January 31, 2005
A different approach to language learning
Yesterday at lunch was my last meeting with my language partner. Iím really sad to see him go. I'm going to really miss our conversations and friendship. Because my language learning motivation has stalled, I havenít been very productive with him lately. I have learned to do just what is necessary in the language class to get a grade. I realized that doing what it takes to get a grade is what most students do. That is exactly what I thought I would not do. The attitude I approached my classes at the U with was, ďIím on a mission to really learn the language.Ē Except in the classes they teach a series of grammar lessons in a row. I call it Ďgrammar on parade.í Each lesson comes and goes and the students move on to the next, forgetting about the vocab and grammar from each previous lesson until the final exam, at which time they attempt to cram everything back in. The pressure and volume of homework and quizzes throughout the course prevent really learning the material thoroughly. There is little repetition. I vowed that this semester I am getting back to my original motivation and attitudes. That is to have fun with these languages. Iím a lifelong learner and had planned to learn several languages the rest of my life. But I know it can get really frustrating when taking a class, with all the pressures and demands of it. The burden of learning is still on the student, but the methods of teaching modern language courses sometimes resemble the dark ages and could sap the life out of any learning process until itís back to rote memorization. Thatís what teachers know how to test. And even if they want to break from tradition, they are not capable of developing an individual learning plan for each student. Itís not feasible for most instructors to tailor their learning materials and change or develop whole new curriculum when one is not working. Most curriculums are selected and used but that doesnít mean they are perfect or well suited to a particular group of students.
As you might know, Iím currently reading a book called ďHow to think like Leonardo da Vinci.Ē In the book there is a section on learning a foreign language. This material is not new to me, because Iíve read several books on how to learn foreign languages, but it is a fresh reminder to me about how to bring the joy back into language learning.
Here is the advice the book gives and how I think the University classes contradict these ideas of language learning, mainly to show what is missing and what I need to include in my language learning to not only survive the course, but really learn something (keep in mind that their example is for learning Italian, but substitute any foreign language):
∑ ďBe willing to make lots of mistakes. Bambinos do not worry about looking cool or instantly achieving perfect pronunciation and grammar; they just dive in and speak. Your progress in learning will correlate directly with your willingness to play and to embrace feelings of unfamiliarity and foolishness.Ē The University classes discourage mistakes and grade harshly for mistakes. The current classroom process intimidates most students. Especially when there are much more fluent speakers taking the same class as beginning students. Playing with the language and not worrying about making a fool out of ourselves is not practiced in the classroom, where grammar lessons are written on the board and students practice completing the sentences using the grammar. Students feverishly write down the examples on the board for self-study later.
∑ ďHave you ever noticed how babies will find a word or phrase and repeat it over and over? Do the same: repetition is the simplest secret of recall.Ē In the University class, there is the Ďparade of grammar,í one lesson passing by at a time, until the semester is over. Repetition is minimal. Even during class, new examples and vocab are used with new grammar each class period. So students end up memorizing vocab only for the quiz they face during that class period, then move on and forget previous vocab until the final at which time they cram it all in again, or at least try.
∑ ďIf possible, start your learning process with an ďimmersion course.Ē Just as a rocket needs most of its energy to launch and fly out of our atmosphere, you will get the most from your learning if you launch your efforts with a concentrated program. Your Ďintensiveí will Ďjump-startí your brain circuitry to start rewiring for your new language.Ē The University classes are far from immersion courses. There is little audio and visual instruction, and even though the classes load the students down with intense textbook work, teaching is done primarily in English and students talk to each other primarily in English and directions are written in English and there is no graduated progression into all-immersion. Students are still speaking English with the teacher and other students at the end of the semester. My language partner suggested to me once, that I forget about the University class and come to Korea for a month. He said it would be a better education than 4 semesters at the university. That may be a little harsh, but immersion is motivation to learn faster.
∑ ďIf you canít find a formal immersion course, then create your own by listening to audiocassettes, watching Italian-language movies with subtitles, learning the lyrics of great Italian songs like ďRondini al NidoĒ and ďSanta Lucia,Ē singing along to Pavarotti recordings, sitting in Italian espresso bars and just listening to people talking, and going to real Italian restaurants and ordering in the native tongue. If you tell the waiter that you are trying to learn the language and ask for help, you will usually get a free Italian lesson, even better service, and sometimes extra antipasto!Ē When I tried to get help with translating some popular Korean and Russian songs, the teachers told me not to do that at this time, it was too advanced. I say we need to do all of these things regularly because we donít get it in class. Thatís one reason I go to Korean groceries and restaurants. Even if I just practice saying hello and goodbye and thank you, and please give me ...
∑ ďLearn words and phrases related to areas of passionate interest. Many language programs are a bit boring because they focus on necessary but mundane matters such as ďWhere is the station?Ē and ďHere is my passport.Ē In addition to these everyday matters, aim to learn the language of romance, sex, poetry, art, fine food, and wine.Ē That sounds like the classes Iíve taken at the University and other places. I started doing this on my own, but somehow lost my energy for these things.
∑ ďPut Italian translation Post-it notes on everything in your house.Ē I did this with Russian but not with Korean. I have a picture on my wall in the dining room with two autumn leaves in it and to this day when I see a leaf I now immediately think ĎLeestí in Russian. I still donít know that word in Korean.
∑ ďMost important, open yourself to the feeling of the language and culture. When you speak, pretend you are an Italian (I recommend Marcello Mastroianni or Sophia Loren, for starters). Adopt the expressive gestures and facial expressions that go with the language; you will have more fun and learn much faster.Ē I donít even know who the famous Koreans are and havenít been exposed to them enough to imitate them. Our listening comprehension practice in and out of class has been minimal. During class pronunciation and feeling were not emphasized.
∑ ďBuild your own lexicon.Ē Leonardo da Vinci defined over nine thousand words in his notebooks and said, ďI possess so many words in my native language that I ought rather to complain of not understanding things than lacking for words to express my thoughts properly.Ē Even though I made flashcards for learning words each day, I only at the end of my last class started writing down lists of related words and memorizing phrases using each word. This is a great building of a working lexicon that expands our vocabulary at a faster pace.
My goal is to visit Korea next year, in 2006 right after the spring semester is over. I have a lot of work to do to prepare myself for that experience. Using the above guidelines as well as previous ideas I had, like journaling in these languages, and watching news broadcasts online in Korean, I will be ready.
Learning is la bella lingua! The beautiful language!
January 30, 2005
One of the reasons meditation improves memory is because it helps us reduce stress. Stress is counterproductive to learning. Another reason it helps our memory, is it can help our focus and concentration abilities. Meditation is a practice that can clear our minds and release our stress so we can gain a balanced state of mind.
Think of it this way: The mind gets overloaded with worry and stress. The mind gets overwhelmed and shuts down. Our memory fails us. Have you ever knew something really, really well, gone into a test and drew a complete blank? Then after the test remember it again? I have. Thatís stress somehow blocking our memory.
There are many kinds of meditation and playing music is one. You are focusing your attention on the beat and the sounds and nothing else. Many people meditate on their own breathing. Itís kind of the same idea. It gives us something to focus on. Notice how you feel when you finish playing? You donít feel quite so overwhelmed.
There is nothing so magical or mystical about meditation and itís better to not treat it that way. Itís just a step we take to clear out the noise and the distractions and look at things with a fresh perspective. We can go all out and take meditation classes, buy a video or simply start by taking silent walks or finding some quiet time at home, shutting off all the noise (distractions) and letting go. Thatís why hot baths with candel light with soft music are so effective for some people. And things like working on a craft can have the same effect.
A lot of things help us reduce stress. I meditate, pray, read books, play my trumpet and harmonica, paint, draw, sculpt, do woodcarving, dye Ukranian Easter eggs, write, exercise, sleep and many other things. Eating properly can also help relieve our stress. Not that I know of any certain foods that are anti-stress but the lack of proper nutrition, and sleep, can hinder our capacity to deal with stress.
So you want to reduce your stress? Take up meditation, continue your hobbies, they are important to life also, play your music, take that quiet time for yourself, go to the fitness center, get on your bike and pedal. Any of it helps. None of it allows stress to rule.
The Stress of Learning a foreign language
In my experience the stress of learning a foreign language is similar to the stress of performing. We are required to learn so many words per day and take quizzes and speak phrases on demand. I have found that when I acted in a play in High School, taught computer classes or played my trumpet in church there was one key ingredient that helped reduce my stress. That was PREPARATION TO THE POINT OF CONFIDENCE. When I did not prepare enough for the performance I was more stressed. When I prepared enough I was more confident and the stress was minimal, because I knew that I had already done what was going to be required of me and knew what to expect and how to do it. Then itís just a matter of doing it one more time out of the many.
With Korean when I walked into the classroom not knowing the vocabulary I was supposed to learn I was more stressed. Then my learning in that class was hindered. But when I knew all the words and grammar points I was confident and more relaxed and learned a lot during class.
This last semester I realized I had more instances of not knowing what I was supposed to know and not being prepared for class than I had in previous semesters. That accounts for a lot of my stress.
With teaching computer classes I was always really stressed until I had my outline defined. I knew as long as I had that I had a plan to follow and when the plan was done, I was done.
With performing my trumpet I played a song to death until I didnít crack and I felt it in my bones, until I could play it with my eyes closed. Then I was confident and less stressed.
January 29, 2005
La bella Lingua!
Today was an awesome day! It feels like every cell in my body has been exhausted. Another guy at the race kind of chuckled and told me, ďInteresting choice for a first race.Ē Yes, It was kind of an interesting beginning for me into the world of bike racing. Some people have been doing this for a few years now and I overheard them talking about how they improved their bike or their technique and that they just wanted to finish with a better race time than they had the previous year. For my first try, I just wanted to experience it. And I did. I went full out. Well, as full out as I could have. There were a few points in the race when I just wanted to kick back and ride the rest of it easy. I started telling myself that there is no point in really pushing yourself. Itís just for fun. And for a time I caught my breath and rode behind a guy I was having trouble passing. But he was taking the corners too slow for me, and wanted to pass him. When he went around the corners he was taking up the whole space and swinging his bike from one side to another. When I tried to pass on the inside, he stayed on the inside. So, then on the straightaway he sped up and I had a hard time passing. I did manage to pass him a few times, but then he came back and passed me like it was nothing. On the final lap, he must have had enough because he gave up the chase and I zipped ahead of him. Then I came around the rest of the course in a steady pace and kicked it up in the final stretch to the finish. Overall I did well. I came in 22 out of 43 riders!
This is the competition that I was looking for in cycle racing. Not with the other guy, but with my own mind. When I say things like, ďkick back, relax, itís just for fun, you donít have to do this. Itís not really important. You canít win anyway,Ē then I say back, ďI am here to race.Ē And then I give it 100% of my effort. Where I came out in the standings was not important. That I finished the race and gave it my all is important. When I started the race I was at the very end of the pack. It was a mass start and at first the crowd moved very slowly and it was really a challenge for me to move forward in the group. Because of the narrow, twisty course on the ice passing was very difficult. But I still managed to move up to about the middle as everyone spread out.
When I was out there racing, all time stopped. It was just me trying to stay upright and pedal and breathe and give it more when I thought I had no more to give. Once about the fifth lap I was pushing really hard and was thinking, ďThis has to be almost over. I must have been racing for almost 30 minutes by now! The race is only 30 minutes long, plus a lap. Itís almost over, I can handle it. Keep going hard.Ē But of course I was working so hard I couldnít take the time to look at my watch to time it. So I ended up doing seven laps and came in 22nd place.
It was worth it. It was a good experience.
That leads me to the exhaustion part. After the race I was beat. I went out to lunch with my Korean Language partner and then drove him back to the U of M and then came home, unloaded my bike and other things I brought, did a few errands and then took a good two hour nap on the couch. I think part of what sapped my energy so much was also being out in the cold, fresh air.
Now Iím feeling better! This experience resonates with my soul! Do you know that feeling of trying something new? Of experiencing something totally out of your comfort zone? By going beyond your existing known limits? This is the feeling Iím talking about. This is the openness and questing frame of mind that Leonardo da Vinci had. Curiosita. (How to think like Leonardo da Vinci.) If I wouldnít have wanted to passionately try this how could I ever truly understand it? How could I know what to improve for next years race? How could I understand people who are really into bike racing or people who have made a life-long passion of being an athlete? How could I learn what my own limits and capabilities are? In Italian, the phrase, ďla bella Lingua,Ē means the beautiful language. Saying it with feeling comes from deep down inside, close to the heart. Experiencing life is part of the language of our souls. We feel it, experience it, live it and know it. Experience is la bella lingua!
January 28, 2005
Cyclist Pushes Car out of Snowbank, Almost
This morning was no ordinary commute for several St. Paul residents. As I was coasting merrily down the road I came to the Ohio Hill, which is a steep S-Curve hill that takes me from the bluffs down to the river flats each day. There on the first curve was a car that didnít quite make the turn. He was deep into the snowbank and another man in dress shoes and nice jacket was there helping, trying to push while the driver spun his wheels. The car wasnít budging. I stopped my bike and offered to help push. That didnít make a difference at all. So I began digging out the tires. Still the car must have been stuck on something underneath, it wouldnít even rock back and forth.
Then a guy in an extended-cab pickup truck stopped with a chain and hooked it up to the back end of the car and proceeded to easily pull the car out. My work was done, I did what I could, but I wasnít able to get that car out of the mess the driver got into. I think between me and that other guy we could have gotten it out eventually with more digging, but that truck was much more adept at pulling the car out than we were. As I saw him get pulled out, I got on my bike and zipped down the hill, not hitting any snowbanks and freezing my nose in the wind. I pulled my mask up over my nose and tilted my head down. After I got down to the flats and started riding on level ground I saw the car we were trying to push out fly by me. He was obviously in a hurry. He must have been late.
This incident made me think about how each vehicle in our society has different functionality and capabilities. Our problem with pollution is much greater than my individual car, but I canít expect a bike to substitute for a tow truck or a cement mixer. And we canít expect to get rid of certain vehicles or our infrastructure would fall apart. Therefore our work in the area of saving our planet has to extend beyond our personal commute. What can we do to make other vehicles cleaner and more efficient? Thinking more globally than my ride, we need to work together as a society to create more fuel efficient vehicles and cleaner emitting vehicles that produce less toxins and waste. For example, the move by Metro Transit to equip all of their busses to burn more ethanol is a good start I think. Itís a renewable resource, and even that has environmental costs in its production but the impact is much less than pumping oil, refining and producing gasoline. Detroit auto manufacturers claim they just canít make their cars more fuel-efficient.
But we know itís possible already. There have already been people and companies that have created super efficient vehicles and now we are starting to see some hybrid cars out there. Mainly because there is only now beginning to be a market for it. People are starting to ask for it. For the owners, managers of auto manufacturers, itís a matter of profits. They want to sell what consumers want to buy, and they want to make the largest profits they can. If there are few people buying energy efficient vehicles, they wonít waste their time on making them more energy efficient or cleaner. This is true for other industries as well. Manufacturers of anything wonít clean up their factories until they are forced to by the government or by the loss of their profits.
Itís almost a daunting task for individuals like me to be aware of who is really polluting and then finding something I can do about it. So we have to start with ourselves. We can make ourselves less wasteful and use fewer resources. Do what we can to eliminate the pollution we can control. Thatís a start.
That young man could have slowed down and taken that curve at an appropriate speed, but he was in a hurry. He just cost the environment by requiring a big, less efficient vehicle to expend more fuel. That extended-cab pickup-truck owner was good enough to help this man in need, but then he got back in his truck and drove alone to wherever he was going. I donít know what else he could have done. I would have helped the guy out with my truck if I were driving it. Iíve helped people out of the snow before and itís a great feeling to liberate a little car from deep snow. But in the long run I couldnít justify those few times for all the rest of the driving I was doing. Maybe in this case a smaller car with a tow strap could have done the job. Who knows, maybe not. We should all help people in need as we are able to, but maybe that has to be in the form of calling a tow truck if we canít use our own brawn. Accidents happen. Tow-trucks are designed for this purpose. But regardless of all of this, it still comes down to our own personal attitudes and actions that change the impact on the environment. If that young man had been commuting by bike he wouldnít have needed a tow truck. Bikes rarely get stuck and if they do, the driver can push it or carry it. Also if that man had been driving slower instead of taking that curve too fast, he would have saved fuel and prevented the accident and subsequent truck involvement. Also if he were driving with someone else, maybe he would have driven slower or at least he would have had another person to push.
As for me, Iím now more aware of the different uses of different vehicles and see that we have to extend our efforts to help the environment beyond our own personal choice of transportation. I wonít buy a gas-guzzler again. When and if I get ready to buy another car, Iím going to demand a more fuel-efficient model or tell them to forget it. Iíll find another way. And If I do have to buy a car for some reason, Iíll try to carpool and maximize the use of my vehicle. Thatís a start. If enough people change the demand, the supply will change.
Hey, there is always an alternative; we are not slaves to the people who run the automobile companies! Our culture is so stuck in it though, like the guy in the snow bank, so itís hard to imagine anything else, but there are options.
Here is one option I wouldnít have thought of. The man stuck in the snow with his car this morning could have gotten at least to the bus stop before it killed me. Until I get my pedi-cab or multi-human powered vehicle, I donít think I will try bike pooling as an option. Haha.
Now that's teamwork!
How does all of this affect our spirits? Helping that guy who was stuck is important to do. Regardless of what heís driving or what happened to get him into that predicament, we still need to have compassion and help others. Also, we need to take care of all living things, like our environment. Itís our home; itís our childrenís home, and our grandchildrenís home. If we destroy it, we are destroying lives and thatís a stupid practice. By helping the environment we are increasing the quality of life for every living thing. Thatís a very loving thing to do.
The New Look
I'm thankful to Shane for his great work on improving the look of my blog. He picked a great picture for the banner and complimenting colors, set up my links and even put the most recent comments in. I see I have to clean up a few spam comments, but that's a nice addition. So, this entry is just to say thanks to Shane for making a difference and helping me out. His creativity and thoughtfulness has made this new look to my blog and I love it! I hope you like it also!
January 27, 2005
Tonight I saw some broken down bikes in the bike Rack near Walter Library. I really cannot understand why someone would just leave his or her bike there. Maybe itís too much of a hassle or they donít know what to do with it. Maybe itís just not valuable enough to worry about. They walked away from them and didnít look back.
Also, I found out tonight that liquor stores close at 8pm. I donít usually go to liquor stores because I rarely drink alcohol but my Korean Language Partner had to buy a farewell present for someone and wanted to buy a good bottle of vodka. We tried the liquor store in dinky town, but they must have closed a few minutes early so we rushed over to the one by Hong-Kong Noodles and they were just about to close but we made it with about 15 seconds to spare. They locked the door behind us. It was very kind of the woman working there to let us in. Why do liquor stores close at 8pm on weeknights? Itís some city ordinance. We got the bottle gift wrapped and headed back to the U. I guess I never knew that we had such a law. I knew about the state law that keeps them closed on Sundays.
My Korean Language Partner is leaving on Tuesday. Heís going back to Korea. Itís a sad day. I know I am better for having known him. So he kept asking me when I would visit Korea, and I had to tell him I wonít be able to go this year. Now we are planning on it for the summer of 2006. Iíll have to make a commitment to it if I ever expect to go. That will be an expensive trip. Also, since he is leaving, Iím going to miss the Korean conversation and having dinner with him weekly at various restaurants. I really enjoyed that time with him. Now I wonít have a weekly dinner meeting with a friend. So yes, that does kind of make me a little sad. If there are any Koreans reading this, I wouldnít mind having another language partner to practice with. If you are interested, send me an email.
I promised my language partner I would send him an email at least once a month. I donít know if heíll really miss my company, but while we were meeting, he worked really hard to help me with my language skills. He really wanted to help me learn and it shows what kind of a character he has. He graciously offered to let me stay with him when I go to Korea in 2006 also. I think going there will be a great motivation for me to keep learning Korean.
Tonight I talked to him about my lack of motivation for learning Korean and we talked about what it is I really liked about Korean. Contemplating this, I came up with a few things that I really liked about Korean. Some of the things that turned me on about Korean in the first place were, King Sejong the great, the ingenious Hangul Alphabet, Korean art, pottery, Pan-sori storytelling, traditional drumming, traditional Korean houses with the heated floors, the rich religious and scholarly history and the idea that Koreans had moveable type before Gutenberg. That is interesting to me. So, Iím going to find some Korean history and architecture books and read more. Next week when Iím at the U, Iíll have to see what is available at the library.
Closing time. On Saturday morning heís coming to see me race my bike on ice. Thatís one last meeting with my Korean friend. The Vodka wonít ever be enough to say goodbye. Keeping in touch via email wonít be the same, but all things change and in the end we are changed.
January 26, 2005
Today I ran 5.75 miles during lunch. I ran 8.3 minute miles on average. The first mile I ran an 8 minute mile, the second mile I ran an 8.5 minute mile, then I slowed down slightly. That second mile was a killer because it was all uphill. I was breathing so hard and my body felt like it was going to scream. Or something. I didnít feel like I was going to die though. After I got to about the 3 mile mark it was mostly downhill back to work and my muscles felt all warm and I was breathing at steady pace. I thought to myself that I just have to keep going even if I slow down. Evidently I didnít slow down too much, but got into a groove. When I went to the UofM the first time I was in ROTC and we ran a lot around the U. That was nice running. Of course I was much younger then and was running a lot faster. But at least Iím doing it again. Itís been really. No I mean REALLY hard to get myself to run again after all this time of not running. Not only have I had a mental block against running, itís just easier not to push ourselves, which running forces us to do.
I ran with my friend Dan for the first two miles then he bolted on ahead and ran a few extra miles than me and he came in 8 minutes behind me. So he ran about 8.75 miles only 8 minutes slower than I ran 5.75 miles. I think Dan is a superb athlete in cycling and running. He used to be a professional bike racer at one time. But more than that, heís been an athlete his whole life.
I officially got Saturday morning off work to do my ice criterium race. I also got next Saturday off to run the Frozen 5K run in downtown St. Paul. So, Iím committed and I have the time.
Over the past few days Iíve been thinking about the implications of giving up my car totally. Iím afraid to mention this idea to other people because invariably they say something like, ďOh I could never do that.Ē I donít know what to say to that. I never intend to make other people feel guilty but I think some of them do because they are not exercising and not doing anything for the environment. But no matter what other people are doing, Iím still going to do my own thing the way I think best for my life.
Thinking about how to pull this off though without being a burden on others is something else. Because really my decisions do effect my family and others. For instance, if there is a blizzard and I have to ride my bike 20 miles to work next winter, Iím not going to want to ask my wife to borrow her car or have her drive 40 miles in those conditions and then another 40 miles to come and pick me up. There are no busses running there at the times I need to come and go. So how did people do things before the automobile? Simple. They werenít so spread out. Everything they did was closer to home. Or they spent days or weeks on horseback or walking to get to where they wanted to go. And does this mean Iíll give things like airplanes also? Maybe not. I still want to go to a few foreign countries in my lifetime, but maybe Iíll get a hot air balloon or something. hmmm.
How will I go to the grocery store? There is one by us, but itís more expensive than cub foods and they have less selection. I can ride the bus there. I am also looking around our neighborhood to see whom I can help with grocery shopping. After Jim came up with the idea to coordinate shopping with the neighbors, I was meditating one day and this thought came to me: ďOffer to go with your neighbor, (the one that is extremely overweight and always has trouble with her groceries when she gets home.)Ē I know exactly who that is and have been thinking about making an offer to help her shop together and help her carry and load and unload her groceries with her in exchange for the ride there. Itís a good match. Or there are also a lot of elderly people in my neighborhood so I could expand it and alternate between them helping them when I go along with them. I think this is a good topic for the block club meeting. Maybe Iíll start a bike grocery delivery service for them.
Speaking of bikes... I now think I need 3 different bikes. Dan said his wife would kill him if he bought another bike besides the four he currently has. They all have different purposes though. He has a time-trial bike, a commuting bike, a road-racing bike and a mountain bike. I think I need a road-racing bike, which Iíll use for time trials also, because I just donít think it will help my speed at my level. I think I also need my mountain bike for winter riding and off-road trail riding this summer. Then comes my shopping and all around tour bike with big road tires and racks I can load down with groceries and that I can pull a trailer with camping gear or cans of paint from Menards. 3 bikes will work if I am creative about rigging them properly for the conditions.
Iíll still need a car to pull my vintage wooden sailboat though. I canít see me doing that by bike unless I somehow develop super-human strength. Anyway, Iíll have to use my wifeís vehicle for that. I still plan on renewing my drivers license every year. And at the same time Iíve eliminated one car from our family. But here is also an idea. I might take it to my cousinís cabin on a lake so the whole family can enjoy it and I can ride my bike there when I want to use it. Itís only about 75-100 miles away. I think the more I think about this, the more ways I come up with to really be able to eliminate my car from my life. I can rationalize any need for a car and itís easy to do. But to stop rationalizing takes creativity and thought and letting go of some things, and bringing my lifestyle in, closer to home. How did I ever get so spread out geographically in the first place? I hate driving in rush hour traffic. Thatís why I loved it so much when I moved from my previous job in Bloomington to Downtown St. Paul, which is much closer to my home, and I donít have to drive on the freeway. Cycling is the next logical progression I think. Hey, Iíve already ridden my bike out past where I used to work and it was easy. But still I wouldnít want to do a 20-30 mile ride in a blizzard. There is a lot to be said about bringing my activities closer to home, within my community, and occasionally out further. This really is a life-changing idea.
Life changing ideas:
Going grocery shopping with a neighbor is life changing.
Giving up my car totally, no excuses is life changing.
Becoming a lifelong athlete, for whatís left of it that is. Who knows, it may even help me live to my full potential life span instead of cutting it short.
We are so happy with our new dog Max. Heís getting along great with our other dog Molly. They are so cute together and I think they like each otherís company during the day when Iím at work.
We started the Spring cleaning already. We started ripping up the old pukey brown carpeting from our bedroom to discover beautiful wood floors. We had thought about painting the floors but when we saw what was under there, we changed our design. We are going to sand and stencil and varnish it so we can see the wood grain. I think it will be beautiful when done. I can carry a floor sander home on my bike trailer I think. hehe.
So you are probably getting to know me gradually through things I write. You know then that Iím not a couch potato. But I donít have anything against watching TV or movies. I just prefer to do other things with my time.
Time. There is that word again. The thing we all seem to need more of and that slips away so fast. Itís time I got back to that book-editing project I put on hold for my Korean class. I have to finish that! Now is the time. I contacted the author and we are getting started on it again. Right after I finish posting this blog. I still have about an hour and a halfís worth of time to figure out where I left off and make a plan to finish it. Itís a novel idea.
I havenít had time yet to install the counter on this blog as Jim did. He told me how to do it, but I havenít yet decided I need to know that. It would be fun knowing though. I could always ask Shane for a count now and then. I donít really need to know I think. Iíll just get a count from the administrator when I get curious. Youíd think there would be a plugin for Moveable Type for this. Anyway, Iím skeptical about using a counter from another website. I donít know why. Just seems like a hassle. I am curious right now though how many people have been reading this blog since I started almost a year ago. Very few people make comments so I canít really count by that. Thank you to those who have made comments though, because they make me think more and itís nice to hear from you.
I always like meeting new people. Some people get really stressed out about it, but I like to really look at other people and get to know them and learn what is good and true in their hearts. Itís like getting to know a friend over time. I cannot be prejudice or hate someone if I treat them like that. I got a fortune cookie last week that said, ďIncluding others in your life will bring you great happiness.Ē Yes, thatís true. Iím happier for getting to know other people and including them in my life.
Life is too short to waste playing games and pretending. Thatís what I think. We only have a limited time here and limited resources. So what am I doing with it? Iím figuring that out still. Iíll let you know when I get rid of my car and buy (or make) that bike trailer. Maybe my dad could help me design and build one cheaply. Heís an awesome mechanic and welder. Thatís a good idea. Iíll call him now and spend some time with my dad and give him a challenge.
Now I have to challenge my brain again and get going on that novel editing. At least see where I left off and make a plan. Enjoy life. Be kind to yourself. Donít beat yourself up. You are your best ally.
ohhhhh! the bunny just peed on me! lol. time to go back in the cage.. Iíve been sitting here holding and petting him while I was writing and I held him a little too long haha. Now I have to change and then call my dad and then work on the book!
wow, I just stood up and realized how stiff I've become from all this extra exercise today. I'd better add stretching to my routine tonight.
January 25, 2005
MBPA 2005 Annual Meeting
Today was an interesting day. I got to work and all the places to lock up my bike were covered in snow and maintenance at our building wasnít considering bike commuters when they cleared the snow away. They shoved it up against the railings and covered the entrance to my bike locker. Then I rode my bike into the ramp by our building and asked the attendant if I could use their bike rack in the ramp and that was fine with them so I parked it there for the day. Then to my surprise, another bike commuter emailed me and told me that he was tired of waiting for maintenance so he brought his own shovel and salt and cleared away the snow and ice in front of our bike lockers. So tomorrow morning I get to wheel my bike inside of the locker and close the door. If you havenít heard about these bike lockers, they are provided for a small fee at various locations throughout the twin cities by Metro Transit Commuter Services. I think you can find a contact for them on the http://www.metrotransit.org site.
Then after work I rode my bike home. Well, I tried to ride it home. Remember I was having mechanical problems with my bike? I didnít ride yesterday because of the problems. I tried to fix it and it made it to work ok this morning, but still not shifting properly. But on the way home, I was stuck in the lowest gear and it was skipping. Evidently this happens when the gears are worn out and the chain is new. The only recourse is to buy new gears. But that wasnít my only problem. I had salt in the derailers and the brakes so those werenít working quite right. I need to clean and lubricate them better. Then the rear derailer cable came loose and thatís how I got stuck in the lowest gear going home, which is the gear that was skipping the worst. So when I put pressure on the pedals, the chain skipped and my feet would jerk downward without propelling the bike forward. It was a pain to get home, but I limped it home slowly, trying not to exert too much pressure on the pedals, which means I walked up the steepest hill.
But overall, it was still a pleasant walk/ride home because it was still light out. Did you notice how much ligher it is now at 5pm?!! Because Iím riding a bike, I really noticed and itís great! Also, it was warm today, so it was pleasant. I donít let things like this bother me. Even though I bought this bike used and it had a lot of problems, itís still a good frame, and Iím replacing all the mechanical parts that matter so itís a great bike that will be like a brand new bike when Iím done. It will still cost me less than the same bike new. I think it was a bike that normally sold for about 500 dollars new. So Iím not complaining. Also, I bought this bike from the Sibley bike depot and the money they get for these bikes helps support their bike education and advocacy activities. So to me I canít complain about where the money went for the bike either. I enjoy giving to people and organizations that need it.
Given the mechanical problems of this bike today, I wasnít about to ride it downtown again tonight for the meeting I intended on going to. Instead I loaded it into my car and drove there. This got me thinking. If I give up my car totally, how would I get my bike to a repair shop if it broke down? I think the answer is in having two bikes, one with a bike trailer that can haul things. My friend Danís brother is a house painter who uses only a bicycle. He has a trailer that he pulls behind his bike with ladder, paint and other equipment he needs. When heís working on a project he leaves the trailer at the site and commutes home on his bike without it. Then when the job is done, he loads everything back on the trailer and rides home with it. In my opinion, that is someone who takes bike commuting seriously. I think that if I intend to give up my car totally, I will need to get a bike trailer to haul stuff. Maybe I will try to design one myself and make it from spare bike parts and wheels. That would be an interesting project.
Anyway, I got to the meeting and left my bike in the car until I found out if someone there was willing to help me. The meeting was the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (MNBPA) http://www.bikeped.org At the meeting they elected officers for 2005, then ate food and talked about bikes. It was really interesting listening to them all and talking with them. I didnít volunteer to serve on the board, although they were looking for more members. I mainly went because I wanted to find out more about their organization and maybe find ways to help them. I think this is a good organization to have in the Twin Cities to make them more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Iíve been all over the cities this past year and have a lot of complaints about the conditions for bike riders and walkers. In many places there is a lack of adequate places to lock up bikes. In other places there is no shoulder or sidewalk to ride the bike on and the traffic is too busy and fast to ride out in the traffic. Itís sometimes downright scary riding a bike. If we want to get more people out on their bikes even in the warmer weather, we need advocates pushing for a more bike and pedestrian friendly city. So I support their activities. And it seems like they are doing a lot.
At the meeting I met a bicycle messenger. There is a company in St. Paul that has some cars and three bicycllists delivering mostly legal documents. I was fascinated by this idea and asked a lot of questions. It was fun for both of us. I was told that coming up soon is a local bike delivery competition, which I wonít be able to see, because Iíll be running that day. there is also a World Championship competition for bike messengers over the fourth of July weekend in Chicago. This driver is hoping to go compete there this year if finances permit.
Then also during the meeting there was talk about the new pedi-cab service in St. Paul, coming soon. This was really interesting. I think I would like to try that out. I put my name in to drive one. Iím sure Iíll post more on this later as I find out more details.
After the meeting I surveyed the Sibley Bike Depot shop. Most of the talk was about the damage done to the building from the construction next door, but when they ran the course of that discussion one of the guys was kind enough to help me with my bike problems. Most of them are now resolved. However, he is going to order me two new sprockets for the back wheel so my chain will stop skipping. And he showed me where I need to lubricate my shifting levers and what I needed to do to fix my brake problem. That was very nice of him.
I have a very positive feeling about this organization and what they are doing so I am going to find some more ways I can help them throughout the next few years. As part of their program, they have classes on bike repair. I think thatís a great thing to know if you are into any kind of biking or commuting. Just like cars it helps to know the vehicle you are driving and how to do at least the basics. They have a repair shop you can use with all the tools and expert (volunteer) staff to help.
Please, check them out. This is my first endorsement of a group that I think is making a difference. To me there are huge benefits to human powered movement, environmentally, economically, emotionally and physically.
And since itís almost midnight, I have to finish my laundry and get to bed. :-) It was a good day.
January 24, 2005
Running out for dinner
Tonight I literally ran out for dinner. This was a creative workout. I ran 2.8 miles to Burger King, ordered dinner, paid for it, then waited a few minutes and my daughter showed up to give me and dinner a ride back home. My family didn't have to wait for their order and I got to run. This is all part of my workout for cycle racing this Spring. Running is part of my training plan I'm still running, so that's good. Sometimes it's nice to change up our routine to make it more adventurous and interesting. Running out for dinner is much more interesting than just driving out for dinner don't you think? And 2.8 miles is almost the 5k running race I've entered: The 20th annual Securian Frozen 5K, on Saturday, February 5, 2005. I plan on running slightly less than 8 minute miles. That's what I've been working toward for the last couple of weeks.
Oh by the way, if you ever run out for dinner, you may find that you can't wait to get home to start eating it. Running in the fresh air really works up the appetite.
One Meme or another
Without going into too much explanation, Iíll try to paraphrase what many others have used as a definition for meme. Then Iíll talk about something Iíve noticed about memes and their propagation.
A meme is any idea, thought or thought pattern that replicates itself. Memes is not really like genes, but thatís where this new word came from. Ideas or thought patterns are said to replicate themselves by Ďinfectingí other brains like a virus and then altering behavior. A meme rapidly spreads from mind to mind in this way. But even this analogy of a virus to me is not an accurate choice of words to describe the transfer of information from one person to the next and the conversion of that information into knowledge, because a virus implies only something bad that needs to be eradicated or inoculated against. Some examples of memes are: ďHow to start a fire,Ē ďMinnesota is cold,Ē ďWe have a divided country,Ē ďOur life is very short,Ē ďHow to mix acrylic paints to attain the desired color,Ē ďOur freedom is in jeopardy,Ē ďwhatís fashionable to wear this year,Ē ďBiking is fun,Ē etc. As you can see any thought or idea that gets put out there for others to here, see, and comprehend is a meme.
One article I read, which was related to computer technology in the workplace talked about bad memes that we had to watch out for in our workplace. It warned about being deceived by memes that attempt to manipulate our minds. Yet, without realizing it, the author offered his own meme to replace the undesirable, manipulative meme. His meme was attempting to offer a better way to relate to others in our work environments. Like a virus, his idea will effect some people and not others. Or if we use the analogy of a seed, some seeds are planted in fertile ground and grow, while others fall on dry, unyielding ground and die. Some people will think about his ideas and pass them on to others. Then his meme has replicated itself.
Every idea is a meme, and when we disagree with one idea we are offering a counter idea whether we realize it or not. We are replacing one idea with another idea that we are attempting to propagate. An example of this is the thought put out there that ďReligion is trying to manipulate us.Ē We argue that religion is using memes to control us, but at the same time we are attempting to manipulate others with the meme that ďReligion is bad.Ē Our alternative is still a meme that will either spread or die, like a virus.
Unlike a virus though, some memes we want everyone to share, like the idea that itís ďtheft is undesirable.Ē In general, weíve determined that this idea should survive and be propagated into everyoneís minds. There are not too many people who like the idea of having their things stolen. We wish that everyone would not steal so this is an idea that we want to pass on to everyone. I share this thought pattern.
Hereís another meme I want you to consider: Investigate Everything. Memes attempt to manipulate our behavior so we should recognize them for what they are and evaluate all memes that get planted into our brain. As we grow from babies to adults to death, we are constantly learning and changing. Every idea or thought we come into contact with has the potential to change us, good ideas and bad, healthy ideas and unhealthy ideas, practical ideas and impractical ideas. But rather than just classifying, processing and accepting memes, investigate the truth or factuality of every meme. That includes the memes we are trying to pass on to others. Be a scientist with your own brain. Investigate everything.
In a recent ďCSI,Ē Crime Scene Investigation episode on TV, Grisholm sat listening to his team explain what they thought happened at a very old murder scene. They didnít solve the case of who did the murder but were willing to accept the answers they did come up with and put it to rest. They found the missing body and notified the family so they could have closure. Grisholm said, I donít like holes. We still donít have the murderer. What does the evidence say? They all began to dig further and soon they came up with the answer. The evidence revealed the truth. Find the facts, find the truth. Investigate everything.
In the book Iím reading now, ďHow to think like Leonardo da Vinci,Ē one of the key attributes given of a genius is, Curiosita, a natural childlike curiosity to investigate everything. It is the willingness to question everything, including oursleves. Be a genius and Investigate everything.
Be it one meme or another, youíll get thoughts and ideas that will try to propagate in your brain and youíll try to pass on thoughts and ideas to others. Let this be one of them that changes you. Investigate everything.
Bringing back the Joy
I know this is not encouraging to some of you language learners out there, but Iíve completely stopped learning all languages. As I explain, I hope you will understand. I talk a lot about motivation and some of you who know me well, know that I am extremely busy, and never lack things to do. To do as much as I have been doing, Iíve had to give up some things and have had to motivate myself to do things I didnít really care to do. Regardless of what we get ourselves into there seems to be some things we donít enjoy about it, but we have to do it anyway.
Well, I didnít completely give up on Language learning, because over the last couple of weeks Iíve been sipping on some really awesome yoo-ja cha (Citron preserve tea) Itís a Korean product and itís healthy. It contains about 3 times the amount of vitamin C as a lemon. (so Iíve been told) Also a couple of weeks ago, my Russian friend showed me again how to make Turkish coffee. To me itís like making espresso on the stovetop in a funny bell-shaped pot with a wide bottom and narrow neck. We also talked about making Tvor-rog, a Russian homemade cottage cheese. To me these are some of the fun parts of languages. Yes, food is part of our language. Itís part of the real language in each of our daily lives. When I learn languages Iím not just learning words, Iím learning lives. Iím learning lifestyles and hobbies and how life is for the select people I come into contact with or read about.
This last Fall Semester at the UoM killed my enjoyment of the Korean Language and even of learning any language. I havenít pinpointed the source of my troubles yet, but Iíve been thinking about it a lot. Regrettably, I wonít be taking the fourth semester of Korean this year at the U. Iím taking a year off. Many people donít agree with my decision, for various reasons, but it really came down to how much money I have available. I simply wonít be able to afford it this Semester. Itís really sad news to me, because I would have found a way to do what I had to do to finish my two years of Korean for the language requirement, even if it was drudgery. This last semester proved to me I could do that. Now I have to wait a whole year to take the fourth semester of it. So in spite of tough talk about motivation and attitude, I end up making a tough decision. Quitting anything is extremely hard for me.
But maybe itís for the better, because I will attempt to get the joy back into learning languages as I restudy all of my previous material and play with the languages I love. (making more food is part of the plan and visiting more with my friends in the various languages Iím learning.)
I quit something else recently also, which was really hard for me to do. My good friend Cecilia talked to me and consoled me on that. Thatís also related to money. Iíve been supporting several people around the globe for several years and due to my current financial condition, I had to finally stop it all. It was not easy. This morning I got a call of despair from one family in India who Iíve been helping. I felt like crap. But as Cecilia told me, maybe this is for the better too, because what I was doing was not helping them live for themselves, but was enabling them to rely on me. My original goals were very specific and were enabling to all of these people, like buying medicine for a sick baby that would have died, or paying tuition and living expenses for someone so they could finish their education. But then in some cases, I just continued the support them even after the initial purpose was met. What I was doing was not sustainable. And I kept adding people to my list without increasing my revenues available for this purpose.
But I was still sad and that phone call this morning was heart wrenching. I could do nothing for my friends who called me this morning except tell them I was sorry. But I canít help my situation immediately. There are some good reasons why I am having financial trouble, but it has nothing to do with my willingness to work hard. Iím already working seven days per week. I have higher heating bills this year, I have unexpected college expenses from my son, I have a daughter who just started driving Ė insurance costs are staggering, I have expenses for my wifeís business that she is trying to get going, and other specific things. Itís all cumulative. I know I have to work at improving how I handle these parts of my life also. So thatís part of my challenge moving forward.
Now that you know the real reason Iím not taking the Korean class this semester, I want to talk about the loss of joy in my language learning over the last year. Even though I got an A in every class Iíve taken at the U of M since returning to college, I felt like I didnít learn anything this semester. To me real learning is being able to apply what I learn to my life. Information is just information until it becomes experience, knowledge. I felt like this semester and part of the previous one, I wasnít really doing that, at least not in my language studies. I felt like I was going backwards in my progression. Somehow I managed to do well enough on the quizzes, homework and exams, but my retention was getting worse. Gradually I was losing my joy for languages. As I learned a while ago, joy is an integral part of language learning.
In a Cadalyst Magazine article from August, 1999, Mark Middlebrook, the author of ďCoping with CAD burnoutĒ wrote about job burnout. In the article he stated that ďIt helps to recognize two characteristics of human nature:
Sharp people need to be challenged.
Human endurance has its limits.
Burnout is usually a result of violating one or both of these principles for an extended period of time. That is, people burn out because they are bored, overworked, or both.Ē
Although I think burnout is a real problem, there is also something missing from this explanation. That is the lack of Joy and enthusiasm for what we are doing. For many years I worked in a very high-stress computer consulting job doing sales, training, technical support and programming related to Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software. I spent a lot of time working overtime and loved it. I loved what I was doing and the difference I was making in other peopleís lives. To me it was the most rewarding job I have ever done. Unfortunately the company didnít make it and I moved on to something less demanding. In this case I did need something to challenge me, but without the joy in what I was doing, without having it matter to me, the job would have been impossible to maintain. I was overworked but didnít feel like it. The same is true with my work now. I work a lot, but burnout wonít make me quit, because I love what Iím doing. The difference is in the attitude. What will kill this part time job for me will be the day when I no longer find joy in doing the job (or if something happens with the company I cannot control, which I doubt will happen in this case, since it seems like a well-managed company.) Also, my other interests might move up higher on my priority list and then I would have to make a decision about what to cut out. Marks second principle has an application here also because even given the proper motivation I realize I cannot do everything at once, due to lack of time, resources and physical energy. I have to sleep too. Haha. So, even though Mark is right, I need to be challenged and I have my limits, the missing principal is that human beings need to find joy in what they are doing. Without it, itís drudgery. Itís a chore that we resist mentally, emotionally and physically. We will burn out for sure if we are lacking joy.
Markís answer to this burnout is (written from a managerís perspective):
1. Keep them learning
2. Challenge them
3. Donít isolate them
4. Protect them and fight for them when necessary
5. Remember that you canít win Ďem all (despite your best efforts some people will still leave)
6. Know yourself (so you donít ruin it for others by your own burnout)
And Iíll add, Ďfind the things that make it joyful to do in the first place and reinforce and encourage those things.í
Two examples of this:
In Star Trek, Captain Kirk was promoted to the rank of Admiral, which removed him from what he really loved doing, exploring the galaxy, making a direct, hands on difference. Also, one of my former co-workers was promoted to manager from a drafter and it removed him from doing the drawings he loved doing. He only lasted one year as a manager and had to quit. His energy and enthusiasm was sapped. He no longer had joy in his job. He wasnít over-worked. His job was challenging but he didnít like doing it. He liked the hands on drawing and creation process in drafting.
So, how do I bring the joy back into my Language learning? Find what I love about languages again and do more of it, nurture it, reinforce it and encourage it in myself.
January 23, 2005
Photographs and Memories
I made it to Bush Lake today for the first part of the 3rd Annual Ice Crit Championship Race Series. It was really amazing. I did take pictures but didnít race. I was about 10 minutes too late to race because I had to assemble my bike and had trouble with the brakes and the spindle on the rear wheel being too short. But I fixed those problems and threw my camera bag over my shoulder and rode down to the lake to see the action. I think I got some great photos and I hope they turn out, since Iím still trying to figure out this 35mm camera.
After one race ended and before the A-Class race began I had time to try out the course myself. It was very cool. They had cleared a path about 5 feet wide zigzagging over part of the lake, then up a steep hill through the woods, then leveling off on top of the hill and then back down a steep, winding trail back to the lake. My bike and new studded tires did great on the ice, but Iím still having mechanical problems with the gears and shifting. Iíll have to work those out before next weekend.
Yes, next weekend! I am going to actually race next weekend, since I missed this one. I found out that anyone can race in any of the classes and itís not necessary to be at all three. In the A-Class race, however, each racer is awarded points during each race and the winner of the overall cash prizes are those with the most points, so to be in the running for one of those prizes or to win the race, the racer would need all the points they can get.
So Iím planning on going to Crystal Lake in Burnsville next weekend on January 30th to actually race. Today gave me a preview of what to expect. It also showed me my bike wasnít ready. And it gave me to confidence I needed to do this. There were a lot of people there just to have fun. All these people seemed to be really enjoying the winter and were all very enthused. I am still kind of amazed at this event. Because of my willingness to go to this event even if I didnít have my wheels done actually turned out to be a blessing. I got the gift of another week to prepare myself.
The race itself is 40 minutes long for the B-Class. The A-Class was 60 minutes. One of the guys there said he lost track of how many loops he did because he had oxygen deprivation from breathing so hard. That was a tough hill to climb in the snow. I found out many of the riders were running up that steep hill carrying their bikes. Haha. I didnít know that was allowed. Because of my gear problems, I could only make it about halfway up before I had to jump off and run up the hill. I donít know what the course will be like next week, but I bet theyíll make it similar to this one. The next two races in the series will be at Crystal Lake so the racers going for the big bucks will be familiar with the course for the last race. I bet the speeds will go up for that one.
This morning I was going back and forth between optimism and acceptance of whatever happened. I was ok with not racing, but excited that I might still make it. But I was still finishing my tires this morning after I woke up and then threw them in my car with the bike and headed for the race. I didnít even have a chance to test them. Thatís why I had mechanical problems. In the military we used to always say the four Pís whenever getting ready for a mission: Proper Prior Planning and Preparation. If I had prepared better, I would have known what the problems were and would have taken care of them. Thatís why having a good attitude and going there anyway was such a great gift. Now I know I have another week and Iíll be ready.
Here are some highlights of the day:
1. I met a guy from the St. Paul Bike racing club, who normally does only road races, but borrowed a set of studded tires from a friend to try this race. He was going for the money race and looked like a serious cyclist. He was pretty impressed with my spiked tires. And he said heíll be one of the instructors in the Beginning Road Racing class Iím signed up for. That was cool. All of that happened right after I finished putting my bike together.
2. I met another guy who was late, but his bike was in one piece and functioning properly and he made the race. He wonít be in next weekís race because once was enough for him.
3. I took some photos. Itís 35mm film so now I have to use up this roll quickly so I can see how they turned out.
4. I got to ride the course 3 times and know what kind of course it is and what to expect.
5. I got stuck on the way out of the park, since they didnít plow the parking lot or entrance to this park from the snow we just had. About halfway up the hill from the parking lot down by the lake, I got stuck. A couple of guys behind me helped push me out. Once I reached the main road I pulled over to the side, and ran back to help them. The one guy said, ďIím so happy you came back to return the favor!Ē He didnít think I was coming back, but then I told him I had to drive out onto the main road and park out there where I wouldnít get stuck again. He was happy I came back though, and with two of us pushing he made it out too.
6. Several people looked at my homemade studded tires and told me Iím going to get a flat tire. When I asked them why they thought that, they didnít have an explanation, just that it looked like it wouldnít work too well. I think they will work great, and I had really good traction on the ice. And besides, I used Duct Tape! Thatíll fix anything right?
7. We got some amazed looks from cross-country skiers and people walking their dogs.
I noticed that both of my hands are stiff and sore tonight as Iím typing It must be from screwing all of those 300 screws in to make my studded-tires. Thatís a good workout!
It was a good experience today! And a blessing that I didn't expect.
January 22, 2005
The schedule doesn't change
The schedule doesn't change just because I don't have time. Tomorrow is the ice crit championship series bike race and I'm still making tires. Putting all of those studs in a tire is very time consuming. I just put a hundred in and I have about 50 to go. Then I have to line the tires with duct tape, put the tubes in, mount them on the rims and inflate. Then I have to lookat the problem with my cable in the rear, since my bike stopped shifting gears coming home on Friday. The cable was loose and I think that's the real reason my chain was skipping. We'll see. Regardless, The race is still tomorrow and they won't change the date of it just because I haven't had time to finish my tires.
The question is, do I go tired or skip it? I'm on a mission right now, so I'll let you know tomorrow. It's too bad that studded-tire making class wasn't a week ago. But I'll still be able to play in the snow with these tires tomorrow before it all melts. Here comes the sun.
More news tomorrow night.
January 21, 2005
Events as they unfold
All things do not go as planned. It might seem predictable what I will be talking about. Itís the talk of the town already. The wonderful winter wonderland we live in just became more wonderful and interesting. Jim already hit a lot of the key points that I also experienced about bicycling home in this snow, so I wonít repeat that part. See Jim's awesome description of this adventure. Iíll just say that I got one of the greatest workouts of my life. And I didnít even have my studded tires on yet. That was interesting. Like a controlled slide when going downhill and pushing my bike while trudging through the snow while going uphill. Since my route home is mostly uphill I walked a lot. One person yelled out to me, ďyou gotta put skis on that thing!Ē I laughed loudly and gave them the thumbs up and kept sweating my way along the sidewalk, pushing my bike. Interesting idea though. I saw a bike like this in a book about Minnesota winters. They had big spiked tires in the rear and a ski on the front and they used to race them on the ice and snow. I don't really know how well it would actually work though. That sounds like a test for sometime in the future if I would even go there. It's interesting to imagine though.
I am totally happy this snowfall happened. It may sound crazy, but I got a good workout, and I learned what a bike without studded tires could really handle. It is experience! I rode to work just fine this morning and it was a beautiful ride. Coming home I got an experience I will not forget soon.
Then tonight I went straight to my daughterís workplace to drive her car home for her. She drove over an hour to get to work, for what should have been a twenty-minute drive. But she made it, and Iím proud of her for handling the rough conditions without getting stuck or in an accident. Getting her car home was a different story though. I barely made it, and then got stuck in our own driveway. I got another good workout! If I keep this up Iíll be Mr. Universe for a day. I donít think I have to go running tonight. Our driveway is about 50 feet long with a hill. I shoveled the whole thing and put kitty litter down, moved the cars from the street to the driveway, with help from my wife, who drove while I pushed, then made it into the house by 10:00pm. whew! This was a long, interesting, exciting day. Itís a beautiful thing to appreciate and enjoy weather like this.
I had other intentions tonight than doing all of this, but circumstances changed my plans. I was going to go to the hardware store to get more screws and finish my studded tires, but I didnít want to drive any more than I had to. And it became too late by the time I was done with my workout. ;-) So I adapt. I accept and love what I am doing. I am exhilarated by the exercise and the ability to enjoy the weather. Sometimes events as they unfold can be stressful and upsetting, but much of our suffering or joy is dependant on how we perceive things. Happiness at any given moment is dependant on our attitude toward the moment. If we are crying about the loss of our expected plans, we are not able to fully be in this moment and experience it. Sometimes events unfold and we have a choice about how to perceive them and react to them. Enjoy the snow and be safe. It'll start melting next week after it warms up.
January 20, 2005
Studded Tires and a New Blogging Friend
Tonight I met Dan at the studded tire making class. Dan is a daily bike commuter and he writes a blog. It was interesting to chat with him and talk about both hobbies. I checked out his blog tonight and found some interesting things. If you are a UofM student, you'll like the references to places on or near the campus. Dan's a grad student at the U.
His blog is called BASIC STUPIDITY
Well, I didn't finish making my studded tires tonight because I put the studs too close together. After putting in 100 screws I ran out of screws and was only 3/4 of the way around the tire. That took about an hour to do. I plan on doing two tires before Sunday's bike race on ice. So that is what I'll be doing tomorrow night. Making studded tires. But it's not difficult to do and once you see it done and try it, it's easy. I'm sure experience will tell what works best for spacing and length of the studs, so if these don't work, I have the technology to make more. Seriously, almost anyone could make these for their bike.
January 19, 2005
Why I let go of the horse
When I was younger, about 24 years ago I entered an art contest. When I was 17 I was really shy and introverted. As one of my outlets, I drew pictures. I loved to draw. My creations were coming from inside and it was an expressive way to show my emotions. Even before that, when I was in eighth grade, I broke my knee and had to have an operation and a couple of casts in series put on. After the first, full-leg cast, I had a walking cast put on, which allowed my foot and ankle to move. Then I was bored and decided to paint it. My mom had been teaching me how to paint with oils and at that time she was also working with acrylic paints. My mom is a great artist and Iíve always thought that she could have done much more with her art if she would have spent more time at it. But how can you when you are raising 5 kids.
Anyway, I painted on my cast with acrylic paints because they dried quickly and were washable. It was a cool design that I just winged. I did not draw anything, just painted. I donít know what happened to that cast but it was great fun creating it. It gained me a lot of attention when people saw it, but of course that attention made me feel uncomfortable. Once I created this work of art I enjoyed it as a memory every day until my cast was taken off. I didnít create the artwork for other people, I painted it to kill time and to alleve my boredom while being stuck in the cast. Activities are a little limited when wearing one of those.
So when I entered that art contest it wasnít really my ideal. I didnít really care to be recognized or paid attention to. I entered the art contest because some of my mentors and youth workers at church thought I had some real talent and that it would be a good experience for me. As it turned out, it was a good experience but not for the reasons they thought.
Before the contest I drew up a lot of sketches and ideas, most of which I kept in my sketchbook, but finally I decided on a very simple drawing that showed my love and relationship to God. It was simply one hand reaching up to another, anticipating the touch, and knowing that our hands will meet, that God always extends a hand when I need it. At that time I thought my drawing was really good but I wasnít concerned with whether I would win or not. During the creation of the drawing I was drawing from my heart and used my own hands as a model. To me this was significant because I was deeply involved in the creative process. I was busy working out the details.
On the way to the contest I spilled coffee on my drawing. I was kind of upset about that, but in that moment my church youth leaders gave me some very good advice, and helped me try to clean it. They said something like, ďNo matter what happens, you have already received an great award during the process of creating this art. The true reward is the process of creating. With the skills and process of creating, you can create more artwork and your life will be filled with creativity and joy. Donít worry about the outcome of this contest. After itís over youíll do more, greater things.Ē And those words I knew were closer to how I felt about art, as opposed to an idea of art as a product. Just like life is not a snapshot or an end result. We often work towards goals only to find other goals and ambitions. When we arrive somewhere, we often find other destinations. Then when we look back on life, sometimes out of regret for the things we failed to do, we stumble on this truth: It is the process of creating the art that is the most important part of our life. Itís not the house we have or the job we have or the artwork we have created. Itís the creative process that brings us the joy. Itís living life that brings us the joy.
I did poorly in the art contest, and the judges said on their review form that, ďItís obvious you are a good student of art, please keep up the good work and the studies.Ē I thought that was a bunch of crap actually. When I looked at my picture I saw God reaching out a hand to help someone in need. It was the most beautiful picture I had created because it was me.
I realized the truth that the contest was just one motivation to get people to create and that I didnít need a contest to create. I donít know how to explain it any better than this. When we look at our lives as the creation of art, what do we see? How are we living it?
A few years ago I scanned in that old drawing which I kept in my attic and moved from house to house over the years and created another picture for a special friend. This was part of the process of creating a friendship. I added some Korean words to it and it makes an interesting statement by itself, but the true artwork was in giving a part of myself to someone who needed a real, true friend.
Why I let go of the horse. What should have been heartbreaking was a lesson in living.
January 18, 2005
Kicking my butt and other tales
Work and exercise. Then comes eating and sleep. This is a very interesting experiment.
Yesterday I spent all day shopping with a friend. I'm not a big shopper in the first place, but I can hang with the best of them when it comes to finding the best deal. I also think shopping is more fun when you can buy something for yourself, so I bought a lighter weight jacket for winter bike riding. It worked great today!
I rode my bike today and it was really nice! It's getting warmer! I also saw two other people out on their bikes! cool huh? One I saw while riding my bike home, and the other one I saw while running with my dog. Speaking of which, our new dog Max is working out great and he loves to run.
To any faithful readers out there, I apologize for missing an entry yesterday. My exercise program is taking a lot of energy out of me. I fell asleep at the computer last night so I thought I'd better just go to bed. It was a good idea.
Last night I saw my Korean language teacher in the restaraunt. That was nice. I was able to have a short conversation in Korean with her. The one thing I willl change in my learning practices, is more regular review of old material. Also, I will do more listening comprehension practice.
Now it's off to bed so I can do it all again tomorrow. :-) Have a great day!
January 16, 2005
Motivation when discipline is lacking
At times we all lack the discipline to do things we know we should be doing or that weíve told ourselves we have to do. Maybe itís caused by being tired and just needing to relax or maybe we are in too much of a hurry with a busy schedule and we put it off for later. Often later comes and our task is still undone but we find another reason not to do it. Sometimes our lack of motivation is laziness or itís fear of doing whatever it is. Regardless of the cause for our lack of motivation, if we really want to do this, we have to somehow find a way to make ourselves do it.
For me tonight it was exercising. Iím on week two of my new exercise plan for bike racing. Itís tough. Tonight I didnít want to go out running, or exercise. I just spent all day working and all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and vegetate. It wasnít that I was physically tired; I was just emotionally and mentally drained and not motivated to work myself.
First of all, I didnít give in to my desire to do nothing. But I still wasnít motivated to do it. Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, Arctic and Antartic explorer and expedition leader said when asked how he keeps going when his body says no more, ďItís a question of mentally trying to shut your wimpish voice up whenever it surfaces, which was quite a lot of the time.Ē I think the more we dwell on a resistive thought the stronger it gets. I was feeling hungry, so I decided to have a light snack, thinking it might generate a little energy change. But I didnít want to eat too much in case I could get myself to exercise. Itís not fun getting stomach cramps.
Then I decided to change into my exercise clothes. Even if I wasnít going to exercise, I wanted to take that first step and see if that would motivate me. I was still not motivated to actually do it. Then I put my running shoes on and did some stretches. I still was not committed to doing it. But then I put my running coat, hat, gloves, etc. on and I was committed. I went out and started running. I picked a different route tonight so I wouldnít be facing the same routine.
As I was running I was also concentrating on watching my step, because there were a lot of slippery spots on the sidewalks and roads in our neighborhood. I ended up running a big loop back to my house that was twice my normal running distance and I felt much more motivated. When I got in the house I then continued to exercise with the other parts of my exercise plan. I had a great workout and really feel like my muscles got a good workout. At least in this case I could talk myself into being motivated by taking one step at a time in that direction and one thing led to another. By the time my heart and breathing were really going I was motivated to continue. Then I finished the workout, ate a real dinner then took a little nap. After the nap I meditated. It was awesome.
Iíve used this technique with schoolwork also. Sometimes I just begin it without committing to doing it. Once I get started with each step one thing leads to another. For instance, Iíll tell myself that I want to just look over the notes from class. Then since my homework is listed in the notes, I tell myself Iíll just look at the homework to see what kind of questions and examples are in there. Then one thing leads to another and Iím done with it. Sometimes itís easier to find the motivation to finish something weíve started than to muster the strength to begin and do the whole thing. It builds up in our minds as an insurmountable task and a burden. But once we are involved in it, itís kind of hard to argue with ourselves about doing it or not doing it.
See The Motivation List
for other ideas. Feel free to add to my list.
What I did today for motivating myself to exercise partially answers this question: How do we find motivation when we don't have any?
, which gave birth to my motivation list.
January 15, 2005
Leonardo da vinci Question One
What did Leonardo da Vinci feel when his twenty-four foot high model of the Sforza equestrian monument was destroyed by the French archers when they used it for target practice in 1499? He spent almost ten years studying and working toward this masterpiece. The actual bronze statue was never built but Vasari described it as ďnever a more beautiful thing or more superb.Ē In 1500 Leonardo moved to Florence and focused his efforts on painting.
I know what I would feel. I would have already said goodbye to it long before it was destroyed.
January 14, 2005
Saturday Night Music
Saturday night, January 15th at 7:00pm I'll be at the Old Man River Cafe on Annapolis and Smith Avenue in West Saint Paul / St. Paul. It's right on the Southwest corner of the intersection. One of my favorite young musical geniuses is singing. I wrote adoringly about Greg Froehle before on August 20th, the last time I saw him play. I bought his CD and really loved it. Now I get to go hang out, drink coffee and listen to him again.
If anyone wants to meet me, here's your chance. If you can identify me, I'll buy you a cup of coffee, a Latte, Mocha, an Almond Brother, Hyper Zen, Polar Bear or something like that. Greg seems to bring his own fan club (they like his music also) so there'll be plenty of people to choose from. And you can enjoy some good music.
See you there!
Bike Ninja II
I think today was the coldest day of the year so far. But the days are getting longer and there are only about 60 days left of Winter. I was excited because as I was riding my bike home today, at 5:30pm there was still a little light left.
Today when I got into work, one of the co-authorís of our company newsletter took my picture and wrote an article about my winter bike commuting. I thought the picture turned out well and wanted to share it with you. Due to the extreme cold weather, I am dressed like this. Which looks very similar to Jimís picture.
Today riding my bike to work I actually got too hot because I over-dressed for the conditions. The key to riding a bike in subzero weather is having 'no exposed skin.' To stay warm I put on layers:
* Long underwear, pants, windbreaker overpants. Synthetic socks, thick wool socks over that, then waterproof workboots.
* Thin Nylon gloves inside of thick winter gloves with thinsulate lining.
* Light nylon ski mask with a military Extreme Cold Weather Mask over
that. To protect the exposed skin around the eyes and lips I used a thin coat of Vaseline.
* On my upper body I had on a normal work shirt, a sweater and winter Jacket. The sweater was overkill because with the work of riding a bike, the core tends to warm up quickly. Going home I have to work much harder because it's almost all uphill. I had to take off the sweater for the ride home. With the right preparation and attitude the bike riding part is no different than riding on a summer day. Well, almost no different. I feel a little constricted in all those layers. But even sub-zero weather is manageable.
January 13, 2005
Today is my birthday. I had a really good day so I'm thankful for that. The day I was born it was 13 degrees outside. Today is a bit colder than 13, but inspite of that I rode my bike to work and I did my exercise routine and my wife and I went out for dinner and to the bookstore.
I got a little chuckle at the bookstore tonight. My wife saw a book on how to cure your procrastination and said, "I'll come back and get that book tomorrow." Then a little later I found a book on addictive behavior to help me stop buying books. We laughed at that too.
It was really cool though, because I had a 50 dollar gift card to spend at Barnes & Noble's. That was fun! Do you want to know what I bought for 50 dollars? Almost everything was on sale.
1. A book on Addiction
2. A book on books
3. An Italian cookbook with little stories - Si Mangia?
4. A book and CD on Meditation
5. A book on designing and building your dream home
6. A very large book on Painting
7. A 2005 Dog calendar
8. A novel for my wife
9. An exercise book
10. "How to think like Leonardo da Vinci - Seven steps to Genius every day.
(I'll let you know if either book number 1 or number 10 works.)
Tomorrow I'm going to ride my bike to work to show everyone it can be done safely even in negative 30 degree weather. The key is really in having NO EXPOSED skin. If you are walking or riding your bike on Friday make sure you dress properly. Frostbite happens in seconds and can effect you the rest of your life.
January 12, 2005
Nothing to say
Except stop arguing and find ways to resolve our differences and love each other.
January 11, 2005
Today I rode my bike to work, but I wasn't really enthused about the
thought of it. It snowed last night and I don't have my studded tires
yet, and I was really tired. Last night after meeting with my Korean
language partner, I still had not done my exercise program (except for
the biking part of it since I rode my bike home from work yesterday.)
Then my son asked me for a ride to a friend's house and by the time I
got home it was 11:00pm. I was ready for bed. But, being just a little
determined, or deranged, I did my exercises anyway. I didn't run as
planned, but I couldn't see myself out running around the neighborhood
at midnight. My upper-body workout was good though. However, because
of this, I got to bed really late. After exercising I was kind of
pumped up and couldn't sleep right a way so 1:00 am rolled around and this morning I was tired. That made my attitude a little less than enthusiastic. I looked outside
at the road and saw that it was all white. We don't get a lot of
traffic on our street so it's hard to judge what the road conditions are like
outside of our neighborhood. It looked like it would be treacherous
without studded tires. Plus, I heard that we were supposed to get more
snow this afternoon. I might have used any excuse to not ride my bike
I looked at the temperature and saw that it was fairly warm and
realized that I was just rationalizing my lack of enthusiasm so I got my
stuff on and rode my bike to work. It was ok. There was only one spot
where it was kind of tough going because there was about 2 inches of
slush, with ruts on the part of the street I had to ride on. But even
without the studded tires, my knobby mountain bike tires worked fine.
It gave me a little more confidence in my equipment and in
Through this experience I realized two things:
1. I have to exercise right after work, before I eat dinner or I will
run out of time for it. This will require a huge commitment. Or I have
to get up early and exercise, which I'm not really very excited about.
2. When it comes to preparing for cycle racing, attitude can be my
biggest asset or biggest liability. Equipment is secondary. No amount
of the 'right' equipment could have gotten me out that door this
morning. I stopped rationalizing and did it anyway. I made up my mind
that the only way I would really know what it was like is if I actually
went out there and tried it. Besides, in the worst-case
scenario I could always walk to work and push the bike. I knew the
walking would be good for me too and I had enough time. But I found out
that I didn't need to push the bike after all. Attitude, for better or
worse is what makes it happen or not happen.
I know this exercise plan will make me stronger, and a better bike
racer, but it's a huge commitment physically and emotionally. Now I am
seeing and remembering how much time exercise and fitness really takes.
This is one reason why I thought that commuting by bike was such a great
idea last year when I started doing it. If it takes me 30 minutes to
drive in my car and 1 hour by bike, it's like getting an hour's worth of
exercise with only spending 30 minutes outside of my normal commute
time. The closer a person lives to work the less time difference there
is and the more it makes sense. If it takes me 15 minutes to ride the
bus or drive my car to work and it takes me 15 minutes by bike, then I'm
doing exercise in the same amount of time as my commute. It's like
getting 15 minutes of free time every day to exercise.
On Thursday, January 20th there is a class at the Sibley Bike Depot:
Class: building studded snow tires
Description: Build yourself a studded snow tire for your bike.
Studded snow tires can save your life if in winter biking. We will be
using sheet metal screws to convert standard knobby tires to snow
Class cost is $20 and includes a wheel, tire, and tube, or $10 if you
bring your own wheel.
Date: Thursday, January 20, 2005
Duration: 90 minutes
Category: Sibley Bike Depot
Created by: andrew
Updated: Friday, December 17, 2004 6:25pm
Event Contact Email: email@example.com
Location: Sibley Bike Depot
509 Sibley St.
St. Paul, MN 55101
Jim kindly offered to loan me his studded tires for the Ice Criterium
bike race but I still haven't decided if I want to try riding in that
race. I'll have to see if I have the motivation and courage to try that
as my first-ever bike race. On one hand it would give me a good
planning goal for next year by actually trying it. On the other hand,
I've never raced before and don't know if this would be the best race
for me to begin on.
January 10, 2005
Last night at this time I was trying to post my blog entry but couldn't log in. I tried three times and each time my computer crashed. My computer is sick I think. But tonight I didn't have any problems. In any case, If you were looking for me last night, I gave up and went to bed. Some things took higher precedence than writing, like meeting with my Russian friends, exercise and sleep. By the time I got to this I was already exhausted.
Tonight I met with my Korean Language partner and it was very helpful. We talked about some common expressions in Korean about asking for help and expressing that want something. I biked to and from work today, so I really got a good workout coming home. It's all uphill.
Tomorrow night I'm watching a special on Lance Armstong on Cable TV, the Biography channel 115. That will be interesting. During the Tour de France this year I saw a lot of clips and interviews with Lance so I learned quite a bit about him already.
Thursday night I'm meeting with my Korean Language partner again, then Friday night I'm going to relax. wow, what a week. It seems that I am just as busy now as I was when I was in class. I always seem to fill up my time though. But every once in a while, just to maintain some balance I need to take a break from something. Since exercising is becoming a bigger priority for me now, I had to let go of something else and this was it.
So many things are a matter of priority. If some things are a high enough priority in our lives, they get more attention. The one thing I have worked on in the past is how to make something I don't want to do a high enough priority so I get it done. I can't say any more that I can't do something, because If I really want to I know I could. I'm making choices all the time, and prioritizing all the time, whether I know it or not. So I might as well do it conciously. Priority is related to balance in life. We choose what to give priority to and our balance is affected by our choices.
January 8, 2005
Today I started my upper body workout to train for bike racing. Then I ran again for the 4th time this week. Now I'm tired. tomorrow I'm going for a 40 mile bike ride since it will be nice out. This is one of the critical moments when starting something new. I'm starting to see how hard my commitment really is. This is gong to be a lot of fun, but also my body willl be going through a lot of changes. I'm going to stay on this workout schedule for the next seven weeks: Bike, Run, Upper body workout daily with one day off per week. then I'll try to change it.
Now I'm off to bed. Exhausted. haha. And why am I doing this?
January 7, 2005
You almost saw me
Today I rode my bike to work and a lot of people were staring at me. I was having a great time though! And it felt really good to be pumping my legs and surging through the crisp air. I could feel my heart beating and hear my breathing. The traffic around me was cautious and curious. People slowed down and looked at me as I was riding along. I was the only bike on the street and Iím sure I must have seemed a little out of place.
As I was riding in I was glad to have the knobby tires and easy handling of my Mongoose mountain bike. I just got it back from the bike shop last night. (The pedal fell off the last time I rode it and the threads were stipped inside of the crank arm) So I was excited about riding my bike. The bonus was that it was actually really nice today. Tomorrow should be warmer so I might go for another ride. It feels really good to be exercising outside. So far so good. Itía already January 7 and last year I started riding my bike on March 16th. Thatís only about 60-some days of winter left! Thatís a positive note.
Since I was in a good mood and excited about cycling in the winter, I wanted to share my enthusiasm with you by posting a photo of me and my bike. So I had a coworker take several photos with the digital camera. Unfortunately they were all blury. She must have had shakey hands or something. In any case, They looked distorted and not suitable to post. Iíll have to take some more some time. You almost saw me.
Winter biking is cool. Itís fun and it saves a ton of pollution and reduces dependancy on the automobile. Just because itís winter doesnít mean itís not possible. I was explaining to my wife tonight that even though people look at winter cyclists like they are crazy, itís not so crazy. My turning point came when I decided to look at this as not just Ďcyclingí but as a Ďwinter sport.í I know how do do winter sports. Iíve gone snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, dog sledding, ice skating, and sliding. When I started to look at this as a winter sport, like any of these, my attitude changed. Cold was no longer a limiting factor because in Winter Sport, itís expected that it will be cold. In a winter sport using the proper gear nullifies the effects of the cold. Iím not biking, Iím winter-biking. Thatís the difference. Now I canít wait until it really snows, so I can experience some real winter-biking sport.
Although Iíd better get my studded tires ready for that day. But sadly there is only about two months left of winter. Time flies when we are having fun. If you saw me riding my bike today, you would have felt my enthusiasm. Instead of looking at a winter-biker like they are crazy, think about the pleasure that person is really experiencing. Just like down-hill skiing or snow-boarding. This is fun stuff! If you've ever felt this feeling, then you did see me!
January 6, 2005
The Goal of Education
The goal of Education as I propose it, is not Encyclopedic Knowledge. It is the transformation of the self and the expansion of the mind, the gaining of wisdom. Education includes informal and formal instruction and anything that teaches us something. This includes every experience in life and everything we see, hear, feel, touch and do. There is a distinction between Information and Knowledge.
Breaking this down, we can see that words included in books are information. When we read a book we have to process that information. Then our brain has to figure out what to do with the information that it is receiving. Does it store it for later retrieval or discard it or recombine it with other information? We decide what to do with the information we are bringing in. At some point information becomes knowledge. Knowledge though is not simply reciting memorized information. Anyone can open the same book we just read and look at the same information. But that doesnít mean they or we Ďknowí this information. To know the information is to internalize it and experience it. If I am reading a book on Engineering principals, I can memorize the formulas and be able to recite them, but if I donít know how to apply the formula to real world situations, I have not really learned anything. Once I apply those formulas, then I have knowledge of that formula and itís not just numbers and variables that Iíve memorized. And my project gets completed with proper engineering principals and is structurally sound. Applying principals learned by others is how the transfer of knowledge from one person to another really takes place. Until itís transferred into Knowledge itís just information.
We are deluged with information every day. What you are reading right now is just more information to process and perhaps convert into knowledge. Today for instance I was given a calendar of the 2000 New York City Marathon by a co-worker to inspire me in my fitness goals. The calendar has a lot of amazing photos and quotes. I had not realized how massive the NYC marathon was. Itís one of those sports I wasnít paying attention to since it didnít relate to my interests over the years. But now I looked at this calendar and wonder how much preparation and training I would need to run a marathon. Well, first Iíd have to run. My workout plan this week does include running, but itís only 1 mile per day at 10 minutes. People running the NYC Marathon run for two to eight hours. Sam Gadless of Boca Raton, Florida, ran the marathon for the first time in 1997 with a time of 8 hours, 10 minutes. He was 85 years old. At 91, he competed in his seventh NYC Marathon, along with his 56-year-old son, Lou, and 26-year-old grandson, Steve. Why is this information important to me? Because itís a story of change. Itís a story of inspiration that means something to me and that I can apply. I am not interested the statistics about ages or how many people run the NYC Marathon each year, though itís interesting trivia. What can be applied to my life is the information on how he changed, and what he was doing and what his attitudes were. Sam said at 91 as he was preparing to start the race, ďIf you can do it, I can do it!Ē But his change didnít happen overnight. He didnít just go out and run a marathon because he thought it would be cool. When he was in his 70ís doctors told him that he was in sorry shape. They said his future didnít look too bright. That was the information he needed to change. He quit smoking and became active. He began researching healthy living. He changed his diet and stopped eating junk food and prepared his own nutritional meals. He began exercising. The information from the doctors was about his current state of health and some projections about how his future would turn out based on that. How Sam applied this information changed his life. Then he knew the truth. Information became knowledge.
To me this information about the NYC Marathon and in particular about Sam Gadless is a meaningless statistic unless I can somehow apply it to my own life. Is there something in it that I can use? His spirit of Ďtry ití is encouraging to me as I am trying to change my own health. Seeing by example that age doesnít mean there are no options and that old age doesnít mean helplessness is encouraging to me to continue on this path of change. His example is proof that living life verses merely existing and surviving is fulfilling and it reinforces many of the ideas that I already have about living a full and balanced life. I donít know Sam Gadless or anything about him besides what Iíve read now. But I donít necessarily have to know him personally in order to apply this information to my life. My mind is already expanded to know itís possible to run a marathon at 91 and that change is good, even if itís the most difficult thing in my life.
If we want to change the world, this is one area on which we need to set a higher priority. The education of our children when they are young should not be only a series of rote memorization of statistics and testing to recite this recorded information, but an expansion of their minds and the creative application of information to lifeís problems and challenges, creating true knowledge.
January 5, 2005
sticking to a plan
It is difficult to stick to a plan. I should have been in bed already, and so much for my plan to get more rest. But I had my blog entry written by 10:35pm and was just going to post and go to bed. That's fine, unless my computer decides to lock up and not let me post, or do anything else. Finally it let me reboot. Now it's midnight and I'm off to bed. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and refocus our efforts. I might try posting my blog in the morning before going to work. Novel concept if I can get out of bed on time tomorrow. haha. It's all good. See you in the morning.
What does it really mean?
What does it mean to "reflect society?" I'm not going to get deep or philosophical here, just point out an interesting Ad I saw in a magazine today. It was an Ad by Altria, the Parent company of Kraft Foods, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA.
I have to retype the Ad in it's entirety to show what I mean. You decipher it yourself and see what they are really saying. What is the purpose of this Ad?
"THE EVOLVING RESPONSIBILITY OF BUSINESS TO REFLECT SOCIETY
by the parent company of Kraft Foods, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA.
What makes a responsible company? Over years and even decades, the answers from society to this question have evolved considerably.
At Altria Group, the ways in which we are striving to meet societal expectations also continue to evolve. An important element is our commitment to listen to all sectors of society, including our companies' critics. Not just to detect shifts in society's expectations, but to respond honestly and positively when we hear them.
We know that the right structures and processes must be in place throughout our companies so that the letter and spirit of laws are followed. But even more than this, the right values and skills must be instilled in our people. Each of our companies is working so that these things are in place.
As a company that is the parent of both food and tobacco companies we know we have a role to play. Our commitment to employees, shareholders, our companies' consumers, regulators and society as a whole is to continually make progress as we move forward.
Our name is the Altria Group."
Wow. I guess they really are a responsible company that makes weapons of mass destruction. Hey it's not their fault that people use them. This article to me is so full of corporate spin that it's hard to tell what they are actually saying. For instance, "As a company that is a parent of both food and tobacco companies we know we have a role to play." That's nice but they don't elaborate what role or why.
Also, I really like, "Our commitment ... is to continually make progress as we move forward." Make progress at what? Playing a role?
This is the same way politicians win our hearts, by using key words like 'quality' 'commitment', 'progress', 'evolved', 'honestly', 'positively, 'responsible' and 'patriotic' without substantial meaning behind them.
January 4, 2005
The Team that doesnít play together
On Sunday Randy Moss walked off the field before the game was over and the press made a huge deal out of it. I think there was only two seconds left on the clock and the Vikings had to turn the ball over and score a touchdown. Randy may have just been realistic. I could almost hear him say, ďCímon guys, the gameís over, whatís the big deal? We lost. Iím headed for the showers.Ē
I saw that game and the Vikings could have won it, but they had too many fouls, especially the one that called back an amazing catch and touchdown by Randy Moss. Iím sure Randy wasnít happy about that. He caught the winning pass and the game would have turned out differently. But that wasn't the only play they had trouble with. I donít know football very well, but in the replay it looked like Daunte Culpepper would have been sacked if not for that personal foul and the pass probably wouldnít have been completed in the first place.
More football oriented sports fans could probably analyze why this team is not winning. It has one of the greatest Quarterbacks in the NFL and a couple of the greatest receivers. Individually this team, In my opinion, has some real talent and athletic ability. So why arenít they winning? I canít answer that, but it probably has something to do with how well they play together. Randy Mossís walking off the field when the game was almost over was not the straw that broke the camels back. It probably is a good indication that he was frustrated with a team that wasnít playing together.
What will solve the Vikingís problems? Itís hard for me to say, but Randy Moss walking off the field is only a symptom of deeper team issues. It is a symptom of some underlying problem. In life we often see people throw up their arms and say, ďThatís it, humanity is doomed. The game is over. This team sucks.Ē Sometimes itís frustrating to see ignorance and prejudice and hate and violence and see people getting away with murder and other unspeakable crimes. And often those that think they are pulling the weight for the team often get frustrated. They work hard at work, they work hard for their causes and they see things falling apart or going against their ideals. What else is there to do?
Here are some ideas to help the team of humanity:
1. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Have hope that humanity is moving in the right direction. If we look at even something like slavery, which was commonly accepted as ok in the not so distant past, we see that weíve come a long way. It may not be perfect yet, but in the U.S. anyway, slavery is not tolerated and most people would agree that itís not OK. I know Slavery is still a problem in other parts of the world and the U.S. has had problems with sweatshops recently, but those are being exposed. Not so long ago either, we had World War II, where Hitler and Nazi Germany with their allies tried to take over the world. Italy had Mussolini and Europe was divided. Now people drive freely from North to South and donít even need passports between the countries. The currencies of many nations were abandoned for the common Euro. Economically they were probably forced to work together to survive. But in the recent past, would any of these countries have dreamed of this level of cooperation and openness? Each of us needs to take a step back and look at the big picture and have hope. Though itís tempting to walk off the field in the last play of the game, and feel like we are doomed because we have a lousy team, take a look at how far weíve come and have hope that itís moving in the right direction. (I canít say that for the Vikings, haha., but to me this seems like a better team than last years, especially since I didnít watch football at all last year.) Have hope and donít walk off the field just yet.
2. What are you going to do about it? When I really started listening to God, I found out that I was part of the solution. Those that are aware of the problems are in a greater position to become part of the solution. As I was riding the bus, I would see some people in trouble or see a homeless person that was sick or cold. Or when walking in the park see garbage lying around. At first I would become angry with the people that threw their fast food containers in the park. Then God would ask me, ďWell, Iím so glad you saw that, arenít you going to pick it up? Are there any other solutions to this problem?Ē Whenever I would pray to God to help those poor people I saw on the bus or at the bus stops I started to get the response, ďYes, you are right, now that you see it what are you going to do about it?Ē This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Often our reply is, Iím too busy or thatís someone elseís responsibility.
3. Education. And more of it. Do I need to elaborate on the benefits of education? If we want our team to perform better, we have to know what works and what doesnít work. We have to memorize the plays and know what the opponent is capable of and be ready for it. We should all learn from history. Leonardo da Vinci said, ďHe is a poor pupil who does not go beyond his master.Ē Education eradicates ignorance. As a society we are getting better and as a world we are getting better. Itís not as apparent when we only see our current situation, but when we look back in history we see that only the elite were educated. In Korean King Saejong the great said that the commoners needed a way to express themselves and so he and his scholars developed an ingenious phonetic alphabet that was easy to learn and then began translating literary works into this new script and teaching the people how to read and write. At this time, well before Gutenberg, King Saejong the great and his scholars also invented movable type so they could print educational material for the masses. Before that time, only the royalty, the ruling class and the scholars were educated. By the time the renaissance came around even an illegitimate child in provincial Tuscany like Leonardo da Vinci could become one of the greatest painters, draftsmen, inventors, anatomists, musicians and philosophers. We know education is needed, we need to each become educators for what we can, and we all need to learn from history and we need to place more emphasis on the education of our children and our society. If we value education as a solution, which we should, we need to place it higher on our list of priorities and elect officials and lawmakers who feel the same way. And we need to get involved. My wife served on the site council for our local school long after our children left that school because she felt that it was important. Itís one reason I was a Scout leader for 7 years even after my son dropped out of scouts. I felt it was important enough to give up my life for those years. We can all make a contribution to the education of others. As for ourselves. We must also continuously educate our selves to free us from deception and ignorance. One of my favorite ancient quotes is still, ďOne is taught in accordance with oneís ability to learn.Ē If we do not learn our lessons by being taught, will learn them the hard way.
4. Make better choices. Each of us makes choices. Last week on Wednesday, December 29th there was an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about the death of Susan Sontag, age 71. She is said to be an ďacclaimed Novelist and avant-garde star.Ē I found it interesting that she spent a good portion of her career educating people in Sarajevo. The article ended with a quote from one of Susanís books. ďWhat I want people to think about, ďshe said, ďis how serious war is. How it is elective. Itís not an inevitable state of affairs. War is not the weather.Ē The leaders in our country made it sound like war was the only alternative. That there was no longer any choice. But that is a choice in itself. Itís like walking off the field because the team canít play together. Everything is a choice. We should all stop pretending we donít have a choice because we are making choices anyway. Sometimes our choices are very difficult, and we have to swallow our pride. Sometimes we have to invest ourselves in the problems. The news article headline said that Susan Sontag lost a 30-year battle with Cancer but I say she won 30 more years of life investing herself in the world trying to make it better, the best way she knew how. We all make choices. We have global warming, we have pollution, so what choices can I make now to help that situation? One choice I made is that I wonít use artificial fertilizers and chemicals on my grass. Itís been proven to run off into our wetlands and our rivers and cause all kinds of problems with nature. Thatís a choice. I have weeds in my yard but at least Iím not contributing to a greater problem. Often the tough choices are not convenient, comfortable or desirable. But they will make a difference. Itís our choice.
5. Love each other. This seems like a sentimental platitude, but thatís because the word love is so often misused and is conditional. But the Beatles were right when they sand, ďAll we need is love.Ē We should let this guide our choices and our actions. Love includes respect for others. We should promote this in our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our homes. When there are great insults and wounds to heal, what really works to heal them?
Thatís five places to start. We are all part of the human race and there are no excuses. We can look at the world and see the game as lost or we can see the problems and become part of the solution. Pass it on. If enough people are part of the solution just think what we can do when we finally learn how to play together.
January 3, 2005
We are a team
Whether we like it or not we are all on the same team. Itís like a cosmic joke that we should all be put on the same team with so many incompetent players along with the incredibly gifted players and all ranges of playerís abilities in-between. The Native Americans called Earth ďTurtle Island.Ē They believed that everything is related. In the Sioux Lakota language Mitakuye Oyasin means Ďwe are all relatedí or Ďto all our relations.í (1) The Native Americans believe that all things are alive and that we are all part of one Circle of Life and our individual well-being relies on the health of the whole. Scientifically when we dig deep into the nature of everything we see that everything is made of the same building blocks arranged in different patterns. We are all the same source of energy combined into a tree, a rock, and a person. Some people believe that no energy is ever lost, just converted into another form. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we all return to our creator.
When we consider the common plight of all human-beings we see that we are all in the same boat, so to speak. Until we find a way to hold off aging and death, we all eventually go through the same process. Each person on this planet is born, grows, ages, and dies.
We are all dependent on each other. No one on this planet can truly say that they live their life independent of other human beings or this planet. The food we eat contains minerals from the earth, which is fuel for our bodies. Even the sun provides life and energy for every living thing. We cannot live without it. We are dependent on the earth, the wind, the atmosphere, rain, sun, etc. We are also dependant on each other. Look around us at the objects in life. Other people made our houses, and even if we built our houses ourselves, others made the materials. Others made our clothing, and even if we sew our clothes ourselves, others made the material. Someone made the pencil we write with and others manufactured the computer we type on. Someone designed the things we use. If not for their inventions we would not have light or electricity. We did not all invent these things. We are all dependant on each other for life. We donít admit it and like to think we are independent and self-sufficient but we are deceiving ourselves if we think we are not dependent on others. Even self-made billionaires are dependant on their workers, on their lawyers, on the manufacturers of their cars and houses and jets. Take away everybody that had a hand or idea invested in everything around us and we are left with nothing but nature. We are dependent on nature. Without it we donít have the raw materials of life.
What we do affects each other. In the age of global warming and global networks and a global economy we can see the effects of this. We each think we are individuals and what we do is isolated from everyone else and it only affects our self. But this is shortsighted. When we consume natural resources we are draining the supply of those resources from someplace on the earth. When those supplies are depleted, they have to be found somewhere else, which affects other people. Our buildings are constructed of concrete and steel, which is mined from the earth. Our cars are driven on fuel. The bikes we ride are made of aluminum and steel and rubber, which are taken from Nature. The supplies are not limitless. Some are renewable. Our waste products affect others. Our air is polluted with exhaust from our factories, our automobiles and our airplanes. Our waste products fill landfills. We are running out of room to store our nuclear waste. Some effects of our actions are not seen for many years or even after our lifetimes. The way we affect others can also be positive. I used the example of the invention of electricity before. How did that one idea brought to fruition affect the rest of humanity throughout the generations since? The printing press is another example. People put their knowledge and experience into words. We all learn in schools. We are affected by what we learn. We put the information we learn into practice and it becomes knowledge. We in turn try to pass on our knowledge as information to others. Humanity is sharing this information and building on it. We all are adding to this whether we realize it or not.
In every part of the earth the struggle for power and control of territory through the history of humankind has affected other human beings. Lives were lost or spared or used. Families were affected. Everything anyone has ever done has contributed in some way to the state and conditions of our lives right now. If not for that one soldier who served the emperor in China by fighting bravely, China might have lost a key battle and another group of people like the Mongols, would have been dominant and China would not be a world superpower now. Explorers and settlers from our recent past conquered this territory, which is not the United States. Without those immigrants and settlers there would have been no westward expansion and no need to conquer another people. Each of our actions affects someone, somewhere, at some time.
The idea that we are all a team is kind of hard to imagine if we think they are self-made and self-sufficient and isolated from each other. There is a cause and effect for everything and we affect everything around us, which affects everything else. Like a chain with links, our team is only as strong as the weakest link. So when it comes to humanity, we are only destroying ourselves when we destroy part of our team, whether that is Nature or other human beings. When others suffer, eventually we suffer. The chain breaks. Our current situation in the world can only be attributed to the actions and thoughts of human beings. We do to ourselves what we do to others.
At some point hopefully we will all become more aware of our true situation and change for the better. If we want peace between people then we need to be peaceful. If we want to end poverty, we need to find better uses for our resources. Human greed and pride and jealousy are not part of this kind of change. Itís our choice. If we donít do our part as part of the human race, we are letting down the whole team. We will either destroy each other or find a way to help each other survive.
1. Thorsonís Principles of Native American Spirituality
January 2, 2005
Part of a Team
Tonight Iím watching Danteís Peak on TV. I liked this movie the first time I saw it. Of course, I like Pierce Brosnan and he was cool and clever as ever. As I was watching this movie, I noticed the teamwork and camaraderie between the members of the USGS team that came to Danteís Peak to check out the Volcano. This reminded me of my Army days.
I was part of a team. In a team everyone works toward a common mission. Everyone helps each other. This is one thing I have not felt in most of the jobs Iíve held in the past 19 years. The last job I had was a team, but unfortunately it ended because of the ownerís greed. The company went under and I had to find a new job.
Itís funny how I made this connection, but Paul, the boss of the team in the movie wasnít being a team member and he died. In my old company, the boss of our team wasnít being a team member and his company went under. We all got other jobs, he went to jail. It was sad.
Being part of a team feels great. There is a connection between each team member. But to really have a good team we need good team leaders or the team doesnít last. It eventually splits up or crashes. Usually not by the team members doing, but poor decisions by the team leader.
Our team is humanity, and this is why itís so important to pick leaders that are really part of the team. So as a human being, part of the human race, what is it we want? Where are the leaders who are really part of our team?
January 1, 2005
What I learned today
I just discovered that my post from last night got sent to the year 0000. Some kind of a technical glitch, so I changed the date and saved it. Happy New Year!
Today was a great day, with little activity. We watched the Tournament of Roses Parade on TV today and I marched around the living room with one of the consumers at the group home blowing pretend horns likie we were in the marching band. He loves marching bands and always watches for them at half-time at the football games. He always pretends heís marching in the band playing a horn. It was very fun.
After teaching sign language to another guy he got all agitated at me and started stomping his feet and making his yelling sound (the only sound he can make). Then I discovered from my coworker that he usually gets something to drink as a treat after he does a good job. Well, Iíve never followed that routine before with him, but I gave him something to drink this time and he was happy. He knows the sign for drink so we told him that he has to use it in order for us to understand what he wants.
Other than that it was a quiet day and I got some laundry done, log entries, finally a little reading while the parade was on. I read some more in my book, The Cyclistís Training Bible, and a Menís Fitness Magazine. Here are the things I found most interesting so far, which are good things to add to the New Years Resolution list:
1. ďStaying fit while youíre young may protect you heart during middle age. A new Northwestern University study reports that regular workouts may help reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and even diabetes by as much as 50% as you age.Ē Wow! I like the odds on this one.
2. Natural things that fight off infection and helps the immune system: Baked Sweet Potatoes contain a lot of beta-carotene. Tea helps get our T cells going. Turkey is a good source of protein and glutamine, an amino acid. Salmon has omega-3 fatty acids which balance out our intake of omega-6. Garlic has at least 13 compounds that help boost immunity. Almonds have a high magnesium content. Raisin Bran has zinc, which helps keep our thymus gland running at its peak. Vitamin E helps reduce the severety of our cold and the sicktime by up to 20%
3. Training harder is not necessarily better. We need plenty of rest and proper nutrition. Over training may make it harder for our muscles to recover. I havenít had that problem yet this year. ;-)
I also took some photos today, but canít wait until tomorrow when I can retake some of those I missed by not loading the film properly on New Years Eve.
One of my goals for my lifestyle is to get enough sleep to help my muscles recover from working out. Starting tonight My blog entries will be posted much earlier. Better nutrition, smarter training, proper rest. Canít beat that.