L-R Emmy (lying down), Drama, Kendra, Savannah & Teya

26 September 2013

The End of the Word as We Know It

No – that is not a typo – I did mean ‘word’ and not ‘world’. Though with today’s smart phones, mini/virtual keyboards, autocorrect and text speak you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

I used to hear my dad malign the ‘current day’ education system (my current day – think somewhere back in the 70’s and early 80’s) stating that they weren’t teaching us the important things any more. ‘In my day we learned…’ Well at least we were still learning phonics, sentence structure and proper grammar. Spelling, grammar and English were ‘my thing’. I aced those subjects. Even at a very young age I was an avid reader and had little time for authors who couldn’t use language properly (the exceptions being, of course, where it was misused in context). I was also potentially a bit of a know-it-all with a bad habit of correcting everyone (oops). I prefer to view it as an early presentation of OCD.

By the time I finished high school they had thrown phonics out the window and were teaching by ‘memory’. In my early 20’s some young teens I was working with, who had been diagnosed with learning disorders, bought themselves ‘Hooked on Phonics’ and (shock-horror) their grades went up and so did their self-esteem, and already I was starting to sound like my dad.  ‘In my day we learned…’

In Grade 10 (age 15 for people in different school systems) I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter, and then in grades 11-12 we got to move onto an electric (with a ball!). I was jealous when the year behind me got to start on electric typewriters and missed out on the manuals. By the time my youngest brother reached high school (7 years younger than me) they were using computers from the off, but I’m not sure that proper touch-typing was taught any more.  If it was, it doesn’t seem many actually used it then (or now). I’m grateful for having learned that way, and being able to type 80-110wpm is a skill I’m proud of – on an actual keyboard…

I managed to miss the computers that filled rooms and required punch cards by about 2 years, but our home computer (mostly for games and a bit of word processing) was a Commodore 64. Those of us who could touch type were able to really fly on the keyboards then. Even the two finger (or two plus a thumb) typists were able to catch up some. Then followed the real explosion – the rush of IBM’s, Mac’s and PC’s, the internet, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, shrinking physical sizes, growing storage requirements, cell phones as big as bricks, cell phones smaller than your palm, texting and now smartphones (back to bigger sizes with the smartphones).

Language itself seems to have devolved while technology has evolved. Yet again I find myself sounding like my father did at my age, criticising education, society, the young. I don’t mean to really; it’s meant more as an observation. Having moved from Canada to the UK and having become aware that the language, dialect and accent can change from county to county. city to city, or in fact even a mile down the road has broadened my thinking, experience and tolerance for different ‘forms’ of language. Canada is a country that, west of Quebec, pretty much has the same accent and dialect throughout, and while I understood the existence of regional accents/dialects (north, south, east, west) across in the US, the UK pretty much blew my mind!

However, I digress. What really prompted this post (with all of its background – note its not it’s) is that it seems we have lost the ‘art’ of the written word, and we have become very lazy with it. I blame ‘text-speak’ to begin with. Phone companies were charging for a maximum number of characters per message, so people had to cram what they wanted to say into the smallest numbers of characters. In addition, using numeric keys to write words was a pain. I ‘get’ that. I am on record (there is actual video footage where you can hear me texting in the background) as the slowest person in the world to ever send texts – and that was using predictive text. But do we really need to carry it into every day life? Cmon ppl ur gr8 enuf not 2 nd 2 do that. (Ooh, I cringed typing that). Now we have smart phones and actual Qwerty keyboards, and unlimited text plans. We could easily go back to using full words and sentences, but the text-speak has stuck.

I manage/moderate a couple of online forums and read several more, and my OCD (especially with regard to written language) kicks in on a regular basis. I have relatively successfully forced myself to accept spelling errors and grammatical errors, and bad punctuation (and just plain typos). For the most part I’m good at ignoring them (or correcting them in my head and moving on), however I draw the line at text speak. I just feel it has no place there - or even on Facebook for that matter. And reading text-speak from people my age or older is just plain weird. It’s probably just me, and I’ve probably lost most of you by now, but I promise you this is going somewhere.

Keeping in mind everything I’ve said above:  I love language, I respect grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling, hate text-speak except where absolutely necessary, love typing and writing… I finally broke down and got a smartphone. In my case it was an iPhone, though the Blackberry (with actual rather than virtual keyboard) was up there for a while. I was SO grateful for a Qwerty keyboard. No more stupid numbers and hitting buttons two or three times for the letter I wanted, no more having it predict words I never intended. It was going to be GREAT (not gr8).

And now I am the bane of my own existence. For some reason (eyesight getting poor with age, fingers too clumsy, stupid virtual iPhone keyboard in general) I cannot seem to hit the right letters a good proportion of the time. I hit an ‘o’ and it becomes an ‘i’, I hit an ‘e’ and it’s an ‘r’, an 's' becomes a 'd' (I'm constantly 'do dorry'). The iPhone is great, it makes suggestions and has an autocorrect, and a lot of the time it works in my favour (I can leave out apostrophes and it will put them in – it saves me changing keyboard levels). Unfortunately it also is wrong half the time, so I now have a combination of ‘user error’ (aka me hitting the wrong keys), and iPhone interpretation (iPhone correcting words that I AM typing correctly and it thinks I don’t want, or iPhone correcting the words I misspelled into words that make no sense in the context). On a dog forum ‘I live my digs’ can probably be interpreted to mean ‘I love my dogs’ by anyone who has the same autocorrect issues with their smartphone/tablet, however in the real world no one would have a clue - or else think I was making a very pathetic attempt at being ‘cool’.

The result is that while I was bad enough editing and re-editing any posts I wrote on the forums before, I am now obsessive about it. From a regular keyboard there might be the odd typo, or I might decide to reword something for clarity (I tend to babble if you haven’t noticed). Often that would mean a couple of quick edits after typing. Not now. Now if I write from the phone I will proof it as much as I can on that little tiny screen, then I will hit send. Somewhere between hitting send and reaching the forum it becomes pure nonsense. I have had entire sentences where even I, who wrote the darn thing, cannot make out what I’ve tried to say. And now ‘I’m’ the one who’s grammar needs to be ignored, who’s typos and ‘autocorrects’ need to be interpreted, and I’m sure there are people out there thinking ‘my gosh that woman needs an education’. So now, instead of a couple of quick edits, I go back and fix and edit and resave a dozen or more times (while being thoroughly shamed by myself). And it seems I have become that which I despised.

So it’s the end of the word as I know it (and I don’t feel fine).

ps:  For a quick laugh at my expense here's a screen grab of a text between myself and a friend where I was using the slang 'ta muchly' for 'thank you very much' (see I can actually use 'silly speak' in every day talk).  This is what the iPhone mangled it into.

pps:  Feel free to have further laughs at my expense.  While I've tried very hard to ensure there are few to no grammatical errors in this post I'm sure I've missed several.  (I did it on purpose to see if you were paying attention.  Yes I absolutely did.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

22 September 2013

Post Marathon - the Short Version

Turns out they were right , 26 miles is a long way!

If you want an idea of how running 26 miles messes with you head, it interferes with your ability to do basic maths. There were 10 drink stations on the marathon, each serving water in 200ml cups. Like everyone else I had 2 at each station. Then after the Finish I downed 4 more, then at the car I drank a 500ml bottle of Mountain Dew. To my marathon addled brain that means I just drank 5.3 litres of fluid. That can't be right, can it???


21 September 2013

Not Knowing

Running your first marathon is exactly like giving birth to your first baby. You get the same length of time to prepare - 4 to 6 months. The event happens at a pre-determined time and place. It’s guaranteed to last a set amount of time - 3 to 5 hours. Three quarters of the way through someone gives you a handful of jelly babies which helps the last quarter go easier than you thought it would. And most importantly of all, after you’re done, and they’ve put the medal round your neck, your can put your feet up and decide never to lift a finger ever again.

So in summary your first marathon is exactly like the birth of your first child, but only in 2 specific ways. 
The first way is that you don’t know how it’s going to go. You don’t have a freakin' clue. You have a rough approximation based on shaky supposition built on a foundation of random half truths, or to use the correct terminology, a guess. A great big stinkin' shot in the dark guess. You have no expectations because you have no knowledge. No experience. No clue.  5 years, 15 pounds and 6 months of proper training ago I was capable of 3 and a half hours. Right now for that I would need a taxi. In my dreams I am capable of four hours. My 17 mile final training run put me at 4 and a half. But which way do you go? The positivity which will propel you forward, or the unrealistic irrational hope which will crush you half way round when you realise you’re heading for 5 hours and you just got lapped - by a person on crutches. I’ve done training runs where I felt after 12 miles I could have easily gone on. But hey, what about the training run where after 12 miles I thought I was dead? Again a half truth, the real truth is that I was dead, in hell, and the devil had the car parked another 3 miles away. With the wind against. The devil always has the wind against. He’s the devil. Which will tomorrow be? I just don’t know. I know I’ve trained well, my previously torn hip lasting 3 months more than it has any right to do, the knees only giving way once, the new attempted torn calf muscle repaired itself. All of which should be positive and help, but it makes it worse because all of them mean that tomorrow could be my first and last marathon. Tomorrow could be it, so hey, no pressure.

The second way your first marathon is like your first baby is that everyone has a story. There are many types of story teller. The first are your broad strokers, the ones who, lost for anything to say in the face of your obvious insanity/senility/intoxication in wanting to run a marathon, come out with “Wow, a marathon, 26 miles. That’s, like, a long way.” Thanks for that. While we’re on the topic why don’t you let me know that Hitler was a bad man, drinks in bars cost too much and giving birth might hurt a little. Then we have the Stephen Kings – the ones who delight in telling you of that friend of a friend who tried to run a marathon, ripped his knee, tripped on a curb, broke his ankle, couldn’t move and then the blood attracted a nearby shoal of piranha. They tell this story in the manner of Rafiki, the wise old sage, confident that you will listen to their wise lesson and immediately give up on the marathon and return with your friends to your true calling, the couch. And finally you have the extremists, both of the experienced and in-experienced [guessing] type. Who will tell you that giving birth/running a marathon is easy/insane, life changing/certain death, addictive/an evil once in a lifetime personal trauma forged on the shores of hell.  I get a lot of that in my role with early pregnancy counseling. The woman who told me she wasn’t worried about the birth because her sisters had told her that all of them shell them out like peas [Yes, she listened to her sisters. Does life teach us nothing? Brothers were bad enough]. And then there was the woman who had got the idea in her head, repeatedly repeated to me, that, and I quote, “I’m going to hear it when I tear, aren’t I? You don’t just feel it, you hear it. I just know I’m going to hear it. I’ve been told that”. Considering this was at 12 weeks, and she had another 28 to worry about it [and she did], this did not bode well. [For the record the second woman didn’t tear, but did describe it as horrendous. The first woman did indeed shell one out like a pea. I told her never to mention that to anyone ever again. There were other women on the planet. They might hear her]. Marathons are the same. Everyone has a tale from one end of the spectrum, confident their war story/friend’s war story/thing they read on the internet once will inspire you/motivate you/make you stop and pause/scare the enema out of you/make you run for the hills, as long as the hills aren’t 26 miles away and the wind isn’t against. Plus who wants to run uphill?? I’ve heard about the pain, the body shock, the trauma, The Wall, the exhilaration, the triumph, the success, the ability to travel the world and do marathons in different places. [I pity all those poor people who don’t do marathons and are therefore unable to travel the world.] I’ve seen the look on a patient’s face when I told him, at 70, that the surgeon’s advice was never run another marathon. I’ve seen the look on another patient’s face when I asked him if he’d enjoyed the London marathon. [Imagine I’d asked him if it was ok if I stabbed him in the eye with this cactus and then put it up on youtube]

Not knowing. Only one way to cure that

Let you all know tomorrow

1 September 2013

Random Thoughts While Running...

Following on from Friday's blog entry of my run on the same airshow weekend as 2 years ago...

I am in the final stretch of training for the New Forest Marathon - my first Full Marathon.  Today I ran 17 miles in 3 hours (give or take a bit I'm ignoring), which makes a full marathon time of 4 hours 30 minutes (give or take a bit I'm ignoring).

Today's random thoughts while running included:
  • 8 am would be the perfect time to run if if didn't involve getting up at 7 am
  • Running along a quayside is much more fun when you're not running in and out of tourists who have a habit of stopping    For    No    Apparent    Reason.
  • Normally I hate everyone when I run. The young people who run past me; the old people who run past me; the fat people who run past me; the fat dogs who run past me; and in particular the people who run past me while talking. HOW DO YOU TALK AND RUN AT THE SAME TIME??? I can't even think when I run, let alone talk. Today was different. Today as I ran across Baiter Park, a gentle harbour breeze blowing across, I was coursed at full pelt by a whippet (not one of mine), who would do several figure eights around me at 90 miles an hour, before jogging by my side and giving me a look that said "you are the worst bunny I've ever come across". Then off he'd go for a few more 90 mile an hour circuits , before appearing at my side again with a look that said "you're really not getting the hang of this are you"
  • Kudos to the mum who grabbed her 4 year old and told her she couldn't just wander up to the loveable old bull mastiff and say hello
  • Daggers to the same mum who continued to drag her daughter away from the loveable old mastiff like he was a devil dog, turning common sense into a fear
  • Harry Redknapp (very famous football manager who lives in one of the big coastal houses I run past) was sat out at a cafe having a Sunday morning coffee, chatting away and doing photos and autographs. Seems like a genuinely nice bloke.
  • The only thing better than stopping at traffic lights (while driving home afterward) and seeing the red arrows jet display team fly overhead, is stopping at traffic lights, looking through your sunroof, and seeing a Wellington bomber flanked by 2 Spitfires fly overhead
And Finally...
  • You know you've lived too long / been married too long / been running too long when a beautiful woman walks towards you along the quay, skimpy skin tight outfit, carrying a flattish silver box with a birthday bow on top, and your first thought is "Mmmm. Cake!"