Friday, September 24, 2010


I need to decide what do with this little pile of run-out running shoes.

I’ve stripped them of my Spencos (those green innersoles on the bench) and my LockLaces, and replaced their original inners and laces, and have been hoping to find someone who will see that they are put to good use. The problem is that, although they don’t especially look it the photo, they are utterly clapped out inside, especially around the heel counter. I can’t even walk in them without a little discomfort. In other words, they would only be useful to people with a great need and no other solution. There are people in that awful condition in the world, but I don’t know how to reach them. Most collecting agencies specify “gently used.” I know I could give them to Nike to turn into running track surfaces and such, but I’m not all that fond of Nike, and I’d rather find another solution.


I used to keep all my old shoes in a box, which became a series of boxes, and I remember bringing representative samples to a talk I was once asked to give about running. I was able to present the development of the running flat from the early ’60s to 1980 or so when the event took place. (Riveting stuff, huh? I’ve always known how to hold an audience.)

I eventually realized the absurdity of maintaining a personal museum of historic footwear and trashed the dozens of pairs that had accumulated. I wish now that I’d held out a pair of each type. It’s hard for even me to believe the things we ran in.

The Trackster in the linked article is actually an updated version of this ripple-soled beauty, which didn’t come out until the late ’60s, and was definitely the best cross-country shoe available at that time. I started out in something much more like the shoe above it, and passed through some essentially throw-away Pumas before upgrading. I also had some of those Lydiards, which were actually made in Germany and were very good for early-’70s shoes; a few pairs of those Tigers (and an earlier version with a less structured heel); three pairs of the New Balance 320s before moving on to Nike LDVs; and a single pair of those god-awful Nike Air Huaraches, for the design, production, and marketing of which someone should have been prosecuted.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jail(break) bait

I may not be young enough for an iPhone. I like to think that it’s just that my paradigms are out of date, but I’m afraid it’s more likely to be the desiccating mind. Only a moron, for example, could take an afternoon’s worth of photos and come home with ... no photos, but a single ten-second video of what looks a lot like colonoscopy footage.

And only an ignoramus would have bought an app machine for travel abroad that doesn’t work as an app machine for travel abroad unless you’re willing to drop large money on one of AT&T’s data plans: $25 for 20 MB, $60 for 50 MB, $120 for 100 MB, or $200 for 200 MB. (And things aren’t even that clear cut. A number of AT&T customers report huge charges regardless, along with the incorrect billing of mass data—and huge fights with the maddeningly faceless and arrogant telecom.) I knew all this, but neglected to extrapolate it to include myself. I’m so exceptional.

Yes, I know all about Airplane Mode (not to mention the power button), but the magic of the iPhone is its apps, many of which are perfect for a traveler outside his own country: wiki guides, interactive maps, specialized camera apps (well, let’s not go there right now), not to mention star charts and lots of other neat things. Do I need this stuff? Of course not. I’ve traveled for decades without it. But they’re helpful and they’re fun. And they really are one major reason I got the phone in the first place.

I’m a pretty weak techie, but years ago I had no qualms about opening up my cutting-edge IBM-PC clone to replace its 10 MB hard drive with a massive 80 MB upgrade, and I matter-of-factly upgraded memory, installed cards, and generally fiddled around in the guts of lots of small computers. So I’m pondering the possibilities of downloading Cydiajailbreaking my iPhone, and using foreign SIMs. I won’t be able to do it for this trip, because I want to hear more about the jailbreak software out there for iOS 4.1, but next time? Likely, I’d say.

Actually, there should be an app for that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I’ve been experimenting with this app lately. I can’t compare it to the several similar programs out there, because I haven’t used them, but I like it.

Its stopwatch function, above, includes pace (velocity over the previous 400 meters), average mile time, distance covered, distance remaining (on a pre-stored course) and elevation climbed. It also includes a map function,

a routes function, which you build up by running and naming your workouts,

a calendar function, which lets you track runs by date if you want to,

and a graphic function (pace over distance and elevation over distance).

It will also send you an email synopsis of your run (handy as a sort of skeletal training diary), or show the world how your training is going with direct connections to Twitter or Facebook (over my dead body). You can set it to “speak” to you at specific distances, times, and/or locations, with information on pace and, if you choose, speed relative to earlier runs over the same course.

I was confused at first about the “pace” function, because it was giving me readings too fast to be believable. An email to the developer resulted in a pleasant, almost instant reply, with good information. (Descent and special motivation, with a distant nod toward GPS inaccuracy—I’ve had enough experience with the first two to believe strongly in the third here.) Excellent support.

Using Runmeter is fiddly, not in its actual use but in the sense that I have to stuff the iPhone into an arm holder while I run, and keep the !@#$ earbud cord under control. It’s the nature of an app, and as I get used to it, no big deal.

I’d never been especially interested in the actual times of training runs, just the distances and effort involved. But now my running isn’t really training, and what I’m actually trying to do is get and stay moderately fit while controlling the pace so I don’t face more awkward conversations with my achilles tendons. Since I don’t have the native wit to do this on my own (no luck trying to emulate the ladies), Runmeter metaphorically tapping me on the shoulder at mile marks helps do it for me, and the collected information, especially looked at over time, will be interesting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A B update

I’ve spent much of the last few weeks in New Hampshire communing with our two-year-old. The family agrees it’s a perfect match of people with simple needs and short attention spans, though one is charming and the other is, mmm, not.

This is the B a couple of weeks ago, picking blueberries with her mother and father on the beautiful Vermont farm where they were married. They had some rare family time and made the most of it.

The north country is beautiful right now—cooler, dryer, and with that distinctive autumn light making frequent appearances. Even a little rain! The leaves are just beginning to turn. Oddly, they seem to be a few days farther along down here in Connecticut. It’s beginning to smell like cross-country season.

A crew of us including sweet B, her mama, and I took in the huge New Hampshire Highland Games in Lincoln Saturday. Pipes, drums, and more kilts than I’ve ever seen in one place. Participants from Ontario, Nova Scotia, North Carolina, and, of course, Scotland. B loved it, though mostly because she got to ride on a school bus (parking lots were miles away), and was given a Tootsie Roll Pop by the driver. (It was Orange, thank goodness. I am a lifelong enthusiast of Grape, so we avoided an awkward moment.)

B is rolling out astonishingly long sentences these days. (“You come right over here and sit by me.”) She knows her letters and colors cold, and her numbers one to ten. Her favorite song is still “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” though she asked for Norah Jones on the way to the Games. She required me to sing my version of “Yellow Submarine” (still known to her as “WeWaWeWa”) in the car the other day, so her taste remains questionable. (Though she can identify both Ray Charles—“Way Tow!”—and B.B. King—“BeeBeeTing!”—so we’re making progress.)

For breakfast, B at 25 months prefers raisins and Animal Crackers.

(No, not this one.)

Animal Crackers both is and are out at 7:30 am, and raisins are limited due to rash complications, so she usually settles on a different dish: mine. We invariably wind up sharing my standard Wheaties with a little Grape Nuts (neither grape nor nut), topped with fruit. Guess who gets the fruit.

Ah, little B, I’ll miss you for the next three weeks. I’ll be looking forward to coming right over there and sitting by you. Even if you eat all my raspberries.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A day in the hills

We had just a great walk this past Tuesday. In my continuing embarrassing quest to finish my New Hampshire 48, I had penciled in Whiteface and Passaconaway, the southernmost of the White Mountain 4,000-footers, for this week. H took a day of her precious week’s vacation to join me, and BB and KC, who we don’t see anywhere near often enough, drove over from Vermont to make up a foursome.

BB and I are old college teammates, and he’s still in superb shape, as is K. H has made a strong comeback from her operation, and had been training and competing in triathlons. That left pudgy me, but I turned out to be up to the fine trails superbly maintained by the Wonalancet Out Door Club (WODC).

Temps were in the 90s F as we headed off.

We took the Blueberry Ledge Trail, which is beautiful and ... ledgy.

On the way up, we got a single good at Whiteface, which displays the reason for its name. This is actually the south summit, not the true highpoint.

After lunch on those very ledges, we pressed on to the true top, a mere hump in the trail, where we engaged in a little horseplay ...

... and I posed for a photo of supreme triumph, before pushing on toward Passaconaway.

In the Whites, even when you’re quite high you’re often below treeline, and you take advantage of any ledge or viewpoint to check out your surroundings.

One of the other hikers we met claimed it was the hottest day of the year (I don’t think that’s right, but I suppose it was close), so was a treat a little later to find a small icy stream crossing the trail. We all splashed our faces, and I dipped my Bandanna in and wrapped it around my neck. I imagine I looked quite jaunty.

The eventual summit of Passaconaway was as disappointing as Whiteface’s ...  just a bump in a small clearing. Everyone evinced dismay.

Three of us completed our loops by descending the gentle Dicey’s Mill Trail, while BB stretched himself a bit on a different route. Indeed, not everything in the area is gentle ...

... or genteel.

We got back to the cars about eight hours after starting out. After saying goodbye to BB and KC, H and I headed home, stopping at a country store in Tamworth for our traditional Snapple and Cape Cod Potato Chips. Time like this together, formerly so common, is rare and precious to me now.

It was a terrific, wonderful, splendiferous day. A great walk, great company, just fantastic all around.

I’ve got 11 summits left. Cabot and Waumbek; Moriah, North Carter and Middle Carter; Isolation; North Twin, West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff; and Carrigain. It’s a mystery to me how in 45 years I’ve never slogged over Moriah and the Carters or North Twin and the Bonds, but there you are. I’m hoping for a chance this month or next to do something like this to pick off North Twin and the Bonds, but regardless, completion will have to wait for 2011.

Mono audio

I just noticed that Apple is offering this feature with its new offerings, so I looked into the Accessibility settings in my iPhone and found the same thing. This may have been available for some time, but not on my elderly Classic or clip-on Shuffle. For a company that offers so many special accommodations, it drove me gently nuts for years that whenever I talked to people at the Genius Bar about whether they’d yet come up with a way to pipe both sound channels into a single ear, the best I ever got was, “Gee, that’s an interesting idea,” even though being deaf in one ear is actually fairly common. (I once sat on a three-man board on which one of us couldn’t hear out of his left ear [me], one of us couldn’t hear out of his right, and the other was hard of hearing in both...we always felt like a comedy sketch waiting to happen. Eh?)

I long ago went out and had a special ear bud made for me through a hearing aid specialist, but I’m delighted Apple is now addressing the issue.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Signs of life

We walk by a homemade “Deer Crossing” sign every morning.

We’ve recently noticed an addition of benefit to our web-footed friends.

The road here skirts a small glacial kettle, now overseen by our excellent local land trust. Lots of animals are attracted to its small pond and its shelter from everyday human activity. (Today, we saw what we think was a fox in there, so the ducks may have more to worry about than a passing Mini Cooper.)

When H was little we lived in a sweet little house on the far side, whose back yard sloped steeply down to the pond, and I used to walk her down in the winter so she could skate. When I was a boy (oh, brother, here we go again...), the area was still privately owned and the water was known as “Martin’s Pond.” Now I think everyone just calls it “The Kettle.” We never skated there, instead gracing four or five other local ponds, and one huge and annually reliable puddle, with our raucous and profoundly unskilled pond hockey. (The only time I’ve ever been knocked cold was chasing a puck in one of these games.) In the age of indoor rinks and formalized teams for kids, I don’t think pond hockey exists around here any more. If you get knocked out now, it’s in controlled conditions.