Brian's Journal - November-December 2008

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11/07/2008 Showers, low 60's
Photos from the garden, which I haven't yet cleaned up. The sparrows find refuge and food in the
jumble of weeds and yellowing foliage. Only the kale is still reasonably healthy. Mice are gnawing on the beets and rain is rotting the parsely crowns. It has been a wet week. 3.1" of rain yesterday alone half-filled the goat bucket down by the gate and before that we had days with 1.2", 0.8" and 0.5" since the beginning of the month. No water is accumulating yet down by the mailbox though; down deep the soil must still be dry.
I finished writing up my Clark Mt hike, spent a day agate-digging with Pat and met with Zack over breakfast for the first time in several months. We had the cedar tree pruned and the roof replaced; both jobs seem to have been done well. On Tuesday the country voted historically for Barak Obama for president. We were delighted and excited; it really did seem to be an occasion for hope. The market wasn't so pleased. The Dow dropped over 900 points on Wednesday and Thursday but ended down only about 2% at 8944 for the week.
I ran 26 miles last week, my biggest week since the Maui Marathon eight weeks ago. Since I didn't notice any AT irritation all week, I'm going to try a longer run Sunday, maybe 16 miles. It's actually hard to tell for sure if the tendon is OK because I've had some soreness in the same area, just front of my inside ankle. Today I did 5 880's with an average time of 3:22 down on the Interurban trail near the YMCA. Two were barefoot. It felt good to do speedwork again, especially on such a balmy day. My heartrate was relatively low, as it has been recently. Since I've had to cut back on my mileage, it's often been down in the low 130's at 10 min/mile. My max seems to have dropped too; I hit 183 by pushing hard on the last half of my last 880, about 5 bpm lower than six months ago.

11/11/2008 Boston Clear, low 40's
Despite having had plenty of time to pack and prepare to leave for the week, somehow once again too much was left until too late. I slept two hours, Susan even less, before we awoke at 3AM to drive to the airport. The day passed so quickly that the sun was already approaching the horizon as we descended into Boston and all the cars had their headlights on when we emerged from the subway at Newbury Street. John was reading a newspaper in the lobby of the Harvard Club when we walked in. We hugged Mom upstairs then retreated to our room for a nap before dinner. I would have enjoyed the Petit Robert Bistro more had I not been still so tired. Our waitress smiled alot and spoke with a faint French accent. When I summoned up the boldness to ask where she was from we learned that she'd grown up in San Francisco and graduated from Boston University with a French major a couple of years ago. She spent a year and a half in France during and after college and the accent returns unintentionally when she's in the restaurant.

Boston Harbor from our meeting room 
11/12/2008 Boston Some high clouds, mid 40's
John and I enjoyed a sunny walk downtown to the bank via the Public Garden and the Common. At the meeting we tried unsuccessfully to determine whether or not the managed portions of the estate's investments were outperforming the unmanaged collection of stocks. In a more general discussion of the economy, Rob, who has made alot of money by investing in oil wells, stated that he expected oil to trade between $40 and $60 for the next several years because oil companies have no problem making money on oil at those prices. I've been expecting oil to recover more quickly than that. Afterwards John and I enjoyed the view for a few minutes from the Boston College club down the hall. While I was trying to pick out landmarks on the South Shore a Peregrine Falcon soared by, quite close. I had my camera out but didn't think to try and get a photo. At first I thought it was a merlin until I realized that the herring gulls also looked pretty small from that vantage point. Clouds were moving in as we walked back to the Harvard Club and we didn't see much sun for the rest of our visit.

11/17/2008 Returning to Seattle Sunny, high 30's   Photos from NH visit
John and Mom drove us down to Portsmouth to catch the bus to Logan airport. It was a nice low-key visit. John and I talked about investments. I had several good runs including about 5 miles
Susan at Libby's 
barefoot despite the cool temperatures. On one of my runs I carried my camera and took pictures of some of the old places along the road - Cheney's, Overlook, the Davis farm.
Cheney's was Aunt Ada's when I was a boy, where my great grandmother Nana lived with her sister Ada. Ada was confined to a wheelchair in the living room, having had both her legs amputated due to diabetes. I would walk up along the brook and stay for dinner on occasion. Nana had run a boarding house at Brookside Farm 50 years earlier and fixed our dinner as if she still had boarders to feed, urging me to eat seconds and thirds of roast beef and mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy and tollhouse cookies or pie for dessert. I happily obliged and I still remember feeling overstuffed like the sofas we sat on to watch Lawrence Welk afterwards.
Sarah and Roger and Eric joined us for dinner out several nights, a decent meal at the Wildcat Tavern, fancier fare at Libby's Bistro in Gorham after a very foggy drive up through the Notch.

Fog Bow 
12/01/2008 Overcast, 50
I ran 20 miles today, my longest run since the Maui Marathon and since my anterior tibialis tendon began bothering me. The tendon began to get a little irritated again after about 10 miles and abruptly became quite sore at 13, so I walked and stretched it a bit and it cleared up for another 5 miles before getting a little irritated again in the last couple of miles. It's encouraging to be able to do 20 though; it means I'm still on track to run a marathon before the end of the year.

Red-breasted sapsucker 
White-throated sparrow 
Song sparrow 
12/06/2008 Overcast, 50
The UPS man delivered my new (to me) 80-400mm lens today so I took it out for a spin. The local birds were very cooperative, including a male White-throated sparrow, the first I've ever seen in our yard. They're reported as uncommon in western Washington in the winter. The lens brings the subjects in nice and close but I had difficulty getting a really sharp shot with it, in part due to having to push the ISO to 800 in order to get an acceptable shutter speed. I guess it will take a little more practice and experimentation to figure out how to use it well.

In my new hardhat, with Mike 
12/10/2008 Overcast, 45
I earned by Washington Trails Association hard hat today, my reward for participating in 5 work parties. About two weeks ago I was bicycling down to the river when I noticed a hand-lettered sign tacked to the post at the entrance to the new trail, advertising WTA work parties during the next two weeks. I've been thinking about volunteering to do trail maintenance with the WTA for a month or two now, so this was an opportunity too convenient to pass up.
The first day I drove down, not sure what to expect. The work party consisted of a grizzled veteran leader named Mike and about four other volunteers. We parked by the pear tree and hiked up the new trail about a half mile, where we set to work digging shallow ditches across the new trail where it ran down through some clay-rich soil. Our "corduroy cuts" would help anchor the crushed rock which would be laid down on the clay to harden the trail for horses. We finished our corduroy and broke for lunch at noon for about 45 minutes, sitting along the edge of the trail. The experienced volunteers had each brought small sections of foam pad to sit on; I used my plastic lunch bag.
My tree stump
My tree stump gone 
After lunch we dug drainage ditches along the trail, first just on the downhill side, then at my suggestion, on the uphill side as well to intercept water seeping out of the backslope, the cut bank above the trail. Since then Dan, who maintains trails for King County, has put down a layer of
Thursday crew at lunch
gravel on top of the crushed rock. That makes the mountain biking considerably easier but keeping out of the ditches is still a little tricky .
The Thursday crew was completely different from the Tuesday crew. They all seemed to know each other and had been working together for WTA for years. Most had been retired for a while and did trail work regularly once or twice a week, particularly during the winter, the hiking off-season. I dug out a tree on Thursday, working solo and trying to keep my heartrate up. Trailwork can be a pretty good workout; I figure the 4 hours of digging plus the bike ride back up the hill to the house was roughly equivalent to a 16 mile run.
O'Grady weeds
Friday I worked briefly with the O'Grady trail crew then had to return home to await a delivery. Good day for photos, beginning with frost-covered tansy heads in the O'Grady pasture and concluding with spectacular lenticular clouds behind Rainier at sunset.
Sunset behind Rainier
Today, the 10th, was cold with occasional drizzle. The clouds were supposed to break up after lunch but did not. We regraded a new section of the trail and built a wall of logs to support the outslope. That was fun, chopping fallen trees into logs and hauling them over to the trail. Good workout. I worked one more day after that then David came home. That was the end of the O'Grady work parties for a while so future trail work parties won't be quite as convenient.

Septic tank, half covered 
12/12/2008 Rain, 38
Yesterday evening while I was taking a shower downstairs in preparation for a date at the Symphony with Susan, the drain stopped draining. Flushing the toilet confirmed my suspicion that the main line out to the septic tank was clogged again. I called Rescue-Rooter before we left for Seattle then got up early the next morning to dig out the tank before the Rescue-Rooter guy arrived at 8. It started to rain about the time he arrived and it was raining pretty hard by the time he found the root mass and cut it loose. It took him two tries; on the first try somehow the snake got by the roots and was halfway up the hall to the master bathroom before I figured out what was happening. The man was very helpful and recommended a couple options for fixing the problem permanently. When his boss showed up to sell me on the more expensive (like $6000) option I knew what to ask for and got a quote of $495 to replace the pipe junction where the roots are getting in. I decided to fill in the hole that afternoon, covering the tank openings with plastic milk crates draped with garbage bags to facilitate digging them out next time.
Good thing, because the ground froze overnight and the next day it began to snow.

Daniel, shoveling snow 
Tansy and Alder 
12/21/2008 Snow, 30
Very strong east winds were forecast for the evening of the 13th following snow beginning around midday so after picking up David at UPS I rushed up to Des Moines to rent a generator, which, as it turned out, didn't have a plug which fit our power cord. We waited anxiously for the winds to start but here at the house the air remained calm, the snowflakes drifting gently down to the ground. Off to the southeast we could hear a hushed roar like distant traffic but it was not the sound of
traffic. It was the wind 8 miles away in Enumclaw, a steady 45 mph wind scouring the snowy streets with gusts clocked at over 70. All the TV news stations had reporters in Enumclaw freezing in the gale while at our house we had no wind all night. My theory is that the wind took the form
Black-tailed doe on the new trail 
Song sparrow 
of a wave rolling east over the mountains to touch down in Enumclaw then rebounding over us before sweeping down again on Auburn and Kent, which both had gusts to 35mph during the evening.
The next day I bicycled down to the river and out the O'Grady trail, carrying my camera with the 80-400mm lens again. Too dark for really sharp photos.
Pond scene on left 
Flower gardens 
Udell and Susan 
Gary thawing his ear on the lights 
In the evening we drove up to Bellevue to meet Gary and Udell Fresk at Maggione's where the food was delicious and the portions enormous. Udell designs and creates flower displays made of lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens every year, so after dinner we drove over to see her handiwork, the Garden d'Lights. It was stunning. It was also very cold; Gary's ears were freezing but he was gracious about it, as always. Both Susan and I really enjoyed the evening with them.
Red-breasted sapsucker 
Very cold yesterday (the 20th) with the new remote sensor on the raingage post across the driveway reporting a low of 6F. The back porch thermometer, warmed by radiant heat from the house, showed 14. It snowed in the afternoon and I dug out my old cross country skis from the workshop and went out skiing for the first time in over a decade. Running still bothers my anterior tibialis tendon but skiing does not so I skiied an hour again today, mostly on our road.
White-throated sparrow 
Susan has been putting out seed for the birds. The snow keeps burying it so she keeps putting out
Fox sparrow 
more. Word has gotten around and we're accumulating a pretty good flock of juncos and siskins along with the resident song sparrows and the wintering fox, golden-crowned and white-throated sparrows. Several varied thrushes and flickers are hanging around as well, and the red-breasted sapsucker.

12/25/2008 Snow showers, 30-36
A white Christmas, the first here at home that any of us could remember. David and I got up first, around 9, and trekked over to the neighbors to feed their pugs and fish. As usual we didn't have a formal breakfast; instead we nibbled on stollen and fruit. The boys opened their stockings on the sheepskin rugs in front of the fireplace. Not long after that we all opened presents. Sarah gave Buffs to the boys and me and we put them on immediately. David with a little help from Susan managed to put his on as a tube top but we decided we preferred more traditional uses. I fell asleep in the middle of opening presents, woke up to find everyone done but still sitting around reading, relaxing. A snow flurry around midday deposited another inch of snow that somehow managed to be fluffy and sticky at the same time. I
went out skiing even though the snow was too warm for my wax and I slipped back a lot. Later in the afternoon Susan was tired so we decided to postpone Christmas dinner to another day. All in all a very pleasant day.

Dressed for the occasion 
12/27/2008 Cotillion Drizzle, then rain. 38-42
Emily and her escorts 
David and Ian escorted Emily to the 48th Tacoma Cotillion dinner and ball. As David's parents, we also had the privilege of attending. We had a good time and I think David did too, despite having to wear a tuxedo and attend a rehearsal ahead of time. Though the dinner was unremarkable, the dancing was fun and we enjoyed visiting with Emily's parents and Ian's Mom.

The last day of Snow

By the end of the year the snow was mostly gone though our big pile in the driveway hung on pretty well. David and I were back to biking the O'Grady trail while the skis went back on the workshop shelf for another decade. My jaw is a little sore after a filling on the upper left turned into a crown and perhaps a root canal too for good measure. The stock market bumped up over 9000 for the first time since the crash but I wasn't paying attention and missed it.
I also wrapped up my diet log at the end of the year. For a long time I've been curious about the relationship between my weight, calorie intake and calorie expenditure so for the month of December I recorded what I ate and what I did for exercise. From that I calculated my calorie, protein and Sodium intake and how many extra calories I burned with exercise. Over the course of the month I consumed between 1800 and 4400 calories per day with an average of about 3200 and I burned an average of 700 calories per day in exercise. During that time I also gained about a pound as best I could tell. That works out to a baseline burn rate of about 2400 calories per day. I devised a formula based on heart rate to estimate the calorie burn of my various exercise activities: Calories burned = 7 * (Activity Hrs * (Avg hr during activity - resting hr)). Generally I assumed my resting hr to be about 60. The resulting calorie numbers corresponded pretty well to published burn rates for various activities, including running at different paces. It was a lot of fun but after a month I got tired of remembering to record everything I ate. BTW, protein intake averaged 92gm/day, fiber 58gm/day and sodium over 3000mg/day. Though time-consuming, the exercise of observing what I ate did tend to curb my consumption of junk food somewhat, especially at first. It also highlighted the incredible calorie content of most restaurant food; it was not difficult to consume 2000 calories or more in a single restaurant dinner.

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