen, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Counterpart, Lovecraft Country, WandaVision, and now Loki. Eric’s Commentary: As you may be able to tell from the name, this started off as a Game of Thrones podcast. Ivan and Red covered all the books and TV shows. Once that was over, they moved on to cover a variety of TV shows. Sometimes they’ll do a whole season or series. Other times, it’s just the opening episode.

Doesn’t Sound like Anything to Me: A Westworld Recap – Official Description: Writer Ivan Hernandez and comedian Red Scott break down everything Westworld, including every episode of the HBO series and also the original movies. Eric’s Commentary: If you like Boars, Gore, and Swords this is more of that, but focused on Westworld.

Failure to AdaptOfficial Description: Is the book always better? Are they better off as Movies?? Finally, an answer. Author Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Comic Red Scott talk media that moves from one form to another. Whether it’s Stephen King books becoming Steven Spielberg movies, Fairy Tales loosely inspiring animated Disney musicals, or People transmuting into Wolves, this is the podcast with the conviction and insight to determine a story’s correct form. Eric’s Commentary: This is the same Red Scott as the previous two pocasts, but this time paired with Maggie Takuda-Hall. It results in a different dynamic with a slightly more thoughtful (but no less funny) Red Scott.

How Did This Get Made?Official Description: Have you ever seen a movie so bad that it’s amazing? Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas want to hear about it! We’ll watch it with our funniest friends, and report back to you with the results.

TwinsiesOfficial Description: Every two weeks, comedians TJ Chambers and Andy Wood get together to take a look at what happens when Hollywood has the same idea twice.

Unclear and Present DangerOfficial Description: New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie and freelance writer John Ganz delve into the world of 90s post-Cold War thrillers with Unclear and Present Danger, a podcast that explores America in an age of transition to lone superpower, at once triumphant and unsure of its role in the world.

UnspooledOfficial Description: Listen up, film fans! Actor & comedian Paul Scheer and film critic Amy Nicholson want your advice as they make the ultimate list of the greatest movies of all time. In Season 1, they watched every one of the AFI’s Top 100 films…and decided they could kick off half. Now, they’re filling in the gaps by investigating wildly diverse areas of film through miniseries on topics like horror movies, documentaries and romantic comedies, with help from listeners’ picks. Along the way, they’ll dissect iconic scenes, spotlight their favorite characters, and talk to some of the actors and directors who worked on these classics. And when Unspooled has built their own list of the best movies on earth, they’ll blast them into space to be immortalized for eternity. Seriously.

ZOOMOfficial Description: ZOOM is a new podcast from Focus Features for movie lovers who want to know everything. Fueled by the inquisitive mind of film critic and host Amy Nicholson (“Unspooled,” “Halloween Unmasked”), each episode uses a modern-day movie as a launch pad to discover mind-bending facts about science, technology, and history. What kind of planet might E.T. come from? Do superstar horses “act”? Which Edwardian rules of etiquette could trip up Downton Abbey’s Lord Grantham? Featuring interviews with an eclectic mix of experts and filmmakers, ZOOM explores Hollywood’s uncharted questions.

Talkin’ Toons with Rob PaulsenOfficial Description: Rob Paulsen, one of the most accomplished and well-known voice actors of our time, sits down with various other voice actors to discuss their experiences! And yes, of course, there’ll be plenty of voice acting games.

History

BlindspotOfficial Description: “Blindspot: The Road to 9/11” (Season 1) brings to light what happened before the 2001 terrorist attacks – 10 years of botched leads, near misses, and bureaucratic inertia. Host Jim O’Grady draws on interviews with FBI agents, high-level bure
aucrats, security experts, and people who knew the terrorists personally to create a gripping, serialized audio experience. “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning” (Season 2) transports listeners to the thriving Greenwood District in 1921 – a Black city within a city – and its destruction by a mob of white supremacists. Host KalaLea tells the story of this remarkable neighborhood through the stories of survivors, descendants, and inheritors of its legacy. The series is a co-production of The HISTORY® Channel and WNYC Studios.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore HistoryOfficial Description: In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: AddendumOfficial Description: Interviews, musings and extra material from the makers of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.  If it did not fit in the HH feed it’s probably here

Tides of HistoryOfficial Description: Everywhere around us are echoes of the past. Those echoes define the boundaries of states and countries, how we pray and how we fight. They determine what money we spend and how we earn it at work, what language we speak and how we raise our children. From Wondery, host Patrick Wyman, PhD (“Fall Of Rome”) helps us understand our world and how it got to be the way it is.

The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth ReynoldsOfficial Description: Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds picks a subject from history and examine it. Eric’s Commentary: The main setup is that Dave Anthony is telling a true story from history to Gareth Reynolds who doesn’t know ahead of time what the story is going to be.

ThroughlineOfficial Description: The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Business and Finance

Business WarsOfficial Description: Netflix vs. HBO. Nike vs. Adidas. Business is war. Sometimes the prize is your wallet or your attention. Sometimes, it’s just the fun of beating the other guy. The outcome of these battles shapes what we buy and how we live. Business Wars gives you the unauthorized, real story of what drives these companies and their leaders, inventors, investors and executives to new heights — or to ruin. Eric’s Commentary: many of these series are very interesting, especially when you see how history has set up the business world we have today. I tend to skip the businesses I don’t care about.

MarketplaceOfficial Description: Every weekday, host Kai Ryssdal helps you make sense of the day’s business and economic news — no econ degree or finance background required. “Marketplace” takes you beyond the numbers, bringing you context. Our team of reporters all over the world speak with CEOs, policymakers and regular people just trying to get by.

Planet MoneyOfficial Description: The economy explained. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening.

The Indicator from Planet MoneyOfficial Description: A little show about big ideas. From the people who make Planet Money, The Indicator helps you make sense of what’s happening today. It’s a quick hit of insight into work, business, the economy, and everything else.

Psychology

Cautionary Tales with Tim HarfordOfficial Description: We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “The Data Detective”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, and hilarious fiascos. They’ll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser.

You Are Not So SmartOfficial Description: You Are Not So Smart is a show about psychology that celebrates science and self delusion. In each episode, we explore what we’ve learned so far about reasoning, biases, judgments, and decision-making.

Technology

Codebreaker, by Marketplace and Tech InsiderOfficial Description: None Eric’s Commentary: A tech podcast. Season 1 asked the question “Is it Evil?” of various technologies. still on my feed, but hasn’t release a new episode since Dec 2016.

Command Line HeroesOfficial Description: Stories about the people transforming technology from the command line up. Eric’s Commentary: A podcast produced by Red Hat that tackles different tech topics, organized around a seasonal topic. Season 2 was about programming languages and introduced me to the Python podcasts that I listen to. Season 3 is about the history of computer hardware. The current season is about malware.

Open Source Security PodcastOfficial Description: A security podcast geared towards those looking to better understand security topics of the day. Hosted by Kurt Seifried and Josh Bressers covering a wide range of topics including IoT, application security, operational security, cloud, devops, and security news of the day. There is a special open source twist to the discussion often giving a unique perspective on any given topic.

Python BytesOfficial Description: Python Bytes is a weekly podcast hosted by Michael Kennedy and Brian Okken. The show is a short discussion on the headlines and noteworthy news in the Python, developer, and data science space.

Talk Python To MeOfficial Description: Talk Python to Me is a weekly podcast hosted by developer and entrepreneur Michael Kennedy. We dive deep into the popular packages and software developers, data scientists, and incredible hobbyists doing amazing things with Python. If you’
re new to Python, you’ll quickly learn the ins and outs of the community by hearing from the leaders. And if you’ve been Pythoning for years, you’ll learn about your favorite packages and the hot new ones coming out of open source.

The Real Python PodcastOfficial Description: A weekly Python podcast hosted by Christopher Bailey with interviews, coding tips, and conversation with guests from the Python community. The show covers a wide range of topics including Python programming best practices, career tips, and related software development topics. Join us every Friday morning to hear what’s new in the world of Python programming and become a more effective Pythonista.

Non-Financial, Non-Political News and Current Events

Common Sense with Dan CarlinOfficial Description: Loud, fast-talking and deceptively funny, this politically-independent “forward-thinking pragmatist” looks at the events shaping our world through a uniquely American lens. It’s smarter than you think, and faster than you expect. Eric’s Commentary: I like this show because Dan Carlin takes the same analytical mind he uses for Hardcore Histroy and applies it to current events.

Fresh AirOfficial Description: Fresh Air from WHYY, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio’s most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today’s biggest luminaries.

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah: Ears EditionOfficial Description: Listen to highlights and extended interviews in the “Ears Edition” of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. From Comedy Central’s Podcast Network. Eric’s Commentary: Also currently contains the audio of the full TV episodes.

Misc Pop Culture

Conan O’Brien Needs A FriendOfficial Description: After 25 years at the Late Night desk, Conan realized that the only people at his holiday party are the men and women who work for him. Over the years and despite thousands of interviews, Conan has never made a real and lasting friendship with any of his celebrity guests. So, he started a podcast to do just that.Deeper, unboundedly playful, and free from FCC regulations, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend is a weekly opportunity for Conan to hang out with the people he enjoys most and perhaps find some real friendship along the way.

Decoder RingOfficial Description: Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

It’s Been a Minute with Sam SandersOfficial Description: Each week, Sam Sanders interviews people in the culture who deserve your attention. Plus weekly wraps of the news with other journalists. Join Sam as he makes sense of the world through conversation.

SmartLessOfficial Description: “SmartLess” with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, & Will Arnett is a podcast that connects and unites people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences through thoughtful dialogue and organic hilarity. A nice surprise: in each episode of SmartLess, one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two. What ensues is a genuinely improvised and authentic conversationfilled with laughter and newfound knowledge to feed the SmartLess mind.

WTF with Marc Maron PodcastOfficial Description: Marc Maron welcomes comedians, actors, directors, writers, authors, musicians and folks from all walks of life to his home for amazingly revealing conversations. Marc’s probing, comprehensive interview style allows guests to express themselves in ways listeners have never heard.

Song ExploderOfficial Description: Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

Short Story Podcasts

Escape PodOfficial Description: The Original Science Fiction Podcast Eric’s Commentary: This podcast features great selections of short stories. I added it to my podcatcher to get a dose of fiction among the more non-fiction podcasts I usually listen to. Also, there’s something great about short-form fiction where you have to build the world AND tell the story in a very concise way.

Give Me FictionOfficial Description: Give Me Fiction is a prose reading series hosted by Ivan Hernandez. Each month at GMF’s live show, some of the finest minds in comedy, literature, and the arts write pieces based on a theme. Each week on this podcast, we deliver one of those stories to the listening public. No new episodes since May 11, 2015

Politics

FiveThirtyEight PoliticsOfficial Description: Nate Silver and the FiveThirtyEight team cover the latest in politics, tracking the issues and “game-changers” every week.

On the MediaOfficial Description: The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Host Brooke Gladstone examines threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week’s big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear. Eric’s Commentary: It’s not always about politics, but that’s often a key reasons for a lot of the media matters they discuss – especially over the past 2 decades.

Political GabfestOfficial Description: Voted “Favorite Political Podcast” by Apple Podcasts listeners. Stephen Colbert says “Everybody should listen to the Slate Political Gabfest.” The Gabfest, featuring Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz, is the kind of informal and irreverent discussion Washington journalists have after hours over drinks.

Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell & Hari KondaboluOfficial Description: W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu are comedians who take politics seriously; and longtime friends, trying to help keep each other sane. Join them as they pull the alarm on the dumpster fire that is American politics, and talk to the creators, thinkers, and leaders doing the work to defend and reinvent our democracy.

What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con LawOfficial Description: Professor Elizabeth Joh teaches Intro to Constitutional Law and most of the time this is a pretty straight forward job. But when Trump came into office, everything changed. During the four years of the Trump presidency, Professor Joh would check Twitter five minutes before each class to find out what the 45th President had said and how it jibes with 200 years of the judicial branch interpreting and ruling on the Constitution. Acclaimed podcaster Roman Mars (99% Invisible) was so anxious about all the norms and laws being tested in the Trump era that he asked his neighbor, Elizabeth, to explain what was going on in the world from a Constitutional law perspective. Even after Trump left office, there is still so much for Roman to learn. What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law is a weekly, fun, casual Con Law 101 class that uses the tumultuous activities of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to teach us all about the US Constitution.

The ExperimentOfficial Description: Each week, we tell the story of what happens when individual people confront deeply held American ideals in their own lives. We’re interested in the cultural and political contradictions that reveal who we are.

Radiolab Presents: More PerfectOfficial Description: From the producers of Radiolab, a series about how the Supreme Court got so supreme.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Culture

Imaginary WorldsOfficial Description: Imaginary Worlds is a biweekly podcast about science fiction, fantasy and other genres of speculative fiction. Host Eric Molinsky talks with novelists, screenwriters, comic book artists, filmmakers, and game designers about their craft of creating fictional worlds. The show also looks at the fan experience, exploring what makes us suspend our disbelief, and what happens when that spell is broken. Fantasy worlds may be set in distant planets or parallel dimensions, but they are crafted here on Earth and on some level relate to our daily lives. Employing his years of experience in public radio, Eric brings a sophisticated, thoughtfully produced voice to the far-out and fantastical.
Intentionally BlankOfficial Description: Join bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells as they search for the perfect podcast name and talk about the weird things they love—such as food heists, the perfect popcorn salt, and whether any art can truly be perfect. Listen for commentary on movies, TV shows, books, video games, and wherever else their conversation leads them.

Our Opinions Are CorrectOfficial Description: Explore the meaning of science fiction, and how it’s relevant to real-life science and society. Your hosts are Annalee Newitz, a science journalist who writes science fiction, and Charlie Jane Anders, a science fiction writer who is obsessed with science. Every two weeks, we take deep dives into science fiction books, movies, television, and comics that will expand your mind — and maybe change your life

The Sword and LaserOfficial Description: Different worlds, different discussions! Eric’s Commentary: The official podcast of the Goodreads reading group of the same name.

Science

Probably ScienceOfficial Description: Professional comedians with so-so STEM pedigrees take you through this week in science. Incompetently. Featuring hosts Matt Kirshen, Andy Wood (and sometimes Jesse Case or Brooks Wheelan) along with a rotating cast of special guests from the worlds of comedy and science.

StarTalk RadioOfficial Description: Science, pop culture and comedy collide on StarTalk Radio! Astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, his comic co-hosts, guest celebrities and scientists discuss astronomy, physics, and everything else about lifein the universe. Keep Looking Up!

The Infinite Monkey CageOfficial Description: Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes. With Brian Cox and Robin Ince.

Food

ProofOfficial Description: A disappearing food franchise. The story behind how a Vietnamese spring roll ended up on the menu of Senegalese restaurants. We take America’s Test Kitchen’s inquisitive and relentless approach to telling unexpected, funny, and thought-provoking narratives about food and drink. This is not a recipe show. And this is not a show about celebrity chefs or what they like to eat. Proof plunges into history, culture, science, and the psyche to uncover the hidden backstories that feed your food-obsessed brain. Hosted by Kevin Pang. A production of America’s Test Kitchen.

Writing

Writing ExcusesOfficial Description: Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart. Eric’s Commentary: Famous SFF authors talk about the craft of writing. Tends to be organized topics which take 4-8 episode to fully explore. Even though I do not want to become a fiction author, I love the behind-the-scenes view into how the storytelling craft works.

NYRR Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K

racing shoes by the wall in a hallway

Pre-Race

A couple weeks ago, anticipating the coming spring showers and the possibility of having to race in the rain, I bought an outfit from Tracksmith’s new Thaw collection. As usual, I brought all my running clothes to NYC, not knowing what the weather has in store. After all, it wasn’t supposed to snow last race. I woke up at 0500 since the MTA trip planner told me I’d need to start my journey at 0544 to get to The Armory by 0730. It was in the 40s outside so while I brushed my teeth I waffled about what to wear.  By race time (0900) it would be in the 50s. Complicating things: it was almost guaranteed to rain during the race. So my mid-layer was out. My jacket was waterproof, but that would certainly be too hot for the race. Should I wear it and unzip? In the end, I decided to go for just the Thaw long sleeve shirt, Thaw half tights, Thaw beanie, and inverno gloves. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of a quarter cup of raisins and headed out the door.

The walk was fine. I felt I had chosen the right clothes. The train arrived on time and my journey to to Washington Heights had begun.

selfie on a NYC train
morning train ride to the race site

This is my third in person race this year and my first in-person 5k since the race that inspired this whole racing journey at the Red Hat Summit 2019. I believe it’s also my first time in Washington Heights. I don’t believe the wife and I have ever traveled up here in the 21 years we’ve known each other.

The Armory in Washington Heights
The Armory

When I arrived at the 168th St stop, it was a bit windy and while I know my outfit was perfect for the run, I wasn’t sure I could be outside for an hour and a half until the race started. Luckily, the bib pickup was at The Armory, which has been converted into a track and field space. (Tracksmith filmed a documentary there about a guy who tries to beat his mile record every year at midnight January 1st) I took advantage and used the indoor restrooms instead of the porta potties. I stayed in there until about 0815 when I decided it was time for my warmup run.

people in a race corral

The Race

Having completed my warmup, I headed to my corral. As usual, I was the only one there until just a few minutes before the run. At that point, it was time to try and keep warm, listen to what I could hear from the race warmup guy, and psych myself up for the race. This was the first race where I could barely hear the National Anthem being sung. As they got ready to sound the horn, it started raining lightly and I was happy with my choice of clothing. It became apparent that this shirt wouldn’t keep me dry in a downpour, but it served well to keep me dry so I wouldn’t freeze. The rain either stopped shortly after our was light enough for me to ignore while focused on the race.

This was the first road race I’d done with NYRR. Yes, technically we were running (at least partially) on roads in Central Park but this was the first time on major roads. Consequently I had to keep my eyes on the road to make sure I wouldn’t break my ankle by stepping into a hole; there were a few near misses. The course was almost a straight there-and-back affair, but there was a loop at the top between miles 1 and 2. I kept watching for where we were going to loop around, but suddenly found myself on the other side of the loop. It was a nice boost to see that I suddenly only had one mile left. One nice thing about a road race in New York is that as I was nearing the end I could see how many blocks I had left and pace myself accordingly.

GPS track of NYRR Washington Heights 5K race
GPS track of NYRR Washington Heights 5K race

Speaking of pacing, I had a goal of achieving negative splits. Ever since that first 5k, I had learned that in 5k you are supposed to do each mile faster than the last. I thought that was absurd. How could you possibly have any gas left in the tank as you deleted more and more of your reserves? But I resolved to try. I’m happy to report that I succeeded! If you look at the splits from Garmin, there’s a slight hitch in mile 2, but there are two causes for that. First, mile one’s average is a little extra low because I came out of the gate a little hot. I can find and maintain a good pace for a race, but I’m not yet good at realizing my pace without checking in with the watch. Second, because of the way the course was laid out, there was a bit of an uphill part in mile 2 where I got stuck behind someone. I definitely clocked faster mile 3 than mile 1. I also felt I had more energy than I expected at the end so I may program in a faster pace for my next 5k; I was able to sprint at the end without feeling like dying, for example.

race stats

Once again, I’m really happy with my results compared to the field. Overall in the top 12%. Gender: top 20% Age group: top 28%. My heart-rate zones during the race:

Heart rate zones graph

Every race so far has had folks who weren’t volunteering with NYRR cheering us on. The last race even had someone with a DJ system playing music. This was the first race that had live musicians playing. That was a lot of fun even if, at a 5k pace I wasn’t going to hear too much of it before I was past it.

selfie post-race

Post-Race

It was a great 3rd race for me and I’m excited for the rest of the race calendar. I’ve got some big, exciting races coming up and I can’t wait to tell you about them as they happen. I’m also excited for it to warm up. I know running when it’s hot isn’t fun, but I’d like to not be freezing in the pre and post race time. 

selfie post-race
After the NYRR Washington Heights 5K

Next up is a virtual half marathon next week. I paid at the level that not only gets me a physical medal, but also guaranteed entry for next year. (And hopefully a shirt!) I’m not sure if I’ll blog about that, but we’ll see.

One last little thing – I was looking at my NYRR runner overview and I was tickled by the distances

Sure, the running distance isn’t a perfect half marathon, but it’s nearly a half marathon and right next to a virtual 10K, I just found that fun. I also like that all my personal bests are listed here. I’m hoping to beat some of those in the coming year, so here’s to hopefully toppling some of those in the future.

Stats slightly different due to GPS vs race path