Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ode to Southern Women

It may be that summer in San Francisco requires jackets and sweaters. But it seems that the women here in DC really understand the breezy summer sexy thing. Yes, the "temperature = humidity" weather may inspire some of it, but there also seems to be a genuine appreciation of classy and delicate feminine summer style here. Skirts/ dresses and strappy shoes.

Major Style points for all the lovely ladies working the classy summer sexiness. Much appreciated.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Rock on, brother

I'm a rather, on average, introverted person, particularly when it comes to strangers. I make no effort to talk to them, and this saves me the trouble of having to think too hard about what to say to a person of whom I know nothing, and all the awkwardness that comes with the fear of making social mistakes.

But there is a class of human to whom I reach out on a regular basis: Athletes.

Now it's not full on conversation. In fact, it's often wordless. But it's that nod as you pass a runner on the sidewalk, that deference to the cyclist on the downhill, or the "toot toot" of the horn to the man attacking the uphill that says "power on, dude". It's the smile to the bedraggled windsurfer trudging ashore. There's this international brotherhood that crosses sports and languages: We who Train.

And there's a nice thing we do, as a culture, with our athletes: We honor the effort. This usually manifests itself as cars deferring so that runners and cyclists need not break stride or pace. Maybe drivers fear the lawsuit from mowing down one who is not equally armed with an internal combustion engine. But I'd like to think that we defer to the athlete because we sense, maybe just subconsciously, that the athlete is the incarnation of our highest potential as physical beings. Because that body and spirit are part of the human tribe, and because that body and spirit add their triumphs to the sum total of human achievement, we give them their place and their nod. We who Train trains for us all.

And this is why the Olympics always gets me choked up. Yes, affluent industrial nations clean up in the medal count. And no, we don't actually stop shooting each other over the way maps are drawn, whose notion of the divine is superior, or which gang we're in during the games. But we do enable our quickest and strongest to come together to explore with each other the boundaries of what can be accomplished with the human form. And while the political machines of the nations may remain divided by disrespect for each other's ideas, the athletes are united by respect for each other's abilities.

So give a nod, a honk, a wave, a brake, a smile. We who Train train for you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm back

Last night I went to the boat house and did a standard fall work out on the erg: 3 x 15', with 3 min rest. I did the first at 1:54.2/500m splits, the second at 1:53.8, the third at 1:53.6 (even after getting up to turn down the stereo 4 min into the piece, so I really cooked on the last one). My heart rate for the first was around 160, second 165, third probably 175. These are all great numbers. They imply I can do 3 x 20', 3' off at 1:54. That's a "I'm in very good shape" benchmark. So it seems I'm effectively "back" from my broken wrist injury. About 5 months from the injury to now.

The good news is that I'm on this "training to get back in shape" cycle, and it's got me well timed for the fall season. I may actually be fast just in time for fall racing. Usually I start my fall training late and peak after the season. Now I'm right on schedule. Just hope I can stick with it through September. It's going to be a rough month.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Economics of "Pro-Marriage" laws

Getting married is pretty easy. Yeah, blood tests, but you go to city hall, you get a license, you go to a ceremony, paper signed, you're married.

And this is exactly as the "pro-marriage" forces in the country would have it: If it were a pain in the ass to marry, folks would just choose to "live in sin". Marriage has a low barrier to entry. Easy in.

Getting divorced is very hard. Even when no one is fighting the process, you file, you have to exchange financial disclosure documents, you have to work out a settlement, and you have to wait 6 months before things can be done, at the soonest.

And this is exactly as the "pro-marriage" forces in the country would have it: Since it's a pain in the ass to get divorced, folks choose to live in misery. Marriage has a high barrier to exit. Tough out.

And this is all the structure you would put in place if the number you hope to keep high is the proportion of folks in society who are married. Easy in, tough out. Institutional lobster trap.

This same structure is what also keeps the proportion of divorced people high and marriage customer satisfaction scores low: The low barrier to entry means that many couples that don't belong in the institution enter it. Because many that don't belong in the institution enter it, many eventually discover their error and leave it. The high barrier to exit means that the remaining misfit multitudes never leave the institution, but remain miserable. So we get high divorce rates and a large population of unhappy married people. All beacue we make it easy for any two mouth-breathing yokels to sanctify their union. Which is not, I'd think, what the "pro-marriage" forces would want, if they truly want marriage to be this joyful, precious institution.

I'm all for making it harder to get married. Yeah, more 20-some things would shack up, and more kids would be born out of wedlock. So what? It matters little whether your parents were married when you were born. It matters whether your parents are together as you grow up. Never-married but present parents, in my mind, are better than previously married but absent parents.

I propose that one must apply for a license to be engaged, then have a year wait before one can get the marriage license. Like a learner's permit for a car, and like the cooling off period for divorces. It could work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

3 strikes, you're ugly

Was waiting in the parking lot across from Mountain Home Inn on Mt. Tam last Sunday to meet some friends and hike up to the pancake breakfast. There's a cabin about half way up the mountain where, once per month, they make giant pancakes and sausage. I think the procedes benefit some charitable group.

The weather that day was a lesson in bay area microclimatology: On my side of the mountain, it was clear and sunny and about 72. In the city it was foggy and about 62. On the ridge where I was parked the fog was rolling in so fast and hard it was condensing, and about 54.

I noticed a woman about to cross the street. She was just hanging in the parking lot, as was I.

Woman (incredulously): Are you going hiking today?

Me: Yes, I'll be hiking up to the pancake breakfast with some friends.

Woman: Where is this breakfast?

Me: At a cabin about halfway up the mountain from here.

Woman (removing pack of cigarettes with funny writing on them): In the mountains it's so hot, and here it's freezing and you can't smoke in the restaurants or in the hotel rooms.


Woman (lighting up and taking a puff):


Woman (giving flirty eyes):

Me (noticing funny writing on cigarettes): So where are you from?

Woman: Israel

Me: Look, my friends

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I don't drink it, at least insofar as "I drink coffee" in America means "I am a caffeine addict and use coffee as my delivery method". I'll have a decaf cappuccino from time to time in the evening after dessert at a restaurant. But coffee is not a part of my daily life. I avoid caffeine. A little goes a long way with me.

With that said, I love the way it smells. I got off the ferry this morning and walked past a Peet's, and the smell was outstanding. I had the urge to stick my head in a huge bag of coffee beans and just breathe. I grew up in a coffee household, so the smell brings back cozy memories.

I need to smell more coffee. Smelling coffee makes me happy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The end of the truck

The truck is dead. Long live the truck.

This morning I drove my 1992 Isuzu trooper with more than 150,000 miles on it to the dismantler in Oakland. It seemed a shame. With a new engine, a repaired power window and a repaired A/C, it would have been a good vehicle. Still would have gotten maybe 18 MPG at best. But still, not wholly undriveable.

But $1000 for the car was a good deal. Kid at the lot was shocked I was junking what looked to him to be a great vehicle. I wondered if I was making a bad choice. "Putting a new engine in that wouldn't be a problem". I asked if he thought any one would give me more than $1000 for it. "That'd be tough." Okay, so I made the right call. Still, hearing how great it was was tough for me. I felt wasteful throwing away a large, useful thing.

I then got on my bike (which I had transported in the truck) and rode to the BART station. I took the BART to SF, biked to work, will bike to the ferry, take the ferry to Larkspur, and be home. And down to just the new car. Which will be nice. No more parking in the lot down the street for fear of overnight tickets from the San Anselmo parking gestapo. Writing tickets at 3 am to keep us all safe from evil cars.

But I'll miss my truck. It was my first car, and tolerated my ignorance and abuse. It served me well, and I will remember it fondly.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Light Saber Code

Perhaps this was obvious to everyone. But I find in life things that are obvious to me aren't so obvious to everyone else.

The light saber colors in Star Wars have meanings.

Blue is for Jedi without apprentices
Green is for Jedi with apprentices
Red is for sith

Purple is for Samuel L Jackson, because he wanted to screw things up.

This simple code is used to symbolize much of what's happening in the movie.

Episode I, Obi-Wan seizes Qui-Gon's Green saber to down Darth Maul. He picks up the saber of a master with an apprentice, foreshadowing that he will take on Anakin as apprentice.

In Episode III, the symbolism is everywhere. Anakin holds Duku's red Sith saber in one hand, his own Jedi blue in the other at the moment of decision of how to handle the defeated duku. He's chosing a path: Sith or Jedi.

In the same scene, just as Luke will confront Vader before the emperor, Anakin confronts Duku before the emperor. But Anakin is in blue: Apprentice, one who has yet to learn. Luke in Episode VI is in green: Master, one who can teach. An Anakin falls under the power of the dark side, and Luke does not.

Before Anakin loses his hand to Duku, he is in blue, after, he is still in blue. Before Luke loses his hand to Vader he is in blue, after, he is in green. Anakin falls prey to his desire for revenge, where Luke deepens his commitment to the light side of the force. Luke advances as a Jedi, Anakin does not. All symbolized in the light saber colors.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Good morning

I think many of us are minor slobs in hotels. I believe it's kind of necessary. Scrambling, living out of suitcases, using a bed as a staging area on which to sprawl our stuff so we can find what we need fastest.

And while we leave the rooms in good order (save, perhaps an unmade bed or a bathroom in moderate disarray), sometimes, during our stay, we leave the room in a kind of chaos. And the only folks who see it are the cleaning staff.

This morning, after my shower, I was standing in the bedroom ironing my shirt and slacks for the day, wearing just my socks and underwear. I had the TV on in the background. One bed was unmade, the other had my suitcase sprawled open on it. Standard scene of "getting dressed in the morning in a hotel room".

As I stood ironing, out of the corner of my eye, I notice that someone has walked into the bedroom. It's a cleaning lady. I'm standing there, iron in hand. Kind of stunned. I mutter something like "Woah!?!". She turns, looks at me, blurts "Perdon" and quickly departs. And I stand there in my socks and underwear holding the iron.

My experience on this trip has been that of having no self determination. I go to the client site with my co-workers in the morning when it's decided we will go. I leave with them when it's decided we will leave. I ride with them. We eat together, since we're sharing the rental car, which I don't have the key to. We eat where they want, and hence what they want. I have to adapt my preferred schedule of eating and exercise to that of the group. We eat when they want. I have to eat with the group. I have no personal time. And after this morning, it seems I have no personal space. I'm feeling a bit like the corporate whore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Progressive misconceptions

I was on a hike last weekend with some folks. I mentioned I hadn't had much time to do any leisure reading with business school. A crunchy dude (organic communal farmer from Mendocino) then blurted out something like "It's hard to have leisure time without slaves," which he then explicated with "first world nations live on the backs of the third world."

I was a little surprised by the intensity and suddenness of this reaction. But then I came to see where it had come from.

I didn't feel it was an appropriate juncture (a nice hike on a Sunday afternoon with people I'd just met) for a lesson in macro economics.

If you'd like the lesson in why trade leads to economic gains for both sides, even when "disadvantaged" nations trade with "powerful" or "rich" nations, go here. The article shows how countries benefit when they specialize in producing whatever they produce most efficiently (even if they produce it less efficiently than other nations), and then trade to get the things they produce less efficiently. It's a little counter intuitive at first. But it's true. Over time, supply and demand change the nature of these comparative advantages, as do capital improvements. As under developed nations gain capital from trade and re-invest it in productive infrastructure, they gain productivity advantages which may shift their cooperative advantage from raw materials to agriculture to light manufacturing to high tech manufacturing to services.

Anyway, I get that kind of hostility from "progressive" people from time to time. I'm an "evil exploiting white heterosexual male capitalist" since I'm in business school, so I must be wholly unaware of or indifferent to evil corporations paving the rainforest. It's funny how quick to judge the progressive folk can be. When you spend a lot of time vilifying a group of people with whom you have little direct contact in your daily life, and then meet "one of those people", it's hard to see them in any way other than how you've already decided they must be. Vilification of "towel headed terrorists" or "heartless capitalists" leads to the same kind of reaction. It's just ironic when I catch "progressive" folk engaging in hating and resenting people they've stereotyped and never met.

Ah, humans.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Economics of Fear

This morning I was greeted at the ferry terminal by an armed Coast Guard and dog. They weren't really searching people, and the dog wasn't really inspecting anything. Maybe the dog didn't need to sniff closely to detect whatever he was smelling for.

Inside the terminal was another jump-suited Coast guard, sternly watching us board the boat.

On board, a passenger explained that there had been another bomb attack on a London bus.

On the water, a cute Coast Guard speed boat with an ominous machine gun mounted on the bow deck peeled off and looped back from escorting a northbound Vallejo-destined ferry to bounce alongside our Southbound boat all the way to the dock in San Francisco.

I'm not sure how effective the Coast Guard presence was in preventing any terrorist activity. I don't think the dog was really scrutinizing our scents. I don't think the speedboat would have been any use other than to radio for help and pick up survivors, should the boat have been victimized. I think the highly visible presence's main objective was visibility. The goal isn't to prevent terrorism, it's to prevent panic, to re-assure the masses that all is "under control" and that they are "safe" to go about their daily lives.

I'm not sure what it costs economically to scramble the Coast Guard to such levels of activity. I am sure that it costs less to blow up a bus in London by a factor best rendered in scientific notation. That's why the terrorist war is an economic war. Blowing up a bus: $50,000. Putting the whole US coast guard on alert for three weeks: $50,000,000. Scaring US consumers into lower productivity and expenditure and decreasing US GDP 0.5%: $50,000,000,000. That's a 1:1,000,000 effect ratio.

So why is this the way it is? Why do we lose millions in being fearful for every dollar they spend in being scary? Quite simply, either America is not the "Home of the Brave", or the powers that be don't think that we are. Listening in on conversations on the ride home, I don't think we're that fearful. No one talked about bombs on the boat.

So maybe it's not the people who are fearful, but the leadership. And I don't think they fear terrorism. I think they fear not acting fearful, and then having some terrorism happen on their watch. The public would criticize the leadership for not having taken "appropriate precautions", as if the terrorism is, in fact, preventable. And the leadership would be pilloried and scape-goated and forced to resign. So maybe it's not fear of terrorism, but fear of non-re-election that's driving us to waste money and time and give the "terrorists" the satisfaction of seeing that they affect us.

I'm not sure whether to blame the elected or the electorate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Slurp the melting ice
Cold mouth on your punani
Summer bed frolic