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Percentages

Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 21:43 UTC

“200 meters hard then 200 meters at a medium pace,” our coach said. 

We had little paper maps in our hands and were studying the route. It wound around thru the shady neighborhood for 600 meters. She had already set out traffic cones beside the curb to mark the 200 meter intervals.

“You’ll run 200 hard then 200 medium out 600 meters and then back for a total of 1200 meters. Rest a bit. And do it again.”

She looked around to see if there were any questions.

“How fast should I run?” 

“Oh, a hard pace and then medium.”

“But how fast?”

“Hard, say 80% effort. And then medium, say 60% effort.”

“Ok…” drawn out followed by a long silence. “…I’m not good with percentages. How fast should we run?”

Now I confess, then when running, my math abilities evaporate to nothing. I never do math while running, even simple addition and subtraction, because I always get it wrong. So I need to be careful about this high horse. And I also need to point out that this was one of the fastest in our group, a genuine bad-ass compared to my slow, cushy. But still… 

“How fast? I need a time. I can’t do percentages.”

I went to get a drink.

She Got There First

Sunday, 26 Oct 2014, 09:37 UTC

IMG 1687b2

White Sands

Sunday, 26 Oct 2014, 08:43 UTC

From the top of the ridge, sitting in an alpine meadow. With a blue sky overhead and a cooling breeze blowing. With mountains on the horizon and a desert between. White Sands shimmered in the distance.

Whitesands

Fir and Pine and Go To Bed

Friday, 24 Oct 2014, 22:42 UTC

Firpine

…and now I’ve got to go to bed. So sayeth the Fair and Industrious Trudy.

O Canada!

Thursday, 23 Oct 2014, 20:08 UTC

OCanada

In The Vanguard

Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 21:26 UTC

You saw him, didn’t you? Governor Poindexter up there on the stage looking serious, speaking to the cameras, taking charge of the epidemic that’s gripped the nation, posing in front of that Texas hospital that was in the vanguard. 

Except that the hospital didn’t manage things quite like they would have liked. Not quite as the governor would have liked, perhaps. And stop for a moment. Think about it. When is the last time you saw Governor Poindexter saying serious things and gazing thru his serious glasses from the hospital podium with the staff and administrators gathered around? When was the last time?

Funny that. He seems to be taking a trip to Europe now. Being in the vanguard seems to have seriously lost its luster.

Numbers

Monday, 29 Sep 2014, 22:06 UTC

I played a video for them. They were sitting in their desks and standing in the back of the room and sitting on the floor in the front.

It was a time lapse video of the northern lights. I played it to show them the wheeling stars and beauty of a cold winterscape and to watch the dancing auroral lights. I played it to talk about numbers.

The music played. Ribbons of green danced in northern skies.

“If you were a geologist,” I said, “you could use numbers to explain why those mountains in the distance are flat.”

“If you were a meteorologist,” I said, “you could use numbers to explain why those clouds are shaped like that.”

“If you were an air traffic controller,” I said just after a time-lapse jet streak flashed, “you would use numbers to explain why that jet was following that particular path.”

“If you were an astronomer, you could use numbers to explain why the stars seem to be turning in circles in the sky.”

“If you were a botanist, you could use numbers to show why those pine trees still have their needles but those other trees have dropped their leaves.”

We talked about a lot of things that morning. We only had an hour or so, but we covered a lot of ground. I told them that I was there to talk about why numbers are such a big part of our lives, whether we’re scientists or engineers or artists or musicians or politicians.

And I told them I’d be back.

Friday I’m going back. We’ll be timing our heartbeats. 

It Could Happen

Monday, 29 Sep 2014, 19:48 UTC

1.

Julia didn’t sleep at all that night. Even though Jack and Katherine fell fast asleep. Even though they had been up late, and she should have been tired; she was not. And she didn’t sleep a wink.

The images and the sounds of … that place … swirled through her head. She could smell the sea breeze. She could feel it blowing thru her hair. She could see the stars against a black sky. All night long.

The next morning, she sat bleary-eyed over her cereal while Jack and Katherine devoured theirs. She just stared at her bowl and swirled her spoon.

“Good Job, Jack!” her mom announced as her brother got up from the table. Jack was skinny and always burning more calories than he took in, so they were always trying to get him to eat.

“You, too, Katherine!” Julia’s sister was finished and had gone to investigate something she saw moving in the underbrush at the edge of the woods.

2.

The weather was perfect that day. The sun was shining against a blue sky with white clouds blowing on a breeze out of the west. The sunlight glistened on the water. The air was warm, and they went swimming.

Afterwards, they sat on the dock. All of them except Jack who was still running into the water and out, burning his calories. Katherine was bundled in a big towel shivering in the breeze. Julia was dangling her legs in the water, watching minnows dart in the shallows. Ben sat next to her. Ben was their cousin, Jack’s and Katherine’s and Julia’s.

“Whaaat’s wrrrong?” he asked, drawing out his vowels, splashing water on Julia’s legs, bumping her with his shoulder.

He had been on the couch the night before when they were all telling stories, when she told her story. When she saw … that place. Julia looked up and mumbled something.

“No, really,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“You don’t want to know,” she said.

“Oh, but I do,” Ben said with a drawn-out “dooo” and a big smile on his face as he leaned into her again.

3.

She didn’t want to say anything. She didn’t want to tell. But in the end she did.

She told them about what she had seen. About the big hole that had opened up in the air right in front of her that night. About the waves crashing in the distance. About the stars in the night sky. About the sea breeze. And about how she had to run to get back out, to get back into the room in the cottage where they had been sitting.

“What!?” said Jack. He had ceased his charging up and down the beach and had come over to listen to Julia’s story. “What!?” he said with his eyes wide open and his jaw agape.

Katherine rolled her eyes. She had this knack of silently rolling her eyes to show indifference or disbelief or disinterest. She clearly didn’t believe a word Julia had said.

“You don’t believe me,” Julia said. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Katherine rolled her eyes again. Julia got up to leave.

“Wait,” said Ben. “Don’t go. I believe you.”

 

Knowing Acorns For What They Are

Sunday, 28 Sep 2014, 19:47 UTC

We’re standing there in the parking lot. Standing in a circle waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Waiting for our workout to begin.

There was a loud bang and some oblong green thing the size of the tip of your thumb bounced off the trunk of a car and rolled on the pavement at our feet.

“Oh,” someone said, “there are so many of those … those green seedy things (if that’s what they are).”

I was at a loss for words. I still am. She’s fast — much faster than I. She’s friendly — always offers encouragement as she passes by on our workouts. But really. She doesn’t know what an acorn is.

On the other hand…

I am reminded of a time long ago when I heard someone describing the final exam for a class she was taking at UT. We were all engineers, but she was taking botany to broaden her horizons. And she was telling us that for the test, the professor walked each of them around campus and had name the trees and plants by their botanical names.

I was stunned. How could anyone do that? Anyone but a botanist. Quercus. Berberis. Asclepias. Ulmus. Helianthus. How could any mere mortal be expected to…

But… acorn.

What a cranky snob I am.

They’re Staring at Me

Sunday, 28 Sep 2014, 15:33 UTC

They’re staring at me. Both of them. Just sitting and standing there staring silently directly at me.

It’s only 4:30. No, you can’t have dinner yet.

That’s what I get for feeding them early before I went out last night.

And darn it, now I’m hungry, too! Thanks a lot, doggies.