Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oregon Bike Ride and Mustache Contest.

Photo bombing the selfie.
The 2013 Bicycle Rides Northwest "Oregon Bike" ride has come to it's conclusion.  Spectacular scenery, wonderful clients and co-workers, and of course, a mustache competition made this the ride of rides.

The Ride started in Dayton, Oregon and circled through some epic terrain in eastern Oregon, as we visited dense forest, wine country, mountain peaks, deep canyons, and arid plains.

The write up is not a comprehensive description of every day of the trip.  But I hope I can capture some of the fun I had.  To be clear, this is not journalism:  I'm looking for a little humor out of life, not Shackleton's journals from the Endurance.

Bicycle rides northwest is a non-profit that runs an absolutely spectacular trip.  The food, camping, and routes are incomparable. One colleague, who's experience in the bike industry has taken them to many bike tours, says that this is the best trip in the country. 

While I can only look at one year to the next, I keep coming back to get out of bed at 5 a.m. and move literally tons of luggage.  So, I guess it's good to me.

Day 1) Day one was a morning drive from Bend to Dayton, Oregon.  Camping in the city park was cool and shady.  It was relatively uneventful from an employee standpoint:  Help the riders out, set up some canopies (I'll edit this later when I find a picture of the tents), set out some tables and chairs, and pick up some U-Hauls.

With no tales of adventure to share,  let me take the time to introduce a couple of the characters.  There are probably 30 employees to go with the 300 riders.  Mostly the individual crews tend to stick together, if for no reason than that they work on the same schedule.  I.e., 'baggage dudes' hang out, as do the hard workers at 'camp central' who keep the riders supplied with beverages, snacks etc, and the caterers who crank out 18 hour days.  But there is great camaraderie amongst the workers, and certainly we all had a lot of laughs together.
Tosch and Brett

Let's feature a couple of hard working baggage crew members.  Here we have Tosch on the left, and Brett on the right.  They are an interesting contrast.  Like everyone on the team, they got along famously, but they were very different in many ways.  While both are cyclists and climbers, there are some differences.

Tosch is a designer of custom hand made packs, musical prodigy, and all around renaissance guy. Brett is a commercial fisherman / rock climber.  They got along great, but it's an interesting character study.

Tosch, for instance, was the constant recipient of gifts of fruit, praise, and microbrews from riders.  Brett, on the other hand, was told by a client to, "hey, make sure my luggage is right side up when you unload it."

I don't want to make any broad assumptions about human nature, but Tosch is a constantly smiling cheerful young man.  Brett carries three knives on deck to cut himself free if being dragged by a longline to watery doom.  Just saying.

Lost in Flanders?
Day 2) Dayton to LaGrande.  Some fine memories for me of LaGrande.  This is where I spent 3 weeks in 2002 as I entered into my Eastern Oregon University Masters Program.  It was a fantastic summer then, and my one day there in 2013 was also great.   After a delay due to the site being occupied by 36 softball teams, with tents and evidence of a late night, the crew went through the daily ritual of offloading 6 tons of bags and setting up 12 tents (that's the last time I'll give those details).

While it was hot, Brett talked me into a 26 mile trip to check out some springs in the town of Cove.  After not really looking at the map, we proceeded to get lost.  And zig zag back and forth through the country.  And ended up on gravel roads.  And, As is my want, I complained mightily, but enjoyed every minute of it.  The springs turned out to be a pool that charged $7 for a swim.  Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.  We churned on, and while dehydrated, and laughing at our self made adventure, we ended up on and rode a marked Oregon bikeway.  The picture above was taken riding through a field of sunflowers.  We managed to take every wrong turn, but made it back in time for dinner, a sweet ska band, and some pops. 
wallowa lake
Eric's First Ever 'real ride'
 Day 3) LaGrande to Joseph.  If I have fond memories of LaGrande, my experience in the region around Joseph from 2002 are even better.  Joseph is a gateway to the Wallowas.  Nestled against a high alpine lake formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago (If you believe the Democrats). (That's a joke.  I mentioned in the preface I would do some of that.  Please don't take offense if you find my characterization of Democrats as liberal bothersome).

Brett and I took Eric on his 'first ever bike ride.'  Let me clarify, While Eric has worked on the trips for several years, he's not really been a cyclist.  But during the week off between the Montana ride and the Oregon ride, Eric threw down for a nifty Trek 1.5.  A very cool bike.  Compared to some of the exotic steeds that some of riders ride, it might be considered an 'entry level bike,' but it is no slouch.  Eric and I dropped off Brett, who headed solo up into the Eagle Cap wilderness.  I rode another 10 miles or so, and hung out in camp.

eagle cap
Chloe at Trailhead
I would make the hike in the next morning.  This was one of my defining memories of the trip.

Day 4) Joseph Layover day.  The riders did a 60 mile canyon descent.  I tried to round up more participants for my planned fast pack hike from Wallowa Lake to the Matterhorn.  Depending on whether you trust the guide book, or the map, it was 18-22 miles round trip, but over 5000 feet of vertical gain.

Only Camp Central worker Chloe would join me.  She'd never done much hiking, and was worried -- needlessly, as she cranked out the miles.  I've included a few extra photos to try to capture the amazing change in scenery.  The dense forest at the trail head provided views of the Wallowa River, but little else as we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.

Eventually, we began to get slight views of distant high peaks.  As we switch backed through the dense forest, we moved into more open terrain.  The views became more expansive, and we found cascading waterfalls, and animal tracks.  We moved quickly, stopping only to snack, and to purify water.

We knew Brett would be camping at Ice Lake, and summiting in the morning.  Whether we would meet him was a question, but, from the map, it seemed likely we would at some point.

Chloe shooting Ice Lake footage
Eventually we arrived at the incredibly scenic Ice Lake.  Nestled below Sacagawea and Matterhorn peaks, Ice Lake is a crystal clear gem of unparalleled beauty.  It's also the end of the real trail.  We paused, snacked, and planned our summit ascent.  Chloe chose to stay at the lake.  I went for the summit, but promised I'd not go all the way if It was turning into a time issue.   With 2000 vertical feet to go in less than 1.5 miles, I wasn't sure what would happen.

Mirror lake... 'mirrica lake

I climbed steadily, on what can best be considered a steep ramp.  There was a slight trail:  It disappeared occasionally, but small rock cairns ahead pulled me upwards.  I found myself simply counting one foot in front of the other, and would allow myself to pause to sip water after 2000 steps.
Brett, Mirror lake, even higher
In what was no huge surprise, I met up with Brett part way up the trail.  I estimate about 1/3 of the way up.  We agreed that as he was descending, he and Chloe would take off, and I'd be free to ascend to the Summit.
 And what a summit it was.  The Eagle Cap is a unique area of granite sprouting up in the far eastern portion of Oregon.  Having climbed 5000 feet, I was exhausted.  The last 300 feet was on bare exposed granite, with no trail.  I was happy to summit.
Summit, Matterhorn

Descending was a bit sketchy:  I started dropping to the climbers trail too soon, and suddenly found myself clinging to a pitch that was steepening rapidly, with a perilous fall below me.  I gathered my scant wits, and climbed up, traversed, and continued.  
The descent was the hardest part:  steeply walking downhill on a slippery trail was exhausting, especially after covering the miles and altitude.

I shot some panoramic footage from the summit.
Take a moment to scroll up and look at the astounding change in view as we climbed up 5000 feet.  Nothing compares to alpine scenery, and the Wallowas are world class.

Day 5) Joseph to Asotin.  The riders experienced one of the finest rides in America:  The rattlesnake grade.  10 miles of winding rapid descending, with a matched grade on the Washington side.  We camped on the Snake river. 

It was hot as blazes.  But gorgeous.  Multiple Osprey soared, and riders swam in the Snake, and several of us camped by the cool waters. 

If you ever wondered what 2 osprey fledglings sound like at 4:00 a.m., here is the translation.
Hey, HEY, Hey, HEY MOM, HEY MOM, DAD, are you up, HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY, hey, got a fish, FISH, GOT A FISH, HEY let's poop on a tent, YEAH POOP, POOP, hey... (needless to say, we were up early).
Dr. Bill and his 'stache

Day 6) Asotin to Dayton. Uneventful, but had a great burger at Threshers in Dayton.  Good time to talk about the mustache contest.  The crew managed to talk numerous riders and crew into growing, or shaving mustaches.  Clear winner, is our good friend, and rider of the year, Dr. Bill.  Yes, he's a doctor, and a hell of good guy.  My mustache?  Well, one week's growth on a pale blonde dude looks... dirty.  But I went for it.

Day 7) Dayton Layover ride.  I failed in not taking a picture of this 20 mile winding road to the base of Bluewood ski resort.  Steady smooth climbing with Don, Tosch, Brett was good exercise, without turning into a race (well, except for the last 100m).  I lost.  The descent was 20 miles of pace lining, averaging 30 miles per hour down the grade.  Burger, and late night dancing with a jam/ funk band at Threshers.

Day 8) Dayton to Athena for the riders.  We powered it out, did our work, and waited for the last rider to leave.  A reasonable 4.5 hour ride later, I was tucked into a Los Jalopenos Burrito, and asleep by dark.  

Another epic trip.  I'll update and edit this when I get a few more photos emailed to me.  And of course, after I go through and find all the grammar and syntax errors.  Summer's coming to an end, and I'm at last feeling recharged to teach.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Big Sky Bike Trip.

Day 1: Bend to Spokane, and
Day 2, Spokane to Missoula.

I'll skip the detailed description of the drive From Bend to Montana.  Suffice to say it was a long trip with an overnight stay in Spokane.  Part of the job.  But Spokane gets a little more press on day nine.  Missoula is our official start, but I'm calling it day two.

We rode up a couple of canyons north of town and visited the Draught Works.  We also checked out Charlie B's, a classic cowboy place that attracted LITERALLY all kinds of people.  OK, actually, it attracted literally several kinds.  Cowboys, College kids, fishermen, and etc.  I got to bed pretty early, as the trip is long and the road is winding.

Day 3  Missoula to Darby.
The camping was functional, as we stayed in the local school house yard.   I Did a short ride out of Darby, our first stop.  I checked out some high mountain roads before getting into bear-like country (which  can be said about most places in Montana) and a rough jeep trail.  Returning to smoother roads, I scouted south of town and shot this picture of Trapper peak.  Glacially shaped, and over 10,000 feet tall, Trapper is apparently considered a 'walk up' with occasional use of hands, but safe. (Class 2 if you're a climber). 
lewis and clark

Day 4 took us from Darby to Jackson.
We camped on the Lapham ranch.  Here's a link to a pic of our camping.  The green pastures are misleading.  This is definitely High Country.  Snowmobiles (or 'sleds' if you're a cool kid) are tools not toys here.

I got in a snappy 26 miler that falls under the category of better remembered than repeated.  A 13 mile time trial with Brett M. turned into a 13 mile death grind into a brutal headwind on the return to camp.

Day 5, Tuesday, had us driving to Wise.
As we drove a different route than the riders, I had no idea of how scenic the bike route was.  I caught a 'SAG' wagon up into the hills and rode in 20 miles of gently winding canyon road paralleling a pristine stream.  Apparently the day's riding was "10/10" with a mix of high country, canyon, and varied mountains.  Certainly the part I rode was.

I guess there was a complaint that there was kind of an issue for some riders that the porta potties were too far away from camp.  As the blue box doors slamming are a constant sleep interruption, I'm not hugely sympathetic, but, the riders write checks, meaning the clients are the boss.  But there was a humorous missed opportunity:  When asked by a rider, "Don't you think the port-a-potties are too far away," the reply was an honest, sincere, and appropriate, "It's the best we could do given the site restrictions."

In my upcoming novel, it goes like this:
Client: "Don't you think the port-a-potties are too far away"
Me: "Hmm, Depends." (Ba-da-bing).

Day six, Wednesday,  took the ride from Wise to Phillipsburg, with a day 7 stay in Phillipsburg.
This would be our 'layover' allowing me unfettered opportunity to ride the next day.  It would be an epic.  I won't elaborate, but Phillipsburg, MT,  population approximately 800, has some interesting stuff going on under the surface.  I'm not getting into it in this post, but feel free to comment below or email me if you want more dirt.

There was a dog there, that had a collar with just the town license.  So we took to calling the Lab/Shepard/Collie/and Chow (I mean, always a little Chow, eh?) "Town of Phillipsburg" as a complete name.  I asked people not to feed the obviously well fed animal, to no avail, so I resigned myself to watching good ol' "Town of Phillipsburg" sucker some people out of french onion dip, chicken, etc.  Those tricky fake eye brows!!!!

skakhalo passThe ride was, I think 68 miles, including 14 on gravel.  3 of us had brought cyclocross bikes in anticipation of adding some gravel roads to spice up the ride.

A highlight of the ride was a lightly traveled mountain road up Skalkaho pass.  I flatted out 7 miles up, and on the THIRD innertube I was rolling.  It was fortuitous that I flatted next to what was described by one member of our crew as "The greatest swimming hole ever."

And truthfully, I was just glad to turn around as there was plenty of riding to be done.

Brett on the Gravel
We stocked up on tubes at the wonderfully stocked Bicycle Rides Northwest Rest stop (fruits, sweets, spam) and took an alternate ride on Rock Creek Road.  Where the mapped ride for the riders was an out and back, we jogged left and took the gravel, and crossed the Mountains at a different pass.  (Technically they were just hills.  Interestingly, in Montana, the mountains are MOUNTAINS, but the Rivers are creeks #irrigation).  The ride was steady to fast pace on gravel.  The rewards were riding back on a different road than we came in on, and riding a less traveled road.
bike ride
Muffy feeding before the climb.
But there was a brutal climb ahead.  I did not win the climb.  I'm attributing my loss to failure to hit the albuterol (totally legal in the olympics, fyi) after the dusty road and before the 4 mile grind.  Girth, weight, and lack of fitness can't possibly be the issue.
View from Phillipsburg Lunch 'Murica

While in Phillipsburg we saw yet another fire.  I love that smell, it smells like... OH, It smells like the, like, LITERALLY 7th fire in seven days.  (Do you see how I used literally correctly, while incorporating the horrific abuse of the word "like?"  Helicopters  rotating up to fight fires was a common sight.

As I remember  zero rain, lightning, or thunder on the trip, I have to assume the fires were man made.  If that is the case, I don't know whether to hope for gross stupidity from some yahoo flipping a cigarette butt, or parking a hot engine on roadside grass, or arson.  Obviously Arson is worse, as it implies malevolence.  But if it's just idiocy on this scope we're all doomed anyway.  So I'll just pretend that an arsonist roams Montana, in a manner that deserves a book treatment.  Hmm.  My next project: Big Sky Burning: Book one in the Jim Bridger, Montana DCI series: .  Hmm sounds like a lot of work.  Just pay me $1000, and you write it.  That's how Tom Clancy does it these days.  But make sure you include this line in the novel:

Sally: "Jim it's 500 miles.  How will you make it in time"
Jim Bridger: "Depends"

Oh, and bringing the story of Phillipsburg full circle, it turns out the Dog was the town dog.  So, "Town of Phillipsburg" it was.  After a night of sleep marred only by some kind of loud domestic dispute from a nearby house (my campsite was far enough that I didn't get bothered), we went onto Ovando!

Day 8, Friday, Phillipsburg to Ovando!
Wikipedia lists the population of Ovando, as 70 in 2000.  We were told 64.  Regardless, small town.  Here is the scene as the town served us our lunch.  It was termed by many as Outrageously adorable....

It would be better called 'Dinner' as you had to sit down.  Yep.  The 3 little kids would follow you to your seat, and then pounce, handing you a tuna wrap.  But, no seat, no food.  That's called Dinner.

I'm hoping to get some pics, but our entertainment was by 3 local kids, ages 16, 15, and 14, who played key boards, banjo, mandolin, and guitar; they were heavily influenced by blue grass and folk music, but showed talent in numerous genres.  And they were impossibly adept, leading Wes, a crew member and graduate of Berklee college of music to comment that it was "incredibly unfair that they were that talented."  Kill your TV folks, just saying.

'Selfie' = 'alone because jersey stinks'
One of the kids had an original model T that he'd pulled from the mud and restored, down to hand carving the wooden spokes on the wheels.  I'll edit this when I get a picture.  I managed to get in an easy ride -- I didn't have much to give after the long ride the day before, but I felt compelled.

This picture is outside of Ovando. This is a 'selfie' of me riding some gravel road in the middle of nowhere.  Stunningly gorgeous, if a bit austere.  The cyclocross bike was definitely the one to take on this trip as it let me get to somewhat more remote locations.

Day 9, Saturday, riding from Ovando to Missoula was uneventful.
After the riders packed up and went home, the staff drove onto Spokane, and went to Northern Lights Brewing for dinner.  A small group of us went into check out downtown Spokane, and the falls.

Which brings us to one final story.  As were getting ready to cross the street, what appears to be at least 500 riders starts to ride through the traffic light.  It looked like a critical mass ride (rides held nationwide where large numbers of riders gather, and then take the streets shutting down traffic, etc), and I fully expected the riders to break the law, and continue to swarm once the light turned red.  But instead they obeyed all laws.

And this is where it got weird.

Staff member B. called out to a rider, "Hey what's going on"
Rider in Spokane, "We're the F&%#ing Bike Club"
Me, "Hey no need for that, I'm hurt"
B, "Seriously you don't even KNOW me"
(Aside: we were being quite obviously, childish, as I'm not easily offended by language, and B. is an actual fisherman).

Some blocks later, a dad and his child are politely last at the light, as the 500 riders are ahead of them, and again, I yell, "Hey, what's going on?!"

Dad, "We're the FBC"
Me, "What's that mean"
Dad, "The F&%#ing Bike Club"

And they were.  They even have a Blog.  For language reasons I won't link to it, but you can probably find it.

All I could do is laugh. They were indeed the one and only FBC.

Made it home in time for dinner on Sunday, and fell to bed nice and early.  Stay tuned for the trip to the Wallowas next week.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You will be paying more to go to college. That ensures Oil companies get subsidies.

   OK, just to clear up the title, it's not a direct movement of your student loan dollars to oil companies.  There's more than enough money in the loan profits to pay for that.  

   Big goings on today in student loans.  Political Gridlock has led to a doubling of student loan rates from 3.4% to 6.8%, as reported HERE in the LA Times.  Basically, Obama wants a plan that has  loan rates for "needy" about 2% lower than non-needy students.  His plan is keyed to the prime rate, ensuring the continued profitability of the loan program. 

  House Republicans want a program that is also keyed to the prime rate, but makes no distinction between needy borrowers, and non-needy borrowers.  The plan also runs the risk of ballooning rates, as there are no guarantees for borrowers that the rates will stay the same.  

  House and Senate Democrats want a program in place that provides caps on the top rate.  The details of the varied plans can be found in Mother Jones, HERE.  A liberal rag, no doubt, but there are some nifty charts.

   Interestingly, as mentioned in the Mother Jones article, and detailed in the LA Times HERE, Elizabeth Warren proposes tying the interest rates given to need based student loans to the Federal Discount rate, which is the rate the government loans Banks.  Obviously, there are compelling reasons to make very low interest rate loans to banks (It's the economy, stupid), but something something the children are the future.   That looks like the 'libural' plan, as it probably would result in some reduction in government profits on loan interest.

   The stop gap plan (that failed) would have kept the current rates at 3.4% for another year, so that the rates wouldn't go up while the issue is dealt with.

   That's the summary for now.  OK, now onto the 'OH REALLY' part of the extravaganza.

1) The government MAKES money on the 3.4% rate.  Plenty.  Like Scrooge McDuck plenty.  50 billion in 2012 alone, as reported in USA today HERE.  50 Billion!? OH REALLY.

2) See 1, Above. OH REALLY.

It doesn't seem like we need to presumably double the profit.  It's not clear why we need more profit at all on loans, to students. Or it didn't until I found this ARTICLE, from the Atlantic.  I've reprinted the big numbers below, but basically our government  spent $37 billion on such things as paying oil companies to explore for oil, paying them for they oil they took out of the ground... OH REALLY?  SERIOUSLY?  You, dear reader, get the idea.  Just read on.  It's just way too depressing.

Here are the numbers on the oil subsidies.  Oh PS, in case you didn't know, the oil companies made a profit last year.  A pretty good one.

From the Atlantic (link above).
·  Expensing Intangible Drilling Costs ($13.9 billion): Since 1913, this tax break has let oil companies write off some costs of exploring for oil and creating new wells. When it was created, drilling meant taking a gamble on what was below the earth without high-tech geological tools. But software-led advances in seismic analysis and drilling techniques have cut that risk down.

·  Deducting percentage depletion for oil and natural gas wells ($11.5 billion): Since 1926, this has given oil companies a tax breaks based on the amount of oil extracted from its wells. The logic is, if manufacturers get a break for the cost of aging machinery, drillers can deduct the cost of their aging resources. (You decide for yourself whether that makes any sense.) Since 1975, it's only available to "independent oil producers," not the big oil companies, like Exxon and BP. But many of these smaller companies aren't actually small. According to Oil Change International, independents made up 86 of the top 100 oil companies by reserves. Those 86 had a median market cap of more than $2 billion. So essentially, this is a tax break that subsidizes the Very Big oil companies at the expense of the Very Biggest.* 

·  The domestic manufacturing deduction for oil and natural gas companies ($11.6 billion): In 2004, as American manufacturing was being ravaged by China's entrance on the global scene, Congress passed legislation designed to encourage companies to keep factories operating in the U.S. Thanks to some intensive lobbying, the oil industry ended up as one of the beneficiaries. But while the refining process does involve high-tech manufacturing, there was never any danger that either drilling or refining was going to migrate overseas. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Class action lawsuits, oh joy.

Here is the 2nd time I was invited to join a class action law suit.

I used to use Sprint for my cellular coverage.  Their coverage zones were good enough, their rates were at least competitive with other services, and it was more or less a functional relationship, at least when I was willing to pay full price for massive amounts of minutes. 

But this was the late 90’s, early 2000’s and I was a corporate type guy, and I saw those relatively modest dollars as not worth worrying about.  No, it wasn’t until I entered graduate school, and spent all my savings, and struggled to find work as a newly minted educator that the trouble began.

Basically, I had to cut my minutes down, as the 70 or 80 dollars I paid each month became the difference between eating (well), or going out for a microbrew with a buddy now and again (I’m going on memory regarding the cost:  I DO remember that it was a number that would seem high even a decade later).

I had settled on some modest minutes figure.  There were plenty of nights and weekend minutes, and the phone had a ‘minute minder’ feature that kept a tally about how many minutes I’d used.  If I felt I was pushing it, I’d just turn the phone off during the day.

Until that fateful day.  I received my bill, and it included an extra $100 fee for “overage.”  I was driving somewhere, and phoned Sprint (I know, that’s terrible to use the phone in traffic, but let’s not pretend that I pioneered the concept). 

I was perturbed, because, it seems as if their minute minder feature was a joke.  A cruel joke, but a joke. But their more advanced, “keep you on hold until your battery fades and dies feature,”  while apparently in beta testing.   Worked just fine.

I called them back later, got through, and the conversation went a little like this.

I said to the Sprinter, “Hello, Yes, I’m a little perturbed that my bill was so far off.”

The sprinter replied,  “Well sir, it shows that you used (x amount) of minutes, and it’s ten cents per minute over your base program.”

I noted,  “Well, yeah, but I used the minute minder one week ago, so, three-fourths of the way through the month, and it indicated that I had at least half my minutes left.  I don’t really see how I could somehow use more than double my allotment of anytime minutes.”

The sprinter calmly explained that, “Sir, I’m sorry, but the minute minder feature is just an estimate.”

Channeling my inner Mark Twain, I replied, “When you’re off by a factor of 50%, it’s not an estimate, it’s a wild ass guess.”

My credit rating probably still bears the scars of my refusal to pay the overage charge.  And it was small solace when some years later, I received an invitation to join a class action  lawsuit against Sprint for their clever minute counting policies.  I didn’t bother, as it seemed tawdry, and small.

In point of fact, I’d rather join a class action lawsuit into their infuriating technology that allows them to keep me on hold for as long as it takes for my phone battery to die.

I’d be thrilled to join that lawsuit.  Anyway, that’s the story of the SECOND time I was invited to enter into a class action lawsuit.

Morrison Luke Smith

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scotland, Summer, Adventure.

morrison luke smith
not MorrisonLukeSmith
The Famous Scottish Tower Story...

Originally posted HERE

This is from the 1999 WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) WUCC (World Ultimate Club Championships).

I'm Revisiting the past, with some frisbee content specific.  I normally have a frisbee blog, but this is quality stuff.

OK, fine, some frisbee content.

I went to Worlds in Scotland in 1999. My team was too bad. And that was the name. Partying ensued. I played OK, this was sort of the transitional period in my development from fairly fast Atlanta player to stupid slow Seattle player. These were the 3 years when i traveled a ton to tournaments, and developed some skills, some understanding of the game, and had a lot of fun. I was well on my to becoming a suprisingly effective slow player. I like to think i developed the same crafty moves as Jerry Rice. I think it's fairer to say that like Jerry rice in the nadir of his career, I have developed the abillity to juke all over the place with out moving anywhere. Sometimes the defense moves more than me and i miraculously get open. Combine that with the fact that i'm left handed (bordering on incompetently ambidextrous, I can actually cause turnovers with both hands), and voila. Marginal effectiveness.

Anyway, Scotland. This was maybe my favorite worlds ever. St. Andrews is beautiful, the pubs were great, I had no real pressure to win or lose. The weather was what I assume to be traditionally Scottish.  Wet, and flipping cold all the time. And basically, all 150 teams would party together every night.

After our last loss (Actually, we may have won our last game, some inconsequential seeding match), ribaldry continued. All but 4 teams (the top 2 boy and girl teams) were done, and it was shennaniriffic.

Eileen and Timmy and I were wandering around late at night/early morning, enjoying the relatively warm (50 F) evening and the questionable decision was made to get to the top of the old chapel, the tallest building in st. andrews to see the sun rise over the Firth of Forth. Well that was squashed by the walls and gates and barbed wire... so we headed back to the main campus. Looking at the old dorm where most of us were staying, I decided that the central tower of this building (like, an old castle tower) was the SECOND tallest building in St. Andrews, and that would do.

morrison luke smithWe found the closet door that contained the stairs, and up we went... in pitch black, illuminated by watch lights, we found the top door. Secured by a tiny little lock, like a luggage lock, we headed down the stairs where either EILEEN ACCIDENTALLY PUSHED OPEN a secret panel. Like pitch dark. Totally lucky. This opened on to an attic door. There was a window accross the attic, faintly revealed by the predawn light glowing behind it. I walked accross the joists, and when I arrived at the window, i noticed i was covered in cobwebs. No one had been here for years. The window was openable. I climbed out, shimmy-d around to the roof pitch, and there, 20 feet away, was the top few feet of the turret. At 6'2, I was just able to reach the low part of the parapet, and was able to chin up, and help my fellow miscreants up.

Spread out below us was all of St. Andrews, and the beautiful calm waters of the Firth (i think it means Bay or something). Slowly the sun came up. Awesome.

We descended, I jogged home, and went and watched the last matches in Torrential rain. Quidditch-erriffic.

What made the trip even better was spending another 7 days hiking and hitching around scotland, but that memory was great. Oh, for a camera...
morrison luke smith

Morrison Luke Smith

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The legendary pig story.

The pig story.  Be patient.  I trot this out every so often with my students and see what I hook. It's usually good for one or two BIG FISH...   It's all in the detail, and the delivery.  Originally published in my older mostly frisbee blog.

OK. I don't know if you knew this but my dad is a doctor. In fact, he scored the highest score in the state of Georgia on his medical boards. That is to say, Smith's are good at standardized tests. Anyway, Rodney aced his shit at the Medical College of Georgia, and was valedictorian.

As an aside, my mom or my dad was summa cum laude at Emory, and the other was magna cum laude at Emory. I'm not sure which is which, but my mom was better, and she graduated in 3 years, to my dads' 4. Apparently for all their smarts, neither was smart enough to keep an accidental child from occurring. Apparently they were right in Health class.

In any event, my parents moved to rural Maryland, where my dad entered school, and at Georgetown in Residency, redeemed himself in his inability to be number one in the family. He was served to the National Institute of Health, where he served in early viral pathology research.

Afterword, we moved to a rural area outside Atlanta. I was in 2nd grade, but I was stuck in a mix of city and country.

My mom, despite the fact that she was magna, or summa, or whatever, had been burdened down by 4 kids in 6 years. or perhaps she was bored, or, as will be revealed, capricious, as she was several years away from being one of the few people in the country who passed her CPA exam, all 4 parts, in one attempt... but I digress.

Mom was given a gift: as far as I know, it was the first Vietnamese potbellied pig purchased in the USA . This pet pig turned out to be ACTUALLY, a full on PIG, and grew up big and strong.

Albeit, with 3 legs.

So anyway, there we were, living in Northern Georgia, and as was the case in the 70's and 80's, it was not uncommon for a doctor to be both a doctor, and as was the case for my father, following his passions, a farmer.

in any event, in late 1979, or early, 1980 (i can't remember), our family farm was visited by a traveling vacuum salesman. Now you have to imagine the scene; at the time my parents (now happily divorced) were happily married, but during this era, cable was non existent, north Atlanta was farmland, there was no internet, and my dad was too smart for his own good.

On this particular day, I was home. Technically, I was the 'owner' of this pig. I mean, once we realized 'PIG' was just a pig, not 'Gavroche', we were all pretty OK w/ raising 'PIG' to be food. But like many young children of age 5, I was not a good steward, and, my dad was the de facto parent.

But I remember the salesman showing up, and the conversation went something like this.

The salesman showed up, and asked my father about our current vacuum cleaner. It was late 70's and we DID in fact own a perfectly serviceable vacuum cleaner.  He was however blessed, or cursed, with a proclivity for bullshit, and he brought this salesman in with his usual vigor associated with boring afternoons grilling proselytizers on scriptural detail. he was not particularly devout, but like many southerners growing up during this time, he was fairly well educated in the distinctions between Leviticus law and new testament 'turn the other cheek' issues.

He was educated, even beyond his rather egregious knowledge of 2 season corn growing, viral pathology, and Georgia basketball, in the area of basic fundamental dogma. and more specifically, he was extremely well versed from years of reading Scientific American, and felt comfortable grilling some yokel Yankee in the arena of vacuum technology.

In any event, I remember well my father, gentleman farmer, sitting there with his tie on (as was the case with many gentlemen farmers of the era), meeting with this particular salesman. And as the salesman insisted on showing his vacuum's ability to suck up coffee grounds, etc... my dad kept going for more virulent dirt, and nails, etc. He was being a jerk.. I mean, my dad was a doctor. We had a vacuum. Technically, we had a maid. but, life on the farm had boring moments, and dad was never one to fail to capitalize on them.

In any event, after a couple hours of my dad grilling this young man about venturi effect and Bernoulli law, he finally let him off the hook. But as the salesman was leaving he commented upon my pet pig.

Now, as I mentioned, PIG had originally been named Gavroche (named for the urchin in Les Miserables) but when it turned out that he was not in fact a Vietnamese Potbellied pig, but in fact, a full on HAWG, he became my pet. but as is often the case when you give a pet to a child, care of PIG fell to dad. Well, our three legged pig was extremely bright, and, as the vacuum salesman watched, limped in and out of the door, over and over.

And as he was leaving, the young salesman had the temerity to say to my father, 'Say sir, I'm just dying to know, what's up with your 3 legged pig?' And my father replied with the following story.

'Well son, once, one march, we all were sleeping soundly. meanwhile ,our Christmas tree was downstairs. Now, I admit, I should have disposed of that tree some time earlier, but the fact is, the can of seven up i poured into the base of that tree had in fact evaporated, and perhaps, my tree was a bit dry. Suffice to say, a bit of an electrical spark occurred, and that tree caught on fire.'

At this point, the young man interjected (i was busy doing whatever it is 5 year olds did in 1980 georgia, probably eating pudding) 'so, did the fire burn the pig?'

My father replied, 'No, No, No, sir. have you been paying attention? You see that doggy door there? That pig, raised like a member of the family, ran into the house, and woke me up, and we were all saved!!!!'

the young man replied, 'so, I don't get it. The pig got burned?!!!'

My father rolled his eyes, and said, 'young man you just don't get it. Let me tell you another story.'

'I was out running the combine one time between house calls' (did I mention my father was a gentleman farmer) when it broke down. I got out to free up the blades when my tie (again did i mention my dad was a gentleman, physician farmer) got caught in the blades.'

The vacuum cleaner salesman interjected, 'so the pig got caught in the blades?'

My father replied, 'Ah callow youth.  No,  there i was, being dragged in, when PIG came running out, ran across the fields as my good for nothing son sat at home playing atari PITFALL, ran up to the combine, and... to this day I don't know how or why, came up and bit my tie off at the neck. I don't know why or how, but PIG saved my life!!!!'

The traveling salesman replied, 'sooo did the pig get caught in the wheels?;

My dad replied, 'SON, are you listening!'

The salesman got up to leave, scratching his head, and as he finally walked out the door said, 'sir, dr. smith, i just don't get it. why does your pig have only 3 legs?'

My father said, in the way that only a doctor with too much time on his hands could say,' damn boy, don't you get it! you can't eat a pig like that all at once.'

morrison luke smith
(c) morrisonlukesmith

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Investment Advice for Superheroes.

A recent posting on Slate sparked my interest about the relationship between Superpowers and the drive to do good, or bad.  You should read the article HERE, but it raises a number of interesting questions.  The study cited found that “do-gooder” powers like strength and flight tend to encourage altruistic behavior, and stealth powers such as invisibility and X-Ray vision tend to encourage sneakiness. I'm not sure what to think about stretchy heroes. 

But since it really is clear why VILLAINS use their powers for money or power, it made me think about how much our heroes sacrifice for the US of A, and the world.  So, I'm creating investment strategies for Super Heroes (and super villains, as I don't want to be discriminatory).  But buyer beware, because a man who drives this luxurious automobile should not be making his living giving investment advice.

Superman/ Clark Kent. 
Day job:  Newspaper reporter
Salary: 70,000 (if the Daily planet is a union shop).
Clark Kent actually makes a decent living, assuming that the Planet is a Union Shop.  With a good investment strategy, and careful budgeting, an early retirement should be no problem.  Additionally, he shouldn’t need to spend much on travel costs, so he should be able to enjoy many of the travel perks of a rich man, without the costs.

Tips:  Try to leverage your opportunities for travel into a successful blog.  Since I’m not sure where you’d tuck the camera, have tourists take their photos with you on their camera, and post to your media.  Then, monetize that stream!    You could quite possibly parlay your unique skills into a travel show.  Think Anthony Bourdain without the cigarettes or profanities.


Spiderman / Peter Parker
Day  Job: Photographer, Bugle.
Salary: 30,000
First, Mr. Parker needs more income. He should abandon the Bugle, and their skinflint Publisher J. Jonah Jameson, and peddle his photos to more upscale media sites.

Tips:  Instead of making your money on Spiderman pictures, use your skills to capture some high value paparazzi photos, which can go for $50,000. 

Day Job: Super Hero.
Salary, none.

Aquaman. You have no job, no money, and, no pockets.  How do you even make it to the Justice League?  Ride a turtle or something?  I’m not even sure what The Aquaman eats.  Do you lure fish over with your psychic fish talk powers and eat them?  Wouldn't that be breaking the great trust the innocent creatures of the sea have placed in you? Or do you just eat the “evil fish” (great white sharks,  squid, sea snakes?). If so, I ask, "who are you to judge Aquaman?"  
"Who are you to judge?"

Tips:  Aquaman, do you realize they have a sign on the bathroom at the Legion of Doom that says, “The Aquaman’s Lagoon?”  Enough said. 


Not the Wolverine you meant?
Wolverine/ Logan.
Day Job: Lumberjack
Salary:  Freeloads off the X-men.
My research found that Logan’s father invested  $10 in the Bank of New York for him in 1900.  Unfortunately, Logan accidentally killed his father when he was 8, and lost his memory when shot in the head.  Logan is a rich man, but since he doesn’t remember either where he’s from or his real name,  it is unlikely he’ll find that safety deposit box.   Luckily, he can take the long view, as he may live forever...  

Tips: Go buy 1 share of BP stock, and put a dollar a day in a basic savings account.  In 80 years, your retirement is assured.

Hulk:  David/Bruce Banner
Day Job: Fugitive
Note: It's difficult to monetize on the run.

Tips: Ask Tony Stark for some free lance science work for Stark Industries, in an environment with soothing music.  And good bandwidth -- no frustrating spinny wheel of death Dr.  And a well stocked courtesy buffet.  What ever makes you calm Mr. Banner, DR. Banner, of Course I mean Dr.

Have Tony Stark handle your investments.  I'm not saying I'm afraid to help. But.. Just saying.  One suggestion.  The government is relaxing their stance on internet gambling.  Perhaps, with your intellect, online poker might be the job for you.
Lex Luthor: 
He innvented Collateralized Debt Obligations, Mortgage Backed Securities,  Hedge Funds, and brought Wall Wtreet to it’s knees, and profited immensely.
And Served as President of the United States

Don’t worry about Lex, He's doing fine. 




Let's have some more fun at Aquaman's expense, thanks to our good friends at Robot Chicken.

Still Stuck in adolescence, 
morrison-luke-smith-50 by mlsmith
(c) MorrisonLukeSmith

Friday, May 3, 2013

Winter Triathlons. My first newspaper publication...

This was originally posted in the local Local, Arts, and Entertainment weekly, The Source weekly.  It's an article about my observations on the 2008 USA Triathlon National Winter Triathlon Championships, presented by Bend Bike N Sport.  (I get that wrong in my essay, which a commenter notes at the original Source).  The original article is HERE. The Source is a great local paper.  The only differences are that I've blogged in some pictures, and added probably 154 words, as the original column had to be 800 words.  I think it flows better this way, but I'd like to improve my writing so that I can get my point across, AND get in a few jokes (or statements that I think fit the category).

March 26, 2008.
by Luke Smith

EX-Treme Winter Triathlons

A trek flying V Bike. Sick
Off To the Races. I was totally baited. For bike and running fitness, all I had to do was either keep commuting on my bike in the winter (which I did for three and a half years) or train a bit in a spin class (somewhat less likely), or run a bit in the snow. (How hard could that be? I coach high school cross-country and track). The cross country skiing would be easiest: I skate ski a bit and feel race-worthy in the winter.

Well, that went out the window.  A spin class sounds like a hamster wheel, and running in the snow sounds like, well, running in the snow. Also, I broke down and bought an $800 Volvo this winter, so Mr. Smith the bike commuter became Mr. Smith, the guy with a roof box box full of skis, and a ready willingness to stop playing daily bike tag with cars.

And Mr. Run All The Time developed a foot ache best described as the "sissy foot" that precluded any running other than down to the mailbox, or over to the coffeehouse, or most frequently, "how fast do I have to run to set a personal record for sliding across the hardwood floor."

In other words, I was so ill prepared,  I had no reason not to enter.

So why, why, why DIDN'T a guy who will - with basically no talent, no ability, and lots of gear - race anyone, anywhere, anytime for anything (shopping carts, milk drinking name it) enter a winter triathlon called the XTERRA American Championships?

Well, here are my reasons, all reinforced by actually skiing on the day of the race, and observing the race itself:

running in snowObservation 1) It turns out that running in the snow is at best a crap-shoot, and most likely a disaster. It seemed questionable as to whether or not snow would support my 180 lb frame, so it was great to see the race leader, and various other (lighter) competitors float across the snow - on the first lap. It was less wonderful to see somewhat less light runners, and other victims, plunge painfully into knee-deep crevasses on the second lap as the snow became chewed up.

Observation 2) On the other hand.. no, on the SAME hand, biking in the snow is, at best, a disaster. Are you gambling on Mother Nature's grace to provide a firm surface for a 25-pound mountain bike topped by a 180-pound hairless ape? Alas, mountain bikes are not the ideal tool for riding upon snow. In fact...

Observation 3) There are other tools for snow. Around 1000 years ago, someone realized that if you strapped a couple of long sticks to your feet, you could shuffle along in only relative misery, and occasional bliss, on snow. SKIS! Brilliant. Here's a thought: It's a race on snow - USE SNOW TOOLS.

Observation 4) I'm an ameteur maths nerd.  Here's some bad math, but it approximates the challenges. A bike puts about 16 square inches in contact with the snow, if you let the air out of the tire. - A shoe puts maybe 30 square inches in contact with the snow. A snowshoe, or ski, puts oh, conservatively, 145 square inches in contact with the snow. 145 square inches! I'm a history teacher - not a math teacher - but it seems there's a difference there. Now stack a couple hundred pounds of racer on top and do the math. (Side note, snow is often soft; stilts would make poor snow tools).

Observation 5) Over time, living in cold climates man has created a series of tools to deal with snow and ice. Ice Skates. Snowshoes. Skis. And clowns. (Their massive feet may indicate an inherent evolutionary predisposition towards snow sports). Luckily for the XTERRA crowd, I am relieved to know that logic need no longer rule my life. It turns out my Huffy and my Keds are ACTUALLY BETTER SNOW TOOLS THAN THE FAMED TOOLS OF THE NEANDERTHALS, NORWEGIANS, AND ESKIMOS

THIS is what i want to carry
morrison-luke-smith-skateObservation 6) Neanderthals. Are. Extinct. Suckers. Maybe skiing led to their extinction as over wearing of spandex led to frequent mockery by more developed Homo Sapiens, and an inability to get dates.

Observation 7) Carrying a bike for an hour because the snow is too soft to ride sounds like hell on earth. Maybe you should just show up with a really small bike. A clown bike.  Or a wheely bike.

Observation 8) I suspect that the event may be corporate driven. (Maybe that's because it's the XTERRA American Championships).  Somehow Nissan has decided that winter sports needed improving. I'd have loved to be at that meeting:...  "Well, our marketing department has decided that a bike race is sexier than skiing."... "And it seems like our RedBull test group keeps calling snow shoe-ers 'Clowns " (Note: I was totally wrong on this.  It was sponsored by the now out of business Bend-Bike-n-Sport, a great business I purchased two bikes from. Sloppy reportage).

Observation 9) Amazingly, the sponsors desire Olympic status. While the XTERRA winter-tri may or may not have the gravitas of curling, I believe that the race would come to be dominated by light people with big feet, who would simply purchase the smallest child's bike they can find (if you're just pushing the bike, why not just carry it). Imagine Jockeys with enormous feet each carrying the world's smallest bike on a strap around their back. Swifter, Higher, Stronger indeed.

Observation 10) I think it's important to note the awe I have for the athleticism and perseverance of all the finishers. Some younger entrants were ones I'd coached, many of the amateurs I knew, and all I admire. I'm just saying...

Editor's note: Morrison Luke Smith is a local high school teacher and coach who recently attended the Xterra Winter Triathlon in Bend.

(c) MorrisonLukeSmith

Destroy Multi-Tasking...

Here are some of my favorite student statements:

"I'm just better at writing essays than objective tests." 
"I don't need to take notes"

and my favorite...

"why can't I use my phone/ laptop / mp3 player/ ?.  I can multi-task."

Uh, no, you can't.  And study after study continues to back this up.  A recent article on Slate drives this point home.

Do you tweet?
2/3 of the time, students in the study, when left to their own devices, used their own devices (mp3, phone, etc) with horrific results for comprehension, retention, etc.

This has certainly been my discovery in 10 years of teaching.  I don't want to disparage the attention span of an average 9th grader, but... well...

But where charming Dory gives it her full attention, Students today give the world the opposite of their full attention.  My own anecdotal observations confirm this:  ALL my "MOST" Successful students never have their phone, mp3 player, etc. out.  Never.  

The key to this is that you need to actually focus for chunks of time.  And checking your FB stream while trying to do calculus is a bad move.

“Young people have a wildly inflated idea of how many things they can attend to at once, and this demonstration helps drive the point home: If you’re paying attention to your phone, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in class.” Larry Rosen, California State University–Dominguez Hills

But the problem is greater than just in the class room.  PBS, in a Frontline piece entitled Digital Nation  covers the issues here.  In general, we find that self-described "multi-taskers" are usually bad at everything.  Texting while you drive isn't multi-tasking.  It's Russian roulette.  I guess it's more like Russian Roulette on a skateboard.  Well it's more like talking on the phone while you drive. (Insert Dory pic here).  But I've seen people read the paper when driving, etc.  

Stating that "I'm a good multi-tasker" for an adult is just as bad as for a child.  Tailing off in mid-sentence to text, FB, IM, is common amongst even my friends.  I think a cool study would be to test the perceived time of gaps in conversations when people pause in conversations to use media vs. actual time.  

Hypothesis: People who are texting grossly underestimate how much time it takes answering a text takes out of a conversation with a friend.

As an educator, I can monitor technology usage: But can I "Teach it?"  How do I get a student to internalize this lesson, and put away the phone when they are studying.  How do I get them to see the value of turning off the technology when they are in school?

The scariest thing for me is that my school's plan is to get MORE technology.  The plan is for a chrome book for every kid in the future.  I think that access to technology for an American is as important as access to tools for a carpenter.  But (old curmudgeonly simile here), just as you don't give a power saw to a novice laborer, you don't give unfettered internet access to a teenager and say, "just use this for a shared google doc project on tropical fish."

Morrison Luke Smith
(c) MorrisonLukeSmith