Friday, October 30, 2015

Swing Thought

Back in the early 2000's, I gave up cycling for golf.  I love golf.  But I don't do it anymore.  I like cycling almost as much as golf.  But it has way more physical and mental benefits.

So for the foreseeable future, I'm a cyclist. Again.

This round of cycling has been about diversity.  I used to ride exclusively road, but when I started back up a couple of years ago, I added single track "Mountain Biking" and Cross racing.

Actually, I started in the late fall of 2012.  I decided at that time to start riding in the winter.  That meant using my cross bike.  Yeah, my cross bike.  It was in sorry shape.  It had been hanging in the garage for years.  The chain was rusted stiff. Whenever I walked by it, it would squeak "Oil can" at me.

Getting it all dusted and cleaned off paved the way for the other cycling disciplines.  I rode tranquility and Swanson with the cross bike until I got the 29er.

The 29er made all the other trails more enjoyable.

So even though I think of myself as a road rider, I actually enjoy both mountain biking and especially cross more than road "racing."

I think a fun spirited road ride will always be my favorite, but I'm not much of a fan of races on a road bike.

Road racing is scary to me.  Well, just crits.  But that's most of the road races around here.

And time trials.  The worst.

I think Mountain bike (single track) races are kind of fun, mostly because of the ride itself.  Plus there's the whole "conquering your fear" thing.  I suppose I could apply that to crits, but crits have tremendous crashes at high speeds.  Mostly it's the handling skill I like learning while riding the 29er.

But Cross.  That's just a big sufferfest of fun.  It's always a party atmosphere.  The cheering, heckling, beer handups, stinging ass slaps.  That's as much fun as I've ever had on a bike.

And I'm getting better.  Slowly but surely.

My bike is heavy old steel.  It is not yet the main thing slowing me down.  Not yet ...

I can corner a little braver now.  I can pedal a little faster over bumpy, grassy land.  I can climb steep hills with better balance, etc.

But there's one thing I really struggle with.  It is the toughest thing about cross as far as I'm concerned.

Back when I was a golfer, when I was not practicing my swing, I was meditating on it. I took lessons. Everybody recommends lessons.  The pro can easily correct faults with your swing.  He gives you a new way to think about what you are doing.  He gives you drills to help.

When you are trying to learn the swing, you may have 5 or 6 things going through your mind about how to swing.

Eventually, you will hopefully get that down to one thought.  Then it's not a thought.  I believe it's a trigger at that point.

I learned some important things from golf that I apply to cycling. I have become a better cyclist in the last couple of years than I ever had been before.  The main thing I learned is relaxed muscles move faster than tensed ones.

Of course you have to use muscle to ride fast, but you need to learn to use as little as possible to get the job done.  To be efficient.

I saw a great demonstration of this principle once.  It was a golf video, but it applies.  The instructor showed what it looks like to run with all of your leg muscles clenched at once.  It was a comical, stiff legged hobble, but it illustrated the point.

When I'm climbing well, I'm thinking of relaxing my legs as much as possible.

In golf, my instructor wanted me to get all of my thinking done before I addressed the ball.  Once I set up, I was supposed to just swing.

Some thoughts seemed to help for a while - then they would get stale.  I'd pick another that would be good for a time then -- suck.

These days, I spend about as much time trying to remount my bike (cyclocross) as I used to spend trying to get my swing right.

Every once in a while, I would effortlessly hit that straight 250 yard drive.  No idea where it came from or how to repeat it.

A week ago, I was at Super Secret cross practice (Monday or Tuesday).  Lucas was the only other person there.  I mentioned that I was trying to figure out how to get back on the bike.

He gave me a fantastic swing thought.

About 90% of the time, I stutter step or land so hard on the seat, I'm afraid I'm going to pinch flat or break a spoke.  But sometimes I land so perfectly. So smooth.  Sometimes my feet just attach to the pedals immediately after the landing.  Sometimes.

I've been learning that smoothness in all of the motion helps.

Going only as fast as I can handle helps too.  If I try to go from anything more than a about 5 mph right now -- stutter step.

But I'm getting faster. Little by little.

The problem with swing thoughts in golf and remounting is that you are thinking about what to do.  Not doing.  The thought actually gets in the way once the correct feel is established.

As I've had a few more successful remounts lately, I've noticed they all feel pretty much the same. The more I do this, the more it's about feel and the less it's about thinking.

That's the big problem with trying to explain this to someone.  If you know how to do it, you probably never think about how you do it.  It's all feel.

That's what makes good instruction so valuable.  It's coming from someone who not only knows - but can put it into word form so the student can have a starting point.

When I told Lucas what I was doing, he said "Have you consulted the internet?"

"Not this year," I told him.

He kind of contemplated it for a while and went through the motions real slow, thinking to himself, doing sort of a remount from basically a standing position.

He came back and said to me, "I've heard if you think of sliding your thigh onto the saddle, that's a good place to start."

"I'l give it a try"

Then he went to do a lap or 10.

So far, his suggestion has been the best I've heard.  I've been practicing and it's coming along.  I have only landed on the back wheel twice!

I haven't racked myself at all this year!

Thanks Lucas.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Dead Lay in Pools of Maroon Below

Last night (Sunday) at about 7:30 the doorbell rang.

Since it was 7:30, I was wearing a bathrobe.  Since I'm 50, I was also wearing black socks.  Someday, you'll understand.

Since it's late October, it was completely dark outside.

I couldn't see who was out there so I turned on the porch light.  

It was a tall thin man with a thick dark beard.  He was wearing a fashionable snug fitting sport jacket and slacks.

I had never seen this man before.  He brought to mind a young Gundersen (Hell On Wheels) or that bad guy from "Something Wicked This Way Comes"

I just got into town

We have a problem.

I opened the door a little and leaned out to hear what the mysterious stranger had to say.  I felt vulnerable in my bathrobe and black socks.  I just looked at the man and waited for him to speak.

He looked around.  He was visibly shaken. "We have a problem," he started.

To the best of my recollection, this is the order of my thoughts:

1) Is this some kind of religious freak?

2) What horrible thing has happened to this person that he'd knock on a complete stranger's door for help?

3) He must be extremely desperate.

4) He's going to pull a gun out of his pocket and shoot me.

I realize the last one is kind of silly, but I was very confused.  Then the man said, "I just got into town."

Well that didn't help.  Here's how my theory at that moment went:

So this out of towner was looking for his grandma's house or something and he got lost.  He decided to ask for help - but he has a problem. He said so.  So maybe there's some sort of emergency and he needs to get somewhere and he doesn't know where it is.

So I repeated what he said.  It's something I do a lot when I don't quite know how to respond to something I've heard. It's a stall tactic.  

"You just got into town."


Then a short young woman ran from the driveway to the man's side.  She said to the man, "I'll explain it."

You know how women do that thing?  That "Let me handle it" thing when they think you are going to fuck it all up?  That thing where you've decided you're finally going to take a stand. You tell your woman all about how tough you're going to be.  What you're going to say. 

You think you sound pretty good.  You're pretty sure you're impressing the woman.  

You're not.  They know you.  You are actually just overreacting to some relatively minor incident. You think you can go in bullying and gun blazing because your target has on nothing but a bathrobe and black socks.  But then the woman comes to "explain."

Well - that's what this woman was doing.  It was the first thing from the time I opened the door that I understood.

Well that was emasculating, I thought.  Up until that point, I did not realize this guy had a bone to pick and it was with me.  

This whole time I'd been standing there, this guy had been "confronting" me and I had no idea.  Not until this short woman said "I'll explain" to her hero.

I chuckled inwardly.  We were now brothers, this stranger and I.  I've been put in my place a million times like that.  His journey is just beginning.

Anyway - I looked to the woman for this explanation, but she was just looking down at her Android, scrolling through photos. Oops.  Maybe she should have had the photo ready before she went after Jebediah's spotlight.  I guess she's also got something to learn. Amateurs!

While she was looking for the photo, I noticed the huge black GMC Pickup truck parked in my driveway. It was too dark to get the exact model, but I'm pretty sure it was the GMC Compensator.

That's when Jack walked up from behind me to see who was at the door.

I didn't know Jack was behind me but when the man saw Jack, he said to him, "You might as well stay right there.  You know what this is about, don't you?"

Then Jack started talking, "Well I think I might."

Back the truck up!  What the hell is going on?  So this guy knows Jack and Jack knows who this guy is.

The woman was still scrolling through photos.

Time to edit my confusion story with this new information.

Jack was doing something he shouldn't be doing in somebody's yard and the short woman got a photo of it. Presumably, she is much faster taking the photos than retrieving them.

The man continued to address Jack, "Maybe you should tell your dad what's going on.  Then we'll all know. I think he's pretty confused."

Hold on there, Abraham Lincoln, just because I'm standing here in my socks and bathrobe, my helmet hair all over the place like some kind of Doc Brown ...

What's going on Marty Jack?

"I work my ass off to have nice things," continued the guy on my porch who looked like he was missing out on a barn raising somewhere ...

Then the woman showed me the photo she had been looking for.  It was a couple of pieces of lime green gum stuck to the tailgate of a huge black GMC Compensator.

Jack doesn't chew gum.

"Also there was gum on my driveway!"  Said the tall dark man on the porch.  Really.  He did,  He complained to me about gum on his driveway.  He parked his big huge truck in my driveway to complain about gum on his.

"Oh yeah ... Where's the photographic evidence of the gum on the driveway?"  I thought to myself.

At this point, I was no longer concerned.  I knew jack had nothing to do with this guy's problem and even if he did, they had pictures of the gum on the truck. Not someone putting it there.

I'm still not sure why the gum on the driveway was mentioned.

"Jack," I said, "If you know anything about this, please tell us.  This is expensive."

I only said that because the guy was so upset.  It's gum on a truck.  I don't know.  I wouldn't like it if someone put gum on my car.  I wouldn't like it at all.

And if I knew who did it, I might let their parents know.  But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't take pictures of it. Oh yeah - or care too much.

But then my car is just a car. Not an extension of my manhood.  Nobody wants gum stuck to an extension of their manhood.  Period.

So when I said to Jack, "This is expensive," The NBA Hipster said, "That's an understatement."

First of all, no it isn't.  You park your truck that you wish was your penis in my driveway and correct my English?  Geez.  Now I want to put gum on your driveway.

Understatement.  Was I supposed to say "Really really expensive?"

So now I was irritated.  I had been listening to "we have a problem" for a few minutes and now he's going to correct me on how I talk to Jack?

Mad or not - I now realize I'm dealing with a douchebag.  There I go again. I mean "a really really douchebag."

All this drama about gum on a truck.  And a driveway.

That's when Jill walked up and said, "Jeremy!  The short woman's name! Come in! What's going on?"

"Oh, hi Jill."

Turns out the mystery man lives across the street from us and 4 or 5 houses to the North.  I didn't know that.  I never go that way.  All the cool people live to the south of us (obviously).

Errrrrt!  He lives just down the street there?  He just got into town?  

Hipsters are lazy (understatement).

I realize that Jeremy is not technically a hipster.  No self-respecting (is there any other kind) hipster would drive such a monstrosity as the GMC Compensator, but since I'm 50 and wearing a bathrobe and black socks, I can get away with the occasional generalization.  He had a beard.  Therefore: hipster.

So - Hipsters are lazy.

If the gum thing happened while you were out of town, then you didn't take your truck out of town.  

Why drive to my house from 4 houses down? Unless you want to show me the gum on your truck.  But no, shorty has photos.

You are just lazy.  You do not work your ass off.  You sir, are a liar!  I am now convinced that you actually put the gum on your truck yourself.  You were chewing but your mouth got tired.  You decided to throw the gum away, but the trash container was far, etc.

Lazy hipster.

So anyway Jill took over.  She went outside and talked to Jeremy and whatsername while I went downstairs to read the twitter or something.

Jeremy recounted the story to Jill.  Apparently he originally suspected the girls that live across the street from him. However, when he went over and asked them about it, they said the boys who did it went over to our house.  Case closed.

By case closed, I mean I figured out why Jeremy works his ass off.  He's a moron.  Work harder, not smarter, eh Jeremy?

So you asked the little feral children across the street from you about the gum.  I bet they were blowing lime green bubbles at you when they told you the boys down the street did it.

I later found out that one of the kids came to his house a couple of weeks back and told him she was collecting for a school fundraiser.  He gave her $20.

She wasn't.  She does that to all the new neighbors.


This whole thing happened about 24 hours ago so I've had time to consider better ways for Jeremy to open up a dialog with me.  Here's just one example.  Enjoy:

"Hi, I'm Jeremy.  I live in that house down there.  I know Jill real well.  May I come in ..."

To which, I'd cordially reply, "No way! Go back to hell you bloodsucking fiend!" as I produce a mallet and wooden stake from within my bathrobe and plunge the stake deep into the monster's black heart.

Readers of this blog will understand. I didn't get this far by inviting vampires (vampyres) into my home.

I gotta say - it's nice not getting all torn to bits at the end.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


It looks like tonight's post will not be published until tomorrow or Saturday.  For some reason, it is really loud and interrupty in here tonight.  Concentration is at an all time low.

The funny thing is I started writing it on Tuesday.  If it quiets down in here, I may yet publish tonight, but don't count on it ...

Thursday, October 15, 2015


This is my brother's story.  It is not his telling of it.  It is my telling of it.  So if I say "I" I'm talking about me.

I went to Saunders elementary school.  It was k-6.  On the first floor there was a plaque on the wall.  It was an honor roll.  The name "Henry Fonda" was on that plaque.  There were about 12 names total on the plaque - so either it was not kept up-to-date or it was really tough to get on that honor role.

So if that was the Henry Fonda, he went to at least 2 of the 3 schools I went to.  I found a yearbook photo of him at Central one time.

I don't think he went to Lewis and Clark.  They were probably still alive back then, though (not really).

Anyway when I went to Saunders, for some reason they split the fifth grade up between 2 teachers.  One of those teachers also had the fourth grade.  The other had the sixth grade.

Mrs Powers or maybe it was Showers took the fourth and half of fifth.  Mr. Laughlin took the other fifth half and the sixth.

I love the previous two sentences without context.  Completely confusing on their own.  I live for shit like that.

I had Mr. Laughlin for fifth and sixth grade.  My grade was roughly 50-50 male/female ratio.  We were a fairly good class.  Good students in general.  There were enough of us nerds that we were safe from the others.

I don't know how tall Mr. Laughlin was.  He seemed tall to me.  But I was 11.  He was also skinny.  Very skinny.  If I had to guess, I'd put him at 6'1" and 130.  I know that by cyclist standards, that's pretty enviable, but really it's kind of gross.

Anyway, his prominent laryngeal prominence gave him a decidedly Ichabod Crane like presence.

I see nothing wrong with that.  Rawr!

Oh - sorry. Not that Ichabod Crane.
At least my name's not Grafton

So Mr. Laughlin felt pretty comfortable with my class.  We were relatively well-behaved.  He could trust us.  He could tell us anything.

His first name, he let us know, was "Bud."

Ok, whatever.  We knew that.  But what we didn't know was his real first name.  He hated it.  He went by "Bud" because of it.

His real name was "Grafton."

I can hear you saying, "But cube.  Grafton is a fuckin' sweet name.  And Bud is fuckin' lame."

Hey.  It was the 70's.  

Anyway, he told us (the good children of 5th-6th grade 1975-1976) his terrible secret (His real name was Grafton).

At the time, I was thinking it was like Graph paper or something.  It didn't even sound like a name to me.  I understood why he was upset.  We swore to keep his secret.  He was relieved to have been able to unburden himself of his pain or some shit.

My brother is 2 years younger than me.

His class was kind of the "Bad News Bears" of the school.  2 girls.  The rest - rowdy, dirty boys.  Trouble, I tell ya.

No way Mr. Laughlin was going to share his intimate secrets with that class.  He was too busy handing out detentions and assigning chalkboard cleanings.

None of those kids would ever find out Bud's true identity - unless they found out from say, an older brother or something.

My brother had an incredible talent for drawing.  Mostly comic book type of stuff.  

After I told him about "Bud" Laughlin's real name, he realized a secret identity is worthless without a comic book dedicated to that person's adventures.

The comic book my brother made was hilarious.  The artwork was a perfect characterization of Mr. Laughlin.  Skinny.  Thick glasses.  Cape.  Tights slightly sagging at the knees.  Huge Adam's apple.  Flying through the air, etc.

The comic was called "Super Grafton."

As amazing as the cover was, the stories inside were even better.

Back in the 1970's, the prevailing teaching philosophy revolved mostly around cruelty.

The stories in the comic detailed actual classroom events that cast an ironic super-hero light on Mr. Laughlin.  

The thing was brilliant.  All of my brother's classmates couldn't wait to read it.  Especially in class.

When Mr. Laughlin finally got a glimpse of the comic, it was while Steve (my brother) was adding to it.  At first, Mr. Laughlin was impressed by the artwork and asked to see the book.

My brother, gladly handed the book to Mr. Laughlin.  This was his Wonkavator moment.

It took Mr. Laughlin a few seconds to understand what was going on (He hadn't seen the "Super Grafton" cover yet.)

When he realized it was about him, he took the comic to his desk and read the whole thing, sighing from time to time.

He didn't think it was funny.  At all.  He did not laugh once while reading it.

Finally he walked over to my brother and slapped the comic on his desk, "Do you know what your parents would do if I showed this to them?"

"They'd laugh.  I already showed them."

And that's my brother's story.  True story.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Race Report

One year ago tomorrow, I went to the Pearl Jam Concert in Lincoln Ne.  It was a Thursday.  I took the following day off.  It was the best day of the year for me.  A year that included a wonderful vacation with the family to Disney World!

The Tuesday that followed the PJ concert was the worst day I had so far had in seven years at the worst job I've ever had.

The following quote from "Office Space" suddenly became "not funny at all" to me:

 So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.

For many years, I had decided to live with it because the money was good.  That was a mistake.  It was a dead end.  There was nowhere to go.  There was no direction.  There was only darkness.  I had a manager, but I don't know what function he served.  Except maybe throwing his pen down in a rage from time to time for no perceptible reason.  What a dick.

I had tried for years to be assigned to something meaningful.  I like to work.  But nobody seemed to be able to tell me what I should be working on.  If I asked, the standard reply was an angry "You're a senior level person! You figure it out!"

Here's what's immediately ridiculous about that statement:  You're the manager of senior level people and you have no idea what you are supposed to be doing.

Immediately after the worst day I started looking for a new job.  It was late October so everything was basically on hold for a few months.  Then in February/March things started picking up and I got hired at the Mutual.

Five days after I turned in my notice, my Boss's boss acknowledged the fact.  My boss did not speak a word to me or look at me for the whole of my last 2 weeks.  FTG.

Eventually, my boss's boss asked me where I was going.  When I told him, he made a puzzled look.

"By your look, you seem puzzled," said I.

"I am," said he.

"And why might that be," I asked.

"Oh, we just get so many people trying to get jobs from there," He said.

"That must be why we have so many Ex-Mutual employees working here (roughly zero)."

So now I'm 7 months into this gig and I'm still convinced this is easily the best job I've ever had.

Admittedly, it has a lot with the team I'm on.

My manager is truly able to help me understand how to do my job better.  That's a good manager.

So a few weeks ago, I was down in the dome (under it, but the cool kids say "in it") having some lunch. An HR person was escorting a troop of new hires through the area.  I considered yelling "Over here, fish!" and throwing rubbish at them, but then I remembered I wasn't in prison anymore, so I refrained.

Then I saw someone I know in the group.

It was my old Boss's boss's younger brother.  "Hey David!" (not his real name.  His real name is "Matt") "What the hell, man?"

"Yeah I just got hired as a temp worker.  Hopefully it will become permanent."

I think it's permanent now.  Also, I'm happy for him.  He's a good guy.

He told me that his older brother was also trying to get a job at the Mutual.

"Make sure he puts me down as a referral,"  I advised.

Even if he doesn't, I immediately gave my referral to my boss.

"Would he be a good fit with our culture?"  My boss asked.

"Remind me again if our culture values honesty," I'm new.

Served cold.  So true.

The two events of a year ago (Pearl Jam/Worst day) were linked in my mind because they were best and worst so close together.

But without that worst day, I likely would still be there working for the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Instead I will be spending the rest of my days with my buttercup of a job.  I guarantee it.  Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Or could it?

To be continued ...

P.S. I'm just kidding. It's all good™

P.P.S.  Last weekend a bunch of people rode around in circles in the grass.  Some people were faster than others.  This is news to nobody, so there's my race report!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Streaming II

So last week I posted about something.  I don't remember what it was, but I remember not being in the mood to write at all.

Well this week, I'm kind of in the mood to write, so there's that.

Saturday - as I mentioned, Jack and I went to Des Moines for a cyclocross race. My result was just awful.  Depressing really, but understandable.

I'm not too good at cross.  It's the skill part.  I have fairly decent fitness, but I have a long way to go when it comes to learning to make a bike go in anything other than a straight line.

So even though I'm not good at it, If there are some fast straight parts, I can usually gain some ground over what I lose on the twisty parts.

Not last weekend.  There were a couple of straight parts, but seemingly hundreds of tight turns.

Here's the weird part.  This was easily the most fun I've ever had at a race.

Everything about it was just a good time.  Tons of spectators.  A live cover band (that was pretty good) that played all night long.  A bar and grill called "Mullet's" right on the course.

Plus, since I was forced to go slow for all of the turns, the race was not the sufferfest I'm accustomed to with cross races.

So that was fun.

This weekend, the races are at Lake 11 in Omaha.  Lake 11 is still trying to rebrand itself as "Cunningham Lake" #thanksobama, but I bet it's still where teenagers hang out and drink Budweiser, so "Lake 11" is a better name.  Actually, it's not even Lake 11.  It's "Dam Site 11"

If you're really cool, you'll call your buddies up and say, "Hey - we're headed down to dam site 11 to kick back with a brew.  Stop by."

I never got invited to those things.

But anyway - the Saturday and Sunday races are being put on by the new club I belong to.

I used to belong to the Husker Road Club but the GSV guys came in and ... well this is all chronicled somewhere on the fredcube so I won't go into that again.

I bring it up because we have a problem.

Ryan Feagan can't make it to the party.  Ryan Feagan is oftentimes the M.C. for bike races of all disciplines around the area.  And boy is he good at it.  I always enjoy listening to the way he announces races.  He's funny and knowledgeable.  He fills the air with interesting information about all things related to the race or the racers.

He's been doing it for quite some time and has really polished his style over the years.

So the team has been looking for somebody to talk into a microphone during the races.

There have been emails flying back and forth but so far - nothing.

Then last night, David Cleasby jokingly volunteered me.  Then Michelle Cleasby jokingly seconded the motion.

There are 2 things I hate more than most others in the world.

The first one is dancing.

I know there are about 2 or 3 people who read this blog.  If you are reading this, I am looking right at you.  This is your big chance.  You could be the next Ryan Feagan (not actually possible).

All you have to do is show up on Saturday and Sunday and whatever thought comes to your brain, speak it into the microphone.  Simple.

You're welcome.

P.S. I'm not fucking doing it.