Friday, October 27, 2006

Night art at burning man

Hope flower.

Built onto some kind of crane-like construction vehicle. It made it's way out onto the playa at night. The people in the photo should give a sense of scale.

This giant inflatable jelly-fish like thing was built on top of a van, so it would make its way down streets and out on the playa. The hoop inside was tethered to each individual tentacle, so that when the hoola-hoop dancer girl in the bubble danced, the tentacles wiggled. It was rather beautiful and whimsical.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Impending drama

There's something on K's mind that's clearly a big issue, but she's waiting to talk to me about it.

Her apartment – a truly fabulous place at a fantastic price – was just sold out form under her.

It's been her refuge as she's gone through divorce, the death of her dad and figuring out life.

So now she must move.

And it's making her take stock of her life.

It's clear she's asking the "What have I done with my life?" and "What do I want?" questions.

Because there are many issues the move will touch on for her.

She must consider: Do I rent, or buy?

If I'm renting, am I there for the short term or long term?

If it's the short term, is that because I'll be buying?

Or is it because I'll be moving in with someone?

If I'm buying, what am I buying?

What if what I can best afford is outside the city?

How much place do I need?

Room for a guy?

Room for kids?

If I want a permanent guy and kids, what am I doing with Ken?

And I think that's the issue. I think she's finally come to the conclusion I've seen as our inevitable cracking point: She has faith in relationships and wants children. I'm afraid women are out to steal my economic and temporal freedom, and I'm not keen on being anyone's daddy any time soon. K is great. But I'm having a hard enough time thinking of myself as "off the market" and "committed", albeit in whatever temporary state "dating" implies. I'm not going there.

But if K wants to go there, which she deserves, she can't get there with me. I think she'd like to. I think she thinks I'd be great husband/ daddy material. I know I think she's great mommy/ wife material. I just don't think I’m in the market for one of those.

She's taking her time to sort out her feelings, and then she'll tell me what's on her mind. I'm pretty sure it's a discussion of our long term prospects. Which she knows will scare me. So she's being careful. Probably trying to figure out how to have that chat, be emotionally honest and still have a chance of getting the outcome she'd like. I just don't think there's a way for that to happen. She needs to be finding a father for her kids soon, and I'm not that guy.

I'd totally hook her up with my DNA if she wanted to borrow some. But she doesn't want just the DNA. Her dad mattered so much to her, she wants someone who wants to be a dad. All I can offer is sperm donor.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Things you can do in Boston's North End

that you can't do in San Francisco:

1) Name your donut shop "Trani"

Now my Italian is a little rusty, but based on my general understanding of romance languages, I'd guess "Trani" is pronounced pretty close to "Tranny". You could, of course, hang out a shingle in SF with "Trani" written on it, but no one would enter and expect to find that the answer to "What can my money buy me here?" would be "Donuts and coffee".

2) Name a jelly donut in your Trani donut shop "The Shy Guy"

Saying, out loud, in SF, "I went down to Trani to pick up some Shy Guys" would not lead folks to expect you went on a donut run. Nor would "that Shy Guy looks delicious" lead them to think you were complimenting the chef.

I'm just sayin'.

It occurs to me that the shop may, in fact, be run by Italian-American transgendered folk. In which case I humbly apologize for mocking their courageous exhibition of pride.

"Hey, Vito, dose ah pritty hawt plahtfoim heels ya gawt deah. When you git dem?"

"Angelo, I tewld you nawt to cahll me dat. I'm Princess Elastica. Now pahss me da powdahd shewgah, I'm tryin' to make donits heah."

I didn't go in, but I bet dollars to donuts that's not the scene behind the counter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Belly Button of the Charles

That's about where we finished.

I had been concerned on many fronts: The winning time in the last few years was nearly as fast as the winner in the club event: in the 15:20's, meaning approximately a 16:05 time would be required to make the automatic re-entry. That we had gone 16:56 while we were on a slightly longer course in the prior week was cause for concern, since it wasn't going to take 50 seconds to do the extra 200 meters.

I was also worried that we weren't rowing well.

As my friend Matt pointed out after the race, three things move a boat: Length, Power, and Stroke rate. Hold the same length and power, increase strokes per minute, boat goes fraster. Hold same length and stroke rate, increase power, boat goes faster. Hold same power and stroke rate, increase length… you get the idea. While one may look at a crew and think the question of where to stop the recovery and start the drive is a settled issue, it's not. And inches and centimeters matter in this case.

The next time you're in a hurry and walking fast, try this little experiment: Slow your pace but increase the length of your strides. You'll go faster. This is what length does. Runners and swimmers understand this: Stride and stroke length matter.

My crew, however, had a critical mass of folk who preferred to row short with a high stroke rate when they wanted to go fast. And there were others who still seem to think that if the rate's not high, we're not moving, despite having had the stroke coach (electronic speedometer for a shell) in the boat tell us we were faster at 28 strokes per minute than at 31. Which I believed. But the guys didn't have the guts to try to race it at that pace. "We were pulling really hard" they excused the fast 28. Yeah. And we were going fast. It's sustainable.

We started 22nd.

The warm-up had been so-so, with a strong headwind making the basin rough. Power strokes into the wind got a lot of water in the boat.

The starter was loud and creating a lot of anxiety.

Our cox called for us to firm pressure as we entered the chute. The guys wanted to go to race pace, and the rate came up. Cox called us down. Then the build. The rate came up, but we were a little short and frantic. Not long and efficient.

The crew behind us gave us a little more space than I'd have liked. It indicated an intent to pass.
We shot through the BU bridge, and our cox put us right on the inside of the magazine beach turn. Starboard blades over the buoy line. Risky, yet perfect course. Big turn.

I looked behind us. Bow 24 was moving on bow 23, and both seemed to have closed on us. Bad sign. But turns can be deceptive.

We came out of the turn to the straightaway, and our cox took the perfect line to the center arch of the next bridge. Time to go.

We took a ten, and it seemed to halt the approach of 23, but not 24. 24 had overtaken 23, and was still moving on us. We were definitely going to get passed. Fuck. The question was when.

Not to screw up someone else's piece, but one does want to hold off getting passed as long as possible, and there were bridges coming up. Which could be used to hold them off, or make their passing more difficult.

We approached Weeks bridge with 24 maybe 5 seats open water behind us. And we were catching 19 and 21. It was clear to me that 24's cox was going to try to get close at Weeks and take us before the next bridge.

I made sure our cox knew where they were.

He made the balsy call to take the rate up one and fight them off.

We did.

At the next bridge, we caught the crew in front of us, while 24 put its bow ball between our two stern points. It was the head race equivalent of having one's bumper inches off the tail of the NASCAR opponent in front of you while he's just inches from the car next to him, while going 200 MPH. Anyone mis-steers, and there will be an accident which ruins everyone's race.

On the other side of the bridge, the river opened. 24 pulled to the inside and went away. We overtook Bow 19, and went to work on 21. We needed to have them before the hairpin turn coming up. The inside mattered. We pulled even. We moved up. We slipped in front just as the turn began.

Once more, our cox put the blades over the buoys, this time the port blades, getting our hull as close to the legal boundary with out going over. Then he made the gutsy move to swing slightly wide to get a better angle of attack on the last part of the curve, enterring the lst bridge. 21 moved up a little on the inside of the turn, still holding the buoys. Then we got the inside again as our cox's gambit gave us the better line and we moved out, opening distance between us.

Before the race I had talked with our cox that when it came time to sprint, I wanted him to tell our guys we were sprinting for our teammate Tim, who last year was in our 50 year old 4+ entry, which took second. Tim has been battling a peculiar cancer in a nerve on his face that's forced him to endure so much: facial paralysis, horrific scarring, fear, uncertainty, radiation, exhaustion. Yet he's back with us now, rowing again. Not in my boat, but among us. The sprint was for Tim.

And on call, the guys went for it. My goal was to open distance on 21, who was now only 5 seats of open water behind us. But before we could do that, we'd need to row through 17, whom we'd just caught. Once more, our cox took the best line, the inside of the curve, putting starboard oars over buoys.

We had a quick oar clash with 17, which confused our rhythm, and one of our guys had a slight crab. Cox called for a ten to get the rhythm re-synched, and we mounted a second sprint. I was ready for the finish line, but knew it was probably 10 strokes beyond where I wanted it. Cox called last 15 and I had maybe only 10 more good ones before I was useless.

The margin on 21 was opening.

We crossed the line. In the paddle, I noticed bow 27 had materialized next to us. I had no idea where they came from.

I knew it wasn't great. Getting passed outright, and nearly passed by another crew 5 places behind you isn’t good.

Yes, it's really tough competition. Yes, I had said I'd have been happy just to be there. But it just wasn't good.

We took 17th of 32. Slower time than last week. Yes, there was a raging head wind, and the winning time this year was 40 seconds slower than the time last year. But I think we were slower than last week, and didn't row to our potential.

I'm disappointed. I have to admit that I never thought of my knee once during the race. I just raced. So that's a good thing.

But I want to win. Making the time standard for re-entry matters to me.

The whole thing renewed my commitment to training for next year. I'm going to get my lactate threshold tested, and I'm going to use that approach to my workouts. I don't think I'm doing enough aerobic work, and I'm working at too high an intensity. I also think we'll have a better crew next year. A few of our best guys couldn't make this trip, and it was far from our strongest possible line up.

I'm also disappointed because I saw the video of us that K took. It's right before the last bridge, and my technique looks like crap. I'm hunched and lunging a bit at the catch. The rest of the boat is sitting up straight. I'm collapsed. I was trying to get the length I know we needed.

This weekend will be a race in Sacramento, with a new line-up of mostly our younger, stronger guys. Which will be fun to row, but requires that we beat the crap out of the competition, since we'll have an overwhelming age handicap margin to make up. We'll likely have to make up more than a minute on most crews just to tie.

It'll be fun.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I never drink caffeine.

But I needed a lift for a networking lunch.

So I ordered a Coke.

There were free refills, and a proactive waitstaff.

The Coke kept coming.

I kept drinking.

I can't sit still.

But I can now think faster than anyone.

Perhaps not very accurately.

But faster.

The faster half of the couple

Is not me.

On Sunday I raced Head of the Port with my Head of the Charles crew. It was a decent piece. We went off first, since our club won the race last year. The crew behind us went off several seconds after us, more than the 10 second gaps which are customary. It made it hard on us, at least from my perspective, since we were then left to "row in a vacuum" with no crews in front to chase and nothing close behind to run away from.

None the less, I tried to keep my eye on them and to make sure we were pushing them back behind us. Make them small. Make them a dot on the horizon.

We were strong, albeit a little short, which is our one nagging problem. There seems to be a critical mass of guys in the boat who want to jack the stroke rate and row short when they want to move a boat. They don't think to row longer and harder. Longer, harder strokes hurt more. But the boat goes.

We had the fastest raw time of the day, but it turns out a crew well outside our view edged us out by 2 seconds after the whopping 40 second age handicap was applied.

We're designed to be over 40 years old on average, and as fast as possible after satisfying that requirement. We're not designed to be the fastest age-adjusted crew on the water. But is sucks to lose a head race to any of the other local clubs. We'll have to fix that.

On Sunday, K did the Alcatraz swim. She swam from Alcatraz to SF. Which is pretty insane to merely undertake and complete. She was an elite swimmer in her youth before a skiing accident took out one of her knees. K's tall and has the back and shoulders of a swimmer. Girl has muscles. Which not every guy on the planet can deal with, but I think it's hot.

Her plan was just to cruise and finish.

Except, deep down, I know she's a racer. I told her this.

And having been conditioned to chase small boats in the water, after swimming behind me in my single in the creek, she chose to chase the lead kayaker. And she did the whole thing in under 36 minutes. Which had her winning her age group and placing in the top 5 women. Out of about 80. Only 19 men were faster than she was. After training a little for a few weeks.

So my girl is a serious athlete.

I like this.

Work, sadly, made me fly to NYC on Sunday, so instead of hanging with K after her race and feeding/ snuggling her on the couch, I had to get on an airplane. Fun!

My Monday meeting in New York ended a little after 5 PM, which meant the earliest flight I could take back to CA departed at 8:40 Eastern. Getting me back to CA around midnight. Except it was delayed for more than an hour on the ground, so I didn't touch down in Oakland till a little after 1 am.

As has become our tradition, I just crashed with K in SF that night. Girl had hot chocolate chip cookies waiting for me when I walked in around 2 am.

Girlfriend of the year award.

With only two practices to go before traveling to Boston, I had to make the Tuesday session. Which meant getting up at 5. Less than 3 hours sleep: Fun!

And while I'd have preferred to go home and sleep, the fun people on my new project scheduled a meeting at 9 am in SF. So I got to that, then stopped at the office to handle a few things, then went home around 1:30 in the afternoon and slept.

And this is why I've not blogged in so many days.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Goddam hilarious

Male personal grooming product. And they go there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Believe the numbers?

The most thorough discussion of the Iraqi civilian death estimate report I've seen yet.

Not sure how they did the random sample or what their participation rate was. Randomly selecting who one asks to participate is important, but not as important as making sure that those who do participate are actually also random. In situations like this, sometimes participants have an agenda. I can believe that folks who lost someone would be more willing to participate and tell their stories than those who haven't lost anyone, who might not feel they've got reason to talk to the interviewers. This is "non-response bias".

It's the same phenomenon that makes people participate in follow-up surveys: Neutral folks don't bother, those with an axe to grind or those who want to sing someone's praises participate. One sees bimodal distributions, validating the "two different types of respondents" hypothesis. But neuteral folks don't participate. Non-response bias.

That said, the death estimate is too huge to be ignored. Even if their respondents were somewhat biased, it's still a staggering number and it's much bigger than the propaganda the US and Iraqi puppet governments have been spouting. The article makes a good point about pre- and post-invasion death rates from violence as evidence that things were not, in fact, this bad before we got there, repressive regime and all.

And it raises the question of nationalism as the last "acceptable" in-group out-group value distinction: We value American lives more than Iraqi lives. If we'd lost hundreds of thousands of Americans, we'd not have as much division, I think, over whether this war was a good idea or how it's going.

If W really does believe in God and heaven and all that, I can't see how he can sleep at night, with all that blood on his hands. Unless he thinks God really wanted all those people to die. That's not the kind of God I'd worship and follow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm swamped

Blogging is taking a back seat while I deal with other issues. Much work stuff to do, plus taxes. Had to file an extension this year while tax status was in play in the divorce settlement agreement. I've had months to do this, have just been putting it off. Now I must do it by the weekend. Fun!

Also training as much as possible for the Head of the Charles. So there's no free time.

Next week, I'll be able to relax after about Tuesday.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Talking to God on the Playa

One of the art installations on the playa at Burning Man, just a stone's throw from our camp was this phone booth pictured above. The line was connected to two, low phone poles with kites strung on the lines between them.

Participants wee invited to Talk to God. Brought to you by Blackrock Bell.

I expected maybe a clever recording loop. Giving you random "conversational" responses.

K and I stopped to check it out.

I can't recall what I said first, but God, a male tenor replied with "Nice shorts" and asked me where my girl was going as K wandered off.

So I knew whoever was speaking could see me.

It would have been nice to approach it as an opportunity to participate in the experience as if it were real, and see what happens. Catharsis? Transformation? Release? But my curious skeptic streak had me trying to puzzle out how it was being pulled off.

I figured it out, but I won't tell.

Special bonus: More sunset on the playa.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Weekend observations

I accepted K's invitation to spend last weekend with her and her closest friends at a house in south Lake Tahoe that belongs to the family of one of the friends. It was K's best girlfriend's birthday.

One of K's friends has a ~2 year old daughter I'll call Minuet. She's adorable, bright, curious, playful. And absolutely terrified of me. She adores K. Loves to play with K. Wanted to come see K all the time. And then would draw back and reconsider when she saw that, to be with K, she'd have to be near me. If she chose to go through with it, she'd walk a wide, wide circle around me. Anytime I was in the room, she kept her eyes on me at all times. If I came near, she wanted mommy or daddy.

Usually little kids love me. They realize I'm very good for "pick me up and toss me around" style rides, and Minuet was a big fan of those. But in this case, I never got the chance.

I checked myself.

Is there something about me she's picking up on that creeps her out? Am I broadcasting negative energy?

I tried to get down on her level, to make myself not seem so large.

Nope. Still terrified.

Seems she's just shy with strangers.

K and I got the short straw for sleep space which meant the Murphy bed on the landing upstairs. We were essentially sleeping in the hall. Not exactly private space.

Not that it stopped us. We just had to wait till everyone was asleep.

In the morning folks woke up and came by. K's best girlfriend came to plop on the bed and ask K if she wanted to go swim in the lake. At the time K was nude and lying on top of the sheets. It was pretty clear I wasn't wearing anything either.

And this fazed no one.

Which is cool.

I grew up in such a sex negative environment. Nudity wasn't so bad, but sex sure was. It's refreshing to be ienvironmentsts where it's no big deal.

K's friends are cool. I like them.

On the drive back down I found myself feeling some emergency caffeination would help me feel focused on the drive. And it seems I may have picked up a slight caffeine addiction, having added chocolate to my daily routine at work. Now I get these mild headaches in the afternoons.

Although they also could be caused by being perennially low-cal, since I'm training so much these days. I could have permanent hunger headaches.

K and I had arrived separately (I needed to be at practice in Marin on Saturday morning) and had conferred upon our gas situation before leaving Tahoe and agreed to stop in Sacramento.

By the time we got there, the caffeine had done its job and shut down my ADH and filled up my bladder.

We pulled into the gas station, and I pulled up to a pump.

I got out, and in that moment it became clear to me that I would not be able to wait to fill my tank before emptying my bladder. So I parked and entered the Kwiki mart.

And found the men's room occupied.

Deep breath, I can wait.

Other dudes materialized.

"Are you waiting?"


The door opened.

And out burst a fat chick who giggled "The other one was full!" Smile smile, giggle giggle. Run, run. Aren't I cute? I used the boy's room!

"And this one says 'men'" I snapped.

Now I admit, if there are two genders with two different bathroom throughput times, making both bathrooms unisex would certainly help the gender with the higher average throughput time receive a better level of service.

But I was pissed that some chick kept me from peeing when I had to.

I was also struck by how it's another instance of female social privilege. As a woman, she can use the men's room and pass it off as if she's starring in her own personal Mentos commercial. "Look, I'm sassy and cute and iconoclastic and stuff."

But if I walk into the ladies' room, I'm a deviant perv sexual predator who should be beaten and shamed. Girl's room full: She has options. Men's room full: I wait.

And then I wonder, if she was cute, would I have let it slide?


I had to pee bad.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Crossing the line

As if I wasn't already on my way out the door, work will now require me to travel on Sunday for a Monday meeting in New York. Cutting not only into weekend time, but weekend time on a special weekend. Last straw.

I'm having a hard time not letting my dissatisfaction contaminate the rest of my life. I don't want to turn into one of those pessimistic complainers, but I'm having a tough time feeling anything but the misery of the work I hate. I need to remain in touch with it enough to make progress and take action towards a move (which I'm doing). But I need enough distance and indifference so as not to be down.

As K pointed out, when you get the "Sunday Night Dreads" it's time to move on.

It's time to move on.