Sunday, May 25, 2008

before and after...

I've been fighting the urge to cut my hair for some time now. Fighting the urge because, dear reader, it takes a while to grow out ones hair. Mine was longer than average, and there are nice things about longer hair. It is a hassle to maintain: it takes a while to dry, I can't cut it myself, haircuts required all the time...

One of Lauri's finer efforts.

While I love Lauri's work, I was ready for a change. My impulse was to buzz it all off in one fell swoop. But I restrained myself, as I really had grown fond of my shaggier locks. So I hemmed. I hawed. But Wednesday brought the tipping point.

We had an intern start on Monday at my place of employment. A nice kid - well-dressed, well-spoken, confident, capable. Everyone seems to like him, and they are super nice to him as well. He does drag an elephant into every room, however, with his hair. His head is buzzed to 2-3 mm all over, except down a 2-inch wide strip down the middle of the top of his scalp. Here, the hair is 8 or so inches long, and is glued into a wooden-stiff sharkfin on the top of his head.

This mohawk is exceptionally distracting, and while not detracting what-so-ever from his work or personality, has become the center of all conversation around him. The worst part, though, is that no one will ask him about it, or even acknowledge it to his face. So, with Tuesday's big presentation behind me, I knew what I had to do.

Lauri, if you're reading this: I'm sorry.

All told, it took me about 15 - 20 minutes. My roommate helped trim the pesky neck-line. And while mine is not as tall as the intern's, I like to think I have joined him in an unspoken pact - we will not be judged by bad hair. Like the pasted hairs on our heads, united we stand, divided we limply cover the scalp of the world.

We'll see how long this lasts...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

mystery suit...

Today, dear reader, marked an important milestone in my fledgling career as a sales and marketing applications engineer. I presented a summary of some of my work to more than 250 colleagues. While the presentation went smoothly and was seemingly well received, my performance was less intriguing than my attire during my soliloquy.

You see, I was excited to wear my mystery suit.

I should preface this by saying I am a man of simple and undiscriminating taste in clothing. I know what I like, it's usually simple, and I wear it with confidence - but I am far from guaranteeing style or good looks. This being said, I was excited to wear this new suit for the first time - especially for such a prestigious occasion. The suit is a charcoal with light grey pinstripes. A classic pattern in my opinion; ageless in its simplicity and elegance. It has a relatively slim cut, and fits my frame like a well-worn glove. This should come as no surprise - a suit should suit the man, so to speak.

The surprise is this: I have no idea from where this suit appeared.

As I was moving into my new digs about 2 months ago, Tough Cookie and my mother were helping me sort through my collection of rags. After determining about 30 percent of my attire should go to Goodwill, I stumbled upon the fine weaves mentioned above. The trouble was, I've only ever purchased one suit in my life, and it had already been hung up in the closet.

Perplexed, my cohorts in sorting insisted that I try it for fit. Much to my surprise (I have honestly never seen this suit before in my life) it hangs on my frame like a cougar on an unsuspecting frat boy. After a few spins in front of the mirror, I placed the pants and jacket back on the hanger and hung them in the closet.

The conjecture on this suit's appearance in my wardrobe began almost immediately. Was it left behind by a previous inhabitant of this house? Has it followed me from some earlier abode where I unsuspectingly added it to my collection from a closet? Maybe I stole it in a drunken stupor... A quick glance at the sewn-in tag of the right breast pocket gives what may be the best clue: "Englewood Colorado". Both of my brothers were born in Colorado... Maybe it was my Dad's suit and I somehow ended up with it. Thing is - my dad has less taste than I do, and this suit doesn't look 22 years old (to me at least - disclaimer).

I don't know where it came from, or how I got so lucky. But I do know the following: it works with my sweet new white belt, and it makes my ass pop.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

inspiration comes in many forms...

Tough Cookie has been battling lung cancer for the better part of the last 2 years. After the first time she laid the smack-down on the disease, she rode 40 miles in the LIVESTRONG challenge just 6 months after having 2/3rds of her right lung chopped out. This may help provide some insight into her nickname...

Nonetheless... before leaving remission and re-entering into a world of CT and PET scans, Carboplatin, and fighting for her life, she signed up to do this year's 100 mile LIVESTRONG challenge. Now she is not only striving to rid her body of cancer, but planning on riding a century in support of everyone else fighting for their health.

A century is a great accomplishment, even for everyday cyclists, let alone cancer fighters/survivors. I decided to sign up for the ride to support Tough Cookie as well as raise some money for a cause that has made a huge difference in her fight. The thought of begging for the minimum $250 was a little daunting, having never done such a thing.

I sent out an email to a small group of friends, family, and co-workers. Basically anyone who Tough Cookie wasn't asking in her goal of raising $5000. I asked for a small sum, that if multiplied by the number of people on the list, would quickly get me to the $250 mark.

Within 4 hours, I had surpassed that line. I started getting choked up at my desk. I can't really explain how much it means. Watching someone go through this battle is tough, and at times inspiring.

A large part of that inspiration stems from the support people give total strangers. So thank you to all that have donated. In a quick, overwhelming moment, I realized how lucky I am to have myself surrounded by the kindest, most compassionate people on the planet.

Having reached my initial goal, I won't post the link to my fundraising site. But, I will ask that if you are feeling generous, or haven't found a good use for your Pandering-to-the-masses-re-elect-the-Republicans Bush Bucks, or you just want something to write off on your taxes next year, you should help Tough Cookie hit her goal of $5,000:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

function over form...

Form is out these days. My body is road-weary, my belly is a little bigger than usual. This was evidenced most recently while riding with Faticus and the Keg Breaker. There was some snap in the legs, but there was no endurance. One hour into our traipse around Fair Hill and I was cooked. Two hours and I was pretty cracked. At the three hour mark I was shattered. But not that painful, I-hate-riding shattered. I was still smiling, still happy to be out on two wheels and hanging with good friends.

Form is also going out the door with my Spot Brand 29er frame: Which must mean I'm on a new bike:

The Kona does not yet have a nickname.

Function is the word of the day on both fronts. My legs are spinning. They will pedal a bike and take me from point A to B. The Kona rides beautifully - possibly better than the Spot. It just feels more balanced, and I'm using the rear wheel I've always wanted to use.

But I must admit. Form is suffering a little with the loss of the Spot frame. I really like the clean lines of the steel tubing. I really liked the solid white frame with black components. I liked that the Spot was one-of-a-kind (for better or worse). The Kona is a sharp looking bike, but it doesn't have the same panache as the Spot.

Finally, I'll post this because I think it's a good cause and I know how little funding cancers outside of the Boob Cancer world receive. Plus you can win some cool shit.

Please enter early and often, and send along to your friends.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This last month has been a whirlwind tour covering nine time zones of our fair planet. I intend to update you shortly on my worldly travels. First, however, I intend to calm your worries.

Fear not, dear reader, that I have been separated from the beloved Stall #2 at the place of my employment. I am happy to inform you that developing countries – such as California and Italy – have made great strides in both indoor plumbing and personal hygiene. The facilities away from home have been adequate, if not luxurious.

I captured a shining example of such advancements in porcelain technology at the Una Malpensa in Milan. The facilities, shown below, are equipped with more than your standard toilet. Here, and many places in fact, an additional tool is at one’s disposal.

I was perplexed at first, but after some reverse engineering and experimentation, I was able to operate the device. In addition to the attached control interface (which provided a wonderful spectrum of water temperature), the apparatus included a separate bottle of “Intimate Wash” for all of ones cleansing needs.

While I was more than satisfied with the results, I am excited to return to the more refined and technologically sound accommodations offered in Stall #2. Now onto the trips.

First was a venture to the West Coast. My employer required my presence at the Sea Otter Bike Festival in Monterey, so I thought it best to leave a few days prior to the planned event to acclimate to the strange habits of Western US culture. I was joined by Tough Cookie, and together we visited with friends who are currently engaged in long-term field studies in the area.

There were some pleasant discoveries made along the way – a bike ride to Marin and around San Francisco, a visit to Muir Woods, some climbing and hiking, and consumption of local fare and spirits. I was slowed in my exploration, however, by the onset of sever stomach cramps and a case of food poisoning. The bright side was the great amount of field data I was able to capture during 30+ visits to the toilet in 36 hours. Below are some photos of these adventures.

Tough Cookie riding a borrowed bike.

As with deer in the Mid-Atlantic, controlled hunting in the Bay Area could help keep the hipster population in check.

Hot Chicks H2s with Douchebags.

The 'stache had to go.

There was plenty of love at the Sea Otter Classic…

And mannequins with a nice set of... teeth.

I should be collecting royalties somewhere.

After a brief respite at home – long enough to wash some underwear and socks – it was off to the home of wine and hand gesticulation. Again, I was joined by Tough Cookie, who decided to fly out for a rock-star tour of Tuscany and its surroundings.

In three days we visited Cinque Terre, Lucca, Firenze, and Bologna. Guided by a GPS device, whose presence reminded me of friends lost, we navigated close to 1000 kilometers of autostradde, single lane switchbacks, and batshit-crazy drivers in under 72 hours. The scenery was incredible, and the history was hard to grasp.

Tough Cookie returned stateside to allow me to go to work in Riva del Garda - a beautiful place where weight-weenie German cyclists are slowly displacing the Italians so they can test their cross-drilled brake levers on hairy mountain descents. It appeared that the area offered a fair amount of wind-surfing and climbing as well.

I was only able to sneak out for two short investigative rides as most of my field work was predetermined. However, these small explorative missions will probably require a return visit to fully understand the region – I think it has a lot to offer. Some canceled meetings on our final day abroad resulted in some free time to explore both Verona and Venice. The former looked like a nice place to work, while the latter was almost too surreal to soak in. It felt like a strange cross between an amusement park and a Renaissance art museum. Below are some photos of this field work.

Dear reader, take note. When walking your dog in Italy, you do not need to carry a plastic bag.

I stand corrected **shudder**. Most of the scenery was incredible.

My first grey hair was discovered… in my beard.

Tough Cookie the carnivore: tearing flesh from the bone.

Italians are known for gratuitous public displays of affection.

Old stuff.

The only healthy thing I ate during my entire visit.

Dear reader, some advice for Italian travel: Drinking beer in Italy is like jerking off in a whorehouse. Stick to the wine.

In one enlightening moment, I learned that Verona bans almost all things native to San Francisco: hobos, public drinking, graffiti, hobos with dogs, and cross-dressing.

Venice may look soft and friendly…

But don’t let down your guard – a skull made from the armor of knights killed by an unnamed canal-lurking beast.

I apologize, dear reader, for taking so much of your time on a long post. I can only hope it will make up for the recent lack of content, and you will forgive me the surge in blog activity.

The rest of the West Coast pictures.
The rest of the Italy pictures.