Sporting Life

I participated in the inaugural Ottawa Sporting Life 10K race over the weekend. It was a 10K circuit along the Canal (always a great running route), starting and ending by Landsdowne. It’s also been my first tour of the newly redeveloped space – it’s a beautiful and fascinating part of town that I rarely visit. Landsdowne / TD Place manages to feel both big and cozy at the same time.

My biggest fear about the race was not being able to run it because of my leg. In true House-ian fashion, I have been suffering from a leg pain since late February. Unlike the dear doctor, mine just came out of nowhere. Like the doctor, the early solution was to down meds (naproxen, not vicadin). After a month of that with the pain, duller but lingering, I decided that physio would be a better, longer term solution.

Thankfully, it has been an improvement. The pain has shifted and it easier to deal with, but still, up to this point, I haven’t had the ability to run more than about 4K. So, how was it adding on six more kilometres without any training, with the risk if dialing back my leg’s progress?

In the recovery area, sporting a new medal

It was a struggle. I walked a few times throughout the back half of the race. Fortunately, despite it all, my time was only about three minutes longer than my last 10K race time. The course along the Canal by TD Place and Landsdowne was beautiful this time of year, and not too hot, thanks to the rain that fell the night prior. The event itself was fairly small, too, which gave me lots of space to go at my pace.

Plus, the medals are pretty awesome!

Sporting Life MedalMy next race is Ottawa Race Weekend. I’m hoping that I’ll hit a faster time, but now it seems that I’m also contending with a pain in my left knee. If this how growing old starts, I’m already not a fan. Long life youth!

Charlie

Am I Breathing Underwater?

I am not a swimmer.

I don’t enjoy the water. Actually, I rather enjoy water; I do not enjoy being in the water. I mean, who willingly jumps into and flails around a substance that, if it gets into your lungs, can kill you?

There is, I suppose, the benefit of knowing how and being able to survive in said substance, something that really should be emphasized in a country like this one, where water is abundant – from rivers and lakes to pools and the like.

Underwater

Underwater selfie in the Dominican 2015

Yes, I’ve played in pools and could float about if I had to, but I never really reached the point where I wanted to do it, whether it be for fun or fitness or to cool off on a hot summer’s day. And I really should try to get to that point.

So I signed up for swim lessons. 30-year old me.

Ottawa has great resources for its residents, including recreational activities. There was a swim program with one spot available that started immediately, so I took it. And that’s where I find myself once a week: in a shallow pool with two lifeguard-teachers alongside nine other adults trying to figure it all out. It’s the perfect setting to learn, work on, and improve techniques while getting positive feedback , without feeling like you’re the only one in the pool who doesn’t quite know what to do next and will make a mistake trying.

And I’m the whitest one there. It’s an odd, but not unsurprising observation.

It’s working, though. I’m much more comfortable not only in the water, but with the water. If anything, I’m learning how to trust it, which goes a long way to making swimming a more regular physical, and hopefully enjoyable activity. Our community has indoor and outdoor pools, and this summer, I should be taking advantage of that.

I need to find $2000 on the street

I am the world’s worst blogger.

I see many great people who blog daily, weekly, biweekly, or whenever they feel like it. And usually, they feel like it every few days! I always feel like I will, yet somehow I just run out of time. Perhaps I should just be more disciplined and allot a block of time every few days. Work out a schedule. Put to use this iPad of mine, perhaps?

What I like to believe in my head is that it’s unproductivity as a result of poor tools. The Dell laptop I’ve had since 2008 is really on its last breaths (not even, since the fans don’t work properly. To use my laptop in this crazy hot summer, it has it’s own oscillating fan), and I’ve been postponing lots of projects until I get a new computer. Podcasting. Blogging. Video. Photo even.

At this point, I’m ready to embrace the full Apple ecosystem: iPhone, iPad, iMac. I’ve wanted an iMac ever since those futuristic, blue, all-in-one machines started popping up in my middle school. Thankfully, they’ve evolved quite a bit since those CRT days. I can’t help but go and play with them whenever I find myself in an Apple store or one of those blue and yellow monstrosities of an electronics store.

There’s just one small problem: I need a good 200 unmelted Bordens (we don’t use that in Canada, do we?) to get one. They start at just $1199, but add a few hundred for better performance, and may as well add a few hundred for extra inches (insert size joke here), and before you know it, you’re looking at the cost of a crazy awesome adventure – that sits on your desk.

Fall. 2012. So long as nobody announces thinner lighter iMac with Retina display (because I know it’s coming).

Photos

I went on a little adventure looking for an Ottawa installation called Balancing, only to discover it’s been gone since 2008. Oops. So I found a couple of new sculptures (and a couple of classics) to enjoy instead!

201207_18_01 - Tall Cello

201207_18_03 - Twist Up

201207_18_04 - Two of Three Watchmen

201207_18_05 - Under a Spider

The Runner

Ottawa Race Weekend course in downtown Ottawa, as run by me and Nike+GPS

When it comes to running, May was a big month for me. I ran my fastest 1k (5:02), mile (8:17), 5k (29:18), and my furthest distance (5.13k). I also recorded my 250th kilometre with Nike+ and Nike+GPS since I started using it early last year.

To top it off, I ran the 5k in the Ottawa Race Weekend with 9678 other lovely people, and managed to place 2380th (top 25%) quite a step up from finishing 5621 of 7354 at last year’s army run (top 77%). But to put my result in some context, the fastest result of the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k race reached the end faster than I did in the 5k.

Waiting before the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K

The race itself was very good. It’s a very different feeling – and very motivating – running with 9000 people, at once. You see someone in front of you that doesn’t look like they’re going very fast, so you try to pass them. In a quiet moment, a bunch of people will pass you. The people watching along the side, cheering for loved ones (and cheering for everyone in general) is great to see too. The best, though, must have been some of the signs that people held up. One was “halfway there – just kidding” around the 4-4.5km mark. My favourite that made me laugh while running was, “your pace or mine?” Twitter tells me Lululemon had something to do with some of these motivational messages. Good on them!

Starting the Race

Regardless, I’m quite happy with being able to do this. High school me who couldn’t run halfway around the school (650m, give or take) in phys ed would be very impressed. I’m hoping to do at least another Army Run this year. Maybe Terry Fox. Maybe the Ottawa Hospital Rattle Me Bones Run (I am a valuable member of their team, after all).

The big question is, what do I do to become a better runner. Is it possible for me to stay motivated through a longer 6-, 8-, or even 10k? Should I push myself harder and shave valuable seconds off each kilometre I run? I’m not really looking to eventually do a marathon. I mean, I’m sure it’s great to be able to do one, but 40+ km is a whole lot of distance to cover, and I’m sure they don’t allow of napping breaks.

Yellow Corral for 30-35-minute finishers. I did it in 29:44.9.

 Perhaps I should just get used to running 5k at a time. Hit it every time I run. After doing that a while, perhaps adding a km or two wouldn’t seem so challenging. And naturally, I would speed up in the process. I suppose there are many, many hot, muggy summer evenings for me to try to figure it out… And a few more medals (and mosquito bites) to be had in the process.

5K Medal

114 – Ninety-Five Percent

201102_14_02 - Almost Complete

201102_16_01 - Northern Telecom

201102_16_02 - Traffic

201102_18_01 - Alley

Three of these four pictures were taken waiting at bus stops. The last one was taken walking to a bus stop where I had to wait.

I’m not happy that my local bus is on the list being considered to be downgraded from a regular black route to a red peak period route, going from available morning to night everyday to rush hour-only route for school kids at 8 and 3.

The city has the idea that they can ave money by taking the 98.6% of Ottawa that live within 5 minutes of a bus stop and shrinking it to 95% within 5 minutes… some of the time [article]! It’s bad enough that I have to wait so long at night between connections, but at least there is a connection. It doesn’t make any sense to make it hard for people to get home, especially at night. Aren’t buses supposed to be an alternative to keep people from driving after drinking? How about the parents who can’t always pick up their kids after going out with friends? Or all the older people who need buses to kneel for them? Can they walk an easy 20 minutes (because they tend to be slower than an average walker) in the rain or snow or humidity?

You want to hit a high ridership percentage, then the system has to be usable. If you want to increase (or maintain) ridership, you need to keep local buses accessible.

The public transportation system and ridership are always stuck in this cyclical chicken-egg pattern. But in order to save costs, you cut service, which cuts ridership – which in turn means less revenue, leading to more cuts. And what gets cut? The least profitable routes, which coincidentally are the routes that help make those bigger more profitable rapid-transit routes the successes that they are.

You need to save money, start at the top. Curb the overspending there. I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about OC Transpo management for years, and clearly this scheduling system isn’t working the way it was meant to on paper. You want to reduce inefficiencies to save a few pennies, then redesign the whole system! Keep to running the local buses more frequently (drivers get paid the same, regardless of where they end up) into hubs where other buses will take us riders where we want to go, quickly. Merge local routes at night if you have to, but don’t kill them altogether. Will Samuel, a fellow Ottawan that I started following during the last municipal election, has a great read here.

Spend a couple hundred million and get us light rail that can hold way more riders to the city’s biggest destinations! Where’s the fast, reliable way to go from downtown to Scotiabank Place, and all the stops in between? Building a tunnel where we don’t really need one doesn’t help either.

I would gladly spend over $100 on a monthly pass (we’re almost there now anyway; Toronto riders spend less than $130/mo for a system that, in my experience, works very quickly, but that’s another story) that saves me 20 or 30 minutes a day. Rail could do that. Frequent local buses could do that. Making me walk more and wait more won’t.

You want to give OC Transpo a facelift? You don’t need crazy fancy rebranding – OC Transpo is probably one of the top 5 known local brands. Concentrate on making buses a social experience. When people think buses, they think of dirty transports that rarely come on time and are crammed with strangers. Really, it’s a great way to find time daily to be with friends and neighbours on the way to work or play. Make it easy for riders to bring friends and family with them!

OC Transpo needs to change at a fundamental level, and it’s going to cost money, whether that’s new buses (I’m looking at you, double decker), rail, more drivers, redesigning routes, and or a new paint job on the brand. Spend the time and energy and money now to take OC Transpo to the next level… or a new level. Focus on increasing revenue through more stronger ridership. In return, can we just have an accessible system that just works for us all?

110 – Calm After the Storm

201102_03_01i - Calm After the Storm

201102_09_01i - Snowfall

201102_09_02i - Branches

One of the small things in life that I truly enjoy is the calm after a storm. One moment, it’s thundering and lightning bolts touching down all around, and the next, the sky is clear and the sun is beaming, as if it’s happy to be back. Maybe it’s the quick reversal of weather that intensifies the beauty that’s all around that makes me not take it, at least for a short while, for granted.

Last week, I had a moment when I was waiting for a bus, after the big “snowmageddon” (and I use that term in quotes, because it wasn’t a bad storm at all, at least not by Ottawa’s standards) where, yes, it wasn’t the best weather to be commuting through, but the next morning had a certain crispness to it. It was calming, despite the traffic zooming by. It’s that feeling that, if it could be bottled, I could make a fortune. I took a picture instead.

And yesterday, it had started snowing in the afternoon. Seemingly out of nowhere, huge flakes began to fall slowly, as if each one was taking it’s time. The thickness of the snowfall muted everything, which also created a certain serenity. If every snowfall in winter was like that one, nobody would be as quick to have groundhogs see their shadows.

I want to get using this blog (again) the way I wanted to when I first created it. A blogging hero of mine, Joseph Mallozzi (http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/) says that a writer should write everyday. And in the three or four-plus years that he’s been blogging, he hasn’t missed a single day. Then again, he is a writer. And he eats a lot. I’m not committing to updating this that frequently, but I would like it to inspire me to take more photos so that I can share them here (and of course, on my flickr account, http://www.flickr.com/photos/myutopian).

Last year, despite going on two (2!) trips, I only took pictures on 77 days, which is the lowest it’s been since I got a digital camera! I would love to get back to 100+ calendar days this year, though probably not my peak year of 190 days back in good ol’ ’06. So, please enjoy and tell me to take more pictures!

108 – Election Day

Four years ago, my vote in the municipal election would have come down to equal parts name recognition, what the polls said, and a quick read of the top issues for each candidate.

Then the O-Train plan for cancelled, costing us $100 million in settlements and expenses. Then there was a bus strike, in which I often walked to school for 40 minutes in often sub -25C conditions. Then an idea for a random tunnel came down and was hailed as a billion times better than the first plan to extend the current train to the Airport, which is all of 5 minutes away anyway! Oh yeah, and our mayor was out fighting criminal charges.

So I followed this one a little more closely. In 4 years time, the Web has changed dramatically. Candidates are tweeting and answering questions directly, are putting debates on YouTube, aggregating every article that mentions their name… It’s become so much easier to see where everyone stands, and to hear others’ opinions, and agree or disagree with them. I honestly don’t know how people did it before!

I think my most important vote is for city councillor. I never heard anything from my current councillor during the bus strike, and certainly not a whole lot came from him in the seemingly endless battles at city hall over important issues like transit, taxes, Landsdowne, etc. The key qualities I looked for was open communication, leadership potential, ability to work with others, and transit opinion.

The best thing I did was start a dialogue with every candidate through YouTube (view here). And right away, I got responses. The most unusual thing was that not everyone responded. And I’m not talking the little guys, but one particular candidate with huge signs everywhere! I’d like to thank everyone who took time to get their message out to me. Means a lot!

After this experiment and reading through websites, I’ve decided to vote for James O’Grady. His leadership in my backyard lends well to what I’d like to see in the ward as a whole. He has really solid ideas on how to improve the area and supports LRT and wants to see it now. He also has a firm grasp on how to make municipal work exciting and active through empowerment and not hogging the spotlight. While he isn’t overly active over Twitter, he took the time to discuss his vision over the phone with me when clearly there were a number of other phone calls coming in in the background, without hurrying or trying to get me to go away.

In terms of mayor, I was on the fence the whole campaign season. Jim Watson knows what he’s doing and seems to have the ability to make things happen. Clive Doucet, however, has a romantic whimsy about what Ottawa should be. And I like it. He’s interested in having a transit system that works and expands its userbase to become even more useful to everyone as a whole. He’s a champion of the O-Train and the U-Pass (while I never got in on that, it’s a fantastic idea), and to quote my January 2009 self,

In other news, I’m really starting to like Clive Doucet. He’s a city councillor for the Capital ward, central Ottawa. He speaks his mind, and usually his mind is on the people whom he represents. He thinks the 15ish million saved from the bus strike so far, and what they’ll continue to save, should be funnelled back into making OC Transpo free for as long as possible once service resumes. This is probably the most brilliant thing the city can do to gain as many riders as possible.

I owe him one for at least trying to end the bus strike, while nearly everyone else at the time treated it as business-as-usual. Thank you, Clive! He’s the first politician that I started following on Twitter, seems that he would continue that if he becomes mayor, and this huge online push in the last week or two really shows his and his volunteers’ passion, when everyone else (especially the incumbent) showed signs of fatigue and dare I say disinterest. I don’t want anyone who could care less whether he or she leads my city. I want progress. Clive will get my vote when the polls open Monday Morning.

I wish James and Clive the best of luck, as well as everyone else! And everyone, please take your signs down in a quick and orderly fashion Tuesday morning!

106 – Mosaika

201009_11_03 - Mosaika III

201009_11_05 - Mosaika V

201009_11_07 - Mosaika VII

I finally got a chance to see Mosaika! After a pretty rainy week, Prashanta, Susma, and I went on a clear, almost cold night…. and the hill was packed! That probably had to do with the night being so nice and it being the final weekend for the light and sound show projected onto the Parliament building.

The show was good! I remember going down when I was younger and being bored by the imagery. I had seen the show a few years back and thought it was ok. This year’s show was really something! While I didn’t cry at any point like the producer had promised during various interviews, I thought the colours and imagery were crisp and beautiful, and some of the effects (ie bricks towards the end) were extremely clever. I also loved how the story was told, through various stories and thoughts of regular Canadians. It wasn’t a narration, I wasn’t being lectured to.

The only thing that would have made the show better was if we had a full-on view of the canvas! We were kinda stuck behind the bleachers… but still managed to enjoy the show. Here’s hoping they keep doing new shows every so often (every year would be nice…) with this new tech, because I’d definitely keep going back!

We capped the evening off, filled with a sense of patriotism but not without the observation that Parliament is really a funny place to have such a show given how much fighting goes on in there, with another big Canadian thing: Tim Horton’s. Now that they have Apple Cider again, I really must visit as much as I can!

201009_11_10 - Staying Warm

201009_11_12 - The More Things Change...

I repeat: Tim Horton’s has apple cider. Go now!

Still here? Ok. On other news, I bought a tablet over the weekend. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use it to learn how to draw in Photoshop, and use it for a few other things. My first attempt was really born out of not really knowing what I wanted to draw.

Jimmy 2010

105 – New Glasses Ordered Online

Last weekend, the Ottawa edition Metro had a cover wrap ad that said, “get your free glasses!” at ClearlyContacts.ca. My initial reaction to shopping for glasses online was wondering how it would even work. Glasses, I would expect, are something that you really need to try before buying. They’re like jeans, strawberries, and puppies – something that requires some form of interaction before making a purchase.

But free?

How can you argue with free? I went to the site and chose one of the first frames I saw, not because they were amazing, but because I wasn’t too keen on scrolling through pages upon pages of glasses. The ones I chose seemed to be for average male heads, though I could have checked the dimensions against mine. Again, too much work at that particular moment.

I put in the prescription that I got back on January, but hadn’t yet filled (my optometrist did give me the option of getting it filled), and clicked “next.”

201009_06_01 - Measuring Pupil Distance

Pupil distance required. Pupil distance? This little number, which wasn’t on my prescription, is required to make the lenses. The site has a printable ruler that’s supposed to help you measure it. It’s not an easy thing to do yourself.

Two days later, A little box arrived at home. That was fast!

201009_06_02 - Clearly Contacts

I quickly opened the box, where I found a sparkling, new pair of glasses in a hard case, a soft case, and sunglasses that can fit over the glasses (helpful whenever I get to driving). It was a much more robust package than I was expecting!

Importantly, the glasses work! I remember the last pair I got a few years back felt too strong. It took well over a year before I got used to them. These feel almost the same (the prescription wasn’t all that different). These glasses fit well and feel great.

201009_05_11 - Me Again

The only thing is that when I move my head and look to the very edge of the lens, there’s this weird effect that reminds me of moving a camera in a videogame. It’s subtle, and only really happens sometimes. I think maybe the pupil distance was a bit off when I measured.

This experience has opened the option of getting glasses online. I might have spend more time looking at frames, but the ones I chose are pretty good! I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about it for another 2 to 3 years, unless I just want a new pair.

201009_05_03 - New Glasses

(Thanks to Susma Dhakal for taking my outdoor pictures above!)
(I got the glasses for free by taking advantage of a promotion, though I did pay for shipping. Clearly Contacts did not solicit my opinion)

Here’s a few other pictures from Sunday:

201009_05_04 - Brother and Sister

201009_05_06 - Lawn Mowering

201009_05_07 - Bittermelon

201009_05_12 - Weed Whacking

092 – OC Transpo Strike Started a Year Ago

200912_09_02 - Mailman

200912_09_03 - Blizzard

200912_09_04 - Crow

200911_22_01 - Wall-E CakeAlign Center

So the OC Transpo strike started a year ago. And looking back at it all, I still have these annoyed feelings about the fact that it happened, and they didn’t really get anywhere, since the reason for it ending was originally on the table as a way to prevent it. And lately, I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with the service. I actually called and made a complaint about an issue, but that doesn’t go far enough. Maybe I’ll write them a letter old-person-style, stamps and all.

That first day of the strike wasn’t unlike today – blizzardy. It felt like the first true day of winter – just in time for the Christmas season too! And only 9 more days until I’m done school for the year. Then a bit longer.

Then what? I do have some ideas, some of which (unfortunately) involve even more school. We’ll see what grows to fruition.

Speaking of school, here’s a sequence I worked on with my teammates for one of our final projects:

200911_26_01 - Gilette Man

200911_26_02 - Gillette Man Hand

200911_26_03 - Gillette Man Photoshop

Dave, our model, is part of an ad campaign for Gillette’s line of hair care products. We got a picture of him holding the bottle. While this was a start, it lacked what experts call “oomph”. To fix this, I took a close-up picture of his hand holding the bottle, and with some Photoshop magic, made his picture come to life. Maybe I’ll showcase all the ads next time.

And yes, I had a Wall-E cake for my birthday.