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.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Turn $100 into $1500

In 2007 some co-workers and I each kicked in $20 to Kiva so that we could support entrepreneurs in developing nations around the world.

How Kiva Works
1. We read personal business profiles like below and decided who we wanted to help. The entrepreneurs are searchable by region, country, gender & business. There are NGOs local to the individual entrepreneurs that vetted the businesses for Kiva.

2. Our $100 was then broken up into smaller amounts (micro-loans) and loaned to people like this...


3. Other Kiva investors also loaned money to these businesses and the loans were paid back monthly over the course of a year or so.

4. Those re-paid dollars went back into our account so we could loan the money out again. Our initial $100 has been loaned out to the tune of $1,475.

Here are the cumulative stats for the entrepreneurs that my co-workers and I have supported in the past 7 years:

As you can see, there's a default rate of 6.78% which is about the same as what American borrowers have experienced in the same time period.

If you've never tried Kiva, I highly encourage you to check it out. It's fun reading through the bios of the different entrepreneurs and is an easy way to help out.