Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Don't let them tell you I'm not deep

What are you entitled to take from a hotel?

The little soaps/shampoos/shower caps?
The Kleenex and toilet paper?
The TV?
What’s legal? What’s moral/ethical?
These are the questions that try men’s souls. Or, possibly, these are the questions that occur to me when I’m scraping for something to post on my blog.

This mountain-biking stuff is harder than it looks...

Over Thxgvg weekend my Dad – who got interested in this sport a couple of years ago – took me mountain-biking. I am 39. He is 63.

Apparently, mountain biking trails are full of hills and valleys, and it’s on purpose. They twist and turn, and are full of ruts and tree roots. And someone has put rocks everywhere, plus mud and bushes. It makes it a lot harder to ride a bike.

The first 30 or 40 minutes were mostly uphill, on a dirt/gravel road, and I was able to keep up – my cardiovascular is pretty good from running & hockey, so sometimes I was even ahead. Then we turned around and went back down, which was a different story. All the mud and gravel and rocks and ruts we had crept past in low gear on the way up were now waiting to kill us. Dad raced ahead, flying through turns, roaring down the straights – I kept my eyes on the road in front of my tire and tried not to die.

After a few minutes of sliding and braking and testicle-jarring bumps, we turned off the road onto an actual biking trail. It turned out that the previous 50 minutes were just the easy part.

I think I didn’t do too badly, but it wasn’t pretty to watch. Dad went ahead, calling back advice like “keep your weight back now”, or encouraging me with little homilies like “dabbing is death”. Dabbing, apparently, is what you call putting your foot down to keep from falling over. Some of the spots we both walked, like when the trail dropped into a dry creek bed, and then went practically perpendicular up the far side. Sometimes only I walked, and a couple of times I made it all the way through tricky uphill parts with no dabbing at all.

At one spot I needed to pop the front tire up about 8” to get over a little ledge of rocks, but I was geared too low and didn’t get the lift I needed from pedaling. My front tire came down directly into the ledge and my rear tire went up into the sky behind me. I hung there for a minute until Mother Earth hugged me to her rocky bosom once more. I decided this would be a good spot to stop for a drink, and also to see if respiration was going to start up again sometime soon. Even playing hockey, it’s been a while since I had my breath knocked out like that. Dad’s contribution was “That’s called an ENDO.”

Eventually we ended up back at the cars – it was a great workout, the scenery was beautiful, the riding was exhilarating, and it had been too long since Dad & I had been able to do something like that together. All in all a terrific time. (Thx, Dad.)

Rules for travelers

As a public service, I thot I'd post a few rules that might help everyone be better people (defined as: people who don't annoy me). So without any ado, here are Bryan's Eleven Rules of Air Travel:

1. Figure out what you're doing, prepare to do it, then do it. In that order. Briskly. Don't get in line until you have your ticket out. Have your ID available *before* the agent asks for it. Get your laptop out of its case and your shoes in the busboy tub IN ADVANCE, rather than waiting until one microsecond before you have to go thru the security thing.

2. Consider the flow of foot-traffic. Look about you. Do not wander aimlessly. When possible, walk the direction you are facing. If you face left while you tack diagonally right, you effectively own the entire width of the walkspace. Don't have a joyful kissfest with your returning lover two feet from the top of the escalator. Don't stage a family reunion in the middle of the only passage that leads to Baggage Claim.

3. Walk left, stand right. It's not that difficult. Escalators, walkways, corridors. Walk left, stand right. Repeat after me.

4. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the person behind the counter did not lose your luggage, delay your flight, or cause bad weather in Chicago. Shouting and swearing are rude, counterproductive, and a waste of time. Be polite, give the folks a break, and you'd be surprised how eager they are to help you.

5. Board when your row number/seating area is called. If you wish to employ the popular "hovering" technique -- whereby the Seating Area 3 people stand up when Seating Area 2 is called, and hover around the rear of the line in order the be the Very First Person from Area 3, make it clear to everyone around you that you are Not In Line, you are hovering. Do not take a place in line, but then stand still so that people have to figure out you are merely a Hoverer and step around you. There are accepted hovering zones and hovering body language -- figure it out. Also, do not multiple-area hover. If you are Area 4, there's no need to hover until Area 3 is called, for heaven's sake. One more thing: unless you have serious carry-on issues, hovering isn't necessary at all. The entire plane will arrive at our destination at the same time. Unless it crashes to the earth, spreading flaming wreckage and body parts all over Nebraska, in which case you'll feel really silly about all that hovering, won't you?

6. Step out of the aisle, then stow your crap. There are 200 people waiting to do the same thing in the rows behind yours.

7. Consider the size of your carry-on luggage; now consider the size of the overhead bins; do this before you get on the aircraft. A hockey bag will not fit overhead no matter how many sweaters you pull out of it and drape around your neck as passengers shift restlessly in the aisle behind you.

8. Pee before you get on the plane, so you don't have to fight your way back upstream, salmon-like, from the rear of the aircraft during the boarding process.

9. When leaving the plane, if you don't already have your carryon in your hand, let the people in the aisle pass before stepping out to begin your luggage-sorting extravaganza. Just because you are in row 14 doesn't mean you must exit before anyone else who was sitting in a row behind you. All that space stretching out between you and the exit makes the people behind you agitated and is bad for your karma.

10. If the flight is arriving late and this is your final destination, stay in your seat so the rest of us can dash madly but hopelessly through the airport to miss our connecting flights.

11. When retrieving your luggage at baggage claim, there is no need to stand one millimeter from the carousel, jostling for position like a bunch of oversized penguins. Your luggage will arrive when it arrives. If everyone stood six feet from the carousel, we could all see our bag arriving, couldn't we? Then we could step forward smartly to retrieve it, turn around, and begin the 45-minute wait for the Hotel Shuttle of Mystery. As it is, we have to stand on tiptoe, trying for a glimpse of our bag, then fight our way through all the people who for some reason feel compelled to stake out two feet of personal carousel space as if the mother penguin was going to come down the chute and feed them all kippers.
(Not that it bothers me -- if I cared, I'd be talking about it...)

Anyway, I hope this helps. You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wendy's update

Had a spicy chicken sandwich today. It was excellent.

Perhaps tomorrow something interesting will happen, and I will write about it.
But don't count on it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Universal Boredom

Everyone said Universal Studios was a don't-miss activity in Orlando. Last time we were there, we'd missed it (the wife wasn't very keen), so this time I was determined to go.

8AM - Wake up cranky family (me, wife, sister, daughter, and son), get everyone dressed, fed, and out to the car.

9:30AM - park ($8) and walk, like, 10 miles to Islands Of Adventure (admission: approximately one million dollars).

10am - It is already incredibly HOT. The sun is pounding down, yet the air is muggy. We arrive at the Incredible Hulk roller coaster already sweating and uncomfortable.

10:05am - One of the ubiquitious clean-cut teenage employees informs me politely that backpacks may not be taken thru the ride. The family stays in line and I go back out to rent a locker ($4). The backpack doesn't fit in because it's the rolling kind -- it has a stiff back that can't be crumpled up. Worst part: my wife had *told* me not to bring it and I had ignored her.

I put some food & sunscreen & stuff in the small locker and then walk the 1/2 mile back to the entrance where they have (slightly) bigger lockers. I get one of those ($7) and bend the backpack until I can force it in at an angle.

Back to the Incredible Hulk ride, joined the family in line. The main feature of the wait in line -- which lasts an hour -- is the music. It is BLASTING. There are speakers everywhere, and they are slamming out the rock tunes. You can't even talk to each other -- it's like being at a club -- you have to lean in close and shout in each others' ear. It's cooler inside, but I have a ripping headache from the noise by the time we get on the ride.

Good thing: the ride was really cool. You know how a typical coaster takes you up, up, up, click-click-click, and then once you're at the top, the ride starts? This one takes you by surpirse -- you're only about 2/3 of the way up the long climb when the thing suddenly takes off -- you're slammed back in your seat and shoot straight for the top. It feels like you're going to fly off into space, but then the whole thing flips you over upside-down and you're heading straight for the ground. It was a good ride.

I go to retrieve the stuff from the small locker. It's all done by fingerprint, so there's no key. The downside of taht is you have to either remember your locker number or try all the lockers in the general area while a small nation's worth of people waiting to open their lockers grits their teeth at you. I know this because I watched a miserable teenager go through this in front of me. I hadn't memorized my locker number either, but I got lucky and guessed right the first time.

Throughout the Marvel Superhero section, where some of the biggest rides were, the music was pounding --
they have speakers blasting everywhere there. It was hot, muggy, *extremely* crowded, and unbearably loud. Maybe I'm just old, but I found the experience profoundly unpleasant. The other parks seem to manage to limit the attendance to a level where the streets arent' shoulder-to-shoulder, and they don't feel the need to destroy your hearing either -- what's Universal thinking?

Anyway, we rode a few rides and got some lunch ($30), and it started to cloud over. They closed the FearFall ride (the one the kids most wanted to go on) for fear of lightning, but they let us on the Spiderman ride instead. It's a kinda clever 3-D thing, but it got out of synch or something halfway thru, and the sound/visuals didn't match what the car was doing. So they let us ride it again, and it was better this time.

By the time we got out of Spiderman, it was raining. Not little drizzly Seattle rain -- big warm Florida rain, with drops the size of quarters. They stores were selling ponchos, and I fought my way thru the 3rd-world crush at the counter to buy 5 of them ($35). The clerk took my business before that of a woman nearby, who apparently had been in line before me, and was now glaring. As the clerk rang up my purchases, I said "I'm sorry if I cut in front -- I didn't know you were in line ahead of me." She gave me a brittle little smile and said "Well, now you do." I think the loud music was making everyone cranky.

After that they closed all the big rides due to lightning, so we watched a skateboard/motocross bike show, and the Sinbad show, which were very good.

By the time that ended we had to get back to the hotel, so we walked back the long way -- the park is a big circle around an artificial lake -- to see the rest of the park as we exited. It looked like there were lots of areas that were
a) not so crowded
b) interesting and quite pretty
c) not so loud

IOW, we were basically doing it wrong when we spent so much time in Marvel Superhero Hell. Even so, if someone offered me free tickets to Islands Of Adventure, I'm pretty sure I'd decline.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I am the father of a teenager

...which is to say, I am perpetually on the verge of shooting an aneurysm or committing daughter-cide.

I know teenagers are desperate to develop their individuality, to establish more and more independence.
I know they will unconciously seek conflict in order to ease the developing separation from their parents and family.
I know they will even make choices that deep down they know are stupid, just to make the choice *theirs*.

But lawsy-me and goodness gracious! What are they thinking sometimes?

The general course of events is as follows:
  1. The daughter presents me (or more accurately, the world in general) with a problem.
  2. Dad (that's me) or Mom will suggest a course of action that enables her to fulfill her responsibilities AND achieve the outcome she wants.
  3. But will she do that? She will not. She will choose another plan -- a plan guaranteed to end in failure, a plan that relies heavily on things like "Then in step two, a miracle occurs."
  4. And when the relied-upon miracle fails to occur, when the laws of space and time continue to operate in the same fashion they always have (can you imagine), we have end-of-the-world dramatics, hysterical blame, recriminations, self-loathing, and assertions that no one understands her, her life is not bearable, and that she is treated like a criminal while her little brother is loved, coddled, and indulged (I know that last one seems irrelevant, but believe me: there is no subject too remote for that to be dragged into the conversation).
Which leads me to another question: Why does everything for a 14-yr-old girl HAVE TO BE SUCH A GIGANTIC FREAKING DEAL? What could she possibly be getting out of these incredible bouts of emotional incontinence and verbal self-indulgence?

Anyway, there you have it. I predict it won't be long until I stand before you a broken and bitter man. In the meantime, pray for me. And if possible, send Valium.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Things that happened to me today

1) I had a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich and it was good, not undercooked. Life is good again.

2) I had a 3-hour nap this afternoon. It was excellent, and contained many vivid dreams. If we should become enemies, I will force you to listen as I re-tell these dreams.

3) My daughter saw me making a blog entry and said "Put something about me in it."


Thursday, November 04, 2004

those wacky conservatives.

is it just me, or are conservatives in this country becoming politically savvy and directed, and liberals becoming sort of... well, reactionary?
typically we use "reactionary" to mean ultra-conservative, people vehemently opposed to progress or new ideas. but the more basic meaning is "charactarized by reaction" -- ie, acting in response to things as opposed to acting independently from a set of principles and toward a particular goal.

for the record, i don't like W. i voted for Kerry. but i have to say that in many ways it seems like conservatives in this country are actually more likely to "live and let live" -- at least at a personal level -- than liberals are. the right seems more directed, less angry, less shrill, and more respectful than the left this time around.

yes, one can certainly view things like opposition to gay marriage as an encroachment of the liberties of others (ie, NOT live-and-let-live), but from the conservative's POV, it's not about control at all. almost no conservatives want to outlaw actual homosexuality -- i venture to say many or most are not opposed to civil unions -- what they're resisting is a perceived demand by the left that they (conservatives) sanction and approve a change in a fundamental social structure that they cannot agree with.

but back to liberal reactionism: for one thing, Kerry ran primarily on the platform of being Not George W Bush. IOW, as a reaction to W, not with a plan of his own.

for another thing, the emotion, the absoluteism, the bigotry i've perceived this time from the left is extraordinary. to hear my friends talk, you'd think the barbarians were at the gates. as tom wolfe said (paraphrased) in an interview with The Guardian, there's a suggestion that you must be "twisted or retarded" to support Bush. in other words, there is no case for the conservative position -- all is black and white, us vs them, good vs evil. what happened to the liberal exchange of ideas? of defeating wrong things by reasoned, respectful argument? at this rate we'll soon be intellectually and morally all of a piece, shouting names at each other rather than working for solutions.

or at least, that's how it seems to me.


I love Wendy's. Specifically, their spicy chicken sandwich. Most days I wake up wondering if enough time has passed since the last time I had one to excuse having another one as soon as they open (is that obsessive? I can quit any time...)

But today... today was a dark day.
My "spicy" came undercooked -- it wasn't pink, but it *was* rubbery, and the fat was still... well, fatty. I ate half of it, not believing it could be true. Wendy had never let me down before. Eventually I threw it away, and have felt quite ill ever since.

To make matters worse, I had ordered fries (unusual for me), and they came *without salt*. The only way to eat greasy gray slivers of potato is if they're covered in salt. Or injected with beef extract, like at McDonalds.

All in all, an extremely disappointing Wendy's event. It's unprecedented. And it shouldn't be allowed. If this is what it's going to be like under GWBush for the next four years, count me out.

no bones about it

check this out:


A habit cannot be tossed out the window. It must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.
-Mark Twain