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Clockwork Angels

RUSH – Clockwork Angels

Clockwork AngelsClockwork Angels is the 20th studio album (including the EP Feedback) from the best power trio in the world, Rush. It has been five long years since Snakes and Arrows, the band’s last studio album. This is advertised as a concept album, as the band used to do in the old days (one side of Caress of Steel, 2112, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres come immediately to mind), with the added bonus that Rush lyricist Neil Peart (and an author in his own right) will collaborate with Kevin J. Anderson on a book based on the album lyrics.

In a quote about the book from KJA:

In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

Some of the themes and lyrics remind me of a mature-man’s 2112; instead of a young man fighting against the Priests of Syrinx, he is questioning the “lack of free will” mantra that he was taught growing up. Free will is a consistent Peart theme so there is no surprise that it is included here. The concept of a conflict between order and chaos reflects the logic vs. emotion conflict that was part of the Hemispheres album. The album cover, with the clock and the alchemist’s symbols ( a great discussion here), fits well with the lyrics and the forthcoming novel. The clock symbols look like they correspond with the 12 tracks on the album…coincidence, I think not!

Hazarding guesses at the plot of the novel based on lyrics is tricky. Luckily, the Digital Booklet that comes with the album has an intro paragraph for each tune in the liner notes. Piecing it all together, I would guess it is the story of a man who is either a rebel or is chosen as a champion, brought up in a world where everything is run like clockwork (and everyone expects it to run that way (brought up to believe)). He longs for something bigger, and sets out on some sort of quest. He meets the “Clockwork Angels”, the ones who run the joint, pulling back the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. Once he gets over his “god-worship” based on how he was brought up, he is either indoctrinated as an apprentice, sent out on a quest (Seven Cities of Gold) or enlisted/tricked in a fight against something that threatens to bring down the Clockwork Angels (order vs. chaos!). Along the way, he finds out secrets/background about the Clockwork Angels (All I know is that sometimes, you have to be wary Of a miracle too good to be true). Perhaps he is disillusioned by what he discovers about the workings of the world, and seeks to travel to places where they do not maintain control (The Wreckers). In the end, he looks back on his life (which is now no doubt a story of legend) and through trials and tribulations, wouldn’t change a thing. He passes on, into the Garden (which may just be a many worlds jumping off point, so he can do it all over again).

How’d I do, KJA?

Though the lyrics are sweet, let’s not forget the music. The boys in da band are nearing their late fifties (looks at self) but their musicianship is still individually and collectively superb. I subscribe to the martial arts way of training – practice, practice, practice; a 50 year practitioner is so skillful that age doesn’t come into it. In the same tone, these three Rush martial masters are obviously Sifus of their chosen weapons.

Notes on each track after the break. Hope it is not five more years, gents! (more…)

CampionTrails copy

Half-marathon training: Week 4

I have never run with a water bottle (ask Bert, I sponged off him during our training one season!). I’ve never enjoyed running with something that bounces (the iPod/iPhone in my pocket not withstanding). But due to the heat and the increase in mileage, I’ve got an Amphipod water bottle that by all reviews does not get in the way or  bother runners with the bouncing water. We’ll give it a go this feel.

Sunday: Target (Easy 8 miles) – 8 miles. Bottle belt worked well, took it slow and easy but still a difficult run. Longest distance since the New Orleans Half in early March. Beat the Houston rain storms.

Went to Dallas and ran around the Omni Hotel. Not far from the hotel, just around the man-made lake and across Royal Lane are the Campión Trails. Royal Lane hits right in the center of the park, giving me about three or four miles to chose from in either direction. The picture included is from a map I found of the connected trails.


Monday: Target (Easy 6 miles + hill sprints) – 6 miles. The miles are paying off. Running in Dallas, I didn’t find a suitable hill for hill sprints until mile 4. After I did the sprints, was able to increase the pace quite a bit on the way back. Went south (away from I-635) on the Campión Trails this run, all the way down to Bird’s Fort Trail Park.

Tuesday: Target (Fartlek 8 miles) – 7.5 miles. 21 miles this week already, which would have been a decent week on the old plan. Did the 35 sec Fartlek 10K pace pieces every ten minutes. Went north under I-635 on the Campion Trails this run. The north set of trails is called Sam Houston Trail Park, and features a nice view running along parts of the Trinity River.

Wednesday: Rest Day. Flying home from big D.

Thursday: Target (Easy 4 miles plus hill sprints) – No run. More rain in Tomball in history, including lightening. The creek in the gully where I normally run overflowed, and we had difficulty getting out of the subdivision.

Friday: Target (Progression 7 miles, last 10 min moderate)- Same problem, different day. One hour on the elliptical, hoping this rain doesn’t set back my training too much.

Saturday: Rest, and prepare for trip.

Totals this week: Target: 33 miles + hills; Actual: 21.5 plus elliptical miles . Last week: 29 miles.

Christopher Nolan Director's Collection - Better than a Dark Knight Marathon

Christopher Nolan Director’s Collection – Better than a Dark Knight Marathon

After briefly considering the butt calluses we would collect by going to a theater and watching all three Dark Knight movies back-to-back-to-back, we opted instead for the freedom of our couches and availability of our own bathrooms, and picked up the Christopher Nolan Director’s Collection, a set of five movies on Blu-Ray.

With the price of the Dark Night marathon at about $20 per person ($5 for each of the first movies, $10 for the new one) plus snacks if any, the $40 bucks for the five Christopher Nolan DVDs is a bargain…especially since I’d been hinting for a copy of Inception for a while. And the collection includes Memento and Insomnia, two movies on my to-watch list. It does not include The Prestige, apparently due to some contractual issues.

Plus the Collection includes a coupon for a free ticket to see The Dark Knight Rises (up to $8), making this a great investment (the coupon is valid through August 5, and gave a selection of movie theaters near our zip code).

The movies in the collection are:


  • Memento (2000), MPAA Rating: R; Guy Pearce has CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff) and puts notes to himself as tattoos on his body. Any movie with Carrie Anne Moss is worth watching (even the last two Matrix movies).
  • Insomnia (2002), MPAA Rating: R; Al Pacino versus Robin Williams in a murder mystery set in Alaska. Even though it has Hillary Swank, Pacino and Williams are worth watching in most anything.
  • Batman Begins (2005), MPAA Rating: PG-13; Batman (Christian Bale) learns from and battles Raz Al Gul (Liam Neeson) and himself in this reboot of the Batman series. Features Katie Holmes before she became Mrs. Tom Cruise. Some great nods to Arkham Asylum and the questing of whether Ra’s Al Ghul survives in the end means there might be a Dark Knight 4???
  • The Dark Knight (2008), MPAA Rating: PG-13; Batman battles the Joker (Heath Ledger) and turns DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart)into Two-Face. Tom Cruise wouldn’t let his wife in this one, so Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the roll of Rachel Dawes.
  • Inception (2010), MPAA Rating: PG-13; the dream within a dream within a dream that sparked the debate on whether the whole movie was a dream. With Leo DiCaprio.


Half-marathon training: Week 3

Half-marathon training: Week 3

This week changes the program up a bit. Before, all runs were “Easy” pace, except for the hill sprints. This week pulls in Fartleks and Progression runs. The recent rains have cooled the temps down, while increasing the humidity.

Sunday: Target (Easy 7 miles) – 7 miles. Left very early to avoid the incoming rains. The previous two weeks of laying the foundation certainly have paid off. In spite of a bit of a sore throat (allergies?) and the high humidity, the run was quite enjoyable.

Monday: Target (Easy 6 miles + hill sprints) – 6 miles. The previous training programs I’ve used have always scheduled a rest day after the Sunday long run. I assume that is why my Monday runs have sucked so bad thus far in the program. This was further exacerbated by the Nike+ program taking a wild .3-.5 mile jump, telling me at one point that I was on a world record pace. After watching Leo Manzano win the US Olympic trial in the 1500 meter (we met Leo at TIR 2011, you can see him in a picture with my brother in my TIR2011 article), that brought a smile to my face.

Tuesday: Target (Fartlek 7 miles) – missed this one, moved it a day. Though the program states that it would be better to do a shorter workout on the same day, some times reality just gets in the way.

Wednesday: Rest Day. Happy Fourth of July! – Fartlek – 6 miles, 6 x60 seconds. Ok, so I mis-read this one and blasted myself. It was supposed to be 5×30 seconds. Instead, every 10 minutes I did a 60 second blast. Since it was a holiday, got out there a bit later, and a bit hotter. That combined with my lack of reading skilz turned this into one of the least enjoyable runs so far. But, boom, it’s done.

Thursday: Target (Easy 4 miles plus hill sprints) – 4 miles, no hill sprints. The construction on the street I need to cross to get to the gully and track combined with the recent rains make it a mess to get to, and somewhat dangerous in the mornings. For the short distance, I ran around our block.

Friday: Target (Progression 6 miles, last 5 min moderate)- 6 miles. First progression run. Used the knee brace as the miles are making my knees ache, and it worked out great. I need to make sure I don’t speed up during the progression runs until the end, but overall an excellent run.

Saturday: Rest, and prepare for trip.

Totals this week: Target: 30 miles + hills; Actual: 29 miles . Last week: 27 miles.


Half-marathon training: Week 2

This should be an interesting week, with the temps hitting 100 degrees the first two days, and the forecast of Tropical Storm Debby heading toward Houston towards the end of the week. Normally I’d wish for a business trip to Denver, yet they are suffering through their own 100 degree day.

Sunday: Target (Easy 6 miles) – 5.6 miles. Need to recalibrate the iPad Nike+GPS program I use. I’m still within my easy pace, but it is reading about 30 secs/mile slower here that it was in Dallas. It was 80 degrees when I got on the trail at 8am. Looking forward to a lovely summer.

Monday: Target (Easy 6 miles + hill sprints) – 5.5 miles. Got up a bit earlier, still 80 degrees and 80% humidity. The hills felt easier, but still running out of gas on the runs. Just the second week, and still working on convincing myself that “Easy Run” means you don’t need to break any records. It is interesting that the serious runners are out earlier; was passed by lots of speed demons, and by one kid 1/3 of my age.

Tuesday: Target (Easy 5 miles) – 4.8 or 5.2. I took the iPod Touch I used to run with, and the new iPhone 4S, and started them both tracking at the same time. Obviously need to re-calibrate before I get too concerned with times and distances.

Wednesday: Target (Easy 6 miles) – 5.84 miles. Fourth day in a row of over 5 miles had me waking up tired. I made some adjustments to the Nike+, as I read that it uses the accelerometer when he can’t use the GPS around trees (which is where I run all the time) and the accelerometer relies on your entry for height…which I had not entered. More reasonable readings for speed/pace this time. Another 80/80 day (degrees/humidity) at 6:50am. And it is not even July 1.

Thursday: Rest day. Was glad to have a day off from running, did P90X2 shoulders and arms, and, most importantly, the foam roller on my quads. It still amazes me that the foam roller works so well; I have another post in process about chi and how the foam roller could be used to help that.

Friday: Target (5 miles + hill sprints)- 5 miles. No Tropical Storm, and temps a bit cooler today that earlier in the week. We won’t be saying the word “sixties” any time soon, unless we are referring to Beatles music. Whether it was the combination of a rest day and the foam rolling, today’s run felt good. I’d have to classify the hill sprints as “gully sprints”, and I’m doing them about halfway through the run, but they seem to fit the bill.

Saturday: Rest, and drink Firestone Parabola Sout

Totals this week: Target: 28 miles + hills; Actual: 27 miles . Last week: 22.75 miles. Pretty much the same program as week 1.

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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