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Two from Friday the 13th

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Posted 04-14-2012 at 09:23 AM by Sasha
Updated 04-14-2012 at 09:33 AM by Sasha

First the bad...

Warren appeared at the mailroom's entrance, his distant and vaguely befuddled expression signalling this was not a social visit. I'd been kvetching with Karen about the usual horsecrap involved in getting sign-off on shelf-life studies and other engineering reports, and I recognized the sheaf of papers bristling with sticky-notes in his hand as my most recent effort. The stickies and the fact that the cover sheet was not uppermost did not bode well for a quick and painless approval process.

Displaying his usual disregard for such superficial niceties as "Good morning" or "Hi, how are you?" he thrust the stack of papers towards me and pointed to a sentence he'd underlined in red. "You said here..." he began in his gravelly voice, his tone and expression conveying something between confusion and apprehension. I rather hoped the latter was due to my notorious volatility and penchant for freely expressing contemptuous disdain for the labyrinthine approval processes we are required to negotiate. He stammered, further betraying his nervousness: "It-it-it... " and he paused. I took the document and read the sentence that so offended him:

"From the rule of thumb that reaction rates approximately double with each 10 degree C increase in temperature, it can be shown that at 55 C as many reactions occur in 4.6 weeks as do in a year at 20 C."

" 'Rule of thumb'? " he said, carefully enunciating each syllable as if to hold them up for ridicule.

"It is just a rule of thumb," I insisted, handing the sheaf back to him. "The Arrhenius calculation isn't a hard principle; not like the inverse-square law, or something. It's just an empirical approximation."

He made a noise somewhere between a sigh and a grunt. "But... 'rule of thumb'? And-and-and wh-what about QS907?", the latter referring to a holy text that must be cited in every shelf-life study lest the wrath of Cthulhu be incurred.

I rolled my eyes. "It's there, Warren," i said, making no attempt to hold back the sarcasm. "If you'd actually read the paragraph you would have seen it."

Karen decided this was as good a time as any to make her escape. "Well," she chirped in that way she does when she's feigning good cheer, "Have a nice day, guys!" She disappeared down the corridor, but not before giving me a little smirk of solidarity.

Warren did as I'd suggested, and finding the Sacred Text duly referenced seemed to put him at a loss for words. He grunted again and paused, so I moved in for the kill. I sighed, as much from genuine exasperation as a deliberate attempt to let him know I considered his concern to be on the same order of magnitude as an untied shoe. "Ray and I reworked that sentence last week," I said, referring to our site's Quality Systems Coordinator. "I can't remember now how I'd originally worded it, but this is what we came up with. He was fine with it. And so was Bonnie."

He was silent for a moment and turned a few pages. Something was going on inside his skull, but I have no idea what. Without a word he turned and stepped into the corridor. He hesitated, turned as if he intended to offer another argument, but changed his mind and slowly wandered back towards his cube. I exhaled, unaware until then that I'd been holding my breath and muttered a decidedly indelicate metaphor involving him and certain procreative acts.

The report in question was a clone of one I'd issued a few weeks before with different data, and that had successfully run the gantlet to the hallowed ground of the Controlled Documentation drive. Warren had signed that one without a whimper. Out of curiosity, I pulled it up on my computer and scrolled down to the section he now contested. There I had written:

"From the rule of thumb that reaction rates approximately double with each 10 degree C increase in temperature, it can be shown that at 55 C as many reactions occur in 4.6 weeks as do in a year at 20 C."

Jesus Christ. We're supposed to be working together towards the same goals. But it's more like they're the goalies on an opposing hockey team, doing everything in their power - legitimately or otherwise - to slap our pucks out of the net.

At least my boss backed me up on this one, and recognizing the frustration bubbling out of my speech centers, wisely offered to take up the cause on my behalf. We got it signed within the hour, with the stipulation that I tweak the wording in the follow-up report. Seemed a reasonable compromise.

.................................................. .......

...And now for the good!

May Day and the annual sunrise hike up Pack Monadnock are fast approaching, and despite the extraordinarily mild winter we've had, I haven't done enough climbing to keep myself in shape for it. What little snow we had turned to ice on the ledges I usually train on, and until March it just looked too dangerous to attempt.

Once the ice melted, I started climbing them twice a week (Tue & Thu), continuing my usual daily 3-mile walk along a moderately hilly country road on M-W-F. As expected, my legs felt like lead on those early climbs, and I was winded just by the hike to the base of the rocks. But my progress this year has been slow. Part of it, I suppose, is learning how to pace myself - I can't expect to climb as fast as I did back in November. But conditioning plays a role too, and that didn't seem to be happening.

I started those early climbs with brief rest stops scheduled at the 1/3 and 2/3 points. The plan was to do that twice a week for two weeks, then switch to 3 times a week with a single rest at the halfway point. One day I decided to delay that rest until the 2/3 mark, & I did this a couple of times. But despite all this, my legs never seemed to overcome their initial heaviness, and I had to force myself up the hill each time. Each climb was a trial to be dreaded & endured rather than anticipated & enjoyed.

Until today! I stepped from the car & ploughed up the first incline without so much as a peep of protest from my hams - a good sign. I continued up the steady slope to the ledges and pressed on, passing the halfway mark with breath to spare. At the 2/3 point I was still getting enough air to waive the scheduled rest. I clambered up the last two ledges to the summit, panting so hard I couldn't take the time to swallow - but I got there without a rest break & my legs still felt great! So I guess it just takes a little longer to acclimate at age 62 than it does a younger man. I couldn't get over how good I felt, and made no attempt to wipe the silly grin from my face during my descent along the more gradual trail.

Pack Monadnock - get ready! Two graybeards are coming to kick your ass!
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  1. Old Comment
    green's Avatar
    Congrats on getting yourself back into top form Sasha! Sounds like you're set for a great spring and summer outdoors

    I enjoyed your insightful write about the challenge at work... lol
    Posted 04-15-2012 at 12:24 AM by green green is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sasha's Avatar
    oh, I'm not there yet, green - I just had a good day, the first of the season. It was a milestone, that's all. But it's encouraging all the same!
    Posted 04-15-2012 at 08:12 AM by Sasha Sasha is offline
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