Monday, December 26, 2011

This is not an Autism Blog

The last thing this world needs is another autism blog. I know my readers can appreciate this photo of my son sleeping on the floor next to a Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner without reading a thousand words of self-indulgent backstory. Just know it was all worth it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Pushers!


Merry Christmas Everybody!

I offer this greeting because, delivered correctly, Merry Christmas Everybody! carries less baggage than either Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas ending with a period, dropping the everybody. I say it with an inflection that offers no firm insight into my beliefs regarding the existence or non-existence of Christ or even a triune god. Hopefully believers and non-believers alike can all appreciate my greeting for what it is, my wish that everybody is able to enjoy the holiday as he wishes to enjoy it, in peace, with family, food, fun, and some reflection too. Merry Christmas Everybody!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Culling Pandora

It's an art, Pandora is. It's mind is very complex, making the oddest associative leaps like predicting that someone who likes a Ronnie James Dio song from the 80s will also like an Alice Cooper song from the 70s. Thinking about it now, I guess there is some degree of commonality between the two, but it isn't obvious and the prediction was wrong, at least in my case. I did not like the Alice Cooper song. My Pandora strategy up till now has been to use as many as ten seed tracks and then use the like and dislike buttons to more precisely sculpt it's understanding of my musical tastes. This has not been working. It's as if liking one song and disliking what it thinks is a similar song confuses it and causes it to make crazy guesses, crazy wrong guesses. Today I tried something different. I left my disliked songs in place, because I still dislike them, but I cleared my likes from more than fifty to about ten. I also trimmed my seed tracks to just five. I'll see how it goes for a few days but I've been listening now for three hours without a single stinker. I think I might be on to something!

My seed tracks:

Bring Me To Life (Live) by Evanescence
Someone Like You by Adele
Jolene (Live) by The White Stripes
Covered In Rain (Live 2004) by John Mayer
Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae

If you have a mind to, create a new station called Dave Mows Grass with these seed tracks and you can hear what I'm hearing. Post your own seed tracks and artists and I'll give yours a try, too. It'll be fun!

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"Well, life is like a box of chocolates … you never know when you might be diagnosed with autism."
--John Scott Holman

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fayetteville Half Full

As an autistic person, I'm aware of my natural inclination towards the negative, or rather my freedom from the pronounced optimism bias that pervades most neurotypical thinking. As such, it would have been easy for me to look at the course map for the Fayetteville Half Marathon and see the Fayetteville half empty. Compared to my first race in Winslow which had everything, the Fayetteville course was mostly flat with only three climbs. There would be no gravel, no mud. The temperature at the start would be a comfortable 26 degrees, partly cloudy with just a slight breeze and no chance of rain or snow. It had all the makings of an unremarkable half marathon experience.

Fortunately, though, I'd been horribly ill for almost a month before the start of the race. Whatever cardiovascular training I had missed out on during that time was more than made up for by my non-stop, day-and-night coughing, hard coughing that accomplished nothing because inflamed tissues deep in my body were producing new sputum at the exact rate the old sputum was being ejected. As the 471 of us all gaggled at the starting line, I had a good feeling that my respiratory difficulties, along with the containment uncertainty caused by my two failed attempts to pee immediately before the start, would add just the right adversity to make the experience fun.

The gun went off and we gradually accelerated from a walk to jog as the faster people squeezed through the starting gate. By the time we turned south onto Razorback road past the John McDonnell Field, I was at race speed. I'd observed previously that even the most severe cough tends to disappear completely as soon as I start running, usually to return with vengeance whenever I stop. Indeed, this is what happened, to my great relief. By not coughing, my mind was free to focus on the pressure building in my bladder and the reality that relieving that pressure would not be possible without also relieving the associated pressure in my bowels, which I had not noticed before. This is not a new problem for me, my unruly digestive track. It is a part of me, and my anxiety just wouldn't be anxiety without it! Still, timing Immodium doses before adventures like half marathons and kayaking trips remains an elusive art. No problem, though. The water station at the top of the first hill had port-a-potties with no line. After two minutes in the penalty box, I had improved my sense of well-being to a state even better than it would have been had I been able to go before the race. I was able to fly down the hill on Garland, recapturing most if not all of my lost time, happy to have faced unexpected adversity so early in the race.

Garland was dead flat for the next several miles leading to the U of A Agriculture Department compound where we turned around. I got to see my friend David as he flew past me the other direction, his feet barely touching the ground. At the compound, I got to run a few hundred yards on gravel and then on a grassy shoulder for a while which felt wonderful compared to the pavement that made up the rest of the course. Going back south on Garland, we eventually weaved through a residential area and ended up on the Scull Creek Trail at Sycamore. I was breathing hard but still breathing, running just over ten-minute miles and feeling reasonable well, all things considered.

I knew what was ahead as I passed Wilson Park and the grade of the trail started to build. The hill was no worse than what I run up all the time in training, but I could tell pretty quickly that my conservatively estimated (healthy) finishing time of 2:15 was not going to happen this day, even though I was still on pace for that. Long before I got to the summit on Maple street, I was already taking walk breaks to cover one nostril at a time and blast 30-degree cones of thick, yellow snot on the sides of the race course. Starting the second loop down Garland, I found myself shuffling along unable to recover my breath from the climb onto Maple rather than flying down as I had done the first time. Doing some quick math, I figured out I would need dig down and find something for the last four miles or I would not even beat my Winslow time. There was still a bit of hill left so I kicked it and didn't let off until I was back at Wilson park looking up the hill. Then I kicked it up the hill!

I am profoundly grateful to the passer-by and the runner behind me who both shouted at me as I ran right past a barrier with a large arrow pointing left towards a sidewalk where I was supposed to have turned. It was at the very top of the hill and, even though I had run that section less than an hour earlier, I was in such an hypoxic delirium that I simply blasted right past the sign. Props, guys, you saved the day!

The percussion quartet who were banging on garbage cans with sticks under the one overpass in the university district lifted my spirit immensely but did not seem to lift my pace which had dropped off sharply from the first two-thirds of the race. The shallow downhill grade leading back to the John McDonnell Field did not lift my pace either. I thought entering the track of the team that has won 42 NCAA Track and Field championships would give me a psychological boost and it did, but it still did not lift my pace. Somewhere earlier, I had managed to pass a younger runner who had been pacing me beautifully for almost the entire race. I knew he was close behind me so I veered towards the outer lanes and motioned for him to pass saying that he had paced me the whole way and was going to finish ahead of me. He thanked me but then took off so fast I could not have stayed with him if I had wanted to. I guess he had some kick left! I struggled across the finish line in 2:21:55, almost three minutes faster than I ran at Winslow, and was woozy and unresponsive as the trophy gals gave me my medal and cut the timing chip off my shoe. I did wobble around long enough to regain myself and thank them, though, as I tried to do to all the volunteers around the course. They were awesome!

The coughing resumed almost instantly as I found my way to a bench to retie my shoe that had come untied as as they removed the timing chip. My friend David Dinan, who had just run what for me is an unfathomable personal record time of 1:36, kindly waited around the additional 46 minutes it took me to finish so that he could congratulate me on my own PR. That made me really happy. I was also able to find the gal who shouted to me as I ran off course and thank her. We had passed each other and talked a few times during the course but in the end, I faded and she did not. She finished several minutes ahead of me.

The race was last Sunday. On Tuesday, I finally decided it was time to go to the doctor. I admit I did have fantasies that my illness was this "walking pneumonia" I've heard of--it would be fun to brag that I finished a half marathon with pneumonia--but alas! she said it was mere bronchitis, which is not even close to being a medical emergency. It's not even previously undiagnosed asthma combined with a sinus infection so severe it would require surgery like my sister had when she ran Winslow with me. Still, it's the ailment I had and it provided just the right amount of adversity to turn what could have been an ordinary race into a great one that I can really be proud of. Definitely Fayetteville half full!
Still waiting for that Hammer Gel sponsorship!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Cool Product Pick of the Week

My original reason for acting on this skateboarding whim was to have a vehicle that was more similar to my son's scooter than my bicycle is. Donald is well trained and checks for traffic before tearing across the parking lot at our apartments at least 95% of the time. Being not overprotective but adequately protective, this means I must be close enough to him at all times to remind him that one time out of twenty that he forgets. I was accomplishing this by riding my bike not so near to him that I interfered with his scooting liberty, but near enough I could give a quick shout when there was traffic he didn't see. Riding my bike worked just fine for this, but I wanted to ride my bike when he was riding his bike and ride something like a scooter when he was riding his scooter. Hence the skateboard.

I did many things right when selecting my first skateboard. I chose an 8" wide deck, which I knew was largish for someone of my stature and foot size, and correspondingly wide trucks. I was seeking a stable platform on which to express my skateboarding values of understatedness and non-injury, not a board that would be easy to do nollie backside heelflips on. I also selected what it seemed to me, never having ridden a skateboard in my life, would be good wheels given my level of experience and the surface quality of the parking lot where I would do most of my riding. They were slightly soft and, at 54mm, just a tick larger in diameter than a more skilled street skater would chose. The idea was good; the execution was not, which I will explain.

I knew my first few skating sessions would be periods of intense learning. I would not be able to learn my board and watch Donald at the same time, so I skated by myself. At first, I pushed off with the wrong foot and wrecked spectacularly several times. After correcting that one technique issue, though, the learning progressed quickly. I could get on the board, get off the board, speed it and slow it, and even steer it with some success. After about a week, I felt comfortable that I could survive on my skateboard and keep an eye on Donald at the same time. My vision was becoming reality!

Here's the problem: The wheels on Donald's scooter, you see, are quite large in diameter relative to skateboard wheels and they are molded from a very soft urethane. At one minute we would both be putzing around in the Northwest corner of the parking lot near the entrance from Cambridge street. He would stop at the entrance without prompting, as he does 95% of the time, and I would say There's no cars so you can go! Seconds later, he would be sitting in the far southeast corner of the parking lot, at least a hundred yards from me, playing in the leaves, completely oblivious to the fact that the reverse lights of the car parked just a few spaces from him have just come on. I never realized how fast that damn scooter was!

Anyway, the solution was fairly simple. Filmer wheels! These 57mm Ricta Clouds wheels are super soft and super quiet. I'm not sure that they're all that much faster than hard wheels, but they are fast and they roll about five times as far with each push. Plus they look bad-ass, like gumbo mudders for your skateboard. They're great fun! Most importantly, though, I can come pretty close to keeping up with Donald on his scooter. If there's a downside to these wheels at all, it's that they don't slide. I might need to reinstall the old wheels before trying to powerslide across three lanes of asphalt.

A Technical Note

Say, I just discovered there is such a thing as comment moderation and that one available feature of comment moderation is automatic spam filtering and that I have automatic spam filtering enabled and that that is the reason I get emails announcing that I have received these indecipherable comments every day but don't see them on my blog. Fortunately, this automatic spam filtering feature does somehow flag certain "spam" comments as being perhaps not spam at all. Sure enough, I went into the "comments" section of my Blogger control panel, which I visit only occasionally because I hate Chrome and the monopolistic bastards at Google have somehow rigged it so I can't access my own damn blog with Internet Explorer, and discovered it had flagged ten comments as requiring moderation. The ten of them were from Tijno, Mule Friend, Bullets, Soub, my sister, and maybe UF. Not a one of them was real spam! Anyway, it was short work to publish them and they should be up now. The other 273 comments are gone from my life, hopefully forever. I don't know how many readers visit my useless blog because I have no traffic counter things, at least none I'm aware of. I do know of about a dozen readers, though, who keep coming back year after year, even when your thoughtful, effort-requiring comments don't publish. I can't tell you what that means to me!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not David Hawk

I've always been active; I've never been an athlete. Not even close. Not only am I not an athlete, I am not even close to being an athlete. By non-athlete standards, I am not an athlete. That is to say, comparing myself to non-active non-athletes, I am still not athletic. I am a non-athlete by orders of magnitude! My natural sense of balance is inferior to that of the average sedentary person. My reflexes are slower than that of the average sedentary person. Most notably, my athletic intuition is inferior to that of the average sedentary person. These things, these innate qualities of athletic persons, of non-athletic but active persons, and even of average sedentary persons, cannot be taught.

All that said, my natural sense of balance, my reflexes, my intuition, are all present to some degree. They measure greater than zero. I know this because when I first stood on my skateboard and propelled myself back and forth holding on to a guard rail, I was able to maintain balance on the board, and more importantly, I was able to tell intuitively that going one direction felt better than the other. I've since learned that I am NOT goofy-footed, meaning I prefer to set my feet on the board such that I face toward the right. I've also since learned that in the lingo, if I set me feet this way but am traveling backwards, I am not in fact riding goofy-footed but rather riding "fakie." This is more than an issue of semantics to me; this is a matter of board theory which I do not understand intuitively and have not had time to sort out yet. It is something I, because I am very intelligent, will eventually understand in great detail cognitively. As my skating progresses, I know I will find myself in precarious transitions from one familiar skateboarding state to another familiar skateboarding state in which I do not know intuitively whether I'm skating fakie or goofy and will not have time to analyse the question cognitively. That lack of athletic intuition, combined with my disequilibrium, lack of proprioception, and body boundary problems, will no doubt cause me many painful wrecks.

Take this weekend: Most people, and this includes non-active, non-athletic people, sedentary people, when they first step on a skateboard, know intuitively how to start the board in motion. More specifically, they know intuitively which foot to use to start the board in motion. Most people who are not goofy-footed, that is to say they hang their toes off the right side of the board with their right foot roughly square to the board and . . . This is very confusing . . . Let's say instead that the board is pointing north. Try to follow me here. The skater is standing on the board with his right foot facing east and his left foot and torso pointing roughly northeast. His head is pointing north and he intends to propel the board northward. The average person knows intuitively to lift his right foot, the one on the south end of the board, and place it on the ground to the east of the board forward, or northward, of where it had been on the board. That person would then push essentially southward which, since that foot is planted on the ground while the left foot is planted on a wheeled skateboard, causes the person and the skateboard to both go northward as intended. Once the board, with it's new momentum, progresses to where the part of the south end of the board where the right foot should be placed has passed, in the north-south direction, the point on the ground where the person's foot is planted, the person will then lift his foot from the ground and place it back on the board. He does all of this without thought. It just happens.

I am not the average parson. This weekend, I was standing on my board in a similar fashion with my board pointing northward and my feet and torso facing east or slightly northeast. Actually, most of the times I tried, the board was facing either east or west due to the orientation of the parking lot at my apartments. I am only saying the board was pointing north to maintain continuity from the previous paragraph and avoid confusion. I'm cool like that. Anyway, my intuition (I call it intuition because it is intuition. It is profoundly wrong intuition, but still intuition.), my intuition told me to lift my left foot from the north end of the board, the forward part of the board, if you will, and plant it on the ground to the west of the board. I then pressed my foot southward which, since it was planted on the ground, caused my body and the skateboard underneath it to move northward just as intended. Here's the problem: Since, at the start of the kicking motion, my left foot, the kicking foot, was in roughly the same position in the north-south direction as the spot of the board where the foot would eventually be replaced at the end of the kick. As I executed the kick, that spot of the board, where my foot would need to be returned in order to bring my body's center of gravity back to a stable position over the now-moving skateboard, that spot was now far northward of my left foot's plant on the ground. Worse yet, my body's center of gravity, contrary to that of the average person described in the previous paragraph who intuited correctly that he should kick with his right foot, his rearmost foot, and execute that kick on to the east side of the board, my body's center of gravity is now square above my right foot. My right foot, then, is planted on the skateboard which is moving northward. My left foot is behind my body, because I incorrectly intuited that I should execute the kick on the west side of the board, and it is planted on the ground. As my feet get further apart, necessarily, my body's center of gravity is shifting even further rearward relative to the moving skateboard where I will eventually have to replace both of my feet. Fortunately, my natural reflex ability is greater than zero. It is enough that I knew intuitively that I would have to finish what had been a controlled, measured kick with a much more forceful kick in order to help my body "catch up" to the board. This meant also contracting the muscles in my right leg such that the extra kick propelled the bulk of my torso northward without also propelling the right leg and the board northward. It would be useless to propel both my torso and the skateboard northward while my body's center of gravity is still located southward of my right foot. This extra kick would need to accelerate my body sufficiently with respect to the board that I could then lift my left foot and swing the mass of my leg and foot forward the distance it's proper place on the board has traveled since the board was set in motion. That's what I did.

I wrecked spectacularly this weekend. Twice. Fortunately, though, because I am intelligent despite my utter lack of intuition, I knew cognitively that I should not ride my skateboard before going back to Hastings to buy wrist guards and elbow pads, which I did. Otherwise I would no doubt have suffered two broken wrists. No. That's not right. I would have broken one wrist and stopped, thereby avoiding the second wreck in which I landed on the other wrist. As it is, I just got multiple contusions. Okay, a few bruises. And a cut finger. A scratched finger, really. It wasn't till later that night, as I was searching the web for information on selecting skateboard wheels, that I saw a link to a video: "Skateboarding, the Basics." I watched this gal smoothly and effortlessly propelling her skateboard across cracks and expansion joints using her rearmost foot, in front of her rather than behind her, and it looked completely natural. So naturally that anyone, even a non-active, non-athletic person, would do it that way with no thought at all.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Cool Product Pick of the Week

So, having concluded that I will never be able to overcome the social anxiety associated with whitewater kayaking, or my intense fear of water, I began searching for something just as mismatched to my level of athleticism but more terrestrial in nature to perseverate on for the next several years at least. After rigorously inventorying my own needs and desires regarding a new pastime, after analyzing its risks and potential rewards, its costs and potential benefits, its similarities and differences to previous pastimes which have failed to satisfy, and after forecasting that it will not satisfy either, I decided skateboarding was right for me! But buying my first skateboard at age 40 proved difficult, at least at first. Let me provide some framework for all of you non-skaters who don't possess the vast knowledge of skateboard set-up that I've acquired in the last two days:

Skateboards, other than cruisers and low-end boards, generally do no come complete. The ones that are sold complete are called--you guessed it--completes. The vast majority of skateboards, though, are sold with the deck and the hardware separate to allow for customization. I have deeply-rooted brand preferences regarding trucks and bearings following two days of intensive skateboard research so going the custom route is the obvious choice for me. So when I went to to build my board, I immediately selected my Independent Stage 10 Standard Trucks and Bones Super Reds Bearings (because that's what I use on all my boards) and only then began shopping for a deck. That's where the difficulty began.

Skateboarding is a young person's activity, you see. Skateboard companies, quite appropriately, design graphics for their boards which tend to appeal to young users rather than older users. I don't really know what things interest young people today, but based on the hundreds of skateboard decks I've viewed in the last two days, I'd say skulls, cheap beer, and Rastafarian pandas top the list. I'm not interested in any of these things. Still, with over 500 decks available at Skate Warehouse, there ought to be one that would appeal to a low-key, sensible forty-something like me, right? Fortunately, the web site displays brand icons for each of the 61--Yes, 61!--brands of skateboard deck which allowed me to instantly rule out at least half of them. Half of them had skulls! There were some promising brands: Think, Habitat, Element, and Loser Machine appealed to me because of the names themselves and Sims had a very simple logo that moved me. I clicked on all of them and found nothing. Element had some cool global warming graphics that I liked but they used an expensive, hollow core construction which is probably the shiznit if you're a hundred-pound teenager. I am not a hundred-pound teenager.

My skateboarding whim nearly died right there. I took a break, ate some chili dogs, and reflected on my life. Is skateboarding really the right hobby for me? Is any hobby the right hobby for me? Is it wrong to have hobbies which I know deep-down are not right for me? Is it wrong to have hobbies at all? Do my hobbies really add meaning to my life or only the illusion of meaning? Is it immoral to expend limited resources on hobbies while obligations go unmet? Without the escape of hobbies, would my psychological state become so severely damaged that I would be unable to meet my obligations regardless of the limited resources available to me? Is skateboarding really the right hobby for me?

The break restored me and I was ready to continue shopping. One by one, I clicked on every brand icon and scrolled through every board. I clicked on Dark Star. I clicked on Deathwish. I clicked on Blood Wizard, Bullet, and Threat. Then, without thought to the name at all, by mechanical repetition, expecting nothing, I made one of the most wonderful clicks I've ever made! It was one of those rare clicks that takes you from This, to That, and I was in another world! I was in the forty-year-old skateboarding world!

The brand was Mini Logo. Mini Logo, I learned, is a product line offered by Skate One which is a manufacturer supplying raw skateboard decks to many of the 61 or so other skateboard companies who put skull, cheap beer, and Rastafarian panda graphics on them and sell them as their own. Blue, for me, was an arbitrary choice made from several equally good options:

I don't think I need to explain any more the joy that the whole Mini Logo concept brings to my soul. Just the existence of such a brand, of such a brand concept, gives me hope. It gives me faith in man. And most importantly, it convinces me that skateboarding absolutely is the right hobby for me!

Whitewater Kayaking vs. Skateboarding

Whitewater Kayaking

Cost of kayak: $1000
Cost of other essential gear: more than $1200
Days per year of suitable weather: less than 30
Average driving time to river: 90 minutes each way
Shuttle required: yes
Roof rack required: yes
Four-wheel-drive required: sometimes
Social or independent: highly social
Ease of self-rescue: very difficult
Risk of maxillofacial trauma: moderate
Risk of distal radius fracture: very low
Risk of labrum tear: moderate to high
Risk of drowning: low to moderate
Intensity of fun: high
Can be enjoyed on weeknights: no


Cost of skateboard: $100
Cost of other essential gear: $0
Days per year of suitable weather: more than 300
Average driving time to skate area: 5 minutes each way
Shuttle required: no
Roof rack required: no
Four-wheel-drive required: no
Social or independent: either
Ease of self-rescue: easy
Risk of maxillofacial trauma: high
Risk of distal radius fracture: moderate to high
Risk of labrum tear: very low
Risk of drowning: very low
Intensity of fun: moderate
Can be enjoyed on weeknights: yes

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Loneliness of the Medium Distance Runner

It's not lonely at all, really. At least it wasn't this weekend at the redundantly titled First Inaugural Winslow Half Marathon. My sister was with me and my Winslow friends were all helping to handle the logistics of the grand event (By some accident of kayaking, I've come to be friends with a whole slew of Winslovians over the last several years, which has been a great blessing to me.) Plus the 125 other runners were all real friendly, the ones I talked to, at least.

My favorite was Marge from Tulsa. I caught up with her a while after climbing the mile-long Welcome to Winslow Hill and she paced me perfectly for about four miles. This was my plan all along, you see, to find a 64-year-old woman to pace me for the first half of the race. We talked about lots of things as we ran and walked the steepest sections of the nonstop hills. Of course I mentioned that my sister had come up from Houston to run it with me. Anyway, we swapped leads for a while until suddenly I noticed she was no longer close behind me. No matter, people were getting scattered but I still occasionally came alongside someone I could say hi to.

After a long but steady downhill, I finally ran past the turn-around point just far enough to smack the hood of the EMT vehicle parked there and give the guys a thumbs-up, and it was on to the long and steady, and muddy uphill. I remember giving a shout to Marge and my sister both as I passed them but I can't remember who was ahead. I know I was only a few minutes up the hill when I passed them. I was feeling really good.

At about mile eight, the on-and-off drizzle and cool breeze we had been having turned into a downpour with a driving wind, which was exactly what I needed. It was perfect! The squall only lasted ten minutes or so but it left the course pleasantly slick and muddy. The cushion under my feet felt wonderful and I quickened my pace, walking only the very steepest parts of the hills. The nine, ten, and eleven-mile signs went by and I was tempted to start running up all the remaining hills, but good sense and discipline prevailed. I stuck with my plan and by the time I began the descent of Welcome to Winslow Hill the older lady with the homemade flip-flops and striped socks up to her knees was in sight. I was determined to run her down! It would not happen, though, and I'm glad about that. Her finishing eleven seconds ahead of me was the just and proper result.

On the way there, I was sure to put a nondescript expression on my face for the cameraman who was photographing every one's nipples just before they crossed the finish line. He actually got one photo which showed my nipples really well and another which was probably a better photo overall even though my nipples were not clearly defined. What a cool job, I thought, to see hundreds of people at their absolute best, people succeeding at something fun but also painful and challenging. Then I thought, what a drag! Here is this man who loves running and biking and swimming but can't do these activities because his lousy job won't let him. He works every race! Anyway, I wanted a keepsake and felt mercy for the photographer so I bought rights to the superior, nipple-less photograph for twelve bucks. Hey, the man has to make a living! A few minutes later, he sent an email congratulating me and included the nipple photo for no charge. I was so thrilled!

My friend Kristian, the cartographer who created the course map, is also a pretty handy photographer and he took a few more photos at the finish line. One is with my sister, Jennifer, and the other is with my friend David who was kind enough to wait around at the finish line the 47 minutes it took me to get there. It must have seemed like hours! I think I was having my picture taken with Jen when Marge wandered in. She, curiously enough, had had a long enough conversation with Jen at some point to figure out that she was my sister. How cool is that!

I was very proud of my sister. I said she was from Houston where people run up bridges and parking garages to simulate hills. That's not exactly correct. She's actually from northwest of Houston just far enough that it takes an hour to get downtown where the parking garages are and two hours to to get to the refinery district southeast of Houston where all the good bridges are. She showed up to Winslow, after a twelve-hour drive, not having run up a single hill in all the training she did for this race. That not being challenging enough, her purist heart chose to run the race consuming only plain water along the way. No Hammer Gel! Let me tell you something: Running Winslow without Hammer Gel is like climbing Everest without oxygen! I was hitting the Hammer Gel every hundred yards or I wouldn't have made it. As far as I'm concerned, her accomplishment dwarfs mine despite our times, which can be found here if you absolutely must see them. She killed it!

The course had it all: Steep hills, long hills, some pavement, some gravel, some mud, a hard rain, and a million great volunteers who did Winslow proud. My first half marathon experience could not have been more perfect. There was nothing lonely about it!

The Boston Marathon should have trophy girls this hot!

My sister Jennifer. Isn't she amazing!

David had Lana and all the girls there. I got to meet twins Isabella and Eleanor for the first time and they are so beautiful!

Notice the Hammer Flask in my right hand. Do you think I can get an endorsement deal? I believe!

My nipples!

Monday, September 05, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With my Bike

My bike, as much as it kills me to say this, is adequate. It has been adjusted periodically but never modified, and alas!, it requires no modification now. Worse yet, I cannot think of any modification, needed or not, that would make it more suitable to my needs, and I don't make that statement casually. I make that statement after viewing and reading the product description for every single part available from Dan's Comp, the ultimate BMX shop if the universe. If Dan's Comp doesn't have a part that would improve the appearance, reliability, or functionality of my bike, then no such part exists. What has life done to me that I'm able to accept this bewildering fact? Has my fire burned out? I'm a lifelong gear head, or at least I was. I used to be able to modify a measuring cup to make it better. I could modify a hair comb! Now I can't even summon the enthusiasm to modify something as exciting and deeply personal as my bicycle. When I see that my rear wheel has gone out of true causing the brake to wear the rim unevenly, what do I do? Do I order a new double-wall rim along with an 11-tooth cassette hub and a 25-tooth aluminum chainring to replace my 13-tooth freewheel hub and 30-tooth steel chainring? No. What do I do? I buy a spoke wrench and true up the existing wheel. Then I congratulate myself for saving so much money. How sorry is that! And when my seatpost was squeaking, did I replace my rail-type saddle with a pivotal saddle and buy a lightweight aluminum seatpost? Of course I didn't. I took my crappy stamped steel seatpost apart, coated everything with vaseline, and put it back together, eliminating the squeak entirely. Again I congratulated myself. Then I stand back and marvel at how well the designers at Felt Bicycles balanced weight, features, and price to create a 24" BMX cruiser that, with no modifications at all, fit the needs of a forty-year-old man trying to reconnect in some Proustian sense with his very slightly better childhood. What has happened to me? I swear sometimes I look into the mirror and see a total stranger.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Two Weeks Till Winslow

I guess Jen is ready. I call her now and then and she's always like, "I ran twelve miles yesterday," or "I had a terrible run yesterday, only nine miles but it was 110 degrees outside." My sister is a traditionalist, you see. She thinks the way to prepare for a running race is to run. I can't necessarily argue with that approach given the results she's achieved in the umpteen hundred running races she's already competed in, but Damn!, it sure seems like a lot of work. I'm taking a different strategy, myself. Yeah, I have been running on weekends and a few times after work, but only a few miles at a time and always with lots of walk breaks. I hardly break a sweat. Instead of all that intensive training, I'm relying on the proprietary blend of 36 branched-chain amino acids developed over two decades by Hammer Nutrition, the choice of endurance athletes around the world. That and the optimum mix of elemental and chloride forms of potassium perfected by the hydration experts at Camelback. Dissolving just one Elixir tablet in my 21oz. water bottle is like eating twelve bananas. And the 670 calories of slow-metabolizing complex carbohydrates and 400mg of caffeine found in every ounce of Hammer Gel guarantee I won't be bonking when the walking gets tough. But no matter, Jen can run as much she wants to. I guarantee I will propel my sloshing corpulence the same distance she does two Saturdays from now. It will take me probably an hour longer, of course, but when I do finish I'll still have some glucose reserves left and any lactic acid produced in my legs will have been flushed free and pissed into a ditch long before I break the timing lights. Jen's body will still be cannibalizing lean muscle tissue to make up for the extreme depletion of nutrients she allowed to occur by relying on natural food and plain water to take her the absurd distance of a half-marathon. I wish her all the best, though, and I hope the cramping and nausea she will no doubt experience doesn't diminish her enjoyment of Winfest after the race. That would be a real bummer.

Can't wait to see you, Sis!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

I do not have a clear concept of what irony is. Sometimes an unlikely relatedness between two events will strike me as being ironic, and when I describe that relatedness of events to my friends they usually agree that it is ironic, but I am still at a total loss to actually define irony in a way that would be understandable to a person not yet familiar with the concept. For instance, it seems ironic to me that I should choose this video to accompany what was supposed to be the final installment of Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips which I posted shortly after Derek Boogaard was found dead of a prescription drug overdose. There are any number of "better" fights I could have chosen but the fact is my little tribute was also meant to honor one of my all-time favorite Maple Leafs. Who knew then that Wade Belak would take his own life just a few months later. Irony has a time component, you see. God bless you Wade Belak.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Manipulative Sister

Actually, I manipulated her, and now I have to eat it. You see, she was happily oblivious to the existence of the Winslow Half Marathon and 5k Run this September 17th, thinking instead of running this 10k race which goes back and forth three times over some bridge going from the mainland out to Galveston Island (Jen is a Houstoner and that's how Houstoners simulate hills, by running back and forth over bridges, you see.). It was me, actually, or I, who informed her of the race knowing she would not be able to resist running 13.1 miles of real-deal hills starting in the highest incorporated town in the State of Arkansas and going up from there. But for me, psychologically at least, it feels much different now that she has taken my bait than it did when I had merely cast it. The dread has become real! To understand why you need to know one more thing about my sister, to wit, she is tighter than bark on a tree. I'm loose with money and can piss away $40 at the drop of a hat on something I don't even want and will throw away in a week. I could pay a $40 entry for some half marathon, not show up for it, and not miss a beat. My sister, on the other hand, wouldn't pay $40 on her own wedding! I was shocked when she and her husband spent more than $40 for the house they live in. They are both math professors so no doubt they did some of that math professor math and determined that renting was costing them $40 rather than saving them money and it drove them so mad they had to buy a house. Anyway,my sister would absolutely die if she payed a $40 entry fee and then wasn't able to make it for some reason. So of course she emails me that she has already registered for $40 and also bought a round-trip plane ticket for about ten times that much, meaning that I am officially running a half marathon 61 days from now. To make it worse, she put a guilt trip on me already that the 10k in Galveston was one of a series of three races in an East Texas bridge running series and that she had run the other two already and wouldn't be able to get the commemorative T-shirt for running all three. Then my sister, who has never in my presence at least uttered a single swear word, admonishes me that I'd better not "puss out" on her. I'll be the first to tell you I'm not the alpha male, Joe Testosterone type--I never have been--but I don't particularly enjoy being called a pussy by my sister. So I guess it's on! My goal: three hours. Jen will probably bitch-slap the thing in about two hours which is perfect because then she can stake out some good seats for us at the Winfest show while I'm still puking down my shirt four miles from the finish line, which truth be told was my motivation for luring her up here in the first place, to have great seats for Winfest!

I can't wait to see my sister!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Some Words of Wisdom

A family that takes the trash to the dumpster together stays together.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Head Duck Wrangler

Not only is he curator of the world's largest collection of duckological artifacts, he is also my mentor, my machine shop post-graduate advisor, the person who represented the interests of the State of Arkansas at my wedding, and if I kept score of such things, would be in a three-way tie for best friend ever along with Mrs. DMG and my friend Carl, which is some pretty damn fine company to be in. Perhaps I do keep score. Anyway, Rod sees the world with uncommon clarity and from those images distills uncommon wisdom which I do not disregard even when I've examined the same information and drawn different conclusions. I welcome his perspective. Take me, for instance: Recently Rod pointed out to me that I have a lot of inconsistencies in my worried life, that I am not as "faithful to worry" as I thought I was. Bullocks! I thought at first, Rod doesn't know how much time I spend on the toilet! But then he pointed out some things he'd observed about me which I don't always notice, particularly that I am often doggedly pursuing some goal or participating in uncontrolled laughter. I could nitpick both of the points but I won't. Okay, I will. First, I'm not sure running, let's see, about 23.6 miles in the last eight days in preparation for the Winslow Half Marathon in September would necessarily constitute "dogged pursuit." Okay, I'll concede that point. People with clinical anxiety would probably not do that. I can say, though, that I have not participated in uncontrolled laughter for quite some time. Participating in laughter implies that I am laughing along with others, which simply doesn't happen very often because the things that are entertainingly ironic to me rarely spark such feelings in the typical person. Likewise what would trigger a gut-wrenching guffaw in the typical person, while I might recognize the elements of it which draw a person to have that reaction, simply don't satisfy me the same way. That said, I do laugh my ass off all the time, most recently after reading from Samuel Beckett's Molloy. The whole novel is a riot but one particular paragraph put me over the edge. It's quite long but it started with, "The sky was that horribly colour which heralds dawn. . ." and finished brilliantly with, ". . . Such are the advantages of a local and painless paralysis. And it would not surprise me if the great paralyses were to offer analogous and perhaps even still more unspeakable satisfactions. To be literally incapable of motion at last, that must be something! My mind swoons when I think of it. And mute into the bargain! And perhaps as deaf as a post! And who knows as blind as a bat! And as likely as not your memory is a blank! And just enough brain intact to allow you to exult! And to dread death like a regeneration." You're probably not laughing but don't worry, I'm used to it. My laughter upon reading this, though, was intense and long-lasting, so I'll concede the laughter point as well. Not sure where I'm going with all of this, I guess I'm just giving a shout out to my guru-to-all-things Rod White. You're the man!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm Pretty Stoked!

I'm 40 years old and in just four days, I will be sitting in Section 119, Row R, Seat 7 of Arvest Stadium to watch my first ever baseball game, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals versus the Corpus Cristi Hooks, along with my beer-chugging wife and kid. Mrs. DMG is getting stoked, too. "What sport is it we're going to see?" she asks. I say baseball and she returns a blank stare as if I had said jai alai or lacrosse. I regret that I won't be able to explain much as we watch the strange and enigmatic game, but I'm sure we'll both enjoy it ignorant as we are to the rules and objectives of the whole affair. My boy does have some understanding of baseball, well, of softball anyway. He knows that when people are playing softball at Tyson Park we are not free to roam from dugout to dugout drawing pictures of kayaks in the dust. Dugouts have the best dust! Other than that, softball seems to have escaped him just as it has escaped me. But no matter, maybe we'll catch what I know to be called a foul ball (I do know something about baseball; it's not like I was raised by Mormons or something!), though I won't be bringing one of those webbed cowhide things baseball players put on their hands just to prepare for that eventuality. But yeah, my boy is also getting stoked about seeing his first baseball game a full 34 years earlier in his life than me in mine. We're winding him up about it but at the same time being very careful not to mention that there will also be fireworks after the game, which I should not have just written because the wife and I both harbor this silent suspicion the little shit knows how to read already and is playing us both like chumps.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cool Product Pick of the Week

My Mom was up from Houston for a few days this week and was sporting one of these cool ID bracelets from Road ID. I thought it was a great idea and had to have one, living on the edge as I do. Why just last week, or maybe it was a month or two ago, I was standing just ten feet from the edge of Hawksbill Crag, the most over-photographed geological feature in all of Arkansas. The week before that, or perhaps last fall it was, I scrambled up a 45-degree rock slope for several meters at Devil's Den State Park. One tiny slip and it is not inconceivable that I could die somehow right then and there, with my wallet locked in my car a third of a mile away at the trail head. First responders would have no hope of ever figuring out who I was. Well, I for one refuse to die anonymously, which is why I'm not leaving the house for the next ten days until my Road ID bracelet is delivered. It's just not worth it!

The laser hack who actually prints this bracelet probably thinks the last two lines are a joke. The real jokes are the second and third lines which contain completely bogus phone numbers. I snatched them right out of the air! Imagine some first responder, bless his soul, hearing, "There's no Cristina at this number and I don't know any Dave. Sorry." Wouldn't that be hilarious!

Jewish Temple Grandin

For a kid with a supposedly severe language delay, my boy comes up with some pretty kick-ass wordplay, so much so that I now rely on him for the names of all of my blog entries just like I did on this one. It used to surprise me when he shouted "Madagas-truck!" upon seeing a muddy vehicle next to mine, but not any more. I've come to expect it. Actually that's not true. I was surprised when, after spinning his globe between Central Asia and South America for several seconds, he busted out some "Colombistan is close to Paklivia." I'd been using his love of geography to teach him beside, next to, between, close to, and far from, whatever the grammatical term is for such things, you see. It brings me great joy, really, to see my son's utter disregard for the conventions of communicative speech. He could give a rat's ass whether his words communicate a useful and accurate message; his purpose with speech is simply to entertain himself (Just like me, I might add.) When his therapist is working on him with yes/no questions, he first thinks for a second to make sure he understands the question, which he always does. Then he considers whether to answer the question and whether to answer it correctly. He answers correctly just often enough to have her continue the game because he likes the game. The rest of the time he either answers incorrectly or--and this is his favorite thing to do--he makes up his own yes/no question and answers it himself. "Can you drink a peanut butter sandwich? No! You can't drink a peanut butter sandwich!" He grins ear-to-ear at his wonderful creation. What a joy it is to see my son raise his middle finger to all those who say he ought to be doing this or ought to be doing that, even as I am one of those people. He lives his life on his own terms and I respect him for it very much.

Here is Jewish Temple Grandin herself:

What a remarkable woman!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dave Mows Grass on Anxiety

It's a real bitch. Actually just a mild annoyance. For me at least. I don't know how others experience it. Mine is sub-clinical. In intensity at least. Maybe not in duration. Mine has no beginnings and no ends. It is continuous. It is a mild and continuous annoyance. Mostly I just worry. About everything. Actually that's not true. I don't worry about everything. I only worry about absurd hypotheticals. Like at work. They have this lift thing. It's anchored to the floor. The anchors did not look adequate to me. The engineer who designed the lift thing is extremely competent. He assured me the anchors were adequate. That was seven years ago. The lift thing has not fallen. The anchors have not loosened. The engineer was right. The anchors were adequate. The lift thing is not going to fall. Ever. I know this to be true. Still I worry. I worry that the lift thing will fall. It will not fall but I worry that it will fall. I worry that it will land on my legs. Below the knees. I worry that my legs will need to be amputated. Below the knees. Actually I don't worry about that. I worry that I won't be able to roll my kayak with both my legs amputated below the knees. Actually I don't worry about that. I worry that the outfitting which would allow me to roll my kayak with both legs amputated below the knees would not attach reliably to a polyethylene kayak. It's hard to glue things to polyethylene. I worry that I would miscalculate the placement of the seat. That I would miscalculate the trim adjustment needed to account for the missing weight of my lower legs. I worry that wave surfing would be difficult with improper trim. I worry that worrying about kayak outfitting difficulties following an accident involving a falling lift thing will cause me to loose sleep. I worry that loosing sleep will cause me to be sleepy at work. I worry that being sleepy at work will prevent me from reacting quickly when the lift thing begins to fall. I worry that I will not get out of the way. That it will land on my legs. I worry all the time. I worry about absurd hypotheticals. It is a mild and continuous annoyance. Anxiety is a mild and continuous annoyance.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Been There, Got the Picture

Today I finally got around to photographing Hawksbill Crag, the most over-photographed geological feature in Arkansas. The hike in was unremarkable at best. Really a lousy trail with lousy views of what I know intellectually to be the Buffalo River Gorge. With hillsides so high and so long on both sides, and with the usual precipitation we experience in Arkansas, it would not be possible to not have a significant stream at the bottom. I could not see said stream, though, because the otherwise featureless landscape was choked with vegetation. I could not see the water. Still, the view was good even if it was nothing but trees. The drive in was cool. All the gradient on Cave Mountain Road came in the first two miles before it leveled out coming from Boxley. I opened the windows and blasted the heater which kept the engine from overheating too severely. Not wanting to warp my cylinder head on the drive in and my brake rotors on the way out, I asked several people at the trail head whether they came from the east like me or the west, offering that my map showed what looked like a sneak line to hwy 16 if you kept west. All of them said they thought the road from the east was the only way in and that the road didn't even show up on their GPS devices. Only one confessed to not having a map, which is fair because I did not confess to not having a GPS. Anyway, I went west hoping that the road indicated on my map was actually a road on the earth. If it was, I could see from my map, which I had, that the gradient would be much more manageable, and so I went west. The road was a road and the gradient was more manageable. If there was any shortcoming to my strategy, it is that I arrived at hwy 16 about six miles east of Boston which is a nothing stretch of road if I've ever seen one. Fitting I guess to follow up a nothing hike with a nothing drive home. It sure was fun, though, and I GOT MY PICTURE!

The dog in the photo is named Jasper. Jasper gave me a little pinch on the leg for no apparent reason about five minutes after snapping this picture. It didn't break the skin and the owner was extremely apologetic, so no hard feelings. No dogs had to have a flying lesson.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Appropriately Priced Product Pick of the Week

Tilley hat. I never thought I would ever buy a Tilley hat. I'd seen them in stores before but never looked at the price. They were always situated, say, between Orvis fly rods, which I did know the price of, and woolen dog mattresses, which I also knew the price of because I looked at the tags. I could interpolate from that the price of the Tilley hats, and I would no way in hell ever pay that much for a hat. And so it was a process. I was aware that another company, Outdoor Research, made hats out of Gore-tex which were quite spendy. Well, a friend of mine, about the most non-pretentious, down-to-earth person in the world, was wearing one at Canoe School this year. "Nice hat!" I said to him. "Thanks, it works great!" was his answer, explaining perfectly how this humble man could spend so much on a hat; he valued the functionality of the hat as much as some others value the brand prestige, and he was willing to pay for that functionality. That was a month ago. Yesterday I was at Pack Rat looking at hats, and I actually tried on an Outdoor Research Gore-tex hat. I was really looking for something more lightweight and breathable; I just wanted to see what a $55 hat felt like on my head. And let me tell you, it felt damn comfortable! But not for me. I tried on about ten other hats and none of them were any better than the sun hat I already had, a Patagonia that was just tight enough I had to wet the nylon headband and stretch it over my knee to get it to fit without pinching my forehead. The next size larger was too large and the adjustable hats are all bothersome because they can never be adjusted exactly right. If I had an adjustable hat, I would need to stop five or six times every mile of hiking to adjust my hat, just like I adjust my shoelaces. My urgent, existential need to constantly adjust things is no doubt related to my recently discovered autism, which has become my new excuse for everything. It explains every shortcoming. Like no doubt it is a sensory issue related to my autism that causes me so much discomfort when I wear a hat that doesn't fit exactly right. Anyway, at least I broke through the barrier which had in the past always prevented me from even trying on a $55 hat. That was yesterday. Today I went to Lewis and Clark, which is another semi-upscale outdoor retailer, a notch down from the Pack Rat because they generally stay away from the really exclusive brands and carry some quality, functional products of less expensive branding. That's why I was surprised to see a rack of Tilley hats by the door. You won't find an Orvis fly rod or a wollen dog mattress within twenty miles of the place! But there were some Tilley hats. I looked at the price of one of them. Having just tried on a $55 hat the previous day, I was prepared to at least try on a $76 hat today, just to see what a $76 hat felt like on my head. Looking at the rack of hats, I quickly realized they are sized in eighth-inch intervals instead of the typical small-medium-large scheme used by lesser brands like Outdoor Research. The 7 3/8 size felt damn good! It felt good enough that I actually untied the sting meant to go beneath the chin and the occipital bone to secure the hat in strong winds. The winds here, save the odd tornado, do not blow strongly. Removing the string is something I ordinarily would not do unless I felt it was at least somewhere within the realm of possibility that I would buy the item. Without the string it felt really damn good! Not ready to make the purchase yet, I removed the four-page owner's manual and the eight brag-tags (more later) from the pocket of what I learned was called the crown of the hat. I then looped the string such that it would fit the periphery of the pocket and stuffed it neatly into the pocket so it would ball up in the middle. I tried the hat on again with the emergency wind string stowed away and it still fit great and was very comfortable. Still not ready to make the purchase, I stepped outside along with a sales attendant so that I could experience wearing the hat in direct sun, not that I would ever go out into the bright sun but I was trying to maintain the illusion of being an outdoorsy person to the salesperson who obviously was one; I was in an outdoor retailer, after all. After that, I was sold! And the hat was sold, too! Notice, though, that I have not commented on the appearance of the hat. This is, of course, because of the lesson I learned from my humble friend who had bought the less expensive Outdoor Research hat, that the underlying justification for such a purchase was the functionality of the item rather than the looks of it, or worse yet, the empty, unsatisfying, and false feeling of brand prestige, as if its value comes from other people rather than from the item itself. That said, I think the hat looks damn good on me! I'll tell you one thing for sure, though: I will not undermine the functionality of my new hat by reinserting the plastic baggie containing the eight "brag tags" back into the pocket in the crown. That means whenever someone compliments me on my hat I won't be able to pull out a brag tag showing some customer testimonial about Tilley hats on one side and the contact information for Tilley hats in ten languages on the other. Instead I'll just say, "Thanks, it works great!"

I don't go outside much but I love to wear my very functional Tilley hat while I'm reading on the internet about people who do. With my new hat on it feels like I'm really out there!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dave Mows Grass on Playing Hooky

05:49 Wake up from restless, unrestorative sleep. Nagging stress fracture in foot makes walking painful. Dress and pack lunch.

06:33 Depart for work. Sun just above horizon triggers headache and makes driving difficult.

07:16 Clock in. Headache becomes more caustic. Back pain and muscle cramps related to sustained overtime with little leisure activity.

08:05 Overcome with fatigue and sense of hopelessness. Co-worker expresses concern.

08:12 Have first inkling that I might leave early.

08:47 Turn in schedule change request to leave before first break. Back feeling better.

09:30 Clock out. Headache nearly gone.

10:06 Arrive North Shore Disk Golf Course. Make best-ever drives on holes 4,7,8,and 10 plus several good putts.

11:32 Go home to retrieve current book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. Feeling more in-control than I have in at least a year.

11:49 Surprise wife at son's therapy. Read book and BS with therapist.

13:10 Fire grill. Eat pork chops with rice. Take break. All pain completely gone.

14:56 Depart for Bella Vista with wife and son.

15:33 Completely explore Tanyard Creek Recreation Area and Trail. Foot pain returning but not restricting activity.

18:02 Change into dry cloths. Depart for Springdale McDonald's with play area.

18:38 Son freaked out by chicken mascot at Zaxby's Chicken across street. Not able to enjoy play area. Head for home.

19:10 Turn on Boston/Tampa Bay game. Boston ties series with 6 to 5 win. Go Kaberle!

21:21 Take narcotic pain pill left over from 2010 car wreck. Back pain not severe but hey, why not!

22:10 Put tired kid to bed. Watch Denzel Washington movie, Unstoppable, about runaway train. Acknowledge life metaphor.

00:15 Enjoy glass of wine with wife. Blog about fantastic day of spontaneous fun.

00:36 Slide into bed. Start next chapter of Three Cups of Tea.

01:10 None of your business!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"If all the pieces of code that created autism were removed, I predict the children would be yak-yak social airheads, and probably pretty unintelligent."

--Temple Grandin

Editorial note: The author of this blog has had a change of heart regarding fighting in the NHL following the untimely death of Derek Boogaard last Friday. I don't know if post-concussion syndrome played a part in his death, but I know that no worker in any trade should have to regard multiple concussions as "just part of the job." I offer this last installment of Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips as a small tribute to a big man, one who in six years as an NHL enforcer never threw a single cheap shot. He was a hockey player and a gentleman. God bless you Derek Boogaard.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

TEFKACS 2011 Packing List

The Five Essentials: Kayak, paddle, PFD, skirt, helmet.

The Five Essentials: Tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, pee bottle.

The Five Essentials: Grill, charcoal, lighter fluid, lighter, tongs.

The Five Essentials: Burgers, dogs, mustard, pickles, bread.

The Five Essentials: Beer, frisbee, Chekhov, unicycle, Tylenol.

Kayaking is all about fives!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ibuprofen Calling

So we found this new place called Boingo Bounce in Fayetteville and bounced for like two hours today. It was fun. I've never bounced for two hours before, but by extrapolating the physiological effects of shorter bouncing sessions I've had previously, I wouldn't have expected to be racked with pain after this one. As it is, the soreness set in the instant I sat in my car to leave. It was no problem, really, just unexpected and a bit puzzling. Puzzling that is until we got home and reviewed the video that the misses shot. I kinda forgot about this one:

I think this was the culprit. Fortunately, my boy seems to be immune to soreness of any kind. He just gets hungry when he bounces.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I'm a Total Fraud

I've been sitting at my computer all weekend devising this elaborate fraud while my friends were enjoying an 80-degree day on the Mulberry. It's very clever, really, creating a blog header showing me wearing lots of kayaking gear and sitting with a kayak next to a flowing stream. Readers who didn't know me might think I knew how to kayak and actually paddled the kayak to that spot, which is nonsense. The truth is you can learn all the jargon you need to become a fake kayaker just by watching kayaking DVDs and joining a local paddling club, just like I did. That and you have to damage your equipment from time to time by dragging it through mud and across rocks. Your friends will expect to see new wear on your kayak whenever they happen to see it strapped to the top of your car in the Walmart parking lot or wherever. But anyway, I've already done that stuff recently. This weekend I just focused on creating a deceptive blog layout. I thought using a background photo of what any Arkansas paddler would instantly recognize as the Cossatot River was a nice touch, especially considering that I've never run it before and probably never will. It's sorry, I know, but that's how I roll!

Speaking of kayaking DVDs, you might like this one from Forge which just came out. I made sure all my kayaking friends knew I bought a copy the exact day it was released!

Those dudes in that video must be crazy. You wouldn't catch me near a river like that!

A Picture of Some Other People

Monday, February 21, 2011

I've Started Playing My Guitar Again

And like any child of the eighties, I draw every bit of my inspiration from the insanely technical sweep picking of Joe Stump. I must say, it's difficult translating that inspiration into the slow and soulful guitar crooning appropriate to someone of my age, a person so mired in the grinding ennui of mid-life, so broken by the decades that he has lost the capacity to form even the simplest fantasy beyond the vague visualization of being the one roadie charged with sanitizing John Mayer's microphone every night. It doesn't matter what my inspiration is or how I employ it, though, because me learning to play sweep arpeggios is about as likely as me learning to speak or otherwise utter lyrics like, "I survive on the breath you are finished with." Both are equally impossible, so I guess I am wasting my time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow Sucks!

I took these pictures Wednesday afternoon after we got slammed with 20" of snow in five hours. I think you can see from our faces what a terrible, exhausting drag this storm has been. We're all completely miserable and want the snow to end!

There is no such thing as "playing in snow." It is an utterly useless substance which is always either too powdery or too wet to mold into any structure containing any functional or aesthetic value, no matter what implements you use to form it, as you can see.

People think it's funny to pick up kids and throw them into the snow. It is not! They think it is fun for the kid, too. I think the look on my terrified son's face shows that it absolutely is not!

Traversing through unbroken snow is exhausting and dangerous.

Sometimes you fall.

Snow buries vehicles and makes roads impassible.

This face is saying, "Get me out of this inhospitable, white muck!"

There is absolutely no way to keep that freezing muck from packing into your pant legs.

Even if you're riding in a laundry basket!

The utter dreadfulness of a big snow makes some people crack, sending them into self-destructive seizures . . .

. . . freezing their faces!

I Got Mine Out!

It wasn't that hard once the sun came out and the snow became more packable. Apparently my good neighbors all have the sense not to bother, knowing they wouldn't be fired for calling in just one more day. We did get almost two feet of snow, after all!

My New Year's Resolution

I don't have one. And if I did have one, I'd keep it to myself, at least until I was certain my non-challenging and utterly achievable goal would in fact be achieved. Like last year: I didn't start blowing my horn about reading Proust until I was three-quarters through it with five months left in the year. It was a done deal! But no, I'm not going to annoy my valued friends by blathering on about all my absurd self-improvement fiascoes. Say for instance I had agreed to run the Hottest Half with my sister this August 14th, in Dallas, at 7:30 in the morning. I would not announce it here! For one thing, I would never run this half marathon or any other half marathon because only a madman would want to run a half marathon. Only a madman would run a 10k or a 5k, or a 1000m or a 500m, or a 100m dash. Only a madman would run at all. Only a madman would quicken his step as he leaves Walmart to allow a car to pass sooner. Why would anyone do such a thing? Secondly, Dallas in August is too hot to do anything but sit on a couch with a fan and a cold beer. Only a madman would actually want to exercise in Dallas in August. So no! I will not be running no Hottest Half with my sister in Dallas in August, because only a madman would do such a thing!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I'm a Rotten Parent!

Why? Because it is parental malpractice to allow a child who has had a cold for a week and who is taking antibiotics for one of his very rare ear infections to play outside when it is only eight degrees and windy (That is eight of our capitalist Fahrenheit degrees, Martijn, not those Bolshi Celsius degrees that you and every one else uses!) Of course, it is also parental malpractice to lock your kid up for three days in a second-storey apartment while he stares out the window longingly at half a foot (about 12 centimeters, for you socialistas) of perfect, crystalline snow. So I can't win, can I? Well, if I'm going to fail as a parent, I'm going to fail by letting my boy play outside when he probably shouldn't. It's a tough job, this parenting!

The Roads are Gross!

So I have decided to emancipate my inner sluggard by calling in today. I'm thinking of it like this: The three of us are having a winter escape to Aspen except without the skiing, and on a much smaller budget. I like Aspen! It's close to WalMart and the Tyson parking lot is mostly empty after hours so my boy can play in his kayak.

This is how I was rewarded for my dedication last year when I tried to make it to work on crappy roads.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I Got Both Cars Scraped!

I'm the only one. This chick across the way came out and hacked at hers few times but never even got a door open. She lacked commitment to the task. That, and she probably thinks layering has to do with baking cakes, not keeping warm. My buddy next door came out with his slacks and slip-on dress shoes. He got as far as unlocking his car and I helped him tug on the top of the door for a few seconds. To him, that constituted a good-faith effort to try to get to the furniture store where he works. Think of the sales he will miss by calling in today! But me, I stayed outside until the job was done. Four inches of something like frozen apple sauce fell in the time it took to clean just one car for a total of about twice that. Now I can sit back and enjoy the two days of vacation I took because only a lunatic would attempt to drive anywhere today. Only a lunatic would even bother to scrape his car!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Missing the Playoffs

Driving an cart down an asphalt path through green fields, amongst ponds and patches of beautiful white sand, Kesselustra silently mused:

"They ingnored "I"--for eight months hearing instead only an angry mob: duplicitous watchers who hail the sublime player while decrying the merely elite. Thus is the fan!

"The prime growing season is over, yet they continue to plow. A fickle crop they grow!

"For six nights, they shout 'Hooray!' and jump about; on the seventh night, they sit dejectedly with their heads in their hands. A greater pain than mine!

"They sought mastery of self by denying self: Warm beaches beckoned but they chose instead a frozen pond. For what the extra week?

"They worked more than me--and for that, 'They' said: You must work more!"

They did work more, but I was playing golf!

Thus spoke Kesselustra.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On the Goal Scorers

A man in a white and orange sweater, having emerged from a fog to come upon Kesselustra, spoke thus: "God has given me great hands!"

Kesselustra smiled and said: "That which you imagine offered you great hands and you chose to accept them; you chose to use them!"

"I have a nose for the net: a natural scoring instinct that few possess.

"And I can skate!"--the man applauded himself.

"I can score or not score; skate or not skate: I work less than you but am paid the same, and my sweater sells for the same price!" answered Kesselustra.

You crash the crease, but it is your own net you dislodge. You upset yourself by your zeal! The roster player stays: his wife settled and content, as he scores occasionally and throws the odd hit.--His is a career, a steady job that he likes; but you are trade bait!

You like Boston, but your actions shout from on-high: "I want to leave Boston!" You make yourself "a valuable asset" by your stick-handling antics, to be bartered like a chicken. And then you cry, "But why Toronto!" You blame "They"--but it is you to blame: You pointed the way with your laser-beam wristers!

Thus spoke Kesselustra.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Typical Conversation

Co-worker: "Hey Dave, you got change for a five?"
Me: "I haven't a kopek."
Co-worker: "What?"
Me: "I don't have change for a five."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"God is the imaginary echo perceived by a drunk man yodeling into the Great Nothing." --Tijno Carmabi

Monday, January 10, 2011