Monday, March 31, 2008

Work backwards from the result you want

Someone I know was telling me about her "diet failure" for the day.

"I just got really frustrated working on something and before I knew it I'd eaten a box of Teddy Grahams."

By way of atonement, she was going to subject herself to some sort of high-fiber, low calorie vegetarian food regimen. All well and good for colonic health and general well-being, but too low a levee to hold back the tide of grease waiting to engulf anyone who holds still too long on low ground.

She knows better, and usually does better. But it reminded me that you have to work backward from the result you want, not forward one halting step at a time. Envision the physical condition you want. You want to be lean and muscular? You do not get that way by depriving yourself of calories.

I know that whenever I get anxious, bored or depressed, I snack. I don't apologize for this, and I don't expect to be able to change it. Knowing that about myself, I knew I had to burn it faster to keep up with my intellectual and emotional slumps. I had to find a way to put exercise directly in my path.

Bicycling was the perfect way to make physical exertion a beneficial constant in my life. While the rest of America forgot about the "ten-speed" in the 1980s and devoted itself to greed and consumption, I was out there like an idiot, getting in the way of traffic.

I was just turning a negative into a positive. I lack food discipline. I did the math and developed what some people view as exercise discipline instead. The thing is, getting yourself around without a car is fun more often than not. Discipline sounds so negative, giving up things you like. Screw that! Before you know it you're dead. Have fun now.

I make no claim to be a morally superior person. Quite the contrary. I'm just saying that if a lump like me can do it, anyone can do it. In the process, you can't help becoming a leaner, fitter lump.

I got myself into the Nordic ski business as I explored as many forms of human-powered transportation as I could. When we've got the snow, that's where I spend my time. Change the weather and I'll change activities. I can't ski to work, it's too far. But I have incorporated several miles of kayaking into the warm(ish) weather commute before.

It might be harder to get away with these antics if I had an important job. That's another reason I don't insist everyone do things the way I do. But the basic principle remains solid: think about convenient ways you can add a little exercise, rather than automatically taking the route that avoids all exertion except lifting a car-door handle and turning a key.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Retail is for Idiots

Retail is for idiots. Specialty retail is for the idiots other idiots consider idiots. So why are supposedly powerful and important people getting so wound up over it?

I can't begin to explain the layers of intrigue, insult and manipulation being laid down right now to decide who gets to sell products people barely want and certainly want cheaply to the few people who actually show up for them.

I suppose we distract ourselves from the distressingly large and incurable problems of the world by making such an unholy stench about the trivial ones. Also, the specialty in this case includes equipment for a competitive individual sport, so we get all those competitive egos involved. Since some of the players are titans of finance and industry in their other lives, they like to play to win. Since most of them lack the physical capability to compete at the actual sport, they must browbeat the other participants in the commercial side.

I might be intimidated, alarmed and defensive if I gave the faintest shit. But our team has the advantage of being told we're already doomed. This is not a negotiation. This is much cooler than a negotiation. In all probability, the resolution will make us competitors with a former client, yet the style of our severance stands to give us an image boost. Our opponents can't come out of this looking good unless we really screw up.

Ultimately, of course, it's about what you take to the bank, not how many people like you for various reasons. You could become very popular by putting yourself out of business giving unsupportable discounts.

Because any outcome is fine with us, we can play the game with utter coolness. I believe that's more than can be said for the other side. What the other side loses, they won't really lose to us. We are small. They are large. But they could be devoured by the very thing they hope to gain. It could take them over and consume their identity. They considered that we were too small, and beneath them. But anything grand enough to match their World Class stature will have its own goals and powerful forces to back them up.

This is going to be nothing but fun, except for any heavy lifting we wind up having to do.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Motoring!

Driving these days is like being chased by the hounds of Hell. Or, if you happen to be the aggressor, it's like thundering down on your high horse, cutting the heads off of fleeing, unarmed peasants with your saber.

Since nearly everyone between the ages of 17 and 25 drives like an asshole, and a good percentage take even longer to grow out of it (if ever), there's always a supply, even a growing supply, of drivers who are willing to gamble with your life as well as their own.

Like so many people, I owe a karmic debt because I drove like such a dickweed between the ages of 17 and ...well, let's just say it's a long recovery. At least I know there's a problem.

I can blunt my own aggression by remembering one unbreakable rule:


I may do other mildly annoying things back there as I seek to control my urgency, but the majority of the time I will stay as far back as traffic density will allow. I may HATE how slowly someone is driving, but I hate hassling them even more, because I know how much I HATE being hassled.

It's pretty simple: I try to respect the personal space of drivers in front of me, even if I wish they were going faster. As the best driver on the road, I know exactly how fast we should all be going at any given time. Anyone driving slower than I am is a wuss. Anyone driving faster is an idiot. But as the magnanimous creature that I am, I will have pity on the wuss even as I do my best to frustrate and annoy the idiot.

You are all very fortunate to share the road with me. I accept your thanks. Now keep your distance.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Ponder

When you eat a chocolate Easter bunny, does it transubstantiate into actual rabbit?

Representational snacks like chocolate bunnies, animal crackers and gingerbread people are all a little weird. If you're not supposed to think about the entity represented by what you're eating, why make it look like that?

Kind of surprising that no denomination experimented with Saviour Crackers. But then again, maybe not so surprising.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Snow-covered Spring

Hungry bears must surely be emerging into a wet, white world. Soon the news reports will shift from collapsing roofs to bird feeders ripped apart, garbage raided and maybe even a home invaded. Or maybe under this white quilt they'll raise one eyelid, peer about and hit the snooze bar. I can look it up, ask a biologist or just wait for the news.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Massachusetts Driver Maintains Polite Following Distance

That's right! You read correctly! Massachusetts Driver Maintains Polite Following Distance!

Drivers southbound on New Hampshire Route 16 witnessed an almost unheard-of event as a red Mini Cooper with Massachusetts plates stayed many car lengths behind the small station wagon in front of it, all the way from Jackson into downtown North Conway this evening.

The driver of the station wagon reported that he could barely take his eyes off the rear-view mirror, as he realized he was witnessing something he might never see again.

"He maintained a steady speed and a lavish following distance for many miles," the station wagon's driver said. "Even more amazing was that no one pulled out into the gap or passed the Mini to come up and ride my bumper the way they're apparently taught to do in Driver's Ed."

We can only hope that some citizen captured even a portion of this amazing event on video.

The human race will be fine

Skimming through an old National Geographic I came across a statement a Louisiana fisherman made when asked whether he cared that his harvesting large quantities of a certain kind of fish meant that his descendants would never get to see one because the species would be extinct.

"I never seen no dinosaur, either, and it don't bother me."

A statement like that snaps it all into perspective with its practical simplicity. Who cares what we kill off? Tough creatures will survive and people will eat them. So be of good cheer, kids. You, your children and grandchildren, and many generations to come will always be able to eat rats, cockroaches and each other's flesh. There's no way we'll turn the planet into such a filthy pit that rats and roaches die off. If we do, it'll be so foul that we will have gone already. So any way you look at it, there is no problem. All this environmental concern is a load of crap. It's all in your outlook.

Embrace the future! And start working on recipes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's getting tiresome, but in a way we'll miss it.

Leaning on the house roof

Standing on the woodshed.

Sitting on the garage roof.

The cats won't miss it at all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Need a Cigarette

Boring occupations give addiction a fertile place to start. Back when you could light up almost anywhere, any time, a cigarette provided a welcome sense of progress when things in general might be moving too slowly. Feeding your body and mind an addictive chemical rewards those receptors, creating a sense of accomplishment without needing any real achievement to back it up.

I'd settle for a drink. Something, anything to liven up the tedious wait for quitting time. Hell, give me something illegal, as long as it digs its claws into my brain and lifts me up to a warm, sunny place.

This is the fatal weakness of natural highs. If you get your buzz from exercising and you can't go exercise for a set number of hours, those hours stretch into a bleak desert. I can't submerge into meditation or devote myself to creative projects of my own when I have to remain in the cross hairs for any customer demand between now and our mandated hour of release.

Oh bliss, oh joy. Now someone's bringing in a screaming child. Give him a bottle, dammit. I'm bringing my own, tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Relocating Time

Evening suddenly becomes late afternoon, without the delicious anticipation of the equinox. Like all "wealth creation," it is an illusion. Peter was robbed to pay Paul. It only looks like wealth if you don't happen to know Peter.

In the case of Daylight Relocating Time, morning is robbed to turn evening into afternoon. In many parts of the country people might actually begin their backyard cookouts a month earlier, but around here we'd still have to dig down through four feet of snow to find the back yard. That reminds me of one of Cal's stories that he won't write down.

A local town character we'll call Dickie got a call one winter day from Mrs. Agatha Richworthy down in Boston.

"Richard, this is Mrs. Richworthy. I'd like you to do some shoveling for me at my home up there."

"I don't know who you are," said Dickie, truculently. "How do I know you?"

"Why, Richard, you cut my lawn for me," she said.

"Huh! Well I ain't gonna shovel off your lawn just so's I can mow it!"

True story. True story.

The premature appearance of spring evenings stands in stark contrast to the return to February mornings, groping in the dark to start the breakfast coffee. Under the old regime, Daylight Relocating Time arrived perhaps a week later than it would have been welcome, but it spread the curtains of darkness for me at just the point when I could use that evening dispensation to complete the homeward bike ride safely. And it did it without costing us the hopeful rays of morning sun we'd waited so long for.

Evening light may allow for some recreation and fitness activities after work, if someone's schedule allows for that, but it totally screws people whose time slot falls in the morning. Up yours, Peter. Here you go, Paul.

The shift of light is supposed to save us energy somehow, but who doesn't snap on the lights at home or work, regardless of the light outside? And I don't see how it would alter people's use of heating or cooling. Business and manufacturing hours remain the same. It's rather a meaningless gesture. I await the Department of Energy study results.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Stuff of Legend

This place, over in the Falls, has those snow piles up to the eaves that you hear about in traditional tales of New England in winter. These were formed from what shed off the roof combined with what was shoved off the nearby street and cleared from their driveway.

Today, things are thawing in advance of a storm of mixed precipitation. The heavy rain portion should lead to some interesting and anomalous flood water flowing across the mini-glacial landscape.

To put it all in perspective, the last ice sheet, some 14,000 years ago, stood more than 6,000 feet thick. Our puny snowdrifts are as tiny as a human lifetime next to the eons of geological time. They will still generate an epic mud season. We live in human time, after all.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Living in a snow fort

On February 12, this was dangling off the roof of the tall part of the house.

Glad I grabbed the chance for some domestic alpinism before I had to work 12 days in a row. More snow arrived during that period.
Today, March 3, here's Laurie standing next to the roof on the low part of the house. I have to do a bit of roof raking.

Here she is, bending down to touch the edge of the garage roof.

Hard to say whether we'll get another big load before some of this melts away. The season total could break a record without building up the snow pack any more. Or we could disappear entirely before the middle of April.