Saturday, November 29th 2003

posted @ 10:41 am in [ ]

I just wanted to mention that Lisa and I are at it again. Our new co-blog (merely weeks old) is called Sucks/Doesn’t Suck. We post items that suck and that don’t in equal, Zoroastrian balanced numbers. It’s right here if you’d care to stop by.

Friday, November 28th 2003

Confessions of an all-too-accomplished wiseass
posted @ 12:00 pm in [ - - - ]
Now, I’ve already admitted to the powerful role sarcasm has played in my life, and in the ongoing Things I Suck At (TISA) feature, I’ve even confessed that I can’t always keep sarcastic comments to myself when I feel them welling up inside. I’ve also copped to the fact that I am unbelievably juvenile with the merciless teasing when I’m attracted to someone and don’t feel like I’m allowed to express it.

Now, usually, all this is more or less okay. It tends to entertain myself and those around me, and on the rare occasion when I do actually hurt someone’s feelings, I always apologize and explain my relevant character flaws. However, this time, I’ve really f*cked up. You all know it’s a big goal of mine to live a relatively regret-free life, but right now, about this one f*ck-up, teeming with regret. More regret than I would have, say, walking away from a petting zoo on Pet Sedated Tigers FREE Day.

This big fat regret-infested relationship snafu has to do with someone who has been mentioned several times here, by a few different names. Let’s go with calling him R. I used to have conscious interactions with R a few times a week, and subconscious ones from time to time. I like him very much, and he’s also luscious, so in addition to missing whatever early friendship I might have enjoyed before I f*cked it all up, I also miss the sexual tension. After all, sexual tension is sort of the gravity that holds my universe together, and he was like a singularity waiting to happen. He is also too sensitive a guy to take much of my particular brand of teasing, and I knew that, but hell if I could stop. It was like a sick compulsion.

Now, there are two different brands of regret here: Things I said, and things I didn’t say. Top 5 faux-pas:

5. When asked jokingly if I thought he had a fat ass (what an invitation!), I should have told him that the magnificent ass in question belonged on a dessert cart, but instead I just smiled and said no.

4. When he was explaining to someone else how he didn’t have a very good sense of spatial relations and he said it was just a part of his brain that didn’t work, I should not, while casually strolling by, have said, “Another one?! You should sue.”

3. When told me he was just the boy next door, I should not have said, “Yeah, if you live in a crack house.”

2. When we had a mixup about whether I was picking him up or not one day, he came to the door adorably sleepy-eyed and wearing only a pair of shorts. Instead of telling him he took longer than my grandma to get ready, I wish I had told him that if he kept coming to the door half naked, I would have to show up early and wake him up right. It was there in the multiple-choice wiseass lineup, and I didn’t select it. Instead, I picked the comment that would elicit a more predictable response.

1. I’m sorry. I should have said this a LOT and I didn’t.

Did I mention all the many times he was sweet to me? All the considerateness and coffee-getting, and the time he bandaged my hand after I hurt it… Oh yes, I’ve been a cad. Now I did explain to R at one point that I only knew 3 ways to express affection: compliments, teasing and sex. He doesn’t do well with the first two, and because of the context of our interactions, I didn’t feel like the third was on the menu (or what? I wouldn’t have resorted to being so unbelievably juvenile).

So anyway, now that I’ve thoroughly f*cked it all up, I miss him. Thankfully, I miss the teasing least of all. I sent him an email a while back, apologizing but not explaining my character flaws (which, after all, in this case would be all too telling). I told him about how every time I look at the scar on my hand from where I hurt it and he bandaged it up for me, it’s a reminder of how sweet he was to me and how I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t get a response, and I don’t blame R one bit. I intend to keep working on it, though, gently and patiently. I really feel like I have to make it right, that is, if I can possibly turn off the sarcasm spigot.

Thursday, November 20th 2003

Joanne Pratt Day
posted @ 1:17 pm in [ ]
Tomorrow is Joanne Pratt Day, the second annual. It would have been my friend Joanne’s 33rd birthday had cancer not taken her from us all too soon in July of 2002 while I was away at a conference in Portland, Oregon.

I still miss her, sometimes I think rather selfishly so. Last year, when I instituted Joanne Pratt Day (see November 21, 2002’s posting for details), I was still too immersed in grief to tell you about a really wonderful moment in it all, so I’ll tell you now.

When I returned from Oregon, I called Joanne’s mother because I knew I wouldn’t make the memorial service in time, and because I wanted to offer my support. Joanne’s mother is a pretty remarkable woman, full of nurturing life energy, and she is currently raising Joanne’s little boy, Alex, with the help of Joanne’s large family. We talked about Joanne, and about Alex. She told me that Joanne had really prepared him very well for what was going to happen. Still, the family wanted to make sure he was okay, and to comfort him. Joanne’s mom took him for a walk at one point and asked him how he was feeling. He said he missed her, but he was okay.
“Is it becuase you know she’s in a better place?” she asked.
“Yes, and because she can see now,” he answered.

After that story, I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. Here I was trying to support Joanne’s mom in her grief, and I kinda lost it on the phone. What a wonderful woman she raised, and what an amazing little boy Joanne raised. Her spirit and gentleness live on in them, and in me too.

So tomorrow, on Joanne Pratt Day, I task you with celebrating Joanne’s pleasures, talents and finer qualities. I will be raising a pint to her in a hipster bar with a hot astronomer with whom I recently perpetrated an elaborate and funny prank. Other possibilities include: engaging in joyful artistic expression, especially creative writing or music (you don’t have to play an instrument–singing or listening is good); raising a glass (or a doobie); engaging in saucy flirtation with whatever sort of thing strikes your fancy; spending time with good friends and really enjoying just them; playing with your kids or pets and really savoring it; looking at something from a whole different perspective; or just doing something that feels really good. To me, the glass raising is a key element.

Happy Joanne Pratt Day.

Friday, November 14th 2003

posted @ 10:05 am in [ - ]

[Post-publication note (January 2006): I would just like to add that even though I found Mr. Buchanan utterly alarming on a personal level, I thought it was extremely important and very useful for the students to have the opportunity to interact with him. Not everybody in the political world is going to appeal to you, and there are a whole range of beliefs out there. In no way should my initial reaction to Mr. Buchanan be construed as a criticism of the class; on the contrary, I think it was a terrific experience for the students. Furthermore, I think it is a testament to the quality of the experience of the course that a number of perspectives are represented.]

So the distance learning class is coming along quite well, and I’m really enjoying the experience. Yesterday, though, we had Pat Buchanan as our guest in the class. Now, I’m all about listening to people who don’t necessarily agree with me–dissention is often the quickest route to change and growth, and I don’t have to agree with someone to think their opinion is valuable, or even to like them. But Mr. Buchanan is really quite alarming. In describing the experience to Lisa today, this is how I put it:

“Yesterday, we had Pat Buchanan as our guest in the distance learning class. Sheesh, what a scary dude. I was totally traumatized.” Top 4 most offensive moments:

4. When he compared Judge Moore to Dr. Martin Luther King and said King hadn’t done anything, really, and he got a national holiday. One of the students took him on on this point, asking for Constitutional support for that (insane) comment, and I thought really kicked his ass. Judge Moore, incidentally, is the Alabama judge who just got thrown off the bench for erecting a big ol’ stone slab of the 10 Commandments. I think that would have been okay if he had also offered other primitive legal systems, making it more of a cultural exhibit. But that’s not what happened.

3. When our Muslim student asked about his view on the war in Iraq, and he said that now in every mosque from Mecca to Indonesia, they were telling students to bomb Americans. Suraiya reports that in her mosque, which incidentally happens to be right here in Denver, they are told to vote.

2. When he talked about his ridiculous views on immigration and forced language acquisition, and mentioned Operation Wetback. I really wanted our Hispanic students to kick his ass. Our student who is from Mexico is terribly shy, and when he said that ridiculous crap, her face just kinda fell. It was like the professor and I had spent the whole quarter making that classroom a safe environment in which to express oneself, and this jerk reminded us all that you’re never really safe from hate and ignorance. Not only have all our students earned their places in class, their different perspectives really contribute a lot to the discussion, discourse, and process of the course.

Furthermore, America is a success story of people living together–we’re NOT becoming an uncommunicative polyglot, and we won’t, either. Needless to say, I was personally offended by this, too. My grandfather, not considered white until 1922 when the INS decided Italians were no longer “colored,” fought for his family’s new country at Omaha Beach. Heroes are defined by what they do, not by where they’re from. Anyway, Mr. Buchanan’s family is not FROM here, either. We’re all immigrants, whether our families got here 10,000 years ago or last week.

1. When he attributed Bush “winning” Florida in 2000 to divine intervention in response to his prayers. Apparently God guided the hands of all those people who meant to vote for Gore and instead punched his sorry-ass chad. I guess the God he believes in thinks democracy is basically crap. The man has no idea what a walking monument to irony he really is.

I was pretty effing horrified. One nice consolation, though, is that All The Rest of Us: women and gays and minorities and immigrants and everybody else faaaaar outnumber his bad-$400-suit-wearin’ cracker ass. He will NEVER get elected. I have never used the n-word when not talking about Huckleberry Finn, but I have no compunction about calling Pat Buchanan a honky cracker. I am not fooled by the by-line and full compliment of teeth.

Sunday, November 9th 2003

Training Regimens
posted @ 11:37 am in [ ]
In response to my posting of about a week ago, when I referred to my old cycle training regimen, a few of you have asked about what the rest of it was like, if I’m going to go back to it, etc. So a few answers:

It worked really well for me, so I will probably go back to some modified version of it. At the time, I was anticipating doing several rides that involved a lot of climbing, so one of my goals was to be a better climber. Ideally, it was a 5-day weekly rotation. I didn’t always hit every single day, and some days the thought of doing sprints just made me feel like throwing up, so I did another climb or another regular ride instead. This regimen gave me about 150 - 200 miles a week, depending on where I went, what I focused on, and how much time I had.

* 2 days with standard, regular riding. I used these times to work on something specific, get better at handling a certain piece of trail, or just get the mileage up and get the time down. This was usually in the neighborhood of 2 hours door to door.

* 1 day with climbing. I would try to do about the same amount of time as those two days, but with as much uphill as I could find.

* 1 day with sprints. One minute of pedaling as hard as I could, one minute
winding down (still on the bike). I had to start with 30-second sprints and work my way up. My goal was to engage in this sort of crazy behavior for a full hour, but I don’t think I ever got to more than about 50 minutes. I would usually do this in a more or less closed, controlled environment, like a really deserted road or a loop around a park.

* 1 day of distance. This is the part I felt I was best at, and I would look forward to it all week. I would pick a long-distance route (40 miles minimum) and just ride for hours. Times ranged from 3 1/2 hours to most of the day.

Right now, I’m not strong enough yet to do that regimen, but I could do part of it. The goal these next few weeks is just going to be to get on the bike and put in the time–that’s where the base strength comes from. As I get stronger, I probably won’t use this exact regimen because I’m not all that interested in climbing. I’m also not very good at it, and I’ve discovered that there are plenty of events to do that don’t involve much of it, and I’d rather focus my energies on doing things that I enjoy than dreading the climbing parts of events that aren’t that well-suited to what I do well. I’ll replace Climbing Day with whatever skill I think I need to work on for a particular upcoming event and see how that works out, and there are always a few things I work on no matter what.

One, I’m always working on getting the mileage up and the time down. If I never consulted my onboard computer, I’d just mosey along at about 12 mph, looking at the scenery. The numbers motivate me: go a little longer, now do it faster, go a little longer, now do it faster…

Two, I’m kind of a slow starter. My first couple of miles almost always bite. My pacing isn’t even and I’m fidgeting with stuff getting comfortable. I’ve cut down the fidgeting quite a bit, but it still takes me the first few miles to find my groove. The next 30 miles are great, but I don’t settle into them right away. I’d like to shrink down that finding-the-groove time. I think I can do it to some extent, but I’m also sort of like an Alaskan Malamute in that regard. Huskies and smaller sled dogs are faster but need to rest from time to time. Malamutes will pull anything at a steady 8 miles an hour over any terrain, all day long. But those first few miles are like a garage sale until they find their groove as a team.

Three, I have a funny little break point at the 40-mile day. When I’m getting back into it, 38 miles is not significantly more tiring than 25 miles, but for some reason, 40 kicks my ass. Once I break through that wall and 40 miles is reasonably comfortable, 100 miles is okay too (maybe more–I’ve never gone more than 118 miles in a single day).

The nice thing about this time getting back into it is that for the most part, I feel okay. I was afraid that since I’m in my 30s now, it would suddenly take a lot more work to get where I wanted to be, but that’s yet another myth about your thirties that’s basically crap. It’s no harder than it was in my late 20s, and that a few years should make that huge a difference seems ludicrous to me now. I’m not terribly worn out or anything, I just have to be careful with my hamstring. If I’m too sore and stretching doesn’t help, I give my muscles a break and don’t ride that day. It’s disappointing, but probably a lot less disappointing than reinjuring it and having all those months of frustrating patience with it go right out the window and having to start all over again. I have to be really sure to keep that hamstring warm, and I stretch before and after I ride.

As for the incidental stuff, like what did I eat and what-not, I took a multivitamin and a calcium supplement every day, made sure I got at least a couple of glasses of (lowfat) milk and and lots and lots of water–easily 8 - 10 cups a day outside of my rides. Before I went out on a ride, I had something with both protein and complex carbohydrates in it, I usually brought some kinda fruit with me if I was going to be gone for a while, and I always ate light protein when I got back, like lowfat yogurt or cottage cheese or something. Beyond that, I generally let my cravings direct what I eat.

I think the most important thing I did, though, was to record my progress. I kept careful track of my stats with my onboard computer. Sometimes I journaled a little bit; other times I just kept a spreadsheet with a few short notes. On those days when the training is a struggle, it’s really important to be able to see how far you’ve come. Sometimes it was the only thing that got me out the door the next day.

So this week, I was pretty much on track to break 100 miles–I had three days of about 25 miles each, but I didn’t get the fourth in. Yesterday morning, my hamstring was pretty tweaky, and stretching didn’t help it. Plus, I’ve got a huge pedal bruise on my lower left calf from a near-crash trying to avoid hitting an unleashed dog who was really excited to meet me, and a mysterious sore stiffness in my right wrist (probably I pranged it during the same incident). My body needed the rest, so I didn’t get my fourth day in, or the mileage it would have given me.

This is kind of a case in point: I really wanted to get to that goal, but my hamstring just wasn’t up to riding that day. What’re you gonna do? So I look at my spreadsheet. Mileage and average speed are coming up steadily, and considering that a few short weeks ago, I was happy to get 5 - 10 miles without screaming, the precipitous rise to an average of about 25 miles is pretty good. I spent longer on my bike doing three rides this week than I did two weeks ago doing four rides. And it was even a lot colder this week. I know I’m stronger than I was. What the numbers tell you about your process is more important than a single number.

So next week. 100 miles. I’ll get there.

Saturday, November 8th 2003

posted @ 5:10 pm in [ ]
In reviewing some of my old postings, I realize how morose I’ve become of late. Yecch! Let’s stop that, shall we?

Here’s something lighthearted and fun. I’ve discovered a new delight: platform shoes. I love them because they accentuate my fabulous Amazon-ness and they don’t munch my feet to do it. I like being nine-foot-six, and if I put on a pair of those babies, I can be nine-foot-TEN and still walk around! I always loved the extra height of heels, but as I got older, just didn’t want to be bothered with the discomfort and said the hell with it. But now the thrill of being painlessly over six feet tall is mine!

I always wanted to be at least 5′10″, but I didn’t quite make it (I must have stunted my growth with all that ill-advised behavior). I’m about an inch shy, so pretty much there in a pair of well-engineered sneakers. The extreme of another 4-6 reasonably comfortable inches is irresistable, though. When people ask me if I consider myself a feminist, I usually reply that no, I consider myself more of an Amazon. That statement makes a much stronger impact from a slightly higher elevation, I must say.

Shoe manufacturers must sense that there are Amazons out here just waiting to be Amazonier, because these mega-heels do actually come in my size. Sure, it’s possible that they’re just making them for transvestites, but I can live with that. Really. I know I’ve said unflattering things about 70s revival shoes, but in this case, I’ll recant. I’ve been wanting to wear stilts out in public ever since I got to walk around on those little buckets with strings through them in nursery school. Now I can even do it at work. Makes me wish I had some underlings to stand over. Students just aren’t the same.

Monday, November 3rd 2003

Coming back from yet another career-ending injury
posted @ 7:26 pm in [ ]
Wow, have I ever been falling down on the blogging job! I was working insane hours trying not to lose my house, but now that I’ve lost half my jobs to seasonal and other funding cuts, I have a little bit of “spare” time! I know, I barely know what to do with myself. So when I’m not scrambling for funding, or taking care of little items that have been neglected for months, I’ve been back on my bike.

Those of you who read my postings from December of 2002 know that I tore a hamstring during a dance performance and was laid up for quite some time. Now, I don’t recommend this particular injury AT ALL. It is excruciatingly painful, inconvenient, debilitating, slow to heal, and takes a lot of patience and physical retraining to regain anything like your former mobility. It was weeks before I could sit in, never mind drive, a car. I could only sit in one position, sort of on my left hip, and I walked with a cane for a while. After about 6 months, I was about 90% back to “normal,” but if you’re a dancer or an athlete, that missing 10% really sucks. I still can’t really run too effectively, and I’ve noticed in dance class that, although I didn’t lose much flexibility on the right (the injured side), I lost a LOT on the left because the rest of my body compensated for my injury for several months. It’s been a struggle to bring my placement back to center, and it will take a long time to get closer to symmetrical in my flexibility again.

I’ve also been wanting very much to get back into cycling. I think I’ve mentioned here before that I was drawn to it initially because I have always lusted after ground speed and it’s the one land-based sport where torque=speed. I also became drawn to it because it’s a non-impact sport, and many years ago, I smashed up my knees in a car accident.

I would consider that knee-smashing to be my first “career-ending” injury. I had been interested in a number of sports at the time, and at 14, was just discovering my athletic potential. After the accident where I was the passenger in a Dodge Omni that went head-on into the grille of a Mack truck, I thought I might walk with a limp for the rest of my life, and I gave up on sports completely (and dance, in which I hadn’t yet had any formal training, but already loved) for quite some time. Whenever it was cold or damp, which is pretty much all the time in New England, my knees swelled, ached, and some days felt like they were shattering with every step. I remember a few particularly cold, raw days a even few years later where I used at least one of my crutches. Oof, it sucked.

Still, I consider that accident to have been a rare gift. Getting a sense of my own mortality at such a young age gave me a much better appreciation for the life I could have (even if it couldn’t be one of a professional dancer or fencer). I don’t think I would have tried so many new things just to see if I could do them, or gone out of my way to see new places and meet new people, or taken so many risks just to see if I could do better or do something more interesting, or grabbed at opportunities, or based my whole life philosophy on trying to be fearless and without regret, if I hadn’t gotten a major wakeup call in my early mid-teens.

So several years after the accident, I seized an opportunity to take my first real dance classes in college, even though by most standards, I was unbelievably old to begin dance training. After years of knee pain, dance was terrific therapy, and in a few months, my knees felt like normal parts of my body again instead of barely-compatible alien implants. I considered it another terrific gift and resolved not to take up things like running or skiing, because getting your knees back is a miraculous gift from the universe, and not to be jacked with.

Shortly thereafter, I bought myself a bike, although I rode it only occasionally until I moved to Colorado and became really passionate about cycling. The majority of my dance training, and all of my real dance performance experience, has also happened here.

I consider my more recent hamstring injury to have been “career-ending” as well because, had I been a professional dancer (instead of a mere serious amateur and occasional performer), it would have sidelined me for a season and a half, maybe closer to two seasons total: more than enough time to have been cut from a company and not have another shot at a good role for too long to remain on any director’s mind. Plus, for a dancer, I’m about retirement age anyway–I would pretty much have had to step aside. As it is, I have dance teachers who have watched my progress very carefully, and been very encouraging while gently urging caution. I still have a long way to go to fight my way back to where I was a year ago, and they will certainly help me do that, and more.

Fortunately, my intended career doesn’t require healthy hamstrings, and I’m barely old enough in that arena to be taken seriously, so I haven’t really lost any ground there either. But a serious, long-term injury really changes your life, and changes your head. The hardest part for me was being patient, not overdoing it, being careful not to do anything to tweak or reinjure it early on. Now that I’m getting stronger, I can begin to fight my way back to where I was, and I find I’m much better at that part than the patient and cautious parts.

So a few weeks ago, I got back on my bike. I’d been testing the waters intermittently, seeing how my hamstring felt, being careful not to overdo it. It had been terrible. The back of my right leg felt like an overchewed piece of gum, stiffening and spasming. I couldn’t go very far because it could become very painful at any moment and I’d have to stop right away. About two weeks ago, though, I discovered I could go about 4-5 miles before the pain started to set in. I decided it felt strong enough to start building it up again, so I tried to get a little further. The next week, I broke 10 miles without screaming, then 17 (I got lost that day–there was some quiet but emphatic swearing toward the end–it was a little too far), then 20 miles, then 25. When I was in regular training a few years ago, my standard everyday ride was about 18-25 miles, so I thought I’d level off there to try to do about 25 miles consistently, maybe shoot for a 100-mile week. That’s where I am now, on track for my first 100-mile week in nearly 3 years. I’ll keep you posted.