Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks

Another Thanksgiving meal is in the books. Or digestive tract. Or whatever. It was good. We had most of my family there, roughly 30 people. I made mashed potatoes, both regular and some with wasabi. I highly recommend the wasabi variety. Rachel made 7 pies. Turns out we were so full from the dinner that it was about 4 pies too many. If you want some of the leftover, let me know.

As I sit here watching the waning moments of another lopsided football game, I thought I'd jot down a few things I'm thankful for. With the economy the way it is, the chaos in various places around the world, and so much general uncertainty, it's easy to fret rather than feel grateful. Yet in a year in which I've lost my livelihood and most of my savings, those things seem trivial when compared to all that I have to be thankful for. So here's a not-nearly-comprehensive list of a few things that are top of mind.
  • First and foremost has to be my dear wife. Like any couple, we've been through our share of ups and downs. Through it all, she remains loyal and loving and more concerned about my happiness than her own.
  • My kids are three of the most wonderful little people in the world. Being away from them five days a week reminds me of how precious they really are. A big hug from a little child has to be among the most underrated things in the world.
  • The Fat Cyclist--seems silly, but it's true. Because I happened upon this blog a few years ago, I've been introduced to some great people, a network that ultimately resulted in finding my new job. Thanks, Elden!
  • My health--on every ride or ski, I'm reminded how fortunate I am to have the health to enjoy the things I do. When I get home, I'm reminded how fortunate I am that my family is in the same healthy condition.
  • I've also got great friends. My Boise riding crew are some of my favorite people in the world. I wouldn't enjoy life nearly so much without them and already miss seeing them on a regular basis. By the same token, I've been welcomed by some great people in Utah. On Wednesday, I had no fewer than three people (who will be neighbors once we move) ask me when we were moving in and offer to help. And then there is the blogging community--several of you have been shockingly generous in a variety of ways even though we may have not even met.
  • The mountains. Some people like the beach. Some people, bless their hearts, like the Midwest. I'm a mountain person. I've always known it, but living away from them for a few years reminded me how important they are. As I think of the best times I've had, most of them have taken place in the mountains. I feel fortunate to have them right outside my door.
  • My family can't be beat, either. Despite me being the odd man out, my brothers and sisters are the best. And my parents are always there when I need them and can usually offer advice in the trickiest situations, having in most cases already dealt with something similar. My sister and brother-in-law have let me live in their home during the workweek the last six weeks, and I couldn't ask for better hosts. It's made dealing with being away from my family that much easier. I'm also fortunate to have great in-laws. I get along well with all of them and feel doubly blessed to have married into such a great family.
  • Finally, without waxing too philosophic, I feel fortunate to have been born when and where I was and to have had so many opportunities that the vast majority of humanity never has or will. The relative prosperity that we enjoy is unlike that in most of the rest of the world or any other period of time. I can joke all I want about being overweight, asthmatic, or unemployed, but the reality is that I've got it pretty good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pecking order

I'm used to being the odd man out. I'm the third of seven kids, and, like Australia, am somewhat more isolated from the other six than they are from each other. There are nearly three years between my older sister and me and between me and my younger brother. Everyone else has someone that's within about two years of being the same age.

So growing up, everyone had a sibling that was close to their same age that they sort of palled around with. Except me. Which was OK, because I've always had great friends, so I just hung out with them instead.

The whole odd man out thing more or less came to an end when I got married. My wife is also the third of seven, and she likes Moab and mountains and good books and has a great sense of humor. And sleeping with her is one of the significant perks of the relationship, whereas sharing a bed with my friends or siblings is something I would only have done if it were the only way to avoid freezing to death. Plus she's a great cook. So even if there were nobody else in the world, we'd be content to just hang out with each other.

Or so I thought. Until yesterday, when Dug pointed out that he is listed on my wife's blog roll under "faves," but I'm only listed under "friendly blogs." Now I think "faves" versus "friendly blogs" is one of those things like assigning non-letter grades or giving everyone a trophy at the end of the season, where there's no clear hierarchy, but any thinking person can figure out pretty quickly who's where and why.

Maybe moving to Dug's neighborhood wasn't such a good idea after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Figure 11's

In 1984, I wanted to be a downhill ski racer. I had just watched Bill Johnson win the Olympic downhill in Sarajevo, and I wanted to do the same thing. Apparently my enthusiasm was enough to convince my parents I was serious, so for my birthday that year, they bought me my first set of skis.

To celebrate my birthday, the entire family went to Alta. I was on my new stuff; everyone else was on rental gear. I think we were all wearing jeans. We rode the rope tow, which at the time I thought was fabulous.

My mom had done a little bit of skiing growing up in upstate New York, so she took my sisters and brothers and taught them how to snowplow and tried to teach them to make some turns.

But I was going to be a downhill racer, which I thought meant I didn't really need to know how to turn. So I would take the rope tow to the top of the hill and then get into my tuck and straightline it all the way down. Nothing but figure 11's run after run. Who cares that I didn't know how to stop when I got to the bottom. I'd just go 'til I ran out of momentum and then make my way back to the lift line.

On one run, I didn't get my line quite right and was heading straight for the lift line. I couldn't stop, and I didn't know how to turn. So I went right over the tops of everyone's skis before running out of steam. Somehow I didn't hit anyone or crash.

At the end of the day, I couldn't wait to go back. My brother, on the other hand, said "next time we go skiing, I don't want to be part of this family." My dad was with me, though. He'd been tucking it and skiing fast, which is perhaps a bit less forgiveable for an adult than a kid, but we both still had a great time. Unfortunately, I have a spring birthday, and we were up there closing weekend.

The next season, we picked up where we left off. At first I went up to the ropetow with my friend Jack, and in addition to our straightlining skills, we added jumping--another important skill for a downhill racer. Still no turns or stopping, though. Then my dad and I started going together. Every weekend. We eventually learned to turn and stop and graduated from green to blue to even some easy black runs. It was a great winter.

The other members of my family, on the other hand, were content to stay home. My brothers eventually took up snowboarding, but I'm pretty sure my oldest sister has only skied that one day in her entire life. I have to wonder if spending the whole day trying to snowplow rather than skiing fast was the difference. It was, after all, when my son finally went fast that he really caught the bug. Even though he crashed in a heap, he was just happy to open it up and go.

This year marks the 25th ski season since Bill Johnson won that Olympic downhill. And with hundreds of ski days under my belt since then, I'm still just as excited about this ski season as I was that one. So if you see some old guy with his four year old bombing it down the beginner run, just wave. Even if we run into you or go over the tops of your skis.

Friday, November 21, 2008

One pair of shoes

My dad retired this spring. He's been counting down the days for a long time, so we knew well in advance that it was coming. We also knew that he was interested in spending some of his newly found spare time on a bike. So for Christmas last year, my brothers and I bought him a nice pair of cycling shoes (we should have bought him a bike, but he's got deeper pockets than we do).

Before he retired, he used to tool around the neighborhood on a Trek hybrid. But shortly after his retirement, he bought a Cannondale Synapse. So far this year, he's put over 4,000 miles on that bike. He rides every day that the weather is good and has knocked off two centuries, more rides of 50 to 75 miles than he can count, and just last week finished the last of his goals for the year, riding from home to the top of Big Mountain. This is in addition to City Creek, Millcreek, Emigration, and various other climbs in and around Salt Lake.

I should also mention that my mom, who isn't retired yet, is right behind him on mileage, and they've done most of the long rides together. My mom also refuses to try clipless pedals for fear of tipping over at an intersection, so she's doing all this on a Cannondale with flat pedals. I wonder if I could keep up with her if she were actually clipped in.

My parents have a vacation home in Myrtle Beach where they have another pair of hybrid bikes. Make that had. After getting used to riding their road bikes in Utah, on their first trip to MB, they couldn't tolerate the hybrids, so they bought road bikes to keep there as well.

In addition to all the miles ridden, my dad has shed about 50 pounds and in his 60's is more fit than many if not most men in their 30's or 40's. Perhaps most tellingly, he would now rather go out for a ride than play a round of golf.

He mentioned in an email the other day that had we not bought him the shoes for Christmas, he may still be pedaling around on that hybrid. I guess buying the shoes had a sort of butterfly effect that's led to a healthy and enjoyable hobby and something that, since I don't play golf, we can do together besides watch sporting events. Of course, if he keeps on this trajectory, we're not going to be able to ride bikes together either, because I simply won't be able to keep up.

Nice work, dad. Keep it up. See you on the road to Jackson in September.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review of my office building

I have almost always worked for large companies. Which means I have almost always worked in large, crowded office buildings, most recently for a company that literally has hundreds of acres of cubicles, some of the plots so large that they have to deploy noise canceling systems to dull the roar of thousands of keyboards and phone conversations and flatulent engineers (I used to sit next to one, so I should know).

Now that I work for a small company, I've had to make a few adjustments. I've already mentioned that I don't need to schedule appointments to talk to people--I can just walk over to their desks. But I'm also getting used to working in an office building that has multiple tenants. So I thought I'd write up a review of who else works here.

On the first and second floor we have a swanky architecture firm. Lots of hardwood and glass and bare metal in there. All the women and most of the men die their hair. Even the men who don't die their hair use expensive gels to keep their fauxhawks in place. Unless they don't have hair or have spared us from the "thinning hair but wears a fauxhawk anyway" look, in which case they have a stylish beard or shave everything but wear nicely tailored shirts. I could never work in this office simply because I would never meet the style threshold. I often wonder where these people live if they're spending that much money on their appearance. Maybe they just don't buy bikes or skis.

I have no idea who is on the third or fifth floors of the building, because we are on the fourth floor, and I obviously can't enter the building from the third or fifth floor because this isn't Minneapolis and we have no skyway. I only know the architects are on floors one and two because I can see the stairs through their glass doors from the lobby.

Our neighbors on the fourth floor are an interesting bunch. I enjoy the fact that I can sneak out during the day a couple times a week for a lunch ride or come in a few minutes late because I did some early morning backcountry laps. But we have it rough compared to our neighbors.

Right next to us is a company that I have no idea what they do. I looked at their website, and I still have no idea. All I know is that they are gone every day by 5:00. I mean the office is empty and locked. No putting in extra hours to get the work done. It's like they're all paid hourly and have a no overtime policy.

Next to them is a financial planning office. In the interest of full discolure, my parents are clients of said office, and my sister used to work there. When my sister worked there, the whole office would shut down at noon, and they all went out to lunch together. On the company. Not sure if that's still the policy, but judging by the waistlines of two of the guys that work there, they certainly aren't missing very many meals. That place is also a ghost town at 5:00 p.m.

Down the hall is an office I have seen a total of two people come in and out from. They are a branch of a company that's received a tidy sum of government bailout, so they must all be busy counting our tax dollars. Down from them are some hippy lawyers. You know the kind, they wear jeans and hiking boots and sport coats and cowboy hats. I don't know who their clients are or what kind of law practice it is, but I'm sure if those walls could talk...

Across the hall from us is a dentist's office. I went into the wrong field. They are gone at noon two days a week and never there on Fridays. They specialize in cosmetic dentistry, and based on the appearance of the office, there is some serious cashflow moving through there.

Of course, if I ever wanted to get an inside look at any of my neighbors, I could probably pull it off. One of my colleagues mentioned last night that one night he left his keys at his desk and there was nobody to let him back in. Nobody but the cleaning crew that is. They gladly opened the office door for him. I asked if they escorted him to his desk to get his keys and made sure he wasn't doing anything suspicious. "No, they just let me in."

Isn't social engineering great? We can put all the safeguards in the world on data and property, and all it takes is some smooth talking to compromise every bit of it, as I pointed out to a major news organization some time ago. It needn't be some brilliant kid breaking into a secure system like in War Games, just some smart thieves who give the background check companies enough data to identify an individual, and for a nominal fee get back everything necessary to steal that individual's identity.

If the security threats don't make you nervous inside the building, then all you have to do is step outside and go around the corner. The street we're on is quiet and stately, lined with historic mansions, cathedrals, and even the Masonic Temple. The next street over, though, is another story. The apartments where the crazy people live are there, and you can overhear this at the 7 eleven: "Hey man, where you been?" "Oh, I'm over at the Salvation Army." And in case you were wondering, he wasn't working at the Salvation Army, either.

But I don't mean to complain. I actually really like working in the city versus some suburban park or campus. And as urban locations go, ours is a good one. Relatively quiet and safe, covered parking, and just a few blocks from one of the coolest bike shops in the valley. Add in colleagues who are up for a spontaneous evening of carpaccio and Bond movies, and it's a good place to be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Which kind of show off is it?

As UTRider mentioned, we got out for a lunch, er scratch that, near end of the day ride on the rigid singles today. At least it was near the end of the work day, but we ended up going out for dinner and the new Bond movie after work, which is why it's now midnight, and I haven't gone to bed yet.

Anyway, while riding the wall, shortly after we passed some dude on a geared bike, we also passed a girl (woman, lady, chica, what's the correct vernacular here when you're a married guy and she was younger than you?) who was stopped at the side of the trail, presumably waiting for said dude, but perhaps just resting her dog, since she and geared bike dude didn't ride together after that.

When we got to the top of Bobsled, Mark N. didn't hesitate to drop right in. He saw a couple guys on big bikes sitting at the top, and he wanted them to see we were riding Bobsled on rigid bikes. I paused to give Mark some space, and as I did, the female bicyclist that we passed earlier rolled by and on up the hill just past Bobsled.

She made some show of getting out of the saddle and powering up the climb. Like enough of a show that it was obvious she was asserting herself as a capable cyclist with some implication or another.

Which made me wonder, what kind of show off was it?

A) You passed me earlier because I had to stop and let my dog rest, but under normal circumstances you shouldn't be able to catch me.

B) Look how tough I am motoring up this climb while you're already headed down the hill.


C) Look how tough I am motoring up this climb--don't you want to ask me out?

There's no way to tell that I'm married out on the bike. Which means that if it was in fact "C", her rationale may have been "I'm so far out of his league, I may as well rub it in."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How stupid do you have to be, part 2

Yesterday morning I went to the airport for my flight from Boise back to Salt Lake. When it was my turn at the TSA desk, the agent looked at my driver's license and pointed out that it was expired. So? I thought. The picture looks like me, and the name matches my ticket. "Do you have another form of valid ID?" I was more annoyed than concerned, but in our current socialist police state, talking back will get you nowhere. So I looked through my wallet, pretending to be concerned, knowing there was nothing there. "Anything else with a picture, like maybe a Costco card?" he asked. So I grabbed my Costco card and used that. Apparently a 3/8" x 3/8" grainy, black and white photo on a warehouse store card is OK to fly with, but a state-issued driver's license that happens to be expired is not.

The guy in front of me was a pilot, and as we put our stuff on the X-ray machine, he commented on the absurdity of the situation. A driver's license being expired doesn't make it any less useful for establishing identity, at least I wouldn't think. In fact, I have a friend who has been using the ID he got at a Go Cart race track to fly with for years. And it's not like the TSA is consistent with this approach either, because it's been expired for seven months, and this was my fourth flight in three weeks and the first time anyone even noticed. Don't think I'm going to go get it renewed a month before I move to another state, either.

It would have been nice had the stupidity ended there, but it didn't. Except the next act was all me. Actually, the next act of stupidity had already been completed, but it was still a few hours from discovery. I had been very careful on Sunday night to set out wallet, keys, and chap stick so as not to be stuck without essentials. Keys were particularly important because my car was still in Salt Lake and I also needed the RFID key fob to get in and out of the office.

We share a floor with several other tenants, and the restroom is outside of our space. Once and only once so far I left for the restroom without my keys and had to have someone come open the door for me. Since then I have always checked to make sure my keys were in my pocket before venturing out. Sure enough, they were there, so I proceeded with confidence. On the way back in, I pulled them out and discovered that I had brought the keys to my wife's car with me from Boise. This was disastrous. Not only could I not get back in, but I couldn't drive home either.

Fortunately, I was able to get a loaner key fob for the office. I then borrowed Mark N.'s car and drove to the dealer to have a new key made. My stupidity only cost me $2.14 this time, plus a little bit of humiliation.

Apparently stupidity is virulent and contagious, because even after Martha Stewart's jail time, billionaires are still (allegedly) engaging in insider trading. This time it's Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban dumping shares to avoid a loss that, relative to his wealth, would be like me losing a spool of dental floss.

But that's not all--the idiot storm is dumping large buckets of stupidity all over the country. It seems that a few thousand or so Mormons were the entire reason that a majority of the voters in a state of over 16 million registered voters supported California's proposition 8. And because it's clearly entirely the fault of the Mormons, those disappointed by the outcome have decided to protest at and vandalize the Mormons' places of worship.

Now I realize that this is an exceptionally complicated subject that is sure to elicit a highly emotional reaction. But the fact of the matter is that the people of California exercised their constitutional rights and made a decision. There may be enough Mormons in California that if all of them voted for proposition 8, it could have been the deciding factor. But they didn't all vote for it, and non-Mormon Californians who did vote for it outnumber the Mormons who did by at least an order of magnitude.

So why all the anger directed almost exclusively at the Mormon church? One opponent of the measure called it "the most dangerous form of bigotry." Apparently participating in a democratic election is the most dangerous form of bigotry, but vandalizing someone's place of worship and assaulting missionaries is appropriate for people who preach tolerance and acceptance of others.

Sure you'll always have your wackos, but I wonder if the response would have been so heated and on the scale that it is had the election results been different.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My one-year-old

Technically she's closer to her second birthday than her first, but she's not two yet. Funny thing is that she doesn't realize that she's not as old or as capable as her brother or sister. A few weeks ago she refused to sit in her high chair anymore, apparently because those are for babies, and well, she's not a baby (the other two used the high chair until they were three). So we moved her to a booster chair at the table with the rest of us. But nobody else was sitting in a booster chair. So now she sits flat on the chair, her chin barely above the surface of the table. It leads to quite a mess when she eats Cheerios or lasagna, but what can you do?

She's not really happy about sleeping in a crib, either. She wants to be in a big bed, preferably a top bunk like her brother. But we haven't given in on that one yet. At least not completely.

Saturday night she woke up at about 1:00 a.m., screaming at the top of her lungs. I went in to her room and got her out of her crib to hold her. She let me hold her for about two seconds then squirmed to the ground and went back to her crib. I thought she wanted to get back in, so I lifted her in. She grabbed her entourage (two stuffed pink elephants and a baby doll) and then started screaming again to get out. Again, I got her out. Again, she squirmed out of my arms almost immediately. She walked out of the room, down the hall, and up the stairs where she sat down on the couch in front of the TV. I wasn't about to turn it on for her.

I sat on the couch with her for about two minutes and watched her drift off back to sleep. Then I left her there. I moved the coffee table out of the way and put a couple pillows on the floor, so that when she rolled off, she wouldn't get hurt.

At about 5:00 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom. (I'm not that old, but it's still more of an accomplishment for me to make it through the night without having to go then it is for my son, the difference being that I actually wake up and get out of bed.) Since I was up anyway, I went upstairs to check on the baby. She wasn't there.

I panicked for a second but figured she hadn't cried, so she probably wasn't hurt. And she can't open the entry doors yet, so she was somewhere in the house. I went back down to her room. She was asleep on the carpet, her entourage still in her arms. I put a blanket over her and went back to bed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wanna buy a house?

This is kind of a long shot, but it worked for finding a job. Our house in Boise is for sale. I have no idea how many of my readers live in Boise, but if you're in the market for a home or know someone who is, it's a great house on a quiet cul-de-sac and backs up to the common area.

We've loved living here and have great neighbors. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 car garage, 2151 SF. $249,900. If you don't have a realtor and work with ours, he'll discount the commission, which can be applied towards purchase price or closing costs.

And if you buy the house or refer someone who does, we can probably work something out similar to the year's supply of diet coke.


Blog tags are meh, but I love my sister, so here goes.

8 Shows that I watch:
  1. The Office
  2. English Premier League Review Show
  3. LOST
8 Things that happened yesterday:
  1. I went skiing
  2. I went to work
  3. I haggled over a house
  4. My son was sick and 350 miles away
  5. My wife was sick and 350 miles away
  6. I ate a piece of Costco chocolate cake for the third day in a row
  7. I put gas in my car
  8. I decided to put this blog post off for a day, because I had even less to write about yesterday
8 Favorite places to eat
  1. Rachel's kitchen
  2. Frontera grill
  3. Moab Diner
  4. The Paris Bistro
  5. Highland Hollow
  6. Zingerman's
  7. Watson Shelter
  8. Top Wok
8 Things I am looking forward to
  1. Moving
  2. Economy improving
  3. Seeing my family this weekend
  4. Ski season
  5. The next snowstorm (which I think is happening,
  6. Thanksgiving
  7. My next diet coke
  8. Trying out some Megawatts
8 Things on my wish list
  1. Susan to get better
  2. Being with my family seven days a week
  3. My kids to be happy
  4. My kids to be healthy
  5. New touring skis
  6. Reiterate wishes 1-4...
  7. ...
  8. ...
I tag....nobody. I actually kind of like the feeling of stopping a chain letter cold in its tracks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holy Toledo!

I was a little skeptical about getting up at 4:30 to ski this morning. Reports were that there was only 4 inches or so of new, and 4:30 is really early. But not having ridden my bike in a couple weeks, I need all the exercise I can get, so I met Dug, Ben, Tyler, and Nate at the mouth of LCC at 5:30. Turns out I was glad I did.

Without the rest of the BD crew in tow, Ben took it a little easier on us as we skinned up the hill. We started from Our Lady of Snows, went up Toledo Bowl, then dropped in and did one shot on Holy Toledo (backside of Toledo Bowl). I've never skied that line before, but I will absolutely ski it again. The snow was great, and I absolutely loved the terrain.

After skinning back to the ridge, we dropped back down the south facing side to the car and were rewarded with good snow there, too. Sugary in consistency, but reasonably light and fun.

2500 vertical feet of skiing, a grin I can't wipe off my face, a great morning workout, and I still made it to my desk by 9:30. I love Utah.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why am I smiling?

Despite the fact that it's 7:00 a.m. on Sunday and I've been awake for nearly an hour (thanks to my one-year-old, who decided to sleep in our bed last night but didn't want dad in there with her) I'm still sporting a big ol' grin today. Wanna know why?

Arsenal 2 - 1 Manchester United
BYU 41 - 12 San Diego State
Minnesota 6 - 29 Michigan
Utah 13 - 10 TCU
Cleveland 30 - 34 Denver Broncos
Chivas USA 2 - 3 Real Salt Lake (aggregate)

If I would have played all those results as a parlay at a Vegas sports book, I would have ended up with some serious coin, particularly on the Arsenal and Michigan results, two teams that are severely underperforming this year and had to have been considered underdogs. Of course, given my propensity for addiction, I don't gamble. But it's still fun to imagine.

Some might find it odd that I consider two rivals (BYU and Utah) both winning to be a good thing, but I attended Utah before graduating from BYU, so I cheer for both until rivalry week, when I side for BYU unless, like this year, Utah could clinch a BCS bid with a win. Plus I'm an avowed hater of the BCS system and believe that President Elect Obama was spot on when he said we needed a playoff while on Monday Night Football last week.

The BCS conferences are full of crap in thinking they are that much better than the so-called mid majors. The Big 12 and the SEC are the real deal this year. Coming out of either conference with one loss is an accomplishment. But the Pac 10, Big 10, ACC, and Big East are all weaker than the Mountain West. The MWC v. BCS results seem to bear this out (BYU v. UCLA, Utah v. Oregon State, Utah v. Michigan, Wyoming v. Tennessee).

When did the ACC and in particular the Big East become power conferences worthy of automatic bids to a national championship game, anyway? They're basketball conferences for crying out loud.

I really don't see why USC is ranked in the top 10 with one loss when they haven't played anyone good and lost to Oregon State. And Penn State was never as good as anyone thought they were. So they beat Ohio State--big deal. Ohio State stinks this year, too (of course if you ask me, Ohio State stinks every year). In fact, the Big 10 has been overrated for a long time (I would say since 1997, but more objectively since 2002), and I went to a Big Ten school.

Enough of the rant--I'm going to enjoy the moment. It will be fun to go to work on Monday wearing my Arsenal shirt, since one of our guests this week is a Man U season ticket holder. And dug, I thought for sure Minnesota would be able to claim the little brown jug this year, but looks like it's staying in Ann Arbor yet again.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Good news disguised as bad news

My lovely wife and kids are spending the weekend in Utah with me rather than at home in Idaho. Our oldest was out of school Thursday and Friday, so we're taking advantage of the chance to spend a few extra days together.

Needless to say, it was a tremendous effort on my wife's part getting everything together for the trip while still making sure to leave the house in perfect condition in case someone wants to look at it while they're gone. The plan was to pick up our daughter from school and be on the road by 4:00 on Wednesday.

At about 4:00 I got a panicked call from my wife. She was behind on a few last minute items and had stopped back at the house before leaving, only to discover that the water heater was leaking onto the garage floor. She found that by holding the valve closed where the water was coming out, she could keep it in check. But that meant she was stuck, like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, helpless to do anything else about the problem.

I told her to feel the pipes coming into the water heater, and whichever one was cold, to turn off the valve to that pipe. That would keep more water from coming in. This seemed to work. She then turned the heater all the way down so that the element didn't burn up or catch on fire or whatever else may have gone wrong (I actually don't even know if it's gas or electric, as I've really never paid it any attention until now). I then called Psycho Rider and asked him if he'd stop by just to make sure that everything was stable and she was safe to leave.

My guess is that we're going to be in the market for a new water heater early next week. If you read the title, you've got to be wondering how this is good news. As it happens, we've packed up a bunch of our stuff in order to de-clutter the house. Mostly clothing and toys, but also the mattress from our guest bed. Right now we're storing all that stuff in the third bay of the garage, right in front of the water heater. So had this little problem gone unnoticed all weekend, who knows what else we would be replacing besides a water heater. Which reminds me, I should replace the hoses going to the washing machine while I'm at it.

Is a home really an asset? I sure don't think of my cars, bikes, skis, TV, or computers as assets. At best they are tools, but more realistically, they are toys. OK, the bikes and skis are medical devices intended to preserve my mental health, but either way, none of those things are really assets. And if you define assets as things that make money, neither are houses.

I priced out water heaters, and they are roughly the same price as a pair of Megawatts or Lhasa Pows. Since I won't be around to install it, you can figure paying someone will be about the cost of new bindings.

Maybe renting a house isn't such a bad idea after all--then I would have been able to just call the landlord and have him buy the new water heater. I'd be free to put my money to work stimulating my favorite sector of the economy rather than helping out Joe the Plumber.

New skis weren't really in the cards for this year anyway, but maybe next year I can justify them with all the money I saved from the stuff in the garage not actually being ruined. We'll see.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Altitude sickness

I've been in Utah not quite three weeks now, but I've already come down with a severe case of altitude sickness. It's not manifesting itself as HAPE or HACE, but with a much more subversive symptom. It's compelling me to do irrational things in order to spend as much time as possible in my beloved Wasatch Mountains. I know the feeling of an addict as he unwraps the surgical tubing and lets the heroin seethe into his veins. Just like him, and as I state in the title of this blog, I am a junkie. I have the bloodshot eyes to prove it.

Last week, for instance, I stayed up to a ridiculously late hour riding mountain bikes in the dark. I did the same the week before.

This morning I got up at 4:00 a.m. and met Mike and Ben and two of Ben's colleagues from Black Diamond at the mouth of Little Cottonwood at 5:00 a.m. It was still dark and would be for a couple of hours. I had never met any of these guys before this morning--it didn't matter as we were united in common purpose.

We started from Our Lady of Snows and skinned up the south-facing slope across from Alta Ski Area. A week ago, this ground was bare, but you would have never known that this morning. Three feet or more of snow had fallen this week, and suddenly it was winter. My only regret is that I didn't go the day before.

After at least an hour of climbing at a pace that was far from comfortable for me, we reached the ridge. I was still catching my breath and had just started taking my skins off when I looked down and saw Ben already at the bottom of Days Fork.

The Days Fork side of the ridge is north-facing, and the snow was wonderful. Not quite the dry, light stuff the Wasatch is known for, but still soft and effortless. It was a wonderful way to kick off the ski season. We lapped Days twice and then skinned along the ridge top before skiing back down to Alta.

By the time we started the final descent, my legs were completely cooked. Every ski season I go into it thinking that I've been on the bike all year and I'm in good shape. Every year I finish my first day wondering how I can be so fit and hurt so bad. My only explanation is that skiing is harder than cycling. The relatively easy transition back onto the bike in the spring seems to bear this out. Of course, it doesn't help that the BD guys are insanely fit--Rick has mentioned before that he'd love to see Ben on a bike, as they seem to travel across snow with a fraction of the effort required of some reasonably strong cyclists.

The final descent of the south-facing aspect wasn't nearly as good as the other side. The snow had a sun crust on it and was mashed-potatoey. It still beats not skiing, but it was quite heavy and hard work. We were back at the bottom at 8:30--would have been sooner if I hadn't needed to rest my burning quads on the way down.

After some hot chocolate and a maple bar at the 7 eleven, I was at work a little after 9:30. Growing up, I thought living half an hour from Alta and Snowbird was normal. That this kind of access could be found in cities all over the West. After living a few other places in the country, I have realized how wrong I was. When talking about Utah with my former manager, he described Utah as "special." I know that word gets thrown around, often as a pejorative, but I think it's apt. Not only is it the greatest snow on earth, but it's close enough to access on a weekday without jeopardizing my career. There's nothing like it in the world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Learn something every day

Shortly after moving to Boise, I purchased a snow shovel. I figured I'd need it. I have used it to remove snow three times. The rest of the time it's been used as a dustpan when I sweep the garage semiannually. My commute in Boise was 10 minutes by bike, so even if it snowed, it wasn't a big deal.

This morning I got up to find several inches of snow on the ground, and I sort of forgot how to act. Instead of going back to bed or watching TV and waiting for things to clear a bit, I did what I always do and left for work about 7:40. At about 8:30, I had completed the 10 minute drive to the freeway. At about 9:15, I had made it to the 106th south exit in Sandy, a distance of about six miles. I got off the freeway and took the train the rest of the way in, arriving at about 10:30. The guys who had stayed home and left for work at 10 arrived shortly BEFORE I did.

The worst part of it all was that between two hours in the car, 45 minutes on the train, and 15 minutes of walking from the train station to the office, I really had to pee. I mean bad. Like I may have leaked bad. With a block and a half to go, I was looking around for somewhere I could hide. Nothing but houses, churches, and office buildings. I was nearly desperate enough to go to the Good Samaritan house and ask if I could use their facility, but the crowd of bearded men on the porch suggested it would take me longer to convince them to let me in than it would to walk the rest of the way to the office.

With about half a block to go, I started to run. I ran across the street, not waiting for the light. Just outside the office were the three consultants who've been on site this week. I smiled and said hello and pretended to be pleasant without slowing down. I wonder if they could tell. I finally got into the lobby and the restroom and found sweet relief.

It was painful and for the last few steps when things were really urgent, I started thinking about what to do if I didn't make it. My car was 15 miles away. Would I ride the train with wet pants? Would I risk arrest and just go in public? I'm glad it didn't come to that.

Next time it snows, I'll make a cup of hot cocoa and wait it out. Or better yet, just find a tree since hopefully I'll be up the canyon with my skis, putting the snow to good use.

Now if it will just keep snowing, we'll have a nice base before we know it. As long as it doesn't get warm and make a rotten layer in the snowpack, we're on our way to another great season. Can't wait.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What happened to shaking hands?

Fist bump, knudge, fist pound, fist love, knuckle bump, knuckles, pound it, poundage, respect knuckles, knuckle knock, bones, the rock, spud, stones, giving props, or "the get some," among other names, seems to have replaced the handshake as the masculine greeting gesture of choice. Yesterday morning when I was at the airport I observed two men who were in the final third of their lives engage in the aforementioned gesture before parting.

Sociologists and linguists seeking clues about behavior from a bygone era will observe older males because they are the slowest to change and the most likely to persist with an otherwise outmoded manner of speaking or acting. John McCain will carry most of the midsection of the country today precisely because most of these people have simply never considered voting anything but Republican in a general election.

Then again, we could be at the dawn of a whole new era. For instance, I've seen dozens of Obama-Biden yard signs in Idaho and Utah, and pretty much zero McCain-Palin signs. But to observe older men doing anything but a vanilla handshake was still unexpected. Perhaps not so surprising as waking up to find my head sewn to the carpet, but then again, what could be more surprising than that?

Regardless of your political preference, get out and vote today. You only have a right to complain if you made your voice heard when you had the chance.

Cycling vogue

In case you hadn't noticed, Lance Armstrong has come out of retirement. Turns out, he's apparently also looking to none other than Dug for fashion tips. Observe Lance's socks:

A style Dug was wearing no less than six months ago at RAWROD.

And since I gave Dug the Smartwool ski socks he wore at RAWROD and other events thereafter, well before Lance Armstrong ever thought to wear socks that came up to his knees, you can kinda say that (for the first and only time in my life), I'm on the cutting edge of fashion. My sister would be so proud.

For RAWROD 2009, we'll bring a runway and spend Friday night modeling what are sure to be the summer's hottest cycling trends. Long socks are hot, after all, but imagine how much more hot they would be with blue steel.