Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Goodbye, Big Fuzzy

I learned today that my cat Jasper, whom I left with my brother's family in NY, died this past weekend. He was only five, and I was really excited to see him in a month when we went up. I'll find some pics. His sister (biological, even) isn't sure what to do, as she's always been with him since they were born.

Big Fuzzy was what I called him, and he's now in heaven. We shared some of the thoughest times of my life together, and he was always there, ready to purr, drool, and snuggle. Say a prayer for both of them, and for my nieces, brother, sister in law, parents, wife and myself. I'm devastated, to put it mildly. We all are.

Most of all I can recall the fun we had, and his silly antics. I'll miss you, Big Fuzzy. Love, Dad

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Stars at Night

Yes, the song "Deep In The Heart of Texas" is true. At over 5000 ft and with no artificial light to interfere, the night sky was amazing in Ft. Davis. So that was the amazing part. Well, besides the scenery, the hotel, the food, the prices, and the sheer epicness (is that a word?) of the race. More amazing is that I finished.

Let's just say that I'm happy to have finished, especially after the hillclimb Saturday. I rode a mediocre time trail in the morning, but with the winds and some other things, didn't do too badly. That afternoon we rode the 16 miles from Ft Davis to Mt Locke, the UT observatory. Which is at an altitude of 6790 ft. Thin air, yes. 40 mph gusts, yes. Me struggling due to the extra weight I'm still carrying. Oh, yeah.

Somehow I got up the road, which is crazy steep. I finished 53rd out of 57, I think. All I could do was rest up and hope the road race Sunday would be better. It wasn't. A little over 70 miles, and we gained over 6000 ft of elevation. I'm no climber on my best day, so this was a tough day.

I hung on for the first 40 miles, then got popped off the back. The next 30 miles were spent riding a race of survival. I finished second to last on the stage, and ended up last in overall position for final results at 49th. However, the other guys quit or didn't even start the race. So I'm happy I toughed it out, even if it was the worst I ever felt on a bike and after the race was over.

The rest of the weekend was great, and I'd love to go back. It's really pretty out there, really isolated, and unique. This weekend we saw everything. Wild hogs, skunks, impalas, javalinas, hawks, roadrunners, mountain goats, wild turkeys, the list goes on. Also, staying at the Indian Lodge was quite the find. Check it out: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/indian_lodge/

It's immaculate, friendly, unique, beautiful, and has a neat history. I really want to go back. My friend Trav and his dad who went with me were really impressed. Trav got 25th overall, I think. Maybe 20th. So, next year, I'll go back. I'll also go back in much better shape, because I never want to suffer like that again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Weighing In

The Va Tech shootings are a tragedy. I'm pissed the media are giving so much coverage to it, for it just feeds another psychotic mind out there. that mind now thinks it'll have to top this to get noticed. Instead of giving the event dignity, the media has given it celebrity. But we love tabloids in this country, and this is more of the tabloid mentality.

I feel bad, but a little angry. Bad for the students, angry for the fact that they'll get all the counseling they need, while we as a country can't provide basic mental services for our armed forces. Not much has changed since I was in, and that's another American tragedy.

There's now the gun control debate. Face it folks, if a criminal wants a gun, he'll get one. With as deranged as this individual was, he'd have gotten one eventually. Ask the Brits, they have crazy gun control and the criminals still have them.

I'll address the matter that these students thought they were safe, and thus it was a more traumatic experience. Fair enough. Yet we should all know we're not safe anywhere. Call it the 6th sense of combat that never left me, but I'm always looking, scanning, listening. You should be, too. Play the "what looks out of place game" sometime, it's amazing how much you really can observe.

I'm off to Ft Davis in the mountains for a race tomorrow, so have a good weekend. I hope that all the students get the help they need and recover quickly. We should also hope that our armed forces should be so lucky.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Might as well be speaking Chinese...

Maybe you've heard: China is banning bad manners, spitting, and unintelligible English in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. So I guess the US will be leaving many athletes home...oh, did I say that? Out loud?

It's an effort to present a better public image to the world, and to some extent, it's a laudable effort. Trying to get taxi drivers to at least know some English to help with the influx of fans, hoping businesses will have signs that don't confound people. But there's a problem, and it's that the businesses were given strict guidelines for their signage (a stack of regs that weigh about 2 lbs) but aren't following them. Here are some examples:

A store selling tobacco products advertises: "An Excellent Winding Smoke."

On a billboard, this mysterious message: "Shangri-La is in you mind, but your Buffalo is not." Maybe we don't want more Chinese signs translated. Yet, it's not just the private sector. Look at this gem from the Beijing airport:

On the floor at Beijing's Capital Airport, a sign reads: "Careful Landslip Attention Security." People have the nerve to say our airport security is out to lunch? Or this one, that I'm not sure what it means:

In an elevator, parents are warned: "Please lead your child to tare the life." tare weight is an empty shipping container's weight, maybe the Chinese government is worried the youth of China is leading an empty life? Yet all is not lost. As always, the Chinese governement, that benign body of bureaucracy, has selected an eminently qualified person in the form of Liu Yang, who heads the "Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program" for the city government. In all their wisdom, the Chinese have selected someone to whom English isn't their primary language.

Of course, as the interview went on, I began thinking I was mistaken, especially after reading this statement: "We will pass the message on to authorities in the advertising sector," Liu said. "If English translation is needed it must be subject to the standards set forth in the regulations." Sounds like any English speaking lawyer to me. My confidence restored, I continued.

Much like a Honeymooner's episode, though, you just know what's coming. Somewhere, our Ralph, like Liu, despite all the good intentions, will faceplant into the pavement. And so it began with this quote.

"In the future when we set up new signs in public places in English, we hope all these standards will be followed to avoid more additional mistakes." More additional mistakes? Hello, can I please have the Government Department of Redundancy Department? This is who the Chinese have in charge of the program? It gets worse, as like any good $19.95 TV offer, there's more.

Beijing has 15 million residents, of which supposedly 5 million speak English. Liu backs this up by stating many fall into "low level" English. What exactly is that? According to Liu, this:

"They can have very simply conversations, like: `Who am I? Where am I going?"' Very simply put, Liu, you might be going soon, too. Maybe the US will be able to send all it's athletes, after all. They might even have some, like the basketball team, teach some English. How much worse can it get?

Some of this post consists of quotes from an AP article. No author was listed, otherwise I'd have gladly given credit for the inspiration.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I think I see the end of the tunnel, or is it an approaching train?

Been a bit, it seems. Not much to relay. I did forget to mention that all Subaru's sold in the US are made up by Lafayette, IN, right off I65. Somehow I've survived to this point, but not sure how.

It's interesting when you take a moment to look at your life, and you see how much is really going on. Right now I'm working more than I have in a long time, (another story entirely), trying to get my hair back to a normal color (ask my wife, I just sat there...), work on taxes, get ready for some racing this weekend, and try to figure out our trip logistics when we go back to the northeast in a little over a month.

How do we not go insane? But we don't, and that's the cool thing. Well, to add to all this, today I have a sore nose, throat and ears, plus I ache all over. Guess I'll go eat something and rest. So I can make up for the lost time today by being sick...