Monday, March 31, 2008

I Choked

I entered a yoga competition on Saturday. It wasn't a big international competition or anything, just the U.S. Yoga Freestyle Championship. I was looking at it as a tune-up. As you'll see, I may want to re-think that strategy.

While international competitions use the match play format in which seeded individuals compete one-on-one as in a tennis tournament, the U.S. Nationals is run more like a ballroom dance competition in which all the competitors do yoga on a large mat while judges declare who stays on the mat and who must leave. I arrived early, warmed up, and used the restroom several times.

When the buzzer sounded to announce the start of the competition, I went into the Mountain Pose. In lay terms, a Mountain Pose is standing upright with your hands at your sides. If you think anyone can do a mountain pose, think again. It requires a stillness of purpose. It requires a metaphysical alacrity. It requires inner patience combined with outer calm. If your chakra isn't aligned, or if your chi is off center, you'll get "tapped out" so fast you'll shit bricks.

As I said, my Mountain Pose was perfect. Too perfect. As the officials weeded out the competition, I knew I should switch poses. I could easily throw out a Warrior II or a Tree Pose without expending too much energy. I didn't. I just stayed in the Mountain Pose. I don't know exactly when it happened, but at some point, I froze up. I wanted to elide into a different asana. I really did. I just couldn't. I stood there for three hours unable to break out of my Mountain Pose, finishing in an extremely disappointing sixth place.

A couple more performances like that and I'll lose my sponsorship. I don't think Nike will ever drop me, but Applebee's and Jack Daniels may want to go with younger yogateers.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Irrationally Frightened

I was trying to think of times when I've been scared for no good reason. I'm not talking about normal frights, like the time I was running home from a friend's house late at night, heard something rushing at me, and both the cat and I jumped about five feet in the air and ran in opposite directions. That's normal fright. But what about those times when you're scared stiff and you don't know why? This cries out for a top 5 list.

1. Coming Home

This is the memory that triggered this post. I was looking at a picture of Luke and Max when they were newborns, and I thought about their final check-up in the hospital. The boys seemed so fragile and mysterious. It seemed like they were fighting for every breath, and eating was a do-or-die proposition. I remember being shocked when the doctor looked them over and said, "Luke and Max are doing fine. I'll see them again in ten days." Ten days! What was she talking about? Those frail little creatures should be seen by a doctor every few hours! When we all loaded up in the car and drove home on Christmas Eve, I was scared silly. I felt like the Robert Redford character in The Candidate when he gets elected even though he's wildly inexperienced, and he turns to his campaign manager and says, "What do we do now?"

2. Interview with the Damned

This next one is kind of odd, because the memory was scary even though the actual event wasn't. When I was a missionary, my companion and I went to visit a young man who'd stopped going to church. He was deeply troubled. Haunted, even. I can't remember what he said, but I do remember his look of hopeless anguish. It makes sense that after 25 years, I don't remember where in Peru that happened. What's odd is that I'd forgotten where that happened soon afterwards. The interview took on a dream-like quality in my mind, as if I were remembering some nightmare. One of the strongest memories of my mission was also the foggiest. It stuck with me.

3. Innertube water polo

Now this is getting really irrational. There was (and probably still is) an intramural sport at BYU called innertube water polo. Everything about it seems dorky. First off, it's co-ed. Each team played three girls and three guys. For another thing, everyone has to splash around in innertubes and try to score goals. Goofy, right? It got competitive. Fiercely competitive. It got so that I had a difficult time sleeping the night before big games. I had no trouble sleeping before playing in real water polo games against the likes of Arizona State and Air Force Academy, so why would I be frightened the night before innertube water polo games? The consolation I have for this odd fear is that the leader of Ghetto Magic -- an intramural sports juggernaut at BYU that regularly won 4A championships in multiple sports -- said innertube water polo was by far his favorite sport. Go figure.

Ha! It's a top 3 list. See? That's the advantage of having a non-fascist blog. I can write a top 3 list and no one complains!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It's a great time to be a kid. When I was a young whippersnapper, Saturday morning was the only time we could watch cartoons. If I were five years old nowadays and got scared by something in the closet that looked like a monster, I'd just go downstairs, turn on the television, nuke some popcorn, and watch a cartoon. That beats the Shake 'n Bake popcorn and color bars that I had to put up with back in the 60s. Of course, when I was a kid, I could go outside and play games with neighborhood children, but that kind of thing directly contradicts my train of thought. When I'm lamenting the fact that gasoline cost only 12 cents a gallon when I was a kid, I don't want to hear that the average income was $11,000 a year. I like to compartmentalize those ideas, so let's just stick to the fact that things are great for kids now, m'kay?

Like geocaching. It's a treasure hunting game in which you go out to a web site to get coordinates that indicate where treasures are buried. The canisters contain a bunch of little trinkets like yo-yos, hot wheels, and pen knives. Anyone with a GPS device can search for the buried canister, take something from it, and replace it with their own trinket. Andy and Minette have taken the boys geocaching a couple of times -- once in Lincoln Park and once near Green Lake. Luke and Max dress up as pirates and follow Andy around like he's the pied piper. When someone finds the canister and starts opening it, the boys hop around like they haven't peed in days.

Anyway, if you have a GPS and some kids, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. Or not. I'm still bummed about the Colts losing to the Chargers.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Gratings

In case some of you missed it, yesterday was Easter. For some reason, I woke up in a lousy mood, and I've stayed in that lousy mood till now. And even till now. That's right. I'm still in a lousy mood, despite this most recent outpouring of sentences. For one thing, I don't think Christ is risen. I think He stayed in His tomb. And that means I can't arise from the dead, either, despite certain promises I was given as a child. I want to live forever, but solid scientific evidence suggests that Someone couldn't pull off a Miracle, and I'm pissed.

For another thing, there was an Easter brunch at Minette and Andy's house that was -- what? -- unsettling. Eight adults and two kids. Our kids. Having kids creates a huge gap between you and people who decide not to have kids. It's depressing. I'm too depressed to even provide a picture. Just imagine a picture of me in the upper right corner looking sad.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Leadville Training - March Update

It's been a bad month. Things were looking good in February when I dropped five pounds (to 177) and was riding hard, including doing several 50-mile rides on weekends. Then Michael and Jacob came into town for a week. We kept eating out, so I went off my training diet. To make matters worse, the whole family got sick. I ended up with bronchitis, which kept me off the bike for a couple of weeks. And what's the point of lying around the house if you're not going to eat ice cream and donuts? And since you're not in training mode, why not have an extra helping or two of dinner? Oh, is it girl scout cookie season? Sure, I'll support the friendly neighbhorhood Lolitas. Why not?

I now weigh 184 pounds.

The good news is that I'm back on my bike. I'll test the waters this weekend with a 40-mile ride, and then maybe I can get back into a rhythm of eating moderately, bursting a couple times a week, and going on a long, hard weekend ride. I'm also looking into a couple of other strategies, such as vomiting after especially large meals and using crystal meth to increase my metabolism. Don't worry. I'll never blood dope with EPO, because that's cheating.

If I Had to Do Leadville This Weekend - DNF at 40-mile aid station.

Projected Leadville Time - 13:05

Best Case Leadville Time - 11:59

Leadville Enthusiasm Rating - 3 out of 10

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Springsteen's Magic Album

According to my friend Robert, I have a narrow taste in music that is tragically filtered by the corporate music establishment. That all may be well and true, but since it's MY music taste, and since this is MY blog, I get to review music despite my alleged limitations. In fairness, there's nothing alleged about my limitations. I just like to delude myself that I listen to only the finest music.

I have other reservations in reviewing music. I'm forty-five (45) years old. My idea of trendy new bands is Yo La Tengo and the Arcade Fire. It's very possible that those bands have broken up, formed new bands, and cut several albums, and I wouldn't know about it. To borrow from Matt Damon, it's not my fault. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. So whose fault is it?

The Radio's.

That's right, I blame the radio stations -- not my dotardliness -- for thinking that they just don't make music like they used to. When I moved back to Seattle a couple years ago, I tried to find six good stations for the FM1 band (Wendy filled the FM2 channel with awful Jazz stations). Two public stations, check. Classic rock station, check. Oldies station, check. Hipster station? Hmm. 107.7 was still around. It used to play alternative music like Nine Inch Nails and Alice in Chains, but it's turned into some kind of retro alternative music station that still plays Nine Inch Nails and Alice in Chains -- plus talk radio. Adam Carolla is great, but what happened to the trendy new music?

When I heard Bruce Springsteen was coming out with a new album, I was afraid of having the same experience I've always had whenever any of my old 70s heroes comes out with a new album. I'll find a couple of songs I sort of like, but they never seem to have their former power. Hearing a new album by Neil Young or Bob Dylan is like watching Willie Mays play for the Mets or Michael Jordan play for the Washington, um, Wizards (I had to look that up). Bittersweet, but mostly bitter.

Listening to Magic was a blast from the past, and not just because it sounds like vintage E Street music. I have that same joy I used to have back when one of my favorite musicians came out with a new album while still in their prime. When R.E.M. came out with Automatic for the People, when U2 came out with Achtung Baby, when Radiohead came out with OK Computer, I wanted to listen to the album over and over and over. I had to restrain myself so that I wouldn't burn out on it too quickly. Same thing with Magic. I can only listen to it twice a day. When I've waited the designated amount of time, I put on the album again and experience the rapture all over. I'm tempted to buy a different copy of the album because this one is so good.

I'm trying to think of the perfect word for Springsteen's new album. Enchanting? Bewitching? Thaumaturgic? Whatever. I love it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Best Laid Plans

I have a friend who is so confident in the expression of his needs that he gets away with anything. He's also the proverbial smartest guy in the room and immensely likeable, so any quirkiness is not only forgiven, but celebrated. Stan could cut you off mid-sentence and say, "I'm going to go to a different room because I'm tired of talking to you," and you'd be thankful for his refreshing honesty.

He and Grey were supposed to come visit us this weekend, but he called on Saturday afternoon to say that they were having an argument that couldn't be quickly resolved, so he had to cancel the trip. They were going to finish their argument in Portland.

Whenever Stan and Grey come up to visit, it's a celebration. For one thing, it's always fun when an anti-social person like Stan comes out of his shell and drinks and laughs with you. For another thing, we always play poker. Everyone buys in for $3 worth of chips, and off we go. Since I'm a fantastic poker player, I was looking forward to supplementing my income this weekend. Poker is easier money than the alternative -- exotic dancing. With my counterproductive bronchial spasms, it would take my longer than usual to fill my g-string with greenbacks, and by the end of the night, I could look forward only to exhaustion. If the government would reverse its decision and see fit to give me my share of the stimulus package, I wouldn't have to dance sexily or abuse my friends at poker. I could just relax and watch television.

Anyway, when I told Wendy that Stan cancelled his visit because he was having an argument with Grey, Max wanted to know why they were arguing. He and Luke began to speculate:

"Maybe Stan was supposed to drive first, and Grey wouldn't let him," supposed Max.

"Or maybe Grey wanted to be the first to climb a tree, and Stan wouldn't let her," offered Luke.

"Or maybe Stan called Grey a butt," said Max.

"Yeah, a dumb butt," said Luke.

I think they're onto something. Good luck with your argument, dumb butts.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Backyardigans Race Around the World

This very special episode starts with Austin training for the big race around the world. He is practicing his starts much in the same way that a marathon runner would practice his, crouching and bursting into a jog. Tasha is the judge and announcer. She tells everyone that this race around the world will take place in four stages: running, snowboarding, kayaking, and running across the desert. She makes the following announcements:

“Pablo has already won a gold medal in a running race.”

“Tyrone has already won a gold medal in snowboarding.”

“Uniqua has already won a gold medal in kayaking.”

“Austin has never won a race, but he is prepared.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m rooting for Austin. At the start of the race, Austin’s practice-starts prove futile as Pablo bolts out to a huge lead. So confident is Pablo that he stops to sing and dance about his lead. He finishes the first leg of the race well ahead of the others and begins the snowboarding leg with a little too much confidence. Meanwhile, Uniqua trips over a hurdle and hurts her knee. Pink animals are clumsy. Austin gives her a bandage from his pack, and they resume the race.

During the snowboard section, Austin finds Pablo hanging dangerously off a cliff while holding on to a slalom flag. Part of me thinks that this race is poorly marked and poorly supervised, and yet I am happy that Pablo was prepared enough to bring a rope. He pulls Pablo to safety. A few minutes later, he saves Tyrone from dangerous rocks during the kayaking event.

Despite his preparedness, Austin is in last place going in to the race across the desert. He stops to sing about it:

I want to win this race somehow
But I’m not in first place right now

I’m not in second or in third
I don’t know quite how this occurred

I’m well-prepared but I’m not fast
Instead of leading I’m in last

And I’m not happy about this, no sir
I’m not happy about this

Austin catches up to his fellow racers, who suffer from dehydration. Austin gives them water, and the four racers are tied as they near the finish line. It's very exciting! The tape is so strong that they all bounce backwards – twice. As I mentioned, the quality of the race supervision is abysmal. Tasha announces that no one can win until they break the tape. Austin has a pair of scissors in his pack, so he cuts the tape – and wins!

All the racing makes them hungry so they eat chocolate chip cookies.

I couldn’t find any YouTube coverage of this very special episode. However, I did find this clip. It shows some of the Backyardigans’ dance moves, which captures their elegance, versatility, and raw athleticism:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wimpiness Doth Make Cowards of Them All

I have regrets about getting interested in politics a few years ago. Following the ongoing election coverage is like getting whacked over the head with the cheese wheel. Yes, cheese wheels are inherently interesting, but they hurt. Over the last few days, two things have stuck in my mind: (1) Bush vetoed yet another anti-torture bill, and (2) Republicans are looking to bring down Obama in the same way they brought down Dukakis and Kerry -- by depicting him as “effete” and “vaguely foreign.”

This got me to thinking about the widely accepted notion that Republicans are tougher than Democrats. Republicans are more willing to wave a big stick for the U.S. of A., whereas Democrats are more likely to compromise, which is a fancy pants way to say backing down.

It is my intent to dispel this notion.

I know what you’re thinking. How, Bob? How are you going to dispel such a common notion? The answer is simple. I will give four examples of ways in which Republicans are more cowardly than Democrats.

Example 1 – Torture

“We do not torture.” – George W. Bush

Except that we do. And apparently we want to make torture legal because, um, everything changed after 9/11. There’s nothing nuanced about stating that torture is an unreliable way to gain information. More importantly, the humane treatment of prisoners offers a number of advantages. So why would the Republicans take this new pro-torture stance? Some cynics might suggest it’s a political ploy to make it seem like Democrats are wimpy for opposing waterboarding, whereas Republicans are willing to do the dirty work to keep our shores secure. But I think the Bush Administration was sincere in its desire to torture. That's why they tried to keep it hidden.

I think the Republicans panicked. They abandoned their morals out of fear. They think these new enemies are simply too dangerous to abide by the standards of the Geneva Convention -- along with common sense and human decency -- so they’re willing to sink to their enemy's level.

Example 2 – Environment

Whenever business interests are pitted against environmental damage, the Republicans’ argument is always the same: “But if we’re forced to abide by these restrictions, we’ll lose jobs!” If we’re not allowed to clear-cut that old growth forest, 500 lumberjacks will be out of work. For those of us who lived in Utah County, how many times did we have to hear about how forcing Geneva Steel to abide by environmental laws (as opposed to paying minor penalties) would cause the company to shut down? But, but, who cares about our children suffering from emphysema and asthma -- we’ll lose 2,000 jobs!


According to Republicans, our economy is so delicate that enforcing environmental standards will cause permanent job loss. I like to think Democrats are bold enough to believe that our economy can thrive despite environmental restrictions.

Example 3 – Sex Scandals

Democrats get busted for having heterosexual sex with prostitutes. Republicans get busted for coming on to other guys in men’s bathrooms. That goes beyond wimpy. It’s downright gay.

Example 4 – Saying No to War

Remember back in 2002 when George W. Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had WMDs and links to Al Qaeda? Imagine how disastrous on so many levels that invasion would have been had the likes of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton not stood up to Bush and voted against the war. Oh, wait…

Maybe I’ll never convince anyone that Democrats are particularly courageous. But at least it’s accurate to refer to the Bush administration and their Republican cohorts as cowardly. Can we agree on that?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Night Fever

As I mentioned, the whole family has been sick this week. All of us have been coughing. Luke, who I'm afraid is going to be carrying around an inhaler for the rest of his life, had viral pneumonia. I even had to take him to the emergency room because he wasn't getting enough oxygen into his lungs. (Side note: The doctor remembered me from last year when I went in for the "broken" hand, which ended up being nothing more than a bruise. He remembered my "metacarpal contusion syndrome" joke, which is oddly satisfying.)

I've been sick too. I thought I had gotten well enough to start riding again. Then last night, I woke up shivering. My teeth chattering, I grabbed another blanket from the closet, Wendy got me some ibuprofen, and I fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up sopping wet. I looked like an also-ran in a wet t-shirt contest.

I've gotten these odd sweats in the middle of the night several times in the last few years. They come at odd times, even when I don't think I'm sick. I get the chills, fall asleep, and wake up drenched in sweat. The first time it happened was one of the three most embarrassing moments of my life. (Quick list: 1 - I froze up during a speeech on Mormon pioneers in eighth grade, burst into tears, and hucked the little covered wagon against the wall. 2 - I mooned friends while in an unhygienic state. 3 - The story I'm about to tell.)

I was in Moab with some biking buddies a few years ago, and there were enough poor guys that we ended up sharing beds to cut costs. I think you see where this is going. I was sharing a bed with a guy named Stewart, I got the chills (from too much alcohol I thought), and woke up the next morning soaked. I lay there in the wet sheets wondering what happened. Did I just wet the bed? For some crazy reason, I decided the best thing to do would be to come out with the truth. "I'm soaking wet," I announced to the guys in the room. "I may have just wet the bed!"

I wanted to make it clear that I wasn't sure I wet the bed, but that just made it worse. I still remember eating breakfast in the Moab Diner and thinking, "Do 38-year-old guys in good health wet the bed?" The answer: No. After further review, the evidence is in: I do not wet the bed. So, Dug, Brad, and Rick, you guys can stop teasing me about that morning. It was a case of the night sweats. In fact, I demand an apology for lowering my self-esteem. Sticks and stones can break my bones, and words can hurt my feelings.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Daddy Day Care

Luke and Max are sick this morning, so I'm working at home until the nanny can drag herself over. That means I sit on the computer while they watch cartoons. Right now, they're into The Backyardigans, which is almost as good as Rocky and Bullwinkle in terms of pleasing the secondary audience. The Backyardigans isn't nearly as funny as Bullwinkle, but the dancing is stunning. Fifteen years ago, I would have insisted on a Backyardigans party at the old condo, complete with brownies and chips and salsa and beer and brownies.

The Iron Giant is another kid's movie that catches adults off guard. I don't know why the ending of the movie is so touching. When the Iron Giant sacrifices himself for the good of the community and is then resurrected, it remindes me of something or someone. But who? John Travolta? Britney Spears?

Since I'm watching the boys while Wendy is working, I thought the headline on page 1 of the Seattle P-I was fitting:

"Helping at home? Dad's the word"

Dads are scrubbing toilets, collecting kids after school and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner as never before, a fundamental shift that holds the promise of happier marriages.

"Men and women may not be fully equal yet, but the rules of the game have been profoundly and irreversibly changed," a new paper analyzing 40 years of family research concluded.

The article goes on about how fathers are spending more time on child care now than at any time in history. The author takes an entirely positive approach to the "new marital bargains" and the closing gap between men and women. According to this slant, the only drawback is that there's still a gap; women unfortunately continue to do more housework. The underlying premise is that full equality is the goal.

What I haven't heard mentioned in newspaper articles or anywhere else is a rational analysis of drawbacks to women entering the workforce. I'm not talking about the stuff that laments the decline of manly men -- you know, the riffs from macho guys like Denis Leary or the bitchfests from horny Cosmo writers. I'm talking about an honest discussion of the societal consequences of women joining the workforce en masse over the last fifty years.

Here's one drawback. Having so many dual-income households has reset the base income standard. For a time, dual-income households had a distinct advantage in competing for resources. Now that dual-income families are the norm, single-income households are at a distinct disadvantage everywhere except in Utah county. Is this a good thing? Aside from me, who have you ever heard mention this? It seems like the kind of subject chauvenists express from a different angle and feminists shy away from or dismiss too quickly as a necessary evil for the sake of gender equality. I happen to side with feminists on this one, though there's a soft spot in my heart for the chauvenists.

There's a similar problem with outsourcing child care. Since both parents in most homes now must work in order to make ends meet, other people have to tend to their children, which is especially sad with newborn babies and infants.

Another issue that the article didn't raise is that women and men take different approaches to household chores. In my case, I would have to alter my personality to be as mindful of clutter and filth. I don't want to do that. I don't want to be "equal" in that sense. Equal workload, yes; equal approach, no.

If someone comes across a balanced, thoughtful article on the societal impact of women flooding into the workforce, let me know, m'kay?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Boeing, Boeing, Boeing . . . Boom

"US Outrage After EADS Wins Tanker Contract"

In one of the biggest U.S. military contracts to ever be handed out, the U.S. Air Force chose the European Aeronautic Defence Corp (the parent company of Airbus) over Boeing. The U.S. government will be paying a European company to build refueling tankers in Toulouse, France. Most people expected Boeing to get the contract so that the tankers could be built in Seattle and assembled in Wichita, not built in France and assembled in Alabama. Needless to say, politicians in Kansas and Washington are furious, while the Alabama hilljacks are delighted to plunge into the trough of euro-scraps.

Here's what bugs me about this headline:

* Europeans don't even know how to spell the word "defense."

* This decision will take jobs away from Americans and give them to -- the French! Remember the stupid wimpy country that didn't think it was a good idea to invade Iraq? It's the same country! This makes me want to avoid all mentions of France. Instead of eating french fries, I'll eat Boeing fries.

* I'm getting old. Things I read in the newspaper bother me now when ten years ago, I wouldn't have paid attention to it.

* More U.S. jobs are being outsourced. It's one thing for individual companies to outsource jobs -- it's only a matter of time before I lose my job to a low member of the caste system -- but you don't expect the U.S. government to send jobs overseas in what appears to be an equal bid. The U.S. is paying for the Iraq war, borrowing a whole bunch of money from China to pay for war airplanes, paying a European country to build those airplanes, and paying China to build our toy airplanes. Good thing for trickle down money, or I'd be headed overseas.

* This isn't like a competition between Chevrolet and Toyota. Boeing and Airbus are at least on equal footing, and a lot of people think Boeing makes much better planes than Airbus.

I know, I know. I'm oversimplifying the situation. If you look closely at the details, it's easy to get caught up in the complexity. A few years ago, Boeing was caught making shady no-bid deals with the Air Force to get a smaller tanker contract, and several people ended up in jail. Some people think this is payback for those 2003 scandals. Plus, by giving contracts to Europe, it greases the machinery for Europeans to buy more of our products. And Northrop, who partnered with EADS, is based in Southern California. Unlike Boeing, they're too lame to get the contract on their own, but they're still an American company.

Still, you can't ignore the basic facts of the case. At the onset of a recession, the government is outsourcing jobs that Americans are more than happy to do. At times like these, I'm tempted to remove my American flag lapel pin.