Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waxing Pol-sophical

"The trouble with America is that there are far too many wide-open spaces surrounded by teeth."

~Charles Luckman

I ask myself one question since going to Europe more than any:

What kind of freedom do you like?

This is followed closely with another question:

How much change can you handle?

Like anything, I suppose, I can make this as complex as I have time for. Truthfully, in my mind, it comes down to a simple decision. European freedom or American freedom? I don’t know any other to choose from, so those are what I can think about. And they are similar enough yet different enough in the areas I consider most important that as a result it is worthwhile to consider.

European freedom comes with limitations as does American freedom. The difference between the two seems, at first glance, to be one of perspective. But really, when I consider it more carefully, I think it’s only a difference resulting from leadership, historical choices and practicality. Not a greater moral understanding.

I am initially inclined to think that the Europeans are better than the Americans; that Europeans live the way they live out of a greater sense of self as a part of a whole: A sense of community. I am inclined to believe they make the choices they do solely out of a sense of moral obligation as opposed to self-fulfilling need for consumption, which would be the “American Way”. This was my modality while I was in Europe and I held it mostly until the last couple of weeks -- when I felt a shift in my thinking.

In all honesty I did not feel completely “right” in this rationale for why Europe is the way it is. I liked the idea that Europeans did what they did because they were better. It’s kind of fashionable to like Europe this way. This greater-sense-of-good theory seemed like a nice explanation and made me feel more valid in my dreams of moving there. After returning here, to the US, and living with a new perspective in my old lifestyle, I have had the obligation to rethink this philosophy and it has led to some important changes.

First and foremost, Europeans are no different than Americans are no different than Chinese are no different than Africans, etc. Humans will forever be driven by fundamental needs, requirements and tendencies at their basic, primitive level. I do not need to get into those specifics; I think we are all well aware of what drives humans. Altruism aside, we need to survive. Above that basic level I believe we are subject to forces that transcend the humanistic label of “ethnicity”. It has conditioning and history at its core. “What are you used to?”

Second, Europe is older and more mature than the USA. With respect to the attitudes of a country, I believe it is much like a developing person as an individual. An individual who is 80 and has been through several wars—both losses and victories, lost its family due to disease, traveled by foot for much of its life and had friends come and go will probably have a much different perspective than a 15 year old who was put into a nice neighborhood, given a car with gas and insurance, never seen death (or life, really) and did not witness the creation of a family. The former will have reverence for history and the things that have stood the test of time. The latter will look with impatience upon everything that the former respects, if only for the sake of being impudent. History is not respected by those who do not understand it, and those who do not understand it are usually those who do not know it.

Further, if you lived through two world wars and the industrial revolution you probably respect those things that brought about your survival and success in times like the great depression and the Jewish holocaust a lot more than iPods, having your own car, and what the shirt on your back looks like. And so it is with Europe and the USA. Europe is well traveled and 80, the USA is pampered and 15. It is not a viable comparison when dissecting the values and perspectives of the two based on historical “presence”. I am not using this as an excuse for choices; one merely has only to look at any country such as France or England and see that it, too, has been the USA more than once in its history.

This is also in no way saying that Europe is above consumerism. In fact, I argue that they are more steeped in consumption that Americans. The priority of what to spend money on is merely different. The difference lies in what they are consuming and the global implications of this. I can see, now, that the challenges of the present are the lens through which we judge the validity and philosophy of consumerism by a country and its people.

But back to the point: The maturity of Europe and the USA. Europe thrives within its history; it’s a maturity that comes from experience. There appears to be a sense of obligation to maintain some or all of the layers upon layers of personality derived from the mixing of histories and people over time that created some of the places I was fortunate enough to see. In the USA we are swamped with the idea of progress and NEW and FUTURE. We do not have a history to protect and admire, or so we are taught. Old buildings come down because they are ugly or can’t hold enough stuff or people. The fear of earthquake and death draws new building codes and architectural standards instead of learning to make-do with what was there. Certainly some things are warranted for human safety.

Now, walk three blocks in Amsterdam and then walk three blocks in Seattle. Count how many original ANYTHINGS remain in Seattle vs. Amsterdam. Our original caucasion history is barely 200 years old. Before the white man invaded the natives had their own rich history which has all but been exterminated.

Stand in the way of American progress and you might just be wiped out--whether architectural, cultural or financial.

To be continued…

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dr. Lemmings

“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The triathlon season is over, officially. No more triathlons. In fact, the season is so over I have been taking time off from any training whatsoever for the past 2 weeks. (Aside--its weird to be writing this as if I am writing to an audience, when in reality there is NO audience, but I will write anyway.) So now that its been two weeks with no training other than sailing related activity, I am itching to get back to it. Funny how that works.

I felt tired this year. I felt like everything was more difficult than it should be. I wonder if thats because of age? I doubt it. I think 2 years ago I felt the impact of age, but not this year. Perhaps after doing essentially 4 marathons last year including Ironman and the hardest timed marathon on Kilauea I just overdid it. I never really recovered. Maybe everything is just more difficult. That, actually, while ambiguous and rather dreary sounding, is what I believe is the truth.

Everything feels more difficult. Stress has been so high for so long--I sometimes don't know if I remember what it feels like to NOT be experiencing high amounts of stress. School has created a new threshold of stress, and, as in the drawing above, I follow that degree wherever it takes me--even off a cliff. Thats what my advisor and this faculty wants created--a little Dr. Lemming following the carrot they dangle in front of me.

Yes, thats a PhD being tossed just over the head of our hero, there... but fortunately he is so numb to any fear or stress that he just dives headlong over whatever is in his way to get that fucking degree. Sweet.

And, as a result, I have this plan. (Drum roll.)
I am going to work my ass off at school and get as much done as I possibly can until my General exam, which will hopefully land somewhere in December, maybe January. Then I can focus a little more on feeling good during the spring leading up to Ironman. I want to see if I can minimize the stress during training that is not training related.

I have a goal for that little endeavor, and I want to focus on it without feeling like I am sacrificing my school goals. Ultimately, school rules all for me, until I graduate. Its the ultimate goal to get my Phd in the correct amount of time and I really need to devote the necessary attention to it and get it done right.

The sad thing is, as I go along, it feels like I am getting farther and farther from all of the really important kinetics I learned. Its like learning a new language--if you don't use it, you lose it. The real downfall of this program is that we are expected to produce a complete package when we graduate. We design our experiments, we make everything we need for those experiments and then we run the experiments. Then at the end we analyze and write-up and present our data. The really important part for those of us going into industry is the analysis and presentation. The experimental design is also equally important.

But here is what every graduate student and scientist knows, and that I know also, now: The most time consuming and overall exhausting part of all this is the MAKING the things you need for your experiment and then doing the work. The analysis and writing and presentation is such a small piece that you work on it, you focus, and then BOOM its over. What I wish we had was more opportunity to practice analysis. Then, next spring--hopefully my last spring EVER in this wretched place, I could at least feel some peace going into Ironman season that I have the skillset I need. Instead, I already feel this big gray cloud looming over the horizon. This cloud is getting closer and closer, and larger and more menacing. The cloud is the realization that I have a lot of work to do to recapture the really important kinetic background I worked so hard to obtain in the first place. And I can already see the competition between training and school that could happen.

Therefore, I will do what I can to get that done BEFORE training starts.

I will train happy. I will train strong. I will train without the cloud following me around. I will break 11 hours. I will feel good at the end of Ironman, and I will finish with the knowledge that I didn't sacrifice anything school related to get there.

That PhD being flung off the cliff is just a bad dream. Its not the PhD I am getting, its a fake. My degree is waiting for me, safe and sound. All I have to do is grab it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


“Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it.”

~Swedish Proverb

The caption to this picture might be:

Work can be such a bear. A huge bear biting your head off.

The load has fallen and is rushing toward you at increasing speed. The roar is thunderous, but sneaky. Sometimes you can hear it coming before you ever see it, and still not have any chance of getting out of the way. Other times you never know it is there until its too late. The sun disappears, the oxygen thins and you count the moments one by one.

Work overload. Followed quickly by burn-out.

Everything happens for a reason. Even work overload. The situation is usually easier to accept and understand once you are beyond the "thing" that must occur... that's a cryptic way to look at life, but its true. When you are going through hell, keep going.

Hindsight is good medicine, and the foresight to know that the hindsight is waiting is called wisdom. It can be enough to get you through at times. But like the cup I just poured hot tea in, the theory starts soundly enough, and sturdy enough, but in time the leak begins and the integrity starts to fail. The ability to remember that there is a good reason for the approach to burn-out is difficult at best. The ability to keep the faith that all of this adds up to something is at times heroic. Other times impossible.

I feel ultimately responsible for the amount of work I have to do. I have probably not used my time as well as I should have, and I vividly remember hiding from a couple of the things I am charged with doing. Such as approximately 650 gene expression assays. Okay, its actually 672.

But who is counting.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


If you would like to see Lake Stevens Half Ironman pictures
Click Here

If you would like to see Lake Padden Pictures and read Jan's race report:
Click Here

Hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beer Thirty?

Not that I drink this much, but some mornings, like this, its tempting.

"Who taught you those new tricks?
Damn, I shouldn't start that talk,
but life is one big question when you're starin' at the clock.
And the answers always waiting at the liquor store,
40 oz to Freedom,
so I'll take that walk."

~40 oz to Freedom, Sublime

40 oz Archive

And just because its that kind of a day, here are some freebies for you:
Free Ringtones

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Be Sciency.

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."
~Albert Einstein

Today is a busy science day:

1) Remove smelly bacteria cultures getting smellier overnight containing hopefully mCnt2 transporter inserted in LNCX2 plasmid from the shaker and isolate plasmid DNA from the bacteria using miniprep kit. Ooooh, kits are nice.

2) Run a PCR for mCnt2 to check that the colonies are positive for carrying the stupid transporter insert.

2.5) Pull out hair, play free pacman online (

3) Apply antibodies to western blot membrane for mouse Cnt2 and mouse Ent1 using really expensive yellowish liquid to make funny little marks that I can only see on this really expensive scanner and claim its meaningful...

4) Make an agarose gel for wasting the PCR products. Run gel and check results. Swear and make foul face when the gel breaks and falls on floor. Update colony chart to reflect mouse genotypes. Plan to kill mice.

5) Get 1 mEnt1 (-/-) mouse for coworker. Complain that I don't have help with mouse colony.

6-11) Meet with boss.

So sciency.

It doesnt sound like much, right? Ha.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sight of First Love

"Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle."
~Amy Bloom

I woke up and saw you sleeping in the morning light and felt your cheek. Warm like sleep and soft like the morning glow. I held that image as I got on the bus among the people and faces I do not know and never will know me. I remembered the sound of your breathing as I pet the dog and walked into my day.

I drive home and the fumes and clutter of life fill my car. Honking. "What the fuck was that??!" The large black woman yells at the asian couple in a large, American rental that just cut her off. Tension. Heat. I remember your smile in the cool morning water. The feel of your hand in the waves. The noise blur together but underneath is the steady rhythm of your constant, silent forgiveness.

The door opens with a beep and the smell of the rodents in their small ventilated micro-isolator cages is overwhelming. My senses seize as the air feels slow and hot. The sterility of the walls and floor. The sounds of lives, little lives, scratching. Anxiety and desperation. Your laughter over wine on the deck with my family. The way you grab an extra cookie for me without even having to ask. Refreshing feel of wind and smell of forest.

Surrounded, by life. But you still are there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

Walt Disney

Sunday, July 6th was the Ironman 70.3 in Lake Stevens.


5:14:57 34:01 2:40 2:57:47 2:03


I got finished with this race and was slightly disappointed in my bike time. However, I thought about everything that happened and now, instead of feeling bad about that, I feel GREAT about my other two times. For a recap... My friend Brian Kirby and I did this race together. I don't know that he trained much specifically for it, besides a few pool swims, but he has run and biked a fair amount so I knew he could finish fine. As we strolled out onto the dock where the swim start was, at the far north-east corner of Lake Stevens, I was more nervous about myself. Not whether I would finish, but whether I could reach yet another lofty goal: breaking 5 hours for the 3rd time. This was my 7th half, and I have ranged from 4:48 to 5:35. Oddly enough my fastest half time came at the well known and well feared Pacific Crest--not known, as you triathletes from the NW might imagine, for being a PR course. But although I know not to go too hard at this distance before halfway through the run, I still have trouble gauging my output during the bike ride. This year my bike training really wasn't bad, but didn't have the distance I would normally like. Then again, the year after training for Ironman, everything seems minimal.

The early morning: where are my honey buckets?

Brian showed up to ride with Mr. and Mrs. Triathlon at 4:45 ish, and we all piled into my Element for the drive to Lake Stevens. It was a nice morning, very relaxed. Maybe too relaxed.

I have always been the person who wants to arrive early at triathlons. It is bred, I suppose, from all of my early years of racing when the transition areas were first-come first-serve, hence getting there early was necessary if you were actually competing. The morning of this particular race, however, I was not so uptight about the time. I figured its a well organized, major race much like Ironman. Our bikes were put in transition the day before--maybe for that reason I thought we could get there a mere hour before the start? In retrospect, that line of thinking was dumb. The transition area closed at 6:15, our start time was 6:37, and we arrived at 5:35. In between was madness.

Lake Stevens 70.3 is NOT run like an Ironman. Not even close. Its like trailer trash in new shoes. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice race. But wearing the Ironman label, even for a half IM, should indicate the level of quality in the organization. That was not the case.

They did work hard, but the race morning strategy of dump your crap, warm up, dookie, stretch, start did not apply at all. There were multiple stops one had to make -- too few (as in 2) bathrooms in the transition area. No bike exit for warming up. We had to collect our timing chips at the SWIM START, which was nearly hidden from view. Then transition closed so make sure you have the right gear, that you don't crap your wetsuit and off with ya!

Brian and I fumbled around and got the order of events as backwards as possible. Everything I had told him about getting ready for the race went out the window as we scurried around in what felt like a pre-race scavenger hunt.

I finally found my pretty bride and gave her the car keys and told her to meet us at the start area, because they were booting us out of transition. Ugh. Too much stress and it was not even about the race. It was about when will I get to use a bathroom? Finally, finally, we get to the pottie line and make things right. Aaaah...

Why ya swimmin' in the poopy water, lads?

I don't know when it started really getting to me, but at some point during the swim I realized the water tasted eerily like... sewage. Ack, it makes me feel sick to my stomach just remembering it. Yes, I remember getting about a hundred yards out, and distinctly feeling like something was not right. Every time I breathed I smelled it. I tasted it. It was wretched. It disappeared, though, about 400 yards out. Aaah, non-sewage tainted water never felt so good. I sped up. I had left Brian long ago, and I wondered how he was doing. I was reeling in a lot of the wave which had left before mine--we were in orange caps, the wave in front of us navy, the wave behind red. I passed probably 15 navy caps before the turn, and then really stepped on the accelerator as I saw a frothing mess of angry red caps swirling in my direction. I stayed in front of most of the red caps (there were some guys with rooster tails going by, though) and actually found an opportune moment at my fingertips (literally) when I latched onto a red capper going a tad faster than I was. I pushed and got on his toes and passed probably 10 more blue caps, at least. There were not many orange caps around. I felt better, and was really moving well. I thought I might be around 30 minutes for my swim.

Then I tasted the poop. Oh god, my stomach turned and did a half-gainer. I was entering hell again, and the smell of sewage returned with the taste. I felt sick again and couldn't stay with ol' red cap and fell off. So much for my time. Was any one else tasting this? (Yes, I would find out later.)

Finally I arrived on shore. It was not as disorienting as Ironman, but for some reason I was kinda wobbly. Been a while since I swam that fast for that long. Ironman was more of just pure survival. This was actually a pretty decent swim, given the stankiness of the water. 34 minutes. Not too bad. Tummy really upset, though--not a great way to start. I jogged across the cobbly parking lot which hurt my feet (I had to run about 300 yards to my bike) and started thinking about how I am doing. Really, besides the tum-tum, I am fine. I feel good, and I am out of the water before all the people around me in transition. I notice out of the far left corner of my eye that all of their girlfriends/wives were standing there silently at the fence nearby waiting for their athletes. Silent. All of those guys had these really fancy, hot, carbon, sleek looking new bikes. I remember feeling 10 years late for the prom when we took our bikes into transition, and the girlfriends/wives standing around then beaming with pride. Hmm, so a fancy bike doesn't always mean the faster triathlete??? I knew that. But the reminder was nice.

Had the passing thought, though, that maybe I messed up the course or something--historically I am an average swimmer. Lately, my swimming has improved relatively speaking, and its a little startling sometimes.

When the going gets tough, check your brakes.

I fumbled through a very sloppy transition. It was obvious to all watching that I was not in the world's biggest hurry. I dropped things fumbling around in the pocket of my tri-shirt, had trouble getting my bike off the rack. It was comical. In the past I have learned that taking a moment longer in transition in these longer races can make a big, big difference later on. We will see.

My stomach upset as could be I set out on my bike. It took about 300 yards for me to feel like I was pedaling way too hard. I felt terrible. My legs were cooked, but that was impossible. I hadn't done anything to work my legs. I really didn't understand what was going on. I finally pulled over 4 miles into the thing and found the obvious--my rear brake caliper was twisted over and pressing onto my rear wheel. Well, sheesh. No wonder. The guy next to me in transition, one of the ones with the fans standing silently watching me in transition, kept banging into my stuff earlier in the morning. I bet his bike or something else whacked my brakes. Now I made it my personal mission to beat this guy. I will save the suspense: Yes, I beat him.

Brakes fixed, off I go. Now the bike ride should feel easy, right? Well, queasy is more like it. I couldnt eat or drink or ride hard until about mile 25 or 26 when my stomach FINALLY felt normal. I finally felt like I was ready to bike ride. What a difference that makes. I think I felt pretty decent the entire rest of the day as far as my stomach goes. I ate a couple gels and drank some and that was a huge comfort. I was concerned that the heat might come up at any time, even if it was currently cool and cloudy. THAT was a blessing.

I believe the first 26 miles I averaged a pedestrian 16 mph. The blur of fast bikers going by me, as usual, was equally as irritating as the brake pressing thing, but I have learned so many times to LET THEM GO. They usually can't run. If they could, after riding that fast, they would have been in the elite wave. And these guys were "off-the-hook" fast.

Sure enough, I torched the second half of the bike ride. The backside of the course is very hilly but nothing extreme. Its rollers with some AWESOME descents and some nice little turns. Also on the backside is a long straightaway with a tailwind during the race. It was a nice 10 mile stretch of 24 mile an hour aero riding. Sweetness. I passed many people whom had passed me eariler. It was once again proof of my belief in taking it easy and being steady instead of crushing the first half of the bike ride and surviving the rest of the race. I always try to remember there is a long run waiting, as well. I felt good the last 1o miles, but tired. The course changed from what we thought the course was, when Brian, Jan and I had come out and ridden before. They removed a part near the lake and turned it into a lollipop style course with a short out section at the end of which you do two big loops, then take that little short section back to town. Not spectator friendly at all. That little 5 mile out section was also very hilly and had some irritating winds on the way back in to town. My legs were tired. I was feeling good, but I felt a little bit concerned about how much I spent on the second lap of the ride.

I wheeled through town and surprised Jan, hoping to get a good pic, walking along. She wasn't ready and I watched her calculate and finally decide she couldn't get her mammoth camera ready in time, and instead started screaming cheers at me. She is so damned cute. I don't know what I would do without her. I turned that wonderful final corner and got my shoes unbuckled and pulled my feet out. I was so ready to be done with the bike ride at this point, I was excited about running.

Running is fun. Running fast for 13 miles and long hills is hard.

I love running. When I get off the bike and I am standing there at my transition spot, I love the feeling of being pretty good at something and knowing that although I had a tough bike ride, I can still count on a great half marathon. And then I actually start running and remember that I am closer to giraffe than runner in physiology. And giraffe-like is exactly how it felt to start. This was not Ironman, I was not merely trying to finish, I was aiming for a serious time. I needed to get out and take as little time as possible to feel my groove and loosen up. And boy was that difficult. I forced myself into a quick, but easy, pace the first couple miles. I took a potty break and told myself that when I got out I was going to slowly build the rest of this run.

It started getting warm for the first time. The sun was out, and it felt very good. I like racing hotter temps, personally. The aid stations are there and had plenty of everything, but usually during the run how well you started the day hydrated as well as how well you hydrated during the bike ride play a bigger role. If you have to drink a lot early in the run, well, its too late. Should of taken care of business earlier.

I was passed by a woman who didnt seem too much different than me in age, and was only slightly running faster. I decided to keep her in my sights as a gauge. I figured she was doing about 7:40 per mile or so. She pulled away a little, and I found myself struggling to hold that pace. The run has a figure eight kind of thing where you run out one loop which is NOT flat but is misleading in that its long slow uphill drains you and the long slow downhill rests you. I didn't figure out that was why I felt so up and down until the second lap. Going down the long easy downhill of the first half of the first loop I gained some speed and caught up to a different group, still keeping my eye out for my pacer. I held my speed through town, delighted by the screaming of Jan, Amber and Joe cheering me on. When we passed through downtown and came to the long, scary hill I tried to shorten my stride but maintain speed. For the most part it worked and I passed throngs of decent runners succumbing to the heat and hill. I caught up to the woman and stayed with her the rest of the run. Found out later her name was Jennifer and she was cheering on so many people as she ran it was ridiculous how much energy she had. Or seemed to have.

I saw Brian as I was finishing up my first lap, he had just come through downtown and looked good. Tired, but good. He had a really fine first Half IM. I decided to pick up my tempo a little the rest of the way. It was a very difficult second lap, and I saw a lot of familiar faces finishing and heading out. Its a benefit to a multilap course like this--you get to see people often and it doesnt feel so isolated. It was really amazing just how many people there were out there. Just because they wanted to. Mostly the second lap is a blur. I had been running as fast as I could and was very tired. My legs felt pretty heavy but I maintained a quick pace into downtown for the last time. Jan one the side of the road yelling at me to "RUN FASTER, BOY!" so I do. I take off as fast as I possibly can to the finish. I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with my time, but I would be equally lying to say I wasn't happy to have worked through some issues and still have a great run.

All in all, it was a fun day. Racing is always fun; the circumstances that create the challenge are always different and will always be the unexpected part of being a triathlete. I ate way too much pizza after the race and got a very upset tummy for pretty much the rest of the day. Hurt like crazy. I can't blame it on the swim, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Become Triathlete Heart

"Training is what you are doing while your opponent is sleeping in."

~Brian Owen

Triathletes, take heart.

Look to your left and right, and take note of the people you see. Are they like you? Do they shave their legs in anticipation of a race? Do they not only strive for greatness in one sport but in three all at once? Can they swim farther than anyone you know, bike farther than anyone you know, and run farther than anyone you know---in the same day?

You are a triathlete. That makes you different for a lot of reasons.

One difference is your heart. Your heart, as a result of training, is able to provide your body with more blood per heartbeat than the people you see to your left and right who are not triathletes (and given they are not freaks of nature, cross country skiers or rowers). This results in an ECG which you see above. This is my Ecg.

Triathlon induced characteristics include the low heart rate (BPM = 42), otherwise known as bradycardia, and abnormal voltages. These are indicators that you heart, and really your entire body, has, over time from training volume year after year, become a very efficient beast. It sucks the oxygen out of your blood at astonishingly efficient levels. Your heart has more voltage for a more solid beat and stroke. Your heart is strong enough to push blood around your entire body such that it beats less times per minute than other peoples hearts.

Triathletes, take heart. Because of your lifestyle choice, you most likely have lower circulating triglyceride levels, lower overall body fat percentage, and blood glucose that is well controlled. And as a result of these things, the chances of having one of the now typical American ailments is vastly reduced.

But be careful, you might be called obsessed, weird, crazy, or worse. Just look at the people calling you these things and feel bad for them. Count to 10 and realize in that time span, their hearts had to beat almost twice as many times as yours did to keep them conscious.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pay Attention

"Look, I get it; you come home, you work hard, and you turn on your TV... You kind of want to escape a little bit and be taken away by something. Our show required you to pay attention, and if that's not what you wanted to do, then it wasn't going to be for you, and that's OK."

~Will Arnett

How well do you pay attention?
How do you know if you aren't paying good enough attention, if you aren't paying attention to your attention span long enough to know? You know?

I find myself more and more distracted lately. So many deadlines, so many important things, so many fun things--all of them seem to demand my attention. There is a limit to how much I can do in a given unit of time, and generally I will get diminishing quality the more I try to pack into each of those units. Why is it so hard to stay focused on the priority? I have X to get done by the end of today. I A, B, and C which are due some other time. Why do I let the completion and execution of X be muddled by A, B, and C even though they aren't required at the moment?

Its more basic than a work list, though. Its every day life objects. I need to do a certain number of things every day, and mostly I can complete these things on auto-pilot. However, I have a certain number of things I want or need to do each day on top of that daily list, and these things require much prioritization. There are people and things I have to take care of which require attention. But maybe there is a finite amount of attention that can be given?

Additionally, how much can I really accomplish WELL if I am not fully immersed in it. I believe I surely can't get the most out of my life this way. Perhaps its another side-effect of graduate school...maybe its getting older. I don't know.

For now, enjoy this. But pay attention.

Awareness Test

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The future is now... no,, now....

“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”

~Charles F. Kettering

In the future we will have better balance.

This blog makes me feel like the world's biggest underachiever.


Um, yeah

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What Motivates?

"Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean that no one's out to get you."


We find our hero sitting at his desk, a deadline looming. The boss is away, the lab is quiet, and the course of action clear. Never has there been as perfect a time as this for finishing his manuscript and notching another milestone off the list.

But he waivers. He thinks. He is engulfed in an overwhelming, dark pool of apathy.

When the boss returns there will be hell to pay, and he knows this. The "action items" clearly outlined have seen less action than Rosie O'Donnell in a string bikini. Why?

Fear is a good motivator, but is it enough?
Passion is a good motivator, but is it enough?

Why do we get done the things we get done? Are we rewarded somehow? And if so, what is the reward?

George Erdman, the president of EREN Corp, says there are four main motivators:

==> Recognition
People who are motivated by "Recognition" are interested in
respect, admiration, regard, esteem, notoriety and

==> Influence
Those whose primary motivator is "Influence" find power,
control, competition, independence and order to be most

==> Internal
If you are motivated by "Internal" factors, then morals,
duty, intellect, creativity, philanthropy, and honor are
important to you.

==> Profit
"Profit" motivated people strive for success with money,
possessions, acquisitions, wealth, income and growth.

But is it really that simple? I hardly believe I am motivated SOLELY by internal factors, but internal factors are one of my main drivers. I know I love a little recognition, but it doesn't mean anything without feeling like I made a difference and earned it. So what is it that motivates people? Why is it that when the end is clearly in sight, and he knows that all he needs is one concerted, hard effort and he will be finished, he simply can not finish the task? Even the fear of facing the disappointed boss is not enough to stir him to action. Even knowing the weight of his actions. Why?

No, this is not a particular person, but examples from many people I know. It really could be any field, any job, any situation that involves having to seek out some greater power to will ourself into action.

In my search for answers I found this site has some interesting concepts not just involving motivation but some other interesting things as well.

I am motivated to graduate. I am motivated to earn enough money to retire early and have fun while I am still mobile. I am motivated to do good work because I can't stand the thought of being associated with anything less than wonderful and polished.
I am also extremely, extremely tired.

I know no one will comment, because no one reads this except Jan, but if you want I would love to know what motivates you to get through something that feels like there is no reason to do "it" other than just to have done "it".

Monday, May 19, 2008

Victory is a Big Red Bike

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."

~Frank Zappa

We all need some beer. And we got some at the:

WE WON!!!!

My buddy Jeremy Gerking and I entered the Urban Assault bike race thinking it would be a good time. We didn't really consider that we would actually win the thing...

In the morning we were there pretty early; it was obvious from our early arrival, shaved legs, and shiny, high-octane bikes that we were not representative of the typical competitor. We had not the fixed-gear, bland-colored urban machine used by couriers and urban cyclists around town. We had our gear-ful triathlon geek bikes, toe clips and all, leaning ominously against the Fremont Open Theater screen. We thought we COULDN'T win, what with the knowledge of the city so many local bikers would have.

Little did we know we would end up with a pair of brand new bikes specially made by New Belgium Brewing?? It was a unique experience, to say the least, filled with some weird events, weird sights, and hard biking.

I stayed up the night before on the USATF Route Mapping tool, figuring out based on distance and time the best route to take from checkpoint to checkpoint. I figured it was still a long shot at best. When we got to the last mystery checkpoint and heard we were the first there, it became a realistic thought: we might just win this thing.
We hammered as fast as we could go from our final checkpoint, Bike Works in Ballard, back to Fremont, on Market and then Leary. When we arrived we had one last challenge--two laps around a course in a modified, adult sized big wheel. And then it was over. We did it.

Jan met us downtown and was at the finish line and watched us go through our last challenge. It was NOT a run-away victory, either. The second place team was behind us by only a couple of minutes, and it actually came down to a race on the big wheels. When we emerged from the course in first place, Jan was waiting and screamed when I told her we had won.

High fives all around.

Then we drank free New Belgium beer, ate some yummy free pizza and baked in the sun for a couple hours until they awarded us our new cruisers. I took mine for a spin yesterday afternoon--indeed it is a different but pleasant experience.

And now I can say I have jousted from the back of a BMX, thrown newspapers from the basket of a tiny, pink, banana seat bike, been a human wheelbarrow, and raced a bigwheel. All while riding as fast and hard as I could around Seattle with a great buddy. What a great day.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


“Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddhartha; and about nothing in the world do I know less than about myself, about Siddhartha.”

~Siddharttha, from the book of the same name, Page 38.

And this is where, collectively, your eyes roll because Moss is about to embark upon yet another journey through the philosophical soul searching jungle. Oh joy.

Not so fast, jack.

Siddhartha. A "terrific little book" by Hermann Hesse that could probably be referred to in some more esoteric fancy-pants circles as a "Standard" or "archetypal" text that sets a classic and recycled character into literary life. As Heir Gerking put it, at one time or other we are all Siddhartha. In this story Siddhartha plays many parts, indeed.

Right now, I resemble Siddhartha up until and including page 38; he is locked in a battle against his own wits (what a conundrum). What is the point of learning about nirvana when no one has crossed the great barrier between it and mortal life (the pond is deep, but the darkness is shallow)? Siddhartha decides to attempt to lose the Self to attain a new state of enlightenment. And finally, who cares when I don't even know myself? The thinker is confronted with the fact that he can not think his way out of something. At this point in the story, Siddhartha comes to grips with the fact that how on earth can he know how to lose the Self when he doesn't even know what his-self is?

And who am us, anyway?

We're one of you... and you're one of us...I think. Maybe. Possibly.

The interesting part of reading this story is that I just finished reading "A Wrinkle in Time" before it. You know, the elementary school book we all have to read in 2nd grade... or maybe most people read it in 4th grade but I read it WITH the 4th graders when I was in 2nd grade. Precocious little snot that I was. Well, what comes around goes around, because here I am in grad school at 30 with all of the 23 and 24 year olds with giant brains flopping around all the time. Its ridiculous how smart these kids are. And I believe I have a right, now, to call them "kids." The difference between us is...well, several meters wide. Anyway "A Wrinkle in Time" is as deep of a read as you want to make it. I find these days that I can not help but make the Sunday morning comics deep. I manage to eek out existentialism out of the list of ingredients on a soup can for fuck's sake. But "A Wrinkle in Time" was great for me because it is such a childish book on the surface but really has a lot to say. It did not, however, prepare me well for 1922 Hermann Hesse. No sir.

But I digress. You know, I think I am always in a digression, and when I think I am stopping the digression, that is really when the digression begins...

Maybe I have turned the corner, like Siddhartha, and I am now onto a different set of problems. Maybe I have figured out who I am, but being who I am in graduate school took a little figuring of its own. Or maybe I just haven't gotten to the drunken, business, party stage yet.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Soul Finger

"You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body."

~C.S. Lewis

Once again, I haven't written on my blog in a long time. There are a lot of reasons for this. Not excuses, just reasons. I haven't especially felt clever, for one, and I suppose I sometimes convince myself that if I can't write anything clever or funny, I shouldn't write. That right there is what is technically referred to as "bullshit".

The real reason is school. I don't know that I agree with calling it school anymore, because now it is a race. Its The Race. This race makes Ironman seem easy. It makes Ironman seem easy because in Ironman I knew what lay before me, I knew before I signed up, even, what I must do to finish. And once you finished, you did not have to consider anything. Not a thing. At Ironman you finish, feel wonderful, feel like shit, sit down with some pizza you cant possibly enjoy fully and go limp for a few... weeks.

This race that is graduate school is vastly different.

There is no "finish". That is the single most important thing to realize if you consider going to get a PhD in a hard science. The finish is really intangible. The final product is not the end--there is really no final product. The end is a state of mind when you, and more importantly your committee, and the faculty, can see you standing on your own two (too) pompous scientific feet before the world, proudly proclaiming "I am science. Let me be free to spread my science and the gospel of my predecessors thus to the world." More or less they feel that if they let you graduate, they won't be embarrassed. Perhaps more importantly, they now see you as a consumer of their scarce dollars instead of a producer of the rare scientific PK research commodity we produce.

Perhaps what is harder to understand, and vastly more difficult for me, is that at the beginning you are almost--no, you are completely--fooled into believing the drivel that the faculty shovels your way. That this is a very structured, well thought out process that simply involved doing your pieces along the way and then viola--PhD. Not at all. Nope. Nada.

I haven't written because I am a soul. I am a soul with a body with extremely high pressure placed upon it at times. In these times the brain overtakes the mind, and the mind overtakes the soul, and now we find ourselves not standing hand in hand with our shadow self, but looking back over our shoulder at it. The body has taken over because the brain says "hey, this pressure is pretty heavy right now. We are about to crack and YOU, SOUL, are just sitting there daydreaming and twiddling your little toes in the cool creek gurgling by. Soul, I am sorry, but you aren't getting this done."

We can appear soulless. We can even convince ourselves we are a body.

And when that point occurs, apparently, you are awarded your PhD in Pharmacokinetics.