Monday, December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, Friends!

(sorry for the audio only version, but I like Kenny G's rendition, and besides, you're pretty sorry if you are surfing the net on New Year's Eve!)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Not today, boys

Jim Bell texted me in church (OK, I texted him first) to say he and Slick Andy were on their way to my house on CX bikes. By the time "they" arrived, it was only Jim with a bright red face, looking very, very cold. Schlicht had already bailed. I've been out in cold but humid weather like this (most of last winter), and I have learned that an hour or two of suffering and freezing is followed by 8 or 12 hours of trying but failing to get warm. I've laid in a whirlpool tub full of water that was unthinkably hot any other time but failed to thaw my bones after one of Mattie's long "grav" rides.

Needless to say, I gave Jim a lame excuse about waking up with a sore throat (true), and wanting to spin while I watch the stinkin' Vikings later this afternoon (also true). He didn't say so, but gave the distinct impression that he was relieved to turn around and ride home. Even Crazy Man Bell was not relishing a 4 hour icy marathon on the CX bikes. DOC'S ADVICE: when it's below 20 degrees, no amount of technical garments or shoes will keep you from getting frozen solid. If that's your thing, feel free. Doc is going to take his own best advice today: stay home or go skinny skiing.

I watched the Giants-Patriots game last night (on TiVo, of course since I can't stand most of the commercials nowadays). What a fantastic game for both teams. New York didn't have to put their 1st team out there at all, since they're in for sure, unlike the stinkin' Vikings who not only have to beat Denver today, but have to hope Dallas' 2nd team beats a very motivated Washington (ain't gonna happen). It was truly a pleasure watching two teams trying their hardest to win just for the sake of winning.

When I record games like the Giants-Pats last night, I always record the next program as well. I've missed the last 2 minutes of too many games by not doing so. I figured this out a couple of years ago watching the Tour de France and missing the final sprint most of the time because the race coverage spilled over into the next program (which didn't automatically get recorded).

Last night, after finishing that very satisfying game, I FF'd through the 10pm news and noticed that "My Chemical Romance" was the featured band on SNL, so I continued FFing until I found their number "Welcome to the Black Parade". Some of my more committed readers (most of you probably should be committed for wasting so much time on this doggerel. BTW, I've used that word a couple of times in the last few posts. Here is the Oxford definition: "n. 1. comic verse composed in irregular rhythm. 2. verse or words that are badly written or expressed." It's a wonderful contraction of the Old English "dog" meaning "dog" and the Latin "rel" meaning "little in a contemptuous sense." I'm grateful to my committed readers for showing compassion and even affection for my little dog of a blog) may remember a little rant I did on Emo, or emotional hardcore punk. It sounded to me like Emo was neo-punk, but with more crying and less screaming.

Turns out that apparently nobody actually wants to be labeled "Emo", not even those groups that clearly are. My Chemical Romance sounds emo to me (but what do I know), and critics and fans alike seem to identify them as such. Still, MCR's lead singer, Gerard Way, vehemently denies that they are Emo, saying "Emo is a pile of [doo-doo]." Welcome to the Black Parade" certainly tries to pay homage to Marilyn Manson, but MCR seems too wholesome to do the "shock rock" thing. MM apparently recorded "Mutilation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery" in critcism of MCR's "lightweight" attempts to mimic him.

The whole thing is way too goth for my taste, but it was interesting listening to MCR on SNL. I think I'm done with any further fascination with Emo. Cool music, but I can't relate to the self-contempt and the-world-is-about-to-end nihilism. DOC'S ADVICE: there's way too much to life than unhappy navel-gazing. At the risk of sounding insensitive, just get over it and start paying attention to something bigger than your life and problems. Viktor Frankl said that what really sets humans apart is our ability to choose how we are going to respond to our situation. BTW, he was the only member of his extended family to survive Auschwitz death camp during WW2.

Oo, that seems a little heavy for this blog of doggerel. Better quit while I'm behind. On to watch the stinkin' Vikes, a lightweight topic if there ever was one...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last Day at the Lake (for now)

Soulmate and I had big plans to get out skiing right away in the morning today, and as usual Pippin the Giant Hairball and Buddy the Troll acted the part of the alarm clock for us. One or the other hears something outside our door (usually my brother-in-law’s Border Collie, Scottie, who is an early riser), and they clickety-clack on the wood floors with their toenails until I get up and let them out.

Soulmate frequently gets up in a huff and plops the offending canine back into his doggie bed, where they remain for at least as long as it takes for SM to make it back to bed and pull the covers over her eyes, then they pop back up and start the toenail racket all over again. I suggested either installing wall-to-wall carpeting in the cabin or de-clawing the dogs, but SM gives me the “don’t even joke about either of those things” icy stare. Little does she know that I’m not joking about either one, if I had my way.

Anyway, I got up with the dogs and let them out, part one of the trifecta of my morning routine at the cabin. The second part is to put a log into the fireplace and get it blazing using only the left over coals from last night. I’m not really a kindling kind of guy. I usually succeed. The third part is to make some really strong coffee, usually Caribou Reindeer blend or Starbuck’s French Roast. I know it’s right when my mother-in-law dilutes it with 2/3s hot water before she drinks any.

I decided to let SM sleep this morning. In fact, I let her sleep every morning. I’m a bit of a risk-taker, but a guy’s got to know his limits, and foreshortening SM’s beauty sleep is asking for trouble. She comes by it honestly, judging from the fact that it is now 12:45 am and she and her parents are happily conversing around the fireplace, not a droopy eyelid in sight except mine.

Anyway, after having coffee with my usual cabin coffee klatch (my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law Jeff), I decided to waste some time watching a movie. While driving back from Fosston on Wednesday, the passengers enjoyed “Secondhand Lions” on the car video player (not my car). I listened to all the dialog, but didn’t see any of the movie for obvious reasons, so I tossed the DVD in downstairs and settled in.

At various times my nephew Joshua, my niece Jenny, my sister-in-law Sue, brother-in-law Jeff, and Soulmate all sat down to watch for a few minutes, then went back to something else. I can’t figure that out: I usually get totally sucked into the story, and even if I’m supposed to be doing something else, I sit transfixed in front of the TV. Like the time I was supposed to be watching another nephew, Caulin, and popped in a Barney tape to entertain him. Fifteen minutes later SM and Caulin’s mom came in to check on us, and there I was staring at Barney, and Caulin was nowhere to be found. Barney, for crying out loud!

After the movie we ate a little lunch and got ready to go skiing when we noticed my father-in-law had fallen on the little ice rink we made on the lake, and was slow to get up. I ran down to check him out, and he had split his head open and bruised his tailbone pretty badly, but hadn’t gotten knocked out. I decided to play doctor for the afternoon and cancelled the skiing. He turned out fine, so my nephew and niece and I sat down to more videos.

A Rock Hudson movie (sorry, I still have a really hard time with all that), followed by “Life With Father” (I’m a big fan of William Powell), “National Treasure” with Nicolas Cage, and finally “The Incredibles”, the best animated film ever made. When Dash says at the end, “this is the best vacation ever…I love our family!” I totally agree with him. For me, any vacation at the cabin is among the best ever, and I really do love this family.

All good things must come to an end, so we sadly plan to pack up in the morning and head back home. I hope to make it back up here again this winter. But if not, at least we can count on the canine alarm clock…

Friday, December 28, 2007

Day Three at the Lake

One with the Snow

Nothing much to report from the cabin today. We road-tripped yesterday from the cabin north of Deer River over to Fosston to see some of Soulmate’s relatives at the ancestral farmstead. The fourth generation of Johnsons is being groomed to farm and milk dairy cows (young Carl is maybe 4 or 5, but knows every make and model of tractor ever sold in America, and probably knows how to drive most of them).

It was great to see cousin Katie all the way from big-city Denver. When we pulled up, she was shoveling off the walk, and had already split a couple of cords of firewood for the wood furnace. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t get the farm off the girl (is THAT what I smell?!! Just kidding, Katie, you always smell lovely, honey).

Cousin Kristi was there as well, with her handsome husband Raul and lethally cute daughters Ann Marie and Sabrina. They drove up from Rochester where Raul is a big-time drug rep (the legal kind of drugs). I feel a little sheepish: despite being a doctor who should keep track of these things, I can’t for the life of me remember who he works for.

Raul, don’t be offended: I prescribe plenty of medications every day, but can’t tell you the manufacturer of a single one. Actually, I’m pretty sure you don’t care a bit as long as I prescribe the ones made by your company. Whatever they are.

DOC’S ADVICE: your doctor really, really does have your best interests in mind when he talks to pharmaceutical representatives. They are a legit source of (admittedly biased) information that is not available anywhere else. I read the Medical Letter, NEJM, AMA Journal, and all my specialty journals, and cannot get the distilled, useful info I need to pick the best pill for you without also hearing from guys like my friend Raul. Yes, he sometimes springs for pizza or a sub, but no, I’ve never been flown to Vegas or wined and dined at Ruth’s Cris by one of these guys.

It snowed quite a bit all day yesterday (thus my bit of doggerel verse), and highway 2 was a bit dicey going west to Fosston in the afternoon, but the ploughs were out in force and the snow ended around suppertime, so the drive back wasn’t white-knuckle at all. I knew it would be a good day to play in the snow today, and sure enough, it was.

Soulmate and I scoped out three nearby parks that groom the X/C trails regularly: Blueberry Hills north of Deer River, Suomi Hills north of Grand Rapids, and Scenic State Park near Bigfork. All three have fabulous rolling hills and trails for beginners to experts. On our way up to the cabin on Tuesday afternoon, we stopped at Blueberry Hills to ski for an hour. Perfectly groomed trails, 10-12 Km with 4 or 5 short loops, and a warming house and outhouses. Skinny ski heaven!

On Tuesday we tried the first 2 loops, but Soulmate floundered a bit on the Lake loop (#2) where there were some “black diamond” descents that elicited a few shrieks. Well, more than a few, and some of them weren’t exactly shrieks, they were more like mild epithets. Mild epithets are about as strong as Soulmate gets when stringently protesting a mismatch of expectations and reality.

Reality was that, despite being an expert alpine skier, the lack of anything resembling control on her shiny almost-new skinny skis really threw her. Literally. She went down in a heap so many times I finally encouraged her to stop wasting time brushing herself off, since, well, you know…. Her eyes conveyed to me a wealth of meaning which I took as a cue to abruptly change the topic to the hoarfrost on the trees.

She didn’t exactly gush at my description of how intricate and lacey and delicate the trees looked, but at least she stopped wailing. She actually got the hang of the fast downhills a lot quicker than Jim Bell (see my previous post), and by the end, decided that she wanted to come back.

Yesterday’s road trip prevented us from returning until this morning, only to discover 5 school buses and more pickups and SUVs than I’ve seen since the boat show at the Civic center. Who could know that the local ski club would host a high school X/C race today? Soulmate looked pained when I suggested that we ski anyway (the race organizer said the trail was open to classic skiers throughout the race).

She apparently wasn’t interested in getting run over by a stampede of high schoolers (which is more likely to happen at the mall BTW, but I didn’t raise that point to her), so she stayed in the truck and read a book, while I skied. The first two loops were used for the races, so I had to dodge a number of young people flailing about on the skate track, but once I got to the 3rd loop, I had the entire back side of the course to myself.

Two hours of great snow, rolling hills, gorgeous scenery, and the only tracks were mine. Back in skinny ski heaven.

On our way back to the cabin we checked out the north and south end of the Suomi Hills Park and decided that there were enough easy trails to suite Soulmate’s, so hopefully we’re done with all the shrieking and wailing already. Then we hit some minimum maintenance roads that shortened the distance but not the time back to the cabin.

Once back in front of the roaring fire, we had lunch, SM finished her Dick Francis book (I think it was “Banker”), and we headed out on snowshoes to mess up the ski tracks I bushwhacked yesterday (my father-in-law had already run them down with the snowmobile). We walked a couple of miles and headed back for supper. I watched “Miracle on 34th Street” with Jenny and Joshua, read the paper, and wrote this doggerel prose.

Tomorrow we tackle Suomi Hills in the morning and maybe in the afternoon the ice rink my brother-in-law just made on the lake. I’m terrible at hockey, but then so is everyone else in this family, so I’m OK. Broomball is a different story, but that will have to wait for a different day.
BTW, Soulmate is modeling a swizzy Head Method hat from none other than Kyia. I would like to remark on how cool these lids really are, and that you should get one while they're still available.

Day two at the Lake

(Sorry this is 2 days late--access to the internet is limited in the wilderness)

‘Tis the day after Christmas

‘Tis the day after Christmas and up at the lake,
The snow here is real, it isn’t a fake.
The chipmunks are nestled all snug in their beds,
My skis barely miss running over their heads.

With more than a foot of fresh snow on the ground,
The deer tracks suggest there are critters around.
With me on my skis and a toque on my head,
I take off alone; Soulmate’s still in her bed.

When what to my wondering eye should appear
But a trail with fresh snow—no one else has been here.
I bushwhack with race skis, the powder’s knee deep,
What a workout this is, my form takes a leap.

Then down the trail there arose such a clatter,
I spook five deer, they jump up and scatter.
The trail is quite narrow, the going is slow,
I brush some branches, my neck fills with snow.

Four laps on the woods’ path, and now I can ski--
No grooming done here, but at least it is free.
The track is now firm, laid down with care,
Alas, snowmobilers soon will go there.

Back at the cabin, brunch awaits on the table,
I sit by the fire happy to be able
To spend a week in a place of delight—
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Luke 2:1-20 (The Message)

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Forget the Mall

This is a much better way to usher in Christmas Eve. It's 10AM, +5 degrees, no wind, and not a cloud in sight. I'm all alone on the trail, and only one person was here before me, judging from the fresh snow in the classic tracks.

I saw Joe Bettendorf (I think it was Joe, haven't seen him since the summer) and a friend of his tearing it up on skate skis. Joe was sans poles, and reports that he separated his shoulder. As fast as they were going, maybe he doesn't really need poles.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ski!

This scene on the back side of the North Loop made me think of the Christina Rosetti poem "In the Bleak Midwinter" (to which none other than composer Gustav Holst wrote the score):

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,

Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,

The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Luke 2:7 "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

I pray that there is room in your heart for the Christ Child this Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wasted Time

I turned down another chance today to ski and snowshoe with Jim and Matt, and chose instead to watch the Pats kill Miami while I set up my sweet Anthem Advanced. I also watched the Redskins totally dominate the Weaklings, er Vikings.

A near total waste of 3 hours on that stinker, except that I rolled along on my trusty Revmaster for the entire game. Mostly my HRM registered adrenalin surges related to Viking miscues (which were numerous) rather than to my actual riding.

Q. How do the Vikings count to 10?
A. 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4, 0-5, 0-6, 0-7, 0-8, 0-9, 0-10

Q. How do you keep a Viking out of your yard?
A. Put up goal posts!

Q. Where do you go in Minneapolis in case of a tornado?
A. To the Metrodome - there's never a touchdown!

Q. What do you call a Viking with a Super Bowl ring?
A. A thief!

Q. Why doesn't St. Paul have a professional football team?
A. Because then Minneapolis would want one!

Q. What's the difference between the Vikings and a dollar bill?
A. You can still get four quarters out of a dollar!

Q. How many Vikings does it take to win a SuperBowl?
A. Nobody knows!

Q. What do the Vikings and possums have in common?
A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road!

Maybe the Vikes don't have the stuff because they're using this guy as their nutritional consultant. The Williams boys (Kevin and Pat) look like they get more than their fair share of brownies.

Cute Alert

If you're not into cute children or musicals, now's your chance to read more adult oriented blogs like Skibby or lunatic biker (link at your own risk--it is the Lord's day today). For the rest of us, I offer a taste of our morning worship service, highlighted by a childrens' musical entitled "Angels Aware."

I was on the music team again this week, and showed up last night for practice expecting to jam on my Carvin 5-string, only to discover the entire stage covered with balloons:

I was re-assigned to vocals, since the bass amp and drums were buried under white sheets. Here I am with the other vocalists, taking a break during practice. The chairs were a little too minimalist for my taste or comfort, having been borrowed from the Childrens' Church room. I almost broke the one I'm sitting in.

After a shortened song service consisting entirely of wonderful Christmas hymns and carols (I'm a big fan of Christmas music, with an iPod full of almost 500 Christmas songs, carols, and hymns covering every musical genre), the kids' musical got underway with a bang.

The smallest kids were in the middle, and true to form, they rarely kept up with the lyrics or the actions, preferring to pull on each others' angel wings, "halos," or skirts. No strip-shows actually occured, though several were threatened. The cute quotient was almost unbearably high, causing even the most jaded church-goes to bust a gut on several occasions. No one forgot their lines, though most were delivered rapidly with furtive glances at the next little vocalist in line.

I forgot my spy cam (again), but had my trusty Treo 755p to take the above photos as well as a really bad video:

After the service ended, our music pastor, Becky Johnson, put her stiletto boots to good use, popping hundreds of balloons. Guess those boots were made for walkin'...

As you can see from the last month or so of blogs, I am unabashedly pro-Christmas. Since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, don't expect me to comment on politics, or bike advocacy, or Skibby's newest fetish.

DOC'S ADVICE: there is something in Christmas for everyone: if you don't believe in Christ (and you really should), at least you've got the secular traditions and celebrations; if you don't go for that either, at least you've got a couple of days off work. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jimmy's first ski

St. John's University has some great X/C trails, maybe 10 miles or more of groomed joy. With the thaw of the last 2 days, and some freezing rain followed by a little (too little) new snow, the trail were icy today, but that didn't keep Matt, Ben, Jim, and I from putting in 3 hours of fun out there. I think Jim won the falling contest, both in quantity and in style points (I was just behind in the quantity but just didn't have the panache).

Give him a break--it was his first time on skinny skis since last March. Actually, I'm not giving him a break, since I called him numerous times in the last 3 weeks to go skiing with us, but he sent text messages back that just said, "hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

Today was payback time, Mr. Bell.

Unfortunately, I forgot the spy cam, so no actual footage is available of the near lethal plunge that Jim took about an hour into the ski. Here's something similar, but not as funny:

Jimmy's fall was more like a slow-mo, and he never actually lost contact with the snow, although numerous parts of his anatomy were in contact at various times. It was not lethal to him although he fell, landed squatting on the back of his skis, and shot down the hill toward a tree, bailing out at the last second only to end up sliding down the rest of the hill on his back, legs akimbo.

No, it was nearly lethal to Matt, Ben, and I who watched the whole thing from the top of the next hill, and laughed so hard we fell over. I think Matt slid into a tree, and I almost fell back down the hill we had just climbed up. It took us about 5 minutes just to get the use of our legs back, we were so weak from howling. Mr. Bell took it well, and spent quite a bit of time trying to get up but failing because he, too, was weak with laughter. DOC'S ADVICE: don't try to ski when you are laughing that hard--it could be lethal, or at least you might pop a hernia.

I am bidding a fond farewell to an old friend: my KHS CX bike, AKA my old winter bike. I don't do much CX (mostly because I'm pretty bad at it), but I got a great deal last winter on a Scott Team Cross bike, which I used as my winter bike for most of last winter. So, my KHS hung in my garage all year collecting dust and pining away. Enter my friend Ben, whose wife got him an early Christmas present of some really swell winter riding gear (like Lake boots, winter tights, etc). His only road bike is a really nice one (a Trek Madone or 5500 or something like that), so he needs a winter bike.

It needs a little work until it's rideable (minor things like re-installing the front cantilever brakes and putting decent tires on it), so Luke will do his wrench magic, and hopefully Ben will be out on the icy gravel with the rest of us nuts next weekend.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good Company

Buddy's entanglement saga from yesterday is not unique in the world: Snoopy's brother Spike managed a similar feat in today's Saint Cloud Times: I plan to check out tomorrow's comic page to see if Spike makes it out alive or not. At least Spike was trying to decorate the cactus Christmas tree. Buddy seemed bent on dismantling ours.

Christmas preparations are a hardship for some of us, as you can hear by the whine in my voice as I relate the Christmas card labor camp survival tale:

DOC'S ADVICE: try not to whine as much as Doc did while incarcerated in Christmas Card Labor Camp. It doesn't win any points with Soulmate, and it doesn't get you out of the camp. Just suck it up and git 'er done.

All you friends and rellys who get a card from us, show some respect! I worked my butt off for at least 3 hours for your holiday greeting. Have a heart and read at least the front page of the newsletter that I slaved over. Or at least remark to someone how nicely it was folded.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Buddy tries to BE the Christmas Tree

I have two dogs, Buddy the Troll and Pippin the Giant Hairball. They both have their issues: Pippin got a warning last month from the Animal Control Department for terrorizing the elderly neighbor with his midnight barking. Well, actually it's not really midnight, it's more like 8pm, since our elderly neighbor has lights out at about 6pm, and hates to have her beauty sleep interrupted when Pip barks at the evil cat who lives next to the evil, er elderly, neighbor. Anyway, his bark is loud and annoying, so I bought a no-bark collar and so far the Animal Control people are mollified. Soulmate is devastated about the collar.

Buddy's handicap, on the other hand, is lack of intelligence. I don't mean that he is short on intelligence, I mean he has none. His previous owner, a good friend of mine, called him "number 76" after reading a listing of doggy intelligence by breed. I think German Shepherd was number 1, along with Border Collie or something like that. ShihTzu as a breed was 76th (probably out of 76 breeds, I'm not sure). Our nickname is "the Troll."

Today was another proof of his complete lack of cerebral function. We put up the Christmas tree 3 weeks ago, and Soulmate was delighted to see Buddy "pet" himself by rubbing against the lower branches. Never mind that ornaments routinely hit the floor, he was just so cute. All that vacuous cuteness came back to roost this afternoon.

I got a call from Marcus, one of the students living with us this semester, who heard Buddy barking (actually he was croaking, literally). He went into the living room and the noise got louder. He looked under the tree, and there was Buddy, hopelessly stuck in the tree with a string of lights tightly wound around his neck. Marcus had to unplug the lights and cut the wires to extricate him. Seconds later, the tree is dark and Buddy is looking for supper.

It's not clear whether he has suffered an anoxic brain injury, and I doubt if we'll ever know. Anoxic brain injury is usually diagnosed by noting a decrease in cerebral function after the event, but since Buddy has never really exibited any discernable cerebral function in the past, we can't really tell any difference.

Soulmate frequently tells me how smart she thinks Pippin is, to which I usually reply, "he's pretty smart for a dog, but that really isn't saying much." Even Soulmate, with all her anthropomorphizing optimism, can't invent intelligence for a Troll.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The late Arthur Cragle

One of my brothers found this military picture of my Dad on a web site from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. This was after he enlisted but before he got posted to Greenland ("the Toolies" he called it, which probably came from Thule, Greenland, which may be the name of a cool bike rack, but in his mind was just about the end of the world).

He was a pretty cool guy, and one of the two or three most important (positive) influences in my life. Pictures like this bring back lots of memories which I'm still processing. For now I'll let my thoughts get organized or I'll be blubbering all over the place.

Thanks for the memories, bro'. I tend to spend most of my time thinking about the future, but remembering where we came from is just as important as where we're headed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Doc sings too

My friend Mike is an elementary music teacher. He's also an excellent keyboard and bass player and all-around good guy. He arranged and recorded a background track for a song entitled "Once Upon a Silent Night" which he and I sang as a duet at church last night. I had my young friend Katie shoot this video from the sound booth in the back of the church, so sound quality is so-so, and there are lots of people moving around (it was during the offering time, which people bring to the front of the church as opposed to some churches where they pass the plate).

I'm the skinnier one, and I sing the high part.

I actually prefer to play the bass and sing back up tenor rather than doing solos and duets in front of everybody, but Mike talked me into this one. I think, just like my bike racing, that I'll keep my day job. DOC'S ADVICE: try to spend most of your time doing what you are best at, but don't be afraid to try something different once in a while.

Sub-zero Skiing

Matt Williams, Ben Nemeth, and I met at St. John's University practice field to do some sweet striding on their trails. They have maybe 10 miles of beautifully groomed trails with lots of snow (we could use what K.C. got though). Matt inexplicably brought his retriever along in the truck. Maybe he thought he could do sort of a bilathlon hunt or something. Ben Doom was supposed to show up, but he stayed in St. Cloud--too bad!

Ben was a Junior Olympic X/C team member a few years back, and Matt is pretty good on his skate skis, so they quickly left me and my classic skis behind. I saw them a few times, but stayed in my own happy place for almost 3 hours. Once again, my hip flexors are gasping right now. I tried taking more video of the trails, but the camcorder froze up completely so I put it back in the car and did another lap.

As I mentioned, Kansas City got dumped on with a load of snow, just in time for Cyclo-cross Nationals. Our local young gun Bjorn Selander took first in an exiting sprint in the U23 (18-22 year old) category. Congrats, young Master Selander, it's clear that you were Bjorn to Ride. DOC'S ADVICE: watch this young man in future installments of Velonews or Pro Cycling or whatever. He's the real deal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Look out shwammy!

My 2008 Giant Anthem Advanced has arrived. Luke has put the finishing touches on the setup, and it is ready for pick up tomorrow. Spy photos to follow.
As most of you know, I'm less than great on the dirt (heck, I'm less than great on the pavement). This baby instantly makes me a better MTBer because the wheels stay absolutely attached to the ground. It's not like the bike floats over the bumps like a '74 Lincoln Continental (my Dad had one of those, and it was smooth as silk), but there's no back wheel chatter like my hardtail has. DOC'S ADVICE: try one of these bad boys out, and you'll be begging your S.O. to pawn the station wagon.

The only way I talked my Soul Mate into this "investment" was that I promised her that, with this baby under me, I would no longer drag my wounded carcass out of the woods after taking another hard fall. SM made me solemnly swear that I would never again fall while MTBing; I promised with my mouth what my body may not be able to keep. I definitely feel more in control on the Anthem, and I can actually stay with Jim Bell (OK, not at race pace) in the woods.
I realize my timing isn't perfect, what with all the snow. Still, it's nice to think about pounding it out at Oar to Shore and Chequamegon next summer on this little baby. Tomorrow I'm going skiing at St. John's U trails with Matt Williams and some teammates. It'll be cold as hoo hoo out there, but better on skinny skis than on the bike. In the words of Mr. T: "I pity the foo..."
I just got back from our 4th major Christmas party in 2 weeks tonight, and last night I tipped the scale at my PR for 2007, so it's time to buckle down and get on with the training plan. It's nice to do most of my hours on the skis right now, and wait with the bike until after the New Year. Before you know it, Daylight Savings will hit (March 9--three weeks earlier this year!), and we'll be riding for 2 hours after work weeknights. Until then, it's either skinny skis at Quarry Park under the lights, or the Revmaster in my basement on weeknights. DOC'S ADVICE: for Doc, keeping it real usually means keeping it fun and interesting. Especially with the hollywood writers' strike, there just isn't much on the boob tube to hold my interest while spinning indoors.
Hope all of you have your Christmas shopping done by now. It's nice to kick back and actually enjoy the holiday season, rather than running frantically around getting stressed. It's funny that during the Christmas season, "peace, goodwill toward men" is in shorter supply than usual because of all the stress of buying presents and whatnot. If you do find yourself in a hostile environment such as the Mall, go to your happy place like Dr. Cox, and think about riding your Anthem Advanced or whatever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas already?

I just noticed a big hit on my VISA card when I checked it in Quicken, so either someone has stolen my identity (good luck to 'em, I say) or I'm getting a bright shiny new something.

Luke, you better call me soon...

Speaking of bright shiny things, I just picked up a Sony HDD camcorder at Best Buy. It was an open box item, but everything was shiny new and works perfectly. So I got exactly what I wanted for our hopefully upcoming trip to China this spring, but with a $75 discount to boot! It's pretty sweet with all the bells and whistles, but better yet (hopefully Beth won't read this) it has an "easy" button which makes it idiot-proof and locks out all the cool features except on-off and zoom. Here's an example; expect more useless, time-wasting stuff in the future:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bike Crashes

Sorry--three YouTube posts in one day is probably illegal, but I couldn't resist. No brain strain here, but you might bust a gut.

Ford Focus and SYNC commercial - rock on

For you hipsters who missed my point in the last video, here's the commercial I was referring to. You might have Tiffany or Michael Bolton on your iPod, am I wrong?!

The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling

I freely admit that my friend Tom and I both had a massive crush on Karen Carpenter back in 1974. I got the Carpenters' "Christmas Portrait" off of iTunes last year, only to discover that I've never really lost that crush. Who can resist that gorgeous alto voice?

For you hipsters who pretend you can't stand this kind of music, grow up! Bet if I voice-activated your iPod (like the TV commercial), the Carpenters would be on it.

This is a slightly corny video of one of my favorite songs from that album. This one's for you, SM!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

This must be the off-season

This is way too good to overlook. Rumor has it that a couple of boys from the Green and Orange crashed the Loon State year-end party and stuck it to 'em in their house. 'Course Hollywood was there stirring up trouble, and put our boys up to it:

In my four years with Loon State (2002 to 2005), I was never able to make the year-end party (my office party is the same weekend every year, and it wouldn't look too good for the boss to miss the big event). I always heard a bunch of trash talk afterwards, but now I see what really goes on.

I've never been one for trash talking, figuring that I better not make promises with my mouth that my legs can't keep. Teddy Roosevelt said "speak softly, and carry a big stick." That's a little ironic, since T.R. wasn't the quietest president we ever had, but that's beside the point.

I won't make any predictions about my own results next season (even though I am on a new secret training program), but I will venture a guess that there will be a lot of wins for the Green and Orange, both in the Pro/1/2 and the Master 35 races next year. The gauntlet has been dropped and the gloves are off. If you don't like it, I'm gonna sic Mean Dawg on you. He'll either pin you or rip your legs off. Just ask Donimator.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I just figured out that my blog is set up to only allow comments from the gentle reader who is in possession of a google account. How snobby of me! Can you Yahoos ever find it in your hearts to forgive me? The same for you AOLs and MSNers as well.

Anyway, in the spirit of the season, I've enabled anonymous comments now, so feel free to FLAME it up. I still prefer to know who is flaming, but if you need to burn incognito, it's a free country.


This from today's Velonews mailbag (on the day that Vino "retires"):

Dope: It's not just for prosEditor:I'd like to be one of the many to reply
to Mr. Keating's suggestion (see Wednesday's Mailbag: You can have fun on
the road, too
) that one can avoid doping concerns by entering local races
with amateur fields.
See, I live and grew up racing in the upper Midwest,
and if memory serves me well, I recall at least three Minneapolis-area riders
over the years who were busted for doping and whose reigns of terror over our
innocent little "local races" certainly grew a healthy crop of cynicism around
these otherwise healthy, fertile lands.
I always looked forward to lining up
with those hopped-up boys from the Twin cities, knowing that their performances
surely would be grand.
Kim WestDes Moines, Iowa

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Diet Coke + Mentos

My friend Michelle just showed me this site. What would you do with 101 liters of Diet Coke and Mentos?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fresh powder, baby!

It hurts so good. Two hours on the skinny skis is a little long for my second outing of the season, but who can blame me for overdoing it with these conditions? Went to the North Loop, saw Kyia (yeah she bikes, but she also skis really fast), and stayed with her for maybe half a lap (until the rollers--I climb worse on skis than I do on the bike, and that's not saying much). At least I got a picture out of the deal. I copped this off of Kyia's blog--thanks, girl!

Yesterday I said I was old school because I vastly prefer classic to skating. After today, I realized I'm not really old school, just old. Man, my hip flexors are tired as whack, as Mean Dawg would say. Tired but happy. Now I'm sitting by my roaring fire near suppertime, trying like anything to stay awake at the keyboard. (And you thought I only bored you with this blog.)

Man, this is the old Minnesota I fondly remember: 12" of snow in the past 4 days, and 6" more expected this weekend. Bring it on--the bike can wait another month or two. This is so much more fun than sitting on my Revmaster watching reruns and movies (though there's a time and a place for that). To my southern friends and neighbors who shiver when it gets below 60 degrees: this is the real deal winter, and it's a blast!

On another note, for those of you who don't share my love of all things Christmas, here's an offbeat offering from Weird Al (sorry, embedding is disabled on this one):

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Triple Santa Faceplant - The Three Not-So-Wisemen

Here's a toast to Mean Dawg and Doug, who just can't wait to get out in the snow...on their bikes! I copped this off of the Bikes-R-Coffins website.

Me, I'm on the X/C classics for the next 2 months or whatever. We have a couple of very nice lighted X/C trails in St. Cloud, so I can actually train out of doors on weeknights without risking my life on the bike in winter traffic. Much respect to Lunatic Biker's winter derring-do, but I put my commuter Cafe Racer up on the hooks until spring.

The winter bike will come out to play with GrandStay on the weekends, though. Special treat coming for Christmas, I hope. I'll fill in the details if and when...

Monday, December 3, 2007



I'm exhausted from the weekend. Not that I didn't have any fun, it just got overwhelming.
Friday night my soul mate went to a friend's house to make cards and scrapbook stuff, allowing Bell and I to have a leisurely evening watching a movie and riding the trainers. We watched Matt Damon in The Rainmaker while Jim pedaled along merrily. I on the other hand warmed up and then ground out a 20 minute full-on TT effort (quality pain if not particularly high power) to gauge my fitness, since today is the first day of winter training (don't ask about it because I'm not talking).

Anyway, Jim went home to bed, and I began to work on the honeydo list. My soul mate is very sweet about it all, but I'm afraid that in general she is vaguely disappointed in me. My intentions are good, and I'm really not that lazy (even though I joke about it), it's just that I'm so lame with stuff around the house. My Father-in-law is a mechanical engineer who built up his company from his buddy's basement into a multi-million dollar firm. He designed and built (with some help) a fabulous hand-scribed log home on the lake up north. He can fix virtually any electrical or mechanical device that is fixable. So SM has reasonably high expectations of me to get stuff done around the house.

Earlier in the week it was the "Christmas letter". I did deliver on that one, but I haven't seen it back from the editor's desk yet, and I expect the font size to be much smaller when I do. This weekend we planned to "decorate for Christmas" which sounds quaint but is about as grueling as trying to hold Doug-o's wheel when he goes to the front. After a pretty hard 2 hours on the bike Friday night, my legs were fried Saturday morning (OK, I haven't ridden much since Chequamegon, so I'm probably a little bit soft). But I knew that Beth was coming back by noon from her girlfriend's, so I needed to cart all the Christmas supplies down from the attic. What commenced was a fairly long, mostly anaerobic stair workout carting inumerable plastic tubs down 2 and sometimes 3 flights of stairs.

Then a friend and I hauled the giant fake Christmas tree in from the garage. Last January I got smart and hauled the thing out to a corner of the garage fully intact with strings of lights in place. I just covered it with a big plastic bag and left it there. That at least saved having to dismantle the light strings, pull the top half of the tree off, and lug everything up to the attic where the rest of the inventory is stored.

Once SM made it back in the snow, she called a friend to come over and help her decorate. I tried to look busy, but sitting at the table poring over a laptop computer apparently isn't busy enough, since there were a few exasperated comments and pleas for help. These mostly entailed going outside to hang stuff from windows and porchlights. "Garlands" I think they're called. Eventually on Sunday I complied, but my garlandary ineptitude led SM and friend to do it themselves, leaving me only to attach small wreaths to the outdoor porch and garage lights.

One thing I did do all weekend that most guys are pretty good at: I kept a roaring bonfire in the fireplace to cheer up the decorators (and their lame lackey). Guys tend to be able to get a fire really roaring, and after putting in enough starter wood to burn up the living room, and lighting it with a satsifying poof, I got an unmistakable uneasy feeling because I didn't really check the chimney very well before I set off the first blaze of the season. Fortunately, no robins took refuge in our chimney, or else the fire was hot enough that it burned them up completely, leaving nothing to block the chimney.

After church on Sunday I headed out to the north loop for an hour and a half of X/Cing on the beautiful new 6" snowfall. It was heavenly! I'm an old classic skier from the 1970s (my first skis were made of real wood--think of it!), so I never took to this newfangled skating. I had a pair of skate skis, but never really liked it and expended way more energy with less to show for it. So now I'm back to the graceful if slow strides of the geezer set. I am what I am. I'm not in this photo but I might as well be.
Once I got back to the house, I was tired and cold. Natch, the first thing I did was to ignite another blaze. Then I sat in the comfy chair next to the fire ("no, no, not the comfy chair!") with my laptop, fully expecting to entertain the masses with another witty blog. Instead, I was overcome by the sweet charms of the flame and ended up entertaining SM and her friend with my open-mouth snoring. Oh well, either way, awake or asleep, people find me entertaining...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Crazy Christmas Kick!

Christmas letter block

December is right around the corner, and I'm sitting here in front of my computer with writer's block. My assignment from the boss lady is to "write the Christmas letter" tonight. Piece of cake, right? Just knock off a few paragraphs somewhat akin to my 5th grade teacher's assignment "what I did on summer vacation". Uh oh, now all I can think of is Cheech and Chong's "Sister Mary Elephant" (don't tell me you didn't listen to that when your parents weren't home--"Class...Class...SHUT UP!!! Thank you...").
Beth says it shouldn't be that hard, just look on our calendar, see what we did this year, and write about it. Let's see, what DID we do? Worked, rode bike, watched movies, read books, went out to dinner, went to church, hung out with friends, went to a few concerts. That's about it. Man, that's just about exactly what I did in 1979 when I was a senior. Not much changes, does it really? DOC'S ADVICE: don't wax nostolgic too long about the good old high school days, or you'll never get the stupid Christmas newsletter done.
Well, OK, a few things have changed since high school: my social life improved 1000% since I got married, I'm 1 for 2 against Greg LeMond now (he kicked my butt in a crit in 1977, but [30 years later] I beat him by 6 or 8 minutes this year at Chequamegon), I'm watching and reading different stuff (but not that different--Lord of the Rings is still #1 on the book list), I can afford better than the "golden arches supper club" for dinner, my friends now have much shorter hair than in the 70s (some have very little hair), and I now bring earplugs to concerts (I am an ear doctor, after all--it wouldn't be too good for you to come see me and ask me a question and have me go "huh?").
Huh. After sitting here for an hour, and then spending an hour trying to fix a paper jam in the printer (I ended up digging out an old dusty printer from the junk closet and going online to find a printer driver for it), I'm no closer to starting the dreaded yearly review. When Beth writes it, it becomes a showpiece of accuracy and completeness, cataloging virtually every activity longer than an hour in length that we participated in during the year. Then she prints it in a number 2 font size so it will all fit on a front and back sheet. Then we send it to our 600 closest friends, and every one of them calls us back to find out if it's done on microfilm or what. DOC'S ADVICE: as we age, our ability to read small print basically evaporates, so don't be embarassed, buy the LARGE PRINT EDITION if you need to.
I'm hoping she won't notice that I'm writing it in size 16 font with only 2 paragraphs per side. Side one: what we did during the week (any given week); side two: what we did on the weekend (again, any old weekend). Conspicuously absent from the newsletter (for the 3rd year in a row): our trip to China to adopt a baby girl. Seriously, next year's edition will be all about that, unless we're too busy actually raising her to write a newsletter at all...
Better go, or she'll figure out that I wasted my entire evening procrastinating. DOC'S ADVICE: don't mess with a woman bent on putting up the holiday finery, or she'll do like this Santa.

Diana Krall-Jingle Bells

For those of you who love Christmas music--me too! For those who don't, tant pis pour vous. Diana Krall is on my iPod A list with her Christmas album and also with her "From This Moment On" album. A new "best of" album has been recently released. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Crazy Mountain Bike Downhill

Matt Williams sent this around a month ago, but I lost it, so I looked it up on YouTube. I'm an MTB newbie, so I've never seen anything like this. I love to bomb the Cheq descents, but this is more like taking your bike down the Drunken Frenchman, moguls included!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

U2 - One

Make a Difference

Reflecting on all I have to be thankful for has made me think about the havenots.

Social consciousness is definitely hip. The media outlets are constantly showing the next big starlet plugging PETA or preaching against global warming. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely for animals and small carbon footprints. It's just hard for me to get excited about Britney's newest cause when I find out that she donates a whopping $500 per month to her favorite charity. That's out of an income of $737,000 PER MONTH. By my math, that's 0.067% of her income for charity. Underwhelming.

I don't really need celebrities to motivate me to lend a hand. Just look around at the needs in our communities, our country, and around the world, and you see lots of opportunities to pitch in. If I did need some motivation, I would look to U2's Bono. I've been a fan of U2 since 1982, when my friend Garth played an LP (that's right, a real vinyl record) of October or Boy or both, I don't remember. I watched Band Aid in 1985 when Bono jumped down like 20 feet to dance with a girl from the audience, and rocked to The Joshua Tree like everyone else in the world. I kind of lost track after Actung Baby when they went glam, but picked them back up with All That You Can't Leave Behind and HTDAAB.

Bono has always been a promoter, and his charitable work is no different. Check out his ONE Campaign--the campaign to make poverty history--and you will find photos and videos of all kinds of celebs wearing the ONE white wristband (above) or the T-shirt. Unlike most of the celebs pictured, though, Bono has spent countless hours volunteering, lobbying politicians, and speaking out against poverty. He spends so much time and effort at it that it has caused problems with the band at times.

Beth and I support a number of causes and missions locally and globally. I may mention one or two in the future if the topic comes up, but my main goal here is to get us thinking about how we can make a difference. One easy and cheap way is to start researching various causes and find out more about what they do, how they do it, and what effect their work has on the problem they are working against. IMHO, not every "problem" is of equal importance. No offense to PETA or Sierra Club, but eliminating death and disability due to poverty seems like a more pressing issue for our attention.

DOC'S ADVICE: check out, sign the petition currently being circulated, and maybe contact your Congressperson and Senators to encourage them to do something about poverty in our country and around the world. Or do something else to make a difference.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!

I usually try to be clever or at least a little ironic in this blog. Hopefully someone out there finds it mildly amusing enough to tune in every now and then to catch up on Doc's advice. Today I am going to be fairly straightforward, though I never know until I'm done typing just what is going to come out. Here's what I'm most thankful for, in no particular order:

1. My health. I'm not the strongest rider out there, but I'm doing pretty well for me, and at 46 years of age, I'm just happy to be able to line up and do the best I can. I started this racing thing 6 years ago strictly to motivate me to follow a training program during the long Minnesota winters. The rest is gravy.
2. My wife. Beth is, hands down, the best thing that ever happened to me. She is my perfect complement, my best friend, and the glue that keeps my life together. I really would be lost without her.
3. My profession. I am so lucky to have a job I love to do, day in and day out. It wasn't always that way of course. Grey's Anatomy, House, and Scrubs have it all wrong; med school, internship and residency aren't as glamorous or as exciting as they portray, just a long hard grind of too much reading, too little sleep, and too much stress. Private practice ENT surgery is much better suited to my abilities and stamina, and I am very thankful for my partners who share the load with me.
4. My family. I'm spending the week with my older brother and his family in Houston. My Mom is in a nursing home nearby; she'll be coming over for the afternoon. My younger brother is in Dallas with his wife and little boy, and my youngest brother is in the Seattle area with his 4 wonderful kids. On Beth's side, my in-laws and Beth's sister and her family are in the Cities, so we see them a fair amount. All of them are good company any time, but especially during the holidays.
5. My friends. If you are reading this, you are probably one of them. Thank you for your friendship. Cycling is not really the focus of what we do together, as far as I'm concerned. It's much more about people of like mind coming together to multiply the joy of participating. If in the process of racing I have offended you (and I probably have), forgive me. I'd rather fail miserably at racing if it let's me succeed in friendship with you.
6. The rest of my life. Prosperity, a great country (with all its faults), education, opportunity, a stable economy, personal safety, chances to influence and develop future leaders, a business that helps support the families of 50 employees, free time to pursue hobbies and friendships, freedom of speech and religion, a great city and neighborhood to live in, great neighbors, our dream house (10 years ago it mostly gave me nightmares during renovation), two funny dogs and a bunch of big fat goldfish, and the hope of hearing a little girl's laughter in the near future.
7. Jesus Christ. I'm not usually a preachy person, but most of you who know me reasonably well know that I'm fairly "religious". I would prefer the word "devout" even though the two words mean essentially the same thing, it's just that the word "religious" has developed a darker, more fanatic connotation. Anyway, I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to Father God except through Him. Today especially I am thankful that He died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and imperfections, and gave me the gift of salvation and the hope of eternal life with God. If you have accepted that gift, be thankful; if you haven't, you can if you want. 'Nuf said.
8. Whatever else I missed that I really ought to be thankful for. A grateful heart is the foundation for a healthy life, IMHO. DOC'S ADVICE: find something to be thankful for every day. It can't hurt, and it might save your life someday.

Tomorrow's blog: who knows?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

E! Houston style

Umm, if you were looking for Girls Gone Wild, sorry--this is a family-oriented blog. If you want that sort of thing, you'll have to find Skibby's blog (warning: tasteless).

Here in Houston, I don't have to leave the house to be entertained. I can't recommend yesterday's entertainment, er addiction, since I took a lot of heat over wasting most of the day on Rubik's cube. Here is a sampling of what else is on the docket:

First, there's X-box 360 (currently out of service), X-box, GameCube, and Nintendo 64. Most of these are way too advanced for me, since my nephews can smoke me in basically any game we play. Right now they are into Guitar Hero II and Rainbow 6 Vegas on X-box 360. I fancy myself a bit of a musician, since in real life I play a 5-string Carvin bass reasonably well, but I worry about trying Guitar Hero II since it involves holding down buttons with your left hand and clicking on the strum bar with your right hand. Extra points for using the whammie bar on longer notes.

Then there are the wiener dogs, Ringo and Cotton, who are thoroughly entertaining day and night. Movie night every night on the home theater (playing tonight: Spiderman 3), multiple computers, musical instruments, baseballs to throw, golf in the garage (a net) and in the back yard (usually whiffle, but occasionally the real thing just to break the monotony). My nephew Caulin has a large iTunes library, so we get a custom CD to listen to almost every day (yesterday was Earth, Wind, and Fire; today is classic rock anthems like Toto, Boston, Kansas, and Aerosmith).

For you Cirque du Soleil fans, we even get a taste of the diabolo from La Nouba, contortion from Kooza, and hand balancing on canes from Varekai. Don't believe me? Watch this:

That was my 11 year old nephew Kyle, who is a gymnast and budding Cirque performer. We took him to La Nouba at Disneyworld 3 years ago, and he was mesmerized by the Diabolo act. He bought the DVD and a diabolo (a sort of horizontally spinning top that can be thrown from a string held between two sticks), and by the end of our week at Disneyworld, he had memorized the act. Since then, he has been to 6 other Cirque shows, and has learned parts of 3 other acts. This particular video shows part of the hand balancing act from Varekai. DOC'S ADVICE: if you haven't seen Cirque (where have you been?), go! Or come to Houston and watch parts of it for free.

Since there's so much entertainment around, I haven't had much time to set up my secret training plan for the year, but I'm almost done. Sorry, if I told you any more, I'd have to erase your memory (remember that Haitian guy reaching for your face like he does in Heroes?).

Tomorrow: what I'm thankful for...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How To Solve A Rubik's Cube Easily

Watch this to see just how "easy" it is to solve this diabolical puzzle. Argh!

I did it!

Doc finally conquered the feared Rubik's cube. It took me all morning. I even had a cheat sheet. It still took me all morning, and 2 cups of strong black joe. You probably think I'm an idiot since it took me all morning to solve it, or maybe you think I'm an idiot for spending an entire morning of my vacation trying to solve a $2 puzzle. Either way, it appears I'm an idiot.

Semantics alert: skip this boring stuff it you are not really into words. Idiot comes from Old French from Latin from Greek "idiotes" which is derived from "id" which means "one's own" or "private". Sigmund Freud used "id" to describe our inner spoiled brat. It evidently meant "layman" or "private citizen" who greek leaders apparently felt were ignorant. Turns out our modern leaders generally feel the same about modern voters.

The hints on wikihow read like an algebra textbook, so it took me a while to figure them out, and then I kept turning the back face clockwise when it was supposed to go counterclockwise, so I would finish a move and the cube would be randomly scrambled again. I got a little testy with Beth, so she headed out for a pedicure and told me to call her when I was in a better mood.

Anyway, my nephews have been waiting all morning for me to finish so we can actually go do something together, so I guess I'd better clean up and try to accomplish something useful today. Like shopping for more $2 puzzles to waste time on. It's 12:30 and I've had exactly 2 cups of coffee, so I'm not only testy, I'm starved. Time to call Beth and fake a better mood so I can meet her for lunch. DOC'S ADVICE: if you have an addictive personality like Doc's, whatever you do, don't pick up that old Rubik's cube collecting dust in your game closet.

Go here to watch a 3 year old solve it in 2 minutes. Then you, too, will feel like an idiot.

Go here to watch a guy solve it one-handed in 20 seconds.

I'm exhausted. Tonight is Spiderman 2.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The police - Every breath you take

I don't know why, but looking at Ian's picture made me think of Sting in the video of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. It might be a subconcious fear of not having enough breath to go around on training rides. I doubt it's because I'm worried that any teammates will be watching me, since I'm more likely to be behind them than in front...

80 degrees and no bike!

Greetings from sunny/rainy/sunny/rainy Houston! Beth and I flew down (not on the P-51, unfortunately, but my brother and I are big fans) on Saturday to spend the week with my older brother Dave and his family. My Mom is in a nursing home down here as well, so I'm hanging out with the old folks most afternoons. The suspense is almost unbearable during bingo, which my Mom never misses. In fact, if I go there to visit while she's still playing, she waves me off so she doesn't lose focus when the competition really heats up. DOC'S ADVICE: leave your Mom alone when she plays bingo; some things are sacred.

It's been either 80 and sunny or 65 and rainy here. I've been running a little and lifting weights (also a little) with my brother, who is in pretty good shape for an old geezer (he turns 50 in March). Unfortunately, he is a golfer, not a bike racer, so their collection of bikes consists of 2 beat up BMX bikes and an antique pseudo-MTB previously owned by my 88 year old stepfather. I think it's a 1986 K-mart model, a true 10-speed hardtail (complete with kickstand). So my title is not technically true, but might as well be--I'm afraid to push the old K-mart special hard enough to actually break a sweat, so I just take joyrides with my 11 year old nephew to the video store.

Speaking of which, we scored the Spiderman triple feature DVD box set for $25! Purchased, not rented. My nephews and I plan a triple, so get out the popcorn and pull up a beanbag, cuz Toby, Kirsten, and Co. are the big draw tonight. I've seen 1 and 2 but not 3, so don't be writing some lame comment that gives it all away or I'll send the style police after you.

My brother just pulled up with my Mom in the truck, so it's time to find out just how well she cleaned up in bingo today. She's just settling down to watch I, Robot with Will Smith, so I think I'll join her.

BTW, the big news is that we have a new teammate: Ian Stanford, formerly of Abercrombie & Fitch, has decided to make the jump to the Green and Orange. Welcome, Ian! Glad to have another TT stud to make my legs scream on training rides. How does that old saw go: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? DOC'S ADVICE: Doc better make sure his affairs are in order in case he doesn't get stronger...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Born to Run 1980's

My most recent addition from iTunes is the Bruce Springsteen essential collection. This video is from back in the day when I was a big fan. Haven't seen much of the Boss lately, but Born to Run still has it for me. Only U2 (another huge fav!) could fill an arena with this kind of energy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shouts and Secrets

Shouts to my homeys:
1. Doug-O has decided to make GrandStay his choice for all his bike racing needs. He will be wearing the Green and Orange on the road and CX (as usual) and now on the dirt as well. Even though anyone who knows me realizes that me and dirt just don't mix (dirt always wins, as evidenced by my Cheq crash and a broken rib), I have to say it was weird seeing Doug in red and white at Cheq. I almost didn't recognize him until he put the hammer down on the asphalt coming out of Haward (come to think of it, that was right before some guy went down in front of me--but that wasn't Doug's fault). I didn't so much recognize him as much as I recognized the usual searing pain in my legs whenever I race with him. DOC'S ADVICE: it's better to race with this guy than against him.
2. New cat 1s (fairly new, at least): Micah Moran, Matt Williams, Dan Casper (the friendly Ghost), BK "Big Kahuna" Koeneman, and (earlier this fall) Chia (Chachi) Kung. Chachi has relocated to Shanghi, China for the year, where he is already showing a clean pair of wheels to most of their racers (especially since it's so dang flat around there, eh sprinterboy?).
3. Casper the Ghost has locked up the CX 35+ CRY award in a runaway fashion. The Swanson brothers, Micah, Matt, and Charles Jacobs have all done the Green & Orange proud as well.

I'm currently getting killed with meetings and busy clinic and surgery schedules, so I'm getting basically no time on the bike or in the weight room. That will all change December 1 when my new training year officially starts. I don't think I'll do a 60K ride like Miguel Indurain always did on Dec 1, but I will start my program. I have seen some pretty good improvements the last two years: in 2005, my last with Loon State, I was a cat 4 mostly competing in Masters 4/5 events, and doing OK (I got 2nd overall in the tour of 10K in 2004). Since then, I've cat'd up to 3 in 2006 and to cat 2 this year after several good finishes, including 2nd overall in the St. Cloud Omnium for the Master 35+. I also finished 4th in the ROY standings in the same field. I was able to stay in the mix pretty well even when the 35+ers were mixed with the Pro 1,2s.

Anyway, I'm going to make a few secret modifications to the program I've done the past 2 years (I am a doctor, afterall), and see if I can come out of the chute next spring even stronger. The only glitch might be a welcome one: Beth and I are hoping to hear from the Chinese authorities as to when we will be adopting a little baby girl from China. If that happens I will definitely be interrupting my training for a while (yes, Fat Chad, I watched what happened to you). But even Painman has come back stronger than ever after a baby came into his life.

Speaking of meetings, I'm late for a board meeting, so I'll post this and fix it up later...

DOC'S ADVICE: Go Green and Orange!

Monday, November 12, 2007

How to Charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion

Ever wonder what to do with that sticky, half-empty bottle of gatorade after a ride? Wonder no more!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Honey, look how much money we saved!

This is a supremely happy face. This is also a face that makes me supremely happy. This is the face of my best friend and life partner (going on 25 years!) participating in dim sum at Yank Sing near Market Street in San Francisco. Props to Red Lantern for recommending this unique culinary experience.

Semantics alert: boring stuff to follow. Skip to next section unless you give a rip.

Dim sum is Cantonese for "from the heart" or "to your heart's content." It is part of the traditional Chinese tea, Yum Cha (lit. "tea drinking") that descended from Silk Road teahouses that catered to weary travelers, and describes the process of ordering a la carte from waiters who offer one or several appetizer-sized servings of all kinds of delicacies. Every couple of minutes one of Yank Sing's many wait staff would appear at our table with a small plate of something delicious and offer it to us. Only a fool would turn this stuff down, so after a few minutes our table was piled high with pork dumplings, szechuan chicken, prawns with candied walnuts, shimp toast, wok-seared green beans with a spicy sauce, lettuce wraps, pot stickers, chicken satay with peanut sauce, mango pudding and traditional egg custard tart. Funny, though, there wasn't a grain of rice in sight anywhere...

Whew! I'm full just thinking about it all. We are definitely skipping supper tonight. Unfortunately, I'll have to skip quite a few suppers to make up for all the eating we've done this week. Jimmy, I'm going to need a couple of epic weekend rides to burn off these calories!
Oh, and the title refers to a little side trip we made to Loehmann's on Sutter and Kearny near Market Street. This is basically a high-end T.J. Maxx (I pray there are none in Minnesota). We were just going to pop in there and check it out, but 4 or 5 hours later, we had used up our last afternoon in S.F. Truth be told, I wasn't that put out, since I scored a couple of sweaters, 2 swizzy shirts, and a long scarf. Beth got a really nice purse (Longchamps, the same brand as the one she bought in Paris 2 years ago), jeans, sweaters, and a dress. It was raining outside, and a trip to bike shops or Alcatraz didn't hold the same magic it did a few days ago.
We added it all up, and, if you believe the "compare at" price on the tag, it appeared that we had saved lots of dough, but as far as I could tell, we spent a lot more than we saved. Feminine economics always eludes me. Oh well, Beth is mincing around with her new purse and a supremely happy face, so that's enough for me.

Friday, November 9, 2007

What I learned in school today

My racing Epicure friend, Red Lantern, has alerted me to a couple of S.F. errata from my post 2 days ago: it's Union Square, not Station, and Boulevard Restaurant has a view of the Bay Bridge, not the Golden Gate. I've made the corrections to the post already (forgive me if I'm a little fastidious, but I'm a surgeon after all--you'd want me to be like that). The Lantern has also given me some cool insider tips on places to go in S.F. I didn't know you used to live here, or I would have hit you up for a lot more info. I shoulda known by your urbane air, though, and with you hanging out in France for the summer and all...

I am attending a course called Otolaryngology Update put on by UCSF, and is it ever good! Honchos from all over have flown in here to update the rest of us on the newest research in the field of Ear, Nose, and Throat. Don't go getting glassy eyed on me--I'm not going to start lecturing you on the fine points of septorhinoplasty or radical neck dissection and the use of adjuvant chemoradiotherapy. I want to reassure all of you out there who secretly believe that doctors are really just quacks and all we do at meetings is drink coffee (or worse) and gossip about how bad you looked the last time we saw you in the office (or worse). DOC'S ADVICE: medical meetings are rather boring affairs with lots of powerpoint slide shows and polite applause.

Actually, this was one of the demos we saw entitled "karaoke CPR, or how to really enjoy your first code":

I'm sure I've restored your faith in the medical field by now.

Geek alert: San Fran is being taken over by MIB aliens who have snuck in here for the Oracle convention that starts on Sunday. I've never seen so many pocket protectors since I got my undergrad chemistry degree! 65,000 drunken maladroit software engineers are not a pretty sight, and what with streetcars whizzing by, I fear for their very lives. Good thing I learned karaoke CPR!

We just got back from Hana Zen, a really nice sushi place on Cyril Magnin street that my friend Don Carter treated us to. We basically had one of everything, and even though it was pretty much the first time Beth or I had been in a sushi place, we settled right in. Beth wasn't so sure she would enjoy everything, but she was brave. We started with Miso soup and saki, then warmed up with nigiri sushi of yellow tail, tuna, and shrimp, then went for the uramaki (dragon roll, rainbow roll, california roll, and the house special). By the end, Beth was soaking rainbow rolls in wasabi/soy sauce and slamming them down! We finished up with tempura bananas with coconut and vanilla ice cream.

Konichiwa, sushi! We'll be seeing more of you...but tomorrow it's dim sum at Yank Sing, care of Red Lantern again. Thanks, bro--maybe your engine's not the biggest, but you sure fuel it with the right stuff!