Just finished: Don Quixote

I’ve been working on Don Quixote for over a month (five weeks to be exact).  It is a little longer than I’ve been spending on books since I started taking the train to and from work every day.  Having that daily hour and change of pure reading time means I plow through books in a hurry.  I alternate fiction with non fiction and the non-fiction business type books are done in less than a week.  Don Quixote was different.

My copy is like this except all beat up, missing a corner, and doesn't have a highway truck stop arrow floating above it

I read an ancient and well-loved “abridged” translation by Walter Starkie.  Even abridged its over 400 pages of single spaced type all the way to the very margins.  It was slow to chew through but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m very glad I wasn’t assigned this in high school or in college because I would have hated it.  I didn’t have patience to wade through a slow book for the delayed gratification of the Knight of the Rueful Figure trying to spank Sancho Panza.

Also I would highly recommend reading the Starkie translation and abridgment. Even though I haven’t and won’t read other translations to compare I found Starkie’s footnotes to give a lot of context to the jokes that don’t make sense 400 years out of context.  Reportedly the full Don Quixote of La Mancha has lots of side stories where the milk maid comes in and gives tells her life story and wanders out and other diversions that aren’t even that interesting.  I’m glad to not have read them because there is not going to be a Smarterer test on ancillary Quixote characters.

Next up on the reading list is Scorecasting which I was interested in from the plugs on the Freakonomics blog.  Stay tuned.

What they don’t want you to know about signs

So last week I was at my favorite place on earth in the afternoon for their feature, Shiner Sunday.  The extremely talented talent was Zane Williams.

Zane had been doing a particularly nice job and he was even playing through the natural sounds of the area.  The weather being habanero-fire-ant-bite hot was causing us, nay forcing us, to drink lots of beers.  Zane really went above and beyond.  He played past the simulcast air time on KHYI,  he played a bonus set with the band, and then he played a bonus-bonus set solo as the sun started to set.

When we went to leave I did a sobriety check on the breathalyzer and found that I was a .09%.  The wife was a .10%.  Every time I tell anyone I keep a breathalyzer in the car I always get asded about the details of my DUI.  I’ve never gotten a DUI.  I got a breathalyzer to forfend the taxi with the white door that takes you directly to the hoosegow.

So even though we felt fine we’d rather be safe than hoosegowed, so we went on a little walk down parking lot lane.  As we ambled I noticed at the base of one of the large signs that shines like a beacon over the highway a little light switch.  Not any fancy heavy duty light switch, but just a household light switch with no cover.  It’s about 3 feet from a car door when the parking lot is full.  I thought there was no way this is what controls the sign.  Those things have locks or are controlled inside or something.  At the very least it takes some heavy duty switch, this isn’t the bulb in the attic after all.

Sorry folks, out of golf balls (we left the sign on like we found it)

There are certain things that just bring joy to your life and you can’t explain it.  This was one of those things.  We were giddy.  We immediately had to check all the signs.  Each one was similarly fool-proofed. Luckily a fool had found it.

This was one of the fancier ones, the cover hadn't fallen off.

I had never noticed these switches before.  One of them didn’t even have a switch.  It had an open hole where a plate had been once and a rats nest of wires poking out.  I wasn’t touching that.  One of the things I learned getting my Electrical Engineering degree was “don’t stick your hand into a rats nest of live wires.”  I’d hate to be the Hooters employee who turned off the sign every night.

There were already some letters out. We just made the sign consistent.
Last call for soup and bread sticks.

For the record: we returned all signs to their original state and the lights were off for only a second or two.  I don’t want anyone thinking that some trucker didn’t get his 10PM alfredo fix because we darkened the Olive Garden.  We were sadly unable to relight the LA from ANTIQUE LAND, but that was out before we got there, and the store had a permanently out of business sign on their door anyways.

I guess these business don’t need crazy security for their signs because A)No one even bothers to notice and B) By flipping the sign off and on we exploited that find to the maximum possible extent.  Darn those punk kids who lowered our carbon footprint.  Darn you all!

It was a good way to kill a half hour and when I got back to the car I blew a .075 BAC and was confident in my ability to drive home.

I hear that train a coming…

I was at my favorite place on Earth this Sunday, Love and War in Texas.  It’s a Texas themed restaurant that has an enormous patio with live music most nights.  On Sunday they have an afternoon concert.  It was hot as blazes out there, something I’m sure they arranged so they could sell more beer.  There is a train track going right alongside the building and sometimes you are lucky enough to get a freight train barreling down in the middle of a performance.  I’m convinced the train operators can see the crowd and honk the horn for all it’s worth.

No rich folks eating from a fancy dining car, just freight.


Needless to say this is very loud as the train is 20 feet away.  All good performers at L&W will bust into a train song, usually “Folsom Prison Blues”.  The Zane Williams band are true performers and promptly busted it out.

I bet I'd move it on a little farther down the line... so I could finish my set.


Another great day at Love and War.  Next post I’ll tell about the revelation I made after I left that night.

Make a 2 mile run feel like 5 miles

I’ve survived a couple marathons.  Completed is too generous a term. I swam in high school, water polo in college.  I was an OK goalie and it’s not as exhausting as playing in the field.  A couple years later I was living next door to a velodrome in Allentown and so I bought a road bike to ride around the cool asphalt course adjacent to the track.  I started doing triathlons about the same time because once you have spent hundreds of dollars on a bike the only barriers to entry are a $10 set of goggles and whatever a swimsuit and shoes cost.

Rejected. Not shown: 10 shots that went right past me.

Little known fact: when there is nothing scheduled at the Lehigh ‘drome they leave the gates open and you can go ride around.  You don’t have to have a snazzie track bike or anything, although you should hide out of shame if any real cyclists show up or else they will mock your sissy brakes and lack of kit.

I’m solidly middle of the pack when I compete.  I’m just in it for fun and fitness.  Recently I did P90X and it was a good time.  It got me interested in doing more strength training and focusing more on overall fitness rather than racing.  When I run long distances I’m always either Injured or Recovering.

I’ve recently heard about CrossFit and I like the idea of mixing up cardio and strength, but I don’t have any fancy equipment.  By “heard of” I mean “read on Wikipedia”… that’s the extent of my knowlege, but it sounds cool.

I’m trying out something new with the last couple of runs.  I work in some quick exercises through a short run and try to run fast (I can hold a blazing 8-minute mile).  Here’s what I did today:

-Jumping jacks and ballistic stretches to start
-1/2 Mile run
-2 minutes light stretching (hamstrings, quads, calves)
-1/2 Mile run
-30 Push ups
-1/2 Mile run
-40 alternating side step lunges
-1/2 Mile run
-20 plyometric jumps onto a thigh-high retaining wall
-Cool down / walk around and gasp
-12 pull ups

In a later post I’ll describe how I built the pull up bar beside my house.  That thing is awesome and way better than the doorway iron-gym style pull up bar.

The distances were very approximate because my total distance ended up being 2.5 miles.  I’m looking for more exercises to incorporate that don’t need any equipment.  Last time I did burpees,  very exhausting.

For each exercise I started running immediately after finishing the last rep, no waiting.  The run-after-lunges was particularly excruciating.  My legs had that one-ton, running-through-mud, feeling that they have in the bike-run transition of the triathlon why you ever thought a tri would be fun.

I was thoroughly exhausted after the run and the whole process took about 30 minutes including warm up and cool down.  I’d say it was a good way to workout  before work without having to wake up before sunrise and was equivalent to a leisurely run twice as long.