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...