Thursday, December 28, 2006

There are a lot of songs that start with "S"

at least there are on my iPod. Enough to last me from Well inside Oregon to almost home in California.

Passed Mt. Shasta on a nearly perfectly clear day. It's quite the impressive feature. With fresh snow, and wisps of white powder blowing off the summit in long sideways plumes.

I still want to go up there, but having seen it, I have more respect for it.

When my knees are ready for the descent, I'll resume my habit of scrambling up tall things. Maybe by the end of next summer.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

For all your Bi needs

Originally uploaded by ken_is_a_verb.
As seen near Portland

People's Republic of Oregon

I had been warned, prior to my arrival, that there were some socialized industries in Oregon. Specifically, the petroleum dispensation industry.

Well, not so much "socialized" as "contorted through regulation to defy logic and market mediated efficinency". Specifically: It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon.

That's right. A trained petroleum dispensation technician is required. Despite your years of experience swiping your own card and penetrating your own gas hole, in Oregon, you lack the skill, dexterity, and decades of specialized college learnin' to pump your own gas. So sayeth the law.

So your experince may be one of pulling up, handing your credit card to a greasy handed high school drop out, who slides your card in the pay at the pump, fills your tank, and hands you your card and receipt. And you're on your way. Plus $0.10/ gallon because the law requires him to have a job

Or it might be one of pulling into a station and waiting for the "Hey, I make $7.50 an hour no matter how little gas I pump or how many customers leave angry" service specialist to decide he gives a shit and actually pump your gas. This waiting for the trained monkey to do for you what you could easily do for yourself process can take anywhere from 5 to 5 hours. Your best bet is to leave the station and find another one in which you can pull up in front of the attendants who really can't pretend they don't see you.

I'm not gonna fill up till California.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The "Holidays"

I drove from my usual base of operations in CA to Portland yesterday to spend Christmas with the middle of my three younger brothers. I've never been here before, and it was my first time doing the drive.

Google told me the drive should take 10 hours. I did it in 9. Partially due to the pace I kept. Mostly due to my making one and only one stop.

I grew up doing long drives. I know that time spent sitting in a McDonald's along the interstate is time added to your total travel time. So if you want the driving to stop, get moving.

And one of the keys to keeping mobile is managing one's hydration. Since I haven't mastered the art of peeing while driving, "gotta go" means gotta stop. So I moderate my fluid intake until I have about 1/4 of a tank of gas left, and then I pound the water. It works.

But I'm not such a hardened veteran that I'm beyond learning new things. On this trip I discovered that it's very difficult to feed one's self a meatball sub while driving 80 MPH without making a mess. Not good road food. I spread the paper in which it came across my entire lap. That worked. But I discovered, upon finishing, that I had no napkins. And sauce all over my hands. I also discovered that 90% of the melted cheese had stuck to the paper, and not my sandwich. Seems cheese sticks to paper betther than it sticks to marinara sauce. I can't be the first person to have discovered this.

I saw a double rainbow. I tried to take a picture of it, but I was driving and it was my camera phone.

Mt. Shasta looks cool. I want to play on it. But not in December.

On Friday before I left I did 90 minutes on the erg, plus and extra 750 to make sure I passed th 200,000m mark for the holiday challenge. It was one of my training goals, and I met it. I don't know whether or when I'll get some exercise here.

It feels odd to be apart from K at Christmas. But we'll be togehter in SF for New Year's.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dark secret?

She's still trashy, but I thought the world had agreed that being bi isn't scandalous if you're a hot chick. It just makes you hotter. Someone should tell Star. And K-fed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What would a Republican from Virginia say?

Think of the most stereotypical comments you can imagine a Virginia Republican congressman uttering on the topic of "Muslims, the Quran, and Immigration".

But no real person would actually say those things. Only a total caricature.

Then read what he actually said.

An excerpt:

I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
You know, traditional. Like, Christian. Which is his job as a government official: To keep America Christian. Like it says in the Pledge of Allegiance: "...One nation, under Jesus..."

If this dude gets re-elected, then we can continue to think what we'd like to about the general tolerance and diversity perspective of the folks in Virginia, or at least in his district.

Microbial timing

I think I'm getting a cold.

Felt scratchy throat/ back of sinuses this morning, figured it was just dry air. But after my row, I felt the general muscle achiness of viral crap. I really don't need a cold now. I have to travel for Christmas, and I have to do another 22,000 meters before Friday to make the holiday challenge.

I can get in the meters. Just don't want to get sick now.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mission accomplished

I set a new PR for 20 minutes tonight: 5627m for a 1:46.6/ 500m pace.

I did lactate threshold testing last weekend, and have been training with a new strategy of working within certain target heart ranges for the prior month. Trying to build my aerobic efficiency, so that it takes longer before I go anaerobic, and that when I do, I'm at a higher power output level. I've added longer, lower intensity work to my mix. And it seems to be working.

I think there are still gains to be made. 2007 will be a good year, as long as I don't injure myself.

Monday, December 18, 2006

This is not my beautiful wife

had dinner last night with K & several of her friends last night. It was us and two other couples, at the home of the couple with the kidlet, Minuet, who, if you might recall, is terrified of me.

The little one was markedly less frightened than last time, being on her home turf surrounded by toys and puppies and familiar folk. But she still cut me a wide swath. Though by the end of the night, I was deemed goodbye kiss worthy, which was very sweet.

It was another of the many opportunities in my life to get a glimpse into life of folks on the family track. Home ownership. Mortgages. Bed times. Diapers. Tantrums. Tickle fights. Hilarious Christmas lists (Minuet's: #2: cookie, #5 giraffe, #6 elephant. When they're out of cookies, switch to giraffes...).

It's not wholly without appeal. Little girls have a special adoration for their fathers. And it's fun to play with little kids. Plus, it's not like I stay up late partying on weekends. I can barely keep my eyes open past 9:30. And two incomes can sure buy a comfortable life.

Once upon a time I had the romantic notion of being so in love with my wife carrying our baby, being the supporting new age dad, going with her for every check-in and -up.

But now that just scares the crap out of me. Kids are not cats. Can't leave them with food and water for a few days and let them roam the house freely.

And part of me wishes I still believed. I feel a bit broken. I see marriage and fatherhood and home ownership as those things that plug you into the Matrix, saddle you with inescapable obligation, and put you on the middle management treadmill of hell for the next 25 years, after which time you'll own your home, have educated your children, but lost all sex appeal, erectile function, hope for self actualization or eternal salvation. Having children is selfless (when the pregnancy is planned). Because your life is not the same after you have kids.

I used to think it would be great. Christmases with my brothers as uncles, my mom as grandma. But that's just the snapshot moment of harmony, a moment achievable only after months lugging of diaper bags everywhere, breast pumps, college funds, midnight feedings and wives who's relationship identity and orientation has converted from that of 'lover' to that of 'mother'. And moms don't wanna screw on the kitchen table. They have headaches. Now go get more huggies, cuz we're out.

And I know it's not this bad. I hear things work out okay. I know of families with kids where the dad's life is not that of the guy in Synchronicity II. But I see enough others in which it is.

I wish I still believed in love and marriage and kids and happiness. But after the divorce (and after faxing more tax documents to my accountant, which makes me want a t-shirt that says "I got married and all I got was a bucket of tax paperwork and a lot of legal bills.") I'm just not so sure that "domestic bliss" isn't a giant lie we all keep telling each other to justify the mistakes we've made. "Oh, no, I'm really happy." It's why the married people push the single ones to get hitched, and the breeders encourage spawning. Misery loves company.

I wish I still believed in it. But I can't see myself as much more than a miserly eccentric bachelor till age 40. And then I'll get some therapy from the Ministry of Love and feel better about marriage and relationships. Till then, I'll retain as much freedom as I can.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Concept food

At work lunch today, I chose to give up the certain satisfaction of a club sandwich and order the not-available-at-any-store garnet yam and lemon gnocchi in basil pesto sauce.

I had burned 1063 Calories this morning in my hour, and I figured I could use some carbohydrates. Plus, I like to try intereting flavor and ingredient combinations.

The bread on the table was excellent. Almost a light purple color from the Kalamata olives in it, dense and sweet. An egg gave the crust a glossy sheen. And the butter was soft and abundant. But I held back. For I had garnet yam and lemon gnocchi on the way. I wanted to save room so I could stuff myself with sweet, squishy orange pasta. In basil pesto sauce.

My gnocchi arrived.

I looked in my bowl.

There were 6 of them. Table spoon sized.

"Not what you expected?"

"Oh, no, these are what I expected. I just didn't expect to be able to count them all so fast."

It's all in my head

I set a new lifetime PR for the hour this morning: 15,802m. For the online rankings, it has me in the top ~150 or so on the planet. Not too bad.

But as I look at the times for other distances that folks who come in near me for 60 min or 10K manage, I realize I could go faster in many of my events.

A guy whose 10K is faster than mine by a few seconds is trying to break 6:50 for 2K. I know I can go 6:40 right now. So I should be faster for 10K. A teammate whose 60 min distance is 15899 (about 0.5 seconds faster on the split) goes 1.5 seconds faster on the split for 20 minutes. I should have a faster 20 minute time.

I think a lot of what holds me back is psychology. I remember my best times from college, and in my mind, I think I must have been at my fastest then, because there were 3 hours of practice every day all year. But I'm technically better now, and I'm so much smarter about how I perform. I don't train as much, but I've been in the sport for more than a decade now. I've adapted.

Every fall, I tell myself "this will be the year that I break all my records". And I get close to them, but never bust through. I think it's the mental part that holds me back. "I couldn't possibly hold that pace, because that would be very, very fast. " But I can. I don't like to fail. I don't want to push just a little too hard, blow up, and have a bad piece. I like to stay within what I know I can do. I stay within my mental limits.

I think I need to do some work in which I go faster than I think I can, just to see what happens.

My immediate goal is to break my 20 min record some time next week. I need to go sub 1:46.7/ 500m pace. I can do that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My knee

seems to be turning the corner towards a "more full" recovery.

I notice that I'm walking more evenly. No longer anticipating pain with each stride as my heel hits the sidewalk. It feels more stable, and the muscle imbalance, while still present, is subtle. I'm about to have that "Hey, I used to be uncomfortable while doing this, now I'm not" moment.

I've discovered that standing next to the stationary bike, turning the crank with only my injured leg with a moderately high tension setting lets me isolate the muscle I need to rebuild, so I've been doing that after my workouts to re-hab it. And it feels like it's helping quite a bit.

My hope is to be able to run again. I'd love to do the Marin trails once more. Maybe do triathlon.

And I think of downhill skiing again. I'll still be very afraid of hurting myself, but I'd like to think I've not given up the sport entirely. I promised K I'd not ski this winter. I at least hope to do cross country.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I am not making this up

The doctor in charge of a circumcision study is named Kevin De Cock.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Toasting death

At a holiday diner party last night, a guest proposed a toast to the death of Augusto Pinochet.

He was as reprehensible as dictators come.

Yet I held my tongue at the toast, wishing to be polite. What I didn't say was, "And let us not forget how our own government overthrew a functioning democracy to put him in power in the first place, out of fear of the -ism of the day. Let's remember how evil our own govermnent can be."

But let us not forget that.

Read more on that point here. The CIA helped in the coup, since Allende wanted to nationalize some key industries.

Undermined credibility?

Not so easy to take your governor seriously when he stars in his own pinball game.
Machine is currenlty residing and fully operational in White River Junction, VT.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Manly man

The check engine light in my car went on a few days ago.

Lest I get stranded on the side of the road when a neglected minor repair becomes an expensive major disaster, I opted to take it into an AAMCO station for their free "We'll plug your car's computer into our thingy and ask it why it's turned the check engine light on" service.

I brought it in, prepared to sit there and work for the 2-3 hours I'd been told it would take to find out what's wrong.

I settled in with the laptop. I'm in my hip jeans and cool shoes, sitting in an office with only Sports Illustrated to read in the waiting area ("How the Bears' Cover-Two Defense Works"), a cross section of a transmission on display, where dudes work in coveralls with their names stiched in script on blue ovals.

20 minutes later, the manager returned to the office.

"You're all set."

"Really? What was wrong with it?"

"Gas cap was loose."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Do I look like a gay college student?

Walking along the Embarcadero to the ferry terminal last night, a grey mini van with several children's car seats in it pulled over from traffic with its passenger window down and its driver leaning over to speak out of it.

I figured he needed directions. I approached the car.

"Want a ride to Berkeley?"

Not what I expected. I shut down the navigation program in my brain, which was queued up and ready to respond. Caught off guard, I managed, "I'm going to Marin"

A woman walking next to me witnessed the exchange.

"That was odd."

"I don't understand why he did that."

"He must have thought you were looking for a ride, or he was attracted to you."

I need to stop wearing a backpack and being pretty, I suppose. Bound to cause an accident.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Having never met Herb

The weekend with my brothers highlighted an issue that surfaces in my life from time to time: I don't smoke pot.

And it's not that I speak from a "tried it, didn't like it" perspective. It's more the knee-jerk, Nancy Reagan-got-in-my-brain-while-I-was-little "just say no" policy decision. Which for me, feels rather closed minded. But also feels right.

Beyond the emotive programming, I have rational reasons for avoiding it. I've got a rather addictive personality. Granted, I seem not to notice substances' effects on me, such that I feel compelled to seek out substance-based effects. I like beer as a beverage, not as an ethanol delivery vehicle. But I have reason to deprive myself of anything I might enjoy too much.

And then there's the artificiality of the experience. On one hand, what is "real experience"? If we're just a bunch of chemicals, what's to say the high I get from endorphins is any more or less real than the high from a joint. I suppose the dividing line is "chemicals made by my body" vs. "chemicals introduced from outside my body". I'd just rather believe that I'm having a good time because I am, not because I've tricked myself into thinking everything is hilarious.

It's not like I'm a fan of legal drugs, either. I need to be in sheer agony before I'll reach for Tylenol. I resisted taking my full dose of vicodin after my surgery. Voluntarily trying a substance is just not my style.

I live in San Francisco. And people already judge me square enough by my looks alone. So displaying any lack of cool with others' chemical recreation would really limit my social options. And I genuinely believe that pot is no more dangerous than tobacco, and their relative legal status should be proportionate to their relative danger. Of course, I'd illegalize tobacco.

Pot's not for me, and I don't know how I feel about others around me doing it.

My youngest brother had a pretty happy stoner lifestyle for the last year or so. And I was stunned to see him about 30 pounds oveweight at my cousin's wedding this summer. He had become an indoor cat. He has since trimmed down a bit, and I think his new life circumstances afford him better living: better food, more exercise. But on our mountain bike ride on Sunday, he had to bail out on the first incline. Maybe it was just due to the prior day and night's wine tasting and drinking and the short night, as he implied. But I don't think he's as fit as he should be, and I don't think the weed is helping.

Of course, K and my brothers get along great. They had met up while I was at work on Friday, and had been with one of K's friends. When they pulled up, I caught a whiff on K of what they'd been doing. She giggled at me. Saturday night, the same friend was around, and once again, when K, the younger two, and her friend were left alone, they all smoked up.

And I know that K and my brothers all think I'd be much cooler (and happier) if I'd just give in and get high. Many friends have suggested it, too, independently: I'm too uptight. Maybe. I sensed several moments in which I thought K and my youngest brothers were going to try to get me to do it with them. I sensed little inside secrets.

But I like my edge. I like the rigidity that lets me get up in the cold and dark and train hard. I don't want to become apathetic and squishy. I may have less fun, but I like who I am.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pots and kettles

Quick quiz:

Which country is speaking, and which is being described in the following statement by a senior official in the speaking state's government:

"[This country] stands for disrupting states, disrupting peace and solving everything through the barrel of a gun"

Is it:

a) Palestine describing Israel
b) Iran describing Israel
c) France describing the USA
d) USA describing Iran
e) Iran describing USA
f) North Korea describing the USA
g) USA describing North Korea

Tough one, yes?

Answer is here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Auditing my life

I don't like cash.

I pay for everything I can with plastic or electronic money. I carry no balances. I earn miles. I think it's easier to manage my finances when a company logs every transaction for me.

I'm assembling tax info for my 2005 taxes, which remain unresolved, first due to divorce uncertainty, then due to general procrastination on my part. But it looks like I'll be owed a refund, so there's less urgency.

I've been auditing all the credit card and debit card statements from 2005, assembling expenditure records.

It's a financial log of that year.

There are the charges for the airfare the time in early '05 that my ex left to go to see her parents in greater Boston, then told me on the phone from the East Coast she wasn't coming back. The first time she brought up issues in our relationship I thought she didn't know or care about.

There's the charge for when she did book the flight back. Which came a few days before our last joint counseling session, which preceded the last time we made love. Which may have been the first time she got pregnant. (Months later she explained a need for cash citing a large medical expense which she only explained with a tearful "something happened" that still haunts me.)

There are the charges for her storage, after she moved out with all the stuff from our married life which she wanted, even though she had no place to put it, while she lived in homeless, jobless limbo.

There's the charge for her airfare when she chose to go to Greece to spend 2 months with her cousins.

There are charges from her living in SF with friends and going on job interviews. There are charges from her buying gas and groceries (and clothes... she shopped to feel better) and dinners out in the various neighborhoods here and in MA. I knew where she was and what she was doing only by the credit card statements.

And then she stopped using the card. And my window into her life (and some of my obligation to pay for it) was closed.