Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Challenging times

I think the lack of writing here of late is directly related to my reluctance to confront some issues in my relationship with K. The reason I was avoiding them is because they haven't changed: K wants a family, I want a girlfriend.

And at this point, the emotional consequences of that tension have invaded our sex life, at least on my side. On one hand, I feel terrible withholding a chance at motherhood from her. On the other hand, I feel terrible rolling the dice, when I know we'd be hoping for different outcomes. So either way, I'm going to feel bad. So I've avoided thinking about it or talking about it.

And that just leads to a ball of repressed, unpleasant emotion, which, for me, tends to get vented in less than healthy ways.

So it's been a tough few days.

K and I chatted about all of this. We at least agree our relationship is great and that we can communicate. But neither of us are happy. We both seek to avoid the logical conclusion of our lack of accord on this issue. Just not sure if we can.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Good for me, bad for us

My 2000m erg test didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. I've not been doing the same volume of work (after practice, sessions in the evening) as I had been in December, and it's starting to show. Still, I had hoped to make a time between 6:40 and 6:44. I came in at 6:45.5, which is about what I did last year at this time. So much for being faster.

The good news for me was that I had one of the faster times on my team. Of those tentatively in my boat for San Diego, I was the third fastest on port, and only out of second by 0.5 seconds. So my seat security is rather high. But this is less because my performance is so much better than that of my teammates and more that no one seems to have had a particularly good piece. Which means folks need to get on the training.

So I'm going to try to put in 100,000 meters between now and the next test. Some longer work, and some sprint work, and I'll be where I need to be. I want to break 6:40.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Feelin' the heat? That'd be Jesus

I read this, expecting the guy's objections to "An Inconvenient Truth" to be somewhat less... scary?

Should have guessed when I found out he was 43 and father of 7.

Anyone remember the rapture folks in the late 80's? They all thought Jesus was coming back on a certain day. And he didn't show.

So how hot does it have to get for Jesus to come back? Should I stop recycling so he can come back sooner? I think I missed that verse in Revelations which mentions the precise temperature for bringing about the end times.

"Heateth thine Earth to 84.5 degrees Fahrenheit. I mean Centigrade. Er, cubits. And the Earth is flat. And then the skies shall open, and the oceans shall rise, and there will be a separating of sheep from goats, and all the bad guys will get it, and all the evangelical literalist nut jobs will go to heaven."

Yeah, I missed that part.

Spring could be a lot of fun

My coach just sent out preliminary line ups for the San Diego Crew Classic on March 31.

Last year my team won the E and B age categories, and the club event. I was in the B boat.

First draft line up has (on the port side) Former Ukranian junior national team guy, the stroke of our winning 8+ last year, me, and a guy who was a US national team sculler.

Good company.

This is before our first 2k test, though, and before any seat racing. So line-up is subject to revision. And there are plenty of folks who will want those seats. I'm only worried about one of them. His 2k times are usually better than mine, though I don't know I'd lose to him in a seat race. All the others I have on raw power, technical skill, and, in many cases, weight, as well. If I weigh less, am stronger, and row better, I will crush you in a seat race.

So odds are good I could have a crazy fast boat for San Diego, which would be fun, since I'd be rowing with them almost every day for a month before the race.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

There are already weapons in space

The relatively recent Chinese test of a satellite-killing rocket has the world rather disturbed.

The reasons for this are clear on a few fronts:

  1. It's been a long standing international agreement to keep space weapons-free.
  2. So much of our modern communications infrastructure depends on satellites. The ability to knock these satellites out poses a very strong threat.
Being the Starfleet Academy dork that I am, I'm a fan of leaving our petty territorial self interested small mindedness behind us when we're off our home planet. We're on a peaceful mission of exploration. But I reserve the right to reconsider if we invent photon torpedoes. Those are kind of cool. And we don't want aliens thinking we're pussies.

But the reality is that there are already weapons in space. While there aren't any objects recognizable as guns or bombs or missiles, there are tools used to direct guns, bombs and missiles: Communications and GPS satellites.

Much of affluent, Western nations' ability to project conventional military power stems from access to this superior communications infrastructure. It gives these nations' forces superior organizational and targeting abilities in a conventional war. If the Iraqi military could have taken down this infrastructure, they would have. Lacking cruise missiles themselves, taking out the brains of our smart bombs rebalances the technological asymmetry a bit. And while I may be off on which weapons systems rely on which communications technology, the fact remains that our military needs those satellites to wage technologically enhanced war.

China's new capability is disturbing. The right Machiavellian course of action is not to whine at them to take apart, bury and never use the technology they've spent so much time and energy creating. That's idealistic idiocy. The Chinese can now officially take out satellites. The right strategic thinking will take that capacity as a given, and formulate the best response. I suppose we could just send up the space shuttle with some astronauts and a sledge hammer and pay all the Chinese satellites a "maintenance visit". And then we'd all be blind.

Posturing around the "Hey, no weapons in space" line is feeble. Their weapon isn't actually in space, anyway. It just goes to space to take out other weapons, already in space. I hope it serves as further incentive to keep relations civil between the two nations. But let's not pretend that space isn't already militarized. GPS is a weapon. We've got weapons in space.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

From the weekend

KEN enters after filling the car with gas and approaches K, who is selecting various munchies for their trip to South Lake Tahoe
Hey, sugar, why don't you pick something out?
KEN eyes the display and selects an item.
These are yummy. And 100% natural.
KEN tosses a small red bag of peanut butter M&M's to K.
Organic, even.
Oh, yeah. Just like these are organic.
K picks up a box of Oreos from the counter.
If we were at Wal-Mart, they'd be organic.
Yes, right next to the organic Cheez Whiz.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beyond tragic

This is just terrible. Mother of three commits suicide by water ingestion trying to win an expensive toy for her kids. Mom is gone, but you have free tickets to Friday's Justin Timberlake concert for coming in second. So that's a plus.

I don't think it's malice, just sheer callous stupidity that led to this. But the station is toast. I have no idea if those consent forms will protect them. Every time I race I sign a waiver that says, among many other things, I could die or get seriously hurt. I have no idea whether the woman's family has a case. I just feel bad for her kids.

A good morning

I walked out my door this morning and, for a change, didn't say "DAMN..." and consider demanding a refund from the state of California for temperatures below acceptable tolerances as stipulated by my cost of living contract ("In return for paying 2.5x the national average, we will completely remove winter from the seasonal cycle").

I got to row a 4- this morning with, from a power to weight ratio perspective, the three fastest guys on my team. We were able to stay ahead of the 8+'s while rowing a lower stroke rating. And it was a nice practice for us, since we got to just row. No drills. And we got to use new oar handles which are fat and rubery and actually the right size for my giant hands. I liked them.

I checked my log from last year, and it seems that 6 days before I went 6:42 for 2000m, I had done 10 x 500m at a 1:39.9 average. Given that I just did 1:39.7, I think 6:40 will be a reasonable target for my first 2000m piece, scheduled for two Mondays from now. I'll do 10 x 500 again this Monday, aiming for 1:39.5. It feels good to be a little faster than I was at San Diego last year, with 10 weeks left to train before the event.

I told my coach before leaving the boat house this morning that I'd give him a 6:40 for the first 2k. His response was to make me repeat after him "I will not go skiing". He's seen me get fit and then get hurt too many times. I'm going to do cross country this weekend, but I'll not do downhill this season. K made me promise.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The lovely disorientation of long weekends

I got in bed at K's place last night thinking I'd go to the boat house this morning, and start a 90 min aerobic piece at 6 am, finish by 7:30, and have plenty of time to be in San Jose by 10. Then I realized that today was not, in fact, Monday, but Tuesday, a day on which I have regular practice with the team. Which starts at 5:30. Which is why I don't stay at K's place on Monday nights. Because I'd have to get up at 4:45 to make it (15 min to get up, dressed, packed, 30 min to drive).

Last night I made beer at K's place. My holiday lager, which I haven't made since I lived in Boston, which is more than 6 years ago. It involves spices and orange zest, and it quite lovely. K was flipping through my recipe book and thought it sounded good, so we're making it. It's odd to have a girlfriend who enthusiastically supports my beer dorkiness. She wants to make labels for my bottles. She likes the trip to the brewery supply store.

Beer means bread. I make bread with the spent grain from brewing. The recipe is one I largely make up out of my head each time, but it goes something like:

2c milk
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 c molasses
1/4 stick butter

Warm milk, melt sugars, molasses, salt in milk. Allow butter to dissolve. Do not scald milk. When one can stand to leave a finger in the milk, add milk to:

1.5 c white flour
1.5 c wheat flour
1/2 c spent grain
1 packet yeast

And beat with electric mixer.

With wooden spoon, beat in more flour (2-4 more c) until dough is stiff enough to be kneaded.

Knead in flour till dough is sticky but not stiff. Form loaf. Allow to rise 45-90 min. Bake at 350 F for 45 min.

It's awesome stuff.

So now I have 5 gallons of lager fermenting on K's back porch under a tarp.

I did 10 x 500m with 2' rest intervals on Sunday, and it went well. Faster than last week by about a half second each.

Did 60 min this morning, heart rate all under 153. Was only in the 150's for the last 6 minutes, and held the pace to sub 2:00/ 500. So I'm going just as fast but at a lower intensity. So my training is working. I took a look at my 2K times from last year. My best last year was 6:42. I'd like to go that fast or faster this month. We have a 2K due in January, then another in February. I want to go sub 6:40 for sure, this season, and maybe sub 6:36. I've got time to make that happen before April.

K helped me make my apartment look amazing. Saturday evening she came by and we cleaned and de-cluttered and she applied her decorative eye. Some minor changes and re-arrangements of stuff that I already had made it look really great. I was impressed with what she could do, and touched that she wanted to do that for me. She's been rather restrained, given that my place is often in a state of "a boy lives here by himself". She's never commented or pushed. But she did admit she's been planning her attack for a year or so.

The place looks fantastic. I bought a new comforter, and some new towels, and it made the bedroom look great. I should have shot some before photos. Now I only have after. K brought some cool lights/ lamps, and gave me this kickass stereo thing that hooks to an iPod. It's got a great sound. Better than what I had before.

And now I'm at work. And K is in LA interviewing surfers about beer.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Old phone week

I just noticed that I missed a phone call today. From my ex-brother in law, with whom I have not spoken for nearly 2 years. Once my now ex-wife and I started to go down hill, he and I never spoke again. Which is too bad, because I liked him. I liked his family. And he liked me. He didn't have any brothers, and liked that he had one in me.

I have no idea whether he dialed my number by mistake, or was trying to reach me. There was no message.

A few days ago, I got a message from the woman who was mother to the kids who were ring bearer and flower girl in my wedding. My ex and I loved their family, and adored their kids, for whom we babysat on occasion.

I had never expected to hear from them again, either. I had assumed my ex would have spoken with them during one of her trips back east, and pre-disposed them against ever speaking with me.

Turns out I was wrong, since her message was to "Ken... and A..."

Which, on one hand, is great that she hasn't been poisoned against me. On the other, it sucks, because there's no easy way to say "We, the couple you thought so awesome, whose wedding you attended, whom you wanted to participate fully in the lives of your children, have, in the two years since we last spoke and saw each other, gotten divorced, and I have no idea where my ex is or what she's doing".

But I called her back, because I did like her, and there is no easy way around the truth. And because, she's probably calling my ex, too, and she's going to find out sooner or later. Though if she talks to my ex first, I doubt she'll want to talk to me.

She then called me back, but left no message.

Lots of folks calling, and not leaving messages. Makes me fear they have something to tell me that one just doesn't want to leave in a voice mail.

These birds were not fed Xanax! Pollute here ->

Began a new project at a biotech client site down in SJ. As is becoming de rigeur for firms on the peninsula these days, their campus sports a free cafeteria. Overpaid tech weenies demand free food. The Google effect.

I'm pro-free food. And the client employees were talking it up. New caterer is showing off, they said.

As is my usual approach with food bar situations, I scouted what was out before picking up my plate. Gotta know if they're trying to trick you into filling up your plate with iceberg lettuce so you haven't got space for the lobster tails and prime rib. And while there were no lobster tails and prime rib, there were some rather sophisticated vegetarian entrees (some kind of grilled polenta thingy). And the boiled eggs in the salad bar were signed as coming from cage free birds. Because one can really taste the difference created in the egg by the sophisticated emotional state of the chicken. Plus, there's all the negative Karmic energy in your salad. And you can't cover up negative energy, no matter how much blue cheese dressing you use.

Biologists tend to be hippies. So I was rather stunned to see that the plates - large, small, and bowl - and cups were made of polystyrene. The utensils plastic, the trays each individually lined with paper. Because paper means it's clean.

"They must recycle these, then" I thought. It's a company full of scientists. Who understand ozone, free radicals, organic chemistry, global warming, ecology. I looked at the bins, searching for labels. No labels. All trash.

I will tell them that their price plan will fail as long as they use Styrofoam in the cafeteria.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ah, that's why I'm not a Democrat

Smoking ban aside, I can't agree with the Democrats in Congress today.

Iraq: When halfway across the river, best to swim to the other side. I've never agreed with this war from the outset. It's a tragedy. But I fear things will be even worse for Iraq if we pull out now.

The problem is that W didn't think he'd need to do any conquering, just some overthrowing. He didn't count on what happens when you take out a repressive dictatorship: The pendulum swings the other way. Those docile whilst subjugated become ferocious and bold when free. And they have some scores to settle. Plus, they hate each other.

There aren't enough competent "If you break a law, there will be consequences" types in the country. Nor are there institutions and a culture to back them up. So folks run amok. And while it's nice to hope folks can solve their problems through democratic processes, I think the end of security will justify the means of beefing up an enforcement presence. I hate to see more folks sent there, but the current numbers don't seem to be projecting a sufficient presence to keep folks in line. Though another 20,000 doesn't seem like a big enough move to change much, either.

I think "stability at any cost" is the right short term guiding principal. If that means Iran and Syria help out, fine. If that means we send more troops, fine. Let's let those poor people try to have normal lives without worrying about themselves or their loved ones disappearing and turning up days later dumped in the street with three bullets in their heads. If there's a Hell, W's going there, for sure.

St. Peter: Who are you again?

W: The Presidint of the United States of 'Merica

St. Peter: Didn't you create a bunch of lies to invade a country which then plunged into anarchic chaos and bloodshed, costing tens of thousands of lives and relegating the existences of the entire remaining population into fear and hopelessness?

W: Yer givin' hope to the terrists talkin' like that.

St. Peter: Well Satan's not without a sense of irony. I think he's got you and Saddam rooming together.

I know simply sending more troops isn't "the solution", but I think it's a part of a solution.

Raising the minimum wage: The poor stay poor, they just have nominally more money.

"Hi! We're Democrats! We like inflation, and we like meddling in the economy, since labor markets aren't efficient. So the minimum price for a worker with little to no skills is going up. Because we think poor people are cute."

Let markets decide prices. If folks will work for $5.25/ hour, then let them work for it. When we raise the price of labor without raising the productivity of labor, we suck economic value out of the equation. Which will rebalance as the hike in wages becomes a hike in costs which becomes a hike in prices which requires a hike in wages and salaries to make the same goods and services as affordable as they used to be. And eventually we settle into a new equilibrium in which a value meal at McDonald's still costs one minimum wage hour of work. Today's $5.15 for 2000 trans-fatty calories becomes tomorrow's $7.25 for 2000 trans-fatty calories. The working poor still have to work just as hard to have the same standard of living. Wages are higher, prices are higher. Problem not solved.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oh yes

Originally uploaded by ken_is_a_verb.
A bad chimichanga is a dry crispy skinny flauta. A good chimichanga is essentially a deep friend burrito. Which this one is.
in St. Helena there is Villa Corona, and their chicken chimichanga is both delicious and a gut bomb. One finishes and needs to nap, and probably loosen one's belt a bit.

K and I stopped here both on our way up (I skipped lunch in anticipation on Friday) and on the way back from hippy camp.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hippy Camp 3: Do you know where that yoga mat has been?

By 8 PM tonight I'll be naked in a pool full of strangers.

K and I are off to Harbin this weekend. We had hoped to head up there over the holiday break, but they were booked.

I'm hoping we can get to a few yoga classes while there. I'll need some kind of exertion/ endorphin infusion. And I like that I have enough general strength and fitness to do much of the yoga, but that it makes me move in ways to which I'm unaccustomed, compelling me to cultivate flexibility and balance.

I always come back from Harbin feeling more comfortable and accepting of others. Generally peaceful and content. I don't know if it's all the training I'm doing, but I find myself capable of more hostility and aggression than I'd like, these days. So I need an infusion of California perspective. The company of naked hippies will be just what the doctor ordered.

My Californication may continue, as K has friends of friends living in One Taste SF, described by one of K's more reserved friends as a "sex commune". It's not quite that, but it is a community of folks choosing to push the boundaries of how they relate to themselves, relationships and sexuality. K attended a communication workshop there with her friends, liked it, and wants me to check it out, too.

In my continued effort to get outside of my comfort zone and monastic devotion to structure, routine and familiarity, I'll certainly go. I'm interested in those who try to think and act differently in the relationship domain. From the outside, they seem to have some ideas that I find, in a word, fruity (the only energy I believe in of the mv2/2 variety), but their hearts and minds (and bodies) are in an interesting space, so I'm sure I'll end up there for a lecture or workshop of some kind.

After mastering hippy camp, it's time to move on to the sex commune.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This is awesome

Just enter as a "guest".

It's the #1 great thing about the Internet: More free stuff.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This is why blogs matter

I enjoy reading her account of what's really going on in Iraq

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Coziness and angst

I spent my time post Portland with K playing house. It was 4 days of "let's pretend we're married" living, and it was, in all fairness, quite nice. I have to admit it was, in many ways, the daily life I'd dreamed of for myself with an ideal partner. We went to her gym together, where I hit their erg and she swam. We cooked great things together: Grilled a few times, made my chilled beet soup. Last night was a cherry pie and a blueberry-peach crumble. We napped, watched some Star Wars. We hit a rowing friend's NYE party. We visited with some of her friends. She did yoga at the boat house whilst I, again, erged. Alternatively snuggled and made fun of her cat.

Very good times.

We of course also had lots of quality horizontal time. Having a biological cue that we were in the clear, and ignoring the calendar, we weren't exactly careful. And then this morning I got to work and did some research on the odd symptoms. "Gee, it seemed like you were going to get your period there on day 15 of your cycle with the cramps and the spotting but then nothing and OH MY GOD YOU WERE OVULATING."

So I had a bit of a freak out.

And then more careful reading backed up what K had been saying, that you need to be doing it on days 10-15 of the cycle to make a baby. Because the sperm need to already be all up in the fallopian tubes when the egg arrives, not still milling about on her cervix, asking passing Lactobacillus jensenii for directions.

Sperm 1: Anyone seen an egg?

Sperm 2: I hear we gotta go through the uterus first.

Sperm 3: Where's that?

Sperm 4: Is there some kind of short cut we can take?

Sperm 4,672,391: Maybe this guy knows.

Sperm 1: Hey dude, how do we get to the fallopian tubes?

Lactobacillus jensenii: Do I look sentient to you?

So I'm more calm now. I probably didn't unintentionally knock her up.

But it brings the point home for me: I have no business taking chances if my reaction to the possibility of a pregnancy is not "Oh joy" but "OH SHIT".

Which is a bit of a bummer. Condom sex doesn't have nearly the same emotional satisfaction of "natural sex". But it also doesn't come with the terror. Reaching for a condom feels like I'm vetoing K's dreams, to which I'm not indifferent. But I can't stomach the risk. So it seems I'll need to be sacrificing some satisfaction in the bedroom for sanity.