Helping out a Debianite!

The week started out busy and stayed that way.  Sunday afternoon, I spent my time helping out a good friend Renee with her Debian desktop.  Years ago, she and her beau (now husband, IIRC) had been pinched for cash and tired of the BSoD's.  Carl, an old co-worker of mine, and I suggested Debian as an alternative.  About once every two or three years, they ask for a tune-up, and Sunday just happened to be that day.  She was having issues playing sound and installing fonts.  Usually easy things to fix, I spent the better part of the afternoon debugging the sound issues.

Carl and I apparently weren't very thorough with our initial setup.  With the Gnome desktop, there is a nice little utility called gksu that prompts the user for either the root password of the system, or ties in to sudo, which apparently I mis-pronounce as "pseudo" rather than sue-doo, to allow a privileged user to enter their own password.  This is the same type of setup that Apple's Mac OS X uses.  Renee and Chris couldn't find the root password (easy enough to change), and gksu wasn't configured to use sudo!  Awkward.  As a result, over 460 packages needed to be updated for security or usability reasons since the release of Debian 5.0 (Lenny).

The second mis-step in our setup was forgetting to assign Renee's account to all the right local hardware access groups, such as "audio", "video", etc.  Sound setup in Lenny was a bit weird anyway, so I downloaded and installed the PulseAudio packages.  Took me a bit of hoop jumping and research to figure out all the right things to do -- turned out that it was a simple answer of adding Renee and Chris to two groups rather than one.  Only took me a couple hours to find that one.

Lastly, of course, was trying to get Flash 10 working in Lenny.  I found "The Perfect Desktop - Debian Lenny" to be extremely helpful.  The difficulty with Debian in general continues to be its strict adherence to what it considers free.  Adobe's Flash Player is definitely not free, and thereby does not warrant support. However, your browsing experience is seriously impinged upon if you do not include the latest Flash and Shockwave language.  Free software has a natural latency to this level of support, it's always behind when trying to provide compatible variants to otherwise restricted rights software.

I can only think of one acceptable alternative to Debian, though: Ubuntu.  Being a Debian-bigot, it's a natural fit for me.  For the average user, not the monkey-wrenching geek like me, Ubuntu has all the benefits of the Debian operating system with the polish and support you would like to see in a desktop operating system.  Ubuntu package selection is a bit more strategic than Debian's when it comes to "fitting in" to the current computing environment.  This has earned Ubuntu the "black sheep" stigma from some hard-core Free Software pundits, one that is undeserved in my honest opinion.  (I can guarantee you that it isn't on Richard Stallman's Top 10 list of Linux derivatives.)

Ubuntu would be a great fit for Renee and Chris.  I'm using it on my laptop and my work-desktop right now!  Works great!  Perhaps the next time they need a tune-up, I'll convince them to switch over.  Wulfgar, if you're reading this and tired of the BSoD's, look to Ubuntu!



Swimming in a Runner's Shoes

The last couple weeks have been interesting for me, as I started training in earnest once more.  On the night of the 13th of January, I was successful in registering for Grandma's Marathon 2010! A few days later, we also confirmed an agreement to rent a house on Park Point for a week spanning the race weekend.  The stage is set for my first Marathon, and I hope to stay health enough to not only make it to the race day in once piece, but finish the race in a respectable sub-four hours.  We'll have a few days following the race to enjoy the North Shore and visit with old friends.  It is a vacation we greatly need.  I'm looking forward to having campfires on the beach, listening to the waves roll in and roasting marshmallows with my family.  Too bad it's five months away.

Staying healthy while training for this marathon is my focus.  I'm told that a big 6'2" frame is tough on joints for runners, and last year's bursitis is a good affirmation of that statement.  Every time I write that, I feel older than I really am.  For that reason, I've mixed swimming into my training schedule, an activity I've always generally enjoyed.  As a child living on a lake, I swam almost ever day.  Waterskiing, tubing, fishing, and swimming were standard activities on Lake Mitchell.  Despite this, I never really enjoyed swimming laps nor understood why anyone would want to swim an endurance event.  It was too much work and too tiring to enjoy anything other than screwing around.

Why in the world would I try my luck with it now?  The primary benefit is that of an aerobic work-out without the impact on my joints.  Believe you me, that it's quite effective in depleting my muscles of glycogen!  This is definitely what I had in mind two weeks ago.  What I wasn't certain of was whether or not I could deal with the mind-numbing and exhausting work of swimming back and forth, back and forth.

Like anything I do, I try to "do it right," but what did that actually mean with swimming?  I decided to take a scientists approach to it.  Each time I entered the pool, I tried something different to see what worked best.  I would come home to Meghan, excited about what I had found while she was there baffled that I "didn't know that?"  I had no idea that I was supposed to have known apparently what she learned on the swim team.  Hmm...

In any case, I kept at it and asked questions of anyone who was willing to give answers.  A triathlete friend of mine, Jessica, suggested I take a look at Total Immersion, a program put together by Terry Laughlin.  She commented on how my stroke looked much better Wednesday afternoon.  Encouraged, I took her advice and checked the site out that night.  I watched the six-part video segment on Perpetual Motion Freestyle.  Although Terry didn't go into great detail about the drills in his program, the demonstration videos were rich on content, hitting some of the primary principles of swimming efficiently in the water.  It was exactly what I needed.  I couldn't wait to put his principles to test on Friday.  If it worked out, I would consider purchasing his training materials.

Thursday's run with Jason and Amanda almost didn't happen on account of the freezing rain earlier that morning, though I would have been stuck on a treadmill rather than swimming; I hadn't brought my trunks.  The run went well, despite the slick sidewalks.  Most places were dry and traction was adequate.  I really enjoy running with our afternoon group.  We run at an easy pace and talk about anything under the sun.  There are days when I don't want to run, or when I feel work is too busy to get out.  I can count on Deb and Brett to get me out the door.

In any case, I did get to try out some of the principles today's swim.  At noon, all of the lanes were occupied, but was offered to share a lane right away.  In a few moments of conversation, I found out that I was swimming with another runner, and one that was familiar with the Total Immersion program and focusing on triathlon training.  Crazy!  We swam a few laps, and he pointed out that I wasn't keeping my head down enough.  "Envision holding an orange under your chin," he said.

The next lap I swam, everything clicked, an epiphany moment.  I already had a pretty good stroke, good extension, and I understood how to breath.  Everything Terry had said about balancing in the water, moving with purpose and efficiency, and staying on target rushed back into focus.  I felt like I truly was floating on the water, rather than plowing through it.  I really enjoyed myself today, and I didn't struggle after 200m or even 300m.  I basically lost track of my count, so I can only estimate that my final distance was between 800m and 1200m.  Next Monday, I want to see how far I can go in my 40-50 minutes at lunch!

Excited about my new success, I brought up my findings at dinner to Meghan.  She once again couldn't believe that I "didn't know that?"  Swimmers.



Beery Good, Spicy Italian Spaghetti

Time for a recipe!  This one turned out beautifully today!

Beery Good, Spicy Italian Spaghetti
1.5 lbs spicy Italian sausage (6 links)
1/2 vadalia onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 bottle pilsner beer
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Savory, dried
1/2 tsp Thyme, dried
1/2 tsp Oregano, dried
1/4 tsp Rosemary, dried
1/2 tsp Marjoram, dried
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
1 lb Spaghetti
Parmesan Cheese

In a 12" skillet, brown the sausage in a little olive oil.  If you're using links, heat them up first as links, then take them off the heat.  Let them cool and slice them up.  Clean the skillet and sautee the onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until soft (5 min), add the minced garlic until fragrant (30 seconds).  Add the sliced sausage back to the pan and pour in the beer.  Reduce, 5-10 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and herbs, sugar, and salt and pepper.  If you didn't have minced garlic, add the dried garlic now.  Mix, cover, and simmer 15+ minutes.  Cook the spaghetti in boiling water until slightly al dente.  Transfer the noodles to the skillet with the sauce and add 1/2 cup of pasta water (the water you just boiled the noodles in).  Cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl!  Garnish with Parmesan and serve with a lettuce salad, maybe some garlic bread.

Remember to add pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce.


Sketching out Training for 2010

I've nailed down a few races now, but not many.  I've got some aggressive goals for 2010, apparently.  I ran just shy of 550 miles last year, starting in February and having a hiatus for hip bursitis.  I'm pretty sure I over-trained in the second half of the year before Ragnar.

Version 1 of my training schedule is modeled off Hal Higdon's 18 week Intermediate - I schedule, date shifted forward to match Grandma's Marathon.

I get just a bit over a week before The Lakes 8k in Big Lake, so I won't be running that race very hard at all.  I've included a couple pre-marathon races, and may add in a half-marathon if I find one that matches the training schedule.  Of course, this is all dependent upon how my body reacts to training.  This one is rather run-heavy, though if I want to pace for Adam in August, I'll want a good base mileage to work off of.

I do plan on including more cross-training, including biking to and from work, some free-weight training, and swimming.  Version 2 of this schedule will likely have a more balanced approach, closer resembling a triathlete's training.  I may include Wednesday's as "Cross" days rather than runs, giving me 2 "Cross", 4 "Run/Pace", and 1 "Rest" each week.

On thing to consider is that my commute to work is 5 miles, approximately.  I can get there in about 15-18 minutes in the morning, and back home in 18-22 minutes.  I would like to work up to riding every day of the week while not compromising my running training.

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions.


P.S. I found a nice site: Beginner Triathlete. Might be useful!

Ribbit, Ribbit Green Frog

I came up with the following song when Connor was three, partly because I was tired of singing "Bah, Bah Black Sheep".  It became an instant favorite, and I've sung it to both boys nightly since then.  When Ryan was inconsolable on the emergency room bed, getting his eyebrow stitched back together, I sang him this song.  When he wouldn't sit still for the hair stylist, I sang it again.  Try it out!  You won't be disappointed in your child's reaction.

Ribbit, Ribbit Green Frog
(Sung to the tune of Bah, Bah Black Sheep)

Ribbit, ribbit green frog,
have you any flies? (*Slurp, Slurp*)
A dozen or two,
I tell you no lies.

They're crunch and they're good
and I eat 'em all the time.
You can have some,
you can have some of mine.

Ribbit, ribbit green frog,
have you any flies? (*Slurp, Slurp*)
A dozen or two,
I tell you no lies.

-- Chad Walstrom, 2006


Finding Races for 2010?

I've been mulling over which races I plan on running for 2010.  Having done this last year, so I remembered a few sites that can be helpful for a Minnesota runner to find local races.  Let's face it, as much as I would like to race around the states, I can probably only manage a few of these special trips a year.

The first site is called Apple Raceberry JaM.  It has a pretty good collection of race information across the state.  The site is very low tech, circa early 90's, but it wins in content.  One intersting Marathon of note I found through this site is the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon on May 8th, between Holdingford and St. Joseph, MN.  It's scheduled two months before Grandma's, and still five months away.  These are the schools we used to race against in High School.  It would be interesting to return as a much older (and slower) man to run again.

Another site that is useful is The Sporting Life Events.  It catalogs races managed by The Sporting Life crew.  I ran The Running of the Pigs last spring with Connor.  We had a great time, so I would recommend these races to anyone.  Of the races here, I'll probably run the Frigid 5 (or 8) in February and the St. Patrick's Day Human Race in March.

The Minnesota Distance Running Association also hosts a bunch of races throughout the year and list them here.  All races are free if you register as a sustaining member, so if you plan on four or so, you may as well just become a member.  One cool thing they do is Dome Running!  $1 per night gets you three hours of running from 17:00-20:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays up through March 11th!  So, for those really cold days, we can run inside instead!

So far, the only concrete race decisions I've made are to run in Grandma's and the Lake's 8k in June, and pace for Adam (Wahoo!!!) at the Leadville 100mi Trail marathon in August.  I've added a few tentative races on my Fitness calendar (ala Google), which is embedded on this blog.  A couple friends of mine offered up a couch in Florida so I could run the Gasperilla 15k in late February... I might take them up on it. :)