Thursday, November 19, 2015

Conversations from Fall Moab 2015

[One guy tells a long story about visiting an acquaintance who lives in a big house in a wealthy neighborhood.]

"I don't know real estate but I'm guessing this is a 7- or 8-million dollar house."
"I feel weird in places like that."
"Me, too.”
“I usually try to sneak off somewhere and steal something like silverware.”
“I’ll burn a cigarette in the carpet.”
“And then pee on it.”
“Right, but just a little bit, so that the smell isn't too obvious.”
“I don’t like it when the owner follows me around the house.”
“Am I a guest or a fugitive?”
“And then I'll pull out a check book and say, ‘How much for that lamp?’”
“What do you mean it’s not for sale? Everything is for sale.”
Everything is for sale!”
“And then I soil my pants.”
“That changes the subject.”


[While getting ready for an all-day ride.]

“Does anyone need nipple cream?”
“Is is pomegranate?”
“No, um, it's tangerine.”
“Can I borrow some?"
“You can have some.”


[In the car, one guy tells a story about family struggles. The second guy follows with an even more heartbreaking family story.]

[Third guy] “Hey, have you guys seen the second season of Fargo?”


[While a rider is dropping down a series of steep ledges, he shifts his weight behind his saddle and snags his shorts, trapping him. With each drop, he slams his groin into the back of his saddle, racking him.]

[First ledge] “Ouch!”
[Second ledge] “Shit.”
[Third ledge] “Fuck.”
[Fourth ledge] “Fuck!”
[Last ledge, after stopping and struggling to clip out] “Ow.”


[One rider attempts a ledge drop that requires speed. The rider gets his wheel stuck, endos, and crashes hard. He lies crumpled on the ground during that brief period of time when no one knows the extent of the injuries, including the guy who just crashed.]

[Different rider in concerned voice] “Let's get his pants off.”


Fall Moab 2015 was a wild success.

Friday, November 6, 2015


So I was riding my bike to work, casually, listening to an audiobook. (I'm on the fifth book of the Game of Thrones series if you're really curious.) Whenever I listen to an audiobook, I don't ride particularly fast or hard. I cruise along.

A woman wearing full-length jeans and a backpack passed me. Again, I wasn't riding hard, you know, because of Westeros and the coming of winter. The woman had to stop at a red light, and I pulled up next to her. A train was crossing parallel to the road we were riding on, so I paused a moment and then rode through the red light, knowing that no car would be turning in to the passing train. It was illegal but safe.

When the woman caught up to me—have I mentioned that I was not riding hard?—she said, "You're a good rider."

The Mormon Boy Scout part of me wanted to say, "Thanks! You're a good rider, too!"

"What's up?" I said.

I knew what was coming next.

"Your wheel isn't seated right. It's at an angle."

That's true! I had a flat tire and wasn't able to get the wheel back in properly. It caused the brakes to rub, so I fixed the problem by loosening the brakes.

"You can't have everything," I blurted, happy not to be told that cyclists need to follow the rules of the road.

As she rode ahead, I wondered if she always takes that approach, giving compliments before providing feedback. Excuse me, you have a lovely shirt, and your fly is open.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Negotiating by Violence, Part II

I had made it to the finals of the open sparring tournament. Before the final match, the two other semi-finalists sparred to see who got the third-place trophy. The guy that I had defeated was beating the other guy handily until my ex-opponent punched the other guy in the face, knocking him to the ground and making him dizzy and bleeding. When the guy's nose failed to stop bleeding, the other guy was disqualified, and the bloody nose guy was declared the winner.

That wasn't the only injury. Here's one of those photos that would have been awesome if I had shot it thirty seconds earlier. In the foreground, two competitors got out of control and started throwing haymakers at each each other. In the background, a different guy who had been punched in the face was knocked out and complained about neck pain when he woke up, so they strapped him to a board and carted him off on a stretcher.

You can see the stretcher in the background.

In the final match I sparred against a guy who was roughly my height, size, and age. In my mind, that means that I should defeated him easily. It's always the younger and taller guys who give me trouble.

When the match started, I bounced around a little bit and then moved in for a quick sliding side kick. I touched my foot against his rib cage for what would have been a quick point in our mild form of sparring. I paused to wait for the judges to shout "Call!" He countered with a back fist to the side of my head. Call. Point.

Hmm, maybe I didn't kick hard enough. I moved around a bit to change angles and then did a sliding front kick that was a little harder. Again I paused and again he countered and won a point. In retrospect, I should have been doing three things differently.

  • I should have been making my slide kicks look more like kicks than foot placements.
  • After my attacks, I should have been defending myself against counter attacks. I had learned a great way to defend my head—high block, reverse punch—but it never registered until after the match. 
  • I should have varied my attacks. For example, I could have switched my stance and tried a spin reverse kick. I usually avoid that move because it's hard to control the kick, but that didn't matter in this open tournament.

I also had tunnel vision. I stubbornly kept trying the same two or three moves. I got a few points, but he sat back and kept his lead with counters. It seemed like he had five different coaches on his sideline shouting advice and helping the refs to call points.

Even if I had varied my techniques, he would have adjusted quickly. He was crafty. At one point, I charged him for a back fist and he ducked and made himself vulnerable. While I tried to strike him with a hammer fist, he reached up and flicked me in the back of the head for a point. I shouted and clapped my hands together in frustration, which isn't like me. He had me rattled.

He ended up winning 6-5 or 7-5 or something like that. I talked to him afterwards and it turns out that  he competes regularly in these tournaments and wins.

I returned home with a pair of second place trophies, an odd feeling of failure, and a sense of what I need to do to get better, which is more valuable than the trophies, and perhaps as valuable than donuts.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Negotiating by Violence, Part I

Last Saturday I competed in a sparring tournament down in Tacoma. It was an open, cross-discipline martial arts "classic" that featured contact sparring.

I've been doing the karate thing with my family for a little over four years now. We practice Tang Soo Do, which is a Korean form of karate that emphasizes art over sport. It's closely related to Tae Kwon Do, which is the Korean national sport. Both disciplines involve forms, self-defense basics, and sparring. While sparring seems to be the primary focus of Tae Kwon Do, it's not emphasized much in our discipline.

In the rare times that we do spar, it's light-contact sparring. No touching the head. Kicks and punches can only come close to the body or barely touch it. Kicks to the head cannot make contact. It still requires athleticism, skill, and mental acuity, and there's even an occasional injury. Still, it's not particularly combative or dangerous. It's like touch nerf football.

Our studio master teaches the light style of sparring used in our competitions, but he also wants to teach us how to defend ourselves. In our style of sparring, we don't have to worry too much about protecting the head, and we don't attack the head either. He's been trying to introduce more advanced sparring techniques, but they don't make sense in our no-contact sparring world. So he decided to pick a few students like me who enjoy sparring and could probably handle a more rough-and-tumble competition.

This being a martial arts tournament, we also competed in forms. I finished in second place in the non-black belt division, and got a nice big trophy for my efforts. Question: What does a 50-something-year-old man do with a trophy? I would have traded it for a fresh donut.

A couple hours later, the sparring started. Competitors were there from all kinds of disciplines—Korean, Japanese, Chinese. I was sore and stiff from having sat in the bleachers all day. I tried to warm up quickly. In the quarterfinals, I went against an opponent who didn't seem particularly experienced or athletic, but he was oddly sneaky. It took me a while to get used to him, but I figured out a couple ways to get points off of him and won.

Here's how the scoring works. You get one point for a kick or punch to the body and one point for a punch to the head gear (not the face, unless, you know, you do and there's no blood). You get two points for a kick to the head and three points for a jump-spinning kick to the head.

In the semi-final, I went up against a white guy who wore a Chinese uniform with no belt. Kung Fu? In his previous bout, he wailed on his opponent, physically overwhelming him. I noticed that he left his side open during attacks, so at the start of our match, I did a sliding side kick to the ribs for a point. Then I did the exact same move, and no point. Too boring for the judges? We went back and forth for a while. He kept coming after me, which is great for my style. I like to counter. I kept kicking him in the ribs, sometimes getting points, sometimes not. He received warnings for a couple of low kicks that I didn't feel at the time but have me limping a couple days later. One bruise is the size of an orange. I had a small lead for most of the match and then I pulled away when I remembered a back-fist-to-the-head attack that our master had been trying to teach us. I did that a few times, and then the towel flew in to indicate the two minutes were up. I made it to the finals.

More later.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Maui 2014

"Tell me about your trip," says a polite friend.
"It was pretty fun," I stammer. "We had a really good time."

Ugh. My new goal is to eventually write about all of my experiences and thoughts on this blog so that I can avoid conversions like that. I want to have more conversations like this:

"Tell me about your trip," says a polite friend.
"No," I reply. "If you're really interested, you can read about it on my blog."

That would be so awesome. When asked about vacations or Obama or the Ryder Cup, I would cut conversations short.

"Do you think the U.S. can win the Ryder Cup this year?" says a polite friend.

If everyone did that, we could have blog parties in which we all sit in the same room with iPads and read each others' posts on social media. Commenting should be encouraged. And headings!


We had a great Maui plan. Wendy used her hotel points to get a free hotel near the airport for a couple of nights so that we could do some things on that side of the island, buy stuff at Costco, and then head over to our condo on the west side of the island.

In the Marriott Courtyard, the boys learned how to use their new snorkel equipment in the outdoor pool while Wendy and I worked on converting our skin color from pasty white to golden brown without going through the awkward peely pink phase.

The morning after arriving in Maui, we booked a horseback riding session that started at 9:00 am. I figured that since we'd still be on Seattle time, 9:00 AM wouldn't feel early. It would feel more like noon. As always, I was right.

We drove up a highway to the dude ranch, got our horses and verbal instructions for how to ride them, and started our way down the trail towards the ocean.

Notice that this picture is taken from atop my steed, Mikey, who was a disappointment in many ways. What's the opposite of a trusty steed? A trustless steed? An anti-trust steed?

I am obviously a skilled enough rider to take a picture while riding a horse, yet the horse didn't seem to understand my prowess. I tried to get him to raise his front legs by shouting "Hi-yo Mikey!" and driving my sandals into the beast's flanks, but he just kept following the horse in front of him. Hey, I thought, maybe he'll gallop in a tight circle if I pull the neck cord thingie one way and dig in with the opposite heel. Nope, not even when I yelled, "Spin, you stupid idiot, spin!"

During the horse ride, Luke and Max were talking to each other excitedly, and Wendy had a big smile on her face. As we worked our way down the hill and saw the wide expanse of the ocean, I have to admit that I got a little emotional. I love my family. OK, that's enough sentimental kerfluffle.

After the horse ride, we went to I'ao forest. That's where a mighty battle took place between two Hawaiian tribes and made the creek run red with warrior blood. Nowadays, Hawaii is a calm place with no bloody battles between war lords, but it's expensive. I suppose peace always has a cost, but paying $5 for parking in that obscure area seemed unreasonable.

While climbing a tree, Max and Luke spotted a three-horned lizard.

After doing a few more touristy things on the east side, we loaded up on supplies at Costco. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take pictures there, so you'll just have to imagine the Costco aisles in your mind's eye.

[Imagine picture of Costco]

We headed towards our Napili condo on the west side of the island. Over the next ten days, our activities blurred together.
  • Swimming in the two resort pools
  • Snorkeling
  • Beach time
  • World Cup soccer
  • Lahaina shopping

The first time we went snorkeling, we walked five minutes from our condo down to the cove. Sea turtles didn't seek us out, but they didn't shy away from us either.

Wendy and I got up early (6:00 AM) a few days and snorkeled at a nicer reef a few miles up the road. We used a laminated card that listed the most popular critters in the area to put a name to things.

"Did you see the needlenose ferretfish?"
"Yes, it was right next to the butterfly gullscoy above the rakeling coral."

Without the card, I would have had to make up the names of the various critters we saw. That would have just given Wendy more ammunition that when I get into an unfamiliar situation, I make stuff up.

When the U.S. played Portugal at 9:00 AM Hawaii time, Max and Luke were outside playing catch with lacrosse sticks on a big grassy area between all the condos. At the same time Max made a difficult catch, the U.S. scored a goal to tie the game, and Max momentarily thought the loud cheer erupting from the surrounding condos was for him. A few minutes later, when Max was sitting on the toilet, Max again mistook the loud cheering for his well-timed success.

There was a great area for cliff diving near our hotel. Locals hang out on the rocks or on flotation devices in the water below while people jump from various heights. Here's a picture of me.

It looks like I'm diving but I was actually jumping. Deep down, I'm bothered by the fact that I didn't dive off the cliff. I consider it to be a mild act of cowardice. In younger days, I would have dived, and then I would have done a spin dive, and then maybe a back flip. Now? A jump. I suppose there is a lesson to be learned from this, like maybe when you get older, your courage and your imagination fade away.

I would prefer learning that I should not look a gift horse in the mouth or count chickens before they're hatched. I don't want to learn that fear and regret settle in as you age.

Max and Luke learned how to ride waves on boogie boards. Great feeling. When I think of alternate lifestyles I could have led, one of them involves being a jobless surfer, sleeping on the beach and eating food from trash cans. I never obtained a surf board, so my life went in a different direction.

One day, an on-shore wind was knocking the waves down and killing our thrill. I saw nice long breakers on one side of the bay near a protected area, but no one was swimming there. I assumed it was off limits. I walked over there with my board to check it out. Lots of rocks. I didn't see a "No Swimming" sign, so I made my way through the shallow rock-filled waters trying hard not to stub my broken toe. I saw a set coming in so I made my way out to what I thought was the right area. I skipped the first wave, jumped out a few more feet after feeling the strong undertow and seeing the larger next wave, and pushed hard off my good foot to catch the wave. Ah! Down the face, bank turn, down again, turn. It wasn't surfing, but it was close to that great feeling you get when you catch a wave.

And no, I didn't chicken out of surfing, you idiot. I'm not afraid to surf. I just wanted to stay at the beach with the family.

Here's a picture of the boys hanging out at the amazing Banyan tree in Lahaina. The boys were disappointed that they weren't allowed to climb the trees. At least there was shave ice nearby.

We also went to a luau (no pictures) and went on a submarine ride. 

That's it for our two-week trip to Maui. I'll write about our Yellowstone trip soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

RAWROD 2014—Ride Around White Rim Trail in One Day

When adventure writers tell their stories, they start with the dramatic ending.

Dramatic Ending

May 3, 8:30 PM - After riding the White Rim Trail in one day, Paul decides he's done riding for the weekend and starts the drive home to St. George. He pulls over and dry heaves.

May 3, 9:00 PM - After riding the White Rim Trail in one day, Dug and his son Holden drive into the parking lot of Moab Brewery. Holden tells Dug to stop the car, now. He opens the door in front of the overflow crowd waiting to get a table at the restaurant, and vomits. The crowd looks on in horror.

May 3, 11:15 PM - Dug and Holden return to camp and climb in their sleeping bags, waking me up from a happy slumber. Dug warns me that Holden has been sick. He tells Holden to use a bag of donut gems in case he needs to vomit. Holden uses it. He continues to wake up and vomit into different containers over the course of the night.

May 3, 11:30 PM - The last pair of cyclists complete their ride in the dark with little fanfare. Everyone else is asleep or dealing with sickness.

May 4, 3:00 AM - 30 miles away from the White Rim Trail, Lisa vomits in her hotel room.

May 4, 4:00 AM - Unable to deal with the peer pressure, I crawl out of the tent and vomit in the sand.

Adventure writers also shift dramatically from present tense to past tense.

The Beginning

After having done a 4-hour, 20-mile mountain bike ride on Friday—my longest mountain bike ride of the year—we drove to the top of Horsethief Trail and set up camp at the parking lot.

Kenny has been hosting this event for years, but this year was special—his 50th birthday. He was also doing something different this year. No sag wagon, and no group really. The only plan was to meet at Musselman Arch for photos, and then everyone was on their own, or hopefully in pairs. 

We knew the next day was going to be a hot one, so we loaded up as much water as we could carry. My backpack had two one-liter bladders and a few gels and nut rolls, and my bike carried two bottles. I stuffed other food packets in my jersey pockets.

The goal was to leave at 7:00 AM. I wanted to take off a little earlier than everyone else because I'm one of the slower riders, but that was ruined when I woke up sluggish and wandered around like the camp idiot.

I was glad to hear that Paul decided to make a go of it. After the previous day's ride, he had lost some of his confidence and wasn't sure he wanted to try it.

On the ride from the Horsethief parking lot back out to Highway 313, I felt weak and uncomfortable under my heavy pack, but happy to be with friends and doing a ride I hadn't done in almost two decades.*

* In truth, I've never actually done the full 100-mile ride before. We always skipped the 13-mile stretch of dirt road.

When the 13-mile stretch of rolling dirt road ended, we gulped down cached drinks and headed up the 8-mile paved road towards the National Park camp entrance.

It was at the camp entrance where I had perhaps my finest moment of the day. My performance in the outhouse was nothing short of spectacular. The golf equivalent would be to bend a 3-iron from the deep rough around a tree and to within 10 feet of the pin. As I emerged from the outhouse, happy and light, I raised my hand in a polite yes-I-acknowledge-your-applause-and-I'm-secretly-thrilled-but-want-to-act-cool wave to my imaginary audience, who really had no business being there, imaginary or no.

Because of my majestic delay, we were now behind the other riders by several minutes. Entering Shafer Trail reminded me of how beautiful this area was.

As I started the Shafer descent, I noticed that my front brake wasn't working. Elden had loaned me his rigid single-speed bike for the trip, which is kind of him, but the bike wasn't in great shape. One of the bottle cages was broken, the rear tire was bald, and the power brake was out. I normally wouldn't say bad things about Elden's loaner bike—mouth, meet gift horse—but Elden frequently disguises his generous heart with vile meanness. For example, after the ride, here's what he texted me:

"it was great to see you -- bummed i didn't ride a ton with you, but i am far too strong to hold back at your pace"

Not wanting to fly off any of the switchbacks, I did a slow descent, skidding wildly around corners with only a rear brake and bald tires.

Paul and I met up at the bottom and rode hurriedly at a leisurely pace, if that makes any sense. We arrived at Musselman Arch to see other riders hanging out. Someone in our group took this picture.

After a couple of group photos and general milling around, we got back on our bikes. That was the last I saw of the Kenny, Heather, Elden, Lisa, and the rest of the fast riders.

The ride from Musselman to White Crack, which is roughly the half-way point, consists of a series of bends that wind around canyons. You descend slightly as you ride away from the rim and then ascend slightly as you ride back towards the rim. Rinse and repeat. 

The flowers and cactuses were blooming. At around 10:30 AM, it was already hot. Here, I turned around for the camera to capture the purple flowers, which unfortunately got washed out in this picture.

Once we finally got around that last mesa that we had been looking at in the distance for hours, we biked through a wide open desert. As we made the turn and headed northwest, I noticed a nice breeze coming from the south. 

People accuse the White Rim Trail of having a constant headwind regardless of the direction you're going. For the record, on May 3, 2014, I do hereby proclaim that we had no wind during the first half of the ride and a mild tail wind during the second half of the ride.


In my memory, the major checkpoints—Shafer, Musselman, Vertigo Void, Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and Horsethief—were spread out fairly evenly. In reality, Shafer and Musselman are close to each other, Vertigo and Murphy's are only a mile or two apart, and there's a huge distance between Musselman and Vertigo. 

The tentative plan was to eat lunch at Vertigo Void, but several of us weren't riding fast enough for it to make sense to wait that long. Paul and I ate our lunch in the slim shade of a juniper bush, and pressed on.

By the time Paul and I reached Vertigo Void, the other riders were gone. Here's what they had been up to:

Paul wanted to keep pushing on, knowing that we had three difficult climbs in front of us, including Murphy's Hogback in a short while. 

The ride up Murphy's is steep and loose. Paul and I didn't even try to ride up the steep pitches. When I last did the White Rim Trail back when Bill Clinton was POTUS, Dug and I took pride in being able to clean all the moves. Now, I thought, How did I ever ride up that? In retrospect, I am in awe of my 32-year-old self. In fairness, my 32-year-old self was riding a geared bike with suspension, not a rigid single-speed. So I'm proud of my 51-year-old self as well. Good job, mes present and past.

After pushing our bikes to the top, Paul and I ate a snack and watched a few other riders do the long climb. Cori, who was hanging back with his girlfriend Emily, cleaned it. So did Jolene, who was hanging back to help out a struggling rider. 

Cori then proposed to Emily at the top of Murphy's Hogback. She accepted.

I thought that group of people represented the last of the pack (the gruppetto for you Tour de France fans), but it turns out that a couple of riders were even further back.


There was a nice long drop down the other side of Murphy's Hogback, and then there was, for me, the most difficult part of the ride. It was hot, 90-degree weather. We had been on our bikes all day long. Eating was hard, and Paul stopped trying to eat altogether, relying on CarboRocket for his energy. CarboRocket, where energy meets experience. CarboRocket, a boost of freedom. CarboRocket, for her pleasure.

The heat was getting to me. I was weary, colicky, and dragging behind Paul, Cori, and Emily. I talked Paul into stopping so that I could transfer water from one bladder to the other and down some ibuprofen, and Cori and Emily pulled ahead for good.

For the next stretch of trail, I don't remember much. For me, every endurance ride has the same characteristics:

  • Pre-ride excitement
  • The this-is-never-going-to-end section
  • The problem (neck pain, hot spots, sunburn, not enough water, can't eat, can't poop, stomach, mechanical)
  • Crux fatigue (or worse, bonk)
  • Resignation to suffering
  • Energizing homestretch
  • Emotional finish

Riding near Candlestick, I was dealing with the crux fatigue, which Dug calls the "cave of pain." I didn't bonk, but I was miserable. I was saddle-sore, my feet hurt, my neck hurt, my legs were cramping. 

Jolene's group of riders caught up to us at the start of Hardscrabble Hill. Paul and I again walked our bikes up, relieved to be off the saddles.

Bry also caught up with us and told me he was running low on water because he was giving it all away to an embattled friend. I told him I had plenty of extra water, so I filled one of his bottles with CarboRocket.

The Homestretch

Once we got to the top of Hardscrabble Hill, where you can look down at the trail as it runs along the Green River, everything turned around for me. The ibuprofen had finally kicked in, so my neck pain was mostly gone, and I had adjusted to the suffering. All I needed to do was keep riding another 11 or so miles along the Green River before the big finish up Horsethief.

Here's a picture that Paul took of me with my camera. I rode down a bit and then rode back up to face the camera:

This was a beautiful section of trail. We got a nice cloud cover, a tail wind, and cooler temperatures as it approached evening.

Paul had a GPS on his bike, so we knew exactly how far we had to ride before the start of Horsethief. That helped us avoid wondering if the turn-off was right after this next bend, or maybe the next one. We knew we still had 7 miles to go, or 4 miles to go, or 2 miles to go. Horsethief is at mile 99, period, end of story. And then it's 1.5 miles of climbing.

Here's a picture of Horsethief that Todd Winner took.

After Elden and Lisa finished their ride, they jumped in their car and drove down to the bottom of Horsethief to help struggling riders. They asked Paul and me if we needed extra water, or if they could take our camelbaks, but we both declined stubbornly. We did agree to gulp down an ice-cold Coke that Lisa fished out of a cooler.

At the top of Horsethief, the riders who had finished sat in chairs at the top of the hill, watching, cheering, cajoling.

I decided that I wanted to try to ride up Horsethief. I let some air out of the bald rear tire so that I wouldn't have to stay seated to avoid skidding out and hammered up the first long stretched before it turned into switchbacks. Sadly, I had to push my bike up a couple of stretches. I like to think that I would have made it had Elden loaned me a better bike.

Then I rode up the last few switchbacks, doing everything in my power—including what Dug called the "paper boy"—to stay on my bike. Dug took this picture of me. I think that's Paul a little further down the hill.

"Go Bobby!" "Don't fall!" "Paul is catching you!" "Stay on your bike!"

Here's Paul riding up Horsethief:

Here's Paul finishing:

And here's me the morning after the ride:

Great adventure.

Special thanks to Kenny, Heather, Dug, Elden, Lisa, and Paul for all your help.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crazy Weight

Back in February, Kenny sent out his annual invitation to do RAWROD—Ride Around White Rim in One Day. I haven't done that ride since Bill Clinton was president, so I decided to sign up.

I had been in decent shape between commuting to work on my bike and doing family karate a few times a week. I was fat fit.

In February, I had lost all of my winter holiday weight that pushed me up into the 190s, and I was back down to within my normal weight range of 184-188. That's about what I weighed last November when I had a humiliating bonk on a 10-mile mountain bike ride at Fall Moab. I knew I had to make some changes to finish a 100-mile self-supported mountain bike ride in one day.

I changed my eating and exercise behavior. (I guess this is another way of saying "I went on a diet" but going on a diet makes me thinking of eating tasteless food and using infomercial equipment.)

Here's the plan:

  • Normal breakfast. Bowl of cereal with fruit.
  • Spin ride to work 15 mile route, audiobook.
  • Small lunch. Soup or salad.
  • Banana or apple before ride home.
  • Ride home from work 12-mile route, no bus. Interval bursts twice a week, music.
  • Eat anything for dinner, no second helpings.
  • No grazing in the evening.*
  • Only one dessert a week.*
  • No finishing kids' food.
  • One longish ride on the weekend. 60-mile road ride or 3-hour mtb ride.
  • Karate class 4-5 hours a week.
* These were the two hardest and most important changes for me. 

That's it. I don't feel hungry, and if I get food cravings, I delay gratification by thinking how good the next meal is going to be. 

I've lost 20 pounds in the last two months. I weigh about 165 pounds. As a point of comparison, when I did Leadville in 2008—the last time I was serious about losing weight and getting into biking shape—I never got below 172 pounds. 

  • It's much easier to ride up hills.
  • I should be able to do the White Rim Trail without bonking.
  • If you're in good shape, you're immortal.
  • I like eating donuts whenever I want, and I feel deprived if I can't.
  • I seem to have more lines in my face and neck. 
  • Moobs are less humiliating when the rest of your body is fat.
  • I sometimes miss the feeling that I can eat whatever I want whenever I want because I exercise a lot and don't mind being 15-20 pounds overweight.
Coming up next: RAWROD Report in May

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anatomy of a Funny

Understanding humor is the key to understanding people. If you understand why a joke is superior, you can express your approval through measured laughter.

Let's begin our study.

A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. They should have ducked.

That's funny because when you hear the phrase "walk into a bar," you think the priest and rabbi are walking into a pub or tavern, but it turns out they are walking into a low-hanging bar, probably made of metal because when a metal bar and a human head come into contact, the result is a funny clunk sound. This form of humor is called ad absurdium deus. The "ad" prefix has no known meaning in Greek, "absurdum" is derived from the Celtic words "absur" and "dum," and God only knows what "deus" means.

Great, so that's a funny joke. When someone tells it, you can laugh the appropriate amount. But how can we make it funnier?

A goose and a swan walk into a bar. It remains unclear why they did not duck.

This joke is twice packed with double entendres, making what the French would call a quartois entendre. On the one hand, you have the same funny thing going on with "bar" referring not to a tavern but to a metal pipe likely covered with barbed spikes. Now add to that the humor association among the goose, the swan, and "duck," and you have a delightfully fowl joke. That's called "word play," and it's something that is funny. Also know that it's funny when an animal hits its head against something metal, especially if it causes the animal to wobble or bleed.

Dare we make this joke funnier? We dare.

A mallard walks into a bar. Duck!

Some humor strikes the senses at such odd angles and with such twisted force that all mental processing of said humor is bypassed, resulting in a gut-level guffaw. This joke does exactly that.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Donut Panic

One of the things I like about Southern California is how the stores in strip malls are named. While driving from my parents' house to one of my sibling's houses, we see stores called "Liquor," "Pretzels," "Taxes," "Pets," and "Nails." Every now and then, someone like a dentist decides to get creative and call his store "Implants," but under the bright California sun, I can forgive that.*

* Note that I wrote "his" instead of "her" when referring to the dentist. I did that because in this example, the dentist is a Jewish male. Or maybe he's an elective surgeon. I don't actually live in California, so how would I know?

When we visited Portland later in the summer to visit Stan and Grey, I proclaimed to Wendy that Portland is a great city for two things: beer and donuts. (No, not the highly overrated Voodoo Donuts, which is nearly as mediocre as Top Pot donuts in Seattle.) Just as I made that proclamation during a rush of confidence, we both saw the same store:


I half-skidded into the parking lot and expected everyone to pile out of the car in a frenzy. The boys were busy with iPads and Wendy has issues with gluten and the like, so I walked into the store alone.

What happened next could only be described as panic.

With all the trays of delicious donuts to my left and center, my heart pounded. I had to blink a few times to clear my head. No good. My brain had stopped processing information in language and flashed thoughts in kaleidoscopic color. I saw a glazed raspberry donut that I used to like when I was in college, but I knew for a fact on some level that a glazed raspberry donut—even though you can see the enticing little red opening—is too sweet and seedy. In that donut store, the thought flitted into my head and left in a whirl. When asked what could be gotten for me, I replied:

"Raspberry donut, please."

In a moment of crisis, I choked. I suppose that I can take comfort in the number of times that I have ordered successfully in a similar situation, like that time I ordered Beef Wellington at Fresh Bistro. Or I can tell myself that I'm gainfully employed with a job I like and a family I love, and that I'm an above average wiffleball player, but that's all cold comfort in a time like that. I know what happened.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lance Boils

Mr. Lance Armstrong made it into the news by confessing that he cheated in order to win his seven Tour de France titles. As a commuter cyclist, I have opinions about this matter. But before I offer my opinions, I'll offer some thoughts.

* My only personal experience with Mr. Armstrong occurred in August 2008. I was about 3 miles from the Leadville finish. While drinking a beer in the back of a pickup truck, Lance said to me, "Good job. Keep going." Or he might have been talking to the cyclist next to me—I was tired. Regardless, Lance and I have a personal relationship, which gives me extra insight into this matter.

* It's common knowledge that a whole bunch of cyclists were doping. Whenever the subject of doping comes up with my friends who track this kind of thing a whole lot more than I do, I raise two questions:

Question 1: In any given tour during Lance's run, who was the top-finishing clean rider? Was it the sixth-place rider, the 18th-place rider, 126th-place rider? My guess is that it was one of the French riders who finished somewhere around 30th place, but I have no idea.

Question 2: Who was the last clean rider to win the Tour? Greg LeMond? Probably.

Miguel Indurain and the Spaniards most likely started the heightened EPO-style cheating back in the early 90s that made other riders believe they had no shot at winning without using PEDs. Are more recent winners like Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre clean? Again, I don't know.

One nice thing I've noticed while half-watching the tour over the last few years is that even the strongest climbers look like they're struggling on the steep ascents. It's possible they're clean.

Now, my opinions:

* While the cheating is bad, it makes sense on the "everyone else is doing it" level. What makes Armstrong's behavior particularly loathsome is how he went after accusers. He actually sued people for accusing him of doing something he was actually doing. He acted like a bully, both personally and legally.

* Armstrong has one of those great and terrible personalities like the best and worst conquerors. Armstrong starting LiveStrong is like Mussolini getting the trains to run on time.

* We don't celebrate moral courage that often. When was the last time you heard of a corporate executive who made a decision based on moral good rather than financial profit?

There is an interesting story in the news about the dramatic decline of violent crime coinciding with the drop in lead pollutants—especially lead paint and leaded gasoline. Apparently, lead made a bunch of urban youths more prone to violent behavior. Back in the day, energy executives saw studies about the damaging effects of lead, but instead of using ethanol as a gasoline additive, they went with the cheaper lead approach. Once the lead paint got cleaned up and we switched to unleaded gasoline, urban folks became less crazed.

I want to hear more stories about people doing the right thing, even though it costs them. There's no better place to start that with Lance Armstrong, who showed the courage of a winner in admitting to cheating. Bravo, Lance!

Good job. Keep going.