Monthly Archives: June 2008

Summer Sunday Stats #1: The Long Run I’ve Been Waiting For.

Weather: Sunny and not godawful hot. I was out the door by 8:15, which helped too, but really it was a perfect day for a run.

Miles run: 10.30, in 1:23:28. I ran the same route I’ve been running, so don’t ask me why it’s suddenly half a mile longer. I think this is closer to reality, though; I think the pedometer was having some trouble the last few long runs. This was the best long run I’ve had in months. I’ve been eating better (read less) and training more. I’ve added speed work back into my training, which makes an enormous difference. For the first time this season, I finished my long run feeling like I could keep going for miles, and I ran the second half considerably fast than the first half (7:45 min/mi vs. 8:28 min/mi).

What I listened to during my run: Episode #140 (Running Barefoot) of Phedippidations, followed by Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel for the final push.

Words of Meet the Larssons written: The day isn’t over yet. I wrote about 400 words on Thursday, and approximately 300 words on Friday; I didn’t get a chance to update my word count meter yesterday, and I can’t do it now because I’m writing on my office Windows laptop (Lenovo Thinkpad X61s), not my MacBook, because I’m on the road again (I’m at O’Hare waiting for a delayed flight at this very moment — thanks, American!). I don’t have Scrivener, including its handy word counting tools, but I have MTL exported to a RTF file on my memory stick, and I’m planning to work on it on the plane. It felt good to get back into it on Thursday and Friday, though, and while I’m still a little rusty, I’m getting back into it.

The kids are getting a little sick of my travel, especially Unfocused Girl. It didn’t help that I didn’t find out about this trip until around 10pm on Friday night, so I had to spend all of Saturday afternoon at the office dealing with things I thought I’d be doing on Monday. Looking back at my calendar, I’ve been out of town 10 days out of the last 30, and working most of the rest; my usual travel schedule would be more like 2-4 days in a month. No wonder she’s unhappy.

Mrs. Unfocused, UG, and I spent this afternoon working on her Tae Kwon Do skills in the basement (it was raining by the time we finished lunch), while Junior played on the computer. UG wants to earn her yellow belt at the end of the summer — we’d all like to test, really — but she needs a lot of work. I think she’ll get there, but it isn’t easy for her; she isn’t used to exerting as much control over her body as she’ll need to master the moves she’ll be tested on, and it’s hard for her to focus her attention the way she needs to, and she gets frustrated when we point out where she’s going wrong. This is one of the first things she’s really wanted that hasn’t been easy for her — she was not this motivated to learn to ride her bike, for example — and it’s going to be hard for her to stick to it. But she knows she won’t be allowed to take the weapons class until she gets promoted, and she really wants to take the weapons class. She’s also taking fencing and archery for a week each at summer school this month.

My little girl is growing up, and someday she just might kick your ass.


Gotta Speed It Up.

I ran a nice little four-mile race last Saturday at the beach – under 300 finishers, which is a big change from just about any race in or near Chicago. I came in sixth for my age group, at what was for me a respectable but not great pace.

The guy who came in third, though, was only 43 seconds faster than me — less than 11 seconds per mile.

I’m registered for two more races in the same series in August, and I am virtually certain I can knock 11 seconds per mile off my pace by August. I want an age-group medal, damn it, even if it’s for third place.

Except for one year warming the bench on my seventh grade soccer team, I never participated in organized sports as a kid, so I admit to some unfulfilled trophy lust. I have some hope of improving my chances for age group medals as I get older; I didn’t start running until my mid-twenties, so my knees should stay functional longer than some of these fast guys who’ve been running since their days on the high school track team.

That’s probably just a fantasy, though. I spent several years running — including training for and completing three Chicago Marathons — while 50 pounds heavier than I am now, which may have caused a little extra wear and tear on the joints. My knees certainly don’t feel particularly fresh, that’s for sure.

On another topic, I did not, in fact, get any writing done while traveling last week. The work part of the trip sucked up most of my time, leaving me essentially the weekend to spend time on the beach with the Mrs. and kids and visit with our friends. Tuesday and Wednesday were simply crazy at work — Wednesday featured an especially delightful 350-mile round trip drive to a 30-minute hearing. But today I grabbed my MacBook as I ran out the door and wrote about 400 words on the train to and from work. More this weekend, for sure.

It’s time to admit that I will not be finished with the first draft by June 30. I need to think hard about what a realistic revised deadline would be. An easy choice would be October 31, so that I’m finished in time to start something new for NaNoWriMo, but I think that gives me too much time. I’m inclined to try to finish it by the end of Labor Day weekend, which would give me the whole summer (including some real vacation time in August). At my original pace of 5,000 words per week, that would take me to 125,000-130,000 words total, which is probably where Meet the Larssons is headed (for the first draft, anyway), although I haven’t kept that pace for the last couple of months. I’ll give it a week to see how I’m doing before I set another firm (or firm-ish) deadline, but I have to get my pace up or MTL will end up gathering dust unfinished.

What Do I Do With This?

Every so often, I’m unable to run a race I’ve registered (and paid) for. I have a thing about not wearing gear from these races — I feel like the t-shirts are for those who do the work, not just pay the fee. I used to think of it as earning the right to wear the shirt by finishing the race, until I spent $125 on a jacket at the 2006 Chicago Marathon Expo and then was unable to finish. I feel a little weird about it, but I wear the jacket; I did the work, I just couldn’t get to the finish line.

This year’s Soldier Field 10-Miler wasn’t a hard issue, though; I registered, I didn’t make it to the starting line, and I never picked up the t-shirt. No fuss, no muss, no bother, right?

Got home last night from a long trip, part work, part family time, and picked up the mail this evening from the wonderful neighbors who collected it while we were gone. Guess what I found when I went through it:

An envelope, mailed from the company that put on the race, containing the technical shirt from the Soldier Field 10-Miler.

My best guess is that they ran out of shirts and mailed them to everyone who didn’t get one — including those of us who didn’t pick one up.

So now I’ve got this decent technical shirt, utterly unsuitable for using as a rag or other ordinary t-shirt use, that I feel morally unable to wear.

Any suggestions?

Lessons Learned from Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Spring Sunday Stats, and More.

The slumber party itself was a learning experience, but it went so smoothly that I think what we learned is that we’d rather have a handful of kids over for 16 hours than a houseful of kids for 2 hours.

Liveblogging it was a learning experience of a different kind. For example, I already knew that the unreliable internet service we get from Comcast makes me crazy, but I hadn’t really considered how much time it causes me to waste until the fourth time I rebooted the cable modem while writing Part 3.

Another lesson learned is that it is better to decide to liveblog something in advance, so you can be sure you know what you’re doing, instead of making a snap decision based on an offhand suggestion. The whole thing started when, as we were cleaning up from dinner, Mrs. Unfocused said, “Hey, you should liveblog this.” It wasn’t really a problem until — again — Part 3, when I realized that I had no idea how to insert pictures into my post using the new interface. The old system was very easy & intuitive; the new one is, to put it mildly, a ginormous pain in the ass. It would have helped to try it out beforehand.

Another lesson: As far as I’m concerned, Unfocused Girl should have all of her birthday parties in June. The problem with February parties is that the kids for some reason refuse to play outside when it’s below zero.

We all spent today exhausted and occasionally cranky, but it was worth it. I had a very nice, if low-key, Father’s Day and received the perfect gift: The Simpsons Movie. I welcome any excuse to let my inner Homer come out to play, so I’m looking forward to watching it soon.

Spring Sunday Stats:

Weather: Thunderstorm in the morning, hot and sunny by 11:45 when I went out for the run. I tried a new sunscreen today, Bullfrog Quik Gel, but still got burned on my face and neck, so that’s out. I used Bullfrog’s spray on my arms instead of the Quik Gel, and that worked better, so I may hang onto that until it runs out.

Miles run: 9.67, in 1:32:33. Let’s face it: I was tired, and it was hot, with the sun right overhead. My butt was kicked before I got to the end of the block. I ran the first half in 43:37, and the second half in 48:56. I didn’t have high expectations, having skipped my long run last week and generally neglected my training all spring. I got out Thursday morning for an early run, though, then I did treadmill intervals at the gym on Friday, so I’m hoping not to completely embarrass myself this coming Saturday at the Classic Catering 4 Miler, one of the Seven Sisters and Four Brothers races in Dewey Beach, Delaware. In addition to the 4 Miler, I registered for the JD Shuckers 5K and the Highway One Group 10K, August 10 and 16, respectively.

I’m also registered for the Third Annual Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon, which will be held around the world on October 11-12, 2008. I ran the first one in 2006, but had to miss the 2007 race. I may not get to run any “official” half marathon this year, so the Phedip WWHM is even more important. Steve Runner of Phedippidations and the race directors do a great job organizing the race, down to the race bibs and virtual goody bags. They added a 5K last year, and this year they’ve added a 10K, so if you’re looking for a flexible, DIY race that lets you compete with fellow runners all over the world, you should take a look.

Words written of Meet the Larssons: That, unsurprisingly, would be none. Yesterday was a complete washout, of course, and today I spent a fair amount of time on client work. I didn’t expect to accomplish anything on the novel this weekend, and at least I didn’t disappoint myself. I’ll get something done on it tomorrow, though, and then maybe more on the plane on Tuesday.

The Morning After: Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 5.

Long night. I checked on the girls at 12:45am — Unfocused Girl was still awake and smiling, though all of the others were asleep (one was snoring at a considerable volume). We talked for a minute; I think she was still wound up from the excitement of the evening.

I’d forgotten how disruptive it is to have Junior sleeping in our room. He laughed in his sleep a few times, and Mrs. Unfocused saw him punching the air. I wonder which superhero he was dreaming about. He fell out of bed twice. The first time, Mrs. Unfocused got him back in and checked on the girls; the second time, at 5:15, I got him settled and checked on the girls myself: Unfocused Girl and one other were awake.

The girls woke up before 7. In the spirit of Father’s Day, Mrs. Unfocused tried to let me sleep in, but accidentally set off the alarm. I got dressed for a run, but got held up trying to help Unfocused Girl register the Webkinz pet one of her friends gave her; it took me 20 minutes to figure out that the Webkinz registration site was blocked by the parental controls on the iMac. By the time I fixed that, it was pouring rain. I may not be all that bright, but I know enough not to run in a thunderstorm, and the lightning strikes were not far away at all.

Webkinz is having trouble with its own servers this morning, so UG couldn’t register Simi (Siamie? it’s pronounced Sy-mee) the cat anyway.

Big breakfast of scrambled eggs (not for Junior, but he slept until 9:30 anyway) and pancakes. The Mrs. made two kinds of pancakes: one small batch with gluten-free flour (with eggs) for the girl with the gluten allergy, and one large batch with regular flour but no eggs for everyone else. I tried one of the gluten-free pancakes; it turns out that the missing gluten makes more of a difference than the missing eggs do, but it was still pretty good.

The girls have packed up, and are in the basement watching Scooby Doo (the original series) waiting to get picked up. We gave out copies of the first Warriors book as party favors so that UG will have some friends to talk to about the series.

I think she had a really good time. Tonight, I’ll blog the aftermath.

Midnight… and the Kitties Are Sleeping… Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 4.

Does anyone else remember Letterman’s parody of that song from Cats? No? It was about 20 years ago? No?

It doesn’t matter, because the Kitties are not, in fact, sleeping. I just left the room where they’re all camped, having read them the Exciting Prologue (“No!” said one. “Don’t read the prologue! I hate prologues!”) to Warriors Book 1, Into the Wild. I walked out of the room and closed the door, and immediately heard cats screetching and jumping all over. Not my problem, as long as the door stays closed and no one starts crying to go home.

I can’t believe all the stuff Mrs. Unfocused pulled together for this thing. She’s always in charge of birthday parties, but usually I’m a little more aware of her preparations. Maybe it’s that it gets easier as the kids get older.

This will probably be my last update tonight, unless something really unexpected happens tonight. Tomorrow: the morning after.

Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 3.

We just got Junior to bed (11:30pm) on the inflatable in our room, since the girls are taking over the room he shares with Unfocused Girl, which reminded me that I left something out of the last post. Just before we started the movie, Junior ran upstairs to get into pajamas (the girls had changed earlier). Apparently, he decided it would be more efficient to change in the basement; the next thing we knew, he was stark naked on the landing of the basement staircase, putting on a little show for all of the girls. I only understand one of the shouted comments — “Look out! Boy cooties!” — but the hubub died down pretty quickly. One of the girls has a little brother of her own and the other two, who are sisters, have known Junior for years.

Oops. Movie’s over. Gotta run.

Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 2.

Oh no! Our backyard has been invaded by nocturnal, pajama-wearing warrior cats!

Hooray! Superman is here to save us!

And now we will have cake! Cake to honor Firestar, the new leader of Thunderclan! (and Unfocused Girl, too!)

Yes, Mrs. Unfocused made that cake herself. No, she doesn’t have a cat mold — it’s essentially hand-carved. Yes, she’s incredibly talented. Yes, all of the kids’ birthday cakes look like this (well, not like this — I should post a picture of the Batman birthday cake she made for Junior in January). The only part not made from scratch is the cake itself, which came from a box mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen, purveyors of fine egg-free, nut-free cake mixes so good, Mrs. Unfocused, Unfocused Girl, and I feel cheated when we have an ordinary cake (not as cheated as Junior feels, since he doesn’t get to have the ordinary cake, but still).

There was also a pinata. The girl who couldn’t stay left at about 9:45, and since 10 the remaining members of the pack — and Junior — have been watching The Cat From Outer Space, a Disney classic from way back in 1977. Ah, blessed movie.

So, any bets on who will be the first to drop?

Post No. 100! Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 1.

Tonight is Unfocused Girl’s very-belated-7th-birthday party/first-ever slumber party. The guests (four girls, ages 7, 7, 9, and 10) arrived at 6:30, three of them toting massive suitcases; the fourth, one of the 7 year olds, doesn’t do sleepovers and will be heading home later on.

On arrival, each girl received a small stuffed kitten (thank you, Oriental Trading!) and her own Warrior name. Much squealing ensued. They then ran outside and attacked the playset with gusto. The five girls (four guests plus UG) were Warrior cats in space (with one dissenting vote for being lost at sea); Unfocused Junior started out as Speed Racer but, as predicated, quickly changed into his Superman costume (a blue sweatshirt with a red dishtowel safety-pinned to the back). They’re nice girls — they let Superman save them.

Dinner was burgers and hot dogs outside. The pack moved into the basement (combination rumpus room and home theater — all the toys, the kids’ iMac, and the big TV) for a tea party and general mayhem. The Mrs. just brought down the keepsake box decorating craft (thank you again, Oriental Trading!), so they’re all sitting at the basement bumper pool table spooning colored sand into tiny funnels.

I expect this is going to get more interesting as it gets later. There hasn’t been much sugar yet, and it’s only 8:30 — not terribly late. Even Junior isn’t acting tired yet; it doesn’t hurt that we blew off Tae Kwon Do this morning and let him sleep until 9:45.

Further updates as events warrant. Tune in around 9:30 for cake.

Breaking news: “Mrs. Unfocused, do you have any toothpicks?”

“Sure, here you go.”

“Oh ho ho! Now we can get really funky!”

I know I should go down there. But I’m afraid.

Dear God, Has It Been 10 Days Since I Posted?

Apparently, it has. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve been working on something really special for my 100th post, which is what my next post will be. I’d like to tell you that, but it would be a big, fat lie. In truth, I’ve just been working. Not on my novel, not on a short story, just on the stuff that pays the bills: representing clients (99% of my work time) and trying to bring in new ones (1% — anybody see a flaw in the way that breaks down?). I’ve been very, very busy, with a fair amount of traveling, and more to come next week.

Tomorrow is Unfocused Girl’s very, very belated birthday party. How belated, you ask? Here’s a hint: she’s seven, and this will be her first birthday party without snow on the ground.

This year, her party’s theme will be Warriors, and it will be her first slumber party, so I expect that by this time tomorrow night, our backyard will be taken over by a pack of girls ages 7 to 10 in their pajamas, running around in the dark and pretending to be a tribe of feral cats. And one four year old boy pretending to be Superman. This is going to be interesting.

Meet the Larssons has ground to a halt these last couple of weeks. The few people I’ve told I’m working on a novel have all asked me “Where do you find the time?” For the last couple of months, it’s gotten much harder, and the last couple of weeks, it’s been impossible.


Sorry about that – the kids were in the tub, and it was time to get them out. For the last half hour, Unfocused Girl has been singing “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” from Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Sound, and now my head needs to explode. The Potter Puppet Pals are funny, funny stuff, but I’m tired enough that my tolerance for infinite replay is something less than what it should be.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get back to the novel. What I need are a few days when I can spend an hour or more a day working on it in isolation. I had six days off planned starting next Tuesday, but an unavoidable business trip has popped up at the beginning of it, so instead I’ll get Mrs. Unfocused and the kids most of the way to my mother’s, then go on to my meetings; when they’re over, I’ll catch up with the wife and kids and we’ll head to the beach for a couple of days. Maybe I can get some writing in then.

It’s a Biglaw career I’ve got here, and sometimes (much of the time) it can be really hard to hang onto any semblance of a personal life. I know that’s true of other jobs, but this is the one I’ve got and the one I know best. I know I just need to get my butt in my seat in front of the MacBook on a regular basis, but sometimes the writing has to get back burnered. I’ve been beating myself up for not writing when what I really need to do is stop kvetching and find 15 minutes even on a bad day and just write.

Finally, I want to mention the passing today of a great American journalist, Tim Russert. Since we’ve had kids, Meet the Press has been a rare treat, but we used to watch it every Sunday morning, and we still enjoyed his commentary during MSNBC’s election coverage. Probably my most vivid memory of the 2000 election is of finally dropping off at 1 or 2 in the morning with the TV on, and waking up at 6 to find Russert still on air, in need of a shave and a clean shirt, with his white board and his red and blue markers trying to make sense of what the hell had just happened. He knew what he was talking about, he wasn’t one of the shouters, and I’ll miss his even-tempered commentary on this election.

Up next: Post #100! I can just smell the excitement. Or my shoes.