Saturday, July 5, 2014

True Detective and The King in Yellow

True Detective (2014) and The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers (1895)


After watching the HBO series, True Detective, I felt deprived of some secret knowledge. I understand many of the references from the show, such as the Green Man, I grasped the Male vs. Female power and City vs. Nature, but what eluded me was the references to Carcosa and The King in Yellow. The answer came from Robert W. Chambers 1895 collection of short stories, The King in Yellow. My interest in this book was solidified when it came to my attention that this was one of the influences on H.P. Lovecraft. There will eventually be spoilers, for both The King in Yellow as well as for True Detective.

The book is comprised of ten short stories. The first four all have a horror feeling to them while referencing the King in Yellow. The following two felt like sci-fi / fantasy love stories. The last four all felt like they were about living in Paris during World War I. Due to how the book was comprised, starting with horror moving to science fiction / fantasy and then ending in stories that were, more or less, about love during a time of war, it gave the last four a very surreal feeling. I am sure if I read those four without the context of the first six, they would have had an entirely different tone.
Chambers’ writing style definitely focussed on what he knew. His stories generally focus on an American in his prime studying abroad, specifically Paris. The protagonist is wealthy and pursues art in some fashion, such as sculpting or painting. Not surprisingly, this coincides with events in his own real life.

As a lover of horror and seeing the development of Cosmic Horror, I really enjoyed the first four stories. While far from the cosmic-horror that HP Lovecraft would write, it definitely laid the groundwork for developing mythos. There is a lot happening in the background of the stories, specifically with The King in Yellow, a play that is never fully written, but anyone who seems to read the full thing goes mad. Not necessarily stark-raving-mad shipped to an asylum mad (although, definitely not out of the question), but more of an obsessive mad. It’s not necessarily supernatural, but has the intonation that more is at play than our normal comprehension. Chambers’ horror would be that a door always opens, even if you fully latch it, it swings open again. Maybe there is something more to it, but maybe its a shoddy built house. In comparison, Lovecraft would have that swinging door potentially be something natural, but by the end of the story we have traveled into a new plane of existence.

In terms of True Detective, the biggest thing is their meeting The King in Yellow. The two protagonists meet the villain, a man who lives in “Carcosa.” After their encounter with him, the two go a little bit mad. Their current selves vs. their past selves are incredibly different, but one can see where either would be tipped in that direction. The villain of True Detective feels like he could have fit into the short story “The Repairer of Reputations,” being specifically an ugly individual with odd appetites, but a potentially incredibly intelligent character who has used his position to influence others and remain himself invisible. There is a madness and dream of grandeur about the character.

While reading the short stories didn’t further illuminate anything for me in either True Detective nor Lovecraft’s works, the stories were still interesting. The first four definitely painted a fowl world, while the last four tried to paint a world during war for me that is equally beyond my concept. They were entertaining and quickly read. As a horror and fantasy fan, I can see the groundwork for a lot of future works laid here. None of the stories were specifically that great, but I can see where many great authors used these stories to develop much greater concepts and even genres.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Building A Computer

After having owned my last computer for about 6 years now, it was starting to malfunction here and there. The problems were minor, running video games in low graphics and occasional crashing. Things were just slowing down. Hell, it crashed running Windows Media Player once! I had intended on saving up money through the year, and maybe build a new computer by the end of the summer, depending on how well I could save / bonus at my job.

Then my job informed me that I needed to upgrade my windows within the month.  My current computer might not be able to take the upgrade, on top of that... did I really want to pay around $100 to upgrade windows on a computer I planned on decommissioning by the end of the year.  That was my impetus to start.

I decided to build my own computer for a couple of reasons.  First off, nerd cred.  Seriously, building your own computer as opposed to just buying one is seen as incredibly nerdy.  It takes a lot of reading everything, double-triple checking to make sure you got all the right parts, but its also a lot of fun.  It's also not really that hard.  But it also saves a ton of money.  I built a potentially $2000 computer for just over $1000.

I'm definitely going to go over everything I did with pretty pretty pictures.  I'll explain the process, what I did wrong, and things I fixed.  BUT, I'm not a professional.  I would strongly suggest reading Lifehacker's guide on Building a PC over my stuff.

So Here's what I bought!  Everything but the video card was bought from Newegg.  The video card was bought for my old computer from Best Buy, and cannibalized into the new computer (no, seriously, that's the term when you take a piece from one device and place it into another).


The case is Rosewill's Thor case.  A case is something you can use repeatedly, so you want a good one. Things you want to look for are: Cooling, # of ports, and size of Motherboard it can carry.  The larger a case is, the easier it is to get into it, but also makes it harder to transport.  I might one day buy a gaming laptop, because this thing is going to be a bitch to move.  But, it comes installed with 4 fans and speed controllers for up to 6 fans, can hold any size Motherboard.  It's also named Thor, and my constant obsession with Norse Mythology took control.  $140.

Motherboard: I bought the ASUS P8Z77-V LK motherboard for $130. For a motherboard, you want one that's going to hold the proper # of cards and RAM, and the right type of slots, and how many USB ports and stuff it has.  When choosing a motherboard, you want to see what type of processors it can go with, and the size of it to make sure it'll work in your case (or that your case will hold it).  At this time, DDR3 is the most common.  DDR3 is basically better and cheaper than DDR2.

Processor: I bought the Intel Core i7-3770k quad core processor for $330.  The processor is the most expensive thing I bought, and for good reasons... it's the actual CPU.  You want to make sure your motherboard and processor are compatible, as that's super important or else nothing will work.  One thing I like about newegg is it will suggest things that should go along with the most recent part you looked at, so that's cool. It's 3.5ghz, which means its nice and fast.  The number of "Cores" is basically how many processes it can run smoothly at once.  I often find myself surfing the internet while listening to music and playing a video game... so 4 sounds about right.  If you are building a machine to only run one massive program or something, fewer cores will probably be a better option.

Power Supply:  I bought a Corsair 750W 80plus Bronze certified for $110.  You want to make sure your power supply is going to have enough cords and power to keep your computer running.  Generally 600 is enough.  The "80 plus bronze certified" just indicates how efficient it is.  80 plus means its at least 80% efficient, so 80% of the power is going to your computer, the other 20% is basically getting lost as heat. Bronze just indicates how efficient it is.  I wanted a Gold one, but it was sold out.  Here's a nifty chart to get you an idea of their efficiency!

Ram: I bought the Vengeance 8g mem of Ram for $76.  It's DDR3, so works with my motherboard, its pretty, its also more than I will ever need for awhile.  I could have gotten away with 4 or 6, but 8 was just as expensive, and if I need to upgrade I can just buy another 8 and use them in conjunction.

Harddrive: I bought the WD Black Series 1tb 7200rpm 64mb cache HD for $100.  Memory used to be expensive, and now its cheap. It's got 1tb of memory, which is way more than I dreamed of a decade ago.  I didn't go more because I have a 2tb external, and also because its easy to add more memory.  My case has 6 slots for Harddrives, so easy for me...a smaller case might have less, and really small might only 1... in which case it might be worth it to buy a larger HD to start with.  The other #s just indicate how fast it will travel when recalling the information.  Make sure that its got the right connector for your motherboard, but I'm pretty sure they are standardized to be SATA plug ins.

Optical Drive: I bought a ASUS DVD Burner for $20.00.  You need an optical drive for CDs and shit.  I bought one.  It works.  I might buy a Blu-ray player eventually and install it later, but that'll happen when it happens.  Again, make sure it has the proper plug in, which should be SATA. My case also has a ton of ports for new optical drives, so I didn't really care.

Video Card: Technically optional as my motherboard already has monitor support, and graphics card just really enhances any graphics and helps them run smoother as it processes all of it.  I cannibalized my GeForce GTX 660ti from my old computer.

Alright, lets get to building!

As is often stated, RTFM: Read The Fucking Manual.  Read it, understand it.  Especially for the motherboard.  Also, keep yourself grounded, so you don't statically kill anything.  Personally, I've never heard first hand accounts of anyone doing this (always a friend of a friend whose a dumbass deal), but I never want to hear it either.  I repeatedly touched the edge of my case before and after touching anything.

Step 1: You can either start with the power supply or the motherboard.  I started with the power supply.
Basically, there is a large hole in the back of your case.  Your power supply should be able to smoothly fit in there and get screwed in.  Super easy.

Step 2: Motherboard.  Before starting, you may want to check to make sure you know where the screws will be going and that motherboard should fit.  As long as you double checked to make sure case will hold the right size of motherboard, you should be good.  My case can hold any ATX motherboard, so had a bunch of holes, and I just had to find the right ones. Before screwing anything though...

On the back of your case will be a vertical slot you have to remove and install a face plate.  It should be right above a bunch of horizontal slots where your video / audio cards will go.
It should snap in. If it doesn't get your roommate to do it for you, which is what I did.  This piece was annoying because there was a bunch of metal snags that I had to bend in, and I was trying to snap it in from the wrong side.  Also, I have man sized hands, so sometimes its hard to get small things.

Before installing the Motherboard, I decided to plug some things in.  I apparently didn't get a before and after picture, but on the motherboard there is an area for where the processor goes. It kind of looks like a mouse trap.  The processor is actually a small metal square that fits in their.  One of the corners of the processor has a gold arrow, and one of the corners of the mousetrap also has an arrow.  You want those two arrows lined up.  You open the mousetrap, you place the processor in the slot with arrows matching, you close the mousetrap. Closing the mouse trap should require minimal force.  That processor is like a thing Ghirardelli chocolate, and you don't want to break it.  Hopefully, your PCU came with a fan.  My fan had thermal glue already, so I just had to set it right on top of PCU, and then I locked it into the motherboard.
Like that. The fan has a cord, and right in the area should be a plugin that reads CPU_FAN or something similar.  Plug it in there.  Also in this picture, I installed my RAM chip, which is the piece to the right of motherboard.  Its a lot easier to install it now then when the motherboard is attached to the case.

Alright, next step is there are a bunch of screws that screw into the case, and then allows screws to screw into them.  I had you take note of the matching holes earlier.  Screw the screw screws in to those matching holes.  Place the motherboard on top.  This is so its not sitting just directly onto the case.  I did this by first lining up the USB ports of the motherboard to the face plate and moving it in. Once everything is aligned, screw that bad boy in!
Once it was in, I used the top most slot for my video card.  I removed slot cases, slid the video card in, and called it good for now.

Step 3: The Hard drive.  I really wish I had a picture of just my open case, but I don't.  If you go to the first picture, it does show the case.  In the lower right of the case is a bunch of slots that open up facing the the side of the case. Mine had a removable tray.  I took that out, wrapped it around my HD, and screwed the HD in.
The tray slid in nice and clean right after.  You want to make sure the plugs face out.

Step 4: The optical drive. The front of the case should have slots that can be removed.  There is no picture of me installing the optical drive because its really case dependent.  On my case, I had to unlock the enclosures to open them up, and then I literally just pushed the optical drive in.  It was a tight fit, and required some pressure, but once in it locked easily.  Other cases might have a tray like the HD, others might require to be screwed in.  Generally its straightforward.

Step 5: Anything else you have. Any other video / audio cards, other HDs or optical drives, anything else, install that now.

Step 6: Wires! YAY Wires.  Before doing this, I suggest reading the fucking manual, but... the manual can also be confusing as fuck.  CPU_FAN is obvious, but they aren't all that simple. Somethings are easy, such as the power supply for the Motherboard, where its like "Well, there's only one male one female that fit here...so duh."  But other areas are...less fun.


Something you want to keep in mind is that a big deal of keeping your computer cool is how well air can flow.  You want to keep your case as open as possible. If you notice from my first picture, the back of my computer has a bunch of holes.  As much of my wiring as possible is down on the other side of that, keeping the chassis itself clear.


First thing I did was power cords, because I'm metal.  Also because they are key, and easy to figure out.  I later moved these cords much further to the right and against the case.  After that I did the SATA plug ins (e.g. hard drives and optical drive), followed by the stuff on my face plate.

My motherboard has an area for fans to plug in, and I can control the fan speed through my BIOS.  But, my case has two fan controls.  My motherboard only had 3 slots for fans, and I have 4 fans.  Not in my manual was that my fans can connect straight to a plug in at my case.  Sorry I don't have a picture of the final wiring configuration.

Another difficult part was the power switch and IED lights.  The directions for this were staring at tiny 9 prongs that were semi-confusingly written.  I did it wrong the first time, and my computer wouldn't turn on.  I was off by a set of pins, and everything worked.  It turned on!



Step 7: Before turning on your computer, make sure you have a mouse and keyboard that will work.  Most new motherboards should accept USB direct plug in ones, but a wireless device is not going to work because that needs a driver install.

First time you turn your computer on, do it with no CDs in.  When it starts, the first screen should ask you to hit DEL or some other key to enter BIOS.  It'll load your bios, and should indicate if there are any immediate things you should be concerned with.  If you are all into messing with stuff, you can make adjustments here. I'm not really really into that, and I don't really feel like overclocking, so next step is insert your OS disc, and install Windows or whatever!

After installing, you will want to update your drivers.  A cool thing now is that a lot of providers, such as my nVidia card, now has me install something that searches me devices and keeps them updated.  Yay for not having to hunt everything down.  This was actually the longest process for me because its a lot of the computer shutting down and turning back on and continuing to download.  This took ... awhile.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 New Year Resolutions

2014 Approaches,and time to get some Resolutions on the board.

#1: Let’s start out with the heavy shit. Figure out my future.  I’ll turn 30 this year, and its about time I seriously reconsider it all.   At this time, I don’t know what I want from my future.  I know I need to get a new career.  I need to get out of Customer Service.  I know I love writing, and I want that to be my future.  I know I love Oregon and I want this to be my home.  So I have some options that I need to make my mind up about before this year ends.  Those options are:

A: Continue looking for film jobs.  Expand my search outside of the Pacific Northwest.  Some of my connections might finally pan out, and the thing I went to college for, film editing, may come to fruition.  Problem is, I love Oregon.  I love being close to my family.  And Oregon makes escaping the city easy.  Next, they MAY pan out, that’s not a promise.  This would involve more waiting and less doing.  I also haven’t done anything but volunteer editing since I graduated, and in the tech world, any time off kills your experience.  I may have graduated as a “shoe in” to any position available (there were none), but now I’m not sure if I’m even qualified.  There are too many things that make me ask “How’d they do that?”  I might have to take classes to catch up.

B: Go to college.  But for what?  I’m not paying more money for a field that I’m still in debt too with little to no pay back.  A job that would guarantee to pay is programming.  I could, easily, get a programming job with a programming degree.  There are pages and pages of those jobs posted every single day.  But it wouldn’t make me happy. It would pay more, and I’d probably be happier than I am dealing with customers, but my job would just be a job.  It would not fulfill me.

C:  I could go to college for what makes me happy, writing.  Get an English major or something similar.  There’s a few jobs that that could be useful for.  Like Copy-editing, or being an actual editor, and those I would enjoy.  But there’s only a few of them, and some strong competition.  I initially didn’t get a degree in anything writing related because I simply didn’t see it paying off.

D: I could go to college for something completely different.  Medical fields are always looking for jobs. They pay much better, but I think I’d be less happy there. I don’t do well with physically sick people, and I’m not sure if I could stand the hours.  Psychology / Sociology would be nice, but I have too many friends in those fields who can’t find jobs to think that would be anything but a money / time sink.

E: Deal with it.  Realize that about 70% of the jobs in America are Customer Service jobs, and I should be thankful for th- Fuck that noise.  Seriously.  I know I can do better.

#2.  Let’s calm this right down now.  Stay physically fit and healthy.  If I can maintain my fitness level, it should reduce my stress and sadness.  Thing is, I keep taking breaks, and I can totally tell it impacts my head.  I plan on doing at least 1 race a month again, and hopefully do more physical things like hiking / swimming / camping through out.

#3. Writing.  Do it more.  A lot more.  Find a book club, a poetry club, a short story club, something writing club, and join it.  Work on getting your comic out more so more people read it.  Just do more writing and honing the thing that does make me happy.

#4. Don’t read more.  Seriously, the one year I put “Read more” as one of my goals is probably the year I read the least.  So...maybe if I do the opposite I’ll get the opposite effects as well?

#5. Be more active during Halloween.  It’s my favorite Holiday.  I did go to a bunch of haunted houses, but I want more.  Either a vacation dedicated to Halloween, or maybe volunteer to be a haunter for the month?  I was highly disappointed in what I did this year, and I know I can do better.

#6. Create a chaotic change.  I need to change my job, but if that doesn’t work I need another major life change.  Move, adopt a dog, invest money in something, become a serial killer.  I don’t know, a change that forces me to change how I live my life day in and day out, and see how that impacts me.

#7.  Hash more.  Because running drunk through the city should’ve happened a long time ago.

#8. Join a pay for online dating site.  Why? Because OKCupid sucks in Portland.

#9. Do more Yoga.  This should be higher on the list, but maybe having it at the bottom is good.  Read the top, and then skip the middle and read the bottom.

#10.  Document how much I pay for alcohol in a year better.  I want to know how much $ I spend in a year on alcohol!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: My year in review

Year in Review: 2013

With less than 10 days left in the year, its time to review my year.  Before we get into looking at my resolutions for the year, a “How I felt I did.”

This year felt like a year in limbo.  Despite a lot of attempts, the things I desired to change remain unchanged.  I still have a job that I am not only dissatisfied with, but actively hurts my mental well being.  I did have multiple interviews, and a few close calls...but no new job.  I again hope to be out by summer, but we’ll see if that ever occurs. My lovelife is much the same.  Despite having quite a few interviews, aka “dates,” the year ends with me still pining over the same woman it started with.  I feel as though I have lost a number of friends, but in turn have gained new ones to to replace the old.   My finances are not much better, nor worse, than they were last year.  My health might be slightly better, but only slightly so.  I am quite happy with my living situation though, so that’s great.  



Now, how did I do with my resolutions.

1. Physical Health: I did 12 races in a single year, and in January I will have done at least 1 race / month. But, I fell behind on my upper body workouts.  Overall though, I am pleased with my running and what its done both for my physical health, as well as for my mental.

2. Growing my comic book: This is easily my biggest success.  I completed 2 issues in the year, and have over 1000 unique ip addresses visiting my site at its prime.  I am ending the year looking for a new artist, but also possible other opportunities.

3. Read More: Well this was a dismal failure.  It started out decently, then I started reading a book called Imajica and I’m still suck on it.  Maybe this year I should just hope to finish that single book.

4. Write More: I did alright on this one.  I did write more, posted more to my blog, and other things. A few short stories, a few short prose.  Nothing large though.  I will count this is an acceptable pass.

5. Continue being awesome: Well, duh.

6. Do more video editing: A failure, yet again.  And this may be the last year I try for that dream.

7. Get a New job: While definitely a failure, I did try.  I had a bunch of interviews, and made some network connections.  I am not going to be harsh on myself for this one as I honestly feel like I did my best; but at the same time, I am right now getting ready to clock in to a job where I feel like my purpose is to get abused for the next 8 hours.

8. Go on an adventure:  Eh...not really.  There were excuses for this.  Namely being that in the middle of the year, I ran into something that ate almost all of my free days.  Still, I went to a few mini-adventures.

9. More tattoos: Huge success.  I actually over doubled my tattoos.  I got both my sides completed with big tattoos.  And of course, my beloved Chocobo.

10. Geek out more.  Another big success.  I played a lot of video games, done some serious fantasy writing, play Dungeons and Dragons frequently, and became the Dungeon Master of a small group.

11. Get Good at Something.  Nope, not really.  But I did try.  I really did try, and I had a lot of fun doing so.

12. Family.  I worried less about my family this year.  I didn’t try nearly as hard to “Fix” my families problems. I also spent a good deal time more with some of my extended family.  And of course, lots of time with my best friend.

13.  Help my friend graduate.  Um, it’ll be in the next month or so.   Soon.

Reviewing this, I feel much the same.  I should feel good because of my success with the comic, but I am worried now that I have to find a new artist, what is to come of it.  Again, it pressures that this was the year of limbo.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gravity of a Lost Moment

Chatter fills the void with nothingness. Words are elongated and pulled apart into the blackest of holes while my mind's machinations finds significant indications in a betraying smile. A backward glance, the search for the perfect word. I fool myself into believing there is more here than there is

All because of a lost kissed. Standing beside her, alone, in the dark. A world of strangers discarded for solidarity. A look into her eyes, a bite at the lip. I had never been so close to what I desired, and I had never ejected so fast.

I recall falling backwards, staring across the growing distance at her. Praying she'd turn around, hoping she'd pull me back in. Instead I watched her head lower. Her cigarette drop and find its way beneath her heel. She never once turned to face me; there was no backward glance in that disappointed sigh. Instead I gave an empty scream that never reached her ear.

I lashed and thrashed like an astronaut lost at space. I desperately grasped at what was out of reach. Perhaps a saving hand did reach out to me, but in my determined lust I swatted them away.

Now I sit across from her, impotent to save myself. I search these star filled nights for a glimmer of that lost moment. To see her finally turn around; to hear her ask me why I didn't just lean forward. To have her pull me back in so I can recover that single cherished moment.

Instead I find myself staring at the light of a distant bright star, knowing that what I see now is already dead.


(12-12-13)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Triple Movie Review! Pacific Rim, Iron Man 3, and World War Z!

Last night I decided to sit down and watch three movies that were all on my “If I don’t have to pay, I’ll see them.”  I haven’t done a movie review for awhile, so here we go… three movies!


Pacific Rim:


This movie has everything a teenage boy could want.  This movie is about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  Outside of that, very little needs to be written about the movie.  The story line is incredibly predictable and the acting is nothing special. It is far from a good movie, its not going to win any awards for anything but maybe the CGI.  But its GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING MONSTERS!  It doesn’t need really need anything else.


I did want to give a quick compliment to the music.  Specifically, there is one scene where a Russian Robot, a Japanese Robot, and an Australian robot are in all out brawl with the monsters.  While the music overall stays the same, depending on which robot is the focus the music changes to fit with it.  This is most noticeable with the Russians (who have horrible russian accents), but if you put your ear to it you can hear the difference.


Iron Man 3:


I think my friend put it best when he said “Someone really wanted to sell more action figures.”  This movie was a far cry from Iron Man 1 and 2.


First off, Tony Stark’s character loses a lot of his humanity.  His love for Pepper Potts is really the only thing that keeps him as a sympathetic character.  He is suffering from PTSD and an anxiety disorder, but the way they display it is a severe downplay on how severe these conditions can be.  It also comes off more as Tony Stark being an asshole than as a man suffering from any mental condition.  While I’m glad they tried to show that these conditions can even take down a man who has fought gods, I feel like it could have been done a lot better.


They did show that Tony Stark was pretty cool outside of his armor.  Despite him having 42 suits now, much of the movie is him wandering around as just a genius.  While it was great of them to show this side of him, I wanted Iron Man.  I wanted to see him use his armor to solve specific problems, not see Tony Stark try to be super spy.


I’m going to give a big spoiler here, so stop reading if you don’t like them.  I really enjoyed the fake out.  The previews, and through a lot of the movie, it sets up the villain to a character called the Mandarin, played by Sir Ben Kingsley.  Ben Kingsley is well known for being a great actor, and in a lot of serious roles.  The Mandarin is also one of Iron Man’s arch-nemesis. The Mandarin is often decried as a racist character because he’s one of the few Arabs, and of course he works for a terrorist organization that hates America and speaks in this broken english style.  The fake out is amazing.  The Mandarin isn’t an evil terrorist, but just some poor actor.  He’s being paid to pretend to be this terrorist by the true villain, and the villain is just buying into everyone’s fears, into everyone’s racism.  The Mandarin and terrorists are a scapegoat for a rich white dude to profit off of.  I really appreciate that.


As a comic book fan, I like the storyline and all that they set up and hinted at for future movies.  There was lots of comedy, the acting was well done, and it was entertaining.  But, it could have been so much more.  I had decent expectations of the movie, and the movie didn’t meet those.


World War Z:


This movie was the opposite for Iron Man 3 for me.  I had no expectations of this movie.  Hell, I didn’t even have a desire to see this movie, but a friend owned it and I was too lazy to get off the couch when he hit play.


I love the book World War Z.  World War Z doesn’t have a major protagonist.  It doesn’t follow just one guy around as he, and he alone, tries to save the world from the horrible zombie apocalypse.  It’s a bunch of characters with different backgrounds fighting to survive.  Breaking away from that makes it no longer World War Z to me, and so I didn’t even want to see a movie that was destined to ruin the book.


I do dislike that part of it did become that.  It is Brad Pitt, super-spy-soldier dude, travelling the world to try to find a cure and put an end to the Zombie Apocalypse.  It does have a “this guy is our super hero!” ending feel.  It doesn’t go into the “Lobo,” it doesn’t focus on a bunch of single characters.  The book focussed, and felt, like a bunch of individual characters just fighting to survive, while the movie was Brad Pitt saving the world.

But the cure they do find is the type of unique creativity I’d expect from the World War Z.  They also include a bit of my favorite part of the book: namely, a lot of the book is about why certain countries survive, while others completely collapse.  They briefly mention why there is little to no infection in North Korea, while going into more detail for a few other cities and countries.  While no-where near as comprehensive, it was still insightful.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Running with Asthma

Any of my Facebook friends should know that I am a runner.  I compete in races, I don’t update often, but when I do there’s a good chance the update is about a great run I did. One of my New Year goals was to run a race for every month of the year.  My favorite race length is the 10k (a little over 6 miles), but I also compete in Half Marathons as well as silly and fun 5ks.


A little less known is that I have asthma.  The type of asthma, that when I was young, I frequented a doctor’s office.  The type of asthma where I carried an emergency inhaler around with me, as well as using other steroid inhalants, to try to keep it under control through much of my schooling.  The type of asthma where, to this day, I watch pollen counts; if it gets too bad, I don’t leave the house.


Before we get too far, lets define asthma.  Asthma is a disease that impacts how air gets to your lungs.  Generally, the airways to an asthmatics lungs are slightly inflamed, and allergies or other factors are likely to cause them to swell. This restricts how much oxygen actually gets to the lungs.  More mucus may also be created, further clogging the airways and further reducing the oxygen.  Things like cat or dog hair, pollen, and other allergens will cause this; so can other factors, such as humidity, dust, or heat.


Having less oxygen impacts a lot of things.  Obviously first and foremost is your ability to breathe.  It is terrifying to not be able to breathe.  Ever felt like you were drowning?  It’s like that, except you can’t swim to the surface because you are already on the surface. You are already surrounded by wonderful, breathable, oxygen, and its killing you.  Generally, it just feels like a shortness of breath, and more of your energy and concentration becomes dedicated to breathing.  But if this continues for a period of time, it means the rest of your body is also getting less oxygen; specifically your limbs.  And if you are using those limbs, such as while you are running, they need the oxygen.  The lack of oxygen they are receiving starts causing fatigue, pain, and increases the chance for injury.


When I am training, I get to set the time, the place, for how long and how far I run.  If its high pollen count, too hot, or humid, I can decide to wake up early or run later in the evening.  If its really bad, I can just reschedule for the next day.  If in the middle of the run something unexpected occurs, its a training day, I can decide to slow my pace down and I’ll just kick my butt the next day I run.


Races do not afford me this luxury.  While I have some choice on which races I go, I don’t get to choose day, time, or location.  Outside of extreme circumstances, a race isn't going to change just because of bad weather, pollen count, or other factors that may cause me to reschedule my training.


There have been many races I have gone out and crushed the race.  Where I have impressed myself and those I frequently run with.  But, the majority of my races have ended with me disappointed, and potentially in tears.  The conditions became too much for my lungs, and thus my body, to continue.  A recent example was a half marathon in Albany.  The first 4 miles, I am rocking it.  I have around a 9 min / mile pace, and my friend, who I have never beaten in a timed race, is eating my dust.  After 4 miles though, I start eating dust. Literally.  The race takes us into an area of large fields.  The fields are dust fields.  This wouldn't be too bad, but some of the fields are currently being tilled.  There are visible clouds of dust crossing the path we are running on.  And this goes on for the next 6 miles.  I immediately feel the effects of the dust.  I manage to continue through the next 2 miles.  My friend catches up to me at mile 6, and is willing to go slow, with frequent stops, for the next few miles.  I keep trying to get back to a good running pace, but I am struggling to breathe.  This means my limbs are also starting to fail me.  Even after we get back to an area not in the dust fields, it takes me awhile to start breathing right, and to get my body feeling good.  I had to be careful at this point not to injure myself as well.


I have run a race where, after 2 miles, I had to stop and walk out because I was honestly afraid I might die.  I've had races where, days earlier I ran a great deal more than the entire race, only to find myself walking half the race.  There have been races where someone is complaining they haven't trained at all for this race, and despite my running 3-5 times a week, I get crushed by the one who doesn't train. There have been many heartbreaks.  A lot of disappointed tears.


Why do I keep doing it?  Races provide both a social outlet and competitive outlet.  I wouldn't use either adjective to describe me, but races are one of the few times I get to be them.  If you've ever run a race with me, you’ll see me cheering on people.  I've had great conversations in races with complete strangers.  Races are motivating.  Another great reason is if I've spent money to do something, I’m going to do it the best I can.  It keeps me training.  If conditions are bad, I might say “I’ll train tomorrow,” and with a race I’ll go out tomorrow twice as hard.  Without a race though, I’ll keep saying “tomorrow” until a few months have gone by, and then I’ll be starting from scratch.


So why run at all?  There are plenty of other things I could do that are competitive and social.  Running is one of the best exercises.  It is easy, relatively cheap, and its positive health effects are not just physical, but mental as well.  It helps me combat my stress and anxiety.  Running is almost a meditation, and really helps get things into perspective.

But there’s something beyond that.  I run because I have asthma.  I run because I've been told I can’t, or shouldn't, do what I do.  I do it because its hard, and the struggle is worth it.  I do it because every time I complete a run, that’s something I've done that others have not, when I should not be able to.  I do it because if I can overcome that, I can overcome anything.