Tuesday Time-Waster: A hermit’s 27-year tale

Today’s “time-waster” will actually take some time if you read the whole article. But it’s a really fascinating account of a man who lived alone in New England woods for 27 years. The “hermit,” spent his time reading, stealing food and propane from homes when the residents were gone and listening to music (he didn’t like Bach, which got him a point in my book because I never liked playing Bach on the piano — too boring for me, or “pristine,” as the hermit said). The story came about because of a writer who decided to contact the man in jail, and did so via handwritten mail; on that level, the story is fascinating from the writer’s view, too.

While the story is intriguing, it’s also sad to know that this man lived from age 20 to age 47 without anybody to care for him or without having anybody to care for. I’ve been realizing lately that most of us are better, kinder, nicer people if we have other people to care for and let other people care for us. Like this hermit, I’ve lost some perspective of the world because I’m so independent and distrusting. It’s definitely something for all of us to think about.

(Hat tip for this article goes to my friend Sam.)

Oh, and a postscript of sorts about the hermit’s punishment for committing more than 1,000 burglaries over the years: The man is out of jail but must check in weekly with a judge.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Messing with Facebook

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that some people appear more frequently in your news feed. You may have also noticed that if you seek out someone you haven’t interacted with in ages and “like” something they posted, they’ll suddenly start appearing in your feed, too. It’s not a coincidence; it’s an algorithm. I wrote about this phenomenon almost two years ago, after I deactivated my Facebook account for a week. That post still gets a lot of hits (most from spammers, I suspect), and I myself sometimes still wonder if I should back off from Facebook.

This post is not about Facebook/online privacy, which is a whole other matter, but about an experiment done by Wired.com writer Mat Honan. It was interesting enough that I thought it would be worth spending a few minutes of your Tuesday morning. Honan spent 48 hours “liking” everything on Facebook, and soon he had lost most of his news feed to brands and links, which buried any updates from friends and family. It’s an interesting experiment, and is the main reason I rarely “like” anything from a company’s Facebook page. As I decided two years ago in my own experiment, my main purpose for using Facebook is to stay in touch with friends and family. Sure, I’ll tolerate and even thoroughly enjoy some business posts and ads, but I still want the “real life” news from people I know.

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2014 goal check-in: July

Well. July, for lack of better words, was terrible. But that’s not the point of this blog post, so let’s move along and see how those goals for the year are going.

1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. You can’t really meet lofty goals if you’ve spent the year injured.

4: Do a century bike ride: I had figured this goal was also elusive, but biking no longer hurts my leg so this may actually happen. I did my first 50-mile bike ride in July, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. (It probably helps that the plan was 40 miles, so I didn’t have the daunting “new longest distance” thing hanging over my head until I missed a turn and decided to go for it.) I’d like to go road bike shopping, but my hybrid works, so I might just save my pennies for now. Thoughts? Here’s my current bike, which is certainly the best bike I’ve ever had so I don’t really know what I’m missing…

6. Bike at least 700 miles: I met this goal on July 19. Hooray, one goal out of 13! I think, since one of my other goals was to run 1,500 miles this year, I’m going to see if I can get to 1,500 biking miles instead. July’s total cycling mileage was 146, putting me at 820.18 miles for the year.

I took no bicycling photos, but here is one with Michaela who took 43 minutes off her previous best half-Ironman time.

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Um, yeah. I still have 94 gym trips remaining this year to meet that goal, which would mean 19 times per month. It’s a lot nicer outside…

8. Read at least one book a month: I escaped into two books in July. I really enjoyed “A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer, and it was a perfect book I could crawl into and temporarily hide from my unpleasant world. Set in WWII, it’s a fictionalized account of the discovery of penicillin, and it involves some romance, some drama and some history. It’s also a good reminder that we live in times where medicine exists to cure us — less than 100 years ago, that wasn’t the case. I also plowed through a John Grisham book I hadn’t read, “The Litigators.” I always like a good Grisham novel or movie, but this one was just meh. The characters were only so-so, and the plot was the same old “underdog lawyer fights to survive” thing.

9. Cook dinner more often: I didn’t do a lot of cooking in July, partly because I didn’t do a lot of eating in July. But I did attempt to make pizza for the first time. Conclusions: Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough makes a LOT of pizza, and it’s super sticky so maybe I should try rolling it out with oil instead of flour next time, as a Twitter friend suggested. The dough was kind of thick, but recipe was unique: Taco pizza. Nope, you didn’t misread that.

Terrible picture of actually tasty taco pizza. The "sauce" is refried-bean-based.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this at least 25 of the 31 days. I discovered that if you can’t eat, your body hibernates. (It also gets really cold, which saved me some air conditioning costs.)

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Related to number 10, by mid-July I was back down to my pre-injury weight, and this was proven both by my own “off by several pounds” scale as well as at the doctor’s office last week. Now to keep those pounds off and shed a bit more weight, and I’ll be at “goal race weight” (whenever I can race again).

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Haha, it’s pretty clear that this won’t happen in 2014. I’m okay with that, because I’d rather have a few posts that get a lot of great public and private feedback (like this one from July) than a bunch of “I wrote this to meet a quota” posts.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: I actually thought I had this figured out, but that plan was pulled out from under me. I need a new plan, but in the meantime I’m thinking of canceling my expensive cable and getting a Netflix membership. However, there goes live TV, including sports. Any thoughts on that, as well?

And, since this post is a bit mundane, here’s a lesson from July: No matter what happens, the sun will keep rising and setting.

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How to chase dreams and fight the fear of failure

I’ve been doing a lot — and, boy, do I mean a lot — of self-analysis lately. Who am I, where am I going, where do I want to be going, and why am I not there yet? Additionally, when did I start becoming more cynical, more narrow-minded, and less determined but at the same time more rigid?

I don’t have all the answers yet, but I do know that at least I’m making a little progress by asking them and confronting myself. I also know that it’s been almost four years since I upended my life because I was stuck in a rut that I did not like. I was stuck in an increasingly unhappy job with no opportunities to move up, I was stuck in a relationship that was destroying my self-esteem, and then I suffered a stress fracture that dashed all running dreams for the next several months. So I set out to find myself.

Four years later, I’ve both succeeded and failed. For a while, I was much happier. I traveled more (Alaska, Ireland, Colorado, New York, Chicago, Hawaii). I ran more (an ultra-marathon, faster times). I explored my new town. I began to dream again.

But somewhere along the way, I got lost again. Some of it started last October, when another injury sidelined all of my running goals, which had gotten bigger and bolder (qualify for Boston). Some of it started this year, when I tried to follow another dream and was repeatedly shot down, sending my self-esteem plummeting. However, I suspect most of it is because I have lifelong dreams that have gone unfulfilled. They eat at me until I’m convinced I’m not good enough, and that if I try to reach them, I’ll fail.

Some of those dreams I cannot reach on my own, but some of them are all up to me. So, how do I make myself pursue them? Yesterday evening, instead of googling for inspirational quotes, I turned instead to Facebook and asked: “What mantras, quotes, rules or experiences do you use to try to better yourself and chase away the ‘I’m afraid I’ll fail’ demons?” As an example, I gave this quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to become who you might have been.” I knew that many of my Facebook friends wouldn’t see the post, due to timing and algorithms that limit which posts people see. But in the 10 hours since, I’ve received a number of great quotes.

A good friend texted her response: “Jump and the net will appear.”

Another friend messaged his response, which he’d seen on a poster that same day: “To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month or even one year – but for a lifetime.” The quote was from legendary runner and author Bill Rodgers, and my friend pointed out that it doesn’t just apply to running. This is so true: It’s the big picture of life. If I’ve got these life dreams, each day should prepare me for them, because they won’t suddenly happen immediately.

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the bigger or faster man…but sooner or later, the fellow who wins, is the man who thinks he can.” This was offered by a friend and former colleague, Rick, who is deaf and has faced more than his share of battles. The key there is to think I can do it.

Another former journalist-turned-runner (turned Ironman, which is a whole other level, if you ask me), Theresa, offered this line from a sports journalism professor of hers: “The only way out is through.” Yes, if I want to reach the goals, I have to push through everything standing between me and them.

“I like to tell myself that I’ll definitely fail if I don’t try,” said another writer. I really admire her, because she has worked hard to get to a career she wanted. If she hadn’t tried, she never would have gotten there.

Then there is this Wayne Gretzky quote, offered by an old friend, Dave: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Audrey pointed out that, even if you don’t make that shot, you learn along the way. As another saying goes, practice makes perfect. Similarly, Pam offered this advice: “My dad always has told me that if you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Never give up until you succeed.”

And from another Ironman, Stuart: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” This resonated, because often I ask myself, when trying to make a decision or do something that’s hard, which option I would regret more. Would I regret trying and not making it, or would I regret never trying at all? That answer is obvious.

Similarly, Brandon offered a line from a Shinedown song: “Long live the day that I decided to fly.” It’s a decision, and I have to truly make that decision before I can go anywhere.

My friend Marc turned it around back at me, with the advice I gave him the day before he ran his first marathon: “One that sticks with me is something a really great friend told me on January 11 of this year. She said there will be a point where I will realize “this is the farthest I’ve ever gone.” And that’s true for everything. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” He’s right (which I guess means that I was right). I still remember the point when I passed mile 22 of the Tucscon Marathon in December 2008. There, on an Arizona highway, I realized that was the farthest I had even run — and at the same time I realized I was actually going to run a marathon. I did finish that marathon, and then I kept on going to more goals and milestones. The journey continued, and it was a good journey.

And then there was this, from Linda: “Shan’t I be good to thee self, I shan’t be good to another.” She didn’t know it, but that one hit home more than all the rest. I love people, I love helping them and making them happy, and some of my biggest dreams require other people. But I can’t be good for them and help them unless I also do that for myself. That’s actually a realization I reached last week, so Linda’s timing was perfect. I have to be strong enough to stand on my own.

Where does all of this advice go? How do I actually retain it, rather than dumping it all into a blog post and then moving on? Well, one way is through sheer determination, which I’m already working on. I don’t like the way I give up on things I want, just because they’re hard or there are huge obstacles in the way. I fear that I’ll fail, so I stop trying — and that’s no way to live my life.

So I’m going to keep re-reading the quotes offered from friends who have clearly had the strength to keep fighting, and who also took the time to give me some advice. I’m going to try to stand up tall and keep fighting my doubts and insecurity. I’m going to try to be a better, stronger, supportive person to those I care about. And I’m going to tell myself over and over again that I AM good enough to chase my dreams.

After all, as Darleen advised, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” I want more, so I have to do more.

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2014 goal check-in: April, May & June

Okay, goals for the year, as of the end of June. (Yes, I know we are more than halfway through July now.) My first five goals were all running-related, plus a century bike ride. They won’t happen due to injury, so I’m not rehashing them here.

6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 92.53 miles in April, 39.5 miles in May and 38.15 miles in June. That puts me at 674.18 miles for the year. Spoiler alert: As I write this, I have already passed my original goal, so I guess now I’ll just see how far I go over it.

7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Well, I still have 107 more trips to the gym to meet that goal, which would mean 18 trips a month through December…

8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Broken Harbor” by Tana French in April — I love her deep mystery novels set in Ireland, but though this one did keep me captivated and wanting to know what happened next, it dragged at times and wasn’t as good as her others. In May, I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed — it was fun to read about the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through California, past my hometown, and through Oregon, but for all the rave reviews this book gets, I expected a bit more. And in June I read “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer — it gives an inside view about the horrors foster kids face, and the fact that they are very emotionally damaged but can be saved.

9. Cook dinner more often: This was hit and miss. These bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, cheddar jack cheese, feta cheese and some seasonings were great, but I didn’t like the mushy bell peppers (ate the leftovers without the peppers). I also made my own oven fries and potato soup — yes, I like potatoes.

10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: This was also hit and miss. I had planned to write a separate post about how I didn’t have my iPhone near my bed for all of Lent, but the short version is that it definitely got me to bed on time.

11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: As of the end of June, this had not changed, and had actually gone the wrong direction.

12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope, didn’t happen. April had one post, May had none, June had two. I’m not apologizing or beating myself up for it, since I make $0 off this blog.

13. Find a cheaper place to live: Here’s another “Bay Area rents are too high” article, which I never seem to have any trouble finding — actually, I never go looking for them, so I imagine there are dozens more out there.

And here’s another article about a San Francisco home that went on the market for $2 million, got six offers in one week all above asking price, and sold for $3.4 million. Another kicker: In 1994, the house went into foreclosure and sold for $145,000.

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Bill Watterson reappeared!

Yes, that headline is true: The Calvin & Hobbes creator resurfaced last month! If you’re a fan (I might possibly own six collections of the comics), you’ll recognize Bill Watterson’s style of drawing immediately:

Watterson is a notorious recluse who avoids publicity, so “Pearls Before Swine” comic creator Stephan Pastis scored quite the coup by not only communicating with Watterson but also getting him to contribute to three comics. However, for me the best part was the backstory leading up to these comics. In this blog post, Pastis tells how he reached out to Watterson, was ignored, and dared to try again. It’s worth reading, even if you aren’t a comic strip reader (I’m generally not) and you don’t know Calvin & Hobbes (which I most certainly DO).

Two notes: Pastis links to the comics, but you might have to keep refreshing before they’ll load. This will improve once everyone on the internet has finished clicking a bunch of times. Do click the links to the comics, though, because it’s classic Watterson — and the comments on the comics are hilarious because readers didn’t know for a few days that they were drawn by Watterson.

(Third note: I just discovered that Pastis lives a little more than an hour away from me, in Santa Rosa, Calif.)

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Boyfriend rules

Listen up, unmarried people: Two little girls compiled this list of mostly sound requirements for boyfriends, so start studying it!

Okay, so a few of them aren’t a priority for me, including “good artist” and “good handwriting,” and I’m not one to talk when it comes to “last name not weird.” But the overall list is pretty sound. I mean, really, nobody wants a boyfriend who’s a tattle tale or who doesn’t make you laugh. The one that really makes me thing these girls, ages 9 and 6, are wise beyond their years is No. 4: “not living with parents.”

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Tuesday Time-Waster: Floating bridges

Hooray for bridges! Today’s post is short, but if you’re into bridges (like me), here’s an easy way, courtesy of google maps, to see “floating” bridges without actually paying to get to them.

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2014 goal check-in: March

Well. March sure had a lot of ups and downs in my world, but I’m in an upswing at the moment, so maybe I should do my goal check-in. (I’ve now added a “Goals” category to make this easier for me to go back and reference.)

  1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon: Won’t happen due to not running.
  2. Set a new personal record in the marathon: Same.
  3. Run sub-1:45 in a half-marathon: Same.
  4. Do a century bike ride: Honestly, this is iffy. I did a 25-mile ride outside and was exhausted — turns out, barely working will take its toll after three months.
  5. Run 1,500 miles: Nope. But here are a couple pictures from a hike.
  6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 162 miles in March, for a total of 504 miles for the year. Yep, I’ll beat that goal (though I had planned on a lot of running when I made these goals).
  7. Does this count as a spin class selfie?

  8. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Hmm. I went 12 times in January, 11 times in February and now only nine times in March. This means I have to go 118 more times in the next nine months, or 13 times per month. I better get my act together. (There were a lot of “downs” relating to going to the gym this month.)
  9. Read at least one book a month: I finished March’s book (“Freckles” by Gene Stratton-Porter, a book I read many years ago and randomly thought of months ago) a few days into April — oops. It should have been a fast read but I read it on my phone via the Kindle app, and that was kind of weird. That was my first e-book, and I wasn’t thrilled with the concept.
  10. Cook dinner more often: Oh hey, maybe I did this a little? Meanwhile, Angela said this about her attempt at doing more cooking at home, and I laughed when I read it because it sums me up: “If I plan one meal per week ahead of time, I put it in the win column, because PROGRESS! Two meals? I am a god damned wizard.” And another reason Angela is a good egg? She included a recipe that called for 4 ounces of white wine, then said: “In case it isn’t obvious, all of this should be paired with the rest of the wine.” Anyway, here are a few pictures of what I cooked this month, though the photos are refusing to share a line.

    Chicken, grains, green beans, wine

    Grilled smoked gouda turkey avocado sourdough

    Cheesy enchilada pasta (looks bad, tastes good)

    Tofu stir-fry (slice tofu thin; marinade it in soy sauce)

  11. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I actually did this about half a dozen times. I don’t have my phone in bed for now (more on this experiment later), so I think that helps.
  12. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: No change.
  13. Blog an average of twice a week: I only blogged twice in March. I wanted to sit down and write something after a terribly sad death, but instead I came home completely drained from the memorial service, somehow picked a stupid fight and then cried so hard that my eyes were a mess the whole next day. (And people wonder why I say that I hate to cry and therefor rarely do so.) And I just had no drive or desire to come up with “Tuesday Time-Waster” posts. It happens, and I’m OK with that.
  14. Find a cheaper place to live: As in January’s update, this month I came across another “Bay Area rent sucks” article, this time about how the “rent shouldn’t be more than one-third of your salary” rule doesn’t generally work here anymore. In my case, it’s true. Painfully true. As in, 41 percent painfully true.

Bonus photo! This is what happens when I text on St. Patrick's Day (while wearing shamrock earrings).

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2014 goal check-in: February

I’m not sure where February went, but it seemed to be a haze of birthday and Valentine’s Day and weekend adventures. Come to think of it, that was a pretty good month. Anyway, here’s another check-in on this year’s goals:

  1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon: Nope. I said in last month’s check-in that I’d taken this goal off the plate because of a cranky IT band. It’s still mad.
  2. Set a new personal record in the marathon: See above.
  3. Run sub-1:45 in a half-marathon: Also see above.
  4. Do a century bike ride: I didn’t ride outside at all in February, but that’s fine. I need to ponder possible summer century bike rides.
  5. Run 1,500 miles: Not happening. I did two run/walk tests in February, which totaled 20 minutes of running, or probably less than 2.5 miles of running.

    No running, but this was a lovely six-mile hike at South Mountain, south of Phoenix.

  6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 141 miles in February (all inside, but that still counts), which put me at 342 for the year. I should have made this goal harder, apparently!

    Does this count for my biking miles? (Answer: nope!)

  7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went to the gym 11 times in February, so I was one or two visits short of what I need to reach that goal. I still have time to get back on track, though.
  8. Read at least one book a month: I finished a book (“The Eight”) on a plane on the very last day of February! I, um, started the book last year, though, so does that count? I’ll count it because it’s 598 pages and wasn’t a fast read due to a complex plot that switched back and forth between the 1700s and 1900s.
  9. Cook dinner more often: I may have usually forgotten about this one?
  10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: Oh dear, another failure. I think I met this goal twice, unless a few nights in Arizona count, because they’re currently an hour ahead of California? (WHY is daylight saving time still a thing? It’s 2014, for crying out loud!) However, I have high hopes that this will improve in March.
  11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I lost the two pounds that I gained in January, so now I’m back to the original goal. No progress toward the bigger picture.
  12. Blog an average of twice a week: I blogged six times. Most were Tuesday Time-Wasters, so that is kind of an oops/fail. But it’s still okay, since it’s my unpaid blog. I liked this post about my hometown best.
  13. Find a cheaper place to live: Ugh. Since February only had 28 days, my per-day rent was even worse than normal.

    Life is good.

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