Watching dreams die

I’ve been fascinated by this topic for a long time; here is a post that I wrote 13 years ago.

What I am talking about: a young person grows up and maybe has a bit of success at something, be it academic, say, musical or in acting, or sports. They see the world around them and see the most successful getting public adoration and start thinking…”hey, that could be me!”

And the people around an attempt to pump up their confidence, encourage them. The result is predictable.

And yes, it is common…students routinely spout out lofty goals…and I smile and think to myself “if you achieve even 10 percent of that…you would have been successful.”

I posted some stuff about my life in the above link. The “TL;DR” version: making the varsity as a 10’th grader at a small high school doesn’t not mean that better things are ahead. And merely getting a Ph. D. from a genuine R-1 university in a STEM field is decent…but few of these are destined for science or mathematical greatness. I wasn’t.

And I see this is sports. I remember reading the account of a Hall of Fame football player’s son finding out that while his son was good enough to start for a SEC school (an awesome achievement), he simply wasn’t NFL material.

I remember watching a heavyweight boxing match. A prospect was making his first step to higher competition (but below “contender” competition). But he didn’t have it; the journeyman he was facing had little trouble with him…and afterward the boxer broke down and cried..realizing that his dream would be forever out of reach.

And I am seeing it in a former college player. He came to a Big Ten university having been “all state” in high school. But as time went on..his playing time went up, peaked..and went down in his senior year as he was beaten out by new prospects. But still, he had NFL dreams and the local media carried stories about his quest to get noticed by the NFL (participated in his university’s “pro day”…he talked about “IF he got drafted” or “what teams he might be called to try out for”.

Reality: he was not getting many snaps for a 2-10 team that failed to win any conference games. True, an Ohio State or Alabama might have 2-deep NFL talent at some positions, but not 2-10 teams, especially when they are coached by someone who has proven ability to recognize NFL talent.

And so the calls never came..and now he is on Twitter still begging NFL teams for a chance that will never come.

Facing up to “it is over..time to do something else” is very, very tough to do.

And yes, I’ve had to make adjustments at my profession.

Workout notes: weights and a 2 mile walk.
I was a bit bloated; 194.5 but..well, TMI…
PT, pull ups 5-5-5, 15, 10, 10, bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 6 x 170 (out of gas), 10 x 135 incline, military: 10 x 50 standing, 10 x 45, 10 x 45, rows: 3 sets with 10 x 50 dumbbell.
plank, headstand.

October 1, 2018 Posted by | college football, NFL, Personal Issues, walking, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

Olympics and useful BS (nonsense)…

Yes, I’ve watched some Olympic action (in particular, boxing, swimming, gymnastics, court volleyball). I remember watching these when I was a teenager…and watching NFL games and thinking: “wow, with some work, that COULD BE ME.” I still remember using my Exergym rope exerciser while watching NFL games on the black and white television in my bedroom.


This was on the weekend; I used my high school universal gym during the week, as well as running the steps, running the track, doing agility drills on my own, etc.


I remember when I was on the JV: our games were on Wednesday night. On Sunday evening, after the NFL game, I’d go to the track and do 2 miles, reasonably hard (13:30-14:00 was my time, as a 220 lb. offensive tackle).

No one was going to outwork me! My motto was “you can do anything if you want it badly enough and are willing to work hard enough.”

That, of course, is complete and total bullshit.

The reality is: “if you see someone on TV because they are good enough to warrant TV coverage, that will NEVER be you…unless you are one of those “1 in 1000” outliers.

I eventually found what I was best at (mathematics) and even that, I was nowhere good enough to be, say, a MIT professor. Getting the Ph. D. and getting a few new results published was about my talent level; it is a bit like the 2:25 (male) marathon runner who dreams of sneaking into the Olympic Trials, though he knows that he has essential zero chance of making the team, or the baseball player who peaks out at playing, say, A or AA ball. It is still damned good, but not “TV good”.

So, would I have been happier (and better off) had I known that early in life? It is hard to say.

On one hand, I would have been more relaxed. On the other hand:

1. I grew to love lifting weights and running because I did these things to get ready for football. I enjoy these activities to this day; my first weight room workout was in 1972!
2. I can sympathize with the student who, say, is enrolled in engineering but doesn’t have the talent for it. I can explain that there are other rewarding paths to a college degree and that humans tend to have different talents.

And yes, I am getting ready to go lift, work on my math paper, watch some more Olympics, and see yet another class A baseball game this weekend.

August 12, 2016 Posted by | Olympics, Personal Issues | , | Leave a comment

Two weird dreams

My wife had one: she was in the bed room and was startled when small bear cub came into the room. She didn’t want to startle the bear so she softly, calmly called me to go in there. As usual, I acted “ok, what is the deal?” But I relented and went in. I saw what was wrong so I picked the cub up, and it hugged/cuddled me as I carried it out. My wife was surprised.

I had a weird dream too: I was watching a college football game (in a stadium like where Illinois State plays) and the game went into college overtime. The visiting team had the ball first, couldn’t score a touchdown and so kicked a field goal.

So when the home team got the ball at the 25 with a chance to win…they promptly “took a knee” for three straight plays so as to …kick a tying field goal? I was beside myself..I couldn’t understand why any team would do that.

Dreams often make no sense at all.

April 19, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | , | Leave a comment

Not getting too full of myself and big dreams

I went to the gym (Riverplex) to do some running, walking and swimming. Not quite a “bit of everything”, but I did several activities.

Before I left I looked at my driveway: shoveled (quite a way from the front to the alleyway). Just me and a shovel baby! Do you want to talk about people hurting themselves or giving themselves heart attacks by shoveling snow?

Now at the gym: the pool was crowded so I did the run/walk first (keeping in mind Friday’s blood donation)
Treadmill: set at 0.5 incline to account for air resistance.
1. Run 10:37 for mile 1, then from 10-19 minutes, I kept it at 6.7 mph (8:57) then did the old 6.8-6.9-7.0-7.1 for mile 3. 28:17 for 3 miles (17:40), 29:07 for 3.1, 3.17 at 30 minutes.
2. Walk: I walked (started at 3.8 mph and increased every so often; I was 5.4x at 1 hour and 5.77 at 1:05 when the treadmill shut off, then .23 miles in 3:20. So, 1:08:20 for 6 miles; mostly walking the final 3.
3. Swim: 10 x 100 on 2:15 (first few reps were ugly). Then 100-100-100-100-50-50 alternating back and side. Then 200 of fly/fly practice in 25 yard increments, then 100 free to finish up.

So, 3-3-1 (run, walk, swim); not much of any one activity, all but 2 miles in 17:40 being low intensity and I felt great.

So, that plus the shoveling results got me feeling pleased with myself.

Then I thought about this, this and this. All of these guys: I’ve run with all of them and all of them whipped the tar out of me at one time or another. They all did “the right things”. All died due to cancer.

And yes, though one can lower one’s risk by not smoking and staying within normal weight, whether or not one gets cancer (or the kind that kills you) it is mostly a matter of pure, dumb luck.

Then I thought about my awesome running friend who was hit by a car that slid through an intersection.

I thought about people who get debilitating diseases; including some famous people.

So: yes, part of the reason that I enjoy good health is due to my own efforts, but much of it is due to pure luck (genetics, not having bad things happen to me) and I did NOTHING to deserve the latter.

Yeah, I’ve frequently noted that I was not blessed with an athletic body; I wasn’t born with a fancy sports car. But up to now, it appears that I was given a sturdy, reliable family sedan. It won’t win a NASCAR race, but it gets decent mileage and doesn’t break down that often (up to now).

And that good health of mine can change in an instant, like it did for my friends.

Dreams So I thought about other aspects of my life. I am not a major success, but I have enough talent to earn a living doing something tangential to what I love to do. And, just as importantly (more importantly?) I had parents who provided food, shelter, safe environment, good schools and encouragement.

Now about those dreams: sure I was destined to fail (my dream was to be a professional athlete) but the dream kept me on the “straight and narrow” long enough for me to grasp at other, more realistic opportunities. And I had just enough natural ability to pull it off, given the work I was willing to put into it.



January 14, 2015 Posted by | running, swimming, walking | , , | Leave a comment

On the crushing of dreams…


Yes, I know: this meme is actually false in the sense that the stars we can see with the naked eye are between 4 and 4000 light years away. The fastest “burning” stars last millions of years, the main sequence stars (like our sun) billions and some small stars: trillions(?) of years. So it is highly likely that any star you see is still there as we speak.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this “poison meme”.

Of course, my dreams were dead a long time ago because, well, they were unrealistic.

Growing up: early in high school, I saw high school football as part of a career path to the NFL. However..well..even those destined to play in the lower ranks of college football were stronger and faster than I.

It took me a long time to come to grips that no amount of work could have turned me into anything close to a professional athlete; even getting playing time at Division III would have been too difficult for me.

So later, I turned my thoughts to more intellectual things.

Early in my stay at the Naval Academy: I just felt overwhelmed, though I didn’t admit it to myself. My fellow classmates seemed to pick up on things much more quickly than I did, and I had to work hard just to pass something as simple as the obstacle course.

What never registered with me is that people, early on, came by my room for help with calculus homework. Really.

Nuclear Power School: here, I began to feel like an idiot; I just didn’t learn things at the rate that they wanted you to learn; I was somewhat hurt by not having more engineering courses in my background.

But my real “oh my Goodness, I am mentally retarded” (I know; that is the non-pc term but that is how I felt inside) feeling came when I entered graduate school in mathematics. I really felt that I was the dumbest graduate student there by several orders of magnitude. And, don’t even mention the professors.

I’ve come to understand that those who have achieved at the top levels DO work hard; very hard..but they are also extremely talented.

That is one reason that I love the film Amadeus so much.

I’ve come to understand that it is a useless waste of time to lament my not achieving accolades that I was unqualified to attain (along with 99.9 percent of the rest of the population) and I should strive to attain what I am talented enough to attain. And like it. 🙂

I think that I’ve made some progress here; when I got my last two papers accepted, I celebrated just a bit, even though these were not Annals of Mathematics caliber papers. I didn’t have to worry about offers from MIT or from the Institute of Advanced Study. 🙂

A post at a research caliber university isn’t in the cards for me. But I can teach a good course and get some more interesting (to me) stuff published.

January 6, 2015 Posted by | Personal Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Weird running dream


Yes, I like to sleep this way, though I can only lie on one shoulder for so long (rotator cuff issues). I also need to shift position because of my back. My wife too, has a few old injury related issues.

However I had a weird dream last night.

I am signed up for a 5K race tomorrow; the race starts in front of a medical building which has a large atrium.
In my dream, runners were in the atrium, waiting for the race to start. But here is the weird part: the runners were all on the floor, sleeping! (exactly what you wouldn’t want to do prior to a 5K).

And, I was “spooned” against a female runner (who was wearing black spandex running tights, of course). Yes, it was a runner that I know and I sometimes see at the public races; enough said.

When I woke up (startled), I was relieved to be in my bed with my wife. But I didn’t get up and run a 5K; I had some coffee and swam instead. 🙂

In reality: this 5K won’t go so well; yesterday’s 10K training run was slightly more intense than I had planned; the pace that felt so relaxed at mile 4 didn’t feel so relaxed at mile 5.5.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | running | , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on dreams and aspirations

I am drinking coffee getting ready to put a few minutes in the hotel gym, prior to hitting the road.

I don’t know how many middle age people have dreams and aspirations that exceed their grasp. I do; in my case I dream up some professional project but…when it comes time to doing the actual research:

1. It is ALWAYS more difficult than anticipated.
2. Some unanticipated administrative duty comes my way.
3. Life throws another curve (even minor curves).

This is hardly unique to me; it happens to all of us and pushing through these things is all part of it and something that the successful people do. No one is granted “optimal conditions” (or very few anyway).

Then there are athletic dreams. One of mine is to finish another 100 mile event (or 100 in 24 hours) but…I have to remember how hard I trained when I last did it and what background I had PRIOR to doing the training. I never went over 50K in 2003 but I had a lot of these and plenty of 60 mile plus training weeks. THAT was the base I built on in 2004.

Right now, my mileage base is about half of what it was in 2003 (maybe a bit more than half) and my body balks at doing more.

Another 100 isn’t going to happen anytime soon…realistically probably never again.

I am finding that when I get older, I have to seek sports that are more in tune with what my body is better suited for; in running that probably means shorter events (try to do them faster). I might be able to walk a marathon (or, gasp 50K) if I have a few months of solid preparation (I didn’t have this for the McNot-Again failure).

Off to the gym; lifting keeps my shoulders and back feeling good. 🙂

December 26, 2013 Posted by | ultra, walking | , | Leave a comment

What we SAID that we did versus what we actually did…..

Running notes: it turns out I finished 21 out of 128 in last weekend’s 4 mile race. That is one of my better places.

Workout notes
Weights: rotator cuff (full), MacKenzie, planks (90 seconds front, 30 seconds side), hip hikes, Achilles

pull ups: 10, 15, 15, 10
bench: 10 x 135, 10 x 160, 10 x 160 (not bad)
abs: 3 sets of 10: crunch, v. crunch, twist, sit backs
military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 lb. dumbbell, seated (supported)
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (each arm, dumbbell)
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 30 dumbbell, 1 set of 10 x 65 EZ curl
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
incline: 2 sets of 10 x 135.

This went fine; leisurely pace.

What we did versus what we said we did:
My wife wanted me to do something around the house. This is how *I* described it:

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.15.24 AM

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.15.05 AM

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.14.47 AM

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.14.32 AM

(seriously, check out the video)

So that is how I described the chore. What I actually did:


(note: you can see some arch in my back! That is a nice improvement)

Ok, no biggie.

But at last weekend’s NFL game we sat next to a man who had described himself as a starter for the Missouri Tigers football team (in the late 1960’s). He described the era. And…and….the rosters of the period show no such player, much less starter.

This happens more frequently than you’d might think; why do people make stuff up?

Ok, MY football career in high school:

I started JV in the 9’th.
I started on the varsity in the 10’th (offensive tackle); I was at a small, Air Force base high school (Yokota)
I started JV in the 11’th (Travis, in Austin; the rule was that you had to sit out a year of varsity)
I sat the bench on varsity in the 12’th grade, though I played in several games, saw extensive action in 2 games and lettered.

Now, in my opinion, I was good enough to start on my 12’th grade team….BUT…that was because our team wasn’t very good. I wasn’t good enough to start for the stronger Texas high school teams; I’ll readily admit that now. College: LOL. Had I worked very very hard, I might have been able to make the 3’rd string of an NAIA or a division III program…as a senior in college…if I were fortunate.

Athletically, I wasn’t in the same league as the guys who played football for Navy; there were guys my size who played but they were much stronger and faster than I.

I suppose that is one reason I enjoy watching college and NFL ball; I like seeing those who do what I couldn’t do.

In the Rams game, a Ram defensive lineman had beaten his pass block and was about to draw a bead on the Titan quarterback. But a Titan offensive lineman who was “uncovered” swiveled his head, saw this and peeled back and got the block, thereby saving the sack.

That was a play I wouldn’t be able to make in 1,000,000 years. That is why that guy is an NFL offensive lineman. 🙂

November 5, 2013 Posted by | football, NFL, shoulder rehabilitation, social/political, weight training | , , , | 2 Comments