Category Archives: General


On Sunday night, Lisa and I saw Emmylou Harris in concert. We’ve seen her in concert a couple of times before, but this time was very, very special. It was everything I had ever wanted in an Emmylou concert. Daniel Lanois opened for her and then came back on stage (along with Steven Nistor on the drums and Jim Wilson playing bass) as they played the entire “Wrecking Ball” album!

It’s safe to say my first listen to “Wrecking Ball” sometime around 2000 changed my musical world. I had heard Emmylou Harris sing “Goin’ Back to Harlan” on the first Lilith Fair album a couple of years earlier and loved it. “Wrecking Ball” was unlike anything I’d ever heard: beautiful, sad, and poetic with a huge sound that I would later realize was all Lanois. After hearing the album, I became an Emmylou devotee.

Being there as Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois (and Nistor and Wilson) played all of “Wrecking Ball” was more amazing than I could have expected. And when they played a perfectly rocking version of “Goin’ Back to Harlan”—much like that Lilith Fair recording—I was transported back fifteen years to that first encounter. All of those wonderful years of living with Emmylou’s music were compressed into five perfect minutes.

After recreating “Wrecking Ball” for us, Emmylou, Danny, and the band performed a couple of Lanois songs in the first encore (“Still Water” and “The Maker”) along with “Boulder to Birmingham” and “Calling My Children Home.” Emmylou and Lanois came out by themselves for the second (and final) encore, performing a couple older songs by Emmylou: “Pancho and Lefty” and “My Songbird.” That last song is one of my favorites, and I admit that I got a little misty for the second time in the evening, and it was a perfect way to end the show.

I can die a happy man now . . . although I’d prefer a few more perfect Emmylou Harris concerts first.

Here are some pictures from the show at Boston’s House of Blues.

Posted in 101 in 1001, General, This is who we are | 2 Comments

Jet Lag and Swimming Anxiety… Saturday 5:30AM

It’s a bit after 5:30 on Saturday morning as I type this by tapping away on my phone’s little keyboard. Jet-lag has been working its power over me for the last hour and a half. Its mojo is strong this morning, and–as an accomplished sleeper–I feel it acutely. Part of me wishes I’d stayed out later last night… Going to bed at 10:30 felt right but was probably a mistake. It also didn’t help, I wager, that my CGM woke me at 1:30, throwing off my internal clock even more.

I’ve been in San Diego since Thursday for a business meeting (along with almost 3,000 other employees) and the time change has caught me with a vengeance. Yesterday, I was tired but mostly awake when I went for a run along the Embarcadero. Today, I’m just awake and waiting out the time before starting my “free day” with a group swim in La Jolla Cove.

I alternate between excitement and anxiety about the swim. I’ve never swam with these coworkers before or in this place. The locals say we’re “in for a real treat,” which fills me with hope. Nevertheless, I’ve been anxious all week. Where will I put my stuff while we’re swimming? What will I sight on? What if I can’t keep up? Will my BGs behave themselves? What if the water is rough? Etc. Etc. Unhelpful etc.

My biggest concern has been my upper body. Two weeks ago I fell a few times on a run and ended up with core muscles that until yesterday were still quite tender when I did a lot of the swimming motion. I swam about 300 yards after the meeting just to see how well my new goggles fit, and it was the first time that my stroke was pain-free since the tumble on the trails. (You can see now why I decided to spend my time working on flip turns rather than actual workouts.) I was actually a bit concerned that I would need to bow out of the swim that I helped organize. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like that will be necessary.

Well, now that I’ve gotten that bit of crazy off my chest, I’m feeling a little better. I still have a couple hours before I need to walk to a neighboring hotel to meet the group, but at least I’ll be more mellow in the meantime.

Posted in General, Life Lessons, Swimming | 1 Comment

Skiing Around the House

How does one ski in the living room? It looks a bit like this.

I didn’t actually use my poles in the living room. Those things are sharp and wouldn’t be too friendly for the rug or hardwood floors. Mostly it’s just me moving from side to side without poles, from one ski to the other, finding my balance and realizing in the safety of a snow-free environment when I had gone too far.

Now if only it would snow again.

Posted in General, Skiing | Leave a comment

Polar Plunge

On the 20th, Alex and I decided that we would go for a quick dip in the Ashland Reservoir, where we swim in the summer, on the first morning of the new year. Sure it was going to be cold, but it would be “fun.” It wasn’t until the 30th as I drove to work and saw a bunch of frozen lakes that I wondered whether it would even be possible.

Survey says: “No.”

Posted in General, Swimming | Leave a comment

Diet Coke

I started using the Medtronic Minimed Enlite sensor about 10 days ago, and I have plenty to write about it. And I’ll do that soon. For now, I’ll just tease y’all and say my reaction so far is better than Kim’s but not yet as awesome as with the older Sof-Sensor. In the meantime . . .

Lisa and I were in Portland, Oregon, last week for Christmas. I had a good time there and will post pictures as well as an observation or two about running amidst waterfalls soon.

While cleaning up my e-mail inbox this morning, I came across a link to an article from The Onion about Diet Coke: “Man Who Drinks 5 Diet Cokes Per Day Hoping Doctors Working On Cure For Whatever He’s Getting.” It’s pretty clear that the article is satire, but it does include a choice bit or two:

He’s “counting on” scientists to invent a pill, vaccine, patch, or other medical solution in the coming years to prevent people from contracting whatever horrific, life-threatening disease you eventually get from drinking 60 or more ounces of Diet Coke each day. . . . “And I hope they start working on it soon, too, because I’m not feeling so great.” Cowan added that, until that day comes, he could really go for another Diet Coke.

I pretty much quit Diet Coke cold turkey four months ago. The good news: My doctor doesn’t think that I ever had an ulcer; so there’s that. The other good news: I don’t need to be medicated to prevent the nausea that I had been having. At my doctor’s suggestion, I tapered myself of omeprazole without beginning to feel ill again. Which means that the only other change I made—giving up Diet Coke and most fizzy drinks—is likely the main cause of my feeling better.

Giving up Diet Coke was both easy and difficult. On the one hand, the choice between caffeine/Diet Coke/soda and actually feeling good is an easy one to make. I feel so much better now, and on the rare time that my tummy is a little questionable (because I’ve eaten like a crazy man) a couple of Tums makes it all better. I’m drinking more water and lemonade (sugar-free, of course) to keep hydrated, but that took some mindfulness to make happen.

On the other hand, I think I’m beginning to understand addiction. I know, I know. Caffeine isn’t nicotine or heroin or alcohol. It’s probably not even close, although it is definitely addictive. But I did want a Diet Coke a lot after I stopped drinking it. I still do. I like the flavor well enough. I like the way it tickles/burns my mouth. It’s refreshing.

Beyond all of its physically pleasing qualities, though, drinking Diet Coke was something I did. As soon as I quit, there was a hole in my daily routine. That was perhaps the hardest part of breaking the habit. There were triggers everywhere: buying something at the office café, going to a restaurant, having dinner at home, taking a road trip, etc. Whenever Lisa and I would go for ice cream, we would always buy a soda afterward. We still get delicious ice cream from time to time, but somehow it feels incomplete without the Diet Coke. (At least for now it does.) And I will probably always maintain that pizza tastes better with a Diet Coke (or any kind of soda) than without. It might be entirely psychological, but that doesn’t change how real the feeling is.

So there it is. I’m Jeff Mather, and I like Diet Coke even though I don’t drink it any more.

Posted in Diabetes, General, Life Lessons | 3 Comments

My New Wardrobe

This winter perhaps I’ll take a cue from the MFA’s Hippie Chic exhibit and go retro with my wardrobe.

Then again, maybe not.

Posted in General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2013 | Leave a comment


              M.     F.     N.    Pl.
Nominative:  der    die    das    die
Accusative:  den    die    das    die
Genitive:    des    der    des    der
Dative:      dem    der    dem    den

Nominative:  ein    eine   ein    --
Accusative:  einen  eine   ein    --
Genitive:    eines  einer  eines  --
Dative:      einem  einer  einem  --

It’s been years since I declined a noun. It was more than 16 years ago in Greek 102, in fact. (“ἡ γυνη σπευδει προς τῶν ἀγρῶν.”) But Berlin beckons, and I will be able speak a little German while I’m there next month, dammit! I know, I know. You can get by with English only, but . .  Well, I’ll let this passage from “Before Sunrise” sum it up:

Jesse: Excuse me, excuse me uh, sprechen Sie English? (Do you speak English?)

Man with jacket: Ja, of course.

Man with tie: Couldn’t you speak German for a change?

Jesse: What?

Man with tie: No, it was a joke.

Jesse: Well, listen, we just got into Vienna today, and we’re looking for something fun to do.

Céline: Like museums, exhibitions, things…

Man with tie: But museums are not that funny any more these days, uh…

Man with jacket: Uh, (looking at watch) but they are closing right now. How long are you going to be here?

Jesse: Just for tonight.

Man with tie: Why did you come to Vienna? What, uh, what could you be expecting?

Jesse: (Perplexed.) Uh…

Céline: We’re on honeymoon.

Jesse: Yeah, she got pregnant, we had to get married, you know.

Man with tie: (Points at Jesse.) You know I don’t believe you, you’re a bad liar.

Anyway, now that I’m studying German, I’m back to conjugating verbs and declining nouns and adjectives. And I’ll just say this: I think Greek was easier.

Posted in General, Travel, Über Alles | Leave a comment

There’s still time!

Hey, readers!

It’s almost time for the inaugural Nashville JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. In fact, a week from today, Lisa and I are flying down to Tennessee for the event. I’m very excited!

Last year, we raised over $12,000 for diabetes research. I’m hoping we can do even better this year. No amount is too small, because every bit helps. I am just as appreciative for the $5, $10, and $25 gifts I’ve seen as I am for the $100 and $500 ones.

If you’ve already contributed, you have my deepest thanks. If you would like to donate, it’s fast and easy: Just click here.

Thanks again! I know that with your help we can really improve the lives of millions of people with diabetes.

Posted in Cycling, Diabetes, General | 1 Comment

The Unbearding, Part 1 (and caption contest)

In a few days the beard will be all gone—it will just be too warm for racing—but today I can live my dream of going “Full Amish.”

What’s the best caption you can come up with for this photo? Here’s mine: “I went to Lancaster County, and all I got was this stupid beard.”

Posted in General, I am Rembrandt, Photography | 1 Comment

Spring Photos

We’ve had an exciting spring: a couple of day trips to New York, a charity walk, hiking, and a trip to Iowa. Ducky came along to Grinnell and was quite the camera hog. But he was super-happy to swim in the new 50m, Olympic-sized swimming pool. I understand why; it was pretty amazing, and I wish I could swim there every day.

Here are some photos from the last month and a half. Click on any picture for a larger version, or start at the beginning and just click through.

Posted in General, I am Rembrandt, Travel | 1 Comment

Happy 8th!

Hey, little blog! Happy eighth birthday!

It’s hard to believe that you now have 970 posts and over 1400 comments. We sure have been a lot of places since you were born right before we went to India, eh? What will the next eight years bring?

Posted in General | 4 Comments

Presentation Titles

I’m trying to help a coworker come up with a presentation title for a conference later in the year. We want a fun title which is also relevant to image processing. Part of me wants to work in the phrase “256 Shades of Grey.” We shall see.

Posted in Fodder for Techno-weenies, General | 1 Comment

2013 Boston Marathon

I don’t want to inject myself into today’s events, but I can’t ignore them either.

Like every year, I had been looking forward to the Boston Marathon for quite a while. Patriots Day (a.k.a., Marathon Monday) is my favorite day of the year, and for good reason. It’s the day that I go to work and am largely allowed to shirk a good deal of it. Walking from my office to the center of town through idyllic suburban neighborhoods is refreshing and often full of cheery conversation with coworkers. The weather in mid-April is usually beautiful, and—at 10 miles into the race—Natick Common is early enough that the lead runners are still together, and most runners are looking strong and fresh. I try to arrive early so that, before the elite women and men run through, I can watch most of the push-rim wheelchair, handchair, and mobility impaired athletes. Each year, my appreciation for what they’re doing deepens a little bit more, even as I simultaneously become more certain that, for a true athlete, it’s far more unnatural not to do the thing you love no matter how great the challenge.

This year, like previous ones, I left the marathon feeling inspired and eager to do something. In 2010, even though I had been running for about a year, I knew I needed to start racing again. In the three years that followed, I’ve had events events to look forward to, and the marathon gets my competitive juices flowing. Over the last few years there’s been a growing feeling inside of me that I want to run this race—my race, the one I’ve been watching for fifteen years, the one that everyone loves whether they run or not. Sometime last year while running the course, I started to say “yes” to the thought of a marathon as long as I someday qualified for and ran Boston. Today, as I walked back to the office, I was really eager to put my lingering cold behind me and get outdoors, to have a good run, and to get back to training.

Like last year and most of the rest, I counted the number of buses on the Mass Pike between the I-495 and Natick exits on my way to work. There were 95, including the police-escorted VIP bus. I like seeing those flashing lights, because I love the idea that (for at least one day) elite athletes are treated like the extraordinarily talented, hard-working people that they are.

Like last year, I had some great conversations while waiting for the elite runners to arrive. This year, instead of being with complete strangers, I hung out with some of my coworkers. Five people from my group showed up, including Mr. 2:22 himself, who decided it would be nice to be with us this year instead of right downtown in the midst of the action. I learned that one of my coworkers got a Southern Baptist education from pre-K to 12th grade because there were a lot of bomb threats in her part of Florida at the public schools, and her parents (both Buddhists) felt better about the odds of giving her a culture shock instead of an actual jolt.

Like most years I watched the finish of the race online at my desk since the office cafeteria crowd was deep into the Red Sox baseball game, and I’ve fought the battle before to switch from the Sox game to the marathon and just barely made it out alive.

But this year, as we all know, was a little different.

Around 1:00 a coworker from another group called to ask if one of my peeps was running Boston this year. He had taken the day off to go down to the finish and hadn’t seen him come through yet. No, I said, he watched the race with us from Natick.

Later in the afternoon, a couple of coworkers stopped by, interrupting a code review, and nervously asked if I had heard about the “explosion at the marathon finish.” Surely it was just an electrical explosion in a manhole or something like that, I thought, and went back to my work. After finishing the code review, I checked a slow-loading news site, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When Lisa called a bit later and asked if all my coworkers were okay, I got choked up for the first time, thinking about what might have happened to them and to the other people I know who watched the marathon at different places on the route or were running it (including Pat, my swim peep).

On the commute home I watched all of the unmarked cars and special detail units with their flashing blue lights speed down the turnpike toward Boston in a bizarro inversion of my drive into the office nine hours earlier.

I really needed to go for a bike ride or a run when I got home. Even if it couldn’t help me make sense of what happened, it would at least clear my head or wear me out enough to not think about it for a while. But I knew that getting “worn out” was exactly what I didn’t need to do while recovering from this cold, which seems to be about 80% better, so I took it easy and got to work downloading and editing my photos from the race.

As I was looking at the photographs I realized something quite vividly. Regardless of who did this and why, it won’t change a thing about how deeply marathon fans love this race. Even though most of us will probably never run it, it’s our race. It’s my race.

Seeing the vans full of SWAT police in the past hasn’t ever made think twice about why they’re part of the event preparations and decide that I want to stay indoors on a glorious spring day (or even a miserably cold and drizzly one for that matter) to watch the race. And today, when I saw the SUV full of bomb squad officers drive by ahead of the elite runners, it didn’t change an iota about how much I loved the race or whether I want to be part of it some day. Just as I’m sure that, despite the actual bombings, there will be just as many people working their hardest to attain a coveted Boston qualifying time or raising as much money as they can to justify their charity entry.

This race—the oldest marathon in North America—has been run 117 times and will be run again. We love this race because of its history and because it tells us something about ourselves. New Englanders are flinty, contrarian, history-bound, and stubborn. This is probably the surest way to make sure that the marathon will be held long after humanity has given up on the idea of competitive road running. I mean, just think about it: The marathon happens on the Monday closest to the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, an event steeped in the notion that a free people choose not to live under threat of coercion or fear and the belief that our nation is what we actively make it.

Someday, hopefully soon, we’ll know more about what happened today and why. As a result, we will grow and adapt. But our love for this race and this day will never be diminished.

Posted in General, Photography, Running, This is who we are | 8 Comments

Tin Ear

(Image from Eknath Gomphotherium)

This post is for the hypochondriacs out there. You’re welcome.

Lisa says the high-pitched, continuous ringing in my ears that I mostly hear in quiet environments (or like right now when I listen for it) isn’t normal. She says it’s tinnitus.

I had always assumed everyone filled the usual background with some sound, but evidently that’s just something that I do. Well, me and 50 million other Americans. It’s not like it’s new—it’s just new to Lisa. As long as I can remember, that’s the way the world has been, and (thankfully) it doesn’t really bother me. I hear perfectly well—touch wood—although it is a really unfortunate pitch.

Oh well.

What causes tinnitus? WebMD gives a laundry list of causes that range from the obvious to the mundane: everything from having a loud profession, listening to loud music, aging, and head trauma to aspirin, ear infections or blockages, and something called “ostosclerosis,” which I can only assume is caused by putting fatty, cholesterol-rich foods in your ears.

Oh, and it’s associated with a whole host of other medical conditions, including a couple that I have: allergies, anemia, and (you guessed it) diabetes.

What a crazy thing is this human body.

p.s. — I promise I’ll tell you about the half-marathon I ran a week ago really, really soon. Promise.

Posted in Diabetes, General, This is who we are | 1 Comment

January 2013 Recap

We can close the books on January:

  • 31 workouts (8 swim, 8 bike, 13 run, 2 Nordic ski)
  • 215.9 total miles
  • 26 hours, 34 minutes
  • 16,700 calories
  • Farthest swim: 1.3 miles
  • Farthest bike: 44 miles
  • Farthest run: 12.6 miles

Plus, one shoulder injury that had me away from the pool for a week. (More about that later.)

Posted in Cycling, General, Historical Record, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming | 1 Comment