The Maffetone Method – 6 Months In

We have arrived at the end of another month. Another month of Maffetone endurance training has passed us by. Well, maybe it’s safer to say that another month has passed us by. Cause the training part was pretty sparse.

The end of March marks the six month of my using the Maffetone method as a training routine to try and improve my endurance and run faster. This doesn’t mean running faster during the training runs, but running faster in races. Since I’ve only done one official race, it will take at least one more for me to get any decent understanding of how this method has been working.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! I’ll post a review of the past six months shortly, but for now, let’s focus on March. Which, weather-wise, sucked.

March came in less like a lion and more like a pride of them. It’s going out like a single lion, which I suppose is an improvement. But a lion is still a lion, and when I got in my car this morning, it was sleeting. That changed to snow for a brief period, at which time I thought I might literally have an aneurism. I am so. Sick. Of. Winter. And it showed this March.

I ended February pretty weak, with only two runs in last fourteen days of that month. March started of worse, since I went fifteen days between runs. I ran on March 1st, and then not again until March 16th.  I hit the wall. I couldn’t stand the idea of running in the cold and dark any more. I had a hard time even getting out of bed on time. It was the tail end of a long winter, and the tail was barbed.

I finally did get myself up and out, and since that March 16th run, I managed to get myself out the door four more times. A measly six runs in a thirty-one day period. Not too great. Especially for a guy who has delusions of running a half-marathon in June. Yeah. That’s two-and-a-half months away. I might be screwed.

Except…

I caught a little glimmer of hope on my last run. It was on March 28th, after work. Daylight Savings Time is back on, and it’s light now until nearly 7PM. That last run, it was a little rainy, more misty than anything else. But it was 51 degrees. It was the first time I had the chance to run in short and just a few shirts. It was the first time all winter that I could run without having to gear up in fifty pounds of winter protection. It made such a huge difference and was enough to make me remember how much I enjoy running.

(Ask me again how much I enjoy it in the dead of August when it’s 95 degrees.)

So, with all that said, how’d the month stack up statistically? Let’s take a look:

maffetone_avg_month6

running month 6

Overall, my average pace with the high and low paces thrown out went up about 5 seconds. Given how little I ran, I think that’s actually pretty good. I also have a new heart rate monitor now that is much more reliable that the one I had been using, so the heart rate data will start to be better to review in the coming months.

Overall, March wasn’t stellar. But April brings new promises, and as the weather gets nicer, I’m hoping my training improves.

That’s it for now. I’ll post a six month review in the next day or two.

How Was Your Weekend/Review of “The Peacemakers”

Peacemakers Cover

Let me do two things at once. Let me describe my weekend using a review as a medium. Sound like a plan? Cool.

This weekend was the Massachusetts premiere of a piece of music called “The Peacemakers“. Written by Karl Jenkins, it was originally performed in Cargenie Hall, it was performed in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA today by the Master Singers of Worcester.

I was fortunate enough to see this piece today with the kids. But that was not unexpected, as my wife was a member of the chorus.

This was a big piece of music. There are seventeen different movements, but each movement isn’t as long as you might traditionally think of movements in a symphony. Nothing that long. And with the exception of one of movement, every one of them had a choral component.

The Master Singers put this piece on, but they where joined by a number of other churches that lent choir members to the chorus, which beefed it up to over a hundred adults. Add to that the Worcester Children’s Chorus, and an orchestra provided by the WPI Orchestra, and you get a very large sound. Then top it all off with the Hook Organ, sometimes know as the “Worcester Organ”, which is the large and locally famous organ resident in Mechanics Hall.

So how was it? Pretty damn impressive.

The overall work had a more somber feeling to it than I was anticipating. But with some of the text attributed to historical figures such as Anne Frank and others who used peace as a means for change and who were assassinated or martyred as a result, you shouldn’t expect a happy-go-lucky vibe. But that doesn’t stop it from being big and beautiful and impressive, with all of the pieces meshing together pretty seamlessly.

As for the performance, it was as excellent as the hall would allow. That sounds pretty qualified, doesn’t it? Yeah, maybe it is, but only a very very tiny little amount. We were sitting in the center balcony section, left hand side. Maybe this isn’t the case in other parts of the Great Hall, and since I haven’t seen something there well over a decade, but up there the sound gets eaten by the acoustics. For example, the solo singers (there were two) were beautiful but a little hard to hear, with their voices being swallowed by the audience and the nearly two hundred people on the stage. And when the full chorus was in swing, you might have been asking yourself “Strings? What strings?”

The night would not have been complete without the organ making it’s presence know by sticking open for an extra second after the end of once of the movements. But it’s 150 years old this year. What do you expect, perfection? I hope I’m around and as feisty when I’m 150 years old.

All of these, though, were little quirks in an otherwise gorgeous piece of music. If you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing a quality group perform this, as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Flying Tigers

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This is going to be one of those sappy-daddy-loves-his-daughters kind of posts. If that’s not your cuppa, exit now.

Still there? Well then, meet Joshua. This is the name of the stuffed tiger you see in the picture above. My older daughter named him.

Now, technically, he’s mine. He was a gift from said daughter back on a birthday or Father’s Day a bunch of years ago. But, given how much Joshua seemed to prefer my daughter’s company to mine, I let him hang out in my daughter’s room.

You might be wondering why I’m posting about a stuffed tiger? Hey, if Miline can write about a stuffed bear named Edward, why can’t I write about a stuffed tiger named Joshua?

The main reason I’m thinking about Joshua these days is because, out of nowhere, he has returned. When my daughter was younger, in the five to six range, I would tuck her into bed, and then Joshua would join the party. He was a happy addition with a special quality: he could fly.

When Joshua’s arms are outstretched, he looks like he might take off into the air. And one day, as it happens, he did. I used to fly Joshua around my daughter’s bedroom before bed and she would spend time trying to catch him in her hands.

Fast forward a number of years. Unannounced one day a week or two ago, Joshua suddenly returned to the stuffed menagerie that occupies my daughter’s bed every night. I picked him up one night and, for nostalgia’s sake, flew him around the room. And my daughter, remembering how the tiger used to bring the fun, decided to try and catch him.

We’ve been doing this now for about a week. And it’s like a connection to a past you forgot you used to love. My daughter turns back into a five year old when Joshua flies around her room, in the same way I turn into an eight year old when I get hold of a box of Legos.

I know it won’t last. There’ll finally be that night where one, the other, or both of us decide we don’t need to fly the tiger. But until then, I’m holding onto these moments with both hands.

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Excel Geeking: Sending A Selection To OneNote With VBA

It’s been a little while since I’ve geeked out with some VBA that would be anything worth posting, which means that the routine I wrote today was just that much sweeter.

I recently discovered Microsoft OneNote. We have it and at work and it is the singularly best kept secret we have. If you have the chance to use this little gem, I recommend it.

I won’t get all gushy about OneNote here, but you can look it up online. In a nutshell, it is a singular place to keep track of all kinds of things, like notes (duh), to do lists, snippets of things from the web, documents from Word, etc. You can hit Record in a meeting and it will record and save an audio file of the conversation, which you can listen to later to assemble your meeting minutes. You can share notebooks with people across the network or the web–the point is that it’s a great application. It’s a lot like Evernote, if Evernote were fully integrated with MS Office. And OneNote has a great mobile app so you can access your notebooks from your iPhone or iPad.

Okay, sorry, enough gushing.

What I really wanted was some method for sending pieces of Excel worksheets to OneNote without a lot of headache. Some method for sending a selection of the worksheet to OneNote with a single command or keystroke. Yes, I know I can highlight the selection, go to File, go to Print, change the settings to Print Selection only, change the printer to OneNote, then click print. That’s a lot of mouse clicks. Five in total, with more if you want to revert back to your normal printer.

Can’t I just use a button or keystroke to send something to OneNote without all the hullabaloo?

I can now.

The routine below is basically nothing more than the automation of all the mouse clicks I mention above. Except they’re tied into a keystroke I’ve created upon opening the workbook. So now, to send something to OneNote, All I need to do is hit Ctrl+Shift+N.

The main routine is below.



Sub PushExcelContentToOneNote()
'*******************************************************************************
' Description:  This will take the selected content and print it to OneNote, then
'               reset the printer back to the original printer prior to the routine.
'
' Author:       Scott Lyerly
' Contact:      scott_lyerly@tjx.com, or scott.c.lyerly@gmail.com
'
' Name:                             Date:           Init:   Modification:
' PushExcelContentToOneNote V1      21-MAR-2014     SCL     Original development
'
' Arguments:    None
'
' Returns:      None
'*******************************************************************************
On Error GoTo ErrHandler

    ' Constant declaratios.
    Const sONENOTE_PRINTER      As String = "Send To OneNote 2010 on nul:"

    ' Variable declarations.
    Dim sOriginalPrinter        As String

    ' Get the original printer first.
    sOriginalPrinter = Application.ActivePrinter

    ' Make sure One Note is the active printer.
    Application.ActivePrinter = sONENOTE_PRINTER
        
    ' Print to OneNote
    Selection.PrintOut Copies:=1, Collate:=True, IgnorePrintAreas:=False
        
    ' Reset the original printer.
    Application.ActivePrinter = sOriginalPrinter
    
Exit_Clean:
    
    Exit Sub
    
ErrHandler:
    
    ' Since the 1004 error number is too broad, we'll check the error description instead.
    If InStr(Err.Description, "ActivePrinter") 0 Then
        MsgBox "Excel cannot find the OneNote printer on your machine." & _
               vbNewLine & vbNewLine & _
               "Operation cancelled.", _
               vbOKOnly + vbExclamation, "PRINTER ERROR"
    Else
        MsgBox Err.Number & ": " & Err.Description, vbCritical, "MICROSOFT ERROR"
    End If
    
    Resume Exit_Clean
        
End Sub


To set the keystroke, add the following in the ThisWorkbook module.

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
    Application.OnKey "^+n", ""
End Sub

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    Application.OnKey "^+n", "PushExcelContentToOneNote"
End Sub

Easy-peasy.

Online Personalities And Personas

Let’s start this one of with an apology. Apologies go out to my wife today. Let me tell you why. This morning my wife started a conversation that caught me by surprise. She says to me, “I read your blog post last night.”

There was something in her voice that made me pay attention.

“Okay,” I ventured.

“I noticed how you listed cooking and cleaning and a bunch of other things that have kept you busy.”

“That’s true enough.”

“People are going to think I’m not doing anything around here,” she said.

I paused for a minute to think about that. “Huh,” I said. I could totally see her point. The way I stated the things that were keeping me busy, it did sound like I was single-handedly running the house. Which is totally not the case. We’ve both been crazy busy, with work, kids, cooking, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, rehearsals, managing homework, and trying to find a little time for each other and for ourselves. It’s a joint effort here.

But her words made me realize that what gets written online is sometimes misinterpreted, sometimes misunderstood, and sometimes conscious mis-direction. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend about a month ago. We were talking about all manner of things (it had been a while since we’d caught up) and one of the topics we landed on was about online personas.

We ranged over the friends we have in common online; the one still stuck in the past, but whose posts are as honest as the day is long; the one who posts constant updates about everything; the political one; the one who’s always trying to win the internet; the snarky one; the one who can’t quite get the hang of how the whole works (like that esurance commercial); the one who only posts funny pictures; the confessor; the professor. The list goes on and on. There’s a personality out there for each and every type of person posting on social media. Odds are you know someone like the few I mentioned above or are one yourself. (I tend to go back and forth between the one who posts pictures and the snarky one.)

It’s made me wonder what is the true purpose of social media? Is it to socialize online? Is it to promote yourself in some way, as if your were your only brand? Is it to constantly remind us that just about any meme that features the Dos Equis guy is hilarious?

I started to think down the road of self-promotion. About how people brag about themselves online, even if they’re trying not to. There’s even a word for it now: humblebrag.

I don’t think it’s a big secret that people brag about themselves online. We all do it. Hell, one of the reasons I started blogging in earnest was to be able to promote my self-published fiction. And the big question that seems to be getting asked now is, how much is too much? There are all kinds of article on the topic. Want some? Here are a smattering:
http://www.upstart.net.au/2013/10/30/self-promotion-through-social-media/
http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57583450-93/social-media-self-promotion-the-urge-the-ick-the-outcome/
http://socialmediatoday.com/curtis-harrison/1596496/it-s-social-media-not-me-media
http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/social-media-s-potential-drowning-promotion/233776/

I remember hearing a story about one media reporter saying her friends would tell “your life seems so great!” to which she replied, “that’s because you only see the good stuff, cause that’s all I post.”

I was preparing an argument as to why this phenomenon is bad, why people who only present one side of themselves drive me nuts and are probably fooling themselves. It’s not that I want people to air all their dirty laundry in public, but do we really believe that, even in our kvetching, we’re all having a grand old time?

But then I stopped to wonder: is self-promotion one of the ways we social with people? And if so, is it so bad a thing? If you’re out for drinks with a friend, the conversation is going to wander through all kinds of avenues. You’re gonna flash back to twenty years ago, you’re gonna brag about something you did or accomplished or that your kids did, you might talk (yell) about politics, you’re gonna talk about the mindless day to day shit. Because all of these things are a part of who we are as humans. We’re social animals and all of these things are things that we do and need to do to keep from losing our marbles.

The articles above talk about the various reasons why we do it, but mostly it boils down to trying to find a way to stand out in an increasingly loud, visually-overloaded world. Andy Warhol promised us fifteen minutes of fame in the future. Social media seems to be how we’ll get it.

There are lots of people out there bragging about themselves, building a brand, trying to be seen and get heard. Can’t lie, I’m one of them. I want people to buy my book, I want people to read it, I want people to enjoy it and have conversations with me about it. I guess that means I want to become my own brand. Maybe.

Where Does The Time Go?

I looked up today and realized it was Wednesday. I was both surprised and a little sad about this. I felt like the week was flying by, which it is, and yet it’s only Wednesday. Seems like Friday is So. Far. Away.

I’ve been ridiculously busy recently. And not with anything I’d consider a huge amount of fun. There have been some things that have been enjoyable, but mostly it’s not. It’s closer to sat that the usual stuff that gets in the way of everything is getting in the way. For that reason I haven’t had much chance to update this blog.

I did manage to get part four of How It Ends out in ebook form. That was big. That concludes my experiment with serializing a novel. I’ll have some thoughts on that at a later point in time, but for now, that’s done. Up next is to take all four parts and put them together in a single volume. I hate to call it an omnibus, but I guess that’s what it is. The text assembly for that is done, but I don’t have a cover yet. And since I’m creating all the covers myself, I guess the single volume won’t come out until I get around to put together the cover.

I’m also editing my hard boiled crime novel. I won’t lie, that one is a lot of fun. And so far, the continuity holes are much smaller than I had anticipated. My big hang-up now is that I don’t know if it’s any good. I’ll ask a few crime readers I know if they want to take a spin through it and let me know their thoughts once the editing is done. In the meantime, I’m trying to just enjoy the ride as I reread it and edit it.

There’s all kinds of Excel work I’m doing. Some of it’s for work, and some of it’s for fun. Among the fun things, I’m currently finishing up a utility that I plan to make available right here on this blog. It’s a Find/Replace utility that let’s you compile a bunch of different changes and run them all at once. But I have to finish it first. And it’s more than just coding. If it were just coding I’d have been done weeks ago. But if I make this available, I want the code to be as bulletproof as I can make it. I want it fully commented. I want somebody who pulls it down off this site to be able to read through it and learn from it. Or read through it and suggest better ways of approaching it. I’m close to done. What’s left is primarily the instructions for use, which I haven’t started yet, but I will.

Add to these three big items all the typical day to day shit and you’ll understand why I haven’t updated this blog as much as I’d like recently. There’s cooking and cleaning and commuting and kids activities. There’s bouts of sickness (one daughter had a fight with the stomach flu a few weeks ago and lost). There’s some down time with The Walking Dead, Justified, and my new addiction, COSMOS. There’s reading. Can’t not read. I’m chewing through Craig Johnson’s Longmire series right now, enjoying the hell out of them.

You might notice that, in the list above, running is missing. Yeah, it absolutely is. I’ve gone for two runs in the month of March. I’m done with the cold and the dark. I just can’t get up and get out in the mornings anymore. I slogged through it since November, and I hit the wall in February. Spring starts tomorrow. We’re getting 1-2 inches of snow tonight. I’m hoping to bust out of this rut this weekend. I think I’m finally gonna spring for the Magellan Echo with the heart rate monitor chest strap. That’s some good motivation right there. Plus there’s a 10k I’m interested in at the end of April.

So that’s where I’ve been. I’ll try to get some better posts out soon, hopefully something that will interest you guys more than just me complaining about how little time I have. It’s all about keeping the content fresh. But that’s another topic for a different day.

“How It Ends: Part 4 – The Choice” Is Now Available!

HIE_Serial_Part_Four_Cover copy

Now Available: How It Ends: Part 4 – The Choice

The final installment of my serial novel, How It Ends, is not out and available.

Have you been following the story of Anita, the beautiful young graduate student trying to break into the cut-throat world of intelligent robot manufacturing? Or of Brian, the smarmy college professor whom Anita is dating? What about Sidney, a brilliant professorial colleague of Brian’s who reluctantly takes Anita on as a research assistant? Don’t forget about Kilgore, a robotic doctor who provides the human characters fascinating insights as to how the “mind” of a robot really works. Is Eric, an executive in the nation’s largest robotics firm, as ruthless as he appears?

And what of Gammons, Eric’s robot assistant who has a special circuit for feeling emotion like a human? He seems obsessed over Anita. Has it finally happened? Has a robot fallen in love with a human?

All these questions are answered in the startling and tragic end of a personal love story told on an epic scale.

All four installments of How It Ends are now available for Kindle from Amazon. Check out How It Ends: Part 1 – The Evaluation from Amazon, and start a journey into the digital mind and heart of a robot who will stop at nothing to win the love of a human woman.

Short Short Short (Did I Mention Short) Fiction: Twitter Style

A writing festival started this week in NYC. It’s called Twitter Fiction Festival and it’s got a gathering of writers presenting their stories in microburst style. And not shlub writers. We’re talking names like RL Stine and Alexander McCall Smith.

I love this idea. I think the primary reason I love it is because I get a feeling of completion with every fiction tweet I make. The craft of writing is a tough one and when you’re putting together a large novel with a large cast of characters, multiple sub plots, and moving timelines, you can get quickly swamped by the intricacies and lose the enjoyment of writing. With such short fiction as fits in 140 characters, you craft by way of interference the beginning, middle, and end. Something in there is going to be concrete. The rest is implied and up to the readers mind to fill in with details.

The other reason I love it is because it fills a creative need at a time when I don’t have a lot of free time right now. I’m prepping part four of How It Ends for release, and editing the crime novel I finished, and there’s always a ton of things to do at home and at work. So the idea of jamming out a “full” story in 140 characters is appealing and refreshing. And tough. After all, with such a short amount of space, you have to make every word, every punctuation mark count.

I’ve been throwing out 140 character stories for the last two days. I’ve decided to gather them on this blog, under one roof as it were. There’s a new page in the blog starting today which contains all if my Twitter fiction to date. There’ll be periodic updates as I continue to write in 140 character spurts. For now, please enjoy the current crop. Leave some feedback if you’d like, which ones you liked, which you didn’t, what works and what doesn’t and why. I’d love I hear from you.

Coffee. Nuf Said

Okay, maybe not quite. But I couldn’t think of a better title for this post, so there it is. And let’s be honest, sometimes it is enough. Sometimes the only word that we can get out in the morning is “coffee”.

But I digress. Shocking, I know.

There was a article floating around Facebook recently about how the Keurig k-cups might actually be bad for you. I shared it and proceeded to freak out a couple of friends and my wife. The short version: the hot water hits the plastic cups and may cause chemicals in the plastic to bleed into the water that hits the grounds that goes into the mug that goes into your mouth that goes…you get the idea.

And naturally, when the chemicals in plastic go into your body, badness ensues.

Whether or not this had any merit of truth to it is irrelevant. The idea is out there and can’t be taken back. Can’t unring the bell.

So what to do? Well, Keurig, and a couple of other companies no doubt, make an insert that you can substitute for the k-cups. Ostensibly, this is so you can use your own favored brand of coffee that hasn’t put out a k-cup version yet, but let’s be honest, who hasn’t put one out by now?

Okay, so we bought the insert. Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s basically three pieces: a mesh filter that goes inside another two piece insert that fits into the brewer.

How well does it work? Pretty well, actually. You fill up the mesh filter with grounds. (I’ll clarify here and say “fresh unused grounds”, which you wouldn’t think I’d need to do, but you never know.) The filter accommodates two levels, one tablespoon or two tablespoons. This obviously goes to your personal preference. Do you like your coffee to resemble coffee, or do you like the stirring spoon to stand up straight in the coffee without you having to hold it? Put the filter in the insert bottom, twist on the insert top, insert the inset into the brewer, and off you go.

What are the drawbacks? Well, after each brew, you have to take the mesh filter out and clean it. You can’t just chuck it it the trash like you would with the k-cups. It doesn’t take long to do, under a minute, but it’s a little bit of extra time. And you can’t clean it immediate after brewing cause that sucker’s hot. The best bet might be to have two inserts so you can always have one ready to go when the other is done and cooling off before cleaning. This is an especially good idea in households where coffee consumption is measured in gallons. Like mine.

The other drawback (but maybe not) is that you might have leftover k-cups to deal with. Not a huge deal. You can simply slice open the top and use the grounds inside.

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An interesting discovery in doing this is that the amount of grounds in a k-cup is more than the mesh filter will comfortably hold. So, balancing out the drawback of slicing open your old k-cups is the fact that you’re likely to end up with more brew-able mugs than you would have gotten otherwise.

Speaking of which, I think it’s time for a mug of decaf.