Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I’m an addict. This confession is implicit in the name of the blog. I like to think that as addictions go, mine are pretty benign. But “healthy addiction” is probably an oxymoron.

Big news in celebrity gossip is that Jesse James has checked himself into rehab. Tiger did the same thing to deal with his addiction. What I’d like to know, though, is what man isn’t addicted to sex? Jesse and Tiger certainly have problems, but it’s not that they like sex too much. It’s that they have exceptionally poor taste. I mean they’ve respectively forsaken this:


For this?


Nasty. I hope the therapy they’re getting is to fix their sense of beauty. Because aside from being unbelievably stupid, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for choosing to get anywhere near either of those women without a hazmat suit.

Of course, there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to addiction. Case in point, a recent study suggests that people can become addicted to hostess ding dongs. And it’s not just that they like ding dongs. It’s a full on, chemical-based addiction, just like cocaine. Ding dongs cause a dopamine release. The body likes the dopamine but develops a tolerance to a certain level of ding dong consumption, so the user has to eat more and more ding dongs to get the same high. I’m not making this up.

I used to do a little but a little wouldn't do
So the little got more and more
I just keep tryin' to get a little better
Said the little better than before

Perhaps Dunford double chocolate donuts will take on a street name. Too bad Mr. Brownstone is taken.

I’ve got no problem if people like sweet, fatty foods. I like sweet, fatty foods. I like the stuff Rachel makes better than what comes in a package (and thankfully I’m the one that married her, because it would be a little weird if I were just hanging around in her kitchen waiting for a cookie with her husband watching). But there’s also some tasty stuff in a package. I’ve just learned, out of necessity, because I used to be incredibly fat, to enjoy them in moderation.

I get a little bugged, though, when people think fast food, soda, and candy are harmless, but other things that may be no more addictive are evil. Sure, alcoholism, lung cancer, and drug abuse are all public health issues, but so are type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. And while nobody I know would consider giving cigarettes to a baby, childhood obesity is a major concern.

Here in Utah, our lawmakers are fond of vice taxes targeting potentially-addictive substances. Just in the last legislative session, a $1 per pack addition to the cigarette tax was passed. The cigarette tax I’m sure was presented as a means of simultaneously discouraging people from smoking and raising money for education—both worthwhile objectives. But if they were really serious about making education a priority and improving public health, we’d see a tax on sugary foods, ice cream, and diet coke. Maybe then we could reduce class sizes and pay our teachers something approaching the type of compensation they deserve.

But then again, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Monday, March 29, 2010


One of the advantages to being an old guy (at least in bike racing terms) is that after suffering a beat-down at the hands of a young guy like Tanner on Friday, I always have the option to do the Masters race. This option proved fortuitous this weekend. Twice.

Friday evening I headed back to the criterium venue, where the sun had come out and the course had dried by the time the Masters field rolled out at 6:15. Crits are short enough that I can get away with doing two in one day, which is good, because they’re typically my best shot at getting a good result.

Old guys have lived long enough to realize that making a living is more important than getting a result in a bike race, so they tend to be a bit more civilized than the Cat. 4 field. There are a lot of dentists that race masters, and they know it’s hard to fill a cavity with a broken wrist. And it’s hard to get paid if cavities aren’t getting filled and roots aren’t getting canaled. Masters races mean fewer suicide attacks to cover and fewer sketchy passes—you just have to be prepared for guys who have been racing a long time and who have big motors to set a hard tempo throughout. Since I’m pretty good at sitting in, I like this kind of race.

The biggest motor on Friday evening was teammate Scott K. He was on the front more often than not setting a pace that had 20+ starters down to six or seven contenders by halfway through. With a couple laps to go, Scott attacked solo. Chad from Porcupine went with him, while teammate Nate V. and I sat behind Mike K. from Church of the Big Ring. We weren’t going to chase a teammate but figured we’d try to be there in case he got caught. Mike gave it a good effort, and at one point on the last lap we were within about three bike lengths. But then Mike faded, so I came around to race for third.

Chad looked like he was going to pass Scott K., but suddenly sat up just before the line.

Chad broke his chain in the final straight. Scott took the win, Chad second, me third, Nate V. fourth. My objective was upgrade points, which I got, so I was happy to see Scott get the win and to get some points for myself.

Saturday I was torn between doing the 4/5 race with Steve, trying to place in the overall for the Omnium by racing Masters, and skiing Bonkers with Dug. I chose the 4/5 race. Not sure why. But since it was a day-of decision, I arrived 90 minutes early to register. I waited in line for 85 minutes and was handed a number with just enough time to run to my car and put on my shoes and grab my bike. No warm up. No bathroom break.

Jon J., his brother Paul, and Sam all got shut down entirely. After waiting in line for north of an hour, they were told the field was full and were turned away. Why they combined the 4/5 field is beyond me. Jon came back and raced Masters with me.

Early in the first lap, I rode to the front to try and get everyone to stop for a pee break. Everyone seemed OK with that except Alex W.* from Canyon.

*Kind of a jerk about whom I’d have more to say in private.

The problem with pee breaks is that if one person refuses, it ain’t gonna happen. So I stopped. Alone. I could have tried to marshal teammates for a double assist rolling race pee, but we were going up a bit of a hill, and I’ve never done one of those before, so I figured I’d just stop and try to chase back on.

 Double Assist_thumb[2]

Awesome graphic courtesy of Alex. The way cool Alex, not to be confused with the not even slightly cool Alex W. from Canyon.

I did my business at the side of the road. It took a while. You’d think it was the end of happy hour rather than the beginning of a bike race there was so much of it.

I jumped back on the bike and chased. Eventually I made my way up to the main field and tucked in at the back to catch my breath. It was a short-lived respite, as I realized a gap had opened up and the front of the field was riding away. I got into no-man’s land and chased, but they crested the hill and started descending before I could catch on. I caught a few guys, a few guys caught us, and eventually we had a real chase group. But I could tell it was doomed. Then I started having an asthma attack. So when we got to the start/finish area, I stopped and told the officials I was withdrawing. Being an old guy, I knew I could save it for the Masters race later in the day.

That lead group pretty much stayed together most of the race. a few guys fell off on the hills, Alex W.’s request notwithstanding. With all the charm he could muster, he exhorted the field with the following: “all you pussies who didn’t do the hill climb this morning better not attack on this climb.” He’s a veritable Dale Carnegie. He survived the first climb but got dropped on the second lap because while intimidation can be a tactic in bicycle races, it can’t be your only tactic if you expect to do well.

After a big pileup (remember what I said about Masters?), there were 15 to 20 guys left in the lead. There are three turns in the last kilometer, and as they approached the first of these, Steve asked teammate Scott P. if he still had a kick. Scott has a great kick and told Steve to just get him to the second turn, and he’d do the rest. Steve attacked after turn one, Scott came around in turn two, coasted through the final turn, and then punched it for the final 200 meters, with nobody even close to him at the end. It was a great display of teamwork and a nice result for Revolution/Cafe Rio.

Later that afternoon in the Masters race, Revolution was again well-represented. I was hoping for some upgrade points and also wanted to see Scott K. get a good enough result to take the overall. Scott is such a strong rider that all I needed to do was cover the counter-attack when he made a move.

On the second lap someone launched a solo attack. We let him go, but on the hill the pace increased, and it was full-on chase mode. The field blew up. At the top, Scott said “we’ve got five, if we work together we can stay away.”

I was not happy. I’m a lazy bike racer and would rather sit in and surge at the end or at least wait until the final climb than have to do work for the entire race. And staying away/keeping it together in a breakaway requires a lot of work—you’re trying not to get caught by the chasers, and you’re trying to keep one of your own from going off solo, so it’s basically hammer down for the duration.

We soon caught the leader, and then before the end of the second lap, Lotoja hero Mark T. and another racer caught us. We were now eight.

Going up the final climb, Bo P. went off the front. I couldn’t answer. If anyone else could, they didn’t want to, so we let him go and figured we’d chase him on the descent. One of the eight fell off, so it was six chasing one.

With 5K to go, we all realized that we were racing for second. Putting in the effort to chase Bo would certainly cost you at least one place in the end. Scott didn’t need the win to take the overall, so I didn’t need to sacrifice my race to be a good teammate. Besides, both quads were cramping at this point, so I couldn’t have done much good anyhow.

With three turns to go, Scott attacked. I waited for the counter and got on that wheel. Scott had gapped us enough that he’d get second. I just sat in until the final corner and then sprinted to take third. I was happy for the result, but even more happy to have the race over. Perhaps it’s just an early season lack of fitness, but I don’t think I’ve every worked at that intensity for that long in a bike race. Every match was burned.

Steve, on the other hand, was spotted riding up the south side of Suncrest Sunday afternoon.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I am fascinated by physics. I know next to nothing about physics, but I am no less fascinated by it for that.

One aspect of physics I do understand, particularly as it pertains to bicycle racing, is that the same force applied to a lower mass will result in faster acceleration. That’s why lightweight guys can climb better.

So yesterday when I was on a mellow lunch ride with Daren, he tells me that Tanner (his son) has been in the lab getting his power output tested. Tanner’s threshold power output is a little more than mine. And he weighs 20 pounds less. But I already knew that Tanner was a way faster climber than I am.

What I was afraid to admit was that this similar power applied to less mass principle was relevant for crit racing. This afternoon’s criterium made me painfully aware of just how relevant this principle is. The course had lots of turns, which meant lots of slowing down and speeding up.

I was right behind Tanner for most of the race. He patiently sat in until about three laps to go. That’s when I felt the full effect of my extra 20 pounds. Tanner attacked the lead group, and I couldn’t match the acceleration. Neither could anyone else.

Racing in the snow sucks.

By the last lap, I could see Tanner coming into the final turn while I had three turns to go. He was so far off the front that I thought it was someone in similar kit who had been lapped. Apparently so did the chief commissaire, because she whistled and tried to pull him from the course. He kept going for the win.

Tanner is a high school kid. Literally speaking, he was a boy among men at this race. It felt the other way around. He put the hurt on some very good crit racers and won in the most manly way possible—a solo breakaway. Strong work, my friend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


In gyms and basements all around the world today, countless men and not a few women are slaving away doing rep after rep with dumbbells, barbells, machines, and even a bowflex or two (though most of the bowflexes are likely gathering dust while the owner eats a burrito). Their objective: add bulk to their triceps. And pecs, and lats, and traps, and biceps. A few of them are even going so far as to stick needles in their butts, taking years from their lives for the sake of adding millimeters to one of the too-sexy-for-my-shirt muscle group.

I wish I could give them some of mine. I would gladly shed 30% of the mass in each of my triceps, biceps, deltoids, and pectoral muscles. I haven’t done so much as a single pushup for two years in hopes that by neglecting them, these muscles will go away. Well, I don’t really want them to entirely go away. But I would like them to shrink. Substantially.

They do me no good on the bike. They do me no good while skiing. All they do is make it so I’m effectively hauling a chuck, a brisket, a rump roast, a shank, and a flank up the hill every time I climb, which is a lot. I live on top of a mountain, for crying out loud. If I go anywhere on my bike, I climb 1500 feet just to get back home.

This morning I weighed 163.8 pounds. And while for me that’s a reasonable weight for the start of the season—especially since it’s nearly ten pounds lighter than I was this time last year—it’s still nearly seven pounds more than where I finished last season and ten+ pounds more than where I should be if I’m going to be competitive at the big climbing races like High Uintas and Tour of Park City.

So let’s figure out where to trim the fat.


Inside the orange circle is my double chin, part of the chuck. If I can lay off the brownies, that should disappear.

What’s inside the red oval is like keeping a flank steak or two stuffed in my bibs every time I ride. I’ll blame the Saturday evening date nights and the Sunday morning waffles for that one. Problem is, I like taking my wife out on the weekends. And I like making waffles for the kids on Sunday mornings. Especially when they (waffles, not kids) have nutella on them. You see my dilemma?

The purple oval is where the rump roast hangs out. I’d be OK with this one if the others went away since that area is responsible for putting power to the pedals and can actually be helpful. I could keep it lean by giving up bread. But have you tried my wife’s bread?

The toughest problem is the yellow oval—the brisket and shank. Does any cyclist need that much flesh around his shoulders? OK, maybe Chris Hoy does. And I’d love to be like Chris Hoy, ‘cept we don’t have a velodrome around here. We have a bunch of steep mountain roads instead.


Look at the green circle—I don’t know that guy, but he’s a typical cyclist in my category. He seems to do just fine with normal arms. You’d think mine would get that way after years of neglect, but they don’t. I fear that even if I ate nothing but cabbage*, they’d stay pretty much the same.

*For the record, I love cabbage. Problem is that I love it shredded on fish tacos or in posole or covered in mayonnaise in cole slaw.

Think I’m exaggerating? Well those aren’t arm warmers I have on in the photo. They’re knee warmers. I’m just wearing them on my arms because that’s where they fit. Size? L/XL. Now do you believe me?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Last spring, the first time Steve and I did a real ride together, we climbed up the south side of Suncrest. I was able to hang with him all the way up (he may have let me), and then when we pushed it at the top, I managed to pull away. As the season progressed, we traded blows, but he had the advantage more often than not—especially when it counted—dropping me en route to wins at Little Mountain and Tour of Park City, and a runner up at Lotoja. I outpaced him at Leadville, but he doesn’t even own a mountain bike, so I’m not sure if that one counts.

We’ll see if it’s even close this season. Yesterday we pre-rode the course for the Bikes 4 Kids circuit race, which includes a four mile climb from Daybreak to the entrance of Kennecott. He was at the top—relaxed and with his foot on the ground—by the time I got there. I can’t be certain, but he may have prepared and eaten a peanut butter sandwich while he waited.

For now, I’m going to pretend that I was just having a bad day. I’m going to pretend that since Steve loses weight in winter but gains it during cycling season while I do the opposite, that these things will balance out. I’m going to pretend that things could shake out differently in an actual race environment, even though I know that on race day Steve summons the Eye of the Tiger better than any racer I’ve competed against. In other words, I’m going to delude myself into thinking that the starving, suffering, and sweating I’m just starting to endure will eventually bear fruit.

After yesterday’s ride, I came home and watched coverage of Milan San Remo. I saw Cavendish suffer as he dangled at the back on the Cipressa climb before the final thread snapped and he knew he wouldn’t catch back on. I like to think that I know that feeling. I’m just hoping I also come to experience the feeling of redemption he had to have had today when he took the stage at Catalunya.

Yes, I realize that it’s exceptionally lame to compare one’s self with a professional athlete, especially one of Mark Cavendish’s caliber. I can’t help it. Cavendish gets dropped on a lot of climbs. I can relate to that. He also wins a lot. That gives me hope. And if we don’t have elusive hope, what have we got?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding my race legs

Saturday was my first race of the season. It almost didn’t happen. Twice. Once because Dug tried to convince me to ski the Coalpit Headwall, which in hindsight I would not have regretted. At all. And once because I tore my tire open riding out to the racecourse. But I booted the tire and had Rachel meet me at RMR with my other wheels.

When I race the practice crits at RMR, I have three objectives. In order of priority they are:

  1. Don’t crash
  2. Get a race-intensity workout
  3. Get a good result, either for myself or by helping a teammate

In those terms, the event was a success. Despite two crashes right in front of me in the final corner, I managed to stay upright. Steve, teammate Will, and I got on the front to drive the pace for two of the last three laps, so we got our intensity. Even though we should have got on the front later in the race to provide a solid leadout, Mike H. still managed to finish second, so we got a good result as a team.

(Photo credit: Cathy Fegan-Kim)

The Revolution/Cafe Rio team has good numbers in the B flight, and we have some strong motors. If we can get our tactics dialed, I think we’ll have some successful races.

My first real race of the season is this weekend. Keeping my fingers crossed that skiing has provided sufficient winter training.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An open letter to the guy whose car I spit on earlier this week

I realize you think I’m the biggest jerk in the world. And while it’s possible that you’re right, please also consider that riding a bike down Foothill Blvd is a scary and sometimes life-threatening experience.

Consider this:

  • There is no bike lane
  • There is no shoulder
  • The only place to ride is in the vehicle lane
  • Douchebags like Tony Kornheiser encourage drivers to run cyclists off the road, so that possibility is always in the back of my mind
  • I move about 20-25 mph on a bike
  • Motor vehicle traffic is moving at about 30 mph
  • That speed differential is just enough to annoy most drivers such that they won’t wait for me

Which is apparently what was going through your mind, because I was trying to take the right lane all to myself when you pulled in next to me. In my lane. And then you started moving to the right. And I had no place to go but the gutter.

When you finally got around me, your rear bumper was about 18 inches from my front wheel. You may have thought that was plenty of room, but please consider that you were wrapped with two tons of steel, while I was wrapped in a layer of fabric thinner than my underwear. We might therefore have understandably had a difference of opinion regarding what constitutes a safe distance.

I will also concede that my anger at you was likely fueled by the driver of the utility truck in Emigration Canyon who—even though there was no oncoming traffic, no blind corner, I was safely in the bike lane, and he could have given me at least three feet as he passed—buzzed me as close to my left shoulder as he could without being charged with at least attempted vehicular manslaughter. I was still fuming over this when we met.

Here’s the thing, though. The fact that I caught up with you enough to successfully spit on your car indicates that just pulling into the lane behind me rather than forcing me to share it with you would not have delayed you meaningfully, if at all. I understand you’re angry with me. Justifiably. But it would never have happened had you been a bit more patient.

When you chased me down and nearly ran me off the road a second time, I was not surprised. When you yelled at me and called me all sorts of embarrassing names, I didn’t yell back. I just tried to explain why I was upset. I could understand why you were. The difference, however, is that I was upset for having been scared for my life, while you were upset about having to do 15 seconds worth of cleaning.

I’m embarrassed that it came to that. My actions were unjustified. I’m embarrassed for my teammate that was riding with me. He shouldn’t have been subjected to such a scene. I apologize, and I regret that the situation even happened. Especially, I regret that as I spat upon your driver’s side window, the window happened to be open.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Wanna know why it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Because in spring we get nice big storms that drop plentiful powder in the mountains. But on the days it’s not storming, it’s nice enough to go for a ride. As an added bonus, what with the time change and all, it’s light enough outside to ride after work.

So yesterday, that’s what I did. I started from the zoo and rode up Emigration to the top of Little Mountain. I like to try and do this in the big ring. I don’t necessarily think it’s faster to do it all in the big ring, but it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, especially when my kneecaps are about to pop off coming up that last pitch before the summit. I continue to feel like I’ve accomplished something (not sure what) for the next 36 hours whenever I try to perform difficult tasks such as walking up stairs, pressing the brake pedal in my car, and standing.

My time wouldn’t win any Emigration TTs, but it wasn’t a complete disaster, either. And frankly, since my objective on any climb is simply not to get dropped, I’m happy with that. Not so happy that I won’t still try and lose some winter weight and continue to improve my form, but at least hopeful that I won’t get shelled in the first race of the season.

This reminds me of the same phenomenon I’ve observed in the past: that the transition from skiing to biking always seems easy, and I feel good on the bike from the outset. During the winter, I get in 2-3 solid workouts per week when I ski, but the off days are either an easy spin, a short run, or nothing at all. Makes me wonder if building more recovery time into my cycling training would yield better results.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Accounting emergency

In Alex’s most recent post, he mentioned that although he doesn’t want to be a doctor, he would, just once, like to experience the thrill of standing up and walking down the aisle when the flight attendant calls out “is there a doctor on board?” But since they never call out “is there a salesman on board?*” he’s heretofore gone without this great honor.

*If they did call out “is there a salesman on board?” half the plane would stand up, so I’m not sure it would be quite so exciting being one of 187 salespeople versus being the one doctor among 374 non-physician passengers.

And while being the passenger of honor on airplanes would be cool, there’s a lot about being a doctor that would suck. Like being on call. Seriously, how annoying to be out on a date with your wife only to get a phone call in the middle to listen to a patient complain about an ingrown toenail?

Actually, I can tell you just how much that would suck. But not because I’m a doctor. A couple years ago, back when I still worked for the huge company, I was on a date with my wife when my cell phone rang. It was my finance manager. I’d spent the entire days in conference calls trying to wrap up the quarter end close, and I thought we had it all taken care of. Evidently we did not. And they just needed me to answer a question at 8:00 p.m. on a Friday.

Our date was interrupted for an accounting emergency. Guess what—there’s no such thing as an accounting emergency. There are medical emergencies. There are environmental emergencies. I’ll even grant that there are property emergencies. In rare cases, there may even be sales emergencies. But if it has anything to do with accounting, it’s not an emergency.

The quarter end close is telling you what already happened. It’s not going to change anything from happening. There’s no way to mitigate a bad thing that’s happened through accounting, at least not legally. So how can it be an emergency?

Not only that, but why call me about it? I’m not even the accountant! My finance manager calling me for an accounting emergency is like an obstetrician running from the delivery room to the lobby and saying “is there a product manager present? Because this baby’s breach, and I could really use your expertise with the delivery.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Use it up, wear it out

I’m all for getting my money’s worth out of things, but tying a sock around the rails of a saddle after the shell has fallen off just seems penny wise and pound foolish. Consider the consequences if the sock came off. That would be a fun visit to the ER.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yellow column test

Have you ever experienced something and thought “that’s as good as it gets” (or at least as good as it’s been all year) only to have something else outdo it shortly thereafter? Well that’s been the last week for me on skis.

Friday morning, Mike and I skied Scotties, and it was one continuous face shot top to bottom. At one point I crashed because I couldn’t see for all the snow flying up into my face.

Saturday, Mike, Jon S., Brian, and I did four laps in Days—starting with first tracks—with similar conditions as Friday but the added bonus of bluebird skies. It was the best day of the year to date.

Yesterday, I got an IM from Dug asking if I was interested in hitting Suicide Chute in the morning.


Suicide Chute is a consistent 40ish degree pitch off of Mt. Superior. If you’re coming down the canyon from Alta, it stares you in the face and taunts.

Suicide Chute

It’s about 2000 feet of climbing from the road. We did the first 1700 or so in an hour. Then we switched from skinning to booting, and the last 300 or so took another hour. Thankfully we had Rick on the front doing all the work, with an occasional spell from Rob.

Looking down from where this photo was taken, it was kinda steep. In fact, I had already done one yellow column test because whenever the pitch is over 35 degrees I involuntarily feel the urge to wet [myself]. It’s sort of like having a built in inclinometer. I suddenly had to go again looking down at this pitch at 40+.

As we hiked, I commented on what song would be playing if Apple figured out how to base genius on neural networks such that it played a song based on what I was thinking. After we heard a rather loud explosion from Alta, and I very nearly did more than just wet myself, that song would have been More than a Feeling.

From the top looking over the other side of the ridge, the view of the canyon floor was nice.

Rick, having done most of the work, got to do the honors.

After pausing for a look, he opened it up.

And didn’t stop until the apron. I followed, then Dug.

And Rob.

The snow was so deep and soft and nice that the chute skied smooth and easy. I’ve never skied a line that steep with so little effort and absolutely no fear. Then we got onto the apron and just let it ride to the road.

From the road we had to walk all of 200 yards to where we were parked. Best line I’ve skied all year. And that is why I will never move. Where else can you climb and ski a line like that and be done before 9:00 a.m.? The Colorado plates I saw in the parking lot suggest it can’t be done there.

I feel compelled to write a love sonnet to Utah.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review of the Oscars (or ‘82nd Academy Awards,’ if you must)

Okay, so I really am going to blog about the Oscars. But that’s only because I need more time for a post that will do justice to the awesome skiing this weekend. Which really just means I need to download pictures before I post. Because this is going to end up being way longer than the skiing post anyway.

But before I get to the Oscar post, I wanted to mention the surreal experience I had while running at lunchtime today.

When I run during the workday, I run from my office towards City Creek canyon, where I can be on trails within 10 minutes. It’s nice to be on dirt and feel like I’m out of the city even though I’m really not.

My proximity to the city was apparent today when I heard carillon bells as I ran back towards downtown. This struck me as doubly ironic, not that I was hearing bells, but for what they were playing. You see, the first building one encounters at the mouth of City Creek canyon is the headquarters of the LDS church. Across from that is Temple Square, and across from that is the conference center. If one hears church bells in that area, one is naturally left to suppose they came from one of the several city blocks that is occupied by nothing but church-owned buildings.

I was left thinking that someone from the church really has a sense of humor, because the church bells were playing John Philip Sousa’s The Liberty Bell, better known as the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Obviously church bells playing the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a tad ironic. But it becomes doubly ironic when one recalls the church bell sketch. I thought for a second that maybe I had taken the red pill after all.

OK, so that probably should have been its own post, but I still want to mention the Oscars. I realize that the Oscars don’t need me to validate them, but I watched the broadcast, so you get to hear what I thought of the program anyway. Or you can just skip this post entirely and go read something interesting or funny instead.

These are my thoughts. I’m laying my raw reactions on the table, but bear in mind I only saw two of the ten (?!) films nominated for best picture, so my reactions are based on the Oscar ceremony and my hardly objective assumptions more than the films and performances themselves.

Most preposterous acceptance speech goes to: Mo’Nique. The academy is fond of giving awards to films or performances that touch on sensitive political or social issues or that portray the dark underbelly of humanity. Among this year’s supporting actress nominees, Mo’Nique was the only one in such a film. So when she said her award was “about the performance and not the politics” I thought WTF?

I’ll concede that “politics” may have been referring to the active campaigning some nominees do for their awards, but that’s not the vibe I got when I looked at who else was nominated. Even if it was, by saying your award is about the performance, you’re basically rubbing the other nominees’ faces in it. Not my favorite moment.

Lifetime achievement awards go to: Jeff Bridges and Sandy Bullock. Like I said, I saw two of ten films nominated for best picture. So I didn’t actually see Crazy Heart or The Blind Side. I’m sure they are fine films. But best actor and actress in a leading role this year both really smelled more of lifetime achievement. In Jeff’s case, it’s probably legitimate. He’s done some good work, he’s a legacy case (which the academy loves), and this was probably a performance good enough that he could win when the other factors were also taken into consideration.

Bullock is a rom com actress who I think at one point even said regarding the academy awards something along the lines of “that’s not the sort of work I do.” The academy figured it was her one shot, and all the other nominees had either been there before, were likely to be there again, or were perhaps too likely to be a flash in the pan to deserve the win.

Pot calling the kettle black award goes to: ABC and the award ceremony producers. As I mentioned, the Academy doesn’t seem to shy away from social and political causes. So when the award for best documentary was presented to The Cove and director Louis Psihoyos was played off the stage and the camera immediately cut away after the film’s protagonist held up a sign saying “Text Dolphin to 44144,” I thought it was a bit odd.

Sure, the sign waving was a bit gauche, but documentary filmmakers take on these projects because they want to give voice to what they consider a worthwhile cause. And the only time the films get any meaningful voice at all (no, this blog is not a voice—it’s the rantings of a would-be village idiot that you just happen to be reading) is if they win awards. I thought the director should have at least been allowed his 45 seconds of fame before getting ushered off the stage.

How awesome does it feel when the underdog wins? award goes to: The Hurt Locker. Jim Caple perfectly summed up how I feel about this year’s best picture winner. I’ll also go on record saying that Kathryn Bigelow is the hottest winner of best director ever. She’s an attractive woman to be sure, but this has more to do with the fact that I’m not gay, so all the other winners never really did anything for me. Alec Baldwin seemed quite fond of her as well.

Of course it’s awesome that a woman won for best director. Even if she’s apparently eight feet tall. And even if I pissed in the bowl of glass-ceiling-shattering awesomeness that is a woman winning by mentioning that she’s also hot.

What I don’t get, though, is why there were 10 best picture nominees. I didn’t think either of the films I saw were best picture material. Or even close for that matter. Can’t imagine they were the worst two. Or why they needed ten if there weren’t ten in the running.

The Lazarus award goes to: Alec Baldwin. In ten years the guy has gone from Thomas and the Magic Railroad to hosting the Academy Awards. In fact, I would have liked to see more of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. I realize the ceremony always runs long, so they tried to keep it on time this year, but those guys were fantastic. I also missed the best original song performances like years past, but I really only wanted to see two of the five. (Of course I would have only watched two of five thanks to Tivo anyway. Not taking anything away from Ben, but Tivo is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.)

If I hadn’t already reaffirmed my status as a typical (with all the negative connotations that word has come to convey) white, chauvinistic male, my public admiration of Alec Baldwin has sealed it. (His character on 30 Rock is hilarious, BTW.)

So there you have it: my not very politically correct take on the Oscars. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check the mail, as my invitation to be part of the Academy for next year is sure to arrive any day now.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Last Friday the Junkie family headed out for a long weekend in Arizona. If there’s anything our family could call our collective superpower, it’s our ability to tolerate long car trips. When we lived in Boise, we made frequent trips to Utah to see family, so five hours in the car became de rigueur for the kids. It’s about 12 hours to Phoenix, which is a little more to take on, but they handled it with aplomb.

Part of our success was based on a strategy of dividing the trip up into digestible chunks with stops for interesting things to see or tasty things to eat in between. For instance, on the way there, we stopped for dinner in Las Vegas then again at the Hoover dam.

When I was 18 I made a road trip with some friends that took us across the Hoover dam in the middle of the night. We all stood on the edge of the guard rail and peed off. This time I stood behind the guard rail and looked down and can’t even imagine standing up on it today. Not to mention the Dept. of Homeland Security wouldn’t let me. Soon we won’t even be driving over the dam but over the massive bridge under construction to bypass it.

Just before arriving in Phoenix, we encountered a bunch of people running along the side of the road in the dark. It was the Ragnar relay. I’ve actually considered joining a team to do the Wasatch back sometime, but having now been reminded that you run at night, in the dark, I’m not so sure. Mountain biking in the dark I’ll do. Ski tours that start in the dark are fine. Running along a highway with traffic in the dark, not so much. Rachel’s friend Kate did it, though, and had a great time. So maybe there’s something to it.

Our purposes for traveling to Phoenix were two-fold. Rachel was there to visit her grandmother and other family members. I was there to ride my mountain bike. UTRider’s brother Paul lives in Scottsdale and is a way cool guy to hang out with (we've skied together in the past), so I was happy he agreed to be my tour guide on the local trails. I have a great network of trails adjacent to my neighborhood, but I think Paul has me beat.

Rachel had the camera, so I didn’t get any pictures of the ride, but I lifted these pictures (as well as the one at the top of the post) of the trails we rode from UTRider’s site to give you an idea of what it was like. I was geeking out big time about all the desert plants, but I don’t really know anything about them. Go check out Alex’s awesome series on the Sonoran Desert if you’d like to actually learn something.

After the ride, I hung out at the pool with the kids and really wanted to take a nap but let them coax me into the water instead. This was followed by pizza at Rachel’s aunt’s house. Sonoran singletrack, swimming, and pizza. My batteries were recharged in one day. Oh, did I mention Rachel’s aunt has an orchard in her backyard? Bringing home 50 lbs of fresh citrus was nice too. The kids had fun picking it.

Sunday afternoon we went shopping before driving up to the biggest ditch in the world, also known as the Grand Canyon. We got there in time to snap a few pics before the sun went down.

Monday was more Grand Canyon sightseeing.

We stopped to check out these ancient ruins, even though they were mostly covered with snow. The museum near the ruins was fascinating but small enough not to exceed my limited attention span.

Back in the car and back north towards home, with a quick stop at Glen Canyon dam on the way. I haven’t seen Glen Canyon dam since 1983, just three years after the dam that was completed in 1964 finally held back enough water to “fill” Lake Powell, and when the spillways were shooting water hundreds of feet out into the canyon because of the floods that year. Things are a little different now. Things are a lot different than the float trip Edward Abbey wrote about in Desert Solitaire. I wonder what exactly the Bureau of Reclamation is reclaiming and from whom.

We were always on the go packing what was really a week’s worth of travel and sightseeing into four days, but having the kids skip two days of school seemed a lot more reasonable than skipping five. Given the choice of staying home or a whirlwind long weekend trip, I’ll choose the trip.