Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dizzy

I've been dizzy for the past month. Every day, I stare at movies like this and try to tease out some meaning. Imagine just staring at a swirl on a computer monitor for hours. It is simultaneously amazing and nauseating.

video

That was 3 of my hundred+ white whales. Or a small fraction of my really big white whale. Metaphors are stupid.

Mark the Sponsorship Guy

Mark is the Rutgers Cycling Team's official Sponsorship Guy, and I'll be damned if he's not amazing at it. I'll even go so far as to say that we're the best-sponsored collegiate team you'll find, with the possible exceptions of all-pro varsity teams and schools whose asses are inexplicably kissed by major media outlets (although I haven't done my homework in this matter, nor will I).

Blah blah blah. Mark's the man. So what?

I hereby propose that we raise the bar. Now that we have a bike and accessory sponsor, helmet and eyewear sponsor, components sponsor, clothing sponsor, nutrition sponsor, coaching sponsor, and shop support, we must ask: What have you done for us lately, Mark?

And just like that, the bar has been raised! Before you graduate - so by 2015, I guess - I expect that the team will be presented by another university. Picture it: Rutgers University Cycling Team, presented by Dartmouth University. Racing for Rutgers on someone else's dime.

It'd be the ultimate coup! I believe in you, Mark. Start making calls.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Let's Get Some Shoes

In the middle of what I've been calling the luckiest month of my life, my cycling shoes broke. Both pairs. The buckle on the road shoe just snapped off, and the buckle on the MTB shoe no longer stays tight.

Awesome.

Since the MTB shoes are just barely on the wrong side of usable, I've been riding with them for a month. "Just barely on the wrong side" is still on the wrong side, and I quickly developed a pretty wicked knee pain. Wicked, like "hey can you pick me up at a coffee shop in Princeton? Kthx"

I'd already ordered new shoes before the onset of pain, so I'm taking time off the bike until those come in. Specialized shoes are totally sweet, at least the 2nd-tier shoes I've been using, and I can't wait to ride in the Pro-ish carbon versions.

Seriously, I can't wait. Riding again in these broken shoes is tantamount to pissing in the wind, even more painful (but less smelly). So I'm not riding. It's been two weeks. Goodbye, fitness. Goodbye, sanity.

My appetite is gone, I have less energy, sleep doesn't come easy, and I've spent too much time in front of the TV. I miss the road, and I miss the trails.

At least I didn't have elective back surgery.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land - NYC Karaoke

For only the second time ever, I ventured out of my Central Jersey comfort zone to test the waters of New York Karaoke. The first time was for Dan Flan's birthday party, wherein we got plastered on smuggled beer in a small room in a Korean establishment.
Since the rest of the evening was spent wandering the streets of Brooklyn, bar hopping and tree climbing, the brief hour in the Karaoke room is less prominent in my memory than it might've been.
On Friday, I took the train into the city, then walked a few blocks to meet up with the group. It struck me that despite having spent almost two decades living 30 minutes from NYC, I am still a tourist. I love the skyscrapers, the bright lights, the loud noises, and while I try to look jaded like a local, I'm still obviously not.

I called when I was close, asking for specific directions to the apartment. Along with the street address (useful), I was told that the apartment is located on the northwest corner of the block. Fantastic. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought my compass, and sun had long since set. I was eventually able to find the North Star between the buildings, though, so I did manage to orient myself.

As fun as it is to look down my nose at the city from my high suburban horse, New York does have its merits. For example, in the winter, the smell of garbage isn't overwhelmingly strong. The new touch-screen GPS devices in taxicabs keep you entertained during your inebriated, expensive ride home. In the end, it is the Korean Karaoke bars that take the cake.

I love that we're given options from both English- and Korean-language music. I love that every room gets tambourines, a disco ball, and microphones set to echo. I love that we can't control the option that gives a grade after every song, although I'm not too thrilled that my performances are consistently low-scoring.

I simply adore the accompanying music videos. There's no telling what possessed the production companies to make them, but they're fantastic. In the spirit of cheap knock offs reverse engineering hilariously cheesy copyright avoidance, these videos are just awful. The best I've ever seen was when Ted was laughing too hard to sing "Don't Fear The Reaper" because the video was of a vampire chasing a woman around his mansion.

This post was meant to be a treatise about Karaoke itself, as illustrated by the differences between Harvest Moon Karaoke, Korean joints in Manhattan, and maybe even the Golden Rail. However, as usual, I've had too much fun along the way and will have to save that for another time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Unfulfilled Dream

Every little boy wants to be a fighter pilot, or maybe an astronaut. We grow out of it, though, because most people just can't be fighter pilots or astronauts.

I, for example, am colorblind. Damnit.

I never grew out of it, though. Never. Don't get me wrong, it's not like it's gnawing away at my soul or anything. The dream never died, though, it just went unfulfilled.

I'll be posting something later today about karaoke and such, and you'll probably enjoy it. However, having found this video, I got so excited that I had to share it.

Want. Damn my eyes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Francis, a clarification

In case you were wondering just what sort of movie this was, here's the original trailer.

Apparently, in 1950, begging was an effective marketing ploy.

One last point: I wasn't kidding. Francis Joins the Navy features a young Clint Eastwood as Jonesey, a sailor with a heart of gold.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Hope To Kiss A Duck


In the most amazing revelation since Aaron shaved his goatee, our apartment has been rocked to its very core by Francis the Talking Mule.

Words cannot express the degree to which we were entertained. Between the "family friendly" banter of a sardonic semi-racist mule, the subtly homo-erotic dialogue between the supporting cast of characters like "Colonel Hooker" and "Buck Private", and the Oscar-worthy acting (ZOMG!!! that mule can TALK?!?), we were laughing so hard that Will nearly burst his stitches.

I had no idea that "I hope to kiss a duck" was ever an idiom, but now, thanks to Francis, it's become a wonderfully anachronistic addition to my vocabulary. Also, puns about jackasses.

Thanks, Bearded Megan! If I'd have known you were coming, I would've baked a cake.

Up next: Francis Joins the Navy... costarring Clint Eastwood.

Monday, January 21, 2008

When In Rome

Every couple of weeks, Jay#1 and I meet up on a Sunday night for a nice platonic man-date. We catch up with each other, we drink beers, and we watch football... it's nice.

It might surprise you to learn that we don't always drink at my favorite bar, Harvest Moon, where we're both regulars. In fact, more often than not, we go to Old Bay, which has cheaper and more exotic beer on Sunday nights. There are some things in life that transcend bar-loyalty (although certainly not Karaoke-loyalty), and the opportunity to try new beers at minimal cost is one of them.

Old Bay has been closed for renovation, though, so Jay and I met at Harvest Moon, only to find ourselves in the middle of the 3rd Annual Jimmy D's Memorial. Since Jimmy D was a firefighter who died in the line of duty, this meant that the place was packed with firefighters. I'll tell you what, it felt like I was stuck in an episode of Rescue Me, but with less fire. When the Fife and Drum Corp took over, I was pretty much ready to leave - while Jay enjoys the bagpipes, my musical tastes exclude tortured cats and headaches.

We ran into some friends, ordered food to go, and enjoyed some Jimmy D's Firehouse Red, a beer that had been named in Jimmy D's honor... not my favorite beer, but eh, when in Rome... The Giants game was on, though, and we could barely hear each other talk over the firefighters, so it was time to leave.

Old Bay turned out to be open. Jay and I sat at its bar, and as we ate our dinners, sampled unusual beers, and shot the breeze, the bar got more and more packed with Giants fans. The game's drama sucked us in, and we found ourselves cheering, booing, and swearing with the crowd. When in Rome, right?

As you hopefully saw, or at least read about the next day, the Giants kicker missed two game-winning field goals. The crowd, and thus Jay and I, were incensed. Outraged. Beside ourselves with bloodlust.

Now, I've been told that my sense of humor is a little too dry. Certainly the written format, for want of tone, has confused even my close friends. Still, when it comes to sarcastic replies to earnest statements, I rather enjoy playing with condescending ambiguity. Someday I'm going to get my ass kicked, but so far so good.

After the second missed field goal, there were a few minutes to kill before the start of overtime. The guy behind us - let's call him Frank - turned to me and Jay and said, "we've got to kill Tynes [the Giants kicker], then burn his house down and kill his family".

Nice to meet you too, Frank.

Jay just sort of chuckled, because Jay knows better than to run with scissors. Me, I looked Frank in the eye and deadpanned, "No. We let Tynes live, kill his parents, and feed them to him."

No, I didn't plagiarize that South Park episode. I plagiarized Shakespeare, which is way classier.

Somehow, this didn't phase Frank much at all. He did pause for a beat, but he came right back with "Yeah, either he eats his parents or we kill his daughter." I'm not making this up, people, and Jay will back me up here.

Now that Frank had devised the ultimate in blackmailing leverage, we moved on to finer details. How best to prepare the parents, for example. Sushi or well-done? What would be the best marinade?

Thankfully, as soon as Frank announced that Mama Tynes would be basted in teriyaki and Papa Tynes would've wanted to be served in steak sauce, it was time for the coin toss. Long story short: the Giants won on a Tynes field goal, Frank high-fived us, it was agreed that all members of the Tynes clan would be spared, and we got the hell out of there.

"When in Rome" is fine, until you realize that you can leave.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter Makes the Weekdays Suck

Which looks more fun to you?

or



I can't wait for Saturday.

Gypsy Jazz

It must be an Eastern European thing, the threat that one's heritage isn't Magyar, Jewish, or Cossack, but in fact Gypsy. In today's PC society, telling a child that he's adopted is shockingly tasteless, but apparently that wasn't the case in decades past. Back then, an accusation of Gypsy genetics was some sort of punishment for bad behavior. Hey, if it was good enough for the generation that conquered the moon, it's good enough for me.

Like my troublemaking father before me, I was occasionally informed throughout my youth that I am actually a Gypsy. Furthermore, I hadn't been adopted, so much as traded. My parents had bartered me for the price of a loaf of bread... depending on the severity of my most recent misbehavior, that cost ranged from just right to too expensive.

Since this took place in the 1980s in New Jersey, the effect was probably not as profound as it had been in Cold War-era Romania or wherever. In retrospect, I'm not even certain that I knew what a Gypsy was.

Now, though, I'm beginning to wonder if I might not be part Gypsy. It's not that I have a restless spirit, or that I sympathize (empathize? I always forget the difference) with the Pikeys in Snatch. Mostly it's Django Reinhardt.

Here's a rather long cover of a famous Django song. Let it play in the background as you finish reading.


This guy was amazing. Even ignoring the fact that he lost the use of two fingers in a fire, which makes everything about his career exponentially cooler, Django is the big mack daddy of Gypsy Jazz. Rumor has it that he coined the term itself.

Gypsy Jazz has captured my imagination. As soon as I first listened to it, I started trying to find chord progressions on the interwebs so that I might try to play it myself (another story for another time... spoiler alert: I list ways in which a guitar is like a bicycle). For the most part, though, it's the music itself that grips me. I could listen to it all day.

What is it about this style that so moves me? Unfortunately, I just don't think I have the vocabulary to describe this sort of emotional connection between sound and spirit. The Gypsy-ness of it is certainly key - that darkly minor key, the frantic lead guitar, the way the melody isn't so much a melody as an exploration of some chromatic scale that evokes images of campfires and caravans and drunken dancing. It's intoxicating, it's flamenco without the castanets.

You can't ignore the swing, though. It's been said that it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't have that swing... or something like that. The rhythm guitar is unlike anything else I've ever heard - done well, it makes the drummer obsolete. The style is called "la pompe", and it has gotten under my skin. Listening to the rhythm guitar begs the question, what would Glenn Miller's Band have sounded like if he'd had anger issues and an absinthe habit?

I guess it all comes down to romance. Listening to Gypsy Jazz makes me feel like a beret wearing, chain smoking, thinly mustached pre-war Parisian sitting in a packed, dimly lit bar with a quintet in the corner. Whether that's because of the nature of the music or because of what the media has taught me to associate with the music, I don't care.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Prodigal Will Returneth

If you didn't know, my roommate Will had an elective surgery last week. While the "elective" modifier removes some drama from the situation, it certainly didn't make the surgery any less painful.

It's taken Will longer to recover than we hoped. Of course, we expected him pain free within 6 hours, back on his feet in a day, and doing long rides with us in 4 days, tops. We may have been a bit optimistic.

Aaron and I have been more than happy to help nurse our friend back to health, if only because this gives us ample opportunity to mock him. He'd do the same for us... the nursing and the mocking.

I'll admit, I've been having trouble with most of Will's post-op care. I don't know how medications interact or how to wean someone off of painkillers (although, kudos to Will, he went cold-turkey 24 hours early). I can't touch a forehead and gauge whether or not someone has a low-grade fever. It's especially tough for me to watch my friend suffer.

He's also supposed to be on his feet as much as possible, and we were instructed to encourage him to walk. Believe it or not, this has been the easiest part. Will and I train together all the time. One more hill, one more sprint, one more loop around campus... we pushed each other every day. One more lap in the apartment isn't all that different.

In fact, it occurred to me that over the past 18 months, I've subconsciously learned to tell the difference between Lazy Will and Fatigued Will - I really don't want to push him too far now, so it's good that I can tell that difference.

The challenge for us as caretakers is that he suffers so quietly, so internally. It's not a tough-guy pride thing, nor is it stubbornness; those would be easy to recognize and deal with. Instead, I think that it's an innate, deep aversion to troubling his friends with his problems.

Don't get me wrong, Will is as prone to complaining as the rest of us. We're bike racers... bitching about the wind, the cold, the heat, the pace, the paceline, the route, the hill, the descent, and so on... it's just what we do. It's what our conversations are reduced to when we spend so much time together.

On the other hand, I can't help but recall all the rides I've done with Will over the past few months, when he was really hurting. His injury made it especially difficult for him to ride at medium intensity for long periods, which was exactly what my training had to be. I'd drag him on these rides, forcing him into efforts that put him in real pain ... but he'd never say anything until we'd get home and I'd remember to ask, "so, how's your back?"

Yeah, I've got some quality friends, and I'm more than a little proud of that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

All You Can Eat

After the ride, a bunch of us went to an all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ place.


I thought I was stuffed, but I was regretting my decision to leave before I even got back to the car. Once home, I proceeded to have applesauce, ice cream, grilled cheese, and a bowl of cereal.

Eating is fun. Gluttony is funner. Also, I feel much fresher today than I did exactly a year ago, which was the day after the first Accidental Century. Coincidence? I think not!

Rutgers' 2nd Annual "Accidental" Century

Yesterday, 9 Rutgers riders got together and rode to Pennsylvania and back. All told, we rode 100 miles. The writeup is here, on the Rutgers Cycling blog. Go read it.

There are stories that I simply couldn't put on the Rutgers blog, as we're doing our best to keep it "appropriate". One of them is the story of the Bull and the Cow:

Around the 70th mile of the ride, we were deep in the Garden State's famous farmland. As we pedaled our way down the quiet country roads, we all noticed a herd of cows to our right... nothing unusual, with one key exception: a bull had mounted a cow.

Naturally, this prompted some hooting and hollering from the men of Rutgers. You understand. Startled by the noise, or perhaps having finished, the bull dismounted and ambled away. Our shouting didn't subside, though - after all, this was quite the spectacle for us city-folk.

Upon returning to the New Brunswick area, we were exhausted and hungry and sore, and we still had 15 miles remaining. Words fail to describe the uplifting effect of having cars and pedestrians alike shout "GO RUTGERS!!!" at us. Little things like that have such a profound impact... I still smile when I think about it.

For me, that was the highlight of the trip. For some of the guys (you know who you are), the highlight was the Bull and the Cow. Go figure.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I accept your challenge, IHOP

After mocking Will for eating too many pancakes in his lifetime, I found myself jonesing for pancakes. In what can only be described as a miraculous coincidence, Aaron proposed that we go to IHOP. It didn't take much to convince me.

Did you know that IHOP has an "All You Can Eat Pancakes" deal going on right now? Oh yes. They do. The gauntlet was thrown, and I did not back down.

My final tally was not what it could've been. I'll chalk that one up to the persistent headache, for the most part. What really got me out the door, though, was my outrageous faux pas.

Aaron and I had taken great care to watch our language, as a family with impressionable children was in the booth next to us. Somehow, I missed the family with impressionable children seated behind me. When the booth to my left emptied, I figured I was in the clear.

I won't disclose the nature of my gaffe in this post, because it was just so wildly inappropriate. I'd like to think it would've made Tucker Max proud - which doesn't exactly make me proud.

Both the 10 year old boy and his father, seated directly behind me, spun around. I didn't see this, but I did see Aaron's delighted reaction. Inspired by every sitcom ever made, I leaned forward and whispered "there's a child behind me, isn't there?"

The ensuing laughter (ours, not theirs... they didn't laugh) made my poor pancake-filled stomach hurt. Thankfully, the family chose to turn the other cheek, bless their merciful hearts. Aaron flagged down the waiter, as I was still too mortified to turn around, and we paid the check in record time.

If you were to ask me in person what I said that was so horrific, I just might tell you. Maybe.

Oh, the injustice of it all

I woke up this morning with a raging hangover. That's the price of doing business, so to speak, a weekly compensation for the rollicking good times on Thursday nights at the Harvest Moon.

Today's hangover was remarkable, though, in that it was the worst I've had since my ill-advised birthday binge. I just wanted to crawl back into bed and suffer quietly, but I had a meeting to get to, and so I soldiered on.

While walking to my lab, I pondered the cause of my cruel fate, and it all comes back to one thing: Milky Manchester and the Jameson whiskey.

My college years were spent living in a house with giant industrial-sized refrigerators that would periodically be filled to the brim with cheap beer, then emptied over the course of the night. After the requisite Freshman Year Binge, we learned that maybe it wasn't best to drink every available alcoholic beverage.

That said, there's an undeniable etiquette to free drinks. On the one hand, a keg at a party, like a fridge full of beer, shouldn't be abused. On the other hand, a drink bought at a bar is a very different circumstance.

A gifted drink is a gift. It's rude to refuse a gift - and this is coming from a guy who doesn't like getting gifts at all. Purchasing a gift for someone lends it weight, an emotional implication. Sometimes you have to be rude, because getting utterly schnizzled isn't always the goal of the evening. Generally, though, if someone buys you a drink, you say thank you, you update the Beer Balance in your mental ledger, and you drink that drink.

If necessary, you can nurse a beer or a mixed drink, but you can't nurse a shot. Milky bought me a shot of Jameson, and by god I downed that shot.

So there I was this morning, sitting in my lab and trying to keep my temporal lobes from exploding. While my lab's experiments test the properties of people, the other labs in my building test the properties of plastic. Today they were drilling plastic.

Imagine an overpowered dentist's drill, high-pitched and inescapably loud. Imagine that accompanying that sound was the overwhelming stench of burning plastic. Now imagine experiencing these sensations while hung over.

Do not want.

On the plus side, if Karma dictates that that's the price I have to pay for a night as enjoyable as last night, then I'm okay with that... maybe not every week, though.


Update: Milky has informed me that it was a shot of Jaegermeister, not Jameson, that did me in.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Caffeinated Conspiracy

The Starbucks rant, long a mainstay of bloggers and stand-up "comedians", is lame. At least it's cute when a squirrel does it (NSFW, language).

This is not a Starbucks rant.

So, I've stopped buying coffee. I still drink a lot of it, but now I just brew it myself and bring it to the lab in my travel mug. I think it works out to about 95% savings. It's quite a bit less convenient, but damned if it isn't going to save me money in the long run... all of which is going into my Buyer's Remorse Guitar Fund.

Mighty though my coffee maker may be, it can't make the espresso that I so crave. For that, I go to the Student Center's coffee shop, Gerlanda's.

At Will's suggestion, I've been drinking Americanos, which consist entirely of espresso and hot water. They're delicious, and I highly recommend them. It feels a little weird ordering "Americanos" from the Gerlanda's staff, most of whom are Mexican - I can't help but feel like I'm ordering a Gringo.

Like my sadistic coach, I am of the "more is more" philosophy, so my orders have all been Larges (actually, Gerlanda's has renamed their sizes like Starbucks, but I've quietly clung to traditional naming convention).

It may come as a surprise some people that the staff at Gerlanda's is comprised entirely of human beings. There are no robots, no cyborgs, not even zombies behind the counter. The frequency with which their customers treat them as sub-human is astounding. Then again, we are talking about the Student Center on the Science/Engineering campus.

I'd like to think that it's because I take the time to say hi, make eye contact, ask how their weekends were, and so on, that the Gerlanda's staff cued me in on a little secret the other day. It turns out that the only difference between a Small Americano and a Large Americano is the amount of hot water in the cup.

Apparently, written in small print on the menu is the following disclaimer:
All espresso drinks are made with two shots of espresso

I'll tell you what, it takes some balls to charge customers for hot water. We're being charged extra for the privilege of drinking a weaker beverage! It'd be outrageous, if it wasn't so brilliant.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reward

22 hours in the lab over the past two days, with a few million data points recorded (this actually corresponds to about 5 minutes, but it sounds impressive, doesn't it?) and a whole bunch of rigmarole checked off the to-do list.

I love that rigmarole is a real word, according to the spell checker. It is also a valid scrabble word, in case you were wondering.

Okay.

I consider myself a lucky man. I'm one of the few crazies who never changed majors in college. In fact, it was during my junior year of high school that I knew what I wanted to do. The Plan has been streamlined and adjusted, of course, but here I am, halfway through my 3rd year of grad school, and I'm doing what I love.

I really do love what I'm doing. I'm in love with it.

I'm so in love with it
I'll be forever true to it
But it gives me no reason
That it's making me work so hard
(with apologies to Erasure)

(If you didn't understand that song reference, fear not! There's a series of posts coming that will exponentially increase your cultured-ness, you philistines.)

I'm doing what I love, which means that I'm asking, and trying to answer, questions about the nature of motor control. Highlights of this process have included profound discourse with my peers, educational immersion at conferences, and of course silent ponderings during walks to the coffee shop. I love that chin stroking, far-off gaze inducing, Eureka!-moment enabling nature of my job.

Unfortunately, answering questions is synonymous with data interpretation, and data interpretation requires, well, data. Importing, reshaping, sorting, normalizing, organizing, and plotting data.

This week, I am a data monkey. I am back on my first project, now 2.5 years old. We know what the results are, although it would certainly be nice to get them peer reviewed and published. So that's what I'm working on... not answering questions, but proving the answers. 95% of proving the answers has been reformatting the numbers properly (which is a whole other rant that I will forgo to avoid future entanglements)

This is about as inspirational as... I don't know. Tony Little using his indoor voice? A paint-by-numbers replica of the Mona Lisa? Anything by James Blunt? I'm too tired for figurative language.

Okay, enough blogging. Here's a video of Aaron riding over a log, working on his skillz.
video

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

interim posting

I'm going to write a real post soon. Writing is a pleasure for me, and in this case I'll be using it as a reward in a self-motivation scheme that will hopefully help me survive the next two weeks.

The details of what's going on over the coming fortnight are inconsequential, the sort of trivia that I'll have recovered from by June, if not February. The nose is going to the grindstone, though, and there's nothing nebulous about that.

He of Prodigal Spiky Hair is getting surgery in 8 hours. Think happy thoughts.

Someone somewhere once said, "everything worth having is worth fighting for"... I believe that this is especially true when the fight is against one's self.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Karma

So there I was, riding in the Preserve with my roommate Aaron. It is worth mentioning that as soon as Aaron starts riding more than once a week, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the races. Dude can handle his bike.

Riding up one tricky climb, I ran out of momentum and had to put a foot down. This maneuver is so trivial as to be subconscious; this time, though, I wish I'd paid more attention.

We'd been noting all afternoon how the ground felt different, how the leaves were frozen to each other and sounded wrong. It didn't have any substantial effect - after all, I am a survivor of Kansas City CX Nationals - until I tried to ride this climb.

I put my foot down on a deceptively deep pile of leaves, and I immediately found myself on my stomach about two yards downhill. Aaron was following about 5 seconds behind, and I scrambled to get myself and my bike out of his way, as is common courtesy.

While I can only imagine what I looked like, trying to get to my feet before being obliterated, I think the best word to describe it would be "flopping". Every time I tried to put weight on my left leg, the bike would knock into my right leg and I'd fall again.

Aaron, being an all-around good guy, slammed on the brakes before running me over. Like me, he put a foot down, then slid a few yards backwards on his stomach. Unlike me, he managed not to get his foot wedged in his rear wheel.

Somehow, in the act of slipping downhill, I'd gotten my foot jammed so tightly between two spokes that I couldn't yank it back out. This was a one in a million feat, a fact that I was not too preoccupied to appreciate.

I balanced precariously on one foot, hoping that the efforts to remove my left foot from its trap wouldn't upset the right foot's tenuous toe-hold. Too proud to accept help, I yanked at the bike for a while, by which I was able to accomplish absolutely nothing. Well, that's not true. I managed to force my foot farther into the spokes, and now I was in pain.

To be fair, this wasn't the most painful incident of the ride. It honestly doesn't even even make it into the top 3 of the afternoon (wear your helmets, kids). While I could pick myself up from the ice or shake off a saddle to the crotch, though, I'd found myself in a significant pickle.

Aaron, being an all-around good guy, was doing his best not to laugh, and he was helping me try to figure out how best to escape. All of a sudden, two large dogs came bounding around the corner, followed by their owner. A jovial middle-aged woman, she laughed uproariously, then asked if I needed help.

A note about me: I do not like dogs. I really really don't like dogs. I don't like your dogs when I'm sitting in your living room being introduced to your mini-poodle, and I don't like your dogs when I'm in your backyard being leg-humped by your retriever. I especially don't like your dogs when I'm standing one-legged on a steep, slippery hill with my foot stuck in a bicycle.

I don't spend much time thinking about my mortality, let alone the mechanism by which I will one day let slip this mortal coil. However, I'm pretty sure my inevitable demise will not involve being nudged out of a slippery toe-hold by a dog, being knocked unconscious by the bike that is still attached to my foot, and drowning in the 3 inches of water at the base of the climb. Yet that's all I could picture at the time.

Thankfully, they moved on, the woman still laughing boisterously. I redoubled my efforts to force my foot out from between the spokes, but that was about as effective as using a Doritos bag as a condom. It was with a bowed head that I conceded that I needed Aaron's help.

Aaron, being an all-around good guy, didn't gloat much. Within about 20 seconds, we'd freed my foot and were on our way... but not before he snapped some photos.

This is where Karma comes in. Back in September, Jay got a flat tire during the Westwood Velo 'cross race. Of course I ran to get him a spare wheel, but rather than do the actual work myself, I took a photo of him doing the wheel swap.
Today, Aaron acted as the iron fist of Karma. When capturing the scene "for posterity", he took an eerily similar picture.

Please enjoy the laugh at my expense. Lord knows the dog-owner did.

Oh, and for those who are curious, the wheel is a Sunrim CR-18 29 rear wheel, and it's still true.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Writer's Guild Strike

Impromptu jam sessions with my roommates. Awesome.

Stuff like this never happens when the TV is on, which is an absolute shame. Thank you, Writers Guild of America, for reminding us that life needn't be condensed into 22 minute intervals.



Note that these are photos, not videos. Photos of guitarists look universally cool, while videos might expose us as dilettantes. Will has such a video in his possession. Note that posting a photo of him looking musical is my way of bribing him to not post video of us sounding sub-stellar. Don't be that guy, Will.

in fact, i do think this is normal

(all names have been changed or just omitted entirely... except the name of the school and its location, which deserve to be mocked)

Not all parties are unforgettable Girls-Gone-Wild-esque Bacchanalias. At Case Western Reserve University, a small mostly-engineering school nestled betwee the bad part of Cleveland and the very bad part of Cleveland, this was especially true. Tragically true. Cleveland does not rock.

During my sophomore year, I was elected my fraternity's Social Chair. I'd thrown some half-decent parties my freshman year, and it stood to reason that I'd be able to perform just as well in an official capacity.

The illusion quickly vanished during the Greek Life orientation meeting for Social Chairs and Risk Managers. That the Risk Managers were being grouped with the Social Chairs was crystal-clear foreshadowing. This was my first introduction to the word "tort", the end of my youthful naivety.

My tenure as Social Chair wasn't a complete bust (oh no, have I ruined the suspense?). I set up a mixer with a sorority, the Pumpkin Carving mixer, which became an annual event that continues to this day. There were never any kegs in the house (the Greek Life equivalent of a smoking gun). We didn't lose our charter. Nobody went to the hospital that year - in fact, nobody went to the hospital until years later, when GI Mark tried to stunt on my new mountainbike and broke his wrist.

However popular the Pumpkin Carving mixer was (and is), my unfortunate legacy is the Hungry Hungry Hippos party.

Earlier that year, we had gotten into trouble for something. Nobody remembers what exactly, but it must've had something to do with alcohol. Everything had something to do with alcohol. This was Cleveland in the winter, what else was there?

some of my guys

Now on probation, it was up to us to get ourselves off the hook. We chose the path of least resistance, which was to show Greek Life that we are indeed capable of throwing a completely law-abiding party.

For the record: Nobody is capable of throwing a completely law-abiding party. Nobody. The Mormon Church couldn't pull it off. It is impossible. There are just too many rules... while the Social Chair is busy ensuring that there is an abundance of unsalted snack food (yes, unsalted snack food), the minors will be running amok.

If you ever want a demonstration of entropy, try to separate a dozen 18 year old Ohioans from cheap beer on a Friday night.

So we threw an official party, submitting all of the requisite paperwork to the proper offices well before the deadlines. Our official guest list was just shy 80, above which we'd have to hire a security guard. Our official flyer was unoffensive, unimaginative, and fit every guideline.

Of course, we didn't post any flyers, nor did we tell anyone about the party. In fact, we banned everyone, including the residents, from the house. "Tonight, you can go drink somewhere else". They went to someone's apartment to play Beer Pong, because there isn't much else to do in Cleveland (have you picked up on the theme here? Parents, don't send your kids to school in Cleveland). The only invitees were a couple of the fraternity officers, our trusted dates, and the Greek Life office.

Unexpectedly, Ivan showed up too. Ivan is a guy who eventually graduated after 7 years of undergrad. He majored in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Engineering. Ivan is undoubtedly the most notorious prankster in the history of CWRU. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to hear that Ivan is now one of the richest men in America, nor would I be surprised to hear that he is in jail.

We played Poker, although without money, which took all the fun out of it. Then we played Trivial Pursuit. The house was eerily quiet. Too quiet. Towards the end of the game, Grainy burst through the door.

God bless Grainy, the last of a generation. Grainy was a 5th-year senior EE, a brother who'd joined during an era when the motto must've been "work hard and play hard". He had a 4.0 GPA and was a sucker for inventive drinking games. He was the captain of the Cross Country Team, and he drank more than the rest of his team put together.

Grainy, who is now the proud father of two adorable boys, was drunk. Apparently he hadn't gotten the memo, and he'd come to the house looking to wrangle up some company. As the reality of our party dawned on him, he shifted gears from happy-drunk to belligerent-drunk. This was a bad thing. In a fit of rage, he knocked over our bowl of unsalted snack food. Eventually Ivan and his ladyfriend got Grainy out the door, promising to take him to a bar.

I never found out if they followed through or not. A few minutes later, when we'd switched from Trivial Pursuit to Hungry Hungry Hippos, the director of Greek Life walked in. Never the sort to wear a poker face, he shot us a dirty look, implicitly accusing us of being a front for behind-the-scenes debauchery. This was a perfectly reasonable expectation, and it came as no surprise that he immediately took a lap around the house.

Finding nothing, the director came back to the lounge laughing. "You really threw a party for six people? This is how you throw a by-the-books party?" In my eagerness to send a message to The Man, to fight for my right to party, I'd neglected to account for the bullshit-detection capabilities of my adversaries at Greek Life. Somehow, though, they let us off the hook.

I wish I could claim that I'd out-maneuvered Greek Life, that I had outwitted them in a cunning display of diplomacy. In reality, they probably just ran out of patience or felt they had bigger fish to fry, what with a certain bunch of ass-hats across the street (let's call them Gay-ta Psi) putting their pledges in the hospital.

No longer on probation, we were free to go back to business-as-usual, where the unspoken rule is "its only illegal if you do it so obviously that Greek Life can't ignore it". However, even years later, I haven't been allowed to forget what the director himself named the Hungry Hungry Hippos Party.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Years Eve Karaoke

I swear, I don't go looking for Karaoke... Thursdays at Harvest Moon more than suffice for this guy. It just seems that Karaoke comes looking for me.

The New Years party I graced with my presence was, um, underwhelming. It wasn't for lack of effort, it's just that the heavens weren't smiling on that particular apartment in South Bound Brook. Lack of attendance, lack of music, lack of anything remotely wild, that's what doomed this party.

At around 11:30, we made our way across the street to a small bar (just across from the scary metal bridge over the Raritan, to give my cyclist friends some reference). Lo and behold, there was Karaoke!

Alas, like the Golden Rail before it, Karaoke at this South Bound Brook dive bar - haughtily named the South Side Grille - proved to be a disappointing experience. First of all, the setup was abysmal, with the lyrics facing away from the crowd. Nothing says "lack-luster performance" like having your back to the audience. The microphone cords were about 6 feet long and tethered to the ground, so that I couldn't even step forward, let alone dance or play to the crowd.

In what must've been a fit of beer-addled genius, the Karaoke Jockey had incorporated a sound-effects board into the system. Like a talk radio shock-jock, he could interject with the sound effect of his choice at the push of a button. Fantastic.

Imagine my delight when halfway through my song, the KJ used a sound-effect to call me gay. I put the microphone in its stand and walked away. He did not receive a tip, nor will he receive my repeated patronage.

Granted, I was singing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart", so in some sense I was asking for it. I will further grant that I was in a bar in South F'in Bound Brook, so in a much realer sense I was asking for trouble. However, it turns out that I got along with everyone in the bar, trading rounds with rednecks who drank more beers than they had teeth and generally having a great time.

Oh, and this is the guy who called me gay. Sorry about the shitty cameraphone picture. I tried to capture the majesty of the hairspray-and-mousse masterpiece that is his hairdo, but there aren't enough megapixels in the world to do it justice.

Happy New Year



May 2008 be even sweeter than 2007!