Running with Mike

Every morning when I drive to work, I leave at the same time. For about two years, I drive by an elderly runner in around the same area in most mornings. I started waving hi to him and he would wave back. He goes a maintainable easy pace, with a quick cadence. Yesterday it rained for the first time in a long time, and I saw him running with an umbrella. What dedication!

I had a training class for today so I was able to leave to work later than I usually do. I decided to take off and run his path and meet up with him. I caught up to him near his turnaround point. I found out that he does two-a-days, to about 10 miles a day. He’s retired from the aerospace industry for four years, and has a son in his twenties who’s a urologist. He loves to run and stay fit. He gave me advice on not spoiling my kids. He knows a lot of residents in the neighborhood. And when we ran by my parents’ house, he thought my mom drove a red corvette. No, that’s my silly aunt who’s always visiting.

Mike is living my dream retirement life.

Beginning of October

Ruby just turned 2.5 years and Livi, 5 months.

Ruby started preschool at Montessori in about mid-August. At first I considered it daycare, but after parents’ night, I got a really good impression of it. I think she’s learning a lot of things there that we can’t teach her here.

One of the things that Ruby really loves are animals. I have a feeling she’s going to make us get a dog when she gets older. Or maybe a cat. I think she’s a cat person. If she could have a choice, I’d be she’d want us to get an elephant. She loves them the best.

Ruby isn’t completely 100% toilet trained. For pooing, she’s completely toilet trained. She doesn’t tell us when she needs to pee until she’s peed a couple drops into her underwear, but now she can wait longer before that happens. If we take her to the toilet every one and a half hours, we never get an accident. At least now, she never has accidents that are bad enough to reach the floor.

We have the sense that Ruby is dropping her daytime nap because sometimes she goes through a whole day without napping, but then she crashes the next day. We try to put her to bed earlier so she can get the sleep she needs for the day, but it’s hard to put her to bed early enough. Right now we’re kind of in an awkward stage where she naps on day and perhaps doesn’t get a nap the next.

Livi is gaining weight extremely slowly. Feeding her has been a huge challenge. She rarely finishes a breast, and she entirely rejects bottle feeding. So we’ve had to feed her with a dropper, with each ounce taking about 10-20 minutes. And we have to be very careful because she can vomit it up. Just two hours ago I was just about finishing a milestone ounce and about to burp her when she vomited two ounces. Frustrating as hell.

Livi’s thrush has gotten better but she still doesn’t have good feeding habits. She gets up twice a night now. I don’t know how Illie can maintain this with the little amount of sleep she gets, but she does. We moved Livi out of our room into her own shortly before Illie resumed work.

At least Livi’s personality remains very easy. She was turning a bit after she turned 4 months, and now after turning 5 months she’s rotating along the floor clockwise. It doesn’t take much effort to get her to laugh. If it weren’t for the difficulty feeding, she’d be the perfect baby.

In September Rosa and I went to our British cousin’s wedding. She didn’t get a professional wedding photographer so I volunteered. It was the first wedding that I shot seriously, after getting professional equipment and post-processing software. I took a week to post-process the pictures, and in the end I think my cousin is happy with the pictures. I have a lot of improving to do, but I’m really not serious or ambitious enough to put effort into getting better. In any case, I loved the place. It was so beautiful. It reminded me of Williamstown, and after getting back here I had pleasant nighttime dreams about being back in that environment. I miss being in such a green place with real seasons.

Between the two kids, we have almost no free time. After the kids are up, it’s go and go until they go to sleep. We’ve been trying to get Ruby to be interested in books so we try to borrow about 5-10 books from the library every so often. I probably read to her about 5-10 stories a day – and it’s working, because Ruby is constantly asking me to read her books. I really have no idea how parents with more than two kids do it. Even one kid is really busy.

My effort to get back into shape is really difficult. On weekends, I get up at 4:30am to do a 8-9 mile run and get back before 7am before the kids get up. In the middle of the week I try to alternate between cycling and running, but when Illie’s mom is out on vacation I cull the cycling part. I’m in better shape than I was during the summer, but not close to where I was back before Ruby was born.

Adding to the Nikon vs Canon debate

My cousin recently asked me about getting a DSLR. When I first got into photography I was pretty much just told what to get, and I went the Canon route. I did some research on her behalf to compare the two big DSLR brands: Nikon and Canon. Once one initially buys one type, they’re essentially locked into that type because the lenses are not interchangeable between brands. While there are lots of Nikon and Canon comparison web pages out there, I reached a conclusion about the two brands that I haven’t really seen out there.

I primarily use two web sites to gather information: for the camera bodies, DXOMark scores for camera sensors, and for lenses, a comparison of the prices of equivalent lenses.

Camera Bodies

Camera Canon 5D Mark II Canon 60D Canon T3i Canon T2i Nikon D5100 Nikon D3100
Type Pro / Semi Pro Semi Pro Entry Level Entry Level Entry Level Entry Level
Price $2,300 $870 $660 $580 $750 $650*
DxOMark Sensor Overall Score 79 66 65 66 80 67
Color Depth 23.7 bits 22.2 bits 22.1 bits 22.1 bits 23.5 bits 22.5 bits
Dynamic Range 11.9 Evs 11.5 Evs 11.5 Evs 11.5 Evs 13.6 Evs 11.3 Evs
Low Light ISO 1815 ISO 813 ISO 793 ISO 784 ISO 1183 ISO 919 ISO

Lenses

Canon Nikon
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 $115 $150
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 $580 $900
17-55mm f/2.8 $990 $1,340
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 $510 $520
50mm f/1.8 $100 $150
50mm f/1.4 $340 $440
24-70mm f/2.8 $1,250 $1,800
70-200mm f/2.8 $2,075 $2,250
24mm f/1.4 $1,600 $2,150
200mm f/2 $5,300 $6,000

Looking through these tables, the entry level Nikons have sensors that are substantially superior to the entry level Canon sensors, and they even rival or even exceed semi-professional Canon bodies that are more expensive.

However, the Nikon lenses are generally a lot more expensive than the equivalent Canon lenses. For someone like me who places more importance on lenses than on camera bodies, I’m more attracted to the Canon brand because I’d be spending a lot more money on the glass. However, on the initial buy, I’d rather get a Nikon because of the amazing sensors they produce.

It seems to me that Nikon prices their photography gear somewhat like printers: they rope you in with great camera bodies and relatively cheap prices, but they really ding your wallet on the lenses.

As for the recommendation I would make to my cousin? Seems to me there is no right answer. If she was pretty sure she wouldn’t get serious but still wanted great photography, I’d probably tell her to get Nikon. If she eventually got serious and has to work within a budget, Canon. If money is no object, Nikon.

* I got prices from B&H Photo Video. The D3100 price I showed include a kit lens, because there was no price for body only.

Photography

Illie and I started getting interested in photography around late 2007 before we travelled to Alaska. I’ve been pretty influenced by Ben Ho. We started out with a Canon XTI and a wide angle f/4 17-400mm lens. I blogged about it when we first got the camera.

After Ruby was born we became even more interested in photography so we could get good pictures of Ruby. After my dad gave me some of his vintage 70s Nikon lenses, I realized that I needed a faster, low light lens. At Ruby’s5th week we got a 35mm f/1.4 lens, and we drastically improved our ability to take low light pictures without flash.

Once Ruby started showing signs of walking at around 11 months, we got a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II lens for outdoor pictures. The picture quality is crisp and sharp, and the bokeh is beautiful.

At around Ruby’s 9th month we decided to get a professional-level DSLR : the Canon 5D Mark II. It drastically improved our ability to take low light pictures and also allowed us to take wider pictures. The flexibility that this camera gives us is so much greater than the Xti. Though it is somewhat embarrassing for us to carry this amazing camera around, since we really are beginners in this field.

Later on we began to take in RAW and spend more time with post processing. At every step I believe our photography has improved, though the improvement has not kept up with how critical we are with our work. A couple weeks ago my cousin Judy asked us to give them a photoshoot, which we gladly did. It was the first time we were very precise with taking pictures, and spent a lot of time post-processing. We also learned quite a bit about photoshop. The galllery from the photoshoot is here. This work has earned us a pending gig with one of Judy’s friends that we don’t know.

There is still a lot for us to learn, and we haven’t even started trying out any kind of lighting.

Last Thursday’s cycling accident

Got into a bad cycling accident last Thursday. I was going south on Seal Beach Blvd, preparing to make a left turn onto PCH. The area happened to be in construction with no workers around, and there were safety cones blocking out the bike lane. There were lots of cars during peak traffic, and I was cycling inside the blocked out cone area where there was no construction at all. I prepared to get into the left lane by looking back, and since there were cars I’d have to wait for them to pass. I looked back again, and there were still cars, and once I finished looking back it was too late. There was a 35mph limit sign placed right in the middle of the coned out area that I was cycling in, and I smashed into it at 20 mph. I somersaulted, landed on my left side, and thankfully didn’t hit my head at all.

I assured a friendly motorist I was alright, but I was banged up pretty good. Both palms were bloody, both sides of the knees were scratched, and my left elbow was hurting pretty bad. My left hip also got bruised. A day later I realized that my left-side ribs were also pretty bruised up. As minutes passed my left elbow froze into its bent position and I couldn’t bend it more or straighten it out.

At Illie’s medical advice, I got x-rays taken the next morning, and there was no obvious fracture. I couldn’t straighten out my arm for one of the x-ray angles so it wasn’t quite ideal. At least I didn’t need any kind of surgery. The doctor presumed it was a fracture and Illie is also treating it as a fracture, so no more cycling for six weeks. That makes for an unhappy robin.

It’s a week later and I’ve gained quite a bit of mobility in my left elbow, but I still can’t straighten it out or bend it all the way. It still hurts, and my left ribs are still sore, but recovery is as expected.

Postmortem: The sign is ok but the wooden slat underneath it is completely broken. My bike seems 100% ok.

running redux

no more racing until Ruby gets older.

weekly mileage probably in the 20’s-30’s now, with a long run about 11-13 miles. A lot of them at around 6am in the morning before illie and ruby wake up.

haven’t done repeats/intervals for several months, and rejoined the tuesday workout group today. Did five 800s with about a 2:20 min rest, started at a 6:03 min/mile pace and finished the last one at a 5:29 min/mile pace. Probably didn’t lose that much speed since I stopped doing speedwork months ago.

learned to run with a midfoot strike since about november. Besides this form being a lot better for my knees, I think I gained at least 5-10 seconds per mile instead of a heel strike. I probably would have been able to boston qualify if I could run with a midfoot strike last October.

44 mile bike ride today

went cycling in Ramona today, 44 miles. I was on someone else’s aluminum bike that was slower than my Klein, for the fun of it.

I gunned the last 12 miles of the ride, and didn’t know that for the last several miles, a group of young guys in $5k-$7k$2500-$5000 bikes were chasing but didn’t catch me. At the stop, they asked me whether I was doing a time trial, and then asked me whether I was interested in joining them on on their weekly century rides. Flattered.

miscellany

Thanksgiving:

spent it pretty much alone. For the fifth straight year, Illie had to work on Thanksgiving day, so despite invitations to spend that precious time with either side of the family. Illie ate at the hospital, and I made vegan pizza from scratch for myself. Glad this is the last year this has to happen.

Moving:

After touring 17 houses, we found one that we like. The list price is pretty ridiculously high, and we finally finished all of the paperwork to get the ball rolling on our offer. And then I found out that there is already an offer out there from last weekend. Frankly, we will not try that hard to get the house, since it’s early for us. And I’m not interested in unnecessarily inflating the sale price for the other buyer. Maybe there will be a better find out there in the first quarter of 2010 when a lot of foreclosures come onto the market.

Running:

I was supposed to be retired from running?? I’ve decreased my mileage to at most 20 miles per week after St George, and I’ve been cycling to work again. I don’t care about meeting weekly mileage goals like I used to, and I miss weekly runs every so often now because .. well, I really just don’t care anymore. Running is now just fun for me.

Last Friday, on two separate occasions, I measured my rest heart rate to be at 40 BPM and 45 BPM. That’s either the resting heart rate of athletes or Illie’s patients who are close to death. I prefer to think I’m not close to death.

Today, since Bryan is on taper for the Sacramento marathon, I decided to join him and Steve for their shorter repeat workout, which they advertised to be at about a 6:20 min/mile pace. (I usually do mine at about 30s/mile slower). Steve threw the hammer down and I decided to show up and hang on for dear life. I ended up running a 6:08 min/mile first repeat and a 5:49 min/mile second repeat / 2 min rest. That 5:49 min/mile is the fastest mile I’ve ever run in my life! Usually mile PRs aren’t set on the last legs of repeat workouts.

The Baby:

No news is good news. We have a Chinese name, but no English name yet. We are already preparing all the baby items. I can’t wait for her to be born. I’m really excited about holding her in my arms.