Tue, 08 Nov 2005

WSU Dad’s Weekend Survival Guide

I spent this past weekend with April in Pullman. It was Dad's Weekend, the first one I've been able to attend with her.

Although only 90 miles away, almost due south, the Washington State University campus is about 4 timezones farther west than home. With a different sleep schedule than April, I had some time while she was sleeping to do a little writing while I was there.

The WSU Dad's Weekend Survival Guide resulted from experience, observation, and a bit of imagination. I hope you enjoy it.

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Thu, 03 Nov 2005

Bicycle Vigilante

Last night I rode home in the dark. I've got a nice, bright headlight and a flashing red tail light, so I'm plenty visible.

The route I took last night takes me through the intersection at Broadway and McDonald. I made a right from Broadway onto McDonald, headed for Sprague and points south. There was a car coming the other direction on Broadway, waiting to make a left. They turned in behind me.

The car followed for a block. I figured its driver was waiting to make a right at the next intersection, but then the car passed, horn blaring. It made a sharp lane change back in front of me, then slowed.

The car made a right onto a dead end street, went wide clear to the left curb, and came to a stop. I thought, hey—maybe this isn't an asshole after all. Maybe this is someone I know toying with me and has stopped to say hi.

Not certain however, I didn't turn in behind the the car. Instead, I stopped at the curb, still on McDonald, but at the same corner.

A girl, twenties, got out of the driver side. A very tall young man, approximately the same age got out of the passenger side and started walking toward me. Another young man, came out of the front door of the house at that corner, glanced at them, then seeing the tall guy headed my way turned his gaze to me and took a step in my direction.

I recognized none of them and decided they were indeed being assholes and this wasn't the place to be. So, I started pedalling. Shouts followed me, but I couldn't make them out.

The ride home was fast, fueled by anger.

When I arrived at home, I changed quickly, grabbed a baseball bat out of the closet in my oldest boy's room and headed out the door. I dropped the bat in the trunk of the my car and headed back down McDonald. The other car was still parked at the corner when I arrived back at the scene. I made a left onto the short, dead-end street, turned around, and stopped next to it.

I reached down, and pulled the trunk release, exited the car leaving the driver door open, did a quick check to make sure I was completely alone and unwatched in the dark. I took the bat, made two, quick, hard swings dashing out a set of headlights with each stroke.

The bat went back in the trunk and I was gone in a flash. There was no sign I'd been heard or noticed—no one exited the house before I was out of sight.

After all the years of drivers pulling their crap and speeding away, I finally got one—one brazen enough to let their location be known. So, I got a little revenge.

OK, I had you going, right? No, I didn't make the return trip with baseball bat. Didn't smash any headlights. But I certainly thought about it all the way home. I wanted to take out my revenge, but that wouldn't serve to make me or any other cyclist safer tomorrow, so I just penned this fiction to quell the anger, and it seems to have helped.

Cycle safely and don't let the bastards wear you down.

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Sun, 09 Oct 2005

Summer recap

It was a quiet summer on the weblog, but a busy one in the real world.

Back at the beginning of June, I said Ironman is "a feat I may never attempt." But that didn't stop Jenny and I from registering for Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2006 the day after Ironman 2005. Since then, we've been planning and preparing. Swimming is new to both of us so we've been spending a lot of time at the YMCA in the pool. A couple of weeks ago, I did my first 1-mile, non-stop swim in the pool. I also bought the bike Joe rode in Ironman CDA. So, step-by-step, we're getting ready.

In July, Jenny did her first triathlon, the Valley Girl. Completing it was a huge accomplishment for Jenny. She's always had a fear of the water, so by doing an open water swim in competition she defeated one of her demons.

She followed that up with the Coeur d'Alene Triathlon doing the bike leg on a team (the Hugh Jass Racing Team). I competed there as well in the Duathlon placing 13th overall, 7th among masters, 2nd in my age division (there were 4 of us), and received a first place division medal. Go figure. (The 1st place winner in my division was also 1st among all masters. So, he took that award leaving me the division medal.)

In September, Jenny competed in the Palouse Sprint Distance Triathlon. That was an experience. Up at 3AM, on the road by 4. The swim was in an outdoor, heated pool, but the air temperature was in the low 40s. It started raining while Jenny was swimming and didn't stop until she was running. Like most challenges, it was a lot of fun when completed, but not necessarily while competing.

The next day was the 26th annual Spokane Autumn Century. Jenny passed, having just completed a triathlon. I watched the weather, closely. After last year's wet cold start, I decided I'd hold out for the Tour de Lacs if the forecast was for rain.

The weather forecast kept improving. The radar image looked good before I left the house. Joe met me at the start, and we began with the expectation of perhaps a bit of drizzle but no significant rain.

By the time we got to Deer Park, we'd been riding in a steady cold rain since just after the start. Neither Joe nor I had dressed for constant rain. Joe had arrived at the park a few minutes ahead of me and was shaking uncontrollably, perhaps hypothermic. I called Jenny and asked her to pick me up in Deer Park. It didn't take much to convince Joe a ride home was saner than continuing in such dangerous conditions. We holed up in a Laundromat until she arrived.

The following weekend, Jenny and I did the 15th Annual Tour de Lacs Given my experience in the Autumn Century, we prepared ourselves for rain. And we did get rain for the first 20 miles, or so. The weather improved and we had a fantastic ride. We signed up for the super long route, normally 122 miles, but with a detour due to construction and the trip from the finish to our hotel, I logged 128 miles for the day. Jenny took a short cut from Plummer to Harrison on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes giving her a total of about 114 miles. A triathlon the weekend before, 40 miles of running during the week, a couple of nights swimming at the YMCA, and a 30 mile bike ride 2 days prior left her feeling a bit spent by the time we got to Plummer. Can you say, over-training?

The Tour de Lacs is a two-day event. We did the long route, 73 miles, the second day and we both finished feeling strong. It was definitely a better experience for us than last year and we're looking forward to riding it again in 2006.

Sometime in the week after the Tour de Lacs, my bike computer began behaving oddly, then reset itself. I was disappointed. It had between 9500 and 9600 miles on it and I'd wanted to watch it roll over to zero (not having enough digits to display 10,000). The bike has about 14,000 miles on it now the battery in the computer having died twice before.

It must have been all the rain, because the old battery tested good when I went to purchase a new one.

The really big event for us, though, was our first marathon. Last Saturday, we ran the St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah. We can't boast great times—in fact, we finished near the tail end of the pack. But we finished!

I'd been suffering from IT Band Syndrome for the 3 months prior to the race. My training plan fell apart when I reached 13 miles on my long runs. To top it off, I came down with a nasty cold just days before the event. My plan was to run until I couldn't run, walk until I couldn't walk, and crawl if necessary to finish. At about 12.5 miles when I couldn't run any longer, I knew I was in for a long, hot, day. Jenny caught me at the 23 mile mark and we finished together.

We're both looking forward to another marathon where we can start without illness and injury and run the full distance. We'll get that opportunity at Ironman CDA 2006 if not before.

My boss lives in St. George, Utah. So, the day after the marathon, he had us out geocaching. I'm not sure hiking on the steep hillsides and rocky washes was the ideal recovery plan, but we enjoyed ourselves.

We drove to St. George and back logging 2200 miles on the old Honda Accord wagon. It now has 227,000 miles on the odometer. When we pulled off the freeway, just 3 miles from home, I noticed some steam escape from under the hood. We had a cracked radiator that we had replaced this week. Thankfully, it didn't happen 1,000 miles from home.

With a lot of driving time on the trip, I had time to consider just why I'd chosen to drive instead of fly. Separation anxiety. I couldn't stand to leave my bike home, so we drove the entire distance with our bikes on the roof rack all for a 25 minute bike ride the day after the marathon.

Yes, we could have flown with the bikes, but the last time I took my bike on a flight, the TSA completely unpacked it, confiscated my chain lube (hazardous material!), and repacked the bike without allowing me to assist. I didn't want to go through that process with two bikes. And what kind of rental car will accommodate two bikes and their travel cases?

I suppose I could see a therapist about the separation anxiety, but the 25 minute bike ride was likely better therapy and less expensive. ;-)

They say Ironman takes 7 months of intensive training. So, we've got a short off-season. By Thanksgiving, we'll begin our Ironman training in earnest. Until then, we're going to enjoy a bit of down-time and less rigorous activity. Maybe.

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Mon, 27 Jun 2005

Congratulations Ironmen: Joe and Steve

Our good friends and cycling companions Joe and Steve had outstanding performances in the 2005 Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Joe finished in under 11 hours (10:52:49). Steve was just 12 minutes behind him and closing fast. He finished in 11:05:07.

Jenny and had the great pleasure and honor of being at the finish line when they crossed it. This was our second year as volunteers. We worked the 6PM-9PM shift at the finish line handing out finisher T-shirts. We had just started our shift when Joe came in, sweat drenched and tired, I'm sure, but he gave us a huge grin and was obviously pleased.

Steve's wife and daughter were also working the finish line as "body catchers." Not long after Joe came through, Pam and Angie showed up with Steve between them, his arms draped over their shoulders. He was clearly exhausted. I almost caught him, he said when I congratulated him.

Indeed, he did. Although Joe was faster in the swim and on the bike, Steve gained almost one minute per mile on him in the run.

It was a long day for all of us. While Joe and Steve were still in the water, Jenny and I started our first volunteer jobs—Jenny worked on the sunscreen team; I worked at the Bike Special Needs Aid Station at Higgins Point. I got a shout and wave from both Joe and Steve as they went through. Neither stopped for his bag, which meant their rides were going well and they opted to keep riding an not lose any time.

In the afternoon, I rode my bike back from Higgins Point, had some lunch with Jenny, then watched the first finishers arrive before we started our shift at the finish line handing out T-shirts.

Jenny and I are extremely proud of Joe's and Steve's accomplishments. They are amazing athletes, as mentally tough as physically strong. We were honored to be part of their Ironman experience and we're looking forward to hearing the stories we're sure they have to tell.

Check the final results .

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Sun, 19 Jun 2005

We Made the Grade

Jenny and I spent the weekend in Clarkston, WA, where, Saturday morning, we participated in the 25th Annual I Made the Grade bicycle ride. It has been several years since we last participated in this popular 18 mile ride that features a 2,000 foot climb in the last 7 miles up the fabled Spiral Highway.

I had a great finish—15th—with a time of 1:01:36.

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Sat, 11 Jun 2005

Midair collision

Yesterday, Jenny and I were on one of our normal weekday evening rides to the state line and back on the Centennial Trail. The critters were out in full force. The mild winter left a thriving rabbit population that exploded this Spring.

With the recent rain, the vegetation has closed in around the trail leaving plenty of places for the little critters to hide from sight right at the trail's edge.

Twice, little chipmunks scurried out in front of us. Each time, Jenny squealed, jammed her brakes, a desperately avoided maiming or killing the furry little imps.

Jenny, I chastised her, "Don't hit the brakes and swerve! If you actually hit one while you're doing that, you'll crash. Better to send a chipmunk to his death than end up in the hospital yourself."

But she just can't overcome her natural reaction to avoid hitting them at all costs.

My turn came on the return leg. We were cruising along, side by side, when I saw a flash of fur out of the corner of my eye. A full grown rabbit—last year's model, I assume—was parked under a bush that was encroaching on the left side of the trail, out of sight. We startled it and it launched itself like a rocket. Stewart the rabbit jumped high enough to clear my front wheel vertically, but not soon enough to avoid a midair collision just under my handlebars. The crash made a terrific racket. Stewart went careening off the right side of the bike between Jenny and I.

I didn't swerve. I didn't hit the brakes. Nor could I have. It happened instantly. But upon hearing the crash and seeing the flash of fur out of the corner of her eye, Jenny braked and began pulling to a stop as I was looking over my shoulder to see whether Stewart was rabbit or stew. He was scampering for cover.

When I turned my attention forward again, I had to avoid a collision with Jenny who was now nearly stopped in front of me.

Never brake! I said, a bit shaky.

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Sun, 05 Jun 2005

I’m a runner!

I never thought I'd say that. Yet, the past three Saturdays, I've run 10, 8, and 12.8 miles respectively. With those runs under my belt, registered for the Saint George Marathon, and a training plan underway, I'm ready to label myself a runner.

Last fall, inspired (nah, that's not the right word—incited, provoked, psyched, perhaps) by cycling companions Joe and Steve, I began running. Within a few short weeks, I was suffering from excruciatingly painful shin splints. Over the winter, refusing to be defeated, I did as much running as I could—a simple 1.5 mile loop around the neighborhood, followed by a day or two of rest before repeating. I became a regular at Performance Physical Therapy where they stretched, massaged, iced, ultra-sounded, and electro-stimulated my painful shins.

Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the shin splints abated and I began running, pain free, more frequently and for longer distances. Jenny and I participated in St. Paddy's Five, the Coeur d'Alene Spring Dash, and Bloomsday where I met my goal of finishing the 12K run in under an hour.

Joe and Steve are training for the Coeur d'Alene Ironman, a feat I may never attempt. They are running twice the distances I am, often immediately after 100-120 mile training rides on their slick, new tri-bikes. At this point, I'm just happy to have endured a difficult start as a runner and not to have let it defeat me.

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Sun, 22 May 2005

On Bullshit

Last Sunday, 60 Minutes aired as story, Ivy League Prof Sifts Through BS. While watching it, I ordered a copy of On Bullshit from Barnes and Noble.

This little 4 by 6 inch, 67 page, hardbound book is an essay by Harry G. Frankfurt, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, of Princeton University. It purports to be a serious effort to "begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit."

Watching the 60 Minutes piece and reading the book was epiphanic for me. I finally understood what had perplexed me so many times before. I know a consummate bullshitter and have never understood, why, when armed with perfectly valid facts, he chooses to spout total BS instead. Now I know that bullshitters don't care to make any determination about the facts. The facts hold no meaning for them. It's all about the presentation and getting the desired response. Facts be damned.

Frankfurt says:

One who is concerned to report or to conceal facts assumes that there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable. His interest in telling the truth or in lying presupposes that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right, and that it is at least occasionally possible to tell the difference. Someone who ceases to believe in the possibility of identifying certain statements as true and others as false can have only two alternatives. The first is to desist both from efforts to tell the truth and from efforts to deceive. This would mean refraining from making any assertion whatever about the facts. The second alternative is to continue making assertions that purport to describe the way things are, but that cannot be anything except bullshit.

Frankfurt also seems to believe that BS is more insidious than outright lying:

Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of truth, as a liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is the greater enemy of truth than lies are.

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Book Crossing

It seems like a very long time ago that I read about BookCrossing. The concept was intriguing, but I didn't get involved.

A few weeks ago, I had a long layover in the Oakland airport. I noticed a book, seemingly abandoned, on a chair with no one near. When it was still there, undisturbed, over 2 hours later, I borrowed it.

After I finally read it, I hunted down the BookCrossing site and set the book free.

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About this weblog

This site is the personal weblog of Marc Mims. You can contact Marc by sending e-mail to:
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Marc writes here about cycling, programming, Linux, and other items of personal interest.

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