Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Apple Finally Fell From the Tree...But Not Far

He followed in his father's footsteps, but his gait was somewhat erratic. ~Nicolas Bentley

Last week, I got a call from my son in Boston..."Dad, yesterday I think I did the stupidest thing I've ever done. Ok, let me first tell you the second stupidest thing that I did a couple of days ago...".

Now, let me give you some backdrop to the 2nd stupidest thing. Despite both of our fair amount of Good Sense, we are completely devoid of any ability to deal with a plumbing problem and some of our encounters have almost become legend. One time, for instance, I was in our second floor bathroom and a sink was leaking...just leaking! No BIG deal, but just enough for my male genes to begin to awaken and clamor in unison, "We can fix this".  So, I get my trusty wrench, because all I was actually going to do was tighten the faucet thingy at the top of the sink...Hmmm, a little tight... Better push a little harder. All of  sudden, the faucet comes flying off the sink, I mean like an ICBM missile, HITTING THE BATHROOM CEILING, and water comes gushing out of the sink hole like Old Faithful where the faucet used to be. On top of all this (prepare yourself for a couple of "on top of all this"), it was the HOT water side!! Instant panic. The water is actually pouring out of this hole like the iceberg hole in the Titanic, flooding the bathroom floor. I'm grabbing towels left and right like a madman, trying to somehow stop a million pounds of hot water pressure with some hand towels! Remember, HOT water.  I open the cabinet under the sink to try to cut the water off, but of course it's rusted in the open position and a Sumo wrestler ain't gonna budge it. I start screaming for my see, ON TOP OF ALL THIS, she is about two weeks out of back surgery, and is trying to avoid stairs, but she makes her way upstairs to the horror of water everywhere, her husband drenched with hot water, an inch of water on the floor, and a literal fountain of hot water spraying all over...I mean ALL over. 

ME (screaming): "I don't know what to do". 
HER:  "I'll hold the towels and you go down in the crawl space and shut the water off".
ME: "You can't hold the towels. It's hot water". 

I start thinking the only thing to do is just let go, run real fast down three flights of stairs, open the combination lock, find the cutoff valve in the dark crawl space, and not worry about the great flood upstairs. All of a sudden the water goes off! My first thought is we've drained the reservoir, but then I noticed my wife is gone. She ambled down the three flights of stairs and found the cutoff valve. Before coming back upstairs, she also called the plumber for a late night call. I did not volunteer that I could fix this. Except for my Blood Pressure being around 500/300, it was a great cardio workout, and I got my wife off the couch to test this new back!! Plus, the floor (and the walls, and the ceiling) all got cleaned. And all with only minimal leakage down to the first floor. Holy Cow!!

So, back to son #1 and the 2nd stupidest thing...see if this sounds familiar...leaking sink...."I can fix this". The big difference is he is working on an original sink in a house that's nearly a century old. He sees he cannot tighten this bolt (or whatever the heck it is) from the top. So, underneath the sink is a totally rusted bolt that he gives a pretty good tug on...won't budge...must need a gooder tug...AND HE CRACKS THE WHOLE SINK!! I'm so proud of him. That's my boy!

Ok, on to what he calls the stupidest thing. Although he has periodically tried to get running in his blood, it never really lit his fire. But, he has always been interested in cycling, going back to his High School days when we used to cycle some together. The Tour de France was an annual father/son bonding experience that we still enjoy. But, life got in the way of being able to cycle regularly or seriously, until this past fall when he bought a very good road bike and has been cycling around the streets of Boston or on his trainer (because snow is slippery). He's been enjoying working up a sweat and setting PR's on Heartbreak Hill. 

This past weekend, he decided to sign up for a 200 mile, 2-day, fundraising cycling jaunt across Massachusetts. After being a Leukemia Team-in-Training Run Coach for 15 years, I'm proud of him for signing up to help folks that will never be able to thank him, but also, I'm really tickled that he is taking that first dive into endurance sports. Someone once asked me what describes an endurance activity and I said it was one where you had to eat during the event to keep going. Yes, some carry that eating thing a little far! After doing dozens and dozens of marathon and ultramarathon running events (and 6 cycling centuries), I sure feel like it's in my blood, and it's not something that's easily described to someone who has never experienced doing an athletic event for hours upon hours. I can't wait for him to get deep into the training for this and then to feel the pride of doing something you never thought you'd even attempt to do. I hope he gets hooked.

No son, it wasn't stupid. I like to think it's just something that I passed down to you and you finally answered the calling. Ok, I also passed that plumbing thing down to you...hahaha...cracked the whole sink....that's hilarious. I love it!Guess I'm next up.

Time to go for a run. The trails are calling. No cycling for me. Too much time lost changing flat tires. I'll see you on the roads and on the trails - Al

"One child lost is too many...One child saved can change the world"

Monday, February 8, 2016

When The Planets Align

"I don't pretend to understand the Universe -- it's a great deal bigger than I am" - Thomas Carlyle, Life of Carlyle

Back last April, I wrote a post about how very much I enjoy running in the early morning, and although I positively HATE cold weather, the best part of running in early winter mornings is that I get to run with the dark, morning sky (you can read that post here). You see, I am a secret astronomy nerd. There, I've said it. No, I don't have telescopes in my backyard and I don't have a glow-in-the-dark map of the Universe on my bedroom ceiling (but it would be cool). But you sure can see a whole heck of a lot more when the sky is dark than you can when the closest star to us is high in the sky at noon.

So, as the sky of my morning runs got darker and darker in the lengthening of the to Fall nights, I greeted Orion, which to me signals the cold weather, so we have a strained relationship. He rises early in the evening, so by the time I run the following morning, he is high in the sky sporting 3 of the 10 brightest stars in the heavens, and that in itself makes him stand out pretty easily. With the dark, cold skies this past fall and winter, I also got to see a couple of meteor showers. Now, those are pretty tricky to see while you're running because...well, it's pretty obvious that running while looking up is not too safe, especially for someone who has trouble keeping his balance walking across the living room floor. But, if you're willing to actually stop on your run for a few minutes, it is so impressive to see a piece of stardust the size of a grain of sand streak across half the sky in a flaming display reminiscent of those sparklers I used to play with as a kid. And as I also mentioned in my post almost a year ago, you really have to subscribe to this site so you know when you can see the International Space Station zoom across overhead (it's the brightest thing in the sky). Probably goes over Birmingham about 4-5 times a month. I'll plan some of my runs around the ISS's schedule - it's that cool!

But, probably the cherry-on-the-cake is happening right now and will be going on for the next two weeks and I wanted to be sure you all knew about the treat waiting for you outside. From when we were kids in elementary school, we (I have to be careful here because I was taught in the pre-Sputnik age) were taught there were 9 planets circling the same sun that keeps us warm. Well, if you look up early in the pre-dawn morning, all five naked-eye planets known since antiquity are visible at once. This is actually pretty cool, and it’s visible from anywhere in the world. Very generally, if you go outside well before dawn (4:30–5 in Birmingham CST) and look south (in the Northern Hemisphere; face north if you’re in the upside-down part of the world), you’ll see the planets lined up across the sky.

I had read that this array was going to be visible, but we've had so many cloudy, rainy mornings lately, I almost forgot about it (it doesn't get much press coverage to remind you), so when I went out this past Thursday, it was a crystal clear morning and I immediately saw above me a very bright "star" that I knew had to be a planet. Knowing Jupiter was the brightest object compared to Venus, and since it was too early for Venus to wake up, it hit me like a dope-slap on the back of the head of what I was looking at (or for). The waning crescent moon (about halfway between a quarter moon and a New Moon) was fairly high up there at about 45 degrees from the horizon. I knew the order from their apparent positions from the Sun in the sky were Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.So, to the right of the moon (and in order from the far right), I could make out the very bright Jupiter, the rust-colored fainter Mars and then the pretty bright Saturn. A cool thing I found out later is that Pluto was right next to Saturn, but you'd need a telescope to see it. I know, I know, Pluto is not technically a planet, BUT I was taught that it was and I think it got a raw deal, so there! I was looking at ANOTHER planet!

Well, time was a-wastin', and I still had to get this run out of the way and get to work, so down the road I traveled west. When I turned around and faced the slightly illuminating sky, I was surrounded by many trees and couldn't see anywhere close to the horizon. At about halfway home, there was a break in the trees all the way to the ground, and there it was in all it's glorious brightness - Venus! And a little below it, right off the horizon was it's fainter companion, Mercury. I looked above, and without any problem, I could see all five (or six, if you count where Pluto was hiding) of the of the visible planets in our Solar System. Plus, as an added bonus you might not remember, we're standing on another orb, Earth! So, the only ones missing from Al's Celestial Parade were Uranus and Neptune. Wow!

My run wasn't all that great, but you know, all of sudden, running didn't seem like the most important thing going. The sun came up and the planets were gone like a puff of smoke. Oh, they were still there, but all that was left was the memory. No proof. But, I knew they were there because I saw them!

This show will be going on until about February 20th. It hasn't happened in the past 10 years, but if you miss it this time, there will be an encore performance this year from August 13-19. It'll be a lot warmer then, and for you night runners, this time it will be in the evening sky.

If I'm not looking up, I'll see you on the roads and on the trails - Al

"One child lost is too many. One child saved can change the world".