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Archive for May, 2010

Today, 28 May 2010, I just finished another tremendous “running” book.  This one is titled: “No Need For Speed“, by John “The Penguin” Bingham (2002©).  He is a former columnist for Runner’s World Magazine.  The book has some very practical advice for the beginning runner, but really, it’s about the spirit and philosophy of becoming / being a lifetime runner.
The book is very reminiscent of the “Born To Run” book and juxtaposes against Sheehan’s “Running And Being“.  It’s about the joy of running, not the agony.  This is a book I’ll keep handy and browse thru every now and then for inspiration, more than for advice.  Well worth reading for a philosophy of living, not just running.
Some quotes:
“The moment of truth for many of us as adult-onset athletes is when we first realize that changing our lives is going to be much more difficult than we ever imagined.”
“The days when you have to drag yourself out the door are very often the days when you will learn the most about yourself, not necessarily as a runner, but as a person.”
“Try to keep your expectations reasonable.  You’re beginning the journey of a thousand miles with a single step.  Each step is important; every step counts.”
“Each of us can maintain an effort level of about half our maximum perceived effort almost indefinitely, regardless of what that perceived effort level is.  We may not be able to maintain it continuously, but with a few exceptions, most of us can move our bodies at about half of our perceived maximum for as long as we want.”
[I doubt this is actually true. I can go for a good distance (several miles) at 4mph.  I have done 9mph (very briefly), and feel I could do 10mph (very, very briefly).  I guess there needs to be a “fudge” factor for “extremely” slow runners like me.]
“Don’t do anything today that might keep you from running tomorrow.”
“Frustration is the first step toward improvement.  I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner.”
“For the dedicated runner, frustration is to be sought out and savored, not avoided.”
“I continue to run because I like running.  I like to run even though I’m not, by their standards, any good at it.  What matters to me is that I like to run, not what they think about my running.”
“Life can’t be taken so seriously that you live it without risk.  There are times in life, as in running and racing, when the only way to see tomorrow is to walk right up to the edge of today.”
“It isn’t the shoes, socks, clothes, or even the speed that makes me a runner.  It’s running.  I pay my membership dues every time I lace up my running shoes.  I realize that every time I challenge myself to do more, struggle to get a little faster, or face the limits of my abilities, I am a runner.”
“A real runner, not just someone who runs.”
[The contradiction between this and some of the earlier quotes is stark.  Does the author truly enjoy running, or is it all about some “other” psychological satisfaction – like testing one’s self.  This is a trap I fall into. Wanting to go faster and be “better”.  …And then I take a long, slow jog out in the fresh air, watch the clouds go by and the day change, and I realize I just run because I like running.]
Other Topics – first of many shoe reviews:
The plan is to use each test pair about 30 days and or 100-125 miles of jogging.
Model: Delta Water Shoe
Price: $40 but you can get a discount if you are a store member.
Ahnu Delta Water Shoe
Manufacturer: Ahnu
Web site: www.ahnu.com
Bought at: REI store in Concord, CA
Web site: www.rei.com
Initial impressions:
This is BY FAR the most expensive shoe of this type I’ve bought for my reviews.  More than twice the price of the next highest.
Not very easy to get on.  I tried to wear cotton socks with them.  I managed to get them on my feet, but they pulled the socks back into my toes so every step felt like I was kicking a wall.  I had to sit and remove the socks.  After that, they were extremely comfortable in a slimy, polyester kind of way.  Without socks, getting them on is a tug/slip/pull/straighten, but it’s not too bad.
The feel for the ground is excellent.  You can feel the smallest cracks in the pavement and the smallest stones, but there seems little danger of penetration by sharp objects.  I do my laps in a schoolyard and there is a fair amount of broken glass – and near the buildings – loose staples and paper clips.  (Who thought the world was so unsafe for feet!!)
So far I’ve done three runs on a treadmill and another four on the asphalt – about 25 – 30 miles and there is almost no sign of wear at all.
The good news is the slimy feeling goes away quickly because the shoes ventilation is great.  It remains to be seen how that translates into stink as they get a little more sweat in them.
I did a walk on the treadmill with maximum slope to see how the shoes felt.  I was surprised to find my foot consistently slid right off the back of the shoe.  If I were out in the boonies on a long jog, I would have had a problem with blisters under my heels in no time.  I was surprised because the shoe is relatively difficult to get on my feet and the lip feels snug enough to prevent stuff from getting in the shoe, so I imagined the sole would be more stable under the foot.
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Last Monday, 17 May I finished reading The Book of War, by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (2008©).  It is one of those encyclopedic surveys of wars, battles, generals and technologies which come out every few years.  It was interesting as an exercise (refresher), but I did not feel it offered anything particularly interesting or new.  A few of the battles and leaders were new (to me), but it was not obvious to me why they were included over other leaders which other authors might have chosen instead.
Today, 21 May I finished my second book by Stewart Liff.  This one is titled: Managing Government Employees (2007©).  It was Mr. Liff’s first book, so I’ve actually read them out of sequence.  This book was easily on a par with my last reading (Managing Your Government Career).  In fact, I’d say it was better in some ways because it gave more specific information.  Whereas the earlier reading was really for all government employees, this is more to the needs of folks in supervisory and management positions.  Again, I would highly recommend this work to any and all government leadership.  Between the two works, I am more and more convinced I need to get some time in Labor and Employee Relations and then get a detail out in the field.  There is NO substitute for program time if you want to get ahead in the government.
Speaking of which, the Leadership Development Program has been announced for the next fiscal year.  I have to get my act together and apply again.  This will be my fifth application in eight years.  I’ve been interviewed for four of them and did not make the Best Qualified List (BQL) last year – for the first time.  Anyway, we’ll see how it goes again this year.
Nothing really new on the running front.  I’ve been having a lot of minor problems for about a month and my time has really trailed off.  Mostly, I’m only jogging in the morning now (at work) and that’s not enough to get me ready for the WS100.
I picked up three pairs of “water-sport” shoes and plan to give a review of each when I finally get started back running a bit more seriously.  As “good” as it may sound to be a “natural” barefoot runner.  I doubt if I’ll ever be one.  These shoes may be as close as I ever get.
The diet is not particularly going…  I’m bouncing around at 290 to 297.  I’m still down over 30 lbs, but I should be much further along.
I’ve picked up some drum sticks and am beginning to tap with them every now and then.  Art (my sister’s husband) says he’ll loan me a drum set for the summer (about six weeks).  That should be enough time for me to lose interest or “discover” I really do like playing a musical instrument.
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On Saturday, 1 May I finished the book: “Managing Your Government Career” by Stewart Liff (2009©).  The book is a primer on how to plan a career in government.  I don’t feel it really taught me anything new, but it is definitely a book I would have liked to read 15 to 18 years ago when I was starting out in Civil Service.
Most of the book are Homer Simpson, “Duh!!“, moments.  But it is refreshing to find so many of them in one convenient place.  This, in itself, makes the book a valuable resource.  I got the book from our Training Dept resource library, and it turns out they have a second book by the same author.  That one is a previous work about managing government employees.  I look forward to reading that as well.  I’ve requested it, so now I just have to wait for it to be delivered (assuming no one else has it checked out).
The author was fortunate enough to have started his career directly in human resources.  This means all the day to day operations he was learning about were actually things he could transfer to another agency (should he decide to move around).  He then managed to take a supervisory position in a program delivery office.  Program delivery is government speak for retail facing of the public a.k.a. front-line delivery.  He then was able to transfer back into HR, this time as an employee relations (ER) specialist and then move into management.  Ultimately, he ends up directing the HR department of a moderately large agency.
One of his particularly cogent observations is to never take a job without having an idea of what the next job will be.  In other words, where will you be after you take this one.  This idea of planning each move with multiple options next and multiple options again after that is very similar to the “Indirect Approach” to warfare suggested by B. H. Liddle Hart in his writings on military strategy.
The obvious benefit is you leave yourself several options to promotion and you prevent any competing individual from blocking all of your potential plans for advancement. The only one they will seriously try to block is the one they are most interested in.
Other than my extrapolation of this strategy, the suggestions are conventional – work hard, dress well, build a network, cultivate mentors.  Or as my non-techie friends say to me, “Blah, blah, blah…”
It would have been nice if the author had provided a few more insights into the workings of the decision process for getting through to the Best Qualified List (BQL), but the best he can offer is to read the job announcement and write specifically to it. (“Duh!!”)
More importantly, how do you decide which factors are important (and realistically achievable) when you are thinking about the multiple positions you want to line up for that second and third job down the line.  Another topic might have been, when it is a good idea to lateral or downgrade in order to pick up a critical skill for that future position.
All in all, though my criticisms are details which might have improved the book for me in particular and not necessarily faults for the general reader.
The book is well written, relatively brief (230 pages) and a “fast” read.  I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a government job, anyone in their first couple of years of service, anyone in their first or second supervisory position and finally to anyone at the very senior level who might want to refresh their memory with what it’s like to have your future ahead of you so you can look out to help others as a mentor.
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