Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Half-Marathon in Austin

Click here to see photos of me nearing the finish line February 17, 2008 in Austin, Texas during my first half-marathon.

Action Sports International - www.asiorders.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring has spung... or has it?

Last Thursday (March 20) I took Shadowfax (that's my bike) out for my first outdoor ride of 2008.

First things, first, yes, I named my bicycle. All my vehicles have names... no particular reason, other than for fun. If the name of my bicycle sounds familiar to you then you will have one of two assumptions as to it's origin. My bike's namesake character in J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings. Because Tolkien's Shadowfax is a fearless gray-silver stallion that is the fastest of all horses in Middle-earth. My bike is gray-silver and I like to imagine that I'm fast... although it is a hybrid, so there are few races I'll be winning on MY Shadowfax. I guess there's a world-fusion band out in the world with the same name, but other than my scant knowledge of the band's existence via questions from others, my Shadowfax has no connection to the musical world's Shadowfax.

Second, yes, I've been a wuss about this winter in Iowa. It hasn't consisted so much of complaining. A complaint is a legitimate beef about a circumstance like a fly in your soup. You politely pass on the information to your waiter because you expect something to be done about it to change (hopefully by improvement) the situation. So I call what I've been doing most of this winter in regards to the snow, ice and sub-zero temps whining. Because really, I live in Iowa. If there's anyone I should be complaining to, it's myself. No one is forcing me to live where it gets cold and snowy in the wintertime. So, note to myself... if you have a legitimate beef here, then get off your duff and do something about it or quit your whining. (Note to everyone else, I'm working on a little bit of both!)

But here's the most important part -- SPRING is officially here, even though it appears that Mother Nature and the calendar are still negotiating the details. Despite their harshness, ice, snow and cold, give the world a briefly magical appearance. Everything is covered in white. Then comes spring. Salt and sand, dead leaves, brown hibernating grass and all sorts of litter and critters lost in the strata of all the storms begin to reveal themselves as the frozen layers begin to melt. Despite this supposed ugliness exposing itself, my happiness about spring grows exponentially as more and more road grit sinks into my lawn.

Spring is a funny season, the "middle child" of the seasons, trying to include everyone, sharing some of the characteristics of each of it's siblings in an effort to help everyone get along. Spring is mud and snow duking it out to see which one is better friends with the longer days. Spring colludes with Winter on a practical joke like snow in April (or even May), especially snow on Easter. They sit back, Spring and Winter, watching to see who will laugh.

Spring becomes visible to me prior to the grass waking up and remembering it's usual hue. In winter, trees branches shrink to sharp points, scratching and poking the sky; pins and needles ready to prick snow clouds that come too close. If you're alert when winter starts to pack it's bags, and spring is still just teasing about coming for a visit, you can see the branches plump. The sap begins to flow from somewhere deep inside each tree stretching to the extremities and as they fill, the tips begin to pulsate with life. When that happens, the spring birds can't be too far behind. Soon there will be buds bursting from those pulsating tips, bursting up through the soil from long frozen bulbs. By then many of us will have nearly forgotten our own whining about the snow and ice.

Even though there is still some snow holding out against the lengthened days (as negotiated by the Solstice) I have no legitimate beefs about the weather. I see plump twigs on the trees outside my windows. Shadowfax and I will be out again today.

Winter from my kitchen. Spring from my kitchen.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 10, 2008

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Mission Statement

Last week I formalized my personal mission.

I believe that a personal mission should be broad enough to encompass one's professional life as well as one's personal life.

Further, I believe that putting your life's purpose into words presents a challenge if only because words sometimes fail to capture the spirit of a thought or intention. I don't have my copy anymore, so I can't accurately quote him, but in his novella "The Body" (in the book Different Seasons) Stephen King wrote a phrase that has stuck with me since I read it the first time back in the late 80s'. He wrote that "speech destroys the functions of love" and Gordy, the narrator goes on to describe how saying a thing, putting it into words, can serve to dismantle it rather than to prop it up. That if you speak to tell a deer you mean it no harm, the act of speaking disproves that from the perspective of the deer. Of course he goes on to describe the catch, which is that if you don't use words to describe your intentions, thoughts or feelings, those things die without being shared. And there you have it... words being necessary to share and to perpetuate dreams have the power to diminish those same things... if you're not careful.

With the hope and intention of perpetuating my vision, I use the words available to me to share what I envision.

Still, and I suppose always, a work in progress -- here is my mission statement:
With focused determination, unbridled curiosity and decided happiness I embrace activities and pursuits that fuel my passion to inspire, support and encourage collaboration, openness, active and creative thought, laughter and connectedness leading me to achieve extraordinary goals and help others achieve the same.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cars correction

Holy memory lapse!

Thanks to my friend Margo for the slap to the cerebellum -- as the Altoids TV commercials are now calling it.

I guess when I said that I had never attended car races, I was thinking along the lines of Daytona 500 or Indy cars, drag races, etc... and I totally blocked out all the stock car races and demolition derbies on the dirt track during all those Great Jones County Fairs of my childhood.

I have just two things to say:
Doh!
&
Thanks again Margo!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cars

We are a car family. Every February for the last thirty-some years my uncles host a car show in Monticello -- the Rod and Custom Car Show. People come from all over the country to enter their vehicles (cars, trucks, dragsters, motorcycles, etc) in the various contests. Growing up, my siblings, cousins and I were always as much a part of the car show as we were able. In fact I'm pretty sure the sign that goes out into the main intersection of town as the in-town advertising is one that I made when I was still in high school (check it out in the "Cars" slide show.)

It might seem like I've assimilated into the car culture. I can explain to you the reason that my Subaru Forester's horizontally opposed boxer engine is superior to other car engines. I can tell you that the alignment of Bindi's (that's my car's name) engine lowers the center of gravity allowing the Forester to have a higher ground clearance than bigger SUVs without the worry of tipping over. And because it is horizontally opposed the engine evenly delivers torque to the drive train which means that when you hit the gas both wheels get the same amount of power and the car doesn't pull (ever so slightly) to one side.

This might seem really impressive... making it sound like I could offer to soup up your ride, change the oil, etc. But there's more.... actually, there's less.

I don't really have any special car skills. What I can do... I can check and fill the oil in my car as well as the wiper fluid. I can (and have) add coolant/antifreeze. I can change my wiper blades, the lamps in the headlights, fuses, that sort of thing. I have a Class C CDL (no air brakes) which means that at one time I could lift the hood of a former school bus and identify some of the parts of an engine, but since it was by rote, please don't ask me to tell you about anything other than a battery (to which I am fully capable of appropriately attaching jumper cables).

And I've never attended a car race of any sort. So I've never really been absorbed into the car culture. Still, I have always appreciated different cars and enjoyed the annual car show here in Monticello.

With a family-run event, it is easy to take for granted the magnitude. Each year my uncles work to create a successful show, lining up entrants and sponsors, arranging celebrity appearances. Celebrities at the car show have ranged from A-list to D-list. One year Shirley Muldowney (a.k.a. the First Lady of Drag Racing) was their celebrity guest for the two-day event. Former Iowa Hawkeye Basketball player Steve Carfino made an appearance once in the '80s -- y'know, back when he was still considered A-list. Another year, I portrayed the celebrity, which was some blue furry PacMan-like creature. I think it was called Snafu, but can't recall and Google isn't helping me to jog that memory at all. So I just wandered anonymously amongst the cars dressed in a giant foam blob wearing a giant foam hat. This year Butch Patrick, better known as Eddy from TV's "The Munsters" and Paul Le Mat, who played John Milner in the film "American Graffiti" added the Hollywood glitz to the show.

2007 though... that was a classic. In the middle of the ice storm that put Iowa in the national news due to widespread power outages, I called Mom to see if she cared to brave the storm and head over to the car show (about 5 blocks from my house) for a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet "Joanie" and "Potsie" (Erin Moran and Anson Williams) from one of my favorite TV shows from childhood "Happy Days." She agreed, so I fired up my trusty Subaru (always faithful in the treacherous Iowa elements!) and we slogged through the thick, slushy snow and ice. Once we made it to the show, where apparently no one else had ventured that night, we hit the celebrity table where Mom tried to recruit the two Southern Californians and their staff for some late-night snowmobiling. (Note that my mother does not own a snowmobile or the necessary gear and has no close friends with such access!)

She nearly had them convinced and was hitting up her network for some snowmobiling connections when the cast and crew realized that their travel schedule conflicted with her suggested plan. I changed topics when I called my sister and exclaimed, "Hey, do you want to talk to Joanie and Potsie?" Erin Moran good-naturedly accepted my phone and spoke briefly to my sister, then handed the phone to Anson Williams asked what they were doing. She told him that she and her husband were in bed keeping each other warm since at that moment they had been without electricity most of the day due to the ice storm. Williams found it endlessly interesting, possibly quaint... He didn't think married couples did that kind of thing in this "day and age."

They were so entertained by the whole ice storm, snowmobiling recruitment, talking to my sister hubbub that they enthusiastically agreed to have their picture taken with me. Apologies... it's not posted here because it's on film and in this digital age... I've lost track of the film camera that has the photo. As soon I figure out where the roll of film is and get it developed and scanned (I know, I feel so old-fashioned, even quaint!) I'll post it!

I went digital this year. So check out my photos of the '08 Rod and Custom Car Show.