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How fast does an (unladen Blue) Angel fly? July 26, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, math, younger son.
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This weekend, the Blue Angels were in town to perform at the Fargo AirSho.  While we were watching them today, I made some comment about how amazing it is that they can keep such perfect formation despite the high speeds.  The younger son asked how fast they fly, and I responded that they could go up to a few hundred miles per hour.  He came back with:

I bet they’re flying at a trillion nanometers per second.

I honestly had no idea since that required not only a conversion to more reasonable units for such a measurement as well as the fact that we’d have to hop between metric and English units.

I decided to check it out, and it turns out he wasn’t far off.  The Blue Angels use the F/A-18 Hornet, which wikipedia gives a top speed of Mach 1.8 or 1,190 miles per hour.  The equivalent speed in nanometers/second is 531,977,600,000.  In other words, it’s half a trillion nanometers per second, so the younger son was only off by a factor of two when they’re traveling at top speed (which they obviously weren’t).

That’s a wee bit faster than an unladen European Swallow, which has an airspeed velocity of about 11,176,000,000 nm/s (based on Wolfram Alpha’s estimate of 25 mph).  I’m sure you were just dying to know that.

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Not every race can be a good race October 14, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, running.
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Earlier this year, I had this crazy idea that I should participate in a race every month during the second half of the year.  I came up with this idea before I realized that August and September are usually pretty bad months for me due to asthma.  Nevertheless, I’ve been sticking it out, and I ran a 10K this past weekend as part of that self-challenge.

It was a lovely morning, though rather cool.  The sun was shining, there was no wind.  I had my hat/balaclava thing to keep my face covered.  I feel like Sub Zero or Kitana from Mortal Combat when I’m wearing that.  There are other better masks out there…but those make the wearer look like Bane.  Either way, you can’t win, but at least I was prepared.

It was grueling.  The run took place along some of Fargo’s most lovely trails, but I was still having difficulty with my asthma.  The problem when you’re having a tough time breathing is that it’s awfully hard to concentrate on the scenery, but I did as well as I could.  I also was feeling sluggish, which I attribute to lack of pre-race banana.  Still, I made it through.  While I was hoping to cut about 4 min. from my previous 10k time, it was only about a third of that.  Still, I got done and actually felt really good the rest of the day and suffered none of the ‘racer mortis’ that plagues me after a 10+ mile run.  Despite the fact that it was a hard run, I did show signs of improvement and I didn’t feel awful the rest of the weekend.

The truly disappointing thing about this race, though, was that there was almost nothing I could eat at the end.  The available food included biscuits, cookie dough, chicken noodle soup, and chocolate milk.  Wheat and dairy.  No bananas!

I’d never been at a race before without bananas.  It broke my heart.  I looked like the purple guy here:

I also don’t handle milk very well but chanced it by taking a couple swallows before throwing out the remainder of the carton.  (And yes, it was the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had.  Anything you have after a race is always the best you’ve ever had.)

I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t eat the cookie dough.  I’ve never wanted cookie dough that badly.  I’ve decided for future races that I’m going to try to make my own and bring it along.  That way, if there are no bananas, I’ll have something to eat.  And if there’s no cookie dough, then everyone else will be purple with envy.

no jinx July 19, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, personal, running.
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I didn’t want to post about this until I knew it would happen.  I’ve had bad luck with my training in the past: I’ve attempted twice to train for a half-marathon, both times being unsuccessful for health reasons.  (One was directly related, but the other was not.)

Today, however, I have managed to cross that item off my list.

becky_perham

The lovely lady on the left is my friend Becky.  Becky started running shortly after I did, but has gone on to be a much faster runner and has left me behind in terms of distance.  I kept saying that doing a half was still on my bucket list, and so we talked about doing a race together.  Because I’m so slow, a lot of races have cutoff times that were below my estimated finish times.  Also, I would need to find a race that Becky wasn’t planning to try to PR on (like the Fargo marathon, being so wonderfully flat).

We decided to do a small race in a cute little town about an hour east of Fargo called Perham.  The race had a four hour time limit, so I hoped I would be able to handle it.

I was so worried about things getting derailed again.  I ended up learning a few things, like that I did not used to consume sufficient electrolytes when exercising.  I also learned about the joys of sports tape:

taped_feet

See how I taped the foot on the right with less tape than on the left?  I found out at the end of the race that while no tape is best, less tape is really, really bad.  I ended up with blisters on both feet, but the one with less tape ended up with a nasty blister from tape rubbing.

I find it ironic that I use tape and compression sleeves to immobilize my legs…in order to run.

The race itself was very small, very quiet, very uncrowded.  It was great in that there were aid stations and port-a-potties available every 2.5 miles.  The down side is that there was a stretch of gravel that really wreaked havoc with my left knee.  Becky, as I mentioned, was faster than me, but she also has a lot more experience running on gravel, so she was in better shape.  There were also hills.  Not that they were horrible, but coming from Fargo, hills are a thing to be scared of.

Still, I managed to finish and much faster than my anticipated time.  I fully expected to show up at the four hour mark….or maybe a little after.  As it turns out, Becky’s faster pace pushed me during the runs portion of our run-walk intervals, so we made it in just over 3 1/2 hours.  I was dead last – but that’s okay.  Most people think about getting first, second, or third.  However, last place is the one everyone who isn’t a contender for first, second, or third think about.  Therefore, I appreciate being the one to come into the fourth most frequently discussed place.

Also, I got bling:

perham_medal

After getting back, I got to spend the evening at a baseball game.  I’ve determined that baseball games are really great after long runs as I can sit there and eat junk food that I normally wouldn’t eat and also recover.  It’s one of the few times I don’t feel pulled to be doing something work or dissertation related.

Anyway, tonight’s baseball game was a special treat as I got to meet the mascot:

hawkeye

And now, I think I’m going to collapse.

 

The Fellowship of the Relay May 12, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, older son, running.
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Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I enjoy running.  Or I used to.

I lost my motivation.

Part of that is because the older son got a job with very odd hours.  Because he does not yet have a driver’s license, Mike and I have been taking turns getting up at obnoxiously early hours to take him.  Then I went on a trip to a conference.  Then we all got sick.

The list goes on and on.  The result is that I found it nearly impossible to run except right before bed…and running right before bed has this tendency to keep me awake all. night. long.

However, back in December or January, when I was motivated, a friend and I began talking about doing a relay for the Fargo Marathon.  Then we found out there was a costume contest with the relay.  Well, obviously we had to do it!  If you’d like the full details, you can visit Kari’s blog and check out her post: How to be the biggest geek at the marathon.

We chose Lord of the Rings as our theme, and I got to be a Hobbit.  Except I was a hobbit with calf sleeves.  (Don’t you wonder if Frodo and company would’ve gone faster if they’d had compression sleeves and a great pair of running shoes?  And headphones?  Definitely headphones would’ve helped.)

cherish_as_hobbit

 

The beginning, of course, was packed.

underpass

This is what it looked like until the 10k turned off from the route, at which point, it became very sparse.  I suspect that’s because I was running in the opposite direction of most of the marathoners, almost all of whom are much faster than I am.  I have to admit that I would like to do the relay again just because I won’t have to dodge around so many people.

Unlike most of my team, I apparently was more confusing than anything in my costume.  No one yelled, “Go Frodo!” or, “Destroy the Ring!”  Perhaps I needed a wig?  Anyway, most people apparently are unfamiliar with hobbits, and the fuzzy feet only added to their confusion.  I did ask someone if they knew where Mt. Doom was, but they just said, “Huh?” and shook their head.

The one person who did recognize me was (Danny) Elvis.  I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of him because I was too busy high-fiving him.  After I ran past, he announced, “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have the One Ring right here at the 2014 Fargo Marathon.”  I’m really happy that Elvis is a geek, too.

fellowship1

Once we were together in a group, I became recognizable.  This is a pic of our team at the hand-off between Legolas and Gimli, who was kind enough to take a break from his gig with ZZ Top. (Anyone else have “Cheap Sunglasses” running through their head?  I thought so.)

After Legolas, Gimli, and myself finished our respective relay legs, we went downtown for some free munchies.  Apparently all the marathoners beat us there, too.

downtown_marathon

Even the street fair isn’t that packed.

While waiting for Gandalf (have you noticed he always shows up at the last minute?), we decided to get out of the heat and took a stop at the Prancing Pony Atomic Coffee.  I’m sure the usual patrons were thinking that the place had gone downhill since they were starting to let dwarves and other unsavory folk in.

legolas_gimli_atomic

Finally, Gandalf came in and we raced to the finish line together to receive our medals…half an hour before they closed the course down.  One thing I learned is that quests can take a long time, and Peter Jackson really glossed over that particular aspect.

Either way, we all had a lot of fun and are already planning for next year’s race.  Better yet, I think I’ve found my motivation again.

fellowship2

Nothing to do July 20, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, Fargo, pets, societal commentary, younger son.
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im-bored-funnypictures-funny-photos-blogspot-com

I’m always amazed at people who tell me that they could never live in North Dakota.  Usually their reasoning is that there’s, “Nothing to do.”

I have to admit that I’m flabbergasted by this statement.  The last time I remember being bored was in grade school.  I do realize that being a parent changes things and keeps you busy, as does home ownership.  I also run or bike three times per week, usually get together for lunch or coffee with friends once to twice per week, write a blog (*ahem*), and, for the summer, am trying to help the younger son with his garden.  This all goes along with that job thing.

Beyond that, however, I have still managed to keep myself plenty busy.  While I am currently on hiatus from most of my hobbies because of that dissertation thing, there are several things I would have liked to have done this past week if time would have been available:

  • electronics hobby group, so I could finally learn to use my Arduino
  • dog training classes, so that Gigadog can compete in obedience trials (heaven knows she needs it) and compete as a show dog
  • there was a hike to go raspberry hunting this morning
  • the street fair was this week

During the winter, there are dance classes and cross-country skiing (or snowshoeing, if that’s your thing).  I enjoy going to NDSU basketball games.  There’s the theater and the symphony.

I would like to know is what ‘nothing to do’ would even look like.  The closest thing I can think of is getting some extra sleep.

Fargo Marathon – 10k redux May 19, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, running.
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As several of you know, I had been training to attempt my first half-marathon this spring. Unfortunately, sometime in February, I ended up with some nasty shin splints that took forever to heal. At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to run at all, but things improved enough so that I had enough time to get ready for the 10k. However, I wasn’t expecting much. My legs still hurt off and on after running. I also started a new training program where I use timed walking and running intervals. Supposedly the walking periods help your body rest to improve your endurance. However, my training rates indicated I probably wasn’t going to be much faster than the previous year when I’d run the whole thing. Running the whole thing had improved my time 20 minutes from the previous year when I walked the entire distance.

Saturday morning was the big day, and it was actually a nice morning. It was overcast, cool, and although it was raining when I arrived, it stopped (mostly) shortly after the race began. I have a Garmin Forerunner 110, so I was able to track my progress during the race. I noticed a couple times that my running pace seemed faster than I expected.

When I finished, I was rather shocked. I managed to shave 14 minutes and 13 seconds from last year’s time. My average speed was 4.3 mph, but my peak speed was 6.5 mph. My pace this year was 2 min/mi faster than last year’s pace. So despite my misgivings going in, it’s quite apparent that I’ve improved quite a bit in the past year.

Of course, the adrenaline helps, too.

My big quandry now is to decide whether to try to run the 10k again next year and attempt to further improve my time or to try again at the half marathon. I have a whole year to decide, though. I just I hope I’ll see Elvis again next year.

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Stupid school year August 20, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, Fargo, personal, teaching.
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I may be in the minority, but I really, really hate the fact that school starts here this week.  I’m of the opinion that school should not start before Labor Day and should not go past Memorial Day.

Part of me would like to say that this dampens my productivity, but I’m not entirely convinced of that.  I think it just lowers my stress-level to not have to worry about running kids around while teaching and trying to get some research done.  I just hate being tired all the time.

Another reason I’m tired is that I’m still not running.  I apparently had tendonitis in my foot, and most likely there was no sprain.  I’m getting lots of ultrasound and massage treatment.  It seems to have improved a lot, and in a couple weeks, I’ll have some new custom orthotics for my running shoes.  Then I’ll get to start running again.  This is good because aside from helping me from feeling so run down all the time, it does a lot to keep my mood up.  I’ve been grumpy for about two months now.

I’m also getting used to being gluten free.  It’s not all that bad, but I still can’t eat things with lots of fructose or lactose.  Those problems should hopefully disappear as my insides heal up.  I just wish I weren’t so hungry all the time.

But in the meantime, I better get finished with tomorrow’s class prep.

Seven-month running update: The Fargo Marathon! May 19, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, older son, personal.
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Seven months ago, I decided I was going to see if I could run the full 10k at the Fargo Marathon. I’ll jump to the important part first: I ran the whole 10k and never fell back to walking.  In fact, I must’ve had some major runner’s high because when we got to the ramp going down into the Fargodome, I took off at the fastest sprint I could manage.  In retrospect, that was not the brightest idea (especially since I’d had to use my asthma inhaler during the run), but I was incredibly excited and couldn’t help myself.  Aside from that, I could squeak past 3-4 more people.

The older boy and I met my friend Kari and her husband at the starting line.  They were gone pretty quickly (except that Kari’s pedometer attempted to bail on her, so she had to come back briefly and retrieve it).  There were a lot of fun things along the course, including an Elvis impersonator and this guy, who cleverly located himself at about the 5 mile marker:

Earlier in the week, they were saying it was going to be unseasonably hot.  This morning, it was rather cool but there were thunderstorms.  Fortunately, they finished up just as we were leaving for the race, so it was cool and a bit damp outside.  The only major issue was the last half mile or so where we were out of the protection of trees and dealing with some gusty wind.

I managed to improve my time from last year by 22 minutes.  I also went from one of the last 10 finishers to having about 200 people behind me.  (I also started in the middle of the pack and so had nearly half of the participants in the race pass me.)  So, I definitely improved.  I’m already excited about doing it again next year.  First, however, I have a triathlon in mid-August…so I need to start swimming and riding bike.

A letter to the editors May 9, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, feminism, societal commentary.
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This weekend, I saw a letter to the editors that was basically a “women should be kept in their place” sort of deal with a twist.  Apparently when women don’t stay barefoot in the kitchen, they are becoming tools to evil men in the world who are attempting to overthrow the traditional family.

When I get irritated with these things, sometimes I will sit down and write out a letter to burn off steam.  Usually, I don’t send these letters out, but this time I did.  And here it is, if you care to read it.  I realize it will not do anything to sway the original letter writer, but it sure made me feel better.

The Brain Drain March 22, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, Fargo, grad school, research, science, societal commentary.
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Yesterday, I was getting into my car when I noticed something on my windshield.

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My neighbor had seen the article about me in yesterday’s paper and left me a message about it.  In fact, it hit three of major newspapers in the state. (If you care to read it, one copy is located here.)

When I was asked by the public relations person at NDSU if she could feature my research as part of an effort to promote the supercomputing facilities on campus, I was certainly glad to do so.  First, from a simply pragmatic point of view, it’s not a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you.  (Although, to be honest, they have a lot of other projects they could’ve featured.)  Second, and more important in my mind, is that this type of thing counters some of the negative attitude about the state universities in the western part of the state.

People from out of state (probably the 4 of my 5 readers) are probably not aware that there is a bit of a divide in state politics, and it can be roughly framed by drawing a vertical line down the center of the state.  The eastern part of the state has the major universities and sees the benefits of having them.  The western part of the state thinks the universities are sucking all of their hard-earned money, and worse yet – children, away from them.

Growing up in the 80s and 90s all I heard about was the ‘brain drain’ that the state was suffering: all of those bright, hard-working, born-in-North-Dakota kids were being educated at a low cost and then leaving the state.  The people in the western part of the state seemed to think we just ought not to spend so much money educating them.  I don’t think they understood that the likely result of that would not be to prevent brain drain but to accelerate it as those students would end up leaving for colleges out of state.  On the other hand, the eastern part of the state was asking for more and more money to fund already seriously underfunded universities which were teaching a lot more kids than they could realistically accommodate.  And we won’t even talk about research.  The universities are supposed to be there to serve the students from the state…what does research have to do with anything?

I was one of those kids that left straight out to go to college, and I really had no intention of returning.  I wanted to do research, and I knew that coming out of high school.  I knew that because I’d gotten involved in research through a state-sponsored program at NDSU as a high school student, and I also knew that I likely couldn’t do what I wanted here.  And why should I, when I could go someplace better?

If you fast forward to about 2000 (when I came back to return to school), there were some significant changes happening.  Great Plains software was bought out by Microsoft, making it the second largest Microsoft campus in the world.  There were companies in town doing engineering.  There was a way to stay in North Dakota with a technical degree.  And about that same time, NDSU started to make some aggressive moves to increase the size and reputation of its campus.

In the past ten years (even before the oil boom in the western part of the state), this significantly slowed the population loss the state was suffering.  However, the western part of the state was still shrinking, and this was probably aggravating the divide.  The eastern part of the state is right, though, IMO.  If you want to keep people from leaving, you need to find a way to create jobs, and not just any jobs: they have to be jobs that bright, educated people will want to do.  Universities are very often centers of creativity and entrepreneurship, and so bringing in more money to the universities will likely do a lot to create jobs and businesses.  Bright, educated people will start businesses to hire those that may not necessarily have the advanced degrees but are still hard workers.  The state is finally starting to see that, and they’re also using some of the money from the oil and gas taxes to create incentives for businesses to operate here.

Going back to the article, I was excited to do this as I see this as a way to communicate to the skeptics that the universities are good for the state.  Here is a project that I would likely have to do somewhere else if it weren’t for the fact that we have the facilities here and they are easily accessible.  Part of the reason I think my research was featured is not only the coolness factor, but the fact that I’m a native of the state and one of the people who, ostensibly, you don’t want leaving for a better job elsewhere.  So yes, the universities are doing something to keep people here, even if not in the western part of the state.  (On the other hand, it sounds like they have more people there now than they really know what to do with, which is another story altogether.)

My only disappointment in all this is that my hometown paper, the Bismarck Tribune, didn’t run the story.  I can’t help but wonder if that is a result of the fact that the divide still obviously exists.

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