Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shanghai V

Last night was fun. Went to an all-you-can-eat and drink sushi place. Cost 170 RMB or about $21. It was a riot dealing with our very sweet and well intentioned waitress who was doing her best to serve us and make us happy. She spoke not a single word of English. For some reason she decided I was the leader of the table, which was sweet, but misguided, as I spoke as much Mandarin as she spoke English, and I know nothing about sushi. I was poorly equipped to communicate or decide. She and I did manage to communicate a few things over the course of the evening.

Fortunately, my Mandarin speaking classmates at other tables interceded as required. Once we figured out that she was offering to make selections for us, and after we realized that we really liked her recommendations, the evening went very well. My classmates were a bit boisterous. Very boisterous. One pointed out that re-inforcing stereotypes makes it easier for us all to relate across cultures.

At the end of the evening, the restaurant employees all lined up at the end of their shift. My classmates, finding this too cute and quaint for words decided to line up along with the staff. The staff thought this was hilarious. Pictures were taken. You have to imagine the two 6'6" lumberjack sized white guys in line with all these giggling uniformed Asian girls roughly half their size. The juxtaposition was great.

While tipping isn't customary, we tipped our staff adequately by USD standards, and perhaps embarrassingly generously by Chinese standards. Our waitress probably makes about 800RMB ($100 USD)/ month.

Later that night we walked to a bar close to the hotel. Along the way were a few women toting babies and begging, to whom one of my classmates gave something. She's kind. There were also many young women standing outside of some semi-divey looking bars, who said "Hello" to us as we passed. They were dressed not hyper trashy, but certainly trying to look attractive.

Me: Are those girls what I think they are?

Classmate: Yes (you naïve, naïve boy)

We had some interesting drinks: "Tube wine" seemed to be 7 up and vodka in test tubes served in a giant bowl of crushed ice with Rose petals and a small cup of water with a dry ice cube in it that made mist roll over the bowl.

I drank the first two shots, but then when another round came, I admit I dodged my last two. A sharp eye would have noticed that the volume of water in my water bottle increased after I sipped it, not decreased.

On the way home, a classmate who's first generation Chinese American (and a very good guy- study group partner, all around stand up guy) decided to have a little fun and tried to get some of the "girls" to flirt with me as we wlaked past. Probably said something like "Do you think he's cute?" Nothing happened. They could tell I wasn't interested, and we were walking fast.

On our last turn before the hotel, he stopped to show me a woman cooking on the street. Street vendor. He warned me, look but don't eat. He asked a perhaps 40 or 50 -something woman who was eating what they were cooking. She answered him, then looked at me, smiled, pointed at me, pointed at herself, then pointed at her crotch with an in and out motion. It was as glamorous and sexy as it sounds. We turned tail and booked, very very grossed out. Eeeeeeeew.

Prostitution is not glamorous.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Shanghai IV

Instead of going out last night I ate one of the bananas I had brought with me on my trip, and went to bed about 8 pm. Slept till around 6 am this morning, when my alarm actually woke me. This is a good sign: up till now, I'd been waking in the wee hours of the morning and not sleeping well.

Sweated my ass off in the gym downstairs. Didn't have the ganas to do my 3 x 15' erg work, so did 1 x 15' and then 30' on the bike. I left puddles of sweat (which I cleaned up).

Had a panel of folks in the real estate industry speak this morning. Learned many things. One is that, in Shanghai's construction boom, there was a lot of pressure to get things done fast. So things may not have been done well. I think the aesthetic of the city is cool: many of the new buildings look make the city look like what and early 20th Century comic book artist would have drawn for an early 21st century city. Cool colors, lines, designs. No giant mirrored boxes like the WTC or Sears tower.

A classmate asked me, "Do you think SF would allow a building like these to be built?". A great question, because it points out the stylistic contrast between the 20th C architecture in US cities (that came of economic age in the 20th C) and Shanghai. London looks 19th C. NYC looks 20th C. Shanghai will look 21st C. There are those who criticize it for trying to look hyper space age cool. I, being a sci-fi dork, like it. Shanghai, you look cool.

Housekeeping just came to turn down my bed. Let me tell you how cool it is. A little low, king size, and it has no top sheet. One giant white duvet for the comforter. So the comforter is in a sheet envelope. This is awesome. I want such an arrangement for my bed back home. Do you hear me, Bed, Bath & Beyond?

Went to an Armstrong (floors, ceiling tiles) plant today. GM is a 2002 grad of my program. Among the many points he raised which I thought were interesting was one on business strategy: One must think of business strategy differently when one’s competitor is not out to make money. Odd thought for us Western capitalists, but Chinese concerns are often run to assure job security or to create jobs. So they don't think "is this profitable" they think "will this help me make payroll". And the government has been known to bail out economically failing companies that employ many. So making jobs paramount is fine, because if you reach a critical employment mass, you get bail out protection from the government (Airlines in America).

His other point was about the Chinese notion of guanxi, or "relationships and good feeling", which is the currency of business partnership here. Sadly (in my opinion) cultivation of guanxi tends to require a lot of drinking. There's this liquor here baijao that is the favorite. It sounds like it's everything that’s evil about tequila with everything that’s evil about moonshine combined into a single drink. Classmates have tried it and have claimed that it instantly lowers your IQ by 40 points, and shuts off a random sample of half your brain cells.

I fear it. I'll taste it for sure.

Exotic things I’ve eaten on this trip:

Jellyfish (ho-hum)
Snails (yummy sauce)
Shrimp with the shell on (not quite soft shell crab, best with shell off)
Raw beef (Korean marinade – it was goooood)
Green Tea Ice cream (OMFG it’s good)
Raw clam (reminiscent of labia minora)

Some friends ordered in an "authentic Chinese restaurant" to which they were taken by an authentic Chinese classmate a dish called "mountain rock chicken". They thought this would be better than plain chicken, perhaps free range. But the "mountain rock chicken" is not in the avian biological class. Not a bird, but an amphibian. It was frog.

Tonight I'll go out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Shanghai III

Today was interesting. I learned that the problem with economic statistics, and by association and relation, population stats used by marketing, is that the statistic will be created to serve the political agenda of the creator. This came out when I asked the marketing lecturer during the break why her "middle class" sizing metric and definition was based on family asset levels. This is odd for a few reasons. First is that assets generally don't determine purchasing power. They're correlated, but usually it's income, not assets that are used to segment customers by value, unless you're a financial services company. It's also odd because assets are, at least in the West, harder for folks to estimate accurately, but incomes are well known. The other part that was peculiar, though perhaps understandable, was the definition by family assets. Household income is the sum of the incomes of those living at a single address. Gay couple, married couple, single dude, it works. But "family" is a little vague. Immediate family? Extended? How far? And which assets? Liquid? Including primary residence?

The reason this number is the official sizing of the middle class is because it's the definition that permits counting the most Chinese as middle class. So the government can claim to have a broad middle class. Great for propaganda, useless for sizing the population with the capacity to purchase your product.

Had an interesting experience after our afternoon meeting with the local J. Walter Thompson office managing Director. In typical Ad exec fashion, his presentation was well choreographed and glitzy. Long on allegory and emotion, short on substance, but long on substance for an advertiser, to be fair. He’s an American. I asked my critical question: We've been hearing that Chinese are interested in joint ventures with the west not so much to gain access to capital, but to gain access to "soft skills" in management. Yet it's clear that one can't really market in China without getting the culture. So it seems that the soft skills that are sought: HR, Org design, marketing strategy, business strategy, are non-transferable. Without a knowledge of China, the skills don't work. You have to know the culture to make the right strategic choices, marketing choices incentive choices.

That Ad exec gave me a long winded response to my question, which really didn't answer it, but seemed to argue that the ability to frame and structure the approach to problems was the transferable skill and valuable. But then two questions later he acknowledged that 97% of his office staff are local. Which answered my question.

Again, very little reason to get involved in China: The "asset" of interest that we have isn"t really an asset and can't be transferred.

I took a walk in the extended neighborhood around the hotel. Took some pictures, saw some interesting things. Some very amusing uses of English. A man selling what I can only assume were potential pets on the street. Had a couple buckets full of turtles and some extremely tiny cages with very uncomfortable looking bunnies and chipmunks in them.

On the ground, I got a glimpse of some of the poorer circumstances in which folks live. Just a glimpse, cuz, the unsightly stuff is obscured a bit by blinds and barricades. A friend on the trip says he feels like Shanghai is the city in Bladerunner, and it's an apt description. Hypermodern and glitzy alongside hyper poor and ancient, but always crafty and aggressive. People here are on the move.

Shanghai II

I’m at the Shanghai Hilton. It's Nice. Like. Niiiiice. Although I was reminded it's the Shangahi Hilton when, upon having a seat in the bathroom I was greeted by a cockroach running up the door.

"OK, I’m definitely not going to drink the tap water".

I was thrilled out of my mind to discover that the workout facilities here have not just one, but two Concept II rowing machines. They're model C’s but who cares. I can erg. I'm thrilled. So I got in a good 40 minutes this morning (Monday). Of course, I'm not dressed for it, so I sweated my ass off, which didn't help me given how under hydrated I was already feeling from the plane. So I bit the bullet and got into the 45 RMB (about $5.50 US) 1L bottle of water in the room bar. I spent the morning eating and drinking to re-hydrate myself. I think I'm better.

The nice thing is my room comes with a little hot pot for boiling water for tea. So I'm boiling tap water while I spend time in the room, letting it cool to room temp, then putting it in the 1L bottle which I'm then putting in the mini fridge. Am I a cheap bastard? Yes, but that's not what’s motivating the behavior. I just don't want to try to go find more sources of water.

On the bus trip to class this morning I noticed many things, among them were some guys working on a building. Their "scaffolding" was a bunch of sticks aspiring to be boards nailed into a slanted structure which looked too airy and light to support any real weight. I thought "No OSHA in Shanghai". In California, there'd be Union rules and OSHA standards about the kind of scaffolding and how high and warning pedestrians and lawsuits blah blah. As I've been learning, the legal system here is pretty unreliable. Even legitimate and strong cases can't get heard, let alone won. This really screws up contract-based enterprises like joint ventures, but at the same time, it enables people to hammer 6 boards together and get to work, since there are no lawsuits to worry about.

Met with members of the US Consulate here in the afternoon to talk China and politics and economics. I had gone in with very low expectations, given that they were government folks. Damn, were these people sharp. Made me really proud to know that they're the ones here in Shanghai trying to help American interests. Ironically, they practically told us that Americans shouldn't invest in China. All the macro economic info I'm seeing tends to agree.

My adventure for the day consisted of going to the cloth market with my classmates who were all eager to have custom clothes made for insanely low prices in USD. I went thinking I'd like some shirts. All the shop keepers know what you're there for and want you to look at their fabric. We had been advised ahead of time by classmates of Chinese understanding what prices to expect to negotiate for. Guys were told they could expect custom made cashmere suits for $100 USD.

I suck at haggling. Don't like it. I'm a softie. But, with no more than 10 English words used between us, I managed to get myself measured for 4 custom made shirts for 90 RMB each. That's about $11.00 USD a piece. Hand made for me. French Cuffs. Fitted. $11. Why haggle? Sold. I got another one made with some cool material and a Mandarin band collar. It’s cool. It costs me more, but I don’t care. Like $18 US. Fine. I’d pay more than that if I found it at TJ Maxx and it didn’t fit perfectly. It was a cool experience communicating. I go back on Friday to pick them up. Maybe I'll wear one out that night?

Jet Lag is kicking my ass right now. It's 7:30 PM as I write and I just want to sleep. But I'm going to go to dinner with classmates. I'll post this Tuesday morning.

I found out that the internet in my room isn't free (Ooops) but it's available at the school, so I'll upload this from there, I think.

Oh, and Allison at Beautiful Surprise sent me some new word association words. I took them at 5 this morning, and my answers were rather boring, but I figured I'd go with the more than one word answer to describe the image that comes to mind with them, since most of my one word answers were colors. I'll post that later.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Shanghai I

This broadcast is being transmitted on time delay from my laptop, which is currently about 39,000 feet over the pacific ocean someplace a few hundred miles east of Japan.

I had figured my blog-worthy experiences would start when I arrived. But they started on the plane.

I think part of humans' tendency to be culturally suspicious comes from our inner animal and the fact that folks who live differently from us (have different behaviors, rituals, products and foods) are going to smell different.

So the Chinese gentleman next to me, whose grasp of English exceeds my grasp of mandarin by 2 words (He knows "beer" and "coke"), is traveling with others whom I can only assume are business companions. Early in the flight, he’s got the munchies, and a companion offers him a strange yellow package. It’s Chinese, so it could have contained spaghetti or it could have contained dynamite, and I’d not have had a clue from the packaging. Turns out it had cookies. The cookies looked good.

Then his companion handed him a foil package about three times the size of a Gu packet (energy gel used by endurance athletes). I thought, "Oh, it's like a Chinese power bar or something".

This wasn't wholly inaccurate, as power bars (especially when they first came out) had no redeeming flavor value whatsoever. They were human food pellets. They tasted like ass, but they kept you alive and were easy to take on the trail, so we ate them. Then they came out with oatmeal raisin and peanut butter, and things got better. Given that I'm a fan, and even I think they don't taste good, I'm sure to a non-Western palate, a power bar is vile.

When my seatmate tore into the foil packet I was immediately affronted by the scent of vinegar and cabbage. A very pungent smell, like the middle of an egg roll. Only stronger. Whatever he was eating, it was spinach green in color, and oh so fragrant. It smelled Chinese.

I'm sure to him, my Odwalla vitamin B monster smoothie is vile. "Pureed fruits and vitamins in a blue beverage? Weird American."

The adventures continued when a flight attendant had to admonish my third seat mate that using his video camera on the plane was against the law.

Why would that be? Because it’s how you document dimensions, spaces, standard operating procedures of the crew.

I figure, hey, the guy's just excited. Big trip to China. Or big trip back. Whatever.

Now most of us would just ditch the camera. But not this guy. He keeps it out. And keeps filming. And he's not just interested in what's out the window. He's trying to be nonchalant. Like he’s reviewing footage. But I can see what he's doing. He's still taking footage. Of the layout of the plane, the behavior of the flight crew.

Then the time comes to fill out our customs/ entrance forms. I figure, I'll just see if my suspicions are out of line. Is he American? Nope. Has an interesting passport. I keep an eye on it, and he flips it over to reveal his homeland is… Morocco.

I’ve got a Moroccan taking illegal video footage of the plane layout and crew behavior on a 747 that leaves SFO with enough jet fuel to fly non stop to Shanghai.

Call me a racist. But I think I'm right to be concerned. Not sure what to do.

"Hi, thanks, yeah, um, may I write down your passport number so I can send it to the CIA? Thanks."

Now this is my first trip to Asia. And my first time across the International Date Line. What a mind fuck that is. I left SFO at 2:30 PM Sat and arrive in Shanghai at 6:30 PM on Sunday. I lose 28 hours going. The flight lasts 12 hours. Coming home I leave at noon on Sunday, and arrive at 8 am the same day. I arrive before I leave. Yeah. Right. You say tomato, I say toemahtoe. You say Thursday, I say Saturday.

So my plan is to get to Shanghai pretty exhausted, hit the hotel and fall happily asleep by 8PM local time, and I'll wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed Monday morning at 6am ready to start my day. The key is not to sleep on the plane.

Yet it seems everyone on the plane wants to sleep. Now maybe it’s a cure for boredom, but I don’t get it. Stay awake, suck it up, deal, push through this day and: instant time change. Bang, done.

Since I have the window, I control the shade. Needless to say, my Chinese buddy ain’t thrilled that I keep it 3/4 open so I can keep my brain tricked: 'Nope, there’s daylight. Not sleepy time, nope.'

I've set my watch to Shangahi time from early on in the flight. I really have to think hard about what time it is in SF, so I'm hoping the confusion helps keep me moving towards the new timezone. I just set my computer clock. Damn, now I know what time it is in SF. Daylight trick is working. Only 4 more hours till we touch down.

(posted from hotel room upon arriving in Shanghai)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Conspicuous Consumption

One of the side benefits to corporate schmoozing is corporate schmoozing dining. When the client knows you have a travel and entertainment budget, the client will make you use it. So we were at a rather high end steak house for dinner tonight.

I think my Filet was $39, and my salad was $8, and my dessert was $8, and my sides were maybe $12, and the appetizers were probably another $10, and the wine had to put another $15 on the tab. For 15 people, I'd not be surprised if the total tab was close to $2000.

Now don't get me wrong, the food was all very very good. But I really didn't want 3/4 of a pound of beef. But that was my smallest option. The beefsteak tomato salad with real blue cheese was not quite an $8 tomato, but perhaps a $5 tomato. Damn good tomato.

But I'd normally not eat at such a place unless it was a special romantic occasion. So eating there with strangers was just odd. The clients are guys who like to talk sports and gambling. Not quite my peeps. But I've made a conscious choice this trip to choose to enjoy things. I ate an insane amount of food tonight, felt a little guilty indulging so, but what else could I do?

I was reminded of comments an anthropologist friend made, though. Asking why the work the mechanic does isn't valued as highly as the work I do. One could make some economic arguments, but on nights like this, I think it's a fair question: White collar folk, having access to and control of corporate resources, can give themselves a comfy life via the company resources. Look at the Tyco dudes. And because one is the gatekeeper for signing seven figure checks, one gets wooed with part of the wooer's potential proceeds from that seven figure check one can write.

I like challenging work. But I'm still uncomfortable in posh circumstances. They feel wrong to me. I didn't need a $100 dinner.

And now I must sit at my computer at 11PM in my hotel room and modify my presentation for tomorrow.

The mechanic is probably having a nice romp with his wife after time with his kids.

This is why I get paid more, I guess. I sleep in not my bed and don't get to row.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Law of the Jungle


Circle of Life

Monday, September 19, 2005

Word Association Game

Check out Allison's word association game. It's enlightening to look at the common responses.

Impression Management

I went to a meeting tonight and became aware of how much Impression Management I've done and still do in my life.

I spent a lot of time in relationships trying to be this perfect boyfriend. Sensitive, yet masculine, romantic attentive, non dominating. And I hated my relationships because they didn't get me what I wanted, and I was too busy being nice to demand what I wanted. And as I stopped getting what I wanted, I lost the energy to maintain the facade. And as I dropped the facade, my partners found me not to be the guy they thought they were getting. And things broke down.

From the time I first knew I wanted girls to like me, I studied what they liked in men and sought to cultivate those qualities in myself. I've spent a lot of time in my life making myself "lovable".

I impression manage with my classmates. I don't let them see my darker side, my flawed side, my frail side. I hide my jealous side, my lustful side, my lazy side. I pretend not to be competitive. I try to hide my righteousness, impatience, judgementalism. I come off as this wholesome boy, and it's totally crap.

I project this self that's the person I think others will like. Hell, I do it on this blog. There's all kinds of stuff about me that I don't write about here. Granted, I think it's ok to pick and choose what parts of my life I broadcast to the entire planet. But I manage my image. I admit.

There are some people in my life with whom I've finally learned I can be my real self, and still be accepted and loved. It's the first real unconditional love I've known, and it's pretty transformative stuff.

Still, I hide my true self.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

On Sundays

I come from a long line of midwestern church-going folk. Sunday was church. 9 am Mass, 9:30, 10 am. Whatever mid-morning Mass the Parish du jour offered, that was the one we went to.

I hated Sundays. There was nothing worse to me than having some place to be on the weekend which required uncomfortable clothes and sitting still for an hour. I resented being bound by obligation. I resented flushing one of my weekend mornings.

I wondered, does God really want us to do this? Doesn't God get bored of hearing the same things over and over, repeated by every Catholic on the planet, every damned day? Repetiton bores me, and my intelligence is finite. Surely God must be bored.

Sunday is still, in some ways, my day of worship. I long ago left Mass behind me, long ago left a belief in the Judeo-Christian construct of "God" behind me. But on Sundays I use my talents in ways that, if there is a God, I think God would like. If I am one of God's creations, I bet he likes to see me rowing. I'm pretty sure of this, since, having lived in Boston, where the rowing community is such a part of the aesthetic of the city, and having seen how the city enjoyed seeing us on the water in the morning as the city woke up, I have to believe that God enjoys me being a part of the aesthetic of the waterway.

I spent about 45 min on the water in the single today. I took out the new racing single, and vortex edged sculling blades rigged a little heavy on the outboard. I cruised along at about 18 strokes per minute. The heavy oars meant I could really load up and drive, and then take a long lesisurely recovery up to the next stroke. Splash (drive) Thunk. 1 (relax). 2 (relax). 3 (relax). 4 (relax). Splash (drive) Thunk. 1 (relax). 2 (relax). 3 (relax). 4 (relax).... I rowed square blades for a while on my last lap of the creek. I was technical, powerful, graceful. That was my "church" for the day.

And I'm un-learning some bad notions. I took out the nice boat and the nice oars, because I'm worth it. I had a good day.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Maybe I'm an extrovert?

For a long time I've thought of myself as introverted. I hate parties full of unfamiliar people. Hate them. I fear making social mistakes and being embarrassed. The social games people play mystify me. I know a game is going on, but I don't get the rules and don't know how to play. I spend a lot of time in solitary pursuits. I scull alone, I bike alone, I run alone, I do logic puzzles on my own, I read. I'm terrible about picking up the phone and reaching out to people and creating social situations for myself.

But the truth is I exhibit a lot of extroverted behavior. I was a soccer player before I started rowing crew, two of the most "team" sports out there. I've always been made captain of any team I've been a part of for very long. I played lead roles in musical theater in high school. I enjoy public speaking. I love spending time with my classmates and really look forward to seeing them. And when I'm doing the biking, running, sculling and logic puzzles by myself, I wish I had company.

When I come home from a block of class, the sudden shock of being alone after being with so many is rather depressing.

I'm not shy about speaking up in class, meetings, public, large groups. I'm not shy. I do like people. So why have I thought I was introverted? I think it's because I'm a pretty sensitive person. And other people can hurt my feelings pretty easily. Being alone, there's no one to hurt my feelings. I sacrifice the joy of company, but save myself the prospect of sadness. So I've avoided people to avoid emotional pain, and called myself an introvert.

But true introverts aren't tuned in to other people. They're not supposed to be highly empathic. I'm very tuned in and very empathic. So much so that I have to tune out because being tuned in to other people's feelings can hurt too much and make me vulnerable to manipulation. When I feel their pains or longings, I want to make it all better, partially to help them, but also to make the pain I feel for them go away.

So I'm a sensitive extrovert. I like people, even though they can really impact my feelings. And as I learn not to be so frightened of painful feelings, I can tolerate more contact with people. Maybe I'm an extrovert.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thoughts on the gulf coast

Building cities
below sea level
on the flood plain
of the continent's largest river
in the common path of hurricanes
makes catastrophe inevitable.

When the big one hits
and metropolitan California is shaken into rubble
and public blaming runs rampant
and the news covers stories
of death and stranded kitties
feel free to mention
"I told you so".

Monday, September 12, 2005

Do I have a problem?

I know I'm chemically dependent on exercise. I used to think I got depressed without it. That's not true. My life used to be depressing, and coming down from the exercise high made me feel my real life. I do, however, get more short tempered without it, and decisively less mellow. Not that I've ever been accused of being mellow. Laid back, I am not. But without exercise the intensity that is Ken is geometrically larger. This is why Ken is a verb. Must keep moving.

Today I went to the boat house intent on doing one piece. We have a 20 minute test piece on Tuesday, and I haven't done a 20 min piece all out for nearly 6 months. I've done many other pieces which I can use as benchmarks (60 min, 10k, 3x 15 min, 10 x 500m), but not the 20. When I arrived, a teammate was there doing a light piece. I told him what I was there for. He suggested I not blow it out today, so that I'd have something for Tuesday. While I think I'd be fine Tuesday no matter what, his point had merit. Taper and kick ass. He suggested 15 minutes, instead of 20. I could experiment with a pace, and use the piece as a guide. Good call.

So I did my 15 min at 1:49/ 500m splits. I'll pace to hit 1:48.5 on Tuesday, I think.

As I finish, another teammate arrives. Seems he and some others have come down to do 2 x 20 min. They talk me into joining them. They suggest we do them at halfway between our 20 min pace and our hour pace. So I do the first at 1:52.4/ 500m. Then we take 10 min off. I say "I've done two pieces already, I really don't think I should do the third, so I'm fresh for Tuesday." They tell me to just cruise the last one at 2:00/500m. I agree. I go off. I cruise. But then I notice the guy next to me is going a little faster than I am, and I decide to match his pace. So I pull even. And he starts to pick up his pace. So I stay even. And I feel good, so I stay with him. Then I decide to pull ahead. So I increase the power, drop my split. I finish ahead of him. I finish the last at 1:54.5.

I went down to do 15-20 min. I end up doing nearly an hour.

I feel good. It's not like I can't handle the work. But I feel really good exercising. And I can't say no. I enjoy the company. Working out in a group is great. But I think one of those "are you addicted" questions usually reads "Do you find yourself engaging in [addictive behavior] even when you had promised yourself you wouldn't?"

My name is Ken, and I'm an exercise addict.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Evil sheep

Most weekday mornings I take the Ferry from Larkspur CA to SF CA. It's a glorious way to travel to work. I can sit down, read, crack open the laptop, whatever. The water is lovely, even rough seas are fun, and the view is routinely judged photo-worthy by the daily allotment of tourists.

The passengers, however, can suck.

Not suck, so much, as at least "behave more poorly than I'd hope".

The ferries are on a tight schedule. They pull in, ditch their passengers, pick up the herd of us who are waiting to board, shove off, and make the return trip. Not quite Indy pit crew turnaround, but quick.

So we who board, for about 1-20 minutes before the ferry arrives, depending on when we ourselves arrive, wait to board. And there's not so much a line as there is a holding pen. Just a big corral with a big gate. When they're ready for us to board, they open the gate. And bad behavior ensues.

Now different cultures have different ideas of polite queuing behavior. I hear in China it's "she who has the sharpest elbows gets to go first". Here in the US, we have a sense of "first come, first served", and we think cutting in line is very bad manners.

The problem with the ferry line is that it's not a line. It's a pack. Amorphous, unstructured. It's hard to tell who was here first. One can get a general sense, though, as the folks who arrive first stand as close to the gate as they can. Those who come later stand behind them. So the last to arrive are in the outer ring. Kind of like sedimentary rock. Folding happens, but generally, the first are on the bottom.

But I've noticed people not conforming to the "rules". Folks will step through the already assembled crowd to get close to the gate. Once the gate opens and the crowd starts moving, people will drop a shoulder and slip past you to get in front of you as you hit the gang plank, the doorway, the stairs. They'll shamelessly slip by. Men and women alike.

I, of course, can't do this. 1) It's rude. 2) I'm of broad enough shoulders that I just can't squeeze past people in a crowd with out being very conspicuous about it.

I have a few explanations. 1) People are still in "get through morning traffic mode" and forget that they are no longer in their cars. 2) People are OCD about "their" seats. They race to get "the best" seat on the boat. 3) They don't' realize we all arrive at the same time, and the boat won't leave till we're all on board. Kind of like the airplane loonies that try to board early. 4) They are caffeine addicts who get their first hit on the boat at the refreshment bar, and in their desperation for their morning fix, turn into gremlins.

How to spot me? I'm the last one to board, shaking his head at the absurd insanity of the people around him and their petty priorities.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Time series

These are calla lily-like bulbs I planted back in Early march. I took these shots over several days during the month of May. It's taken me until September to post them. Life is crazy. But here you go. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Update on the Guvehnator

Seems Ahnold will be vetoing the bill. The article claims he has no choice. If he has no choice, then why does he have a decision to make? Seems a cop-out.

And I don't buy the argument that prop 22 was just about out of state mariages. The ballot measure was right wing gay hating at its best, and is now doing exactly what it was supposed to do: Make it harder for same sex marriages to be recognized.

I didn't vote for Arnold, and I intend not to. Wish he had the sack to stand up for his principles (he's socially progressive, just fiscally conservative) and tell the far right to fuck themselves, but he's being a prudent politician.

Hey Arnold, grow some balls and pass the bill.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Me flying the plane.

Pro Gender Neutral Marriage Bill

On the radio this morning I heard of the number for the Governator's office which one can call to voice one's opinion on legislation pending his approval.


I think you press 2 for legislation, 1 for the gender neutral marriage bill, and then 1 to say "pass that shit".

I wonder if they count the votes by phone number? I'll call from my land line tonight. May call from my work number right now.

I'd encourage all of you who think sexual oriantation shouldn't influence one's access to the civil institution of marriage to call in. Even if you're not californian: If the Governator wants to run for national office, it's good for him to get a sense of national opinion on the matter.


Last night I ran my four mile loop around the lake in 28 minutes flat.

7 min miles, biotch. I was pushing it, but it felt really good.

I bought a triathalon training book last Friday as an early graduation present to myself. When I finish busness school this fall, I'm going to buy myself a road bike. In 2007, I want to complete an Iron Man. Triathalon has called to me for a long time. Time to answer the call.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Most Amazing Weekend Ever

At 1:30 PM Friday a classmate called me:

Classmate: How are you getting up to the cabin this weekend?

Me: I'm driving, I'm going to leave directly from work. I have room in the car if you'd like to come with me.

Classmate: Oh, well I was going to fly and wanted to know if you'd want to come along.


And that is how my weekend began. I busted out of work at 3:30 to pick up my classmate at his place in SF, busted ass down to Palo Alto to get ourselves and our gear into the Cessna and get off the ground in time to land at the Hoopa airfield on the Hoopa Indian reservation before dusk. The Hoopa airstrip has no lights, you see.

We scramble, we load, we take off, we fly across the bay, up over Napa and on north.

About 45 min into the flight:

Classmate: You wanna fly?


And so I flew the plane. My job: Hold this heading and this altitude. OK. I can focus on making the needles all stay where I want them to. I seemed to do well. I was lauded for my performance both going out and, at the end of the weekend, coming back as "the most natural pilot I've ever taken up. Dude, you have to get your license".

As the sun is going down, we spot the Hoopa airfield. We land. 5 minutes later, our other classmate arrives to pick us up. With two beers cold and in the car. She's a good woman.

The cabin: On the Klamath river, giant place built so the classmate's whole family can come down and hang out there. Sleeps like 20 people with no trouble.

Saturday morning I got up and cooked breakfast for all in residence: French toast with strawberry of mango puree and whipped cream, southwestern omelets, and bacon. It went over well.

Then after breakfast, I took a giant nap. Then I got up and sadly had to finish a take-home final, and did bits and pieces of it throughout the day. I finished it in time for dinner.

After dinner, we all wondered down to the river's sand bar where we made a bonfire and hung out. Folks drank, smoked cigars.

Sunday we went rafting. Aside from the meltdown from a classmate's 7 year old daughter, the trip was great. Some "whee this is fun" rapids punctuated long tracks of drifting. I was placed in the raft with the kids who were not expected to be pulling their own weight. I was thought of as the human outboard motor, given that rowing (not quite rafting) is my primary calling in life.

Seems folks were right. Not that we were really going nuts, but just my steering alone made my raft totally horizon my classmates in the other raft.

At one point, we stopped to climb this big rock outcropping from which one can jump and 30 feet later land in the deep river. We jumped and swam. It was fun.

I managed to do all of this without getting sunburnt. I wore my long sleeve white coolmax shirt and my wide brim sun hat (I look like a Canadian mounty in it, but I won't get melanoma on my ears).

Among the guests at the lodge were two 9 week old human twin babies and one 11 week old flopsy white with black spotted Great Dane baby puppy named smalls. This puppy was as insanely adorable as an enthusiastic affectionate "my-paws-are-WAY-too-big-for-me-and-I-grew-four-inches-last-night-so-I'm-not-too-coordinated-yet,-but-I really-want-to-play" puppy can be. I also enjoyed quality time with some of the babies.

The interesting dimension of the weekend was the pot. I've never smoked anything in my life, and have no interest. But it's northern CA, and it's not my party. I suppose I was most taken aback when the husband of the classmate whose 7 year old melted down on the rafting trip (father of said 7 year old) asked the hostess flat out, upon returning from our trip, if she had any pot. In exactly the same way one would make the request if one were asking for advil. Pot was supplied. Papa smoked up. Seems he had had a stressful day on the river with all that intense family interaction.

I found this odd. Yes, I wanted to throw the whiney bawly 7 year old overboard. Did I? Nope. Was I over it by the time we got back to the cabin? Not wholly. Was I reaching for a substance to adjust my pyschological state? Nope. Just odd. Anyway, pot is not my deal. I've not tried it, but don't care to. I'm trying to avoid mood altering chemicals right now.

We got up and helped clean the cabin top to bottom this morning. Since the hostess was our ride to the Hoopa airstrip, and since we weren't leaving till she left, and she wasn't leaving till the place was clean, we really cleaned. She did most of the work, sadly, but we tried to help as we could.

On the plane trip home, we stopped once for gas, then once for lunch at this restaurant near Shelter cove. On our first attempt to land we had to abort because two deer decided to stroll onto the runway. Restaurant of choice was closed, but we restaurant option two happened to serve fresh caught and perfectly battered fish and chips (which was exactly what I had hoped to eat for lunch anyway). And when the lady asked about dessert, and I asked what they had, she gave me my favorite answer:

Lady: ... cake, Carrot cake, Lem...


I told my classmate I must have my karma in good shape cuz the universe is hooking me up with a great weekend.

I flew an airplane, played with a great Dane puppy, went for a morning run, held some babies, swam in a river, rafted in beautiful country, hung out in front of a fire, got some carrot cake, fish and chips, basil pesto and didn't think about my job once. I had a great time.