21 February, 2007

Laughter: A Self-Preserving Evolutionary Mechanism in Mammalian neuro-Adaptation during the last Ice Age

holee shmokes. i'm in a malaise-fed, faulkneresque, non-sequitor, miscellaneous rambling mode. whenever the age of mammals flourished some 1.whatever millions of years ago, the ones that didn't make the split were the ones that couldn't laugh (or find anything funny). case in point: i, being a non-lactating mammal, am in the middle of a mean bout of gastro-intestinal distress (read: da shizzles). i got it after my moab trip. the headaches and spaciness are gone but the diahrhea and deregulated thermostatic responses are still full throttle. so when i'm not in bed reading and drinking non-sweetened green tea, i'm going to the john and peeing out my boom-boom. yes i'm hurting and feeling malaise but the sounds that resonate from the porcelain are funny. daz right, funny. at first it sounded like an i.a.d (as opposed to an i.e.d.)which is an improvised assassinating device. even when sick it still brought a smile, even a laugh occasionally to me. now it just sounds like an impassioned bratwurst-eater eager to blast some spicy mustard from its half-used container onto his portable feast (yes, sometimes air interrupts the colloidal suspension's flow). i guess i could've gone to work (i'm losing my voice now, and my left, middle-ear's clogged) but i would've been under the influence of random and numerous, spontaneous code browns. how embarrasing would that be for me (but deep inside, that's funny)? okay, as for mammalian neuro-adaptations (this is only my theory), imagine the first caveperson. imagine him/her sitting in their cave eating some choice mastodon meat cooked by fire (i'm a vegetarian, but that's not the point now). now imagine them liberating a noisy air biscuit. i propose to you: the one who laughed at their methanogous, exothermicity would've been the ones better adapted to the ice-age challenge(s). they would've found more meaning from their mundane existence and increased value to their perceived meaningless lives. why? because of their ability to place an abstraction onto something mundane (the farties) which releases endorphins (or some other neuro-chemical designed for happiness/elation). i say self-preservation because no body else would find it funny except for, maybe, british cavepeople who would've worked themselves into a stitch. oh. read the life of pi by yann martel. it's great, slightly educational, and it uses the occasional big word that you have to look up so you sound reasonably intelligent next time you're at a social gathering....
ps. alec hooked me up with these two sonic gems: thom yorke's the eraser and the flaming lips' the soft bulletin. as yoda would say, "lovely they are..."
pps. read the writeup i have on life of pi on previous blog entry.

19 February, 2007

Moab, Utah

the drive out to moab began super early. woke up at three so that i could be at hez-billy's place at 5 in the a.m. when i warmed up the car there was at least three inches of new snow that fell the night before. i checked my cell phone to see if there was a message from hez-billy saying that he wanted to cancel the trip. but no such luck so i take my tired, cold self down the hill...
once we pick up kevin and get rolling there's some avalanche preventative shizzle going on on i-70 that shuts it down just west of the eisenhower tunnel for at least an hour. that sucked. was not a good sign and we were all tired from getting up so early. 7 hours later, we arrive. the sun's shining and it's close to sixty degrees. ah yeauh.
hez-billy has a mountain biking book from moab mike or something or another and from perusing it, he suggests a trail called top of the world. it's a 22 miler but we drive in 5 and a half to cheat a bit. it's a 2.5k feet climb with spectacular views. it was at such dizzying heights, i had to crawl just to peer over the edge. with about two miles left to summit, snow was our biggest obstacle and we said that the downhill's going to be sloppy yet technical. basically we were just shooting in-between the snow melt so that our tires can grab wet rock underneath. scary. billy and kevin are climbing real clean (clean or cleaning is a mt biking term used to describe people who can pedal up or coast down technical spots on the trail) and steady while i'm dabbing like crazy trying to get my rear, bald-assed (i didn't change it out for slickrock) tire to hook up on the lifts (shelf-like rock ledges). at the summit, it's surreal. the funny thing about this picture is that everybody looks so non-plussed but it's easily a 3k foot drop to the valley floor. kevin noticed that billy's sidewall had a cut therefore he patched it a la vulcanization. look at the background, horizon action. unreal. that's me standing over the ledge where billy and kevin's having a relaxed conversation 3K feet above groundlevel.
on the way down, it's friendly downhill competition. i have a hardtail whereas hez-billy and kev have a dual boinger. so, i have to pick my lines carefully and dem bastidges pretty much point and shoot. kevin takes the lead because billy and i can't go that fast down. kevin takes off like a rocket and takes some pretty tough lines that i can't follow because i like, like my spinal chord? anyhoo he waits for us to catch up and we go again. once we're out of the snowline, i shorten the gap through some technical spots (baby heads, tree roots and nutty valleys formed by the congregations of huge, slabby, irregularly-sized pieces of rock). every now and again on the trail there's these nutty moonrock sections that i can't control my bike because it's bucking like a bronco and i don't want to ehf myself or my bike (up!). these parts is where kevin pedals in the middle ring and i'm hanging on for dear life. i catch up again, he pedals harder and there's this lefty, switchback coming up. i wanna hit it like a roady (outside-inside-outside), apex turning and he crushes a huge gear right through the middle. once i hit the inside, my tire gets sucked in by that crazy wet, red, silty fruita/moab dirt/clay and i have to throw my feet over my handlebars to jump off my crashing yeti. it was awesome fun and kevin hits some of this same mud near our car (billy's sweet, honda ridgeline actually) at the bottom. i thought he was resting on the ground, he said, "the mud grabbed my front tire too." it was a sweet ride: the top o' the world. at the bottom is a nationally registered historical site for the world's whatever suspension bridge built in 1916. the dewey (suspension) bridge it's called. history and a good ride, this moab is great!
unbeknownst to us, president's day is a pretty busy time for moab. as well as the four-wheelers, there was also a cowboy poetry convention going on too. we had a hard time finding lodging, until betty hooked us up. betty owns the westwood guest house on 81 E. 100 South. $55. what we got was a three bed, suite with lots of hot running water. it was the dealio. i think billy best said it when he said the theme this time is off the beaten path. we then went to city market to eat like no other and grab a starbucks.
the next day we try and find the sovereign trail but we're trying to find our original path from last time. where we were, we couldn't hit it and billy said, "well, here's part of the sovereign trail we didn't do. we can either try and find the original one, or, here's the map..." we do it and it turns out to be amazing. the trail's nice and hardpacked, the climbs doable (billy was again a cleaning machine) and the downhill switchbacks remotely safe. the sun was again shining brightly and in the sixties. that's kevin, sandwiched between a rock and a hard place. we see some nutty rock formations and check out this singletrack climb...this part of the sovereign's like a saddle. once we get to the end we can either trace back our path or head back on the road. since a cold front's coming in, we head back on the road. billy, did a superman crash at the end of the trail. notice the scrapes on his forearms. i don't think we've ever had a bad day in moab. i am currently sick as a dog writing this. hopefully kev and billy aren't experiencing what i have. check out the rest of the pictures on my photosite url.
addendum: the life of pi gets a b-. ever watch a wim wenders movie (pronounced Vim Venders)? well, it has such an ambitious, promising start then it goes tangentially ill. still, very clever, very creative but i thought i could head it off at the pass. i was remotely and pleasantly surprised by the ending though...won't spoil it for you. it's still worth reading.

11 February, 2007

I Rode Both Days this Weekend!

'bout damn time! yup. the weather finally was agreeable, no snow, and i hit the road bike outside. first time since october. called up my teammate and buddy chris at 7:30 on a saturday morning. he was still asleep. here's chris' deal: chris is a good boy who's getting his masters in mechanical engineering. after that he plans to either live in australia or paris. as a teammate he is vertically challenged but if the course profile's flat, he does a real good impression of the tgv. he's one of the most charitable fellows i know as well. on team rides if someone's hurting he'll be the first one to drop off the back and pace 'em back to the pack or back home for that matter. his sense of humor is kinda wacked too, that's why i like him. his girly-girl, kendra (who's also pretty cool), just left for australia. they both have a bad case of the wanderlust so when kendra heard of a job opening, she left and has a house to live in for a while with good friends until she can find her own joint. i believe one of her housemates is an american. anyhoo, when i arrived at chris' joint he was telling me of how aussies don't like to have shizzle mailed to their country if it exceeds a certain proportionate girth. they'll take it but it'll cost you; for example, he wanted to mail her bike in a bike box and it would cost $500. damn those former penal colonial british bastidges. speaking of which, that john howard individual rhetorically bashing on mr. o'bama is pretty uncool as the spineless prime minister of said country...
once we role, i forget to mount my fender. i ask chris and he says, "nah, but you'll be as wet as me." i listened but it was a bad decision. nothing like road grime on your cycling kit and water in your bum to keep your chamois nice and damp.
on the cherry creek bike path we ride and it's waterway central. so i do my organic impression of a fender, whenever i see a puddle ahead, by putting my hand (palm out) in front of my bum crack as a barrier to hydrogen hydroxide. over time, during the two hour ride, my gloved, right-hand gets sopping wet. we hit some icy patches but if your confidence is up and you have some speed, you slide in a straight line right over it. some patches are super long and we dismount. after the second ice patch, a girl in a texas jersey rides over the patch i just walked. i find out she's a newly transplanted texan, who graduated from texas, and is a bit planner for kosi and some other local station. chris and i invited her on the ride to the golden (,co) starbucks. on our rides, chris, who's a talker, makes for interesting conversations. i remember one time when chris and i met kenny l. at his new place for a ride, chris tore into a diatribe against homophobic, sanctimonious, fundamentalist christians invoked by kenny's annoyance of his district's voting habits. it was both funny and protracted at the same time. that's why we love him that christopher. we get back at chris' and we mutually admire our efforts and the thermal righteousness involved during our vitamin d synthesis due to exposure to sunlight. this was our first ride (back) since the october (november, december and counting...) blizzards of '06.
sunday would be a short, solo ride because my in-laws, who're awesome by the way, were coming over for dinner. i do the lookout mountain loop starting from morrison: up lookout, down the i-70 frontage road, pass red rocks, back into morrison. i do my cardinal sin of riding with an ipod. what's playing currently are these lovely pieces of sonic candy: fountains of wayne's welcome interstate managers, tv on the radio's return to cookie mountain, and my chemical romance's the black parade.
fountains of wayne is pop in its most glorious form. yeah the lyrics aren't deep but it sure does have some nice hooks. see alec's review for tv on the radio. and lastly my chemical romance draws from heavy, past greats like the who's quadrophenia, the beatle's sgt. peppers, pink floyd's the wall, with some c/overt queen-esque style guitar licks and vocals. my goal on sunday was to go fat burning pace and climb lookout in my penultimate granny gear (39x19), just in case i have to bail. on my way up during some switchbacky portions, i see this chump trying to chase me down. i don't pick up the pace because i don't want to become poisoned by testosterone (one guy riding it's a ride; two guys riding-especially if one's unknown-it's a race). i don't mind someone drafting off me but when they start half-wheeling me, it's annoying. pack protocol requires alternating leads so all can benefit from the slipstream. he doesn't. therefore, i mentally prepare myself to put the smackdown once the finish line is near (it's the buffalo bill grave sign marker). at this point, near the top with about 500 meters to go, the sun's at our backs and i can see his shadow's hydro encephalitic head bobbing like a metronome behind me. it's getting close, 200 or so to go, so i drop it a couple of gears (i don't hear him breathing to gauge his intensity because of my earbuds on) and i still see his gargantuan mellon bobbing behind me. after the last switchback it's less than a 100 meters to the sign and i slap it on the big ring and do a poor impersonation of the lion king, mario cipollini. no shadow. i win. poseur loses. ah yeauh. i wanted to yell (but didn't), "you got hosed by a 40-year old fat guy who rides twice a week, beeyahhtch!" testosterone poisoning has occurred. shnap.
here's why i ride: riding and meditating (two things i wish i could do more of) accomplishes the same thing - a quieting of the mind. contradictorily, in meditation you're as mellow as can be, but cycling's the opposite because you're active (duh!). how cycling quiets the mind-for me at least-is when the pilot's one with the bike. when the pedaling cadence is in-sync with your breathing rate that's also in-sync with your heart rate a magical thing occurs in your brain. i refer it to "white noise" for you stereophiles. it's soothing and elating at the same time. when all levels of cycling are achieved on the bike like: a mechanically sound (when i say "sound" she should be pretty quiet) steed, perceived effort of intensity's attenuated, all rhythmic components synchronized, it all adds up to an illuminating experience. like any esoteric sport (stuff the major networks don't show), talking about the highs are like speaking a foreign language to the unenlightened.
ps. the picture above is what i think's the most magical place in colorado: crested butte. as my boy javier can attest, this picture is of the elk mountain range on the road up to gothic, to mountain bike trail 401 or schoefield's pass. if you continue up the pass, and there's no avalanche blocking your progress it'll eventually drop you into aspen (not the most magical place in colorado).

02 February, 2007

Went To Work On My Off-day

i'm going to preface this with, be on the lookout for stream of consciousness bits. today was a comp day for one of our parent teacher conferences. it was also the day after an arctic cold front visited colorado. the low last night was -9 and we're going to be in a cold snap til tuesday. i'm taking the kids to school today but it was so ungodly cold, i took melissa's suggestion to sleep in a bit and wait til traffic settles down. being stationed in germany made me somewhat used to driving in black ice but here? you'd like to think that seasoned coloradoans can drive but law of averages says different. the mountain folk here are pretty mellow in snow and ice. they definitely follow the rule of slower traffice best be in the left lane. almost nascar like when the weather gets better...
i made plans to meet my colleagues (one, nicknamed lawrencium after the element and chris) at work to construct a common assessment for our evolution unit (that's right, take that kansas board of education). my kids ask when i talk about evolution, "what do you believe in?" i tell them i like the buddhist way of thinking. this elicits more questions and i tell them get this: your version of truth might not be everybody else's version of the truth and you have to be tolerant of other peoples beliefs. then i tell them i'm going to test you all on this material so we might as well make it a pleasant experience for all. i also tell them, "yes it's a theory but it's a theory you can take to the bank, or credit union if you're a public employee." at worst, they try to play stump the chump with me and i avert a theological battle in the classroom by crushing them morally (not really).
before i arrive to work i check out the local music place with plans on purchasing the arctic monkeys latest cd. for grins and giggles i check out the used section and score: i see beth orton's central reservation (she's a brit you know) and neko case's fox confessor brings the flood. if you haven't heard these cd's the music is amazing. beth orton's like an english rickie lee jones whose music is layered and slightly bluesy and neko case has this am radio sounding version reminiscent of june carter cash in her heyday.
i dig my colleagues. before our latest incarnation of the science department there was one acquaintance who was poison. being a great teacher doesn't make you socially adroit. for her, these two qualities were inversely proportionate. in fact when she wasn't teaching masterfully she was sabotaging somebody else's good name (or ratting them out to administration if they rubbed her wrong). what a toxic combination she was in our mix. i'm glad she left. she didn't retire, but if she came back i'd like to be on the hiring committee to wholeheartedly not recommend her. what a backstabbing, duplicitous person she was.
my goal in the office was to knock out this common assessment on scientific method and to finish grading my test. did both and enjoyed their company over lunch. over time you get know your colleagues. for instance, you know which ones to treat professionally versus friendly and which ones are as tilted as you. teachers are predominantly women but our department is mostly men so our manners sometimes are lacking (and/or amplified). larry's as tilted as me and he's a science geek too. our whole department takes pride in being geeks. chris is a newbie and he's teacher of the year material as well as being an all-around good guy. we finish our assessment and it's a creative, skills based activity with a CSAP-style response. as teachers we have our own personality and it's that that drives our teaching style and work ethic. some have no personal life. some have no kids so they work and make people feel guilty when they bellyache about going in during the weekend. i feel sorry for the ones with kids and work like indentured servants. it's wrong to treat your clients better than your own kin. i have a family, so, when i work my 9-hour day, i leave or else it's hell to pay on my 53 mile commute to pick up my kids and head home. on the way in that morning, i use my ninja like skills to check out the front office to see if they have any doughnuts from their morning pow-wow. no luck, so i fill up my water bottle. i see the principal (who's the shizzle) and for talk sake i ask her if i can do doughnuts in the staff parking lot. she says, "sure". so when i leave i hit the skinny pedal and turn my wheels. i suck at doughnuts. need more practice. chris saw me and we both weren't impressed.
i arrive home and this is what i saw on my thermometer. the top number's the interior and the bottom number's for outside. yup. gotta start that fireplace and cook dinner. tonight we have home made french fries and egg salad on english muffins.