Texas-New Mexico 2017 Journal

friday, september 1 – 8:23 am, drove to Nashville in intermittent rain. Two accidents in TN delayed me, so I arrived at 5:15. I got to t&l’s then rested until 7:00. We drank craft beer then met Adrian and Martha for dinner. I had a french dip. Visiting with a&m was awesome; Adrian had a cool story about transitioning from Frank Zappa’s band to David Bowie’s. We went back to t&l’s to play tunes

sat – Left about 8:30 for Texas. Arrived in Dallas 6:30-ish. We watched episode 1 of The Returned then ate tacos. Pete and I jammed for a little while

sun – Pete and I go to Richardson Bike Mart to look for a seatpost. Nada. Ate lunch at Jason’s Deli, then a rode at Erwin Park trails. Pete rode the ss and did well, but finally bonked right before the end. I ordered a seatpost on amz, to be delivered to Mom and Wendell’s address in SF. We ate bbq at Intrinsic then hung out in their patio area drinking beer and playing jenga with Ellie. Watched another ep of The Returned. Learned that Walter Becker died

mon – Pete worked, so I rode the Grapevine Northshore trail, 17 miles. Almost got overheated, but had fun. Pete came home early from work, so we went to the grocery and got food/beer, then grilled out. We ate shrimp, okra, cauliflower, and bread. Watch a couple of Louie episodes

tue – Trimmed Pete’s hair in the morning before he left for work. Went to rbm and bought a carbon bottle cage and talked to an employee about riding in the area. He convinced me to ride Boulder but to park at Redbird mall, so I did. good ride. Cleaned everything but one climb. Came back and started the spaghetti sauce. Practiced some guitar and played with Benny. Watched tennis with Kim

wed – Went for a run with Pete in the morning. I did not get too far, as my left knee started bothering me. Met Ben Cobb at Hoffbrau in Fort Worth, then came back and mowed p&k’s lawn. Got a few items at the store and made roasted potatoes with rosemary, sauteed asparagus, and Pete made teriyaki grilled fish. Watched tennis, then got ready for bed, but received tragic news from Anna. their cousin Eddie was killed by a self inflicted gunshot wound

thu – Hung out with Pete in the morning, then looked for a Schlotzsky’s for lunch but unsuccessful; they all seem to be closed down. Ate at a Thai place near 380 and i-75 before riding Erwin Park again. Sore legs made for a slow-ish ride, but still enjoyable. Came home and washed clothes, showered, read. Watched tennis with Kim and ate pizza. Pete came home after 10

fri – Met Pete at Burger House at noon for lunch, then went to Chris’ to record my guitar parts for Robin Proper. Watched a little tennis with Kim. Had dinner at Saigon Block with Kim and Ellie, then went back downtown for the Empire Cats show at Poor David’s

sat – Got up and packed for Santa Fe. Adam came by about 8:15 and we got on the road at 9:00 am. Ate at El Norteno’s in Wichita Falls, just like last year. Took 70/84 west to SF from Vernon. Listened to tunes, notably Abbey Road and personal playlists, then played ZZ Top’s Tejas as the sun set in the desert and we rolled into Eldorado. Perfect. A dinner of stew awaited as we arrived precisely at 8pm

sun – Installed the new seatpost on the Norco and rode Galisteo Basin trails in the am with Laura and Wendell, who managed admirably. Trails were fantastic: slightly more tech than La Tierra. Showered, then ate at Harry’s Roadhouse for a late lunch. Pete’s old friend and band-mate Tom Blackburn met us there as well. Later, Pete and I rode the greenway perimeter of Eldorado, then ate a supper of lamb balls, tabbouleh, and naan

mon – Rode La Tierra trails in the morning with Laura, Wendell, & Pete. Good times. Laura and I rode a bit longer to take advantage of the whoops, etc. while Pete and Wendell went back to the car. Did some grocery shopping at De Vargas mall Albertson’s, then ate lunch at Mom & Wendell’s. Pete made me a sandwich. We all lazed about (reading, resting, walking), then Pete prepped for pizza night. After a brief storm cooled things off we ate pizza and listened to some Joe Cocker. Later we played Beyond Balderdash. Pete wiped everyone out

tue – Got up and Laura and i rode Dale Ball trails. Had an awesome ride despite me taking a wrong turn at one point. the Norco seems to really shine on technical singletrack. Showered, then ate lunch at Pecos Inn and it was phenomenal. Took Oma to get a foot massage while Laura and i perused the contemporary galleries in the Railyard district. Later went to REI where I got a couple of new t-shirts. Rested at the Birney’s then went to m&w’s around 6:30. Adam cooked kabobs which were deLISH. Later we relaxed and listened to classic rock

wed – did some cleaning at the Bbirney’s in the AM, then to m&w’s where i made reuben sandwiches and sauteed asparagus for the crew. Hung out until 2:30, then took Laura and Oma to the airport. Was gonna ride after that but we decided to play disc golf instead. Went to the same course as in 2015. Had a fun and tight game. We all finished +4 so had to have a playoff. Pete won. Showered then ate an excellent dinner in Eldorado. Went back to the Birney’s and did some more cleaning

thu – Got up and did the remainder of the cleaning at Chez Birney, then got to m&w’s and did a little reading before eating a lunch of leftover pizza and sandwiches. Packed up, took some pics, then said our goodbyes. Hit the road around noon. Cool and cloudy out, and we had a tailwind. Listened to tunes most the way, and decided on a new format: play tunes by request. Rolled in to Lubbock around 7:00 and visited Grace & Don. New house is cool. Grace cooked: roast beef, mashed taters, broccoli. Crashed at Jenny & Chad’s place

fri – Got up early and said hi and bye to Owen and Wesley, then went and got my oil changed and tires balanced. Ate at Garcia’s with Pete, Adam, Grace, Don, Jenny and John. Had a good chat with John about art. Hit the road around 1:00 and took 114 to 380 back to Richardson. Uneventful trip. Pete drove the whole way

sat – Left Pete’s at 7:45 and drove drove drove. Got to Jeff & Rox’s at 9:30 pm

sun – Got up early and rode the Georgia International Horse Center trails with Jeff. They were sweet. Ate lunch with j&r at Los Hermanos then hit the road. Got home right at 6:00, in time to watch the Cowboys lose. Went to bed early

On Intimations of Immortality

The quest for immortality has quickened with advances in the fields of medicine, genetics, artificial intelligence, cryogenics, exercise science, and nutrition. If immortality turns out to be a scientific impossibility, however, then at least significant life extension would be a worthwhile pursuit. I believe that, given mankind does not annihilate itself in the near future, eternal life is a real possibility. It could be this century, or it could be hundreds—perhaps thousands—of years away. There are dozens of ways this could happen. Here are a few:

  • Human cloning combined with mind upload/download
  • Vital organs grown and transplanted on demand
  • Cryogenics perfected (this is only a “bridge” to immortality)
  • Genetic research/gene editing

No doubt it’s wishful thinking that it happens in my lifetime, but who knows? Here is the way I see it playing out, from most likely to least likely:

  • Immortality is achieved, but not in my lifetime
  • Immortality becomes real in my lifetime, but I am excluded because of finances
  • Immortality becomes real in my lifetime, but I am excluded because of failing health
  • Immortality is impossible

At any rate, I need to try and stay alive as long as possible in order to increase the chances of it being realized in my lifetime. Now, you may ask: why would you want to live forever?

That’s another blog post…

A Fear of Hunger

Some people are afraid of dying. Others are afraid of the dark or of drowning. Most of these common fears have some sort of scientific name, some “…phobia” or another. As for me, I am afraid of hunger. I don’t necessarily mean fear of starving to death, but more like a deep-seated anxiety that there will not be enough food. As near as I can tell, the word for this is borborygmuphobia. 

I was at a wedding a few years ago and there was a buffet dinner at the reception. I remember making sure I was near the buffet table when the time came for loading our plates. There was this irrational fear that the food would run out before I had a chance to eat my fill. But the fact is, there’s always enough food. Usually more than enough, but my phobia persists nevertheless.

That reception was at my cousin Chris’ wedding a few years ago in Houston. My daughter Anna was there as well, and when it came time to eat, I noticed she was posturing at the front of the line the way I was. She confessed that she harbors the same fear of not being able to sate her appetite. We discussed our mutual affliction and agreed that the fear manifests itself most readily when one is hungry. A few months ago, I went to a Mediterranean buffet for lunch. This place tended to get crowded during the noon hour so I made sure to arrive at about 11:45 in order to beat the rush, though I was still a little nervous. I got ahead of the lunch crowd no problem, but get this: as I was devouring the food on my plate, I found myself resentful of the arriving patrons. I was fearful that they would consume the remainder of the food before I could get my second plate. So I ate hurriedly in order to get back in front of them while they were still paying and getting their drink cups.

I don’t know where this comes from. As far as I can recall, there was no childhood trauma involving the confiscation or withholding of food.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve repressed such an event.

Just this past September, I attended the wake for my dear departed cousin Chris. The same Chris who was wed just scant months earlier. We all miss him sorely. It may seem clumsy to insert that fact here in this particular post, but the point is, I was beset with the same hunger phobia as before.

I paid my respects, I hugged and consoled the bereaved, and I recalled with joy all the happy times I had with Chris. Then I made certain there was plenty of food. It was a nice spread: DIY breakfast tacos and other assorted brunch-type fare. Again, I was among the first to be served. I think Anna was too.

I hope this does not come across as disrespectful of Chris. I loved him greatly. We all did. The thing is…Chris, while a perfect gentleman, may have had a similar anxiety about food, so I believe he would have understood.

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We miss you, Chris.

Ice Cream Anti-Social

There’s an ice cream shindig going on in the breakroom right now here at work, and I’m struggling to avoid it. Not only do I desperately want some ice cream, but I feel that the ice cream wants me in return. I remember long ago, we had a dachshund named Liesl, and she had just delivered her first litter of puppies. Dachshund puppies, by the way, are nature’s cutest animals by a long shot. Anyway, for some reason, when they were just a couple of weeks old, we had to keep the pups away from Liesl for a while and prevent them from nursing. There was some weird medical reason for this, but to us kids, it just seemed cruel. It was not only difficult for the puppies–they were obviously starving–but it was hell for Liesl as well. Her teats were swelling almost visibly and she was howling for her children. It was agonizing to watch.

What does this have to do with ice cream? Nothing. I was simply trying to illustrate how the ice cream wants me just as much as I want it. It wants to be eaten. By me. Its siren song is calling me, but I will resist. I can almost guarantee, however, that there will somehow remain one small serving just for my gastronomical pleasure. I will not give in.

Network Woes Unwoed

When we moved into our townhome two years ago, I was determined to get the fastest broadband internet access possible. The best choice at the time, believe it or not, was Time Warner Cable, aka The Great Satan. We were set up with their “wideband” tier, which promised 50 mbps. Well, I never measured anywhere near that and it would not surprise me if it’s because their Ubee modem did not handle that kind of throughput. I ran a lot of speed tests at speakeasy.net and averaged about 22 – 23 mbps. This was rather disappointing, so I had TWC bump me down a level to their “extreme” service which topped out at 30 mbps. I found to my delight that the average speed went up to about 27 mbps. I was pleased and a little angry at the same time, since I’d already paid the devil for several months of wideband service, but I guess I could have contacted them about it much sooner than I did. Mea culpa.

But soon our service, though speedy, became somewhat unreliable. I could not stream internet radio for long before it would cut out. I did everything I could to ensure it was not related to my PC or idevice. Netflix (via our Blu-ray player) became spotty as well, and we’d often give up in frustration when trying to watch something as simple as a 30-minute sitcom. Moving the Ubee modem/router to our entertainment center, where we could direct-wire it to the Blu-ray player seemed to make no difference.

Well, the inter-tubes eventually came to my rescue, as it (they?) always does (do? Aww, screw it). I did a lot of googling on the subject and soon learned that the best recourse was to bridge my Ubee modem and use a router, bypassing the integrated router in the Ubee. It just so happened that we had an old Linksys router laying around, one that we’d gotten about eight years ago that supported the wireless-G protocol.

[Author's aside: I am listening to Radio Paradise right now and they are playing Led Zeppelin's sublime Rain Song. I have to pause here and soak in the song's intense climax]

This seemed to work fine, although speed tests showed a max throughput of only about 10 mbps, no matter what server I contacted for the test. My friend Ahmet suggested this was because the G protocol had an upper limit of 10 mbps. That’s all I needed to hear; off I went to Best Buy to get a new router that supports the N-protocol. I installed it and now I’m smoking along at 23 mbps once again, but better yet, it seems to have mitigated the spottiness issue as well. I’ve had Radio Paradise streaming for hours now without interruption. Yay technology.

And thanks, Ahmet.

Here is an important photo of my fantastic new router, together with the questionable Ubee cable modem from the maw of Hell.


Does This Count as Irony?

I’ve been getting kinda dizzy lately at work and I suspect it may be from staring at my monitors all day. I should probably take more frequent breaks. Anyway, I googled “why am i getting dizzy” or the like, and started perusing the hits. One of the most verbose results was on a website that had the worst possible foreground-background contrast possible. It was white text on a light green background and almost entirely unreadable. I could discern that it held lots of information, some of it perhaps even useful, but I was not able to read it without feeling woozy. How stupid is that? C’mon: black text on a white background! Why you gotta be so different?

Google This

I love maps. The ubiquitous Google Maps and Google Earth are mostly taken for granted these days, but I rememeber a time when only the USGS hosted satellite photos on the web. Back around 2000 when my cousin Adam sent me the coordinates to a certain swimming hole that we liked to frequent on road trips in Texas, I was ecstatic. I would zoom in and relive the moments that took place during the drive to (or from) Lubbock, usually in the heat of midsummer. We’d stop and toss a frisbee around behind these six huge corn dryers, drink some suds, then take a dip in the nearby stock tank. One time, when some dames accompanied us, we had chicken fights in the neck-deep water. Oh what fun that was. Often, after a relaxing swim in the crystalline waters of the stock tank, we would chuck rocks at the corn dryers and thrill at the sound of the stones bouncing down the tops of the (usually) hollow tin cylinders. We were easily entertained. I guess it’s the little things.

Here’s a shot of the spot I’m talking about. It’s just west of Throckmorton on highway 380. The water level in the pond is much lower in this pic than it usually is.


Here’s a shot of Pete and Adam at the corn dryers. This is in 2002:


And here’s my beloved Volvo GL wagon at the same location:


In more recent years, we like to swim in a creek that connects to Possum Kingdom Lake. It’s near a rest area on highway 16 south of Graham:


This is my brother Pete in that very swimming hole:


And my daughter Elizabeth:


And finally, my cousin Adam sporting major wood at the same swimming ground:


Serendipitous Synchronicity

Life can be a bit dull, but it can also be interesting. Occasionally it’s entertaining. It was entertaining today at lunch when something cool happened. I was waiting on my Rustica pizza at Zpizza, and there was a nearby table with a couple of female adults and a toddler. The toddler was annoyed at something or other and would let loose a whine or yell every few seconds, only to be momentarily placated when one of the women shoved a morsel of pizza down his throat. I was not particularly bothered by this, but I did notice his outbursts getting successively louder. A few minutes later, my pizza was ready and I commenced to chowing down. At this point, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing started playing via the establishment’s sound system. We’ve all heard this song a million times. I’ve never been a Journey fan, but the lead singer is admittedly quite gifted. Anyway, he’s belting out the song and this toddler is whining louder and louder at the same time. When Steve Perry hits the high note with “Hiding somewhere in the niiiiiggghhht,” this kid unleashes a piercing whine that is exactly the same pitch and duration of the word “night” in the song. The whole restaurant erupted in laughter and appreciation of this exquisite and fleeting moment of cheerful happenstance. The kid was like “what the….?”

This may qualify as ephemera, but it was a welcome diversion on an otherwise dull and blustery winter’s day. Way to go, kid.

You’re Doing it Wrong

I consider myself a pretty decent driver, if a bit on the aggressive side. Nevertheless, I feel I’m conscientious and fair when behind the wheel. I do have a short fuse, however, when it comes to motorists who can’t seem to drive at least the speed limit. I don’t know if these people are “playing it safe” by driving five mph below the posted limit, or if they’re simply oblivious to other drivers…and everything else having to do with reality. It’s as if they’re in it only for themselves and no one else exists.

Anyway, I discovered this weekend that I was doing something wrong these 35 or so years I’ve been operating a vehicle. Laura and I were on the way to Asheville and we were listening to Car Talk on NPR. Click and Clack were discussing the proper way to adjust your side mirrors, and to my horror, I had been using mine all wrong for decades! I had been adjusting both mirrors such that I could just see the rear of my car, but that’s totally wrong. The brothers went on to illustrate the proper form:

With the driver’s window rolled up, lean your head to the left until it touches the window. Adjust the mirror such that you can see the rear of your car. Now straighten up and look at the mirror. It will be very off-putting at first, because it seems much too far out and you’ve been used to the other way forever. Adjust the passenger mirror to roughly the same degree. Now when you’re driving, you have all the traffic behind you covered. When a car comes up on your tail, it’s in the rear view mirror. When it passes you on the left, it disappears from the rear view and appears in the left side mirror. And when the vehicle can no longer be seen in the side mirrors, it’s already visible right outsdide your window. There is minimal double-duty for any of the three mirrors, which makes monitoring the rearward traffic much more efficient and eliminates all blind spots

I adjusted my mirrors as described and I kept wanting to put them back. One of the Car Talk guys mentioned that it will take time to get used to it, but the new way is much better and considerably safer. Now I feel I’m an even better driver than before, if that’s even possible.

Snot Fair

A quick glance at my weight loss log on the right makes it clear that life simply isn’t fair. But what am I doing wrong? I have all but eliminated sugar in my diet, I am using olive oil instead of butter, I am practicing portion control, and I am exercising. Hmmm…maybe not exercising enough, however.

If I graph my weight over the past week, it would look something like this:


Okay, I lied about portion control.