Sunday, April 30, 2006
Doctor Awesome's running tips
Running tip #452:

Drinking a lot of beer the night before a race does not qualify as carboloading.

On Friday evening, I met some college friends at the student union. We took care of a few pitchers. We then moved on to the Essen Haus, where we passed around a number of boots (yes, boots of beer. It's German).

I finally got to bed on Pete's couch at one in the morning. I only slept until six and spent the next hour or so staring at the ceiling. Pete and I went up to the Madison Farmers' Market to see some friends and grab some food. It was also the location of the start of the Crazylegs Classic, which I ran somewhat hungover.

I lost my timing chip before the race. I think I threw it out with the registration packet. I spent a bit of time trying to find it in a garbage can near the race start (and got some puzzled looks as a result), but couldn't find it, so I didn't get timed (and I owe some money to the timing people now). I watched the clocks at the start and the end, though. My time was 40:37, which, actually, compared to other years, isn't that bad of a time.

Paulzy and his better half ran it too. I got a chance to grab a beer with the two of them afterwards.
My trip, by the numbers...
Miles flown: about 4000
Miles driven: about 400
Miles run: about 5 (well, 8k, so 4.97)
Beers consumed: well, a lot

I'm back in San Francisco. I have a much more substantive post coming...
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Warm and sunny Madison, Wisconsin
Warm and sunny California my ass. It's been pretty dreary the last month or two in the City by the Bay. A lot of rain and a lot of gray skies.

But I wasn't in San Francisco today. Today I had a beer on the Wisconsin Union Terrace with my old boss (she and I got along really well). There wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was 60 degrees, bright, and sunny. The campus looks gorgeous—everything is in bloom, and the kids are smiling and happy to be done with winter. There were also a conspicious number of guys in Favre jerseys (commemerating the good news).

I knew I missed Madison. I had just forgotten how much. May, June, and July are when Madison wins its awards. Those months almost make winter worth it.

I walked along the Lakeshore Path back to the University Housing offices with my boss, then hopped a bus to the Capitol to meet Kzo. We ambled through the Capitol building and down State Street, stopping to buy new shoes (I finally threw out my Chuck Taylors from high school), to see the new Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and to pick up my car. We stopped at Monty's Blue Plate Diner (one of my favorite restaurants in the city), then I dropped off Kzo and headed north out of Dane County on my way back to Wisconsin Rapids, my hometown.

The sun was setting during my two-hour drive, casting long, dramatic shadows across the rolling farmland flanking the interstate. Silhouettes of farmhouses and silos would roll by on the horizon.

I've made that drive hundreds of times, oftentimes never even contemplating the scenery. We get to taking it for granted, I guess.

I don't ever remember it being that pretty.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Dispatches from an Airport Bar
I don't like flying. Despite my trust in human progress and technology, no amount of self-reassurance is going to get me over the fact that I'm five frickin' miles in the air.

Today's solution to pre-flight anxiety? Same as the solution to so many other things: beer. So this post is booze-inspired (which, really, isn't that out of the ordinary). I'm on my second pint here at "Perry's," laptop in front of me, admiring the nicely lighted bottles of alcohol. This place looks like it was built in 1998 and strived, very hard, to look like an authentic bar. There are quotes about San Francisco circling the top of the walls—the same ones that are posted along the construction sites in the Embarcadero.
One day if I do go to heaven...I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco' -Herb Caen
I'll have to look up who that is when I have access to Wikipedia again.

At airports, people seem to assume I'm a young punk grad student or something. I've got a pair of business types next to me—they've got no idea what I do for a living. But he whips out his Thinkpad, so I whip out mine.

Ugh. Sales guys.

Take that, mister businessman. Pointin' your plastic finger at me... I've got a fancy laptop too.
Monday, April 24, 2006
We're gonna make it after all!
(doin' it our way, of course)

My plans to fly home this week were endangered by my losing my wallet (and with it, all my credit cards) and US Bank totally bungling the process of rushing me a new one (it was supposed to be here already, but now it's going to take another week). But a friend bought me the ticket, so everything's cool now. He bought me the ticket this afternoon, and I fly out tomorrow (with a just a passport, cash, and luggage).

I'll by flying into Milwaukee (the city of my birth) tomorrow, starting off a wild Wisconsin week of driving around the state and visiting people. I'll be borrowing my brother's car, the 1996 Dodge Neon I drove in high school.

By choosing this week, I can also kill three birds with one stone:
  1. The Lincoln High School musical
  2. Crazylegs
  3. Mifflin Street Block Party
(there may be some drinking involved, at least for the last two. The first one maybe too)

This will be my fourth annual Crazylegs. I have either been in or seen the LHS musical every single year for more than a decade.
Extreme Commuting
From the name, it seems like it would involve a bungee cord or a hanglider.

From Newsweek: The Long and Grinding Road

(an extra point just for the pun)

So I'm not quite an "extreme commuter." According to the article, that category begins at 90+ minutes. Me? About 60-70 (it's generally faster getting home at night). I hop a MUNI train in the morning to catch a Google shuttle downtown. Of course, this puts me in a very strange category of being a more-than-an-hour commuter who doesn't use a car.

Now, among my varied interests is transportation economics (hey, I'm a hipster. What can I say?). I took two classes on it in college as part of my economics degree and found it fascinating—it piqued an interest in urban planning, public transportation, and land use. In Madison, these issues were present, but not pressing. But in the Bay Area (the amorphous blob encircling—or strangling, maybe—the San Francisco Bay), "pressing" would be an understatement. Among the reasons I was excited to fly out to initially interview with Google was to see BART (the getting the job thing and seeing the bridge were up there too).

Why do people commute such long distances? A few reasons:
  1. With the rise of the automobile, it's now possible. Large-scale long-distance commuting is almost entirely a 20th-and-21st-century phenomenon (but this wealthy-suburb pattern has been evident even in pre-industrial societies). Giant freeways in and out of cities have been essential for growth, but they've also fueled the proliferation of the suburbs.
  2. Housing prices. Land values are generally based on proximity to an urban center (with standard exceptions for waterfront and other geographic-feature related attributes). So, per square foot, housing gets cheaper the farther out one lives. But this isn't attractive only for people that can't afford to live in cities—wealthy folk flee the cities to build McMansions, for better schools, and an environment to better raise children in (Ironically, wealthy suburban enclaves pop up where the land values were initially quite low). The housing boom of the last few years has caused more families to extend their commutes in order to buy larger houses at lower prices.
The worse thing is that the population densities in suburbs is so low that it makes public transportation infeasible and leaves the automobile as the only viable option. This, in turn, fuels the growth of box-store style commercial development, generally only accessible by (wait for it...) car.

My latent sociologist (I don't let him out much) wonders what impact this has on community and family life. I was glad to see a reference to Robert Putnam in the article (I'm a big fan). Working hours have gotten longer. Commute times have gotten longer. That extra time has come at the expense of
  1. Sleep
  2. Family life
  3. Community involvement
Everything is interconnected. Where you place a road and how you design a city can vastly impact happiness, crime rates, or education quality. Like Putnam, I even like to point my finger at suburbia for the drop of civic involvement, decreased voting rates and disillusion with government.

There are butterflies flapping their wings everywhere.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Here, There, and Everywhere
My small hometown is finally getting a Starbucks.

I have a feeling that this means something deeper.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Death and destruction! Yay!
It's the 100-year anniversary of the Great Quake, so how does the city celebrate its most tragic and scarring event?

A parade!

It's not entirely morbid, though. The day has been more a celebration of the rebirth of the city. It's also given me a chance to see a lot of photos of collapsed houses, which really helps me sleep at night.

One other thing on le menu:

1) I'm on the Google shuttle bus, and I just saw a guy in the next freeway lane in a pickup by himself playing a harmonica. It made me smile, as I do that when I drive. I can't sing or make music when I'm on the bus.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
ka ta ko ra suichi
If you're reading this, you're probably not doing anything important anyway. I can't think of a better way to spend the next 12 minutes and 54 seconds of your life than watching this video:

Now if I just knew what that song meant.

Update: Someone out there in the blogosphere knows. It's "pitagora suichi," meaning "pythagorean switch," meaning "rube goldberg machine." Thanks for your comment, anonymous commenter.
A charming little anecdote
From Slate:

In January 1996, I visited William Sloane Coffin Jr. in Appleton, Wis., where he was a visiting professor at Lawrence University. I was 21 years old and in the midst of writing a senior essay about Coffin's sermons. The legendary Yale chaplain had agreed to be interviewed, but only in person; he thought that would be more fun than talking on the phone. And it was. After picking me up at the small airport, Coffin brought me and his dog, which had come with him in the car, to a little cemetery in town. We walked over to a tombstone etched with the name "Joseph McCarthy." The pooch sauntered over to the memorial slab, lifted his leg, and shot a nice, warm stream of urine on the dead senator's grave. "Our daily ritual," Coffin joked, leading me back to the car.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., 1924-2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
Wisconsin Week
So there was the Feingold coming out for gay marriage thing.

In the election on Tuesday, 24 of 32 communities that had put up Iraq War resoulutions voted to withdraw troops.

And the Badger men's hockey team is playing Boston College in the Frozen Four final in Milwaukee. They beat Maine 5-2.

Pete has likely wet himself repeatedly at this point. If the Badgers take it, I fear he might explode.

Update: We won! Pete probably exploded.

U rah rah Wisconsin!
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Feingold Backs Legalizing Same-Sex Marriages

First the censure thing and now this. Kind of quixotic if you ask me, but I don't care.

Feingold '08!
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Neat little domestic life
After some not-too-subtle prodding, I've decided to write a blog post.

I've begun to settle into a neat little domestic life here (it would almost qualify as quaint, small-towny and traditional if I wasn't surrounded by pride flags). I'm starting to identify my little go-to businesses. I've got a barbershop, a coffeehouse, a little diner, and so on. I even got a chocolate malt craving the other day and satisfied it at Orphan Andy's (yes, I too love the name).

I was listening to public radio the over the weekend. Wisconsin Public Radio was always pretty good about trying to be relatively objective and unbiased. Not the case here. Even though I'm a pretty committed Democrat, I still find it annoying. I suppose that the WPR stations were always closely tied to the UW Extension and, in turn, the State. Here, I think they're much more independent. Think WHA versus WORT back in Madison.

Anyway, there was a pledge break on (yeah, go figure), and the announcer was talking about how terribly "nasty" the weather was outside.

"Nasty weather," in my mind, is bitter -10 degree temperatures. Maybe multiple feet of snow. Or sleet and ice snarling traffic.

But I took the announcement to heart, bundled up, and grabbed my umbrella. I stepped out the front door on my way to the coffeeshop.

It was raining. Not even all that hard.

Californians are pansies.

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