Last night, I told Ethel that we were going to watch “Bear Bryant meets Marko Ramius”.


Okay, it wasn’t that exactly (although the dog’s name is “Bear”). It had *nothing to do with football, and not much to do with Russian submarines.

…I just finished rereading “Red Storm Rising” – it’s been thirty years since the last time I read that. And now I’ve picked up “The Hunt for Red October” – I haven’t read that book since the weekend that I shacked up with ten snowboarders in a small hotel room in West Virginia during the East Coast Blizzard in March of ’93.

So I’ve been deep into submarines lately, and last night just felt like the right time to pull this movie out. (note: it’s never a bad time to pull this movie out).

The tag line –

              On the nuclear submarine USS Alabama, one man has absolute power.

And one man will do anything to stop him.

– is fairly bogus, and way over-simplified. This is NOT a simple movie. It is not formulaic, and it is not going to go the way that you think it will.

It is true that the main plot line of the movie revolves around whether or not the Crimson Tide should fire her nuclear-warhead-tipped ballistic missiles. But the two characters are not enemies; and they are not always at odds.

What this movie seems to be, to my mind, is a litmus test. Litmus paper can tell if a solution is acidic or basic – if it turns red, the solution is acidic; blue, it’s a base. This movie is a litmus test for one’s values and attitudes. You find out what you really think by deciding (as the movie plays out) whether Denzel’s character, or Gene Hackman’s, is doing the right thing.

Circumstances change during the movie, and as they do, we keep being presented with new questions about the same thing. And having to discuss, debate, and decide, over and over again.

(It’s a good idea, if you’re watching this with somebody else, to be prepared to pause it at any time, so that you can discuss what’s going on now, and why they should or should not do this or that. Plan some padding in the time allotted for watching, and leave room at the end for spirited debate. It’s a brain burner).

It’s surprising to me to find out what I actually think; I believe myself to be an introspective sort, but I found myself saying “But wait a minute…” several times during this last watching; did I really think that? Or was I collapsing some of my preconceptions, and hadn’t thought it through?

This all reminds me of watching college football games in which I do not have an actual favorite team; I don’t know who I’m rooting for until I see which way my knees are leaning during each play. If they are leaning in the direction that the running back is going, then I’m for the team on offense – if my knees are leaning in the other direction, then I’m actually rooting for the team on defense.

It’s good to find out what my brain is doing – and often surprising to find out that I don’t know.

*   “nothing to do with football” – almost. Extra points for anyone who can point out in the comments the only football reference :)

On Saturday, my friend Randy and I skied the Big Couloir at Big Sky:

Big Couloir

The couloir is that dogleg on the right side of the photograph – pretty much the only skiable line down from the top :)

Big Sky is supposedly known for its extreme terrain, but this particular slope just wasn’t that extreme at all – even though Wikipedia says

Big Sky Resort in Montana has a run called “Big Couloir” at 50 degree pitch for over 1,000 feet of vertical is one of the most intense in-bounds trails in America”(sic).

So “one of the most intense in-bound trails” was easy for me. We skied it twice, in fact, in a row. However, the next level – Corbet’s Couloir – is impossible for me.

(Full disclosure – Randy and I came in from the side, just below the top – the top was a bit too rocky. I suspect that, were there more snow, I’d try coming in from the top, which would be more difficult. But it still wouldn’t be Corbet’s).

The title of this post does not refer to coming off a cornice into a couloir – it refers to one of the theories about how dinosaurs learned how to fly and become birds; the idea that they ran and jumped while flapping their wings (or some such). It’s basically an attempt to describe just how these critters went from walking around to flying; a big evolutionary change that just doesn’t seem to be incremental.

I have the same sort of problem with Corbet’s – there’s nothing in between for me to learn on. There’s things like Big Couloir, which are easy, and then there’s Corbet’s, which is impossible. And there’s no graduated change for me – there’s nothing more difficult than Big, but less difficult than Corbet’s, for me to make the transition.

So I’m FEEL LIKE I’m ready to give up on skiing now*, and move to the Big Island. Might as well, if I can’t ski Corbet’s. I reckon I’m stuck because I want to get *better*, and for me “get better” doesn’t mean “look smoother while skiing” or “be more efficient” or any such non-measurables; it means being able to do something that I couldn’t do before.

I suppose that I could work on bumps, of course – one can never ski the bumps too well.

*I gave up on skiing in 2005, and moved to the desert, and was miserable for many years, until we got a place in the mountains so that I could start skiing again. So I probably won’t be moving to the Big Island, especially since Ethel won’t go (She says that she will, but she won’t). I might just keep trying to find some way to graduate from the other stuff to Corbet’s – maybe start off with a jump from the top into Big, then a bigger jump, etc etc.

We’ve had this on the wall since I went to the Jackson Hole “Steep and Deep Camp” back in February of 2012:


We skied four ski areas on four days this last weekend – Big Sky on Friday, then Grand Targhee, then Jackson, and finished up with Bridger Bowl on Monday. It was a great trip; I didn’t get to do Corbet’s at JH as I intended, but I got to look down into the maw of that thing again, and I realized I’ll probably never be good enough to ski it.

Ethel had never skied at Jackson before – now she gets the poster.

There was somebody standing behind her on the tram, and he was talking about skiing 120, 130 days per year, at all of these different areas. He said something along the lines of “No matter where I ski, I’m always one of the top 1% of skiers on the mountain – until I come to Jackson. Here, I’m a novice.”

There are people at Jackson who are like the guy in the poster. You don’t have to see them ski to know this – they walk through the crowd, but they are not like us. They are like Elves walking through crowds of Hobbits. They aren’t disdainful of the folks around them – we simply do not matter to them. They are going to ride the Tram and do things that you and I simply cannot imagine doing. They are going to do them seemingly effortlessly, or at least it looks that way to you and me. They aren’t concerned with what “percentile” they might occupy in the skiing hierarchy; they are concerned with that thing that they haven’t done yet – or perhaps, that thing that they haven’t done perfectly.

I met some of these folks while I was there for the Steep and Deep camp. They are coaches or mentors in these camps; perhaps they do this as a form of service. I think that it’s more likely that they do this so they can eat and get a ski pass, which seem to be the only things that are important to them; and possibly they gain some small measure of improvement in their own skiing by teaching others.

I will never – and probably could never – be one of them.

I made the “mistakes” that the poster is talking about. Now, in my case, perhaps they weren’t mistakes – hey, I didn’t know anything about skiing when starting my adult life. I’m a po’ boy from Flat Red Clay, Alabama.

(Besides, I like to think that God has been guiding my life since ’85).

And, had I even known about such a lifestyle, had I decided to be a “ski bum”, I still wouldn’t have had the innate talent that these folks were born with – or the attitude of pursuing perfection while maintaining peace of mind that they seem to have cultivated.

I looked down into Corbet’s Couloir on Sunday, and realized that I would never be able to do that correctly, unless conditions were perfect (and when conditions are perfect, there will be untold numbers of other “bucket listers” who will get there first, and then conditions won’t be perfect any more). I simply do not have the talent or ability to do it right, and I don’t want to do it wrong. Never mind the possibility of injury that that might entail – it’s simply that I want to be able to say “I skied Corbet’s” rather than “I side-slipped into Corbet’s and then shouldered my way down it”.

I’ve had some depression since then – realizing, like the guy on the tram, that I’m not anywhere near as good at this skiing thing as I thought I was. I even considered giving it up, but decided against it – I tried that once, and moved to the desert, and I was miserable until we got a place in the mountains and I started skiing again.

And even though I’m not a good skier, I had a great time the next day at Bridger Bowl. So there’s something. Even we folks in the middle of the bell curve can have fun.

Here’s another poster that I’ve had for many years now, which is kind of the opposite of the one above:


You’re going to look at this bowl and say “Mmmm. Chili!” :)

You’ll be a daisy if you do.


That looks like chili. It smells (a lot) like chili. It is loaded with chili powder, and cumin, and probably cooked peppers and ground beef and black beans. It sure seems to be chili.

But what you do not know, because you can’t taste it, is this – this is a bowl of….

(are you sitting down? Is your body well balanced, not tilted in any way? I don’t want you to get hurt when you fall over, or slide out of your chair. Maybe you should strap yourself  in before you read the next line…)

…a bowl of…

….of Butternut Squash chili.

That’s right. You read that right. Somebody (who will remain nameless, but I will allow as to how the person in question is one of the few people who has married me) actually made Butternut Squash chili.

On purpose.

Of course, I wasn’t home when this travesty occurred. Had I been, I would have called St. James and had Father Clark rush out here and do an exorcism – either on the chili, or on the cook (who shall remain nameless, but I will allow as to how the person in question has a really dumb dog, and really sick taste in cookbooks). I would have howled to the heavens. I would have physically ripped the Butternut Squash from her hands and drop-kicked it out into the horse pasture.

(On a side note – I never knew, until I looked up the term, that a “drop kick” is not a punt; it’s actually a way of initiating a field goal or extra point that doesn’t involve a holder. The kicker drops the ball onto the ground and lets it bounce, and then kicks it through the goalposts. It is only now, having done the research, that the Country Gospel song “Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through The Goalposts Of Life”  makes any sense at all. So I owe my enlightenment in this area to butternut squash chili).

No, Ethel made the chili while I was in California last week. Now, I can imagine me some Californians making Butternut Squash Chili, and then eating it with kale chips. But it’s all backwards – while I was in the land of fruits and nuts, eating steak at the Outback and Mexican food in Redwood City, Ethel was in Montana making Butternut Squash Chili….sort of like traveling from Alabama to Las Vegas to attend a Southern Baptist convention, while the folks back home are playing roulette and Texas Hold-Em with floozies in fishnet stockings.

Then last night, when I had a meeting and Ethel had a church thing, she left the Butternut Squash Chili out for me to eat for dinner. (You’ll note that she didn’t take it to church. One of the wardens is in the NRA, and a Vestry elder went to Texas A&M; Ethel would have found herself forcibly re-baptized if’n she’d’a tried to feed those folks Butternut Squash chili).

However, Gentle Reader, do not be concerned on my account. I can report that it is possible to put enough shredded Tillamook Medium Cheddar* onto Butternut Squash chili to mostly cover up the Butternut Squash – and Mission Taco tortilla strips can handle the rest of the damage.

Today I am recovering from this culinary assassination attempt, and doing quite well (we also have Tillamook Cheddar in block). I’m looking forward to finding out what else Ethel might have cooked up while I was out of town. If nothing else, I’ll get to practice my drop-kicks.





*actually, it’s possible, if you have enough shredded Tillamook Medium Cheddar, to spread it over the Ukraine and repair the damage from Chernobyl.

Here’s a 45 minute section of the graph of last night’s bike ride, as reported by Trainer Road:


(here interested parties can view the full graph of the ride itself)

The blue area is the load, in watts, that was the target in the workout; the little yellow line is the actual load that I was pushing. Those six rectangles where the load goes up were three-minute-long repeats at what is called “VO2Max” work levels, which means “working really hard and can’t talk – don’t bother me right now” segments.

The white line in the lower part of the graph is the cadence, in RPM (i.e. a complete turn of the pedals is one revolution). And the red line is my heart rate.

The red line looks like shark fins :)

I’m not sure what that means; obviously, as I started each of my repeats, my heart rate would start to rise quickly – then, when it reached a certain work load, it would start to level off a bit, and the curve would flatten some, but keep rising, until the repeat was over, and then a quick recovery.

But it looks like I’m being chased by sharks. It sort of feels like that, as well :)

When I’m doing this workout – which is every other Monday night – I’m not doing anything else. I’m not reading or watching TV or talking to anyone. (Ethel might try to talk to me, but the conversation doesn’t last long). I am listening to music – if you look at the cadence line, you’ll see that it goes to the same spot on the graph for each of the repeats. That’s 102-104 RPM, which is the tempo of “Walk Like an Egyptian”, which is the song that I have on repeat during the repeats. When she sings the last line of the last chorus, I know that I’m ten seconds from the end of the repeat- and I’m glad to hear it.

I pause the music at the end of each repeat and pedal slowly to get my heart rate back down, then rewind and play when it’s time to work again.

When this VO2Max part of the workout is over, I have another 40 minutes of easy aerobic recovery (you can see that if you look at the full file, in the link). During that recovery section, I’m watching Angel (currently I’m in Season 4, and the whole Cordelia/Connor/Angelus dynamic is very strange indeed). A careful study of that graph will show two drops to 60 RPM at 1:12 and 1:17 – that’s at the end of episode 12, and then the start of episode 13, when the Angel them plays. It’s at 60 RPM and I always slow down and ride to it :)

This is the “what” and “how” of my VO2Max workout. I am afraid that I don’t have a “why”. There can be no good reason for such silliness.

That’s why I only do it every other week. Doing it every week would be stupid.

This is an airport terminal gate.


If you’ve flown much, then you have wound up standing at one of these because the flight was cancelled or delayed, and you were trying to figure out how in the heck you were going to get where you were going.

In the last three days, this has happened to me twice – Wednesday my flight from Bozeman to SLC was delayed, and I missed my connection to Oakland, so – instead of getting there in the late afternoon and driving to the office, I wound up flying to San Francisco, renting a car, and spending eternity with a billion Californians in a ten-mile long parking lot trying to get onto the San Mateo Bridge to go to the East Bay.

Then today, flying from Oakland, my flight to Seattle was delayed, so now I’m sitting here, and I’m actually grateful that I’m only going to be five hours late getting home – midnight in Bozeman – rather than the alternative, which was arriving at midnight in Billings, renting a car, and then driving to Bozeman.

I don’t think that I like it. It seems to me that we would not put up with this from any other industry – this business of “Yeah, I know that you gave us your money and we said that we would fly you to your destination, but, no, we’re not going to fly you there – and we’re not going to give you your money back”. We wouldn’t pay a restaurant if they brought us the wrong meal. We wouldn’t pay for a car if they gave us the wrong one, and we wouldn’t pay for a house and then go live in a worse one in a different town.

But we put up with it with airlines.

I think it’s because we have no choice – at the moment that the airline tells us that we’re not going to get what we’ve paid for – that awful moment, standing at a gate like this – we are far from home. We have no hotel to go back to, we’ve already turned in the rental car, we’re tired, we’ve already worn all of the clothes in our suitcase, so we have no resources (other than the aforementioned money) and no energy, so we are at the mercy of whatever the airline chooses to give us.

And, due to the peculiar fact that, the worse things get, the more grateful we are when any relief is found, we don’t say anything about it. We say, instead, “Well, I’m glad that I’ll get home at midnight, instead of having to drive in from Billings and arrive at 3AM”. It never occurs to us to say “Hey – I paid you to get me to Bozeman at 7 PM for my birthday dinner!” — no, no, we are grateful for the crumbs that the airline throws us, because at least it’s better than the alternative.

If I were cynical, I’d wonder if perhaps the airlines didn’t do this as a matter of course – make sure that some minimum percentage of the flights were late or cancelled, just to keep us all cowed and timid. But I’m not cynical. I’m just really tired.

(This is probably not the best time to point out that my flight from Bozeman to SLC was at the gate two minutes before the flight I missed left, but I couldn’t get off the plane in time, or that I was taxiing to the gate at SeaTac while my missed connection was taxing away from the gate. Had they in either case made the slightest adjustment, I wouldn’t be typing this.)

Now, somewhere in my mind, I know that God is running my life, so I’m stuck here right now at SeaTac because God wants me here. Maybe it’s for my own good, or maybe He just doesn’t like me. But I can’t help but wonder about how we, as a culture (not me, as a spiritual being) will put up with this sort of treatment from airlines when we, as a culture, wouldn’t dream of doing that in any other situations.

I’m sitting here at SeaTac for five hours, with nothing at all to do – I tried watching a movie. It streamed for ten minutes, and then it just did the “sit and spin” thing. My Nook doesn’t have a browser, so I can’t actually get a working internet connection to access my library. You’d think that with this much open space, they’d put in a fitness center so at least folks could get something done.

When I feel this bad – this tired and hopeless – I exhale, and just pray that God doesn’t make me inhale, because I’m really, really tired of being in this body that gets tired and uncomfortable and dirty and has to sit in airports for many hours after getting up before 5 AM, working out, working, driving – bodies are a pestilence.

Bodies are even worse than airlines. And we have airlines because we have bodies.

So I reckon that I orta put the blame where the blame lies; since I’m this tired, I sorta need to yell at somebody.

And, if I yell at my body, then airport security won’t come get me.

There’s an inconsistency in the Dilbertverse.

Some months ago, Dilbert’s office went to a full-time business casual – polo shirts, no ties:


I just got my *annual Dilbert calendar from Ethel for Christmas, but it’s reverted to the old dress code:


This is the sort of thing that throws me for a loop. How am I supposed to live with the inconsistency?

I’m not good with inconsistency – and God save me from ambiguity! I used to be one of the most inconsistent, wishy-washy, maybe-this, maybe-that, undisciplined, dishonest doofuses to ever try to get over, out of, or away from, everything that I had coming, that you’d ever seen.

Around 11,206 days ago, I had it pointed out to me in many ways that that simply was not going to work any more; I had to find a new way to live. I did so, and the rest of my life has been an absolute breeze.

But there’s been a consequence – now that I live a life of discipline and consistency, ambiguity and inconsistency throw me for loops. I like things clear-cut and definite. I like rules; I prefer for things to be cast in stone. I can pretty much adapt to anything, as long as I know what the “anything” is.

But I can’t stand it when things are muddy or ill-defined, or if the rules aren’t followed.

(The drivers in Gallatin Canyon fall into this model quite clearly; the “rule” is right there on the sign that says “Slower Traffic Use Pullouts” : )

There are, of course, meta-conditions here that I bump into; the main one is that the first and most important rule of my life is that I am not in charge of my life, and that I’m not to live in opposition with anything or anybody. So I bump heads with other folks when they aren’t following the rules, but the bigger rule is that I’m not supposed to bump head with those folks.

Not to become angry or argue with ’em – that’s the law. Regardless of what they may say or do, I’m supposed to let them live their lives – even if it seems to be encroaching on my life.

There’s an assumption here that, since God is running my life, then none of those things that I’m objecting to are actually objectionable; in fact, everything that happens in my life happens with His permission – and with His blessing. And the fact that those things irritate me serves two purposes –  they are proof that I have work to do, and they provide the subject matter for that work.

So my current biggest irritant is the hour-plus drive to Big Sky; therefore,  adapting to that task is my current first priority.

I hope I remember that tomorrow morning.


*”annual Dilbert calendar” – last year, Ethel didn’t give me a Dilbert desk calendar, but instead gave me a Buffy wall calendar. I liked that just fine; I like this just fine, as well.


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