Friday, December 18, 2009

The True Meaning of Christmas

One of the difficult things about being a parent is that you don't raise your kids in a vacuum. Cultural influences help shape their world view, especially as they get older. By the time they're teenagers, I assume they'll want parental advice about as much as a referee wants advice from an angry crowd.

We try hard to keep Christmas about wrapped presents and glittery ornaments and open sleighs pulled by a single horse. Now that the twins are almost six, they're asking questions about that little baby in the manger. In fact, Luke insisted on setting up a nativity scene with the three wise men, the shepherds abiding their flocks by night, and other assorted Jewish figurines.

Mass media doesn't help matters.

Indoctrination vehicles like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" fill my boys' heads with the notion that all the showy glitz is insignificant compared to the deeper meaning of Christmas -- virgin mothers and baby kings and talking angels. The show backs off from its inverted morality at the end, leaving me something to work with. "See, Max? They were able to work together to light up the little tree. That keeps the dark out. Now all the tree needs is presents underneath it, and everyone will be momentarily happy. And if the presents are plentiful and expensive, we can pull ourselves out of this recession."

Exposure to these twisted Christmas tales is only going to get worse. In a few years, they'll sit down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." I suppose that's where my role as a parent enters the picture. I can step in and say, "You know, the alternate version of Bedford Falls that exists if George Bailey was never born isn't such a bad place with its crowded bars and dance halls and neon signs. In fact, every town and city in America is like that now, so don't look around for a place you'll never find."

It's a battle, but I'll keep fighting the good fight.


Friday, December 11, 2009

iPhone Recommendations

I am a proud owner of a new iPhone. And yet, I need advice. In fact, I turned on commenting so that you can spill your guts. One problem, however, is that since I don't post often, my readership may have dwindled. It's possible. Good Lord, what if no one leaves a comment because no one is reading my power blog?

Deep breath - I cannot fret over things that I cannot control. I must proceed down the path with armed with courage, and hope for added strength beyond the bend - Exhale . . .

So give me your advice on good iPhone apps. Here are my needs:

* I want a few fun games to play for when I'm waiting in line at the soup kitchen.

* I want to track sporting events when I'm out and about. I'd like an app that lets me listen to football games on the radio, or a gamecast-type apps that tells me what the score is and who has the ball and that kind of thing.

* Any other iPhone app that you recommend.

Come on, let it out.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ESPN Headline: "Woods at Fault in One-Car Crash"

So, if ESPN is correct, it was Tiger Woods who was at fault when he drove his car off the road. This is good to know. I assume that during their investigation, the police cleared both the fire hydrant and the tree.

UPDATE: Details here.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Moab 2009 - Fruita Edition

Just spent the weekend riding with friends in Fruita, Colorado. For the last seven years or so, after every Fall Moab, I've written a summary of the trip by handing out awards based on movie quotes. I'm not going to do that this time, and I'm not going to tell you why. In order to tell you why, I'd have to make up a reason, and then you'd think that what I wrote was really the reason, giving you a illusory awareness. Although I want you to be unencumbered by speculation, I can't explain why.

A Brief History

The Fall Moab event has evolved over the years. When Fall Moab started, email was a new tool to play with, the World Wide Web of the Internet was still a twinkle in Al Gore's eye, and we rode Slickrock in shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. At first, we called it Fall Moab to distinguish it from Spring Moab and Solstice Moab and the other times of the year when we headed down to the Canyonlands.

In the early days, we went to Moab in groups of two or three guys -- often for just a single day -- and we went several times a year. I went down whenever anyone else did. I was single. The married guys had a more difficult time getting away, and when the married guys started having kids, it wasn't easy for them to get away, at least not without making a huge withdrawal from the bank of good will.

"Would you rather spend time with your friends or be with me?" says the wife.

"I'd rather be with you! But every once in awhile, for the teeniest bit of time, I want to have fun with my friends. But I love you more than biking and more than my friends. Have no illusions. You mean everything to me. You are my buttercup, my golden dove. I just want to ride my bicycle a little bit." So says the husband.

We came up with a name. Fall Moab.

"Honey, I just fixed the garage door and sent that package to your Aunt. Oh, by the way, Fall Moab this year is the first weekend in November. We're leaving on Friday morning and coming back on Sunday."

Even then, it didn't always work. Some of the guys couldn't make it for whatever reason. Fall Moab really became what it is now in the late 90s when guys moved out of the state and needed to make travel arrangements.

"Sugar Pod, I just cleaned out the attack and washed the car. Say, that reminds me -- Bob and Elden and Gary are flying back to Utah the first weekend in November. You know, Fall Moab."

How We Know Each Other

Dug, Ricky, Gary, Elden, and I all worked at WordPerfect. Dug and Brad lived next to each other in student housing. Paul and I knew each other when we were cub scouts. Brad did Paul's mortgage. Kenny rode Leadville with Elden and printed photos for my mother. Jeremy, Ryan, Scott, and Racer all worked in bike shops. Sleepy and Rick S. are Dug's brothers-in-law. Rick S. and I both work for Adobe. Paul knew Tom in high school. Dug invited Tom to ride with us. Tom invited Rich. Rich and Elden were neighbors. Elden is now dating Rich's ex-wife.

I love seeing these guys every Fall. And every year, a few new guys show up, which is great because it gives us a chance to tell the same stories. The red rock country feels more like home to me than any place in the Northwest.

This Year's Highlights

* Ryan's amazing drop off the cliff was something you had to see to believe.

* Rocky, Elden's brother-in-law who lives in Fruita, was an amazing tour guide. My only disappointment with him is that he somehow thinks I am either (A) a talented cyclist or (B) a fool, because he kept encouraging me to do things like ride my bike off tall ledges. On one such ledge, which required me to get speed, make a turn, and wheelie drop off the ledge, I didn't have enough speed to fly over it, and I didn't pull up hard enough to wheelie drop, so I went off the ledge awkwardly, slammed on my front wheel, and ended up with a flat tire and hurt feelings. Thanks, Rocky.

* Riding on those amazing trails that dipped into slot canyons and scrambled over ledges is one of my favorite things in life.

* All the riders on this trip were talented. I'm in pretty decent shape right now, and if we had a race, I would have finished in last place.

* We ate beer-brats and told stories around the campfire. Has anyone ever not had a good time telling stories around a campfire?

Good times.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Drifters or Grifters?

So I was riding my bike home on Wednesday night, minding my own business -- as always -- when I passed through a group of homeless people who have been hanging around this part of the bike trail for the last few weeks.

Now that I think about it, they could have been hanging out there for years. The city just extended the bike path on Alaska Way near the football and baseball stadiums (stadia?), so I've only recently been riding that new section, which just happens to be near Pioneer Square.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Seattle, Pioneer Square is an old and beautiful section of Seattle that's famous for (1) Elliot Bay Bookstore, (2) the underground ruins, (3) live music hopping, and (4) crime and homelessness. Unfortunately, crime and homelessness is on the rise in Pioneer Square, as evidenced by the fact that Elliot Bay Bookstore will be moving to Capitol Hill soon.

Anyway, a number of Pioneer Square ragamuffins have been making their way down to the bike path that runs under the Aurora Bridge and hanging out in a certain area, forcing cyclists to slow down and weave through them.

On Wednesday, as I was making my way through the crowd, I noticed a homeless guy look at me and then start riding ahead of me in the same direction. I was musing about why the guy decided to hop on his 45-pound mountain bike, and why he was riding in the middle of the path, and whether I should pass him on the left or right, when all the sudden he slammed on his brakes and turned his bike sideways.

I slammed on my brakes and t-boned his chain stay, barely pulling myself out of an endo. When I glanced at the guy for a reaction, he had a funny look on his face, as if he were trying to look sorry but was secretly disappointed. A few of the other loiterers approached the scene of the collision, and a woman was yelling, "Are you OK? Are you OK! Are you hurt?"

Something felt wrong. The last time I'd been in a situation like that was in Barcelona, when two guys hopped on the subway in front of me and started jostling each other unnaturally, which led me to think that they were trying to pull something over on someone. As it dawned on me that that someone was me, I turned around and noticed that a third guy had opened my fanny pack -- which was filled only with tourist maps and a bike lock* -- and was trying to pull out the coiled bike lock. I grabbed the other end of the bike lock, hopped on the subway, and won the little tug-o-war as the train pulled away.

* I have been using the coiled Avenir bike lock since 1989. Still works great.**

** Footnotes are frequently distracting.

Anyway, as I was standing next to this homeless guy I had crashed into while a woman behind me seemed overly concerned, I had one thought -- get the hell away from these people. No apologies, no demands for apologies, no lectures. Without saying a word, I hopped on my bike and rode off, even though the front fender was scraping against my wheel. I spent the rest of the ride home wondering whether this was a dopey accident or a lame scam.

I still don't know what that was all about. When I was riding home on Friday, I thought about skipping the new section of trail where the homeless loiter and just riding on the Alaska Way shoulder, but I was too curious. I rode along the homeless section on the night before Halloween with my head on a swivel, riding over leaves that may or may not have been covering cracked vials, used needles, and burnt spoons, looking for a person dressed in rags to jump out at me.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Race Across the Sky

Last night, Wendy and I went downtown to see Race Across the Sky, a documentary about the 2009 Leadville race. The movie was shown as a special event in theaters across the country, which I think is a cool thing for movies with a relatively small but enthusiastic audience -- vertical markets, as marketing people would call them.

The people who created the documentary did a good job of showing what the race is about. It's primarily a race for amateur cyclists who want to test themselves. Even though the Lance Armstrong-Dave Wiens battle is the focus of the movie, the filmmakers emphasized the grassroots nature of the event, cutting back and forth between the leaders and the unknown cyclists battling to finish. Personally, I would have preferred a little more of the unknown cyclist and a little less of the top riders.

Here's what I liked:

* Near the beginning of the movie, they showed the terrain by tracking a yellow line over a Google Earth-like map. They cut back and forth between the racers and this map, letting viewers know exactly where the racers are on the course.

* I was wondering how they would show the heartbreak of failure, which is very much a part of the Leadville experience, as Dug wrote about in my favorite Leadville write-up. Dug talks about a wife and kids waiting for their husband and father to roll across the finish line in under 12 hours, and the disappointment on their faces as the shotgun goes off and he's nowhere to be seen. You can't end the movie on a downbeat note like that, so instead of showing some of the tragic figures who cross after 12 hours -- I was one of those people in 2007 -- they show the people being pulled off the course before the Columbine climb because they missed the cut-off time. It's a great agony of defeat moment.

* They did a good job of emphasizing the altitude and its effects. All four times I've done the race, I've traveled from Seattle. The thin air isn't that big a deal to my Utah friends, but it's a major factor for some of us.

* They showed what a great job the volunteers and medical staff do. I was telling Wendy after the movie what a cool experience it is to pull into an aid station and get treated like royalty, despite the fact that I curse them while spitting half-eaten banana chunks at their feet. OK, that's not true.

* The scene where Lance is riding across the top of Columbine with a huge drop-off in the background. Purple mountain majesty that.

Here's what I didn't like:

* No mention of the 9-hour belt buckle. I guess they didn't want to over-complicate the story, but breaking the 9-hour mark is a huge deal to about a quarter of the racers.

* Not enough Fat Cyclist jerseys. I actually saw more Racer's jerseys than Fat Cyclist jerseys.

* Bob Roll narrates the movie and does a good job despite a few wince-inducing lines, but where were Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin? They might very well have had something to say about Lance Armstrong.

I loved the movie. It's going to join my DVD collection as soon as it's available.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Update

It is a possibility that my readership is dwindling.

I like to think that this is not the case. In fact, I assume that the longer I go between web log entries, the more hits I get, as devoted readers continue to click the link to my web site a couple times in the morning, once in the afternoon, and several times in the evening, and then more and more people join in the clicking fray. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine how many hits a web site gets, or else I would test this hypothesis using some kind of analytics program. For now, I'll treat it as a theory, like the theory of relativity, and assume that it is true because it falls under the umbrella of science.


It turns out that I don't have much in common with 5-year-old boys. They like to talk about things that I don't care for, and I am frequently bored. Let's take last night as an example.

It was my turn to put the boys down. I gave them a bath and sat in their room while they toweled off and put on their pajamas. For people in their forties, toweling off and putting on pajamas takes less than a minute. For 5-year-olds, this task takes 7 hours unless they are prodded and coaxed and threatened. An argument broke out.

Max was upset because he had the idea of putting underwear on over his pajamas, superhero-style. Unfortunately, because he had put two pairs of pajamas on, and I made him take off the second pair, he watched in horror as Luke put underwear over his pajamas. You see, that was Max's idea. Max threw a fit. He shouted invectives at the brother born 20 minute before him.

Frankly, I wasn't interested in the argument. It was beneath me. So I just said things like, "It looks like there's no way out of this jam" and "Only one superhero wears his underwear over his pajamas, and that's Aquaman." Then I pressed my forefinger and thumb against the bridge of my nose and sighed. No one listens to me.

In case you're wondering how it played out, Luke put underwear on top of his head and hung his long soccer socks from each of the holes, making him a Super Rabbit of sorts. Max, seeing that Luke's version of a superhero differed from his, stopped throwing his fit, and covered his arms with socks. Both willingly brushed their teeth and succumbed to the ritual of reading books.

Good night, young superheroes. Now let me relax.

Weight Loss

When I rode in the Livestrong event in June, I weighed 194 pounds. A few weeks later, when Stan and Grey came up from Portland to visit, Grey noticed that several of us were fat and challenged us all to a weight loss contest. It was actually a smart contest. We must lose a certain amount of weight in two months, and stay below that target weight at a weigh-in five months later. If we fail to make our weight at either weigh-in, we must pay $75 to everyone else in the contest.

I was inspired enough to change my diet. No more grazing. No more apple fritters the size of my head. I permitted myself to eat whatever I wanted for breakfast and dinner, but I could eat only one dinner. No seconds. And just soup or salad for lunch. Given the fact that I lost 12 pounds in two weeks, you could imagine what my eating habits were before. Now I weigh 173 pounds or so, and I'm down to an A cup.

MS Bike Ride

In the summer, I got fired up about doing Leadville in 2010 on a singlespeed. Since I didn't sign up for any races this year, I treated the MS Bike Ride as if it were going to be a grueling event that required ferocious training. So I went on long weekend rides and did hill climbs and burst riding.

The MS Ride itself was laid back and charming. I camped with a bunch of other Adobe folks, but I rode on my own, at my own pace. The first day was a 90-mile ride around Whitbey Island. On the second day, I wanted to get back in time to see the end of the Colts game, so I rode the 70 miles averaging nearly 20 mph. This is fast for me. I was able to watch the end of the Colts game, which they won 14-12.

One drawback -- camping without a campfire is like having sex without an erection. For a man, I mean.

The First Week of School

Public school? Charter school? Private school? Try as I might, I couldn't avoid that discussion. We settled on public school.

The kindergarten teacher at our local public elementary school came by to visit us before school started. I looked at this as a positive sign. Also, our local elementary school shifted its budget a few years ago to prioritize small class sizes -- another positive sign. Unfortunately, that approach works for only a year or two in a good economy. In a bad economy, schools in bad neighborhoods shut down, and the poor kids flood into the neighboring schools, and the small class size advantage disappears as superintendents try for fairness.

I'll write about this some other time, but for now, let's just say that I have complex, conflicting opinions about race.

The first two weeks of school were rough. When I dropped the boys off while Wendy was working, I was shocked by the chaos. Instead of simply meeting in front of their classrooms, all the kids in the school, including the 70+ refugees from Senegal, met in a huge playground and lined up for their classes as the bell rang. Each teacher then led a class to their rooms, or tried to, as the different lines circled back and crossed each other. Children frequently spaced out and didn't keep up, so they ended up wandering around and crying. "I can't find my backpack!" It was heartbreaking.

Luke and Max each professed to hating school. As in, "I hate school. I have a tummy ache."

As expected, the kids have settled into a rhythm and now claim they love school. Just when I was thinking it wasn't such a bad idea to send our boys to a public Seattle school, we got a flyer yesterday that said one of the kids in the class has head lice, so we need to check the boys' scalps regularly for crawling critters. I'm trying to look at it as an adventure.

But I'm going to be doing some supplemental teaching.


As I continue to read mindless books and avoid creative endeavors of all types, I am laying the groundwork of a mid-life crisis. I imagine my mid-life crisis will not take the form of a sports car and young girlfriend. Instead, i expect to be kayaking in South America or sighing heavily between play dates. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go Mariners

A friend forwarded me this post called "Call of the Year." Even though I knew what was going to happen, I still got chills.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Parking Lots

Is it true that anticipation is better than satisfaction? For children on Christmas Eve and newly married virgins, I'd say yes. For people looking forward to Arbor Day, I'd say no. For mountain bikers, I'd say maybe.

The five parking lots that get me the most giddy with anticipation are as follows (in reverse order for dramatic suspense):

(5) Tiger Mountain

At one point, riding Tiger Mountain used to depress me. Instead of riding with the Core Team -- Dug, Elden, Rick, Brad, Gary -- I rode alone. Pulling into the parking lot at Tiger Mountain made me think that I made a huge mistake in moving up to Seattle.

Now, Tiger Mountain is one of my favorite rides. When I pull into the parking lot, I wonder if I can make the crux moves on the Iverson trail. I wonder if I'll have the guts to ride across the log after the second switchback on Preston Trail.

I do this ride alone most of the time, but I'm fine with that now. I like Seattle, sure, but more importantly, I have an iPod. An iPod makes friends irrelevant.

(4) Gooseberry Mesa

I'm always a little pissy pulling into the Gooseberry Mesa parking area because I'm sick of driving on all those dirt roads. Then when I pull my bike off the rack and start thinking about the twisting trail and crux moves, the grumpiness fades away.

(3) Tibble Fork

A few years ago, Tibble Fork would have battled for the number one slot, which I won't give away at this point in the web log entry because I don't want to ruin the dramatic suspense. Single-speed bikes makes Tibble not quite as exciting for me as it used to be.

The first mile of nasty, steep, gnarly trail is rideable only on a geared bike. In fact, we used to see who could "no-dab" it -- ride the whole mile without stopping or touching your foot on the ground. I was so excited I used to stretch out and warm up my legs before starting the ride to improve my chances of making it up the double switchback move.

For a brief time every year, I was in good enough shape to recover while riding up the less steep sections of that trail. If everything came together -- if my legs were warm, my lungs were fit, the trail was packed but dry -- I could no-dab it. I think. I actually can't remember if I ever no-dabbed it to the saddle. Let's just go ahead and assume I did, for the sake of argument.

(2) Gold Bar Rim

The parking lot itself is nothing special, but pulling in to the Gold Bar Rim trailhead means we'll be riding all day long. It means the start of the Main Event of Fall Moab.

(1) Slickrock

This wins. For one thing, the parking lot is paved. That's really good for drinking beer and playing derby.

For another thing, the moonscape scenery is striking. And there is a bathroom. And a metal grate that you ride over to start the ride.

Most important, there is all the history. It's where we started naming moves -- Easy As Pie (where a guy said the steep move was easy as pie just before he crashed), The Bowl, Hair Lip Hill (where the upper ledge used to give us fits), The Z Move, Egg Puke Hill (where some random rider lost his breakfast), The Sand Trap.

Slickrock is the first ride where I rode on clipless pedals. Slickrock is where Dug and I used to race each other, back before there was such a thing as the Leadville 100.

Slickrock is where I fell in love with mountain biking. Pulling into the Slickrock parking lot is like pulling out a box of old letters from friends. I can't wait until the next time I get to ride over that metal grate.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embarrassing Conversations with My Children, Part XIV

Wendy's family just left town. Wendy is out of town on a business trip. My parents are coming in to visit on tomorrow. That means that for about 26 hours, the boys and I have the house to ourselves. To celebrate, we did our ritualistic trip to Barnes & Noble. First we eat lunch, and then we go into the Children's Literature section where we sit in our secret corner to read books.

To my sons' frustration, we don't make a direct route from the food area to the kids' books area. I stop by the Audiobooks section, the Fiction & Literature section*, and either the WWII section or the Adventure Books section, with Max grabbing my hand and saying, "Come on, Dad!"

Today, Luke pointed at the cover of a book and got excited.

"Dad! Dad!" he said. "M. C. Hammer! It's M. C. Hammer!"

"No, that's Barack Obama."


Two women laughed behind me. One of them was black. I was speechless.


* Barnes & Noble has a crappy Fiction & Literature section. Sure, it's about the same as Borders, but when you go into a decent bookstore, and I'm not talking about a fantastic bookstore like Powell's or Elliot Bay -- I'm just talking about your average independent bookstore -- the Fiction section is always richer.

And here's one of my pet peeves. Barnes & Noble puts in a ton of furniture when a store first opens, and then they slowly take most of the comfy chairs away. On the Soul Rating Scale, Burger King and Barnes & Noble are in the same category. Therefore, in honor of my sister-in-law who recently shaved her head bald to get a tattoo of a chakra pyramid that will open her third eye, I am hereby sending negative vibes towards the Barnes & Noble executives. Deal with that!


Friday, August 21, 2009

2009 MS Bike Ride

Besides doing a naked monkey dance, what could be more fun than doing a bike ride for a good cause?

I'm going to ride in the Mount Vernon 2009 Bike MS Ride on Sept. 12-13. If you’ve been itching to give money to a good cause but just can’t find the right charity, consider the National MS Society. If you’d like to contribute, here’s my page:

Bob's MS Donation Page

It's for a good cause. But you know, if you need your money for other things like gambling and prostitution, Jerry Lewis' kids will understand.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Swing and a Wiff

When I got the announcement that the Second Annual Adobe Wiffleball League was starting, I meant to join. I used to spend hours playing wiffleball in grade school and high school. And college. Unfortunately, a part of me resists Seattle in general and the Adobe culture in particular. For that reason or some other, I didn't sign up.

A member of the Knee Sox came into my office and said I needed to be on the team. "Sure." When I went to play in my first game, 18 players showed up for our team. Only 6 can play at one time. There's an old wiffleball saying, "Six is company, eighteen is a crowd," so I looked for a new team. A player on Ken Wiffey Jr Fan Club had just gotten injured, so the captain of the Knee Sox happily traded me to Ken Wiffey. He joked that I was being traded for a bag of peanuts.

Everyone thought this was a great solution except for Dylan. Dylan is the mentally challenged mail deliverer. And by "mentally challenged," I don't mean that he struggles with 4-star Sudoku puzzles. I mean he is mentally retarded. No matter where he is, he speaks loudly, slowly, and clearly.


That was the last thing Dylan said to me. Now he doesn't talk to me. You see, my new team, Ken Wiffey, played against my old team, the Knee Sox, and we destroyed them. Whenever I came up to bat, people made jokes about my being a traitor, and then I would crush the ball, and that would be followed by "enjoy your peanuts" humor.

The next time I saw Dylan, I told him it was very hot outside. Instead of saying, "YES, IT IS SO HOT I WOULD RATHER STAY INSIDE," he stared at the floor of the elevator. My friend who convinced me to join the league told me that Dylan was still upset that I switched teams.

Here's the odd thing. I really got into wiffleball, as challenged as that sounds. Our team won five games in a row and moved into playoff position. In last Thursday's game, with two out and two on in the top of the final inning of a tight game, I smacked a three-run homer that went over the bushes and landed on the Burke-Gilman Trail. And by smacked, I mean crushed, creamed, smeared, whacked, cold-cocked. I jogged around the bases, stepped on home plate, and bashed forearms with delighted teammates.

I know it's goofy, but I walked around after the last few games with a smile on my face. It put me in a good mood. When I saw a guy on my team, we stopped and chatted about the next game. All we had to do was win the final game -- against a team that was 1-9 -- and we're in the playoffs.

We played tight. In the last inning, we were down a run, and I was the first batter. I needed to get on base to start a rally. The pitcher threw two curves, both balls, and I knew he would come in with a fat pitch to get a strike. Instead of calmly waiting on the pitch and driving it, I opened my hips early, peeked at the Burke-Gilman Trail, and hit a dribbler. Out. Two batters later and our season was over.

Here's the thing. I'm going to have a difficult time sleeping tonight. I choked. I am going to toss and turn worse tonight than I did after the Colts lost to the Chargers in the playoffs last year.

I need to forget about the whole thing. I need to keep this failure in perspective. I need to settle my rift with Dylan and put it past me. I need to trick myself into believing that wiffleball isn't that important.

No way. Wait til next year.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Susan's Funeral

When Dug and I showed up at Elden's door for a Saturday morning ride, I'm not quite sure what I expected. I certainly didn't expect Elden to answer the door with a howdy-ho cheerfulness.

"Hey! I'll open the garage. Which bike do you want to use, Bobby? The Superfly or the Fisher? Do you have a helmet?"

Dug had just picked me up at the airport, and we weren't even sure Elden would be up for a ride. So we loaded our bike stuff onto Dug's car and drove up to a parking lot at the top of the Alpine Loop, where we waited for the other guys to show up.

Whenever you're waiting at a parking lot for other riders, you derby. It isn't even a question. No one says "Go!" and no one even says, "Derby on!" You just ride in front of someone and stop, or you t-bone someone, and that's the start. There are only two rules in derby -- 1) hands on handlebars, 2) feet on pedals. As long as you follow those rules, you do whatever you can to knock other guys off their bikes.

Dug has the most experience. His elbowing is adequate and his balance is above average, but it's his head-butting that gives him his edge. Elden is -- and always will be -- slightly clumsier than any other rider, and that can work to his advantage. He's capable of taking anyone down with him.

Kenny and Larry finally showed up, and the four of us rode through the mountains, chatting comfortably and joking.

During the whole ride -- in fact, during the whole weekend -- I thought about Susan's death. I thought about how much she meant to Elden, and how much she meant to her children, and how much they would miss her.

I thought about how the cancer destroyed her body and tortured her for months. For years. I wondered how helpless and heartsick her family had to have felt as they watched her battle.

While all these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, we talked about singlespeeds and Leadville and audiobooks.

The funeral service on Monday morning was packed with people who showed up to mourn Susan's death and support the people she left behind. The service itself was beautiful. Elden somehow managed to give a tribute without breaking down, and the other speakers conveyed a good sense of what made Susan unique.

Susan didn't just try to be good. She was good. Genuinely good. She was warm-hearted and selfless and sincere.

I'll miss her.

Something else that was rattling inside my head during the trip was how Elden and Susan and their friends and family fought so hard and gave so much to help each other. Witnessing all that love and sacrifice made me feel hope and -- something totally unexpected at a funeral -- joy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rest in Peace, Susan

Susan Nelson finally died tonight after a long battle with cancer. She and Elden inspired thousands of people and helped raise more than a half million dollars -- so far -- for the Livestrong Foundation. A great fight like that is always a victory.

On the flip side of the coin, my sister Lisa seems to have gotten rid of cancer. She's feeling much better.

I may be going out on a limb to say this, but I'll do it anyway. Cancer sucks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Wedding Video

My niece was recently engaged to be married. At first, she and her fiance were going to be married in a Utah temple and then have two receptions -- one with her Dad's side of the family in Utah and one with her Mom's side of the family in California. So far, so good (except for the fact that she's only 19 years old, and it's no longer 1947).

Then the plans changed, so the reception and wedding were going to take place at the same time in California. My ex-brother-in law, Kirk, insisted on inviting his second wife's extended family to the wedding, but Shari wasn't too keen on that idea. She would likely get stuck paying for the whole shebang since Kirk owes more money to more people than Lenny Dykstra and Bernie Madoff combined.

Kirk probably said that (A) he's good for it, and (B) they should just have a pot luck dinner in which everyone brings potato salad and Jello and meat products. Kind of like at his first wedding, the one in Bluebell, Utah. (My favorite dessert at that wedding was animal crackers.) I'm just guessing. I have no idea what happened.

Anyway, if the wedding had taken place, there would have been underlying hostility, which goes against the very idea of a wedding. You know, where the community gathers to celebrate a couple's commitment to each other.

Like this wedding:

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Old Man and the Putter

Tom Watson will turn 60 next month, yet he led the British Open -- one of the four majors -- going in to the final hole. All he needed was a par to win. When Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at the old age of 46, people went nuts about how the old man turned back the clock, sent a message to the younsters, etc. Watson was 14 years older than Nicklaus. A 60-year-old is old enough to be a 46-year-old's father, especially back in the 1940s, when birth control was managed with lunar cycles and cod liver oil.

We were watching history unfold.

After making a birdie on the 17th hole, Watson simply needed to par the 18th hole to win the British Open. Of course, the 25 mph winds weren't making it easy. The old man stepped up and drilled the drive right down the middle of the fairway. If he could knock the second shot over the sand traps and onto the green, he'd win, causing the likes of Rick Reilly to wax profound. Watson's victory would join the pantheon of great Cinderella sporting events -- Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson, Bobby Thompson's Shot Heard Round the World, Villanova's win over Georgetown, Seabiscuit.

Watson addressed the ball, still refusing to look nervous. He swung smoothly. The camera focused on his reaction. He smiled, nodded his head, and seemed to tear up a bit, as if he'd come through in hitting the perfect shot. I pumped my fist. The camera then showed the ball landing on the green just past the deep sand traps. The ball hit hard, lurched forward and rolled toward the pin. It looked good. And then it rolled slowly past the pin, and just kept rolling slowly, slowly, Titleist 3, Titleist 3, until it rolled off the green and down a steep hill.

Instead of having an easy two-putt par for the victory, Watson now had to make a difficult up-and-down. I was surprised the announcers didn't make a bigger deal of Watson having to make the transition from thinking he had hit a perfect shot to getting out of trouble.

It reminded me of a tennis tournament I watched 15 or so years ago between Andre Agassi and Boris Becker. Agassi, at the peak of his "Image is everything" phase, was rolling along, up a set and a break. He said something playful to the crowd, and people laughed. Then Becker did something brilliant and brutal. He laughed sarcastically and glared at Agassi. When the camera showed Agassi getting ready to serve, he looked ashamed, as if an older kid had just stolen his A-Team lunch box during recess. (Not that I'm still bitter about my A-Team lunch box being stolen. That has nothing to do with this. I don't even miss my A-Team lunch box.) Anyway, Agassi was never the same. Becker broke back, won the set, and then won the next two sets. The announcers, of course, failed to mention why the momentum switched. But I knew. And if I hadn't been watching the tennis match alone, anyone else in the room would have known, too.

With Watson's beautifully struck shot that bizarrely ended up in danger, I don't know if that made him fall apart. I think it did. In my mind, he never recovered from thinking he'd hit the winning shot. After that, he used his putter to chip it 8 feet passed the hole, and then his old man hands faltered badly on the 8-foot putt. He never had a chance in the 4-hole playoff against a guy who will be known forever as The Evil Stewart Cink.

What a sad loss. It proved that old people just can't do things as well as young people.


Friday, July 10, 2009

There Is Forgiveness in my Heart

My friend Dug has been waxing eloquently of late. Even though his prose is overwrought, his heart seems to be in the right place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When a Friend Gets Awkward

I don't know if you're like this, but there are times when a friend, someone I've known for years and years, surprises me with odd behavior. In the last year, I've been disappointed a couple of times, causing me to re-evaluate my perception of a friend. Most recently, this happened with Dug.

Dug is supposed to be a crank. We all know that and accept that. If you make a bad joke or use a word incorrectly, he calls you on it. Because he's a crank.

He acts like he doesn't care about anyone or anything. If anyone else acted that way, you'd back off, but with Dug, it's different. You know, deep down, that it's a facade. Dug is a good soul. He just never shows it.

Until now.

Dug just recently posted a blog entry that made me feel uncomfortable. It's just too much information. I don't want to see that kind of emotion expressed, especially from someone who gets so much mileage out of being cranky.

I don't know what to think of Dug anymore.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Camping Seattle Style

Back when I lived in Provo, I missed camping. These were the days before kayaking and mountain biking trips, so I wasn't getting my fill of the outdoors. So I tried convincing some friends to go camping with me. I lived in the same apartment complex with several friends, kind of like a Melrose Place situation (in fact, it was exactly like Melrose Place), and I thought the smartest thing to do would be to organize everything. I planned the meals and got the tarps and tents and all that. It was a huge hassle. Despite my efforts, the people complained. "Don't you have a warmer sleeping bag? I was freezing last night!"

The next summer, I took the opposite approach. I told a few people that I was going camping, and if anyone wanted to come along, my pickup truck was leaving at 5:30 pm sharp. But you have to get your own gear, and make your own meals, and if you can't fit in the back of the truck, you have to find your own ride. As you can guess, that approach worked great, and Friday camping turned into a tradition. We just drove a little ways up the canyon on a Friday afternoon and set up our tents. In fact, talking about this reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in years.

I had a sling shot -- a wrist rocket -- that helped me menace small animals and trees. I never hit any squirrels, but I did nab a few trees, the bigger and less darty ones. And then one day, a herd of deer wandered near our camp site. I took careful aim -- Say hello to my little friend -- and wham!. I shot a deer in the butt. The deer reacted cartoonishly, jumping about 15 feet straight up in the air and then, when it finally landed, bolted off into the woods, unharmed but humiliated.

Camping in Seattle isn't as easy as camping in Provo. For one thing, in order to get the same kind of campground here in Seattle, we had to drive about 100 miles and pay Motel 6 rates to set up camp near Roslyn, the little town where Northern Exposure was filmed. For another thing, I couldn't just tell everyone they're on their own. We had to find gear for the boys, as well as for Kim and Bethany, my sister-in-law and niece.

Bethany's sleeping bag was too cold. I have mixed feelings about this. Back when we lived in Indiana, Bethany needed to borrow one of our sleeping bags for some kind of girl scout outing, so I loaned her my black zero-degree Kelty bag, which I had bought for climbing glaciers in Washington. When Bethany returned my sleeping bag to me, it was green instead of black. I asked her what happened to my bag, and I got an odd, befuddling story that teenagers are wont to tell. It put me in that awkward situation where I had to decide between letting it go or making a big deal of it, so I let it go. And now, after shivering all night long in the green sleeping bag, Bethany wishes that I had made a big deal of it. Like rain on your wedding day, it's ironic.

And here's another element of irony. In order to "relax" for a few days of camping, you have to spend roughly half the amount of time (0.5x) bustling to get ready to camp. In other words, a 72-hour camp trip requires 36 hours of preparatory bustling.

Lake Cooper is stunningly beautiful, however, and the relaxing is therapeutic. All that relaxation goes away quickly when the boys need to get ready for bed. Luke and Max wore shorts, t-shirts, and sandals, they "helped" with the fire, and what food they didn't eat still managed to touch a part of their body. To use understatement, they were dirty. To use mild hyperbole, if they showed up for a scene in a movie based on a Dickens novel, they'd be sent back to the make-up room because "people don't get that dirty working in a coal mine."

Having been pulled out of my reverie, I was in a grouchy mood, so I set up an assembly line. I had the boys strip down and stand on the picnic table, and then I washed them down with a bucket of water that very quickly started looking like that sludge coffee from Saving Private Ryan. Max started crying and demanding a band-aid because I rubbed one of his owies, but I would have none of it. After I got on their jammies in the dark, I pulled out their toothbrushes and smeared on toothpaste. While I bustled elsewhere, I told them to brush their teeth. They started brushing, and then looked at each other.

"This doesn't taste right."

"This tastes bitter."

"Yeah, this tastes bitter."

I reached into the plastic bag and realized I had grabbed the wrong tube.

"Of course it tastes bad. That's shampoo. Now give me your brushes and let's do it right this time!"

Zen and the art of camping.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two Great REM Songs

From 1986 to 1992, "R.E.M." used to be my answer to the question, "What's your favorite band?' Then, from 1992 to 1999, my answer was "The Band," and from 1999 to 2005, my answer was "Radiohead." Now, music reporters have stopped "catching up to" me to fire questions at me. And frankly, I am enjoying the anonymity.

But wait. I was talking about R.E.M., not my decline in popularity among music critics. Here is R.E.M.'s finest song, "Fall on Me":

And here is a great song from the unplugged MTV show that didn't make it onto the unplugged CD for whatever reason.

There's that great moment when Mike Mills breaks in and takes over the vocals. It gives me chills. I should write a blog entry called something like "Greatest Little Outbursts in Songs." I'd add the moment when Neil Young sings the "Ma, send me money now / I'm gonna make it somehow / I need another chance" in "Cinnamon Girl" and when Bruce Springsteen sings"But I remember us riding in my brother's car / Her body tan and wet down in the reservoir" in "The River." But I don't want to take the suspense away from the future exciting web log entry that I'll most surely write.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Best Movie-Going Experiences

Andy and I were talking about movies, and the issue of how various factors can affect someone's appreciation of the movie. This seems so obvious, yet rarely do people like Roger Ebert say things like, "I thought I would have enjoyed Room Without a View more, but the theater restroom had rough toilet paper, thus putting me in a state of discomfiture. That, and the movie sucked."

I know I've seen movies that I should have liked more. There was The Sacrifice by Tarkovsky, which I walked out of. You see, I was caught up in March Madness at the time, so I wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate dripping water. I would have been fine with three or four minutes of dripping water, but forty-three minutes of dripping water was too much.

Then the subject turned to which movies Andy most enjoyed in the theater. I asked him to separate what he felt about the movie afterwards or in repeated viewings, and just try to think of the experience itself. He gave his list, but fortunately for you, dear reader, I wasn't able to give my list, for dinner was served. The frustration of an incomplete conversation led to this web log entry.

Here's my list, in order of viewings:

Silent Movie - This Mel Brooks movie was on cable television the other night, but I refused to watch it. Deep down, I know it's a crappy movie, but I want to preserve it. When I saw it in the theater, I was a young teenager with a bunch of friends -- Paul, Steve, Mark, Dave, and Lance I think -- and we were all sitting in the same row, and the laughter was infectious. I've never laughed harder during a movie. The only thing I remember about the movie was a slapstick scene with clumsy people dressed in armor. Oh, and Marcel Marceau is the only person who speaks during the movie. Get it? He's a mime.

Jaws - My parents wouldn't let me see this movie because it was too violent. When they finally relented, the buzz built up my expectations to impossible heights, yet Jaws was one of those rare movies that couldn't be overhyped.

Citizen Kane - Pretentiousness alert. Sorry, but it's true. I loved this movie so much when I saw it in the old Joseph Smith Building auditorium that I sat through the next viewing as well. I was taken in by a bunch of movies I saw for that film class at BYU -- Shane, The Story of Adele H, The General, Nanook of the North, The Best Years of Our Lives, Being There. The only movie I really didn't like at the time was The Best Years of Our Lives because it didn't have enough action for an alleged World War II movie. Now it's my favorite movie on the list. Go figure.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - I saw this movie the day before I left home to go on my mission to Peru. Fantastic thrill ride. The movie, I mean. Well, the mission was exciting too. I vomited on a family and had bricks dropped at me from tops of buildings. But the movie was even more exciting, because it had jungles and snakes.

Silence of the Lambs - While Anthony Hopkins was great as Hannibal Lecter in that movie, that other guy was just as good as Jame Gumb.

"Wait, was she a great big fat person?"

"Yeah, she was a big girl."

The Sixth Sense - This nearly forgotten movie totally sucked me in.

Titanic - No, I wasn't a 13-year-old girl when I saw this movie. The scene where the upraised stern starts sinking is one of the finest moments in cinema history, along with the horse ride through fire scene in Gone With the Wind and the shower scene in Private School.

The Hangover - I bent over with guffaws at least three times. "Tigers love pepper. They hate cinnamon."


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Most Irritating Driving Move

I've been trying to think of the most irritating driving move. For a time, I thought it was the guy who weaves through traffic under the premise that no one else will change speeds or switch lanes. But that's not it. That kind of person is actually interesting in a way. I imagine he thinks everyone else is an automaton, whereas he is a rebel, a maverick -- someone who stands high enough above the crowd to push everyone out of his way. There's something about that guy I respect. I wouldn't even mind listening to his collection of self-actualization cassettes.

What about the Bloomington woman who yields her rightful turn at a four-way stop because she's a very nice person. No, I know I stopped here before you, but you go ahead. No, you go ahead. I've very nice. Go ahead. Oh, I'm sorry. We both started to go at the same time! You go. Just go ahead. Oh, and maybe you should turn that frown up-side-down! She's in the running.

There's the guy who tailgates, and there's the guy who turns without using his blinker. I'm a little reluctant to throw stones at those guys, because sometimes I drive too close to the car in front of me, and if I'm holding something in one hand, a lot of times it's much easier to make a turn without turning on the blinker, and only later do I realize someone was behind me and had a moment of confusion due to my failure to use a blinker. So I'm inclined to give those guys a pass.

There's the oblivious cell phone driver. Yeah, Dude, I'm totally gonna buy pretzels. I said I'd buy pretzels and that means I'm going to buy pretzels. Don't bring up the Doritos again. I never said I'd bring Doritos. I said I might bring Doritos. Dude, you're pissing me off, and there's some dude in a Rodeo giving me the bird.

As a commuter cyclist, I have to call out the people who drive too close to me when there's no oncoming traffic. If I happen to dodge a pothole or broken glass at the wrong time, there's going to be an ugly collision. I could get bounced backwards off the windshield and go flying in the air, and maybe strike a speed limit sign, which would knock the wind out of me. Then I'd have to fish for my cell phone to call Wendy and tell her to come pick me up because my bike is jammed in someone's wheel well.

Or there's the classic goofball move of speeding up to pass a cyclist and then cutting him off with a right turn. I'd guess that happens to me once a month.

Or there's the person who gets grouchy and honks at me when I roll through a red light, even if it's a red light at a t-intersection where there's no danger to my right, and no reason for me to stop, other than the law. I've dealt with enough guilt and shame as a Mormon without having to fight off the guilt imposed by jealous honkers. But let's forget about cyclists and get back to drivers.

I just thought of a winner. It's the guy who's behind you when you approach a bus or some other slow vehicle, moves out in the left lane and doesn't make it clear whether he's going to pass you or let you pass in front of him. He just kind of hangs out behind and to the left of your rear bumper while you approach the bus. If he zips past you, fine. If he hangs back and lets you pass, fine. But just sitting there, zoned out, thinking about his dog and how much he likes his dog and how much his dog means to him and how much meaning his dog adds to his life, well, I think we have a winner.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rambling Thoughts on Politics

It's been several months since I've addressed the nation -- indeed, the world -- on politics.

Barack Obama

I don't know what to think about President Obama. That's not exactly a bold thing to say, is it? Trust me, I'm not afraid of using this web log to take a strong stand. I really, truly, honestly don't know what to think about him.


What bothers me so much about this is that the subject of torture has somehow migrated from right vs. wrong to left vs. right. When the Abu Ghraib photos came out, I don't recall anyone on the right saying, "Yes, we Americans are torturing our enemies, but it's yielding valuable information." No. Everyone was shocked and angry. Republicans were mad at the likes of Lyndie England, along with any partisan leftist who dared inquire whether these sordid actions were systemic mandates.

Now, the logic from an alarming number of the right is that torture is necessary to protect the country. This is further evidence that contemporary Republicans have a cowardly streak in them. Abandoning a moral code in the face of danger is cowardly.

The State of the Republican Party

Speaking of Republicans, there's a debate right now in Republican circles about the best way to return to power. The Cut Taxes/Bring It On/Remember 9/11 approach hasn't quite gotten it done recently, so what next? Should the Republicans move towards the conservative center or the extreme right?

In a two-party system, we can't afford for one of the parties to be so messed up. We need a somewhat respectable party to balance whatever ways in which the Democrats push the sliders too far to the left.

Update: Apparently, a Republican official named Lawrence Wilkerson discusses this issue of torture and the decline of the Republican party.

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

Less important but still busting my chops as a Republican, is the damage that the Sith Lord Cheney is doing to my political party.

He and Rush Limbaugh seem to be its leaders now. Lindsay Graham, John McCain, John Boehner, and all other Republicans of note seem to be either so enamored of Cheney-Limbaugh (or fearful of them?) or, on the other hand, so appalled by them, that the cat has their tongues. And meanwhile fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.

When will we hear from those in my party who give a damn about their country and about the party of Lincoln?

When will someone of stature tell Dick Cheney that enough is enough? Go home. Spend your 70 million. Luxuriate in your Eastern Shore mansion. Shoot quail with your friends--and your friends.

Stay out of our way as we try to repair the extensive damage you've done--to the country and to its Republican Party.

-- Lawrence Wilkerson

If it's true that Americans were torturing people to uncover a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq to justify going to war, does it get uglier than that? And going back to Obama, should he help expose the torturers, or is he playing it smart by distancing himself from it? I dunno.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Writing Well

Even I'll admit that I haven't been writing much lately. Fortunately, I'm not the only writer in the family. Max and Luke have been composing fiction. Let's start with Max's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Max

Once upon a time, there was a big pokey ball. And the big pokey ball one day hit the ground. And then it exploded. And then they made a new one. But it was different. It was different because the inside of the other one didn't have anything in it. And the other one, it had some stuff in it, and the stuff was metal. And this time, when it hit the ground, it didn't explode. It bounced up, but it made a big hole in the ground. And it made a BIG explosion. And it made a new cloud. And the man in it, in the crane that has the ball, he wished for a wishing diamond. And one day the whole crane got broken. But they made a new one, and it was blacker. And the other one, the ball went bouncing away. So they made a new one. And this time, the metal was darker. And this time, they made a face on the crane. And then they made an even better crane. And this time the crane had two balls. One was little and one was big. And then they made a new ball, and this time the ball was orange. And it was medium sized.

The End

Fine art both invites and resists interpretation. With Max's story, it's easy to get so caught up in the rising action and falling action of the plot that you miss the underlying symbolism. The crane as a Christ figure. The pokey ball as the symbol of post-industrialism. The man in the crane as a communist sympathizer. Indeed, the conflict between capitalism and communism is no less evocative than the battle between Good and Evil. Notice the biblical style. Replace "And" with "And it came to pass," break it up into new paragraphs, and add paragraph numbering, and you have scripture.

He even uses the King James trick of pulling an adjective out of one sentence and forming a second sentence. Instead of writing, "It had some metal stuff in it," he wrote, "It had some stuff in it. And the stuff was metal." No, concerned prigs and marms, that sentence does not need to "be tightened." It's majestic. It's emphatic. The metal is significant. Think about the metal. Ponder it. Revel in it, you sinning fascist. While doing so, notice the sexual imagery, and notice that the sexual imagery is underlying.

Like all art, Max's story is open to multiple interpretations. However, it's important not to get so caught up in critical conjecture that you dismiss the story. It is a story that is not real, but is reality itself. It does not mean, but is.

Now, on to Luke's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Luke

Once upon a time there was a horse. And it couldn't talk.

The End

I feel the same way about post-modernism that I feel about hip-hop music. When will this derivative self-parody be recognized as the fad it is and go away like disco? I don't want to be too hard on Luke, because he's a young writer with plenty of promise, but anyone can do that kind of thing. "Once upon a time there was a red wheelbarrow, and it wasn't glazed in rain water. The end." Please. I prefer his neo-post-Colonial fiction.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day

On April 15, 1452, Leonardo DaVinci was born. Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa and served as the inspiration for a mutant ninja turtle.

On April 15, 1843, Henry James was born. Shortly after his entrance into the world, he is reported to have said, "Indeed."

On April 15, 1861, the American Civil War started. Abraham Lincoln declared there was an insurrection uprising and called out union troops. The South would have won that war had they not run outta amnition.

On April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in what must be the disappointing performance by an actor in a theater.

On April 15, 1912, the Titanic took a little more than 2 1/2 hours to sink. With 2,223 people on board, the lifeboats had the capacity for 1,178 passengers, but only 706 survived. 1,517 people died, including a young man named Jack, who could not float on the same piece of wood as his new girlfriend and thus sunk dead, reaching skyward. His heart still goes on.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Unfortunately, black people are no longer all that interested in baseball.

On April 15, 2009, you have to pay your taxes to the United States government.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Want You

Bob Dylan's "I Want You" is one of my favorite songs, only not when Dylan sings it. Don't get me wrong -- I think Dylan is a fine performer, and Blonde on Blonde is one of my favorite albums. It's just that Dylan's version of "I Want You" is a bit too folky or melancholy or flat or boring. In the context of Blonde on Blonde, it's perfectly decent.

At least two other singers have done better renditions.

In the original broadcast of Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Special, someone named Sophie B. Hawkins did an excellent cover of "I Want You" that came closer to fulfilling the divine nature of what the song could have been had not Bob Dylan flattened the song. For some reason likely related to a financial dispute, Hawkins' version isn't on the video or the album. Hey, here it is:

While reading a book about Bruce Springsteen called Born to Run, I read that Bruce did a version of this song as well. Twitterpated, I had to skip my fatherly duties and go find it. This is especially bad because today is Wendy's birthday, and I'm ignoring everyone to hunt down Mr. Springsteen's version. Here's Bruce Springsteen's version, which contains the appropriate degree of longing:

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostates

I get Google Alerts to track what's going on in the InDesign world. One of the hits was about an awkward typo that caused the BYU school newspaper to be pulled off the racks and reprinted -- more than 18,000 copies.

This Deseret News article has the details:

After a day of student interviews and reviewing audit trails, Evans said he believes the gaffe ironically occurred during a spell check. The Daily Universe was using Adobe software called InDesign, which, when it found the word apostle misspelled as "apsotale," suggested "apostate" at the top of its correction list.

"She quickly clicked on the first (suggestion) and moved on," Evans said. "A real unfortunate mistake."

The Deseret News, which also uses the InDesign software, replicated the misspelling and found that Adobe's software does suggest apostate before apostle; Microsoft Word offers it in reverse order.

Imagine how heart-broken I am that my beloved software could inspire such a demonic mistake. InDesign, failing to recognize the sacred nature of an apsotale, offered "apostate" before "apostle." The bleary-eyed student editor, likely late for an Uno game, was so inveigled by InDesign that she picked the first suggested word. Not coincidentally, InDesign has six menu commands and six default panels. Version 6, that is.

According to school officials, there is nothing amusing about this sad, costly, non-Freudian mishap. However, several apsotales were indeed amused. Yeah, verily, they did snicker.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Breakdown: Moab vs. St. George

Coke vs. Pepsi. Pacino vs. DeNiro. Sopranos vs. The Wire. Luke vs. Max. Some epic battles can be decided only with a Dr. Jack-style breakdown a la Bill Simmons. Let's get right to it.


When you say you're going mountain biking in Moab, that carries a lot of weight with the average cyclist. It's like saying you're going skiing in Vail. Sure, Steamboat Springs may have better terrain, and Alta may have better snow, but Vail has the name.

If I'm going biking in Moab, I tell people I'm going to Moab. If I'm going biking in St. George, I tell people I'm going to Southern Utah, or I'm going biking near Zion's National Park. Doesn't have the same weight.

Strong Edge: Moab


St. George requires a lot more travel than Moab. For one thing, Moab is a little over three hours from Racer's Bike shop in Provo, whereas St. George takes an hour longer to get there.

Of course, you rarely drive to St. George. Usually, you -- and by you I mean me and my buddies -- drive straight to Gooseberry Mesa through Hurricane. And if you want to do a ride away from Gooseberry, you have to drive back along a bumpy dirt road for at least 30 minutes to get to the next trailhead. That's a lot of car time, which is fine unless Dug is playing the Sensitive Guy playlist on his iPod, which includes, but is not limited to, the Indigo Girls.

Here's another drawback to St. George. The epic "St. George" rides are actually an hour away from St. George. On the other hand, the Moab rides are all close to town. Whether you're staying in a hotel in town or camping near Slickrock, you're within a 20-minute drive on paved roads to practically any trailhead.

It's looking like a Strong Edge win for Moab, right? Not so fast.

Being in St. George forces us to camp. And the camping in St. George is fantastic. For one thing, not many people camp next to the windmill, so there's plenty of firewood all around. We're so far away from town that we can see the stars in their full Milky Way glory. Plus, Brad will get his yurts built soon, so the camping will be even better. At Moab, you have to bring your own firewood if you're camping, and it doesn't feel as remote.

Upon further review, the superior camping in St. George isn't enough to offset all that extra car time.

Strong Edge: Moab


Moab is usually so crowded that it's sometimes frustrating to be there in the Spring or Fall, which is why we made a habit of doing Fall Moab in the first week of November, when the crowds have died off enough. Hotel rooms are available and the wait for restaurants is minimal.

When we went to St. George last week during Spring Break, we saw only a dozen or so riders during the four rides we did in three days. I guarantee Moab was so packed that weekend that there would have been a waiting line to drop into the bowl at Slickrock. Not to mention a 45-minute wait outside Moab Brewery.

Strong Edge: St. George


It's about time we discuss the actual riding. While the most famous ride in Moab is Slickrock, Gold Bar Rim is the ride we pick to do on Saturday. It's got everything -- rolling singletrack, ledge drops, ledge climbs, a top-notch crux move, which I'll discuss later, and plenty of trail options. You can make it a there-and-back ride, or you can drop down the Portal Trail or Poison Spider Mesa.

On the other hand, Gooseberry Mesa in St. George has rolling singletrack, ledge drops, ledge climbs, a couple of decent crux moves, and plenty of trail options. Plus, it has the otherworldly section through Hidden Canyon, where you duck your head below overhanging rock formations.

I need a tiebreaker. Let's try this. When the cars pull up to the trailhead, and everyone is pulling their bikes off the racks and getting ready to ride, where am I more excited? Gooseberry or Goldbar? Interestingly, the two rides with the highest tingle factor for me are Tibble Fork and Slickrock. So that doesn't help.

This one is just too close to call.

Edge: Even


For the Friday afternoon/Sunday morning rides, Moab has Porcupine Rim, Slickrock, Amasa Back, the highly overrated Flat Pass, and a few other obscure gems like the Sovereign Trail and Moab Rim, which is no longer an option on singlespeeds.

St. George has Little Creek, where I ride -- and frankly there's no other word to describe it -- heroically. That's right. I ride heroically there. There's also the Jem/Gould loop, which includes the greatest one-mile stretch of singletrack I've ever been on. This is not an exaggeration. I was laughing while sprinting through this winding bobsled run. It was thrilling adventure. Unfortunately, I'm built like a Weeble right now, so I paid for my outburst during the rest of the 26-mile desert ride.

St. George also has the Zen Trail right in town. By the way, while riding the Zen Trail, I pulled up to a resting point where the other riders had gathered and announced that I felt like I'd reached a state beyond fear and desire. No one responded. Frankly, I thought that deserved at least a token laugh.

Slight Edge: Moab


I've been going to Moab at least once a year now since the early '90s. I remember sharing a bed with Stuart and waking up soaking wet in what I mistakenly thought was my own urine. I remember getting so upset when I found out my friends did a new ride they'd promised not to do that I became a belligerent drunk that evening and was nearly thrown into a creek. I remember letting my friends convince me to perform a belly dance by the campfire. That's a lot of memories in Moab.

Strong Edge: St. George


Now that we ride singlespeed bikes, crux moves aren't as important. Crux moves used to be a good way to measure your biking skills. We'd all gather around a place and take turns trying the move and busting chops. We still do that, but not as often, and not as long. The singlespeed riding lends itself more to cruising along the trail in a road-like rhythm.

The best crux moves at Moab are the Triple-Ledge move at Gold Bar, the aptly named Crux Move near the top of Amasa Back, and a handful of others at Slickrock.

The best crux moves at St. George are the Toilet Bowl and Sidewinder moves at Gooseberry and the Double-Ledge Canyon move at Little Creek.

Edge: Even


Here's the bottom line. If I go mountain biking anywhere in the world -- Fruita, CO, Bend, OR, Durango, CO, Asheville, NC, Squamish, BC, or some Alpine town in Germany, I'd compare that place to Moab. Not St. George. So while St. George is in the same league as Moab, I'm afraid I can't call it the champ.

That title belongs to Moab.

I am Bob. I have spoken.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Throw-away Post

The three actresses who look most alike are Emily Watson, Miranda Otto, and Emily Mortimer. I can't tell the difference between them. In fact, if someone told me it was the same actress who doesn't want to risk overexposure, I'd look skeptically and say, "Really?"

The two actors who look most alike are Christopher Meloni and Elias Koteas. If I see one of those guys in a movie, I'd ask if that's the guy from one of those detective shows or if it's the guy from that other war movie.

That's right. That's the end of this message. When I get some free time, I'm going to do a lengthy comparison of mountain bike trails in St. George and Moab. It's surprisingly close.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Now that security is improving...

I just read this on ESPN.

BAGHDAD -- Police say an Iraqi soccer player has been shot dead just as he was about to kick what could have been the tying goal in a weekend game south of Baghdad.

Police Maj. Muthanna Khalid says a striker from the Buhairat amateur team was facing only the goalie during a Sunday match in Hillah when a supporter of the rival Sinjar club shot him in the head in the final minute of play.

Sinjar was leading 1-0 when the shooting occurred. Khalid said a spectator was arrested.

More Iraqis are turning out for sports events now that security is improving.

I couldn't imagine living in conditions like that.

On a related note, my sons have started playing soccer. Their first game was something to behold. A team of kindergarteners destroyed my kids' preschool team. The good news was that Max scored two goals. The bad news was that he scored them against his own team. The worse news was that Luke was the goalie.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pop Media I've Been Consuming

Winter is usually when I retreat from adventure. Rather than climbing mountains in the Andes or performing interpretive dance in Prague, I amuse myself with books, movies, and television. As a result, one could make the argument that my life is boring from an external perspective. I like to say that boring is relative, unless I'm nodding asleep, in which case I mumble and slobber.


I went on a World War II phase, reading about six WWII books in a month. The best one was called The Mammoth Book of Eyewitness World War II. I know. It's a stupid title. But it was excellent, with personal accounts from infantry and brass on both sides. It's similar to the fascinating The "Good" War by Studs Terkel, only with less poignant artistic value and more battle stories.

The best part of the book is the account of France's fall. The conservative party in charge was faced with either fighting the Germans and losing elections to the leftists or signing an armistice treaty that allowed them to keep power in Vichy France. Before they signed away most of their country, they coaxed a few key Frence generals into intentional bad maneuvers that allowed German troops to blitz into France. If I had to choose between that conservative French government and the Bush Republicans, wow. What a tough call.

I also read a few Band of Brothers accounts, along with an excellent book called With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge, one of two books on which is based "The Pacific," with is a 10-part HBO mini-series that comes out next year. Yes, I'll re-subscribe to HBO.

I also tried to read a book by Jonathon Kellerman. That didn't work.


Mad Men, Season 2 - Just as good as the first season. Don Draper is the most compelling television character since Tony Soprano. It's a smart show.

30 Rock - Tiny Fey is the funniest woman of all time. Oh, you think I'm exaggerating? Tell me who's funnier. Ellen? Sarah Silverman? Ok, maybe Julia-Louis Dreyfus. Still, she's in the running.

Top Chef - Wendy got me into this show. Now I'm hooked, even though I'm not a foodie.

Sports - I'm getting ready for March Madness.




Adam Bede by George Elliot - One of my favorite novels in college, but I have a difficult time thinking I understood it as a 21-year-old kid.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzin - I'd read this before and thought it was in the running for The Great American Novel. It doesn't quite hold up.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris - Hilarious, as usual.

It's almost 10 o'clock. Time to go to bed.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inverted Social Pyramids

When I was growing up, I didn't care at all about grades. They didn't matter. Once, with two weeks left in the year, my 6th grade teacher told me that all I needed to do to get an A in Social Studies was to write a one-page report on Mexico. "Isn't that great!" she exclaimed.

I asked her what grade I would get if didn't write the report. When she told me I'd get a B, I said, "That's above average, right? I'll take it!"

I wouldn't even have minded writing a one-page paper on Mexico. I was just so happy with being above average that I wanted to bask in the glow.

I didn't care about being smart, or being perceived as smart. I was a wannabe jock. As the smallest kid in the class, I would have been thrilled to be just make it onto any junior high school sports team.

So one day, I was sitting at a table with a few other kids, including one of the best athletes in the school. His name was Bruno -- I wouldn't make that up. I felt cool for sitting at the same table as him, even if he did make fun of me every now and then. When I heard Bruno say something stupid, I laughed. I can't recall what Bruno said -- maybe he asserted that Arizona was the capital of California, or vice versa, but it was dumb. I said something like, "Man, don't be stupid."

Just then, our teacher came up behind me and said, "Bob, come with me please." I knew I was in trouble -- I'm not stupid, you know -- but I had no idea why I was in trouble. Had I forgotten to turn in a paper?

After shutting the door in a little room behind us, the teacher could barely control his voice. "You NEVER call someone stupid," he said. "How do you think that makes Bruno feel?"

I said nothing. I thought this guy was crazy. Bruno feels great. He's one of the best athletes in school! He dates cheerleaders!

"Well? How would you like it if someone called you 'stupid'?"

Again, I said nothing. Is being called stupid worse than shrimp, or faggot, or punk, or pussy?


"I'm sorry," I stammered.

"That's better. You need to learn to respect other people."

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I Won $28 Betting on the Oscars

Last night we had an Oscar party. Wendy's sister's family is in town this week, and Minette and Andy came over with ballots that everyone could fill out and submit, along with a $5 processing fee that the winner processed. (I call it a processing fee because gambling is illegal, and the Feds have been all over me recently. You don't think I see those helicopters, g-men?)

I wasn't sure I wanted to fill out the predictions for three reasons -- 1) I haven't seen many movies this year, 2) some Oscar nights leave me feeling sick and sad about the movie industry, and 3) I was tired from riding the Chilly Hilly yesterday morning.

Breaking News - Mini Ride Report

I should give a ride report, since it was an official cycling event. The Chilly Hilly is a 33-mile ride with 2,875 feet of elevation gain. To put this in perspective, if each foot of elevation gain were a piece of paper, and if you stacked the papers on top of each other, the stack would nearly be eight inches tall.

I rode from my house to the ferry, and then I rode around the well-marked course on Bainbridge Island, took the ferry back to downtown Seattle, and then rode home. It was a solid ride.

Now, back to the Academy Awards. The tricky thing about the Academy is that no one really knows who belongs to the Academy. Or at least I don't. I have the feeling that quite a few Academy members don't see all the nominated movies. They like leftist causes like the Gay Agenda and Giving a Hand Up to Black People, and they have elitist sensibilities. But above all, they want the financial success that comes from successful Hollywood movies. Oh, and many members of the academy happen to be members of the Jewish community. Did I mention that they don't watch all the movies? That's about all I know.

As I went through the ballot, I used my knowledge of the Academy to make my picks. By the way, has anyone pointed out what a weak year it was in movies? Maybe the worst since the mid-30s. The Dark Knight and Iron Man were good, but they're superhero movies for crying out loud. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was quirky but forgettable. And Slumdog Millionaire? Ugh. I kept whispering to Wendy what was going to happen next, and I was right in every case. ("Pssst. He's not going to guess B." "Psst, the final question will be 'Who's the third muskateer?'") That movie was so predictable, and so unbelievable, and so cheesy, and so violent, that the four of us left the theater without asking, "What did you think?" We stormed halfway back to the car before someone broke the silence with, "I need a shower."

The only reason I watched Slumdog was because it was supposed to dominate the Academy Awards. You'd think I would have learned by now that dominating the Academy Awards doesn't mean a movie's great, or even good. Crash and The English Patient won Academy Awards. Try staying awake through either of those movies.

Predicting the main awards is pretty simple. I go by buzz and some simple logic. Meryl Streep is a fine actress, but it's really time to celebrate Kate Winslet. Sean Penn just won the award a couple years ago, so Mickey Rourke has a better chance to win. Needless to say, I'm not always right. It's difficult to predict what the scatterbrained Academy is going to do.

Predicting the smaller awards is even more difficult. I don't know what the difference is between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and neither do members of the Academy. For the foreign movies and short movies, which neither I nor the Academy members have seen, I go through a simple process. Are any movies about the Holocaust? If yes, vote for it. If the movie is not about the Holocaust, pick the Frenchiest sounding movie, because the French make fine wine, fine food, and fine movies.

In our little contest, we agreed to have a weighted scale. Best Picture is worth 3 points, Best Actor, Actress, Director, Cinematography, and a few others are worth 2 points. The rest of the awards like sound and foreign short are worth 1 point.

Early on, I took a 1-point lead over Minette, with Andy and Wendy following close behind. Kim appeared to make random guesses, and Michael apparently filled in write-in ballots, so they fell behind. Then Minette went on a roll. She got both of the Sound awards right while I got them wrong, and for some Short Film category, I picked a French movie while she picked a German movie. During the announcements, when it became apparent that the German movie was about the Holocaust, I cursed and Minette pumped her fist. She took a two-point lead.

I narrowed the gap back to a point by picking the right Slumdog song to win -- have I mentioned what a predictable and cheesy movie that was? -- and since Minette and I made the same guesses for Movie, Director, and Actor, it all came down to Kate Winslet. If she won, I won. If she lost, Minette won.

This year, instead of having one or two presenters, they decided to have five presenters, each one of whom spoke directly to one of the candidates. This was so painfully self-indulgent that I wanted to start doing the dishes. Still, I somehow managed to stay put through all the schmaltz. "Meryl Streep, you're a shining beacon unto all yada yada yada." I wondered what would happen if one of the presenters gave a real critique. "Ms. Hathaway, you're a fine actress, but you look too much like a cricket to win this award."

And the Oscar goes to . . . Kate Winslet!!! I fist-pumped my chest twice and pointed towards the ceiling. Mad props, Big Guy. I owe it all to You.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Power-Packed Post

As the title of this web log entry points out, I have much to discuss today. Instead of talking about the whys and wherefores of this purported flurry of information dissemination, I've decided to avoid talking about it altogether. Indeed, any further discussion of this point would be anathema to my claim. In short, I shall proceed and continue to address two important issues.

Item 1 - Owl Puke

Max recently showed Minette a book on owl puke. Max's favorite animal is the owl, whereas Luke seems to favor the penguin. Although it's difficult to assess their favorites, because both boys have now taken to giving Wendy and me each a penguin in the morning when they come into our bedroom.

Max climbs into bed, taps me on the shoulder whether or not I'm awake, and says, "Daddy, here's your stuffed aminal." I then take the stuffed animal, which is a penguin wearing a Santa hat, and pretend to enjoy sleeping next to it.

Luke, who started the ritual, varies in his delivery method. Sometimes he simply lays the animal (a non-Santa penguin) next to me, sometimes he wakes me up and hands it to me, and every now and then he throws it at my face. Top o' the mornin' to ya!

But I was talking about owls. When Minette saw this Owl Puke book of Max's, she decided an adventure was in order. She and Andy went down to Lincoln Park and foraged for owl pellets under the trees where she'd seen owls. She then brought these owl pellets over to our house, and invited all of us to participate.

Please humor me if you already know what an owl pellet is, but I just learned myself. When an owl eats something like a rodent, the food remains in the gullet for a time while the owl's innards extract the meat that it can process. Once that process (pronounced PRO-sess in Canada) is complete, the owl then throws up the equivalent of a hairball. A biologist or naturalist then scoops up the pellet and finds someone else's home to unwrap everything. That's because owl pellets smell worse than owl feces.

The boys were fascinated by the unveiling of bones and skulls. See Minette's Flickr page for details. (If you're reading this some time after February 21, the first photo in the series is here.)

Item 2 - This Goes to 11 Again

Vanity Fair has a great interview with the keys members of Spinal Tap. Here's my favorite part:

Tufnel: Their breakup has been great for us, because I’ve seen him a bit more. My interests have changed. I’ve been breeding miniature horses. The very small ones, even smaller than the Mongolian horses, it turns out. And trying to find a business venture where I would race them. But I’m trying to find jockeys that are basically 26, 28 inches tall—and that’s been a problem, actually.

How about the dwarves from the “Stonehenge” setup?

Tufnel: They’re way too big.… I don’t know the answer, but I was captivated by these little horses, they’re so sweet. They don’t run terribly fast … but from an environmental standpoint it’s great, because they’re using less of everything.

Derek Smalls: Well, it’s less horseshit.

Tufnel: Less horseshit. Less grass in the infield … Less dirt. Saddles are smaller—less leather. Less money, it turns out, because no one actually wants to see it. Less interest. It’s a less is more.

I make an end.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Non-Leadville Update

This year, I did not enter Leadville. It's been too time-consuming for me to get into racing shape the last couple of years, and since I finished in under 12 hours this last year, I thought good riddance.

Now I regret that decision.

For one thing, I now weigh 194 pounds. To put that in perspective, I weighed 168 pounds at Leadville last year. The tricky thing is to determine what percentage of that weight gain is fat versus muscle. Since I haven't been swimming, lifting weights, or doing any physical exercise other than riding my bike slowly into work a few days a week, it's fairly safe to say that of those 26 pounds, approximately 100% is fat.

The scary thing is that I haven't been eating that bad in January and February. At the end of last year, I used to eat these huge apple fritters 3 or 4 times a week. I justified it by saying, "I don't care if eating these things costs me 10 years of my life. They're yummy!"

OK, now I recall that I often have second and third helpings of dinner, and I graze all evening long. We also got a bread-maker for Christmas. If I'm given a last supper, bread with butter and honey would definitely be part of it. In fact, last night I ate so much bread and pizza that I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I needed to throw up. But please don't think of me as a glutton. Greed and gluttony aren't really sins anymore.

What I'm saying is that I need motivation to get in shape. The mirror obviously isn't working as a deterrent. I'm still sexy as hell. I need Leadville.

Since I can't do Leadville this year, I need to find something else. I thought about triathlons, but my knee hurts too much to run, and swimming at the YMCA is a drag. So what can be my carrot?

I'm going to try to get into RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier [in] One Day). If I get in, I'll change this blog title to "Bob's RAMROD." If I don't get in, I'll change it to "Bob's Failed RAMROD."

So that's all I have to say about that.