Archive for December, 2009

Top 3 of 2009

Rooster asked me last year what my “Top 3 of the year were.”  I like the idea; it’s a dense statement of that person’s year.  My top three of this year are processes I’ve incorporated into my life.

Functional Cycling

I think it’s amazing to look back last year, at this time, when I was completing my first 6 months of bike commuting.  As a casual observer you might not notice the outward differences between how much I bike commute between last year and now, but from an inward perspective I see a great change.

Last year, bike commuting seemed like a big deal. As in, a hard-core activity.  Since then, I’ve discovered bicycle touring which catalyzed my love for getting around on a bicycle.  Bicycle touring changed the way I like to vacation: a slow, but moving adventure that throws you into someone else’s community faster and deeper.

I think bike touring changed my view of functional cycling from more of an ego based push to a more inward happiness pull.  Cycling to and fro work allows me to unwind.  It allows me to feel alive with the breeze against my face, the blood pumping through my veins, and the close-up visual appeal of watching the asphalt quickly transform from future to present to past.

I don’t have as much interest convincing people they should try bike commuting. It’s not that I care if you do or do not bike commute.  The thing is I just like to.

Give me bike, or give me liberty.

Dawn Patrolling

I think running on your own motivation is totally possible.  The human brain is a very powerful device.  So much so that I think running is 80% mental with the remaining half just being physical.

Running with others creates a social commitment for those days when you’d rather sleep in or sit around and watch football.  Some people are gifted with the natural drive to go out day after day and week after week training hard, but I don’t think the average person naturally has that gene.

The Dawn Patrol is a group that organically formed from the SoCal Trail Headz.  It’s a group that is entirely inviting and welcoming, with one exception: you need to be at the trail head at 5:00:00am.

Since I’m a half hour commute away, I usually wake at 4ish.  I have not once regretted waking harshly out of my peaceful slumber to run with this group. Actually, I cannot speak highly enough of this group, and I bet they would the same of me.  It’s a natural symbiotic journey together on the trails.

This group was the journey that helped me finish my first 50 mile race this year, set an Absolute Personal Record (APR) in the 50km, as well as PR in the marathon and the 50km.  Not to name drop, but the group constantly gets visited by such incredible people like the Easter Bunny, a leprechaun, Santa Claus, and Super E-Rod, to name a few.  And, the best part of all is that my body is now used to the process of waking abnormally early one to three times a week now!

Home Adventures

As far as project jargon goes, I would say that I am in the experimental phase of home adventures.  I consider a home adventure something of personal growth you experience in your place of temporary permanence.  For me this year, I allowed myself to watch televisiongrow stuff, and gain comfort wrenching on bikes.

There’s still a lot of room for growth — or adventure — in this area.  So, I have that going for me, which is nice.

I ask because I’m interested: What are your top 3 accomplishments for the year?


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Goals for Oten

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

– Theodore Roosevelt

As you can see, that’s a quote from my homeboy sportsman, Teddy.

In 2009, I created three goals for the year.  I’ll recap those as well as my Top 3 experiences of the year at a more appropriate time, like once the year is over.

Now, I look forward to setting direction to ‘010 (Oten).


My first goal is to understand electricity more, with a slant towards renewable energy.  It’s weird to call myself an engineer, considering my lack of knowledge in this field of electricity.  I don’t quite know how, but these are my current interests:

  • installing a generator bicycle hub
  • creating a solar powered device to tell people the sun is out
  • programming a micro-controller with some LEDs or something

My goal is to understand the fundamentals, through a couple concrete projects.  I think it is interesting to read the limitations in solar and wind power.  I think it would be rewarding to get some first hand experience understanding electrical loads and how to physically put the pieces together.


I have a one year goal: from the 2009 Chicago Marathon, to run the Oten Chicago Marathon (on 10/10/’010) in less than 3:10, then qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I have two major races planned to get me there: Surf City Half Marathon (February) and the OC Half Marathon (May) to help the training.  Other than that, I want to keep the amount of racing low.  From what I’m reading, I’m focusing on two workouts during the week: the speed work and the long run with recovery runs sprinkled in there.

The hardest part I see so far is: (1) recovering from a run with less than desired expectations and (2) not talking to all my non-runner friends about how awesome my splits were in the intervals I did 5 days previous.

The first requires grin and bear.  Excuses or not, you need to be able to “lace ’em up again” to fix it.  The second is not so bad, and probably a good exercise in listening (not interjecting) in conversations.

I think it’s a good goal: challenging but possible to bring a 3:35 down to a 3:10.  I think it will be a good experience. . . what’s the point of doing something if you’re not extreme about it??!


I hate planning.  I try to automate things, like saving, in my life  to avoid spending time doing anything close to planning.  However, I think when you budget the surpluses in your life — for me, projects and entertainment — it becomes something more revered.

4 Big Books

One of my interests is to become more pretentious cultured.  Since I started the corporate gig, I usually read a book if it keeps my interest.  Time for reading was easier to make when I didn’t have pressures to always look busy during the day.  Anyway, I want to coerce myself to read some classics.  My first book I picked out is Dr. Zhivago.  I don’t know if this a classic or not, but I think it seems pretentious enough to fit my goal.

That’s about it.

I think the key to goals is creating something concrete, yet flexible.  For, my real goal is not the end, but the journey.

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Evangelize Indifference

Today on my commute, I saw a licence plate: “DIV NAKD.”  My initial thoughts were, “I wonder if the driver might be a SCUBA diver.  Sure enough two feet above the licence plate the sticker with the SCUBA DAN Flag, read “Discover Diving.”

NAUI certified me as a SCUBA diver a few years ago.  I don’t like SCUBA diving.  The actual diving, with Go-Go-Gadget lungs!, is fun.  But for the most part, I didn’t like all the preparation, clean up, and the general energy demands that the “sport” requires, like compressing air, transporting compressed air, sometimes getting a boat ride, and the need for all the gear that goes along with the sport.

I still value the experience.  It was a great way to actively learn about partial pressures and molecular diffusion that bores the average chemistry student, yet becomes suddenly more exciting when “death by nitrogen asphyxiation” is thrown into the mix.  And what better way to determine if you like a sport then to try it out!

Discover Diving.

It made me think: why?  Does DIV NAKD think my life will be fulfilled if I discover diving?  Is it the missing link to nirvana?  Will chicks finally dig me?

Then, I took inventory on my self-applied advertisements.

  • Bee Friendly (with a smiling cartoon bee on it).  Yeah, I’m ok with that one.* My main goal with this is for me to smile, when I see it.
  • Pass Gas (with a picture of a gas pump and a bicycle).  This is probably breaking my above rule to spread the message why have more foreign dependency than we need, if you can help it.  But, I like the implied fart humor, so I’m keeping it.
  • Yes, my bicycle has issues. If you don’t understand this sticker, then show up to any roadie group ride.  You will learn why I like this sticker.

Before this commute, I saw a message of camaraderie, #whyweride.  I decided that I liked this message.  It wasn’t so much, if you don’t ride a bicycle your life will suck.  It was a more: this is why I like to ride a bike.  The difference I see as evangelizing versus leading by examples.

*Although maybe “Bee an Ass” with an evil grin and a big stinger on its backside may bring out more emotions or entertainment, if that’s the end goal.

My next upcoming trip has two goals: alone time for my own reasons and POCAR training.  I’m going to areas people consider remote or rugged terrain.  So far, I’ve heard:

  • Sweet!
  • Huh, sounds like something you would do.
  • That is dumb; you are going to die.

I understand the first two.  I don’t understand the third.  Of the people that make this death statement, ALL of them have less outdoors experience than I do.  I think they might be extrapolating that with his experience, I would die.  (I don’t think he would.)

I’ve heard these statements before.  On one occasion, I learned the most culturally when I did NOT follow the nay-sayers’ advice.  So, I have experience tuning these pressures out.  I seek my own adventures and failures.

Just because you’ve gone down one path doesn’t mean that others should, too.  And, just because you seek to not go down one path doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for others.

So in general: unless you agree with me, I don’t want to hear your opinions.

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Slab City

On the few bike tours I’ve ridden, my elevator speech to the question regarding “the best part of the trip” includes a favorite natural scenic landscape and a fun cultural experience.

On the Turkey Tour, my favorite cultural experience was visiting Slab City.

I like the summary of Slab City is Krakauer’s Into the Wild.

The Slabs functions as the seasonal capital of a teeming itinerant society — a tolerant, rubber-tired culture comprising the retired, the exiled, the destitute, the perpetually unemployed.  Its constituents are men and women and children of all ages, folks on the dodge of from collection agencies, relationships gone sour, the law or the IRS, Ohio winters, the middle-class grind.

And, my favorite visual summary is the school bus converted into a sailboat trailer.

I imagine the resident(s) live in the yacht year-round, roughly half the time on water and the other half on a school bus in the desert.

Here is dre’s map of our Turkey Tour.  Slab City, or the Slabs, is near the far east point, Point F.  From this view, I think the Salton Sea looks phallic.

The Slabs are three miles east of Niland, CA.  Niland is a small town located within a few miles of the Salton Sea with a couple of restaurants, a gas station, a grocery store, and a laundry mat.

I find the amount craftsmanship very interesting in the Slabs.  Not just a sailboat on a school bus, but the way so many people are able to live not only independently, but also communally.

Most people reside in RVs.  Actually, if you look around the internet, it is frowned upon to camp in a tent.  The reason for the frowning is not the more common American housing value but in disposing human waste.  Like other biodegradable wastes, human wastes take much longer to biodegrade in harsh climates like the desert.  Junk waste is actually the biggest problem in Slab City.  There’s a lot of trash from transients, broken down cars, tires, regular trash trash, and dumping from Niland townees.

A part that I found interesting was the amount of solar cells there.  Virtually all of the RVs have renewable solar power.  Around a campfire, I learned the buzzwords in solar power: inverters, modified sine waves, and true sine waves took the cake in addition to the other more traditional electrical words.

I think it’s neat how independent these people are.  They don’t pay “rent” or pay for utilities like electricity and water.  Water is free behind the gas station, bee tee dubs.  In addition to that, the campfire we found included retirees making fun of home-buyers.  I don’t express the thought much because it’s tireless to someone with closed ears, but in society I am apart of the minority that thinks taking a large bank loan, in hopes of “my” housing value increasing is a bad investment.

Note that I don’t say it’s bad to have a house; there are pro’s.  But, I think a loan is a bad investment so much that I view it is as a liability and a speculative gamble which I’m not interested in even if you rent out a room or whatever. (In my opinion, an apartment building is more of an investment than a house.)

Anyways. . . it’s always nice to find your other birds of the same feather to flock together.  It was just a passing comment around a campfire, but it put a little smile on my desert chapped lips.

The community of the Slabs felt comforting.  In our short 24 hour visit, people constantly introduced themselves to us and our claimed patch of dirt in the range of young seniors, middle aged, young adults, and even a boy of about 10 years of age.  We were fortunate enough to make a connection earlier in the bike tour which catalyzed our ability to eat a great traditional Thanksgiving dinner which later led into the campfire.

Even without that catalyzed close knit experience, I think it is place worth spending some time to either winter over, stay a night, or even check out Salvation Mountain during an afternoon of your Southwest road trip.  It may pull you out of your consumerist and isolated housing comfort zone; it may give you renewable energy ideas; you may find cool trash or all the books you want to take home in the library; but, it will help your craving for a shower.

If you are interested in more pictures from the Slabs as well as the rest of the Turkey Tour, check out dre’s picture journal on the ‘book.

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