Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Run of the Year

I started out with Alex but he doesn't like to run for more than about 45 minutes so he turned around at about 2 1/2 miles. It was also rather cold with a headwind and he doesn't have the right clothes for running in cold. I took the pictures between the 4 and 5 mile mark. The moon was rising and the sun was still illuminating some clouds. Right after I took these pictures I looked down the hill I had just run up and there was a coyote that seemed to be checking out my scent and looking up toward me. I decided to run into a neighborhood and run parallel to the path I was going to take.

I ended up running about an hour and a half. My iphone tells me I ran 8.37 miles. some of it was slow going because of ice and darkness. That gives me a total of 849 miles since June 20th. It's probably a fair estimate that this was a 1000 mile year. I wasn't keeping track of my miles before June, nor was I running much but I think it's safe to say that I ran 150 miles in the first six months.

End of the Decade

I hope the next three or four decades don't go by as fast as this past one did because I if all goes well I only have three or four decades left. In just ten years Alex will probably be designing technology for the following decade and might even have a family of his own. Valerie should be finished with college and once she ventures out from the virtual world in the basement and discovers the great big world outside who knows from where we'll be hearing from her. Elliott, who is just able to hold himself upright and say what we are sure are words will be running around and throwing and kicking balls in two languages. As significant as the kids' changes will be, the changes for Ruth and I could be as drastic, but maybe by then 60 will be the new 40.

Happy New Year/Decade.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Little Drummer Boy

We bought this drum and stick for Elliott back in August and he knew what to do with it right away. He's better at it sometimes than others. He will pick up anything that looks like a drum stick and test out different surfaces for how they sound. He'll either be a prodigy or bored with it by the time he's three.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Update

Contrary to how it may appear from the absence of recent posts on this blog I have been writing a lot. For teachers to earn pay raises they have to continue with their own education and the bigger pay doesn't start until they've earn their masters degree. I completed that two years ago and now the pattern seems to be that I scramble during Christmas break to amass the credits I need. This year I just need to complete two three credit courses and finish up one I started in the summer.

If you've ever endured a calculus, organic chemistry, or thermodynamics class you might question whether teachers should get paid more because they've taken the kinds of classes that are offered to earn pay increases. They take time but are usually not difficult. These next couple of weeks I am working through one that is called "Using Picture Books K-12" in which I have to read 100 picture books and critique them and another course titled "Improving Writing Skills through Autobiographical Applications" which has me responding to a variety of autobiographical prompts. I think anyone would enjoy this class if you've ever thought of writing your memoirs. The prompts make you recall your life oriented around food, influential people, defining moments, ancestors, views on particular topics, etc. I've written about thirty pages so far and am probably one third of the way through the prompts. Maybe when I'm done I'll start to organize it into something cohesive.

Ruth's sister Nubia has been visiting us from Mexico for the past month and has a week more to spend with us. It is good for Ruth to have a family member to connect with for a while and to have another person in the rotation of holding or entertaining Elliott. She has come three times this year; the first time when Elliott was born, again for a few weeks in the summer, and now. She lives on the southern coast of Mexico about an hour an a half farther down the coast from Acapulco where it is oppressively hot year round so we've had fun calculating temperatures to centigrade making it sound even colder because minus temperatures begin at our 32 degrees. She and Ruth just came down the stairs and are looking like they are going out for a walk.

Alex is home from CU. He finished this past Tuesday and has been sleeping and playing World of Warcraft for the most part. He has run a couple of times and is doing some exercises that I think he called plyometrics. He has only received a couple of grades so far but seems satisfied with them so that's good. Valerie has been doing the same minus any physical activity. The thinking that kids today sitting around playing video and computer games is making them fat may be erroneous; Valerie often forgets to eat.

I plan to do my Christmas shopping tomorrow. Today is looking to be relatively mild so I'm going to go for a run here shortly and wheel the cart out for the sunny part of the afternoon to see if I can accumulate a bit of Christmas shopping funds.

I wish you all Happy Holidays and renewed energy, conviction, and determination for the new year. Oh, wait, that stuff about the new year is a wish for myself...just kidding.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The Lazy Brain Likes the Convenience of Belief"

...John Beckwith in an email to David Seppa on September 16, 2009 in a discussion on the formation of beliefs

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling Your Pain...or not

We have behaviors that are learned and some that come built in. To see what is built in you can hang out with a baby of a few months old. Some of our emotional behaviors come built in and they are very hard to change as an adult even if they don't serve us in a positive way.

My observation is that it is a natural, instinctive response to match the emotions of those around us. Sometimes this can be pleasant like the contagion of laughter. It is easy for us to get caught up laughing with others. Our emotional response can even be manipulated falsely, like when a laugh track on a television show makes us chuckle at something insipid. If I smile at Elliott, who is now nine months, when I'm happy he may smile in response and feel happy. But, I can also smile at him, not feeling any particular happiness at the moment and that makes him smile and he then experiences a positive emotional response. The same can happen with a negative facial expression; I can wince from some sort of physical pain and his mouth starts to frown, a pouty lip forms, and suddenly he bursts out crying. He can bump his head, accept it and move on, but if I shreik at that moment it may cause him to cry; pretty soon he cries every time he bumps his head. Matching of emotions has probably served us as a species and so has stuck with us. It's not even uniquely human. Animals do it as well; in fact, animals interact on a much more emotional level. One dog snarls and shows his teeth and another responds with like behavior. If someone expresses anger toward us we have a hard time not feeling anger as well. Throughout animal and human evolution we have had to match the emotion level of those we confronted or face defeat. A better football team if often defeated by the team whose emotional level it didn't match.

I teach at an alternative high school. Many of the students have lived a traumatically emotion life and deal with everything on an emotional level. The challenge I often face is to not allow their emotions to become mine or I would be on a daily roller coaster ride. The part of our brain that handles emotions are basically the same as a dog's. To be able to help my students and protect myself I have to remain neutral emotionally. I have to use the part of my brain that dog's don't have to address the issues logically and rationally and suppress the part that wants to go where they are emotionally.

I imagine a box of rattlesnakes all rattling and I have to remove them in a particular order. I don't take it personally and get distraught because the rattlesnakes want to strike; that's what rattlesnakes do. I would take precautions and approach the situation rationally. I do the same with students. Last week a student pleaded to leave my class and go catch up on his health class which he said was the only one he was failing. I gave him a pass to go and about halfway through the period passed by that teachers class; she wasn't in her room but did have a class in the gym. My student was in there playing basketball. I asked the teacher if the student finished his work for her. She said she didn't even have him as a student and thought I gave him a pass to play in the gym which a teacher may occasionally do as a reward. I could have become angry that he violated my trust, lied to me, or thought I wouldn't suspect anything but he was just following his own nature; he wanted to play and he would lie to do it. I told him that I could have become angry for the aforementioned reasons but I that I saw him as a boy who wanted to play so badly he would lie. He said that that's what cool about me; that I never get mad. He also accepted the punishment that he wasn't going to be allowed to go anywhere without an escort because he demonstrated to me that he couldn't be trusted.

In our building we like to say that if we go to those emotional places that the kids are at we are not going to win; it's the land that they live in. Our only hope is to stay out of it and use our human brain. You can't take it personally if you get bitten by a rattlesnake or cut off in traffic; it's just things doing what they do as natural as the rain falling. So put on your wire mesh gloves, buckle up, and bring an umbrella because if you don't you should be mad at yourself.

I'm not saying that we should deny our emotions, but they have their place. Our dog Sunshine died in August. We all felt her loss deeply. She was a member of the family, but the loss was so powerful because she had always made us feel good emotionally and that was gone. To be driving up the street and see your dog sit up and take notice and run out to greet you makes you feel good. For another being to be happy just to see you return from the mailbox is pretty potent.

One could view Sunshine's departure as her feeling it was her time to go. Elliott operates on that emotional level. He is always thrilled to see me but he'll grow out of it. There will be the day I get home and he'll be on the computer and won't even look up. I'll know it's time to get a dog again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Colder Boulder

Yesterday morning I ran the Colder Boulder 5K. If it had been held on any day of the previous four or the next four it would have been much colder. My guess is that it was around 30 degrees at 9:30 when I started. Today, it is snowing here and the temperature is not expected to go over 15. I already have the wood stove fired up this morning. It will be perfect today for a truly wintry run, which requires snow falling and snow on the ground.

The Colder Boulder is an invitational as well as an open race. The runners are grouped based on their current year's Bolder Boulder time with an open wave running after the grouped waves. I thought I might actually have a chance to win my wave because I was carrying about 20 pounds more in May than I am now. I've also run over 800 miles since then. I was grouped with runners who completed the Bolder Boulder between 56 and 58 minutes. I was to discover though that those who finished ahead of me were young runners who probably didn't have the conditioning to run a fast 10K but had enough to keep a good pace for three miles.

The course is entirely on the University of Colorado campus and starts off downhill for the first 3/4 of a mile and then is flat for a ways before working its way back uphill with an occasional reprieve built in. The last 1/3 of a mile is downhill with the finish on the indoor track of the Balch Field House. At the start I was just behind those who lined up on the line. As we started out it seemed like mostly kids ahead of me, most notably two tall teens dressed as teenage mutant ninja turtles. I hit the first mile at 7:20 according to my iphone that I brought to map the run. Some of the kids dropped away and I picked off an occasional runner on the uphills, that being my strength. Someone was calling out times later but clearly not at the two mile mark because when I passed he was calling out 13:54,55, 56. I could see the leaders for most of the race but realized I wasn't going to catch them. I did think I was going to catch one of the turtles but he was able to maintain his pace and I couldn't gain on him. I felt good the entire way and caught two men just before entering the field house who had gone by me just before the uphill started.

The clock stopped for me at 23:40. I end up 12th of 91 in my wave. The people ahead of me were mostly in their teens and 20's, with two in their 30's and one person was 43. The results weren't posted by age but I took the trouble to review the entire list to see where I fell for the 50-59 group. I finished 13th of 61 men in their 50's. I was happy with my time and progress in general for the year.