Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Review - The Tyranny of the Night

I don't have a lot of time to read any more. When I was growing up in Westover books were harder to come by, so during the summer I relied mostly on the Bookmobile. The Bookmobile came by every other week and stopped at my grandmother's store, which along with the other store in town, owned by my other grandparents, made up the entire downtown area of Westover.

I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry in one load, so I would carefully step down from the huge steps on the Bookmobile with a stack of books that was as tall as the distance between my chin and as far down as my hands would stretch. Yes, I was one of the Bookmobile lady's favorites. She would even go out of her way to bring books she thought I'd like.

The point of all of this is that the choices available on the Bookmobile were limited. I probably read 200 to 300 books every summer so often times quantity trumped quality. I've read bad books before, just for the joy of reading. I've even slogged through several John Norman Gor books.

Lately I've developed a policy that if the book hasn't at least somewhat interested me by the time I've gone through the first 20%, I just give up on it. It might take me a month or two to finish it if I decide to, but unless I'm told that it starts slow and picks up later on, like say Dune by Frank Herbert, that 20% is all you get to draw me in. If I'm trying to find a book to buy in a bookstore you may get even less.

So a few weeks ago I'm in the local library, trying to find a few books to read, and I picked up The Tyranny of the Night by Glen Cook. It had a decent looking cover, and the dust jacket promo sounded somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, there's an old saying about covers that I think we all know.

I did give it a chance. I struggled through the first 100 pages, so I went over the mark, but it was no use. This book just sucks. The biggest problem is that it's too complex to keep up with, and there's no map, or glossary or anything to help you along. Is it really that hard to draw a quick map to show us where things are in relation to each other? Would it be so bad to spend a few hours coming up with a glossary so we can quickly look up a person to see who they are? Books that are much less complicated, like the Wheel of Time include such devices.

Also, in the first 100 pages there is very little action. It's mostly boring descriptions of cities and people. Yawn. Of course the first villain we're introduced to is a pedophile. Wow, no one's ever thought of that before. I've never read any of Glen Cook's other stuff, and I highly doubt I ever will after wasting an hour or two of my life on this dreck. Avoid this book at all costs unless you're stuck in a small town during the summer and have nothing else to do.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday at the Gym

I did my first mile in 14:23 this afternoon at the gym. I also did 3 sets on the biceps, tripceps, quads, and hamstring. I tread water for 8 minutes and put 11.5k steps on the pedometer. All in all not a bad day, although I still would have rather been underground. Nothing works your quad muscles like climbing over breakdown for 4 hours.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hatch Updates

Last night after I got Jack ready for bed, we were laying on the floor in his room so he could play a little bit while we waited on Marissa to come nurse him and put him in the crib. Marissa was doing something in the upstairs bathroom and Jack heard her in there, so he started crawling that way. When he was about halfway there, I started calling his name and he stopped, sat up and started waving at me. This was the first time we were sure he was waving at someone so it was pretty cool. I think he's also saying "Hi" and waving now too, but we're not sure about the saying a word part yet.

After work today I headed for the gym for what was a pretty good workout. I did my first mile on the treadmill in exactly 15 minutes, which is a great improvement for me so far. That involved three intervals of about 5.2 m/h. I also did several sets on the machines for my legs, biceps, and triceps.

A girl from work was on the treadmill in front of me, doing 7.5 minute miles for an entire hour. You know the type; cute and disgustingly healthy, like Kevin Barnes with a ponytail. I don't think I've ever been able to run that far, that fast in my life. Right now I'd just like to do a 12 minute mile period and then start stretching it out to an hour.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A 16.4K Day

I got a lot of walking in today. We headed out to Gladeville around lunch for the 4th Annual Gladefest. It's sort of a craft fair with some music and a few kiddy rides thrown in. I put about 5k steps on the pedometer there and had a great pork chop sandwich and a fried apple pie to boot.

After we got back, I watched Jack for a while so Marissa could run some errands then I headed to the YMCA for an hour or so. I managed to do a mile on the treadmill in 15:39, which is a pretty good pace for me. I never went below 3.5 mph and kicked it up to 5.1 mph for three intervals. I'm concentrating on getting my legs bulked up right now for conditioning for caving, so I did several sets on the leg machines as well. My goal is to be able to do vertical caving within the next six months or so, spring at the latest.

So by the time I got back from the gym, I had passed 10k steps. I took the dog for a walk then headed to the grocery store. Then I picked up Victoria at the park in Mt. Juliet where she had been at a birthday party, so that added a couple hundred more. A final walk with the dachshund put met at 16,400 steps for the day, which is 7.5 miles and over 1000 calories. Not too shabby I guess. Next Saturday I'm going to try to go over 20K, which will probably require a trip on the greenway. I want to go down the Stone Door trail this fall when the leaves are changing, so being able to do 10 miles in a day would be helpful.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bath Time Horrors

Jack and I hit a streak of bad luck lately when it comes to bath time. Monday night I got his tub filled up and got him undressed and stuck him in the water. Unfortunately, I hadn't checked the diaper very well, so when he started wiggling around and playing with his toys, there were suddenly intruders. You've heard of "Snakes on a Plane?" Well that's nothing compared to how scary "Turds in the Tub" is. I got him out, cleaned everything up and started the bath all over again with no problems.

So fast forward to the next night. I was really tired from going to the gym and hitting 10k steps the day before, but I got his bath ready and this time got him undressed in his room, carefully checking for unwanted guests. I put him in the tub then sat on the commode next to it and tried to stay awake so he could play for a while. Since I was nearly incoherent at that point, it took a while for it to dawn on me that he had just leaned over in the tub, looked up at me, and grunted, along with the tell-tale vein popping out of his forehead. Sure enough, a few seconds later the floaters came around the breakwater and made it out into the shipping lanes where they proceeded to terrorize the hippo boat that Jack likes to play with.

This time I had to clean it up by myself, so I dried him off a little and put him down on the carpet in his room to crawl around naked, which he seemed to enjoy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Return to Tumbling Rock

We didn't have a lot going on for Labor Day weekend, so I decided to organize a trip to Tumbling Rock Cave in Jackson County, Alabama which I had visited earlier in the year. I had thought a lot of people might be interested in going since it's a great cave and easy to get to, but in the end only Joey and two new members, Jim and his wife Lauren showed up.

We got to the cave about 10am and paid Mrs. Precise our seven bucks each, then we got changed and ready to go in. There were no other cavers there that day, and none showed up later either. I think a lot of cavers were the big OTR party in Virginia, or maybe even (shudder), down at the beach for the long weekend.

I'm obviously in better shape than the first time I came to this cave. On that trip it took us almost 4 hours to get to the topless dome, mostly due to getting turned around and me having to rest a lot. This time we got there in 2 hours flat, which is a pretty good pace I think. I managed to climb up the hole into the dome with no more help than using Jim's knee, where as last time Morris had to practically shove me up into the hole.

There was very little water falling in the dome on this trip, so it was easier to see in there and we actually climbed up the side of the dome and into an adjacent, shorter dome which is connected to the topless dome by several holes in the wall going up between the two. It was pretty cool to stand in the dome and see the lights from people in the other dome coming through the holes.

Since I was still in pretty good shape at that point, we went deeper into the cave on this trip as well. Just a little past the hole to the topless dome, there is a low crawl followed by a climb up and then back down a large pile of breakdown with rocks the size of someone's living room. At the bottom is a large room with scattered breakdown that is maybe 100 to 200 feet tall. There's a large stalagmite here that is about 15 feet tall that is called the Christmas Tree formation. About 40 feet above it is a large stalactite that will eventually join with it to make a column, but that will take a while.

We stopped here for an extended break and to take lots of pictures. I took my daughter's advice and had frozen a larger bottle of Gatorade the night before, and by this point it was mostly thawed. That stuff is great for getting some quick energy back, but I could tell I was quickly tiring, so we headed back out.

Joey seems to be accident-prone in caves lately, and I think it's rubbing off on me. He slipped on a rock on the way out and stubbed his big toe, so he limped out of the last part of the cave. At one point we had to go down a small, muddy bank. I was in back and watched everyone else slide down on their butts, but for some reason I thought I could just walk down it. That was a mistake.

Newton's Second Law of Motion boils down to this: f = ma

For those of you like Heff who cut up too much in Coach Reid's class, that equation says that force equals mass times acceleration. So basically, as mass goes up, the force needed to counteract the acceleration increases. The end result of all of this was that a fat man went barreling down a hill in a cave at a large rate of speed.

So I'm running down a hill...in a cave. Things tend to slow down in your brain at this point, so I can recall what I was thinking with crystal clarity for the next two or three seconds.

"Uh oh, this is bad. This is bad. Ok legs, start the braking procedure."
"Ok, I'm slowing down. There's no wall ahead. No chasm coming up. I've got plenty of time to stop."
"Still nothing. I'm fine. Keep trying to slow it down."
"What is that? Oh hell...Rimstone Dams! Aieee!"

I may have also screamed out loud like a little girl at that point, but I'm not really sure. My boot hit the first rimstone dam and I was airborne briefly. I went head over heels and landed hard on my right shoulder and my right palm. I laid there a second taking inventory while everyone ran over to check on me. I sat up, finished my inventory, and found nothing broken. I stood up, walked it off a little and sat down to recover a few minutes.

Now that I was OK we could laugh about it. Luckily no smaller cavers were in front of me when this happened, but we made a new rule that anytime I'm moving faster than walking speed in a cave I'm required to scream "HATCH!" much like you should scream "ROCK!" when a rock is falling down a hole.

In the end I had some bruises on my shoulder and a pretty good bruise in the middle of my palm, which is a first for me. Joey and I both partook of the full recommended dosage of Aleve once we got back to the car. It was still a great trip though, and Tumbling Rock is definitely a great cave to visit.