Thursday, January 29, 2015

Back Home

For the past two weeks I've been living with my ailing father back at the ol' family homestead in suburban Roseville, MN. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer around Christmas and started chemotherapy two weeks ago. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer back in 2001.

Aside from a very short-lived foray into babysitting when I was about 13, this is the first time I've ever acted as caregiver to another human. I've barely even ever taken care of a pet, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Moving back into the house I grew up in feels familiar in so many ways, but under these circumstances it's certainly not a comforting type of familiarity -- more like bumping into an ex-girlfriend while making that god-forsaken once a year shopping trip to the mall.

Regarding my old neighborhood, this experience has reinforced my feelings about living in the suburbs. I try to go out for a walk and there are few options of interest. When I am out walking oftentimes the sidewalk simply comes to an end in the middle of a block. Bicycles are so rare that I've mostly kept mine in the garage because sometimes it just doesn't pay to go too hard against the grain. I do not belong here anymore.

These things just make the whole situation more challenging for me as there feels to be no place of comfort. I've watched more TV in the past 2 weeks than in the prior 2 years and have been unsuccessful at avoiding junk food. I'm falling back into habits from high school.

But of course the flip side of this is probably akin to what many of you parents understand -- it feels wonderful to be of service to a loved one, even when it's not fun. For the first time in my life I'm a vital cog in the life of another, a provider of critical support.

This will be a time of growth for me as I experience new challenges and broaden my understanding of the human condition, a condition I'm slowly learning to see more clearly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Yoga Instructors and Law Enforcement Officers

What is real?
How do we define reality?
And if it's so simple to look at a situation and see that thing x caused thing y to happen, then why is our political climate so unclear?

It's because each of us creates our own reality. Reality is a human construct that can only be viewed through human eyes, each of which carries with it a lifetime of experiences which shape how everything is interpreted by each of us.

As a result, we can have two well-educated people look at the same challenge and come up with entirely different ways to address it. In the arts the ability to view the world differently is considered a tremendous skill or even genius. In politics the same skill is often divisive.

The great thing is that we each get to choose our own path in life. Even at those times where we think we don't have any choices, we really do still have an infinite amount of choice. It's just that our perception of how appropriate some of those choices are affects our reality and hence our decision making.

Still with me?

So when choosing a career, for instance, we can choose to surround ourselves with love or surround ourselves with hate. Yoga instructors have chosen to surround themselves with positivity, peace, good health, empathy and love. Law enforcement officers have chosen to surround themselves with negativity (and it shouldn't have to be said that obviously we require this role in our society).

I had never thought of it in this exact way before, but last week I realized that I'd rather go through life as a yoga instructor (i.e. surrounding myself with positivity) than as a law enforcement officer.

I'm choosing to do what I can in life to surround myself with peace, good health, empathy and love. What do you choose?

Monday, January 12, 2015


Alibi? wasn't me?

The other day I ended up on some website where you upload a photo of your face and it analyzes it for symmetry. It does this because people deemed most beautiful to the human eye tend to have a certain symmetry to their face.

Here's my results...

I am a 6.73 out of 10. Here's why:

  • Your face has poor horizontal symmetry
  • Your ears are too long for your nose
  • Your innerocular distance is too big for your eyes
  • Your nose is too wide for your face width
  • The ratio of your face length to face width is nearly ideal
  • Your mouth is too wide for your nose
It could have at least started with the one positive comment, right? In order to butter me up a bit before bringing down the hammer?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

When Slowing Down & Paying Attention Are Someone Else's Problem


Have you become sick and tired of being aware of other people around you?
When you're behind the wheel of 2-tons of man-crushing steel, do you not want to be bothered with checking so-called "blind spots"?
Do you believe yourself to be the center of the universe?

It's time to take back your personal liberties!

Early Warning System for Cars and Cyclists

For when slowing down and paying attention are someone else's problem

via Adventure Journal

Today in History - Orion

I bet Stone Age Man looked up at what we call the constellation Orion and saw a likeness of himself, too.

Only that wasn't a sword.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Children & Education & World Travel

I was thrilled to read a post from the good folks at Bumfuzzle that finally explains their philosophy on educating their children. What thrilled me was that it's the same philosophy that I dug out of somewhere inside myself in the past year.

Note: Bumfuzzle is a blog written by a married American couple who have two young children, maybe 3 & 5 years old. They slowly travel the world via boats and vintage RVs and it appears as if their children are having an amazing experience. How fantastic for children to grow up being exposed to such cultural variety (both good and bad) as a way to shape their minds into those of thoughtful, caring global citizens. After all, the whole world is our neighbor now, and it's best we all learn to get along.

About a year ago after I quit my corporate career and was re-examining my values & life goals, I realized that a key reason why I've never wanted children was because I didn't want to be tied down to one school system for 18 years like most American families. But I realized it could be different. I realized raising children might not be so bad if I simply took them adventuring all over the world with me and their mother (this is obviously all strictly hypothetical, you understand).

I believe I'm not so much against having children of my own as much as I'm against settling down.

Their education would be more informal and more well-rounded and would be influenced by the great cultures of the world. They wouldn't be taught something just so they can pass the test and make the school look good. They'd learn languages at a young age when it's easier for their brains.

Anyways. I'm sure there would be many challenges to such a lifestyle, but that'd be part of the adventure and part of the learning process.

Just so you understand: I still don't want kids. But if I did meet a wonderful woman who absolutely wanted children, this is the way I'd want to do it.

And now I'm just happy to be able to follow along as somebody else tests it out for me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Value of Travel

If you've been reading this blog then you know that global travel is something I value highly. However I'm not sure if I've ever taken the time to explain what's behind that.

Do I like to travel in order to avoid working?
Am I a beach bum or a slacker who has no interest in contributing to society?

In fact, I believe that thoughtful global travel is the highest form of contributing to society. After all, everyone on the planet is now our neighbor and as a global superpower I believe it is both our responsibility and in our best interest to better understand our neighbors so that we can all get along.

So why do I travel?
Why did I spend a month in Indonesia and want to live (not just as a tourist) for at least 3 months in each of Mexico, Turkey, Colombia, Thailand, France, Chile, the Himalayas and more?

Rick Steves articulates the answer far better than I could. This sparkling 20-minute video is highly recommended and chock full of beautiful, thought-provoking insights, some of which I've highlighted below.

On "America! Fuck Yeah!"
2:53 - how we grew up thinking that America was at the top of the pyramid and everyone else was "trying to figure it out"
3:00 - we have the American Dream...these people have the Sri Lankan Dream... our dream is beautiful but so is theirs
3:13 - "travel wallops my ethnocentricity"

On Iran
7:09 - "Why am I going to Iran? Because I believe it's good character to get to know people before you bomb them."
7:41 - "fear is for people who don't get out much"
8:04 - Another perspective on "Death to America" in Iran.
9:28 - On being aware of and understanding the baggage of other cultures

On Legislating Morality
12:00 - In America we're all about government by, for and of the people via the corporations we own. In Europe they also have government by, for and of the people, but in spite of the corporations they own

On High Taxes
17:14 - Rick Steves: How can you Swiss people so dociley pay such high taxes?
         Swiss citizen: What's it worth to live in a country where there's no homelessness, no hunger, and everybody (regardless of their parents) has access to quality health care and education?

On Understanding Other Religion
19:00 - the Whirling Dervish

On the Value of Travel
20:30 -  "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness"
                               - Mark Twain

Be sure to also check out Rick's podcasts. He's also here on twitter.
And feel free to share this video with people you know who "don't get out much".

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 In Review: What I Watched

This is the third of a few posts reviewing my experiences in the past year:
  1. What I Read
  2. What I Listened To
  3. What I Watched
  4. What I Did
In 2014 I watched more movies than any other year of my life. This was the result of my expanded free time, living in a new place and not knowing anybody, and living in a big city again that has quality arthouse and independent cinema.

What I Watched in 2014


Six films really stood out to me and were an absolute pleasure to behold. I've ranked them here in order of my preference:
  1. Birdman - Michael Keaton & Ed Norton starred in the best and most beautifully crafted film I saw this year. Follow the link to read the rotten tomatoes reviews that describe it better than I can.
  2. Mistaken for Strangers - It starts out as a documentary about the band The National directed by the singer's brother. But it's where it goes from there that makes it spectacular and unique among rock docs.
  3. Jingle Bell Rocks! - I covered this one last week.
  4. Boyhood - This film was made over the course of 12 years, following the growth of its lead actor from boy to adult.
  5. Top Five - It's funny. And it has romance, but I'd {shudder} to call it a romantic comedy because Chris Rock is at a level of excellence that genre has never seen. 
  6. Snowpiercer - Best and only sci-fi I remember seeing in 2014. It all takes place on a train in a dystopian future where the entire planet Earth is frozen.

TV Shows

I finally watched Breaking Bad after having it recommended to me by enough people over the past few years. My technique with tv shows is to not worry about watching them on their first run but to wait a few years. Then, if people are still talking about it, I'll watch it on Netflix (if available).

Normally I can't make it past season 2 or 3 of an hour-long drama series because I feel as if after the first couple seasons the writers have to force the plot in a variety of cliched ways in order to keep the program on air and making money. After all, the first goal of almost all television is for the show to make money. That's why after a few seasons we tend to see things like:
  • Everybody starts sleeping with everybody else
  • Some long-lost friend/lover/enemy/child from the past shows up out of nowhere. Shocker!
  • Tragedy like a car crash or heart attack
  • etc.

I enjoyed Breaking Bad, but part of the reason I made it through all 5 seasons is because I knew it was ending in the 5th season. If I were watching it live on the first run I would have given up on it.


Cody Townsend wasn't the first guy to ski this. That honor belongs to Travis Rice. But, damn, did he ever slay it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 In Review: What I Listened To

This is the second of a few posts reviewing my experiences in the past year:
  1. What I Read
  2. What I Listened To
  3. What I Watched
  4. What I Did
I've always been an appreciator of thoughtful, well-crafted music -- music that is written from the soul of the performer because the artist has a driving need to create it and share it. Please note that this is different from most music heard on pop radio which is created in order to be sold to the biggest group of people possible.

Over the last several years I've become a huge fan of podcasts, too. In the olden days it was always good to catch an informative hour-long radio program from NPR, but they usually aired on Saturdays and Sundays so I'd only hear them if I happened to be driving in my car at the right time of day. And even then, it's likely that I would only hear part of the show.

The new art of podcasting now allows the listener to hear those programs (and many many more) whenever they want. Even more importantly, it has democratized the airwaves by allowing anyone anywhere to make a recording and share it.

The podcasts I enjoy most are a combination of both professionally produced shows from some NPR outlet as well as individuals who decided to start recording themselves talking about something they're passionate about.

Here's a sample of what I listened to most...

What I Listened To in 2014

"Mincer Ray" by Guided by Voices - An older GBV song written by their secondary songwriter Tobin Sprout. Can't tell you how many times I listened to it on repeat in the past few months. It just really grabbed me this year.

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane - I finally bought my second true jazz album, this one, after enjoying Miles' Kind of Blue for the last decade. I'm glad I finally appreciate this foremost style of jazz.

Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers - They just keep on cranking out phenomenal pop records.

Southeastern by Jason Isbell - Listened to this gorgeous, heartfelt album more than any other over the past couple years.

Songs for Slim tribute by Steve Earle ("Times Like This"), Lucinda Williams ("Partners in Crime"), The Minus 5 with Curtiss A ("Rockin' Here Tonight"), Joe Henry ("Taken on the Chin") - These artists took songs written by Slim Dunlap and portrayed them in a new and more masterful light, spurring me to compare Slim Dunlap to the likes of Townes van Zandt & Leonard Cohen (i.e. someone who writes beautiful songs but doesn't have the best voice or arrangements).

Neutral Milk Hotel concert in Denver in April 2014 - I previously wrote about it here.

The Tim Ferriss Show - Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week has weekly discussions with world-class performers in a variety of fields in an effort to desconstruct their successful habits and thinking.
The Sprocket Podcast - Fun show out of Portland, OR that talks about riding bicycles and living simply, usually with guests.
Pedal Hub - New Twin Cities-based podcast about bicycles and bicycling.
WTF with Marc Maron - Neurotic comedian hosts in-depth & personal interviews with interesting artists, musicians, comedians, etc.
Freedom Lovin' - Inspiring discussion around the host, Kevin, and his experiences in securing a location-independent income stream and long-term global travel.

Travel with Rick Steves - I used to think that Rick Steves was too dweeby & populist, but I've grown to appreciate his thoughtful, open mind and his deep insights into humanity after a lifetime of interacting with people of different cultures.

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 In Review: What I Read

This is the first of a few posts reviewing my experiences in the past year:

  1. What I Read
  2. What I Listened To
  3. What I Watched
  4. What I Did
Since quitting my corporate career one year ago I've had more free time, pretty much all of which was spent reading stuff, listening to stuff, watching stuff and doing stuff. I've had the luxury of time to examine my life closely and make sure that the stuff I'm reading, listening to, watching and doing align with my personal values of living fully and treading lightly.

My primary goal right now is to establish a location-independent income stream. By that I mean that I want a way to make money consistently while out camping, backpacking, skiing, or living in places around the world like Colombia or France or Thailand. I want an income stream that doesn't require me to show up at a certain place at a certain time. That's what I'm pursuing by owning a Supercuts hair salon franchise in Denver. It doesn't have to be a huge income as I've done a decent job of retirement saving over the years. But a few grand a month would kick ass.

What I Read in 2014

As part of simplifying my lifestyle I bought a Kindle and gave away all my books. Because of this I've found myself reading a lot more than I used to because my entire library can now fit in my pocket. The ease of carrying a bunch of books means that I often bring my Kindle with me and am finding significantly more time to read.

Here are some faves in no particular order...
  • San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart by John Scherber - Stories of expats living in this charming Mexican city
  • The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko - Thrilling story about a record speed attempt floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon
  • The Last Season by Eric Blehm - Nice read about what it's like to be a National Park Ranger and the story of one who went missing
  • Tao de Ching by Lao Tzu - Ancient Chinese classic
  • Buddha's Brain by Rick Hanson - Scientific neurological look at meditation, happiness & wisdom
  • Simplify by Joshua Becker - On the benefits of simplicity and one man's journey to unclutter his world
  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and Arun Gandhi - An enlightening look at how peaceful communication can create compassionate connections with family, friends, and other acquaintances
  • Superhuman by Habit by Tynan - How to develop new habits
  • Practicing Radical Honesty by Dr. Brad Blanton - Not as radical as the title suggests, which I greatly appreciated. Book is actually built around mindfulness.
  • The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen - Beautiful classic that's about everything in life except the snow leopard.
  • The New American Road Trip Mixtape by Brendan Leonard - Modern day On The Road
  • Leap of Faith: Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat by Ed Robinson - Fun stories from this lifestyle that many of us have dreamed about

Most of the blogs I really enjoy are currently listed over on the right hand side of this page under the heading Blogs I Read. Here's a brief summary of each...

  • Adventure Journal - Lots of cool outdoorsy & adventurey stories
  • Al's A-Basin Blog - Regular updates on snow conditions and what's happening at Arapahoe Basin ski area where I have my season pass this year
  • Becoming Minimalist - Simplifying one's life
  • Bumfuzzle - Family of four travels the world pretty much full time in a variety of fascinating vehicles
  • Full-On - Fun outdoor adventure stories from a Mpls gentleman and his kids
  • Going Places Quietly - Bozeman friend samh shares his tales of human-powered outdoor adventures
  • McSweeney's - Brilliant contemporary humor in written form
  • Mr. Money Mustache - Sage and confrontational wisdom from a guy who's figured out how to not allow American consumerism and sloth to upset his family's financial situation
  • Raptitude - A guy who's getting better at being human
  • Russo's Rants - Minnesota Wild hockey blog
  • Small House Bliss - Gorgeous small houses that I want to own
  • Strong Towns - Strengthening America's cities, towns & neighborhoods. Act local.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jingle Bell Rocks!

For the last several years I've enjoyed the Sound Opinions podcast's take on alternative Christmas music. And now... there's a film about it:

Thanks to the Denver Film Society for showing it tonight. More on the film here.

I just returned from the viewing and it was phenomenal. The music is terrific as are the profiles of the people in the subculture who obsessively collect it.

Here are a few of the music highlights like Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa":

Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis":

"Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas) by The Free Design:

It might be showing at an arthouse cinema near you. If you're a music fan I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

Ever since I was diagnosed with hypertension earlier this year I've been doing lots of research about how to improve that condition. Hypertension (very high blood pressure) can lead to early onset of strokes, heart attacks, etc.

What I've found is that in just the last 10 years we have significantly increased our knowledge of how the human body works. Advancements in medical technologies have allowed us to get a closer look into the functions of our brain, heart, other key organs and the human body as a whole.

A few years ago my friend Leah introduced me to the idea that the bacteria that lives in our gut might also be a key factor in our overall health. The scientific findings on it are still in their infancy, but are pointing to very powerful results.
"Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food"   - Hippocrates
Below are a couple videos made by an Australian TV show that nicely illustrate the problem and the solution.

  • 4:05 - the association between gut bacteria and health has only been discovered in the past few years (since technology has allowed us to examine them more closely)
  • 4:20 the bacteria that lives in our body far outnumbers our own cells by a factor of 10:1. The bacteria also contribute 100x the number of genes that our own genomes do.
  • 4:50 - some scientists say a human being can be looked at as a superorganism, like a termite colony or a beehive where individuals are just part of a whole
  • 9:30 - caesarean section babies have gut microbes that look more like the microbes in our skin than children born via natural birth whose gut bacteria looks more like intestine
  • 10:00 - c-section babies are more likely to have allergies and asthma issues
  • 11:00 - our gut bacteria change depending on what we eat
  • 11:20 - bad food, especially low fiber food, supports bad bacteria that create disease
  • 13:45 - taking antibiotics is like dropping a nuclear bomb on our gut bacteria
  • 15:00 - diseases like asthma, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autism, allergies, multiple sclerosis and obesity may be linked to poor gut bacteria (which is linked to poor diet)

So what do we do about it?
Part 2 of the video suggests some tactics....

  • 26:30 - see the dramatic improvement in insulin levels for one test subject after changing his diet 

The result of what's been learned so far is both striking and quite elementary -- what we put into our mouth has a direct effect on our overall health.

Hippocrates knew this in 400 B.C. but the corporations that produce and sell processed food have done a terrific job of changing our habits.

My goal is to get my blood pressure back to normal levels without the help of pills. I'm making progress but these habits are so ingrained and difficult to change, even when I know they directly hurt me. It's difficult when I know that any single donut or bottle of beer isn't going to kill me, but that only over a long period of time will their wrath be felt.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Here's some stuff from the interwebs I came across recently and enjoyed...

Pardoned Turkeys: Where Are They Now from McSweeney's


Pardoned by George W. Bush, 2005. Founder and administrator of Building Dreams, an Ohio-based charity which offers counseling and job placement services to recently-pardoned turkeys. Marshmallow’s best-selling memoir, I Beg Your Pardon, and numerous appearances on Hardball With Chris Matthewshave brought national attention to the cause of pardoned-turkey rights.

    Presidential Turkey Pardoning: The Turkey Hunger Games from the good folks at Priceonomics.

The National Turkey Federation typically selects around 80 newly-hatched turkeys to be considered for the ceremony. They’re then fed a “grain-heavy diet of fortified corn and soybeans” to bulk them up, with the end-goal in the 50-pound range (more than the weight of most dog breeds). From there, the flock is narrowed down to the “20 largest and best-behaved,” and they embark on their next phase of training: preparing for fame. 

Are You Giving the Shaft to Your Future Self? blog entry from Mr. Money Mustache:

Every financial transaction you make today is not so much a deal with a mortgage company, car dealer or department store. It’s a deal with your future self. After all, when the 20-year-old version of you borrowed $32,000 to buy that fully loaded Honda Accord, who ended up having to pay it back? The past self got the new car with no responsibility, and her successor in the present holds the result: a debt hangover and a car that’s now worth only a tiny fraction of the new price. Past You gave Present You the shaft.

Too Many Cooks video from Adult Swim. An excellent rip on '80s and '90s sitcoms:

Ski porn:

The Shadow Campaign // Whitewash from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

Minnesota Gophers knock off Nebraska football team. Big win for the Gophs.

Why Pop Country Music Sucks so Bad, 2013 Edition

Friday, November 21, 2014

Best Bands of All Time - #5 Afghan Whigs

#5 - Afghan Whigs

I'm certain you've been silently clamoring for the mathematically convenient fifth addition to my Best Bands of All Time after I left you with the legendary Run Westy Run at #4 almost three years ago. While the silence of your clamoring hasn't exactly kept me up at nights, it may have mystically transmitted to me the mesermizingly smooth and gritty sounds of Cincinnati's Afghan Whigs over the past few months.

The video for 1993's "Gentlemen" captures their essence quite well...

The Whigs were one of my favorite bands of the '90s but somehow I got away from them. Perhaps it was because they quietly faded away in 1998 after their album 1965. Perhaps it was because lead singer Greg Dulli went on to continue his beautiful work with the Twilight Singers.

I dunno.

The Whigs wormed their way back into my regular playlist a couple months ago when I began taking long walks. They haven't left. For some reason I decided to give 1965 another listen after never really appreciating it. I suppose it was their new album and tour (that I did not attend) that brought them back to me. At any rate, they have this gorgeous style of soulful white-boy rock unlike any other.

It's clear now that the 1990s are when rock music peaked.

The Deets
If you could only buy just one album: Gentlemen
Best iTunes track to sample: "Fountain and Fairfax"
Best lyric: "Don't forget the alcohol / ooooh, Baby / ooooh, Baby" from "Milez is Ded" off of Congretation (1992)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winter Biking, Denver Edition

Winter rolled rapidly into Denver yesterday so I raced to prep my bicycle for the season. 

Riding last night through the snow into the park and to the bar to meet the girl was sublime - far better than the date itself. 

The best thing about cycling in winter is the silence, the neighborhood's noises muffled by fresh snow. It was cold so my path was mine alone - no pedestrians, no cyclists and few cars. 

The second best thing is the solitude. 

The third best thing is the cold beer waiting upon my return. 

Here's my bike with newly mounted studded tires.  

This will be my first winter living in a place as balmy as Denver and it is my understanding that the snow here rarely stays around for more than a few days. The studded tires will be overkill for much of the season so when the roads are clean I'll ride my other bike. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My First Pheasant

This past weekend I went pheasant hunting for the first time in my life. Well, actually, I went hunting for the first time in my life (not counting that time a friend and I went walking in the woods for an hour with guns looking for grouse and didn't see even one).

Hunting seems to be one of those familial pastimes that gets passed down through the generations, primarily from father to son. My father didn't hunt but he did fish on occasion, so I grew up fishing on Minnesota lakes a few times a year but never really got into it.

In my youth, my hunting opinion was shaped by those around me who I saw go hunting and it wasn't pretty. In my high school it was mostly the stupid or underachieving kids who hunted so I did not view it in a favorable light. Hunting seemed like more of a redneck lifestyle (and undoubtedly it still is for many rednecks around our nation).

But over the years I met more gentlemanly hunters who changed my view. In Montana, virtually everybody has a gun and hunts no matter their political leanings. Hunting is seen there as an honorable way to spend time outside with family gathering food for one's table.

A few weeks ago my good friend Andrew invited me to join him pheasant hunting on some land his family owns around Onida, South Dakota. I was excited to get the invitation as I've been wanting to explore this sub-culture for some time now.

Onida is right smack dab in the middle of South Dakota, 30 miles north of the capitol of Pierre. It's a small town of 750 people that has one really great little bar and a pretty active "business district".

The house we stayed in belongs to Andrew's aunts and was conveniently located 1 block off Main St. and within spitting distance of the excellent Blue Goose bar where Thursdays are $1 Busch Light days.

I think this land is beautiful -- the golds and greens and browns and blues and greys reflect the simple beauty of the people who have farmed this soil for generations.

Sunset is particularly spectacular but this was the best my simple phone camera could capture. I'd fired a shotgun for the first time on that grouse excursion a year ago and in Utah had a friend who took me to the pistol range a couple times, so I'm not unfamiliar with guns. But shooting at a moving target proved to be something of a challenge for me.

The first day I went out with Andrew and the two of us walked tree lines and fence lines and ponds -- the breaks and inconsistencies in the otherwise farmed landscape -- looking for those places where a pheasant could hide in some long grass or reeds. We saw about 15 male pheasants and I was 0 for 20 in my attempts to bring one down.

But Friday morning brought better luck. We were now a team of five hunters and one dog moving between several different property locations around Onida. Around lunchtime I finally got a lucky shot and brought down my first bird. In fact, this was the first creature I think I've ever killed that's bigger than a mosquito. The thought of killing didn't really bother me because I knew I'd be eating it and, after all, isn't it important for us to all understand that the chicken at the grocery store wasn't just created under plastic wrap like that?

I shot one more that afternoon and another on Saturday and was thrilled with the experience. First of all I spent time walking some gorgeous country with good friends. Second, I got to interact with people that I normally wouldn't come into contact with -- the residents of small town rural South Dakota. I think this was the longest amount of time I've ever spent in a town that small. And third, I actually got me a couple birds.

Will I be running out tomorrow to buy myself a shotgun? No, but I do believe I'll hang on to my paradoxically blaze orange- and camo-colored truck stop hunting cap.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Things That Pop Into My Head While Meditating

  • relax
  • feel the weight of your body
  • become one with your environment
  • focus on the breath
  • set your intentions... my intentions are to be more mindful to avoid junk food and be a great listener (by which I mean I want to impress the ladies with my amazing empathy so that one of them might want to actually spend significant time with me)
  • just breathe...
  • that Janine is really cute... I wonder if she'd go out with me
  • it's okay to lose focus on the breath... just gently bring it back to the breath
  • I'm really doing well today. That was a long streak of uninterrupted breathing
  • c'mon now... back to the breath... good...
  • I should tell Janine about how well I'm doing with my meditation
  • I'm pretty sure Janine rides a bike around town... bikes are awesome...
  • Note to self: remember to check your tire pressure before biking to the library today because there's that slow leak in your rear tire
  • c'mon! Stop making to-do lists while you're meditating...
  • just focus on the breath
  • breathe...
  • it's okay to lose focus on the breath... just bring it back...
  • losing focus is part of meditation, that's why it's a practice... just breathe and empty your mind
  • breathe...
  • I think I went, like 15 breaths without interruption. Yes! Janine would be so impressed!
  • alright....back to the breath...
  • we're just breathing...
  • I should write a blog post about all the things that pop into my mind while I'm meditating. Maybe it'll be McSweeney's material.

My Bicycling Origin Story

There are three moments that I remember as being big parts of my development as a bicyclist.

I remember my first time riding a bike with training wheels along our sidewalk when I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old. Pretty soon I had the freedom to explore all over the neighborhood and my friends and I found all sorts of fun together.

My next bicycling memory comes when I was about 14 and learning how to play golf. I used to ride my bike 3-4 miles to the golf course with my golf bag slung over my shoulder. I just did a google image search for that and this is the only example anywhere on the interwebs, so it appears as if kids today don't do that anymore.

Then I got into high school and college where it was far more cool to be driving a car than riding a bicycle and I barely touched a bike for 15 years. I mean, c'mon. Why ride a bike when you can cruise chicks in a 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura?

It wasn't until about 2003, after 9/11, that I had my awakening and realized that the only reason America was at war in the Middle East was because of our addiction to oil. Quickly I understood that I wanted to minimize my part in that addiction so I started bicycle commuting to work (and I remember being really nervous about it).

My commute was a beautiful one down stately Summit Ave. in St. Paul (which had a bike lane) and then along the Mississippi River to downtown Minneapolis. It was just under 12 miles and usually took me 50 minutes.

But I had the normal concerns that everyone has:

  • What route would be best to take?
  • Was it safe to bike on the road next to all those cars?
  • Would I be all sweaty when I got to work?
  • Heavens to Betsy -- what would happen to my hair?!

My greatest fear was of getting doored while riding in the bike lane down Summit Ave. Getting "doored" is when bicycling by a parked car, the driver of the car opens their door right in your path and you hit it, sometimes hard. My fear was that that would happen and I'd get flung out into traffic and run over by a truck.

Here's how I overcame those concerns:
  • What route would be best to take?
    • I looked at a map to find friendly streets and bike paths where available. The city provided a physical map of bike trails, but it's much easier now that Google Maps is quite skilled at giving bicycling directions.
  • Is it safe to bike on the road by all those cars?
    • I bought a helmet, wore a bright jacket and biked in a safe, predictable manner while constantly gazing into the parked cars to see if anyone was behind the wheel, waiting to take me out.
  • Would I be all sweaty when I got to work?
    • There was technically a shower at work, but it was not a pretty thing all tucked away in the maintenance bowels of the building down there. I began by taking the bus into work with my bike attached to the rack on the front of the bus and then only biking home. Eventually, as I became more comfortable with biking I started biking both ways and using the shower (which really wasn't so bad). I also recall at first only riding my bike on casual Fridays during good weather to make it easier.
  • Heavens to Betsy -- what would happen to my hair?!
    • Helmet hair is a serious concern for people biking to work or to an important engagement. I avoided this problem as noted above -- first by only biking home from work and later by using the shower at work.
A couple years later I was organizing group bike commutes to work from different parts of the city in order to help new commuters feel more comfortable. The bike commute into work became a highlight of my day and I still gain great pleasure from a leisurely or practical ride about town. It's amazing how we can transform after simply taking that first step out of our comfort zone. 

Marriage Thoughts

I went on two dates recently with women who are not interested in getting married, which is cool with me because I share the same sentiment. I think a lot of people don't think objectively about marriage because it's been such an institution in our society for so long.

There are three thoughts that now run through my head when I think about drawing up a legal contract with the government and pledging in front of God and family "til death do us part".

  1. First, in his mind-opening book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World Harry Browne said something to the effect of "Why would I want the government and the church involved in my relationship?" Makes sense to me. Obviously commitment is an important part of any long-term relationship, especially when children are planned. But it seems to me like the marriage contract is somehow being used as leverage (or a crutch) between the two partners in order to make up for a lack of trust. Shouldn't love, trust, dedication and, most importantly, frequent and honest communication be enough so that a contract with the government isn't necessary? Without those traits one probably shouldn't commit one's life to another (or make babies together, for that matter).
  2. What does "til death do us part" mean to a 24-year old today? With medical advances in stem cells, robotics, nanotechnology and greater awareness of the toxins most of us put into our bodies every day, people may soon be living long past 100 years. A 24-year old making a legal agreement for their entire life could very well be entering into a 100-year contract, far different from the 20-40 year contracts of old.
  3. Historically the two partners in a marriage needed each other -- society said that the man was supposed to make the money and the woman was supposed to manage the home and raise the children. The husband was CEO of the family and the wife was Vice President of Homemaking. Their roles were clearly defined and each needed the other. Today we live, obviously, in a very different world where those roles are no longer limited by gender. Relationships today are (supposed to be) far more about two people loving each other and wanting to explore their lives together -- to learn from each other and grow together. They can have kids or not. They can both work or not. If people grow apart and don't want to be together anymore, it shouldn't require government process, paperwork and legal teams.

Here's an introduction to Harry Browne and the freedom traps that many of us fall into...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Denver Faves: Mayan Theatre

The Mayan Theatre is just a 5-minute bike ride away and has become my favorite arthouse cinema in Denver. See photo for awesomeness...

What a beauty!

The interior is similarly designed and has a bar on the 2nd floor where they let you take your beer into the theater. It's one of those old theaters that used to be one big theater with a balcony, but now they've divided the balcony into 2 separate spaces and still have the larger space on the main floor.

Every week I check to see what films are coming because they show indie/arthouse cinema. I saw "Boyhood" there, for instance.

It's a Denver fave for sure.