Monthly Archives: July 2012

Today’s Run

I just got back from a four mile run.  “Run” is really stretching it.  Even “jog” is an overstatement.  “Waddle” is more accurate.  Which begs the question, “why?”

A number of things conspire against me running.  First, I am not thin, nor will I ever be.  I am not athletic.  I have no speed nor agility.  My reaction time is slightly slower than a two-toed sloth.  My wife recognizes this and insists that she drive when we ride together, because this exponentially diminishes the likelihood of us getting into an accident.  I agree.  I also have problems with depth perception so following a ball in the air is not my forte.  Plus, I’m a klutz.  To top it all off, during my misspent youth, I participated in some extracurricular activities that limited my athletic potential even further.

I did run some in my youth, but that seems like a lifetime ago.  My recent foray into running came about through some health issues.  About two-and-a-half years ago, I went to the Take Care clinic at Walgreen’s to get a flu shot.  The nurse proceeded to take my vitals, and  while doing so, the color rushed out of her face.  This is not normally a good sign.  It is especially not a good sign when your vitals are being taken.  She mentioned that my blood pressure was abnormally high and that if I did not get it under control, I was in imminent danger of having a stroke or heart attack.  I don’t remember what it was but it was something like 180/120.  So, I promptly decided to lose some weight and start exercising.  I decided to run thirty minutes a day.  Every day.  For a hundred days.  No matter how slowly I went, I would at least be getting outside, moving, engaging in some form of activity.

So, I did that.  I may have missed two or three days out the hundred.  And I was hooked.  I found I enjoyed getting outside, moving, exploring the scenery.  Although I grew up in this community and have been down these streets literally thousands of times, it’s interesting to observe the changes that take place daily and seasonally.  I enjoy having time to think.

My weight came down.  I got my blood pressure under control.  I didn’t have to go to the Big and Tall section of the store to buy clothes anymore.  These were tremendous benefits.

Then, I started getting into trail races.  You must understand that for me, “racing” is an overstatement, unless starting out slowly and then slowing down more counts as a strategy.  But I found that there are a couple of things that I really enjoy about this.  The first is adventure.  You never know what surprises a day out in the woods is going to bring forth.  To me, that’s a positive.  The second is perseverance.  Ninety percent of this sport is perseverance.  Keeping on.  Not giving up.  Showing up every day.  Setting realistic goals and trying to achieve them.

So that’s why you’ll see me out and about, slogging it out in the noonday sun.


Back to the Gym

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a Ford F-350 truck on top of my chest.  I thought to myself, “how did that happen?”  Then I remembered, “I went back to the gym yesterday.”

As you have guessed, I haven’t been to the gym in a while.  Matter of fact, I haven’t been all summer.  I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve been sedentary.  But I’ll have to give the rundown on my “athletic pursuits” another day.

I wouldn’t call myself a natural athlete.  I don’t feel athletic at all.  My oldest son has described me as “bookish.”  I’m not sure if that’s good or not, but as the football coaches say, “it is what it is.”  Whatever that means.  But several years ago, I read a book called Younger Next Year.  One piece of advice that stuck with me was that if you are over fifty, you need to do some strength training.  So I read that book, filed that information away in the corners of my mind, and promptly went out and got a job that just about killed me.

Fast-forward to last year.  I’m starting to notice that I’m getting saggy.  It occurs to me that I probably shouldn’t take off my shirt in public.  Living in a beach community, this realization seems as though it could affect my quality of life.  I’m even beginning to think of searching Amazon to see if there is such a thing as a man-bra.  So, I had to do something.

I found this gym near my house that used to be a racquetball facility back when racquetball was cool.  They kept the racquetball layout and distributed the fitness equipment throughout the gym.  So this means that you can pretty much get your own room to work out in.  No muscleheads glaring down at you in contempt.  No hotties to make you feel like a beached whale.  And no crowds.  You just go in, get it done, and get out.  Which is about the only way I would ever go to a gym.

So, I’m still debating about whether to take the shirt off in public, but at least I’m not mortified by the thought of it anymore.

Vicissitudes of Life at Half Baked Manor

The grass at Half Baked Manor has begun to turn brown.  A predictable outcome of high temperatures in the mid-nineties with little rain.  But you must understand, this is no ordinary grass!  This is hearty, thick, St. Augustine grass created in the greenhouse to withstand the sandy soil, sea breezes, salt air, northeasters, high heat, and high humidity of North Florida.  And this is no ordinary St. Augustine grass, either!

In a couple of weeks, our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary will arrive.  For some couples, their twenty-fifth anniversary means going on a cruise, or taking an extended second honeymoon, a splurge of a night or two away, or at least a dinner out.  But what did we do?  We bought grass! (boring!)  And it’s not even the kind you smoke!  We bought grass not created by God, but made by man to withstand the inhospitable conditions of the subtropics.  And it started turning brown.

So, like any fool who wants to protect the investment in the lawn, I started watering it.  But all it did was make the unwatered part brown.  Just like when you only paint part of your house — all it does is show how much the rest needs it!

Unfortunately, this capital outlay and this “mobile brown spot” have resulted in my becoming obsessed with making sure our yard gets enough water.  Now, if I can manage to keep this from taking on the significance of being a metaphor for our marriage, I might be able to salvage what little sanity I have left.

Getting Things Done

I am a devotee of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  I began implementing his system of organization and productivity when I was transitioning to doing freelance work back in 2007.  The initial effect was a quantum increase of organization, productivity, necessary tasks not falling through the cracks, and free time.

The main idea of Getting Things Done is that you get all of your commitments out of your head and into a trusted system so that you can precisely define the stuff that is in your head, turn it in to concrete actions, and have it on a list you can trust, rather than cycling through your brain taking up needed cognitive energy and space. So far, so good.

My difficulty lately has been that I’m collecting alot of lists, but not doing much about them.  I’m beginning to wonder if getting all of these ideas out of my head merely multiplies guilt and frustration rather than increasing productivity.  Am I really “getting things done”?  Or am I like a 500 pound man who owns a whole library of diet books but doesn’t follow through on his knowledge base?

2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League Predictions: Part Six

Genuine Contenders:  Not much separates the top three, but here goes:

3.  Chelsea:  Chelsea is a squad still in transition.  Roberto Di Matteo is an upgrade from his predecessor as manager.  Roman Abramovich will break the bank to purchase the talent needed to win the title and to defend the improbable Champions League triumph.  Chelsea has a deep enough bench, along with City and United, to genuinely rotate their squad.  However, I’m looking for a mental letdown that will lead to a mini-slump.  This will enable City and United to achieve separation from them.

2.  Manchester City:  City will make every effort to defend their title.  They will upgrade where needed.  However, United will be hungrier and this will make the difference.

1.  Manchester United:  They do not have quite the level of talent that the other contending clubs do, but they do have Sir Alex Ferguson.  After a subpar year last year, their manager and the hunger of this squad for the title will pull them to the top.

Election Sign

Campaign sign sighted:  “Chuck Fletcher for Public Defender — We Deserve Better!”

2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League Predictions: Part Five

Pretenders or Contenders?

4.  Tottenham:  Tottenham gets their own post.  First, because I’m a Tottenham supporter. Second, because I don’t know what to make of their chances for this season.

First, there is the matter of the new manager.  Andre Villas-Boas did make an impression on me with his management of Chelsea last season.  It was not a good impression.  Chelsea was perhaps the most incompetently managed team in the league when AVB was at the helm, which was the first two-thirds of the season.  At the same time, Harry Redknapp was looking like Manager of the Year material.  So, what happens?  Uncle ‘Arry gets the sack and AVB gets hired by a club that finished ahead of the club that he managed.  Truth is stranger than fiction.  However, AVB will bring some swagger to the club which is sorely needed, and will have players better suited to his football philosophy.

To muddy the waters further, I’m also fairly sure that Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, is one of the most astute executives in the business.  So, I have to assume that AVB was thoroughly vetted and that Mr. Levy probed deeply and was satisfied with the “lessons learned” portions of the conversations he had with AVB.

In terms of the squad itself, the team is making all the right moves.  Center back was their top need, so they acquired Jan Vertongen, the Ajax captain who was the player of the year in Eredivisie.  They needed an attacking midfielder and acquired Gylfi Siggurdsson.  It looks as though they will make some kind of arrangement for the services of Emmanuel Adebayor at striker. Gareth Bale signed a new contract.   Certainly, some other moves will be made.

It appears that Luka Modric will be sold, which will be a loss for Spurs, but they should be strong enough in the aggregate to offset Modric’s absence.

Their starting eleven will be competitive with the top three clubs.  However, once injuries and suspensions hit, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs have much deeper benches.


Modern Hardware Store

A few weeks ago, the head on my weedeater broke.  The day of doom arrived today that I had set aside to install a new head on the weedeater and do the edging and trimming.  You see, I’m kind of clueless about mechanical things in general AND I’m uncoordinated.  Now, you see why I approached this day with a sense of foreboding!

I open up the new weedeater head, read the instructions (!), and attempt to follow them.  Didn’t make much progress.  Then, after about twenty minutes, I remembered that I had another weedeater shaft in the garage with an intact head.  I stuck it onto the weedeater with the good engine, and it worked!  But, it had this kind of funky thing for the string that definitely wasn’t a typical wind-up setup.  So I thought, “I’ll go down to the hardware store and see if one of those old guys that know everything about tools and home repair can help me.”

I walk into the local Ace Hardware with my weedeater head and I look around in the lawn and garden department to find some help.  A young guy walks up — probably in high school.  Looks like he’s never even had to operate a weedeater.  I’m thinking, “this is not going to go well  They get rid of the old guys that know their stuff, and they hire these young kids that don’t know nuthin.”  So, I ask him, and sure enough, he says, “I haven’t got a clue.’  He takes me up to the service desk, and there’s another young guy at the service desk who looks equally inexperienced.  He says, “sorry to strike out with you, but I haven’t got a clue either.’

So, I hightail it on down to Lowe’s, and I go into their lawn and garden department.  And the gentleman that comes up to help me looks like he has been a veteran of many a landscape crew.  He also looks like the sixties were not kind to him, but that’s another story.  Anyway, I’m thinking, “here’s the guy.”  So I approach him with my dilemma, and what does he do?  He goes down to where they sell the string for the trimmers, and tries out every one until he finds the right one!

So, I’m back in business.  Got the yard done, thanks to a little bit of good ole American ingenuity.

2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League Predictions: Part Four

Pretenders or Contenders?

7.  Sunderland:  I’m playing a hunch here with little justification.  However, if the Black Cats play as well as they did the middle third of last season, we will see a vast improvement from them.  They received a huge boost when they hired Martin O’Neill as manager, and were competitive with the top teams in the league.  Prior to that, they had underachieved.  Once they had reached solid mid-tableness, they really didn’t have much to play for.  With a little investment, a better start, and more to play for, they will improve.  How much, who knows?

6.  Liverpool:  While the Reds are headed in a positive direction, I don’t foresee an imminent return to Champions League football.  Brendan Rogers as manager is a big improvement over King Kenny.  The Fenway Sports Group appears ready to invest in the club to the level to make them eventual contenders.  I expect Luis Suarez to have a banner year and the return of Lucas Leiva is going to be a shot in the arm.  So, why did I rank them so low?  Quite simply, the competition is improving too.  The changes that they have made should enable them to finish ahead of Everton, but I don’t see them breaking into the top five. 

5.  Arsenal:  Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here.  Arsene Wenger hasn’t finished out of the top four in fifteen years.  Last season, decimated by injuries, transfers, and suspensions, the Gunners still managed a third place finish.  They have attracted new talent.   Oliver Giroud and Lucas Podolski will be good additions to the squad.  However, my belief is that their recent history as the AAA club for bigger clubs will come back to bite them, as Fabergas, Clichy, Nasri, and Toure have left; the latter three for Manchester City.  It appears that Van Persie is on his way out this summer.  Apart from his scoring contributions, the Gunners would have been in a relegation fight last year.  While the new acquisitions will have an impact, they will not be a replacement for RVP.


2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League Predictions: Part Three

Solid Mid Table Citizens:

13.  Aston Villa:  Villa made a good hire in Paul Lambert.  With Norwich City, he improved the club each year and got more out of his players than most Premier League managers did.  Quite a reversal from the previous regime at Villa under Alex Macleish, who according to Kartik Krishnayor of EPL Talk is “the master of the nil-nil draw.”  Villa underachieved in the first half of last season and were decimated by injuries in the last half and thus were involved in a season-long relegation battle.  I expect that relegation will not be a threat to them this year, but that it will take some new talent and a transformation of the club’s culture over a couple of years to bring them back to the prominence that they have enjoyed in the past.

12.  Norwich City:  While Paul Lambert’s departure for Villa is a setback for the Canaries, they should be able to stay ahead of Lambert’s side if they maintain the talent and tenacity that led them to a successful season last year.

11.  Stoke City:  The Britannia is one of the toughest places for visiting teams in the Premier League.  The Potters play hard, direct, physical football.  The distinct style of Tony Pulis led sides has been difficult for other clubs to break down.  Stoke made a fairly deep run in the Europa League last season and really didn’t have the depth to be able to play well in Europe, in the League, and in Cup competitions.  The subtraction of the Europa League games will enable Stoke to improve on last year’s position.

10.  Fulham:  Another tough, fairly unglamorous side that keeps churning out results.  If Clint Dempsey is moved this summer, a tenth place finish may be difficult to achieve.

9.  Everton:  David Moyes is top shelf.  I don’t know how he does it, but with very limited resources, he fields competitive sides each year and manages to find enough talent to not only keep the club competitive, but exciting.  This is one resourceful team.  My hat is off to them, and I’d really like to see them to better than ninth.  However, I think that a revamped Liverpool will finish ahead of them this year and that Newcastle will continue to be ahead of them as well.

8.  Newcastle:  The emergence of Newcastle as a top club was one of the great stories in the league last year.  They are maintaining just about all of the players that brought them to fifth place last year.  My reservation about the Magpies is that they don’t have the depth to pull off the League schedule, the Europa League competition, and an extended cup run.  Because of this, I expect that their league position may be lower than it was last year.

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