Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Family Gatherings

Here's the thing about six year olds: Not only are they staggeringly cute...

...but they are also quite portable.

I'm showing you this otherwise-unexceptional photo...

...because it sets this one up so nicely.
When it's time to arrange the by-generation portraits, we get sat down in front of a half-dozen eager photographers. This makes it a little hard to coordinate...
... get with the program, Sol!

I guess the older generation has been fully indoctrinated in the tradition of "Uncle Fred's Family Portraits"... these photos all came out well.

The payoff for our discplined posing has always been, and always will be, the "funny face picture". I'm always amused by the disparity between behaviors in these photos. The older kids actually make funny faces (trust me, Ben is making a funny face somewhere back there), while the younger kids basically scream and try to hit each other...
...or they don't change facial expressions at all.

Finally, for a special treat, I've got this photograph with not one, but both grandmothers!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I am apalled by your scarf

It's hard to get worked up over fashion. Style is personal, and quite subjective, so who could object to someone else's wardrobe? Some people love Crocs, and some hate them. Some are deluded enough to think they look good in Uggs, but it's no skin off my back.

Now, though, I'm taking a stand. As much of a stand as one can take writing on a web log with limited readership (there are dozens of us!).

It seems that Arab scarves are growing in popularity. Keffiyehs, if you will, or shemaghs. And this trend is pretty upsetting.

For whatever it's worth, I think the look is actually pretty attractive. While I don't have the vocabulary to describe fashion, there is a definite appeal to girls wearing scarves, and it doesn't get much scarfier than keffiyehs.
That the scarves are aesthetically pleasing does not imply that they are appropriate. I look fantastic naked, but you don't see me walking around the student center in my birthday suit.

In researching this post, I found a lot of justifications along the lines of "this year's fashion is based on global influences" and "these scarves are an anti-war statement".

Oh really? Global influences?

If this is a question of globalizing fashion, where are the Indian saris? Where are the Japanese kimonos? Where are the Aboriginal loincloths?

It is not at all bad to select one non-Western item and incorporate it into Western fashion. I, personally, loved the Karate Kid headbands. However, to take a non-Western item and relabel it as "global-influenced" - as if this is not one item, but actually a whole range of styles spanning the non-Western world - is insulting to the intelligence.

It's a clever marketing ploy, because anyone who objects to global influences must be narrow-minded and xenophobic, right? If I don't like Arab scarves, I must be a small redneck who fears change. Heaven forbid I point out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

And oh really? Anti-war?

Setting aside politics and pro- or anti-war debate (seriously, I'll delete your comments without hesitation), it is quite certain that there are people out there who want to kill you. To kill you.

I can see how anti-war protesters might associate keffiyehs with protesting, like a show of solidarity with their like-minded pacifist brethren from the other side. However, the connection between keffiyehs and peace-loving Arabs is far weaker than the connections created by images like this:
This is what you look like when you wear a keffiyeh.

Sure, you can explain away the whole "this is what terrorists wear" thing by reminding people of the peace-loving Arabs who wear the same scarves. However, much like a bad joke, if you have to explain it when the first impression isn't what you expected, maybe it's time to rethink the whole thing.

I was torn while writing this post, because the last thing I want to do is be the sort of small-minded xenophobe that I've been conditioned to believe the author of such a post must be (confusing, ain't it?). I can see where these hipster kids are coming from, with their slavish devotion to style and naive ambition to appear sympathetic.

That lasted maybe 3 minutes, though, because I realized what's really rubbing me about these keffiyehs. Forget the Iraqi "insurgents" and the Palestinian "militants". The oh-so-worldly teenagers walking down College Ave with smug satisfaction and fashionable keffiyehs look like Janjaweed.

Oh, my bad. Is Darfur so 2007?

Monday, April 28, 2008


This post is bound to be a little all-over-the-place, so buckle up and behave or I WILL TURN THIS POST RIGHT AROUND.

Wouldn't you know it, another training block has come and gone, and I'm exhausted again. Funny how this works. Funny, see? HA HA HA.

After yesterday's loooong ride (nothing compared to the A Race at Dartmouth, I know, but it hurt enough), I wanted to ice my left patellar tendon, because it was hurty. But my right calf was hurty as well. As were my right quad, my left hamstring, and both ITBs. Not the scary injury-indicating hurt, mind you, but just the soreness that follows 3 big weeks.

I actually don't have that many icepacks. Even if I borrowed some frozen vegetables from the ol' roommates, there wouldn't be enough cold compresses to thoroughly ice everything.

So. I bought 4 big bags of ice from the student center's convenience store. "Throwing a party?" asked the clerk? "Sitting", said I.

I filled the bathtub with ice, then ran cold water. Then I sat. In the cold. Cold. Water.

It seems I've gotten ahead of myself, so let me backtrack a bit. Once the tub was full of icewater, I put my left foot in and yelped. My right foot, and another yelp, followed suit. A few deep breaths. I put my hands on the porcelain rims of the tubs and started lowering. Some more deep breaths.

I hovered with my butt a few inches from the water for a while. Every once in a while, I'd count down from 3, as if that would help. Finally I asked myself if I was going to do this or not, so I just did.

An outburst consisting almost exclusively of expletives almost certainly followed, but you'd have to ask Will. I was busy trying desperately to ignore the ice water that was now in contact with my genitalia.

The trick, in the first 45 seconds of an ice bath, is to breathe. You'd be surprised how hard it is to follow this simple rule.

I think it was worth it, though, because my legs feel reasonably okay today. This is a very subjective assessment, but the efficacy of ice baths isn't really in question - their physiological rationale is pretty solid. It's just nice to see that my mind-shattering sacrifice wasn't for naught.

Remember being a teenager? That was fun, wasn't it? Like woo! Junior High! Remember the ungraceful awkwardness, and being all elbows and knees? Well, it's back. Making my way between tables and chairs today, I was knocking them around like a drunk. But I was sober.

I think it's the fatigue. I've overused some muscles, and now they're misbehaving in a way with which my motor cortices aren't coping well. Just like when I was a teenager, but this time it's from the fatigue rather than the growth. There's probably a Gedanken experiment in this somewhere, but that's not for today.

Also for another time is the story of the panic I felt when, after a pretty tough ride, my calf muscles got all twitchy during a one-legged sobriety check, courtesy of the Hamilton Police. I passed, of course. But it's a story for another time.

So today was the first Cycling Team Yoga Soiree. Coach Ken's wife Lisa led it, and it was great. As always, while I love yoga with all my little heart, I have trouble with the hippie-ness of the language of the instructors. Don't tell me to direct my breathing towards my hip; tell me instead that I should be feeling the stretch in the hip flexor, or in the adductors, or the abductors. Tell me what I should be doing, not what connection with the universe this pose should enable.

Pluto said, "I can't take this seriously with you guys". He's absolutely right, we were joking around way more than would any respectable yoga class ... but no more than I want to while in a respectable yoga class, anyway.

This is, in my opinion, how yoga should be: Get your stretching and strengthening in, sure, but don't worry yourself with "focused breathing" or "aligning the root chakras". Yoga-ists shouldn't take themselves so seriously.

But yes, I can still scorpion ... now on my hands, too!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Late Night Dilemma

It is time for sleep now. Someone, presumably one of the undergrads in the dorms down the street, is playing music at a rather ... ambitious volume setting.

By law - seriously, by State Law - University Housing can't turn the heat off until May 1. We can turn it down, but it's never off. My room is being heated.

So I can close my window and roast. Or I can leave the window open and be lulled to slumberland by the sweet and soothing serenade of "Soulja Boy".

Do not want.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The MTB Puzzle

Inspired by my ride today at Chimney Rock, which was awesome, thank you for asking.

What do you call a man who rides Chimney Rock (a technical, rocky, fast park) with knee-pads, shin-guards, and NO helmet?

a) A retarded shoe model whose only asset is his legs
b) The best and most confident handler in the history of bicycles
c) One helluva cool guy
d) The reason I think cognitive function exams should be a prerequisite to procreation

Who has the right of way on a singletrack hill?

a) the guy descending
b) the guy climbing

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Hat Puzzle

Three men are in a room. A priest, a minister, and a rabbi... no, wait, Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Tom, Dick, and Harry are in a room. They are sitting in 3 chairs, front to back, so that Tom can see Dick and Harry, Dick can see Harry, and Harry can't see anybody.
Enter the kidnapper, a bad bad man by the name of Angry Mark. Angry Mark is a little crazy.

Sayeth Angry Mark:
"You have one chance of being set free, otherwise you will die. If you get up from your seat, you will be killed. If you turn around, you will be killed. If you talk to each other, you will be killed. The only way I will let you go is if one of you answers my question"

Angry Mark then cackles, crazy-like.

The room goes pitch-black, and Angry Mark puts a hat on the head of each of his captives. When the lights come back on, he says:
"I have put hats on your heads. There were 5 hats from which I chose - 3 red, 2 blue. The other two are now hidden and won't help you at all. My question to you is, what color hat did I put on your head?

"If one of you can tell me what color hat he is wearing, you will all be set free. Otherwise, you will be killed.

"No guessing, either. You have to tell me how you knew.

"You have 5 minutes!"

Angry Mark, after cackling again, flips the switch on a giant digital clock, which begins to count down from 5:00

The minutes go by, and the three captives are stumped. Nobody says anything. Suddenly, when the clock reads 0:10, Harry shouts "I've got it, I've got it!"

What color hat is Harry wearing, and how does he know?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Birdwatching Made Difficult

With the sun starting to set last Thursday, the birds that live in a nest outside our living room were going crazy. I'm not sure why, maybe it was competition or maybe it was mating, who knows? Whatever it was, their loud and incessant CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEPing drew our attention.

For a while, I just tried to snap some photos.

The key word there is "tried". I tried to take some photos.

The photos were mediocre at best. Most were unusable.

Will, whose pride in his photographic skills is exceeded only by his pride in his camera, tried to encourage the birds to pose for him by throwing crackers near their nest.

For the most part, it worked, even though it did seem to cause a flurry of fighting for a while.

Satisfied, or maybe just bored, Will settled down to reap the benefits of his cracker-tossing labor, photography-wise.

No word yet on whether Will's fancy, expensive camera outperformed my rather outdated technology.

Also no word yet on how creepy it was for the undergrad girls who walked by and saw two topless guys, holding cameras and staring out the window.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't Fear the Blogger - the actual post

There is a stigma to blogging, and that stigma is stupid.

Everyone with access to the internet could have a blog. Blogger and Wordpress are two of myriad websites that host blogs free of charge. It has been shown far too often that neither wit, nor discretion, nor even a strong command of the English language are necessary for blogging.

Yet not everyone has a blog. That's okay, not everyone needs to blog in order to keep me entertained. However, the mention of this gap between potential and actuality, this blog deficit, leads to surprising reactions.

Herein we explore these reactions. Specifically, the stigma associated with blogging is explored, and the utter stupidity of this stigma is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. By me (ooh, writing in the passive voice is so infuriating).

The first part of this study asks, somewhat philosophically, what might cause someone to want not to blog? That is, why would the noble art of blogging earn a bum rap?

Secondfully, we look at specific examples from my recent experience that not only exemplify this stigma, but also serve as evidence that it is baseless.

Also I will list real blogs that may have contributed to this stigma, or at least shouldn't exist. No I won't. That would be mean.

Results and Discussion
In conversation, a jerk is recognizable as he who speaks only of himself. If the internet is the world's largest conversation, does not the blogger - who inevitably speaks only of himself - become the wold's biggest jerk? Of course we know that the answer is a resounding "No!", because many bloggers have figured out how to write less about themselves, and more about their worlds... it's an important distinction, of which many non-bloggers aren't aware or don't think themselves capable.

Who blogs? Not in real life, mind you, but in the perception of the people who disdain blogging. I think this question is best answered by thinking about modern sitcoms. When the cool hero stymies his nerdy foil with some cavalier witticism, the response is often something like "I'm going to blog about this!", and the resultant canned laughter correlates blogging to defeat, to nerdiness and slowness and laughability. Jim from the Office doesn't have a blog... Dwight does.

Angry Mark, for team-related reasons, has been asking (nay, demanding) that our frequent racers write up their results. Kids who will brag endlessly about the good results, or lament [read: bitch] endlessly about the bad, just will not take the 5 minutes to write up their races. Lord knows they're not too busy to make the effort, either. Unless Mark twists their arms, they won't even email the team with a brief report, let alone craft a post for the team blog.

A friend of mine - let's call him El Capitan - does not have a blog. He writes eloquently, albeit infrequently. He is one of the few people I know who is indeed too busy to blog, so that's not my beef with him. However, he also claims he "wouldn't know how to write one without sounding overly self-important". This relates back to the heuristic framework of the "bloggers are selfish jerks" misconception, and it is bullshit. See, when you are informed outright that people want to hear what you have to say, it becomes a tall order to sound overly self-important. This doesn't apply to all potential bloggers, but it applies to many and is worth mentioning.

One day, I mentioned to a somewhat new friend that I have a blog. The reaction was, in quick succession, the following: a wrinkled brow, the focused frown of suppression, and finally an "oh". This isolated incident is typical of non-bloggers' reactions... always from people who have never even read TheNinjaDon! This probably stems from any one of the above reasons, but man oh man, it stings.

The negative connotation associated with blogging is as real as it is undeserved.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cures What Ails You

In a series of misfortunes that aren't worth listing here, Wednesday started out as a shitty day. The shittiness lasted all the way through 5, when I got stuck in traffic en route to picking up Farmer Andy.

We drove to Chimney Rock, a rocky but rideable park in the area where we do hill rides. I love Chimney Rock, a bushel and a peck. Chimney Rock loves me, sometimes, but more often it crushes me like a bug.

I had a bad feeling about our ride, because that's just the sort of day I was having. Rationally, I knew that there is no interdependence between any two events, but being a not-too-distant descendant of the cavemen, I naturally look to find connections and predict the unknowable. So I overinflated my tires to ward off flat tires.

In case you've forgotten what kind of bike I ride, it is a Kona Unit 2-9er. One gear. No suspension. Purple.
Having higher-than-optimal pressure in my tires may reduce the risk of a flat, but it also changes the ride quality. With a totally rigid bike like mine, the effective suspension is your elbows, your knees, and the smushiness of your tires. Having rock-hard tires has caused me endless misery in past rides... but not yesterday!

Maybe I'm starting to figure out how to handle a bike off-road, or maybe strengthening my arms has helped me control the front wheel. Maybe it was the warm, long-awaited sunshine on my face. Maybe I just needed an enjoyable ride to turn my day around.

A lot of the intangibles of cycling are indescribable, so that recounting them to non-cyclists never works. Moreover, you can't even describe a good MTB ride to a roadie. For example, descents on a road bike are fun, without a doubt, but rocky, rooty, twisty descents on a MTB that leave you hooting and hollering with childlike joy... you just can't convey that verbally.

With my hard tires, I felt every rock, every root, every rut and bump. The trail and I were joined, one-to-one, in a zen sort of melding. It was hoot-and-holler inducing.

Q: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the Hot Dog Vendor?
A: Make me one with everything.

MTBing, man. It is exactly what I needed yesterday. The world would be a better place if more people would just ride bikes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

When to judge a book by its cover

Just to give you a taste of Engineering, imagine a world where the following is an acceptable title for a paper:

1677 V, 5.7 mΩ • cm2 4H-SiC BJTs

Now, writing a title that has absolutely no English in it - no description, no syntax, nothing even hinting at language - isn't encouraged in Engineering... but it's okay.

In fact, you can get published.

This paper is displayed somewhat prominently on a billboard in the Electrical and Computer Engineering building. I have no idea what it's about, and I'd just as soon not know, thankyouverymuch. Its authors might not have indended it for this reason, but it sets the tone for my weekly meetings with the Mathemagicians quite nicely.

Here's the full text, if you're looking for a cure for insomnia.

Doping in (Motor) Sports

Sports and Cheating go together like cottage cheese and jelly ... it sounds horrible at first, but once you try it, it'll change your life. This is as true in motor sports as it is in sports that actually require athleticism (oh, snap!), and there are plenty of stories where racers bent the rules rather creatively to get an edge. These modifications are made to the car, though, not to the driver.

In a recent article on, Terry Blount writes about the recent controversy in NASCAR, where over the past few years, a handful of drivers have been caught using drugs.

Fike admitted in an ESPN The Magazine story that he was injecting heroin while competing in Craftsman Truck Series events...

Fike's admission is the long-feared scenario of a driver racing a car at 200 mph while impaired by substance abuse. Odds are it has happened far more than what we know because NASCAR doesn't have a detailed testing plan in place to keep it from happening.

I'm no ethicist. The metaphysics of right and wrong never occupy my thoughts for more than a minute or two, at which point I revert to the comfort of my Holy Trinity: Biomechanics, Bicycles, and Breasts (did you think it was going to include bears, beets, or Battlestar Galactica? don't be silly.)

Still, some things are pretty cut and dry, aren't they? Drugs are bad. Cheating is really bad. Shun the nonbelievers, and death to the infidels.

Not-testing is bad, because not-testing does nothing to prevent competitors from cheating. Testing, therefore, is good. QED, ipso facto and ergo sum.

This doesn't sit right, though. Cheating is bad, of course, but is the use of recreational drugs cheating? Or is it just stupid?

Doping is banned from sports because modifying one's blood chemistry is dangerous, and when it's a race between doctors rather than athletes (pardon the cliche), the athletes are invariably put in danger. As the competition uses more performance enhancers, so must you, until eventually someone's blood turns to sludge or what have you. It is the escalating nature of doping that is dangerous.

The parallel in motor sports is mechanical, rather than biochemical, but its logic is analogous. Lighter materials or altered geometry may make the car go faster, but they compromise the safety of the driver. If teams were to try to one-up each other at the expense of safety, that would be bad. Cheating is bad.

But what about the downhiller who rocks the occasional doobie, or the driver who shoots up heroin? I'll tell you what, man, I've seen Trainspotting, as well as Half Baked, and those are not the sort of representatives with which these sports want to identify themselves. Drugs are bad.

What I don't understand is why people are all up in arms about the recreational drugs. This sort of thing should, in theory, be self-destructive. Smoking MaryJane should make a cyclist less able to go fast. Chasing the dragon should make a driver quite horrible at driving (Fisk, by the way, placed as high as 5th while on heroin... which casts the 38 drivers he beat in a somewhat negative light).

I'm okay with increased testing - for recreational drugs - by the central body, even though I don't quite get why it's necessary. This still leaves one more question: why are other drivers so up-in-arms about this? This Fisk guy did pretty damn well on the smack, and it's not like they don't have death-defying fireball crashes every weekend. Is there something going on, beyond the superficial "drugs are bad" platitudes?

"Shame on NASCAR for not policing our garage better than they police it right now," [driver] Kevin Harvick said. "I think we're all professional athletes and should be treated like professional athletes in other professional sports -- and shame on them for not doing that."

So. They've perceived some slight, some insinuation that they are not actually athletes. Despite the drama that threatens to tear cycling apart, despite the fallout from the infamous Mitchell report, the drivers are looking for a way to be put on the same plane as the major sports... even if that means cracking down on the ol' Reefer madness.

Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead, right? Let's see what happens when your sponsors pull out, your TV coverage disappears, and you get the WADA all up in your business. Godspeed on your crusade.

Okay, for real this time, one last question: Should I really be taking this article seriously? Is the author even credible?

NASCAR and its fans have a possible dilemma if regular testing for everyone becomes the standard. One of its stars could face suspension in the middle of a season or the start of the Chase.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Not Cool, Man

Jodi, who I haven't seen since 2004 despite living 30 minutes from her, came up to New Brunswick today. It was a long overdue reunion, and we had a blast.

We saw Zipperface. Rather, we saw Zipperface!!?! It was amazing. Unfortunately, tonight was the final performance at Rutgers, so my recommendations will be useless to you. This is my second time seeing a College Avenue Players production, and this is my second glowing review.

After the play, Jodi and I walked to Harvest Moon, where we imbibed the delicious beers. We waxed nostalgic, trading stories of parties in the Phi Psi lounge and so on. The name Hack was used more than a few times. It's good that we've both grown since our time in Cleveland, but it's equally nice to look back fondly.

Jodi went into the crowd of dancers, to partake of the bump-and-grind dancing that the kids love so much. I made my way to the bar, to buy another round.

As I set the beers down on our table, I looked over at Jodi. The man with whom she was dancing, her back to his front, had reached around and placed his hand on her throat. As if to choke her.

Jodi later informed me that he wasn't applying pressure. She also told me that she was mouthing the word "help" to me. I wasn't aware of either of these things, because they were both secondary to the fact that some guy had his hand at my friend's throat.

Your humble scribe put himself between Jodi and the guy (let's call him Random Douchebag) and looked him in the eye.

YHS: Don't grab her throat
RD: What?
YHS: Don't grab my friend's throat. Not cool, man.
RD: She likes it.
YHS: No she doesn't.
RD: She likes it!
YHS: She clearly doesn't. Don't touch her.
RD: You want to talk about this outside?

Okay, decision time. Jodi, having retreated to a few yards behind me, was no longer in harm's way. I had nothing to gain from "talking" outside, except that it would feel really good to land a few punches on this sleazebag.

YHS: I'm going to finish my beer.

The Random Douchebag tried to goad me a few more times, then eventually left. A few minutes later, he returned... to apologize.

Crisis averted, I guess.

Question: In what universe is it acceptable to grab the throat of a girl you just met, or any girl for that matter? How can that possibly be okay?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Like a Pig

This year, I'm not waiting until July to get acclimatized to the summer. I watched the war of attrition at Manville last year, and I slid on melting tarmac at Somerville. Granogue baked me, and French Creek was a stir fry.

Not this year, man, not this year.

It's been 50 degrees, more or less, for weeks now. I've been dressing like it's 30. Long sleeves, multiple base layers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, sometimes even ear warmers.

Yesterday, I dressed as usual, nice and toasty. The air got warmer and warmer, and the sun peeked out from behind rapidly-diminishing clouds. Everything looked more vibrant; the river, the trees.

When I got home, it was 70. I had drank a lot of water.

Hopefully, by May I'll be ready to race in the heat. Until then, I'll be pouring sweat every time I ride.

Hence, the title of the post. It's clever, you see: I'm sweating like a pig... but also, I'm happy like a pig in shit. It works on so many levels! Two!


I remember now why I hated the Johnson and Johnson interns. Tonight, I ducked out of Karaoke just after midnight, a good 90 minutes early. I just... I just want them to go away. Please?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Guitar Hero

On Monday night, I finally performed at Open Mic night.

The set:
  • Africa, by Toto
  • Love in the Time of Teh Internets, by Me
  • Scientists Can Talk Sexy Too, by Me
I think it went well enough.

Like many of you, I wondered why I would want to sing at an Open Mic night. The self-doubt crescendoed as my performance approached. My heart rate skyrocketed, my mouth dried up, I looked for any excuse not to play. Why in the hell would I willingly subject myself to this?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward... that anxiety, that freakout, is nothing more than a rush.

The risk of a performance isn't actually that risky. In the worst case, the audience doesn't like me. There is, quite literally, nothing for me to lose. That knowledge, however, does nothing to limit the perception of risk, which is enough to induce a pre-performance adrenaline surge.

I used to get that surge before Karaoke, but I just don't anymore. I've developed a tolerance. Karaoke is a gateway drug, and Milky Manchester is the pusher!

It helped that Aaron and Will were there as usual, along with special guests Chaz, Dolly, and Tania. My friends the Open Mic regulars were also supportive. Thanks, guys, for being my groupies! If you ask nicely and provide the Sharpie, you can have my autograph.

This will not have been my last performance, which means that there are more songs to write, more covers to learn, and of course more anxiety to endure. How boring life would otherwise be!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Answering the Fan Mail

Dear NinjaDon,

Long time listener, first time caller. Why do you drink decaf espresso?

Angry in Highland Park (and also Josh)

Dear Mark (and also Josh),

Thank you for your question! Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question, so you shouldn't feel bad for asking something so trite!

I ordered a decaf Americano, because Americanos are delicious and it was too late for caffeine. However, since I've only recently learned of these magical drinks, it feels weird to refer to them by name. Instead, I substitute the name Espresso, since everybody knows Espresso.

Decaf Espressos, or any drinks based thereon, are quite paradoxical indeed. However, they beat the hell out of Vanilla Chai Tea. So I order Decaf Americanos.


Dear NinjaDon,

Your abilities as a cyclist are only exceeded by your fantastic amazingness as a human being. You are as omnipotent as you are regal. And I dare anyone to prove that I, Josh, am not the author of this letter.

Why, then, do you do 40 sprints at a time?



Aw, you flatter me. Thank you for your kind, completely authentic words!

I do as many sprints as my coach tells me to. If I'm going to second-guess him, why hire him at all? Too many cooks spoil the athletic broth, and when it comes to coaching, I think any more than one coach is too many, especially if the second coach is me.

There's a fine line between saying "I think this is too many sprints" and "I don't feel like doing this many sprints".


Dear NinjaDon,

How did your friend Bearded Megan get her name? Isn't "Bearded" a bit insulting?

Everyone who's ever read this blog


That's a fair question. I know that when speaking of a woman, "Bearded" often has a specific connotation - it can refer to a circus sideshow, or to a sham relationship with a gay man. Neither applies to Megan, and I cringe at the thought that she might be confused for either.

If anything, I believe that "Bearded" should be a compliment of the highest order. Everybody loves a good beard! But I digress.

Megan earned the name "Bearded" soon after we met her. The story behind it is quite simple: She wore a beard.

The nickname stuck when she made a habit of it.
Seeing double? Megan is on the left

Megan hasn't worn a beard in quite some time, though... which is a shame.

By the way, for those who still say "but Don, 'Bearded' still has a negative connotation," it is worth noting that Bearded Megan was nicknamed mostly to differentiate her from the other Megan who hung out with our group at the time. The other Megan earned the nickname "Bitch". As in, "will Bitch Megan be at Karaoke tonight? God I hope not".

So Bearded Megan got the sweeter deal.


Friday, April 04, 2008

New Jerseystan

Even though I grew up in New Jersey, I never developed a sense of pride in my state. In Cleveland, my friends would make fun of NJ with the standard jokes - people can't drive, it smells, etc. - and what could I do but nod in agreement?

Now it's official.

Some cadets at the U.S. Military Academy are getting a taste of what Iraq will be like by taking a field trip - to New Jersey.

For goodness' sake.

Thanks, Lex, for the link.

Long Shorts and the Prophecy

"Shorts to your knees are only justifiable when your thighs are as big as my waist."
Don, Ninja (ninjarelations AT rutgerscycling DOT com). "cat 5 shorts" Personal correspondence to Will, SpikyHair (devileyes AT lolcat DOT com) and Aaron (needanickname AT blueblanket DOT org), 4 Apr. 2008.

"want. to. look. like. that.

who's up for a six hour trainer ride tonight?"

Will, SpikyHair (devileyes AT lolcat DOT com). "re: cat 5 shorts" Personal correspondence to Don, Ninja (ninjarelations AT rutgerscycling DOT com) and Aaron (needanickname AT blueblanket DOT org), 4 Apr. 2008.

"f*** that. let's buy a squat rack. who's up for 6 hours of deep knee-bends?"

Don, Ninja (ninjarelations AT rutgerscycling DOT com). "re: cat 5 shorts" Personal correspondence to Will, SpikyHair (devileyes AT lolcat DOT com) and Aaron (needanickname AT blueblanket DOT org), 4 Apr. 2008.

"No thank you. I say we eat nachos, cookies, and ice cream for six hours tonight while sitting on our fat asses watching [television]. Who's in?"

Aaron (needanickname AT blueblanket DOT org). "re: cat 5 shorts" Personal correspondence to Will, SpikyHair (devileyes AT lolcat DOT com) and Don, Ninja (ninjarelations AT rutgerscycling DOT com), 4 Apr. 2008.

"The future:

Don is going to herniate his back and blow out his ACL after 3 weeks of his squat regimen. He will have no future in cycling.

I am going to put a trainer facing a wall in a room with no lights. After 4 months of my draconian 6-hour trainer rides I will lose 40 lbs and my body will have digested its muscle. I will develop minor psychological neuroses. I will have no future in cycling.

Aaron will become morbidly obese. Aaron will be so fat that Don has to take his wheelchair to the store to buy pizzas for him. Unable to leave the apartment, Aaron will develop a porn addiction which will bankrupt him in DVD rental fees. Aaron will have no future in cycling."

Will, SpikyHair (devileyes AT lolcat DOT com). "re: cat 5 shorts" Personal correspondence to Don, Ninja (ninjarelations AT rutgerscycling DOT com) and Aaron (needanickname AT blueblanket DOT org), 4 Apr. 2008.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cold-Hearted Bastard

I can't figure out how to start this post. It should be one of the following two:

"My coach is trying to kill me. He's great."
"My coach is great. He's trying to kill me."

In the sick way that cycling works, both of these statements are equally true (if somewhat exaggerated) and equally important.

Alessandro used to race for Rutgers, so we were friends before he ever took me on as a client. That's probably what makes our coach-coachee relationship so successful; he knew going in that he'd be able to push me, and I knew that he would be a reasonable, attentive coach. He knew that I am serious about getting better, and I knew that I could vent about his sadism (my emails generally start something like "Dear evil torturer,") without offending him.

When I say "reasonable", I mean that he'll change his instructions mid-plan if I feel overtrained. Towards the end of April, he has me doing 40 sprints in a workout... this is down from 75 last year, because we've established that no matter how well trained I am, I can't do more than 60 without cramping up. Reasonable and attentive.

But also a little crazy.

On the last weekend of the plan, he wants me to do a test, a hard Time Trial effort to see how my heart rate behaves. Along with specific instructions about terrain, duration, and so forth, he sent me the following clarification:

treat this TT as it was a race....imagine a little girl behind you who is about to pass you on a walmart bike.

Honestly, it's color like this that makes the coaching palatable. You can criticize his coaching philosophy all you want (yes, 40 sprints is about 5x more than most coaches will assign), but his style is uniquely salving. He is simultaneously the good cop and the bad cop.

I wonder if I might have Stockholm Syndrome?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who Fights at Open Mic Night?

Tonight's events don't make for a great anecdote. It is the classic example of "you had to be there". In summation, a fight nearly broke out between three performers at Open Mic night in a coffee shop.

Sounds like somebody needs to switch to decaf! Groan.

Speaking of which, I neglected to specify that I wanted a decaf espresso. So now I'm wired.