Writing Big Year: Word choice is key . . .

Writing an “everyperson” history in a technical area means having to make tricky word/phrase decisions. Consider radioactive waste. Very broadly, countries categorise their radioactive waste into high-level waste (that is, deadly shit) and low-level waste (much less dangerous although still dangerous). (Some countries also interpose intermediate-level waste, a complication beyond me.) High-level waste has an acronym: HLW. Similarly there is LLW. Different countries use different definitions of high-level waste versus low-level waste – but an easy decision for my book is to skate over those differences unless they’re important for some event. The definitions have varied over the decades, indeed in the early days, after WWII, there really weren’t any definitions – again I’ll glaze over this unless it’s important.

So here’s the question: do I write “HLW” or “high-level radioactive waste” over and over again. “High-level radioactive waste” is a horrid mouth stuffer that gums up paragraphs, but it has the virtue of being full words that carry meaning. Nonetheless it’s still jargon. “HLW” is concise but it’s gobbledygook. Which is better?

Jogging Big Year: Motivation plummets . . .

As I’d noticed earlier in the year, it’s the mind, as much as the body, that determines what you can do. Now that I’m less than 100 kms shy of my year-end 1,700-km target, disaster has struck. I stopped halfway last week but then restarted. Yesterday, after only one kilometre, the insidious thoughts began: “nearly there, why don’t you take it easy” and “surely you deserve a break.” Particularly horrid was a thought that arose after 5-6 kms. As background, my year’s total stood at 1,615 – if I jogged 9 more times, as was scheduled, I’d end up at 1,705 kms, 5 kms ahead of my goal. Clever, nasty mind: “You can stop now and still hit 1,700 kms.” I channelled Pedal Pete, imagining how he’d tackle loss of willpower, and somehow I completed yesterday’s run, but I was wrecked for the remainder of the day.

None of that made any sense. Today I headed off again. It was hot but none too tough with shade to run under. Then, quite unexpectedly, up a hill halfway through the distance, bang! Crash! The same words rose up unbidden and without hesitating, I halted.

At least this time I didn’t cheat. I stopped Strava at 5 kms and walked home. I’m now at 1,930 and have 7 more runs in store, so in theory I’m still on for the target. But I know I need to do something to boost motivation. The question is: what?

Jogging Big Year: I cheated

A few days ago, ascending my most prolonged hill among my four jogging routes, I got to a hundred metres of the top and suddenly stopped. I walked a hundred metres. Other than once in Darwin’s crippling heat, I’ve never stopped once in 2016. Why on earth did I do so now, so close to the end of the year? I’d donated blood for the first time the day before, but felt fine at the start of the outing. The weather is warming up for summer but was still mild that day. I can’t come up with a reason. Suddenly I felt tired somewhere deep inside my bones.

But that’s the first part of the story. You need to know that in January I set a rule: if ever I stop, I wind up my Strava recording and walk home. If I stop, I stop for good. Well, I was almost halfway on this particular run, so a return walk would have taken an hour. Also, I’d have needed to do a make-up run or miss my annual target. So I broke my hard rule and at the crest of the hill, resumed running. To my credit, I guess, there were no more halts.

But I felt guilty afterwards. I still do.

Jogging Big Year: Is cycling good for running?

Yesterday’s bike ride, what I call “training for next year’s Big Year,” was speedier than the earlier ones, courtesy of Pam setting a cracking pace. My quads pulled up sore but this morning, heading off on one of my tougher jogging routes, I found myself storming the Yarra paths. Wow: a final pace of 6:02 mins/km, a good 6 seconds faster than my previous best. Can I understand why my legs just seemed swifter? Not really, but I like to think the bike ride made all the difference.

2017 Rock Music Big Year: Old people struggle to change habits

Next year I’m meant to listen to an album each and every day. When I say listen, I mean really listen, take heed, absorb, LISTEN. I’m practising right now and it’s a right disaster. Last week my holiday packing incorporated headphones and three albums on my iPhone, and being holidays, practising the art of listening proved straightforward, right? Not at all – I failed miserably. The days were busy and for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate in an antisocial manner.

Why? When I was young, listening to music was like breathing fresh air. Easy as easy could be. Having fallen out of the habit over the last decade (two decades?), it feels alien to listen deeply, absorbedly. I see the same phenomenon with 60s-aged friends who say they can’t read books, so they don’t ever do so, not at all. Put them in a book group, however, force them to read a book a month, and after a year or so, bingo, they become committed readers.

The lesson for me? Practise now and get over this reluctance!

(Photo via Visual Hunt)

Keeping the birding flame alive

Six days of birding in Tasmania. As Jonathan Franzen wrote (his first riveting New Yorker article back in 2005, “My bird problem“), “They made me happy like nothing outdoors ever had.” The current Big Years leave little room for ambitious birding (that’s the point, to prioritise) but a Birding Big Year awaits . . .

Jogging Big Year: The Bruny Island trio

Isolation, dirt roads, cold head winds, undulations, reluctance. I needed to jog 10 kms three times. The first was tough but satisfying: 6:12 mins/km. The second had twice the elevation gains of my hilly route back home: 6:25. The third was marvellous, involving an inexplicable desire to run faster towards the end: 6:05