Monday, February 24, 2014

A Strained Sports Metaphor

In summer track events often have heats to whittle things down, but most speed based events, you are going directly against your competitors. In winter, several speed events from luge to skiing to speed skating have you going individually, or in pairs, and then waiting as others attempt the same thing. Now yes, I realize this is also similar to gymnastics and figure skating.  Originally I was trying to separate out judges versus speed events, but as I think about this some more, judged events may also apply.  

So, in an event where you and your competitors are on the same course (or track, or whatever) all at the same time, we all know it's still not fair.  Certain positions are more advantageous, you may get jostled or tripped.  Your ski might break.  Things happen.  But, as much as is possible, you and your fellow competitors are working with the same environment, trying to achieve the same goal at the same time.  Okay, actually, you are probably trying to beat them to that goal.  And if someone has a crazy burst of speed you can see this happen and try to match it.  You can see your fellow competitors and the clock or finish line and know, right then, what it will take for you to succeed*. 

But in events like luge or speed skating, there might be one other competitor going at the same time as you, or no one.  So, you do the very best you can do in that moment and then you sit there and wait. You might set a world record only to watch the next three competitors break that.  In other words, you could not only do your best, but do better than anyone ever had in that event and still lose if the people behind you do even better. 

I always think athletes must have to develop amazing cognitive separation.  Going into a game or event you have to approach it as if you will not only succeed but likely win. You have to be prepared for that moment when all of your competitors literally fall in front of you, or some other less dramatic variation.  But after the event, you have to be able to realize that you did what you could, there may be things you can work on, competing was it's own reward and you'll try again some other time.  And both attitudes are correct. 

Now all of this talk of metaphor is to say that I think this applies to non-athletes as well.  There are non-athletic situations where you are doing things that other people are doing and getting different results or rewards.  Sometimes there are additional factors, and sometimes, well sometimes it just goes differently for the person on the track behind you or ahead of you.  And you have to be ready for opportunities that come to you and accept that sometimes other people are just going to have different success rates. 

*Yes, for the purposes of this metaphor we are going to pretend that finishing first is the only definition of success. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Back when video (or DVD) rental places were easier to find, I quickly realized my dislike of things like errands and deadlines was going to mean that I was going to pay a lot of late fees.  Shopping movie sales turned out to be the more frugal option.  (Streaming actually works great for me because someone else has to remember to make it go back.)  I had not considered, that if I waited long enough, my late fees might result in my being arrested, but one woman (who sadly, was at the police station to report a crime, and found herself, well, in jail) discovered that even though the video place she rented from in 2005 is no longer in business, you can still be held for this. 
2. I was happy to discover that among the local DC area folks competing in the Olympics is a barista who played hockey for Switzerland.  (I say played, because, well, they have now been eliminated, although she did score a goal for them.) 
3. I honestly don't recall if my middle school government had any responsibilities beyond planning school dances (sorry to them if they did) but some local students at Deal have made it a point to work on getting a bus shelter for the stop near their school. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

7 Things the Olympics Remind Us

1. National pride is an amazing thing.
2. This is true whether the country you are competing for is the one you were born in, or your parents, or your grandparents.  Or, ahem ice dancing, one newish to you.
3. Everyone here is trying to do their best and that's something to be applauded even if their best is more or less good than the next person's. 
4. If you fall down, get up and keep going.  Sometimes your worst day might be televised. 
5. Winning is excellent.
6. Competing is excellent. 
7. Sometimes openings occur because other people fail.  You take those, but you also applaud the efforts of your competitors. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three Interesting Things: Olympic Edition

1. Given that watching Olympics where they sometimes refer to a sixteen year-old's last shot at glory, it's nice to see a story about some "older" Olympians, as in the forty year-old's.
2.  I don't watch cross country outside of the Olympics, but even still had missed the change that the skiathalon involved a mid-race ski swap.  And speaking of skiathalons, I adored US competitor Jessica Diggins and not just because she has pink and blue streaks in her hair along with glitter makeup, but because in the media's focus on things like medal counts and such it is easy to forget that just competing at the Olympics is amazing, that the number of athletes that medal is tiny but that doesn't make competing a waste of time.  And in her interview she, well, glittered with happiness over finishing eighth, because it exceeded her goal of trying for top twenty.  I'm sure there are plenty of other athletes thrilled to have set a new personal record.  It was lovely to see. 
3. A skiier broke a ski mid-race.  Obviously that impacted his ability to win, but he still wanted to finish the race.  A coach from another team/country went onto the course and helped the racer into a spare ski he had. 

Monday, February 10, 2014


My love of ereading should be no surprise to anyone at this point. But Staples has this test, where they mock up the ereader experience and then time you reading, followed by a quiz to catch your comprehension.  I confess I might have gone a bit too fast on the first test and, erm, failed the quiz.  But the second I went at a more reasonable pace and still did quite well.  It had me read 444 words, and my speed was 408 words per minute.  This apparently makes me 63% faster than average, and apparently means I could read War and Peace in a mere 23 hours and 59 minutes.  (Uh, pass. But good to know.) Catch-22 would take about 7 hours.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I was sad to hear of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and found this post in response to a claim of anger over his addiction thoughtful. 
2. I like awards shows quite a bit, but find the red carpet slog a tiring, and that's from my couch.  If even one of the things predicted in this post about a red carpet revolution come true, well, I'd watch that.
3. I first heard about this on NPR, but apparently there is some reason to believe singing exercises might help with snoring

Monday, February 03, 2014

7 Things: Times 3 - The Share the Road (And Sidewalk) Edition

Due to a combination of having more friends switch to bike commuting and getting more bike commuting friends, I'm getting a peek into some of those challenges.  Certainly, the rise of bike commuting in the area is not new to me, I just have to try to walk down the sidewalk without getting run over.  So, here we go. If we could all works towards multi-user harmony, it might look like this. 

1. In order to achieve peace in the land there are pre-established rules for car transit.  These involve preferred speed, stopping points, and appropriate turning places and times.  Sure, some people (ahem) bend that speed rule.  But like all rules, they are best broken* when you are aware what it was the other travelers might reasonably expect of you. 
2. Bikes are not in the wrong place. Bikes have options, including roads.  Yes, bikes are slower than cars.  It happens. 
3. People who are crossing in crosswalks with the light are not in the wrong place.  Even if you really need to turn.  People in crosswalks that have no light always have the right of way. 
4. Honking should be reserved to indicate concern that another vehicle is causing immediate danger to you.  And possibly a gentle honk to let the car directly in front of you notice that the light has changed.  Honking has never made anyone faster.  It has never made any vehicle disappear. 
5. Bike lanes are not parking spaces. 
6. U-turns should be reserved for unusual circumstances.  They should not be done mid traffic.  Or across bike lanes.  Or crosswalks.
7. Turn signals are not extra work, they are a helpful indicator of your plans for your fellow travelers.

1. When you're on the road, you are considered a slow car.  This means all those traffic laws you've learned apply to you.  Red lights are not a special opportunity to get a jump on the cars because red lights don't just mean traffic one way stops, it means traffic another way starts. 
2. When you're on the sidewalk, you are considered a fast pedestrian. Pedestrians do not have to get out of your way.
3. Wear your helmet.
4. Talking on your cell phone while driving is dangerous.  This is especially true of a vehicle that typically requires two hands to balance properly. 
5. On the subject of balance, bikes are generally designed to carry a single person.  If you load more people or things than that, without baskets, panniers and bungees, say, for example, loading a gallon of milk on each side of the handle and you cannot maneuver your bike in a straight line, you need to reconsider your plan and not endanger your fellow travelers. 
6. If you are riding you bike on the street, sometimes you have to stop.
7.  If you are riding your bike on the sidewalk, sometimes you have to stop. 

1. I've talked about jaywalking* before. Again, we're all trying to share here, so you too need to make sure the things you do don't endanger others. 
2. Walking in a straight line (where obstacle allow) helps.
3.  If someone is going slower than you want, you can try to pass them, but treat it like you were a car.  If there's not enough space to do it without impeding oncoming pedestrians, then wait. 
4. When people coming opposite directions encounter an obstacle that means only one can pass at a time, politeness is called for.  That doesn't mean you can't go first, but it's nice to acknowledge that the other person had to slow to let you.
5. Don't stand in the bike lane while you try to figure out when to jaywalk. 
6.  If x is the number of people in your party, and y is the greatest number of people who can walk abreast in that stretch of sidewalk, only walk abreast if y is greater than x.  Otherwise, if you want to chat, go to a park.  Yes, sidewalks are part of the community, but their primary purpose is for people to get somewhere.  Don't block that.  Don't assume no one is faster than you. 
7. Also, stay alert.  And don't be that person who causes a pedestrian pileup because you came to a dead stop reading that text. 

*Standard disclaimer: I am not encouraging breaking laws.  I am saying people do it, and at the very least, I wish they would attempt to do so wisely and in ways designed to cause the least amount of harm.