Friday, September 26, 2008


I don't mean to harp on this new gym hobby, but I have one last complaint regarding the running machines. As I’ve said before,* I run for distance every other day. I should use the word "endurance" instead of "distance". My lacking any real ability renders these less than tantamount. To keep myself within the appropriate zone regarding pulses, respirations, and pressures, I walk one quarter kilometer between every three-quarter run. Last night I repeated this formula for two miles (the infuriating playlist included: walking--Queen's We are the Champions anthem; running--Cyndi Lauper's sleepy True Colors; walking--the Stray Cats strutting; running--Ella bemoaning the regrets of Miss Otis). This process keeps me working usefully toward building cardiovascular tolerance. It's a process necessitating frequent slowing-down and speeding-up maneuvers while I'm still moving on the treadmill. My complaint is about the crappy buttons controlling the machine's speed. They are Star Trek-style buttons: futuristic flat and high-contrast pictographs easier to see than feel. They depress only very slightly. When activated, they work like clock radio alarm controls: press once, and the digital readout ticks along by one increment; hold the button down and the digital readout scans slowly forward, speeding up one gear if pressure can be maintained long enough. It's difficult to do this when my hands are slick with sweat. An even pressure is difficult to maintain on the arbitrary pictograph while moving. It's especially tricky at the dog-tired end of a three-quarter k run. My hand might wobble slightly while I decrease my thumping headlong strides, the button speed gearing down again and again, slowing the belt over intolerably longer periods, eating away that brief walking respite. Frankly, it's infuriating when I'm already keyed-up. There has to be some better kind of button for this machine. [Cavin]

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Sometime last week (was it Tuesday?), maintenance arrived at our apartment again. It's been a while. After many early adventures with building maintenance, lately they've begun to leave us alone. It's only because I ask them to fix stuff when we leave town--even when nothing's really broken. We've traveled frequently over recent months, providing time for crews to completely overrun our apartment, morning to night, day-in and day-out, without interruption. Their ladders and drop-cloths and piles of greasy and inscrutable little pieces have remained scattered about between activities without consequence. Their desire to tinker with our landscape, tweaking our whatnot, gets satisfied before our return. Due to this perfect system we rarely see them. But. We didn't go anywhere over the recent Labor Day weekend. They must've been jonesing for some opportunity to knock; finally their mounting tendency toward compulsive tinkering tipped into relapse Tuesday (or so). In fairness, it's possible maintenance dropped in because housekeeping noticed the dining room AC unit leaking into our bookshelves and called to have it fixed. Whatever. Starting last whenever, they’ve been in the apartment every afternoon (except Sunday). That first day they erected ladders and dropped cloths before turning the unit off and telling me they'd return tomorrow. They've said this every day since (except Sunday). Once they took the unit away with them. Once, they cut a large hole in our ceiling, covering it with empty rice sacks. Currently, that hole has been drywalled but remains unpainted; lightless overhead sockets stare emptily. Normally, I'd expect this hilarious episode to end by Tuesday (or so). Normally, the crew might then attempt switching their attention to other units, further into our territory. I'd try to stop this, but they may never even finish the dining room: that unit resumed dripping today. [Cavin]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This post is about unrequited love and its near opposite, unrequited disdain. It's about making five minutes seem like forever. It pertains to my MP3 player. I run every single night. Lately, I've been pushing myself on the treadmill, breaking the previous night's records every day. I've progressed quickly to the edge of my ability this way. Good right? On even nights I sprint as fast as I can (not that fast) for almost a mile on the treadmill. On odd nights I run almost ten kilometers-per-hour for as far as I can (not that far). This is where the unrequited love comes in. I'm crushing hard on my MP3 player all over again. When I program it, I can forget the thud-thud-thud of my feet on the treadmill belt, taking my mind off the excruciating passage of time. There's nothing worse than paying attention while exercising. I run my "sprint" night distances all in a row, but the alternating "distance" nights are accomplished in three-quarter kilometer increments, with one-quarter k walks in between. This keeps me within my proper developmental range --cardiovascular-wise-- where my numbers won't spike or relax into diminishing returns. Five minutes running for every three minutes walking. This is where I get to the unrequited disdain, a feeling my MP3 player apparently harbors. See, I keep it on shuffle. During the walks, I get nice hard danceable stuff: Shonen Knife grinding out Cobra vs. Mongoose, Public Enemy trashing Arizona, the Cramps, Rob Zombie, Katie Jane Garside. You get the idea. But whenever I have to speed up to another run, suddenly I'm hearing the twang-twang-twanging nineteen-twenty blues in tinny mono, or the love-ballad from some unknown soundtrack, or Sinéad O'Connor whispering I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got a cappella, for god's sake. [Cavin]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm not going to be able to tell it's autumn in Southeast Asia in the ways I normally look forward to. Between now and the longest night in late mid-December, the sunset will creep earlier and earlier into the day. At around thirteen degrees north latitude, however, there just isn't much variance we can expect to observe. Right now, so near yesterday's equinox, it gets full-on dark shortly after six-oh-seven. It's hard to tell when sunset is exactly--it's often stormy and overcast outside, making it seem night much earlier than it should. But six-oh-seven's about when all the hotel signs come on across the skyline. Last year, in late December when the northern hemisphere enjoys its longest night, I remember it getting dark shortly after five thirty. I can’t really remember when it got dark back in June, when the hemisphere suffers its longest day. At home in North Carolina, sunset will vary from eight thirty in the evening to five thirty in the afternoon over the space of autumn, a dramatic swing assisted in early November when Daylight Saving stops. Here, the biggest change will be sunsets I can see through the clouds. The temperature will be at their yearly coolest during the second, dryer half of fall--November to January, really--when we'll appreciate the breezy and temperate overnight seventies followed by the dry and sunny daytime eighties. Back home it might drop into the forties, maybe even sink below freezing occasionally, before the New Year. And as the trees are turning orange and red and yellow at home, their leaves beginning to pile up in people's front yards, the bright green and lush foliage here, finally peeking into long sunlight hours for the first time in four or five months, will begin blooming enthusiastically. [Cavin]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumnal Equiniox

Happy first of fall! At 15:44:16 UTC, the Earth's celestial equator crossed the ecliptic plane. The celestial equator is, of course, the heavenward projection of our own zero latitude, which separates the northern and southern hemispheres. The ecliptic is the plane on which we circumnavigate the sun. There's about twenty-three point five degrees of separation between these imaginary constructs. Because of this, the sun now appears in declination, rising and setting from points beneath the equator. UTC are scrambled initials, the shorthand standing for Coordinated Universal Time--newfangled, atomic clockwork slang for the time zone known as the Greenwich Mean. That's the Atlantic half of the International Dateline; together they separate the globe into eastern and western hemispheres. UTC isn't adjusted for Daylight Saving Time. Because of this, three forty-four pm UTC is almost fifteen till five in nearby England. That's ten forty-four tonight here in Vietnam where there's no Daylight Saving policy; and about fifteen till noon back at home in North Carolina where there is. As the sun moves south over the celestial equator (also called equinoctial circle, of course), the number of dark and light hours in the day equalize. The sun seems to rise and set over the equator. It's obvious how this vocabulary is related. The sun hardly pauses, continuing to decline even further into the south latitudes. This will bring about the steadily lengthening nighttime hours, lowering temperatures, changing leaves, smell of wood smoke, long orange sunsets and deepening blue twilights, crisply cold air, piles of leaves, pumpkin and corn harvests, and eventual holidays of the northern temperate zone's elongating autumn season. This lasts until the nights are as long as they'll get, when the sun appears at its nadir with respect to the ecliptic, and the oblong season of winter begins. [Cavin]