Thursday, March 30, 2006

Should I HNT?

What do you think?

Leave a comment, if you have an opinion. You can just say "yes", "no", or "indifferent". Or you can leave some explanation, too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Confession is, in my mind, one of the more fucked up things about growing up Catholic. Why? Because, generally speaking, little kids don't have sins.

Yet on Ash Wednesday every year, and during Easter week as well, we'd all line up (two lines, boys in one line, girls in the other, because having 10 year old boys and girls in the same line is clearly against the 6th commandment) and head over to church. In Indiana, we went to a reasonably modern Catholic church. You could see the priest face to face or behind the screen. But in Massachusetts, it was total old skool Catholicism. Confessional. Screen. "bless me father for I have sinned" Just like in The Godfather.

On the way over, the conversation in line was something like:

Boy 1: What sins are you gonna say?

Boy 2: Dunno. Can't think of any.

Boy 1: Fourth commandment is always good.

Boy 2: Yeah. I guess I smarted off to my mom at least once. But I already got smacked in the face for it.

Boy 1: You won't get penance, then.

Boy 2: I better not. Hail Mary's are easier than getting belted.

Boy 1: There's always "Impure thoughts"

Boy 2: What's that?

Boy 1: My brother says it's what all the 7th and 8th graders use

Boy 2. Ok. Do you get a lot of penance for that, though?

Boy 1. Dunno

And so Confession was where I first learned that even *thinking* about sex without being married was wrong. Thou shalt not notice which girls in your class got boobs last summer.

Yet you have to tell a stranger, and an authority figure to boot, your deepest, innermost shameful things. Good way to learn healthy boundaries. Link punishment and shame with intimacy. Good way to get a healthy D&S fetish: "I've been a naughty boy, and I need to be punished."

I'm not a fan of confession.


Went to dinner last Friday night with a Vegan friend. Went to one of her favorite Vegan restaurants.

I enjoy the trips. The food is always very good and totally affordable.

We had this dish with fake "chicken" in it. It was good, and the "chicken" was certainly pretty passable, for flavor and consistency. It was like 80% of the real chicken experience. For not being real chicken, I was impressed.

My friend explained it's an ancient Buddhist art, perfected over centuries, of creating fake meat from wheat gluten. Or some other plant-derived substance that sounds technical and bland.

I wondered: How do the Buddhist monks know they've done a good job? How do they know their technique is improving? Who does quality control?

Head monk: Ah, very good, grasshopper. This tastes very much how I imagine chicken would taste.

Do you get non-Buddhist carnivores to test it for you? Do you meditate and try to develop compassion for the chicken, and thus come to know what it would taste like?

Monk: Having meditated on the nature of what it is to be a chicken, I know that I would be most delicious with garlic and rosemary, and then slow roasted. Or fried and crispy.

I think I could be a vegetarian. But I like cheese too much to be vegan. And I need milk on my cereal. And I like eggs. And bacon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Watched Matrix Revolutions this weekend. I found myself, at points, accepting the philosophy of the bad guys, and not empathizing with the good guys.

Agent Smith:...Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something, for more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is, do you even know? Is it freedom or truth, perhaps peace - could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson, vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although, only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love...

This is supposed to piss us, the viewers, off. We've just seen all this heroic and irrational self sacrifice for hope and love, complete with swelling Hollywood music in the background. And it works, as long as you believe that passionate, romantic love is a healthy and good thing:

"Punch him in the face for Trinity, Neo!"

But right now, for a lot of reasons, I see romantic, Romeo-and-Juliet-style love as a biochemical and cognitive pattern response to mating related stimuli that cause us to re-align our motivations and instincts towards creating and rearing offspring with this one particular member of our herd. It's the deep programming that takes our brains from perceiving ourselves as "on the market" to being "what, there are others I might mate with?". It's why being in love is intense, why it makes us think of little else than the object of our affectation, and why two people in love like nothing better than to get it on. And on. And on. It's critical to passing along our genes, which is why it feels good when we do it. Fall in love, that is. But as with many things that feel really good at the time and are good for passing on the DNA, it's not always the best thing to do.

I think I see falling in love for what it is. It's fun, but it makes one nutty and vulnerable. Maybe I've reached a state of clarity in which I can see the mating dance for what it is, and view it in all its oddity and insanity the same way I look at bower birds and elephant seals on the discovery channel.

Crocodile Hunter voice: "Ah, look, he's brandishing his cell phone and his car keys, to show off the resources he could provide her offspring. See how the females respond? Now he will select the one with the most apparent fertility and the lowest number of current offspring, since that will give his genes the best chance. "

Maybe I'm jaded on love. Maybe I'm objective. Maybe I shut it down because I don't want to become emotionally committed. Maybe I like the chase too much to want to settle down. Or maybe I fear what happens when one falls and puts all those emotional eggs in one basket, with no promise they'll be safely cared for.

I agree with Agent Smith. Humans often prefer to live in illusion.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Race went very well.

You can see a pretty cool way of looking at the results here. Though I think the times are a little off, (we didn't do a 1:40 second 500 and then a 1:30 third 500... That's just crazy) the pictures are probably right about relative positions.

Had I known the race was going to be streamed on the web with live video, I'd have told some folks so they could watch.

Me in the warm up:

Us with about 500m to go. Note the blades all entering the water together:

It's huge for us to have won so decisively. We were racing some of our best competition on the West coast, a crew of many ex national team and elite collegiate oarsmen. We got maybe a seat or two up on the start, and held our high strokes for about 5 more strokes than they did. When both boats settled, we were pretty close. They crept back a bit and were maybe just a half seat down with 500 down. At which point we dug in and moved out to maybe a 3 seat advantage. Our coxswain made a brilliant call for us to shift our stroke rating down a beat right before the 1000 meter mark. We made the shift, and he then called for a power 20. So essentially, we shifted our rhythm and rowed a slightly slower pace, but much higher power. And we took about a length on the other crew. At about 1500 down our coxswain called that he had their bow ball, and that we'd sprint the last 300. At this point I just shifted my focus to being sharp and clean. The only thing that could stop victory would have been a boat stopping crab.

When we hit the dock, the unofficial time was 5:59, which is crazy fast. The time on the web site of 6:12 seems more reasonable. While this isn't exactly my crew for San Diego, 5 of us are in that boat. And the winner of our event down there usually goes about 6:25. Bodes well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In case you want to stalk me

This is where I'll be this weekend.

Path of destruction

Seeing my grandmother lose her husband of 59 1/2 years, and reading "The Art of Happiness" by the Dali Lama (with voice-over from an American Psychologist) has me re-evaluating what happened in my marriage.

I think we may place unrealistic expectations on our romantic relationships here in the West. We expect this one person to provide us with perfect intimacy and intense romantic joy. And that's just not realistic. And when our expectations are out of line with what we experience, we can't help but be disappointed. And we become dissatisfied.

I look back on my marriage, and see how much of it was pretty good. We had gotten to a very comfortable place, in many ways. Maybe I destroyed a rather good thing, out of dissatisfaction with the relationship's deviations from my ideals.

And it seems I will have done this again. I saw K briefly last night, just to check back in. She's going through a lot of life re-structuring right now, and I know she's been on the fence about "us". She's keeping only "meaningful and promising" things in her life, and she's known for a while that what we have is meaningful but not promising. Last night, in her company, I could feel the shift in her. She's decided she can't keep our relationship in the romantic department because it's too hard on her emotionally. She didn't have to say anything. Which is part of why we're pretty cool together. We don't have to explain ourselves to the other. We just seem to intuit the other's feelings.

And I can't help but wonder if I've once again failed to recognize and appreciate a good thing while I have it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Back in SF

Tired from traveling, eating odd things at strange hours, getting up early, being on planes, etc.

I don't know why I rushed back here. I felt guilty being away from work. Ah, guilt.

Being tired, hungry, and emotionally drained, I should do my best to take care of myself and not get stuck here too long.

I think I forgot to take out the garbage before I left. I'm sure my apartment smells delightful.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

For my Grandpa

Edited and co-written by me. This will be Grandpa's eulogy at Mass on Monday.

Each person here knows Grandpa Norb in a different way. I'm here to share some of our family's memories in tribute to the man we all knew and loved.

Grandpa Norb was born on a farm in Hessen Cassel, south of Fort Wayne. He grew up reading by kerosene lamps, plowing fields behind horses, and eating bread baked in a wood-fired stove. When he took up farming his parents' 80 acres, Grandpa's formal education ended at 8th grade. Yet he could out-cipher folks with adding machines, and regularly corrected our grammar. He urged and expected his children and grand children to do their best in school and in every job. Because of his and Grandma’s thrift and foresight, all five of their children earned bachelors degrees, and we seven grandchildren got help with college. Now, two of us have master's degrees and three are pursuing doctorates.

He and Grandma met when his cousin married her cousin. This October would have marked their 60th wedding anniversary. Anxious to provide for his family, Grandpa pursued his sheet metal apprenticeship—four years of classes two nights a week, working fulltime and studying while he and Grandma raised three small children. My mom, Kathy, Aunt Jody and Uncle John remember being warned away from his drafting tools and the dangerous snips, soldering irons, fire pot and muriatic acid that were tools of his trade.

Work was more than a four-letter word to Grandpa. He once reflected that he never really learned to play, because, on the farm, there was no play until the work was done, and, on the farm, the work was never done. At work in the fields, in the barn, or on the construction site, he could carry heavier loads and work longer hours than men half his age. His refrain: "If you're paid for 40 hours, by God, you work for 40 hours."

Though we grandkids knew him more in retirement than during employment, we know Grandpa Norb honored his obligation to work, in sweltering hot or penetrating cold, in sickness and in health. So there was little room to complain about a boss we didn't like, a course that was difficult. Working full-time and going to school? He'd been there and done all that. So you could, too.

Grandpa was proud of his 50 year membership in the Sheet Metal Workers union. He never missed Sunday Mass or Monday night union meetings. As an officer for many years, he pressed for paid time off, medical insurance and retirement provisions: Benefits which most of us take for granted today.

Many weeks, his working hours hit 80 or even 96; he traveled out of town when that's where the work was. He taught younger men to use their heads to save their muscles. Contractors sought for Grandpa for foreman, knowing they could count on his honesty and hard work. The back of the program lists just some of the buildings completed with Grandpa's work.

Together, Grandma and Grandpa weathered scarce work, tight finances, the death of two children and the passing of their own parents and siblings. As Father John told us, Faith in God and the love of family and friends sustained them.

Grandma and Grandpa's house remained equally and constantly open to both expected and unexpected guests, who were always welcomed with hot food and cold beer. Grandpa dispensed hospitality both from behind the grill and behind the bar he'd built in the basement rec room of the Rumsey house.

And while he may have never learned to play, somewhere along the line, he learned to play cards. Our first euchre lessons were received on his lap while holding his cards. When he taught us to play, he didn't "dumb down". He believed we should meet the world as it is, and accept outcomes with grace, win or lose. His advice was freely given, usually with a story to illustrate it. He believed in learning, he learned from his experience, and his kids, we grandchildren, nieces and nephews and friends of all generations sought and received his wisdom.

Grandpa Norb gently teased everyone. He loved a good joke. He wiggled his ears, which got him in trouble both at school and at the dinner table. His continued dinner table antics included explanation of work projects involving salt shakers, silverware and other available implements for illustration. All of mom's generation can read blueprints.

He kept his family connected with the natural world. My mother, aunts and uncles are among the few "city kids" who can correctly classify livestock, field crops and road kill from the back seat at 60 miles per hour. Grandpa took his kids to the woods to find morel mushrooms and hickory nuts. They understood where milk, eggs, hamburger and Thanksgiving turkeys really came from, because they saw cows on the hoof and poultry with its plumage.

Grandpa raised his children with an egalitarian philosophy well ahead of his time. Both boys and girls learned to cook and carry out garbage, to change, feed and bathe babies, to drive a car, check the oil and change a flat. He equipped his kids for the real world.

Grandpa Norb loved his "back 40"—the garden at 1803 Rumsey. He cultivated roses of every color but raised only red tomatoes. Grandpa's happiest moments came digging in the soil and fishing on the water. He passed many a quiet moment in the company of his sons, sons-in-law and grandchildren with a rod in his hand and a worm on his hook. And a beer in his hand.

He loved holding babies. He lived to see the photos of his first great-grandchild, Nadia born ten days ago. The pink rose on Grandpa's jacket represents her, and the continuation of his line.

And everything you've just heard proves one truth: Norbert Henry Herber is not finished. He's not done guiding our lives or shaping this world. We are all here today because in some way, large or small, Grandpa Norb touched our lives and, in doing so, shaped who we are. And as we have not completed our journeys, and as Grandpa is a part of us all, while he is in some ways gone, he is in many ways still very much with us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Endurance mourning

This is my first death in the family. So I'm observing the cultural practices from the inside for the first time.

The first thing I've learned is that being sad requires food. My grandparents lived, raised their kids, and now have died in this city. And Grandpa and my family were widely known and loved. So everyone who's ever received a kindness wants to take care of us now, which is kind and welcome. And a lot of them bring food.

Food is good. I like food. And having food means you don't have to think about cooking, so you can concentrate on other things.

And not only is it clear that being sad requires food, it's clear that mourning burns a lot of carbs. Cuz that's about all anyone's bringing over. Cakes. Cookies. Brownies. Rolls. Muffins. It's like things have come full circle and now we're all on the faddish all carb diet. We're expected to carbo-load for the funeral. Gotta build up those glycogen stores for crying.

I admit I may have become spoiled by my California lifestyle. I expect food that doesn't trace its lineage to a factory some place. It's always hard on me to come here. I have to work hard to exercise, and the diet is far from what I'd normally eat. But I do love my family, and I'm glad to be with them right now. I know my presence is comforting for my mom and Grandma. I'm kind of the "big strong" grandson. So I can dispense the big, strong hugs which seem to be needed.

I haven't seen grandpa in the casket yet. That's going to kill me. It's not real to me, in some ways. I've shed some tears. I know I'm not done. Sometimes, it feels like we're all together and Grandpa's just taking a nap some place and will be in any minute. We've all made reference, out of habit, to "grandma and grandpa".

I spent a chunk of time today editing my mom's first draft of a eulogy into what's going to be delivered. One of my brothers is going to read it. Some of my work got changed a bit, but I'm pleased with it. The draft I got from mom didn't have a conclusion, and needed some re-ordering of ideas. I re-sequenced, tightened language, parallelized some structures, and wrote and ending. I'll probably post it here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sad News

I just got news that my maternal grandfather passed away.

I'll be traveling to Ft. Wayne, IN for the funeral.

Untill today, I had all four of my grandparents alive.

His first great grand child was born last Friday. I'm happy he got to see that day.

I'm going to stop writing now, because if I keep going, I'm going to cry and I'm not ready to do that right now.


Hit the boat house tonight after work to do 10 x (500m on, 2' off). I went at it with every piece of screwed up emotion I had in me. For my last 4 500's, I visualized the 4 500m parts of the San Diego race. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself respond to my own internal audio track of being asked for 5's and 10's through the pieces. Having already sprinted 3000m, it seems I had it in me to dig in and go faster for the last 2000.

My average was 1:39.2. This is a very good sign, implying I could hold that for 2000m, which would put me near my personal best. I may need to go do a 2K some time soon.

And now, I feel a lot better than I did before. I love my brian chemistry. I need my endorphin fix. I needed to go hurt myself in a healthy way. Now I'm happy.

If I ever get all moody and despondent, the best thing you can say is "When was the last time you worked out?" If the answer is more than 24 hours ago, make me jog beside the car or something.

The real problem with industrial agriculture

Is consumer prefrence.

Bugs aren't bad for us. They're not poisonous, and, in most cases, don't eat a lot of food. Crops aren't destroyed by bugs. They're tarnished. They get little divots, blemishes and holes. But they're not rendered inedible. At least, not in the medical sense.

They do become, however, harder to sell. Consumers like pretty food. People don't like to eat after, or find bugs. And we'll pay more for prettier food. So the prety stuff goes to the produce aisle and gets a premium. The ugly stuff turns into juice. Or sauce. Or canned.

So farmers spray their crops to kill the bugs. Their now pretty, bug-less product will fetch a higher price.

So the next time you pick out only the pretty apples, remind yourself that you're casting another vote for pesticides.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I hold back

I no longer write everything here I would otherwise write. I've made the mistake of letting people in my life know about the blog. I think I do this because I want them to know me better or see other sides of me or think me clever. But I have people from every part of my life who know about it, and read it. And while it creates a kind of intimacy, it also keeps me from being straightforward about some issues that I struggle with.

I waver between letting myself just be and do "what I need to do" right now in my life, and trying hard to embrace the idea that maybe I don't know what's best for me. It's the insidious circular logic of most religion: We are but poor, imperfect souls. Who are we to question the divine wisdom laid before us in official doctrine?

Yeah, well the "official doctrine" says that it's right and unquestionable, ergo, it's right and unquestionable. No external way to validate it. Therefore faith, or no faith. I've never been long on faith.

There are these fleeting moments, after I've satisfied my desire to do something to hide from my feelings that I experience them directly. Right now, I miss my wife. Most specifically, I miss the happy times with her. I miss seeing her happy. When my thoughts go to the absence of her in my life, the image in my mind is of her, swaddled in every fleece blanket on the couch, turning away from watching some vacuous "movie stars in pretty clothes" gossipy fluff on TV, to look at me, and smiling like a four year old who hopes to get out of trouble by being adorable. I miss that smile. I really did live for her happiness. But I needed some of my own, too.

Maybe I was just not understanding. Maybe I was selfish and couldn't handle sharing her attention with school and work. Maybe I didn't communicate how neglected and rejected and sad I felt. Maybe I needed to know how to be happy on my own. I know I could have done better.

I continue to learn in my life that things that feel permanent and lasting are not. Everything goes away, in the end. Living life with eyes wide open is frightening.

I remember very clearly the moment when my awareness of mortality extended beyond the generationally obvious and the egoisticly horrifying to contemplating the fates of my brothers. While I am the oldest, I may outlive some of my siblings. And while it doesn't make me withdraw from them in any way, I was horrified to consider I may have to live through that some day. Things end, and therefore, attachment to anything which is impermanent brings pain.

Maybe my monastic life comes most from my fear of attachment to people and things. I don't want to feel loss, so I avoid feeling gain.

It's another rainy-ass Sunday, and I'm blue. I sit at my kitchen table, filling out divorce paper work. I didn't want this for my life.

M sent me a book from Amazon. Dali Lama "Art of Happiness". She's a very sweet girl. Wishing me happiness as I start my life anew, in the little note. I wish I had a Kenneth for her who was ready to be her committed boyfriend. But there's only one, and he's keenly aware of the impermanence and illusion of love. I think she loves me as she sees me and wishes me to be, not as I am. And I find her pushy, and her teasing confuses me and hurts my feelings. I don't want to be her boyfriend. I do like her, still, for who she is.

For those who know me, I was "bad" this weekend. This is how I feel the day after.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Good date

I liked this girl. She walked in the door and I don't think I've had more fun just figuring out what to order than I did with her.

She was fun and funny and brunette. Clever girl, decisive, and with a kind streak. I'd see her again for sure.

Nurse. She works odd hours. But that's cool. At times I felt she was zoning out, but I think it's cuz she was facing the rest of the restaurant, and it was distracting. Neither of us had told the other or asked what the other did for work, and we kind of made a game of trying to figure it out. I actually liked that, that what I did really wasn't important to her. Very cool.

We have personal chemistry, and I think she's atractive. I still don't get this first date kissing thing. Whatever. Didn't happen, and that's fine. I didn't want it. I would have liked it if she took my arm while walking back to cars. Just hard to go from sittng across from each other and no contact at all to a full on kiss. Seems like some intermediate steps should be required. And I remain a bit shy about making the first move.

I'll see her again.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Brat

Was up shrieking at 1 am last night. Major tantrum. Kicking, stomping, screaming. I was not pleased.

In other news, I may have a date tonight. I re-worked my profile to be explicitly non-marriage oriented. The level of interest from others went way down. I figured out that most of the 30-something women on match are on husband quest. So it may not be the right place for me. Perhaps I need to try something more shallow. My own interest in making something happen also went way down. I was sick, I was focused on rowing, I was a little hopeless about the lack of intersection between what I had room for in my life and what women seemed to want from me. So I took a break. I'm really not feeling like investing major effort in wooing anyone. If a girl wants to be chased, she can wait for the next guy. I am so done making anyone the center of my world. But I felt like giving this one a shot. So we'll see.

Just meeting for drinks.

My job is kind of killing me. My dissatisfaction is running over into other areas in my life. Making me bitter. I don't want to be that guy who always gripes about his job. But until I get the divorce stuff done and behind me, I'm going to have a hard time moving forwards, professionally.

They're thinking of putting me on some project in TX. That will suck. If I have to start living on airplanes for four weeks... I will *SO* speed up my job search. Right before the race in San Diego, no doubt. Just what I need.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


A few days ago, this message was sent around at work. I was on the list that got it:

All – please find below useful information on starting Oracle in case your server has gone down. This is very good information for all of services to have so that we’re not flooding Bill with requests during situations like a power outage.

It contained this useful nugget:

$ ps -ef grep ora
oracle 1100 1099 0 08:11:45 pts/1 0:00 ps -ef
oracle 1099 1092 0 08:11:45 pts/1 0:00 grep ora
oracle 1092 1090 0 08:11:24 pts/1 0:00 -sh
$ sqlplus /nolog

To which I replied, to a few of my friends who would get it:

Well of course. You just

$ ps -ef grep ora
oracle 1100 1099 0 08:11:45 pts/1 0:00 ps -ef
oracle 1099 1092 0 08:11:45 pts/1 0:00 grep ora
oracle 1092 1090 0 08:11:24 pts/1 0:00 -sh
$ sqlplus /nolog

Duh. Everyone knows that.


To which my friend laughedbecausese he knows there's no way in hell I understood any of that shit, and asked:

"What the hell is 'grep' anyway?"

To which my dorky, accented Indian colleague, in a very serious manner replied:

"Oh, grep is a very powerful command..."

Hear that, kids? 'Grep' is a very powerful command. So don't make me use it. Because you know I will get all Grep on your ass.

It's like some kind of magic word: After many years of study, the apprentice learned the powerful command word 'grep'. Demons and vampires then feared him, for they knew he had mastered 'grep', a very powerful command.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Daddies and erg scores

On the Muni this morning there was a dad who had an approximately 8 month old litte girl in one of those baby carrier things. Baby seat. With a handle. He had attached the handle to some strap which had a carabiner like hook at the end. He hooked the hook onto one of the subway car handles, making the baby carrier into a detachable swing. The little girl was loving it.

This is why dads are good. They think of fun stuff to do of which mom would never approve. Yay for dads.

I had my 2k test this morning with the rest of the guys. 6:42.0. Not sub 6:40, as I had wanted, but close. One more week of sprint work on the erg and I'll make 6:40. It's just so hard to do full on sprint work at 6 am.

I feel a little bad. Matthew, the guy I beat in the seat race, is a great supporter of the team, but is unlikely to have a seat when we race in San Diego. It's kind of a bummer. He deserves a race. We just don't have the seats to go around.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


I love rowing the quad. The "quad" or Quadruple scull, or 4x. Because there's no cox, it's light. Because each oarsman has two oars, it's even faster than a 4-. And because each has two oars, each can adjust the balance of the boat. So it's stable, light, efficient. And your arms separate at the catch, like this:

So it's a different feeling of connection, of the stretch of the sinew in your back. (By the way, I know the chicks in the above photo. They're light weight national team development camp folk from my old club. Ah, lightweight women. They're so fucking hot. And so fucking grouchy because they're hungry all the time from working out and not eating. But damn. Finer asses I have never seen. And rowers are usually suited up in tight fitting shorts of some kind, so it was pretty hard not to notice.... What was I talking about again? Oh! Right, the quad...)

This morning, since our 8+'s were away at a race for the high school kids, we used all the smaller boats. As soon as I heard there was an option on the 4x, I let it be known that, as always. I'd row whichever boat was best for the team to have me in, but I'd prefer the quad.

I stroked the 4x, with Tom, another ex-Boston rowing scene guy (Yale lightweight, Union Boat Club) in bow. Jack, age 73, and a regular quad rower in 2, and Ari, my age, maybe 5'9 and my weight (not even close to the same shape I'm in, but a good guy who knows how to row, and is just working on getting his fitness back) in 3.

We kicked ass.

There were two straight 4's out with us (4 oarsmen, one oar each, no coxswain) and we blew them away. First piece, we rowed maybe 24 strokes per minute while they continued to raise their rates, and we continued to move out. By the end we had maybe a 200m lead. We started even. Over 7 minutes. Crushed them.

But the best part was the 8+ we were out with. It's our top master's 8+. 5 seat has a bronze from the 1960 Olympics. Stroke is ex-Ukrainian national team. 6 is former national collegiate champion 8+ from the 1960's. 4 of the guys in the boat have won the Veteran's event at Henley, and have finished in the top 2 at the Head of the Charles for the last three years. For a boat with an average age of 55, they're international caliber.

And we, a few young dudes, some of whom are fit, and some not, and one super old dude who grabs his mortality by the throat every morning and thrashes it, kicking it in the face and screaming at it. "Fuck you, mortality, I will not get old and die, so fuck off!", largely kept up with that 8+. They were faster than we were. But just by a little.

Our final piece was base rate 30, with 20 stroke flutter moves up at 36 strokes/ minute. Probably 2500m piece. We started behind the 4-'s and ahead of the 8+. About half way through, the 8 took a high 20 and moved up on us. Tom, in bow, being the racer he is and captaining the boat, called for us to take our 20 right when they finished theirs. Brilliant call. They sprint up, feel good. We then drop the hammer. And we did. And we took about 4 seats back. A little act of defiance. We had no business keeping up with that 8+ as well as we did. But we refused to be overtaken with ease.

I rarely get primitive in the boat. Takes more energy to make a sound than not. But when we came off our high 20, settling back to a 30, and I hit the first stroke of the 30 as hard as I could, this battle cry of defiance left my chest. Knees together, arms open wide, ass and quads on fire from pressing. You shall not pass.

God, I love rowing the quad.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Seat racing

At 4 am I awoke to the rushing sound of rain coming down hard. We had made no plans to call off the racing for weather. So I began to rummage through my closet in my mind, looking for my "very foul weather" gear. And drifted back to sleep.

The best gear to have when rowing in the rain is a breathable waterproof outer layer. The next best is a baseball hat: If it's not raining on your face, you can tolerate rain on the rest of you.

I dashed into the boathouse a little late, just in time to hear the lineups. My coach had told me two days ago what the sequence would be. I knew I'd be stroking a boat, and figured I'd have one of the weaker lineups to start.

There were two critical races to be had: Matthew vs. Sean, and me vs. The winner of the first race.

The first piece Sean was in my boat. During the warm up it was hard to get our stroke rate up. We were supposed to take it to 24, I hit 21. We were supposed to race at 32-34 strokes/ minute. I knew I could make us row that pace, but didn't think it'd be efficient.

First piece was into a strong current and into the wind. We managed 31 strokes per minute. 3 minute piece. The other crew, at 32, won by about a length. When the piece was done, we pulled the boats together, and Sean, from my boat, in 2, switched with Matthew, in the other boat at 2 seat.

Our coach gave the "three to build" order, and we were into the next race. The rate came up quickly and easily, and was light and efficient. Coach told me I was at 34. Other crew now only at 31, and rapidly dropping behind us. I knew my race would come soon, and knew Matthew had already decisively beaten Sean. I took the rate down to a 31, lengthened our strokes and tried to be efficient. And we kept moving out. We won the piece by about 3 lengths.

Our coach was so stunned at the margin that he made a roundabout accusation that the other oarsmen were sandbagging, or at least not working at their full potential. This is a grave insult. There's an honor code in seat racing: You race every piece the best you can. You seek every inch of margin difference you can get.

Our coach may have failed to consider the combinatorial element. It's not just the Sean-Matthew difference, but the difference in how the group performs with an individual in the boat. Matthew may have just helped the rest of us be more efficient.

Next switch was Bob, stroking the other 4+ and Matthew from my boat. Bob is one of the most powerful guys on the squad. He's about 6'4", 195, long, lean, kind and fierce. Ideal 6 seat. While we switched the rain turned to small hailstones, and the wind made most of the course too choppy to race on.

With Bob in my boat, we got even faster. Rowing back into the wind and current we held a steady 31 and walked away from the other crew. Even with the turn in the course, we moved out even more. Probably a 4 length margin. With Matthew in the other boat at stroke, they were rowing 36 strokes per minute. And we still walked away from them.

Then the coach switched me and Matthew. So now I'm back with Sean, who's proven himself to be a real anchor today. I was afraid of rowing an inefficient 36.

Our piece started, I took the rate to 32, and left it there. The boat that had just won by 4 lengths with me was also at a 32, and also right next to me. One minute down, and they're still right there. We're down maybe a seat. I think, "sweet, I've got this". And then it happened.

My crew started to freak out, being down a seat. The pace became frantic. One stroke would end, and the crew would zip up the slide and plop the blade in for the next, but without the explosion of power. We were at a 35. And falling behind. 4 seats down. A length down. Length and a half down. Over just a minute.

I was so pissed off. It was insane, out of shape, no poise, no confidence rowing. And honestly, I blamed Sean. Guy's out of shape and not smooth. Just big and strong.

Our cox called the rate down, and we moved back a few seats. Finished a length and a half down or so. So I won. But it wasn't the crushing and decisive victory I had hoped to have by finishing even with the boat that had just won by 4 lengths.

Off the water, the post racing analysis was that Matthew was clearly faster than Sean, and that I was probably faster than Matthew. I suppose I should be happy, but I wanted today's results to be the stuff of rumor and legend. "And then they switched Ken and Matthew, and those 4 lengths disappeared! At a 32!"

So I'll be in the 2 seat of the B age 8+ in San Diego. I'd welcome a re-row vs. Matthew. Coach hinted we may do more racing tomorrow. I want to send a clear signal. I move boats.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Current location


This is where I am right now. My damn desk.

But I had a lovely row this morning in the 4-.

So I don't mind being at the desk.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I went into the woods


so that I may live deliberately.

If God speaks to me, it's not when I have concrete under foot or I'm trapped in a pod of sedentary Americans.

Black and Green are the colors of the forrest.


So, yes I cut my hair off. It's growing on me. Know that dude from "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels?" & "Snatch"? "Desert eagle .50" guy?

I guess that was the look I was going for. I'll try it for a while. Looks like he'll be playing Juggernaut in X3. Kick ass.

I think part of it was my desire to make my life more monastic. I probably was a Buddhist monk in a former life. I like my routine. I like my quiet. I like getting up at 5 and going to bed at 9. I feel good when I live this way.

And I'm unsure how I feel about the dating scene. Not that my hair is some great attraction asset, but changing my look changes how I feel about myself. I think I should take a break from chasing girls.

What I've learned is that there are three types of love: Lust, "in love" and attachment. I'm open to the first and third, but as soon as I start feeling any of that giddiniess (which also tends to make us feel like focusing our attention on just one person), I take steps to shut it down by pulling back or going out with someone else. I'm not ready to fall in love with anyone. So maybe I shouldn't be dating.

Divorce situation has been hectic. I think at this point my wife and I are going to try mediation to reach a settlement agreement, only with a family law attorney instead of with the Marin county offices, because the county can't consider both support and asset/ debt division simultaneously (yet another instance of insane bureaucratic government inefficiency that reinforces my strongly libertarian perspective). I'm hoping that My wife quickly realizes how insane it is to ask me for support.

I continue to feel bad for her. And these last few days I've felt pretty blue about the situation. It may be that I've had to turn my attention to it more, so I've had to feel it more. It could be having a birthday makes me reflect on the difference between where I'm at and where I had imagined myself being. I think she's having a hard time letting go of her dream of landing her dream job upon graduation. With no husband, no house, no job and lots of debt, going to school is looking like a big mistake. Holding out for the dream job is holding out for something that lets her feel that she at least gained something for her troubles. I continue to feel good about myself that I can feel the full range of complexity for her that I do. My heart's not full of hate.

Work. God, I need to figure this out soon. Had lunch with my boss's boss, and that went poorly. There's a ton of pressure on me to figure out what I can do for the company. I keep looking a the situation thinking "You fuckers hired me. If you don't have enough of the work that I do for me, this is not my fault." But I don't want to get fired. At least not until I've found my next gig. Just hard to focus on that with the marriage thing. Not that I come home every night and work on my divorce. But it takes emotional energy that I just don't seem to have.

It's ego, but I think part of my problem with the job is that I'm treated like junior bush league boy, and I actually have more experience and expertise that I get credit for. I'm grossly under utilized. And I get resentful when I don't get props for being ultra talented. It's so true: Making employees feel appreciated and valued is so much more critical to their happiness and retention than anything else.

I had a good blog event: My orchid photo gets a lot of hits (check the google count on the side, photo is on the bottom). So I modified the entry to ask people who use the image just to leave me a note and tell me who they were and what they were going to do with it. I give my photo to the world. I ask only some world-peace creating connection in return. And a few days ago, someone finally did that. Lucy in the UK. Using it for her A level art project. Cool. She put a pin on my map. I am very happy.

Since San Diego races are in just a month, I've taken to upping my training volume. I'm hitting the boat house after work a few nights a week now, too. I did 10 x 500m last night, and it bodes well for breaking 6:40 for 2000 m. Tonight I'll do 1500m at 1:40/500m to get a feel for how easily I'll be able to do the 2k at that split. I'd like to get well into the 6:30's by the end of March. My PR is only 6:36 or so. I know I can be faster, I know the barrier is psychological.