Monthly Archives: December 2015

When you leave for the ski hill, you expect, after a little while, that you’ll be sitting on a chairlift, looking up the hill at the chair in front of you.

This…is not the chair in front of you:


This is a pickup truck pulling a trailer that is almost certainly full of snowmobiles. When you see this in front of you, it means that you aren’t at the ski hill yet – and you aren’t at the ski hill yet because you are behind a truck pulling a trailer full of snowmobiles.

It might not be a ‘bile trailer, though. It might be a Subaru, with all-wheel drive and snow tires, going 35 MPH up Gallatin Canyon because….because the driver is scared of driving in Gallatin Canyon. More than likely, though, it’s going to be a combination of several of the above, in a long line of traffic composed mostly of folks who want to go 60+ MPH in a 60 MPH highway, but can’t, because those “Slower Traffic Use Turnout” signs do not apply to the ‘bile puller or the scared Subaru.

(We know that the “Slower Traffic Use Turnout” signs do not apply to those drivers, because they drive right past dozens of them, oblivious to the fifteen cars behind them.)

This all tears me up inside, because I Made A Mistake – I did not do my due diligence before moving here. I sort of thought that, because the speed limits between Bozeman and Big Sky were 70 MPH on the flats and 60 in the canyon, that traffic would go 70 on the flats and 60 in the canyon. This should have given us about a 45 minute drive from our house to Madison Base Village, where our locker is.

But that’s not the case, and it’s “not the case” to the extent that the minimum drive time so far has been an hour, and it’s gone up to as long as 1:20 or so, depending on how scared the Subarus are.

So when I’m stuck in these long lines of vehicles going as slow as 35 MPH in the canyon, I start to stew, because it’s my fault that I’m driving this slowly, because I didn’t do my due diligence. And I picked the wrong town. Had I known that I’d be driving over an hour to the ski hill, I’d either have forced the issue and moved to Big Sky, or kept looking at Bend or Steamboat or the other options.

Now, it’s true that Bozeman has many other fine qualities – many of which we never really knew about, or appreciated, until we had already lived here a little while. I would have missed those, had we not moved here.

But that doesn’t help me at 35 MPH in a 60 MPH zone, when I should already be looking at the chair in front of me on Six-Shooter. It’s not just the time – it’s the awareness that it was my mistake. I can live with other folks’ mistakes much easier than I can with my own.

(N.B. – one mitigating factor would be that there are some passing zones; however, quite often, you can’t tell that it’s a passing zone because the paint in the middle of the road is covered by a thin layer of snow. And Ethel’s car is not performant enough to pass safely in some of these zones (to her way of thinking) and she won’t let me drive my Audi because she’s afraid. My mistakes and other folks’ fears are messing with my ski days).

If I had known about this beforehand, and had made a conscious decision that I was willing to trade the time on the highway for the benefits of Bozeman, I might have been able to live with it more easily. What sticks in my craw is the fact that I looked at Bozeman and looked at Big Sky and was so in love with each of them that I didn’t pay proper attention to what lay between them.

(N.B. – yes, I know that Bridger Bowl is much closer. But we can’t get a locker at Bridger Bowl until sometime in the 2020s, and Bridger Bowl is quite often very crowded. There has yet to be an issue with lift lines at Big Sky, and that’s skiing there over the Christmas holidays. I can stand driving slowly on the way to the hill better than I can endure standing in lift lines over and over again.)

Here’s my view for 90 minutes on Monday and Wednesday – from my bike, on the Wahoo Kickr* trainer, in our home gym:


Directly in front, you can see the aero bars of my bike, with the shifters on the end; below that is the (closed) laptop; it’s running the Trainer Road software, that you can see on the 42″ screen. This is a custom workout that I built, called “90 Easy Pieces” – it’s 90 minutes, with the middle 70 between 60-70% of FTP. It’s just an aerobic workout; I’d just come from the gym, where I’d done 90 minutes on the elliptical. I’m currently just trying to get aerobically fit again.

(Well, that’s not ALL I’m doing – I’m trying to do that while skiing every day, as well – currently, we’re working half days, and skiing half days. I’m trying to maintain my 10 hours of tri training while doing that for two weeks; if I can do that, then I figure all of the kingdoms of Earth will be mine).

On the 55″, we have an episode from Season 4 of “Angel”, named “Soulless” – right here, Connor is being petulant, while Cordy is being demurely provocative. It’s called “Soulless” because, once again, Angel lost his soul and became Angelus (although it was on purpose this time). Nothing new to see here…move along.

Just to the left, you can see the middle gear table, with the rolled up towels. In front of that is most of the electronics, and to the left of that, you’ll see Ethel’s 42″, where her Trainer Road shows up when she’s on the bike. It’s a pretty sweet setup.


*Yes, that’s the way that you spell “Kickr”. Somebody in Wahoo’s marketing department got a big bonus for leaving out the “e”. But, then, somebody in the marketing department probably got a bonus before that, for naming the company “Wahoo”. I’m in the wrong career.

…to mess the whole thing up.

Here’s the configuration that I saw this morning, in the showers at Access Fitness. Let me know if you can’t figure out what’s wrong….


What’s wrong is this – the hooks for each stall are on the left (if you’re facing the stalls). Guy in stall #3 took the hook for stall #2.

Stall #2 is my normal stall, but I couldn’t use it, because were I to do that, I would use up the hook for stall #1, and nobody would be able to use that stall at all. So I used stall #4 (which is not visible) which was the last stall.

Forget two spaces after a period, or the Federal deficit – when our civilization collapses, it will be because of this, right here.

…who, me? Oh, I’m fine, thanks for asking – well, okay, maybe not. For one thing, my teeth feel weird, as in “there is too much tooth in my mouth”.  These temporary crowns are making me crazy – but, since it really isn’t important, and it is supposedly a good thing, I have to blame my craziness on other things, such as shower stall towel hook mismanagement.

This morning, I made a boo-boo at work – it wasn’t a disaster, but it was my mistake, in that I wasn’t ready for a demo. After the opportunity passed, I pinged my Scrum master to apologize for my mistake – and he never, ever, responded. That’s the thing that leaves me assuming that it’s time to find another job (especially since my teeth are making me crazy and the shower stalls are all screwed up). A response along the lines of “yeah, you screwed up. Don’t do that again” is not fun, but silence leaves me thinking that I’m simply beyond the pale – not worth even talking to.

The truth is, I’ve been behind the curve in the current project for months; with what we’re doing now, I’m slower than the other folks. I simply don’t get understand this area of development as well as they do; it makes me think of Susan, our realtor in San Jose del Cabo, in the Baja.

Susan is a very bright, very personable, and very hard-working realtor. However, after many years in Baja California, she still can’t speak Spanish. Since all of her buying clients are Americans, it’s not as big a deal as it could be, but certainly being fluent in the local language would greatly improve her effectiveness – but she says that she “simply doesn’t get it”.

And I get what she means by “not getting it”.

Nobody has fussed at me about my being slower than the rest of them; that doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies, though. Again, being fussed at means that you might be worth saving. Being ignored – not the best feeling, at all.

Oh, well. This may be temporary – perhaps, during the next release, I’ll get stuff that I understand better, and then I’ll be back on top of things – or, if not on top, then perhaps at least off to one side, which is better than – below.

In the meantime – I may post some signs in the shower room at the gym. You can’t let folks get away with this stuff, you know. You’ve got to nip itin the bud. Today, it’s an off-by-one towel hook – tomorrow, it’ll be the Romans in the vomitoriums and the barbarians at the gates.


Here’s John Cleese in the movie Rat Race:


Note the prominent upper teeth.

Yesterday I spent almost four hours in the chair at Bozeman Dental, getting a set of temporary crowns across my upper teeth. Ever since, I’ve felt like John Cleese:


I know that it doesn’t LOOK the same, but it FEELS like that.

I’ve been grinding my teeth for many years (heck, probably ever since Ethel brought Lucy home. Having that dog in the house causes me a lot of stress) such that I’d worn down my upper choppers to a considerable degree, so the dentist decided that I had too much money, and arranged for me to get this new dentition.

These are just the temporaries, as the new crowns will come in in a few weeks. But they will be the same size as these temporaries, which to me feels like…well, like John Cleese looks, above.

It’s possible that the feeling is exaggerated somewhat because of the soreness – it also feels like they numbed me up pretty good, then punched me in the face for four hours.

Chewing feels weird, as my teeth come together much too quickly. I have to admit – I’m worried that I might snap these temporary crowns because, when I bite down, my teeth are through biting down before my jaw has finished. It still thinks that it has another half-inch or so of biting down to do.

I’m wondering what effects this might have on the rest of my life – for instance, will the extra weight from the extra enamel slow me down in races? With the new brightness from my smile propel me into a public life, possibly running for office or making toothpaste commercials?

The staff at Bozeman Dental kept remarking on how good the change looked; I kept trying to explain that I’m 56 years old, so it doesn’t matter what my face looks like.

I reckon I’ll keep ’em, though. Who knows? Maybe Monty Python will have an opening.

For five hours a week, I see the world from the top of a Precor Elliptical at Access Fitness on Main Street in Bozeman:


I’m on the elliptical because I have a broken toe. I broke it…well, I’m not sure how to say when “I broke it”. On August 13th, I was running with a friend on a rather difficult trail up in the Gallatin Mountains and had a couple of falls. Both of them were….vigorous falls. When I got home, my foot was very sore, and very purple.

But I could run on it, and I did – for another two weeks. Then – BAM.

Saw a doctor; he said “you broke it”. He thought that maybe I’d cracked it when I fell, and it had taken another two weeks to break; but thought that another two weeks would heal it up.

So I waited two weeks, and then started running again – and a week later, at the Bobcat Triathlon, it broke again during the run.

Took me three weeks to see an orthodoc; she said that it had broken this time at a different place. She said “Wait until the swelling goes away before you run on it again.”

That was October 7th – today is December 11th. That’s a long time. The swelling has decreased, but is by no means gone.

I’ve been on the elliptical the whole time. I’ve decided that, if the swelling isn’t gone by the first of the year, I’m going to start working running back into my training. Three months is long enough. (And, if it isn’t, then I should find out pretty quickly).

In the meantime, I spend five hours a week on this elliptical – 90 minutes on Monday and Wednesday mornings, then two hours on Friday. I keep my cadence around 190 BPM and keep the resistance up, but low enough that I stay mostly aerobic.

And I get to watch people come in, and get on the cardio machines around me, then get off and do their workouts, and then they go to the locker rooms and shower and come out dressed for the day, heading for the parking lot – and I’m still on the elliptical.

The view never really changes.

Of course, in all honesty, I have my eyes closed probably more than they are open – which is one nice advantage of the elliptical over actually running; I can take long meditations and quiet time while working vigorously with my heart rate in the 130s.

If you try to do that while running – you’ll fall and break a toe.


Two hours a week, this is what my view looks like:


…and that’s about it.

That’s the bottom of the Bozeman Swim Center pool, from the side. The stripe you see at the top is the first long stripe along the length of the pool, which is 50 meters, but I’ve been swimming the widths, which are 20 yards.

The BSC pool is set up for LCM (Long Course Meters – 50m) from 5:30-7:30 AM, noon to 1:00 PM, and 6:30 until close; from 7:30 until noon, we swim the widths instead of the lengths.

When I moved here, I was excited to have a 50m indoor pool only ten minutes from the house – but I found out that everybody in Bozeman is excited to have a 50m indoor pool, too. And I quickly got tired of having to swim circles with people who are so fast that they pass me, along with some really heavy old lady doing a backstroke wearing fins. It just seemed like too much work – especially since I came from a place where I never had to swim circles at all.

(For the non-lap-swimmers out there – “swimming circles” is not swimming in circles; it means that one swims down one side of the lap, and back up the other, so that several swimmers can use the lane at the same time. But they all have to swim the same speed, and take the same breaks, for this to really work).

I started going to the pool about twenty minutes before noon, so that I could do my warm-up on the widths, and then do my workout on the lengths. But I noticed something – when doing my warm-up, it was never crowded. Within five minutes of noon, however, suddenly it was Just Plain Ugly(TM) trying to swim the circles.

So I gave up, and now I go to the pool after my 7 AM meeting, and I swim all by my lonesome – no lane sharing, no circles, no crowd at all! Of course, the lengths are shorter; I make a lot more turns, and I’m pushing off the wall more, so it’s less actual swimming in a given workout. However, it is so much easier, more convenient, and less trouble this way, that I never find myself missing the swim workouts on the widths. So I’m actually getting more swimming in this way.

And enjoying it a lot more.

Swimming widths means that I’m swimming across the black stripes, rather than along them; I have to admit, I’m wondering if perhaps I’m getting a benefit from this;  it seems that I’m swimming straighter now that I used to, without having the black stripes to keep me aligned. I probably won’t really find that out until open water season, though.

Two hours a week, I stare at the bottom of the pool. I’m swimming “Dory Club” – remember Dory from “Finding Nemo?” “Just keep swimming…swimming…swimming…” – my workouts are just swimming, without drills or intervals or gear of any kind. I stop once during the hour to drink some electrolyte water; for the rest of the hour, I’m staring at the bottom of the pool, except for my turns and my breaths.

It’s very peaceful.

Especially since I’m not running head-first into a old woman doing backstroke with fins.

Out of nowhere, I’m discouraged.

I was working along on tasks at my job, and then I ran into a roadblock. I’m tired. I can’t run – I’ve been on the elliptical since early October. So I’m discouraged.

And it’s gray and overcast outside. That never helps.


My Big Book says “Do not be discouraged”. In fact, it says that twice, in different contexts; in both cases, it’s speaking about specific situations, but it’s always good advice. To be discouraged is to lose courage, which actually means to give in to fear.

It doesn’t feel like fear that’s bothering me. But what else could it be? I’m not sure that there is anything but fear that ever bothers me. It just takes sneaky forms.

I suspect that fear generates fear; that the adrenals associated with a given threat tend to color my perceptions to see threats in other places. The big scare here is my job, of course, because I haven’t felt comfortable in my job in….well, it’s been over four years. (The astute observer will note that I’ve only been at my current company a little over two years. I was at a different job at my previous company for two years before that. So I haven’t felt comfortable at my job since I was the Load Test Guy at Go Daddy. That’s a long time to be uncomfortable).

So since I’m not being productive today, that makes me, well, scared; since I’m scared, I start to see other things as threats. So the fatigue I’m feeling means that my body isn’t doing well, and something is wrong with it; the gray, overcast day, with no snow on the ground, means that the weather is going bad, and something is wrong there, and there goes my ski season – ugly gray days with no snow. Not being able to run means, again, my body is bad, and that it won’t ever straighten out.

Each of these perceptions generates more fears, and that increases the levels of adrenals and causes me to freak out even more.

You wouldn’t know that I was “freaked out” if you saw me sitting here; I look awfully calm. I feel fairly calm, but I know that I’m in fear, because…because I’m discouraged.

Right now, if I could, I’d quit my job and go hide somewhere. But Ethel won’t do that. Hey – another conflict! More stress! More threats!…resulting in more fear, resulting in more perceptions of “things going wrong”.

“I never saw anybody go through a day so fast” — Frankie Ballou

I don’t know how this story ends; I ask to have the fears removed, but there’s still a period of lag while the emotion is still there, poisoning my outlook. But I do know that these things do pass, because I’m not always discouraged.

I believe that this would pass if I could get productive again; actually doing something productive tends to clear these things out of my system, while providing me with a distraction for long enough to avoid perceiving more imagined threats.

But the last meeting that I was in, on Optional Worktag Balancing in Grants Management, has not filled me with confidence that I will be smart and productive tomorrow. In fact – it’s even scarier than what I was doing.

And the day got grayer.

Nothing says “Christmas” like the annual Trimming of the Christmas Moose:

Trimming the Moose

I was thinking about putting an ornament on top, but I couldn’t make up my mind – star or angel? – so I put off that decision until next year. Here is the moose, post trimming:Trimmed Moose

I have to admit, I’m finally in the Christmas spirit. All it took was some crimson tinsel and Crimson Tide ornaments on the antlers.

It has been difficult for me to feel Christmasy this year, though. Kids are gone, dog is gone, and Ethel’s hard to buy for – she’s already got everything. I do prefer having a White Christmas – in fact, having a White Veteran’s Day is pretty good, too – but it takes more than snow to get me in the spirit.

We used to prepare for Christmas Day by filling up a backpack with goodie bags, and skiing all of the lifts and giving the goodie bags to the lifties – but at Big Sky, that would simply be *impossible*…..there are 23 actual chairlifts servicing ski terrain, plus a mess of surface lifts and some that just serve neighborhoods of “ski-in ski-out” mansions. I don’t believe, just making an estimate, that we could ski all 23 lifts in a single day – but if by some weird happenstance we could do that, we’d be at the far end of Big Sky from our locker and our car, and we’d never get home again.

In addition, the other lifts have lifties – what would we do about them?

(However, as I sit here and think about it, does it really matter? So what if we can’t do all of the lifts? Like the kid who was throwing the starfish back into the ocean after the hurricane – at least we could do the ones that we could do).

It will be nice going through Advent at a church again, though – and we are ushering at a Christmas Eve service, as well.

So I suppose I’ll go online and try to find something for “The Ethel Who Has Everything”. I’ve thought about getting her a puppy, since she doesn’t have a dog – but she doesn’t know that she doesn’t have one. She thinks that that thing that is pooping on the floor is a dog, and I would hate to disillusion her.

New license plate:


As you can tell, we really like Big Sky up here in Big Sky Country.

The photo is Lone Peak, again, because it’s a law that you cannot have too many pictures of Lone Peak.  In fact, it may be against the law to have too few pictures of Lone Peak. (It’s a federal law – it’s not just a state thing).

That’s obviously my Audi; the BAMA license plate might have clued you in to that fact. The personalized plate is a reference to the Big Book – Third Edition, of course (I still haven’t reconciled to the Fourth Edition).  I’m not going to bother with explaining it – a quick Google should suffice. (I wasn’t able to get “SOBER”, dangit).

The tag line “Biggest Skiing in America” is a bit of a canard; last year it was literally true, in that Big Sky’s 5800 skiable acres was the most that you could ski in a single area; however, our last resort – Park City – now has that distinction, because while we were busy moving up here to last year’s Biggest Skiing, they were building a gondola connectiong PC and the Canyons.  So now they’ve got over 8000 acres that you can ski from one parking lot – however, in order to do that, you’ve got to ride that gondi and connect at Silverlode lift on the PC side.

Then you’ve got to make it through Silverlode’s lift lines, which were the worst in town before they made that the connection between the resorts. Good luck with that.

But I’m okay with the tagline, because there are two operative words – “Biggest” and “Skiing”. And a lot – an awful lot – of PC/Canyon’s runs are blue and green. I’ve enjoyed 9990 at the Canyons and Jupiter Peak at PC, but the sheer amount – and steepness – of Big Sky’s advanced and extreme terrain is second only (in my limited experience) to Jackson itself. So while the Greater Park City Area may have more acreage, the acreage at Big Sky is sort of standing on one end.

(Ethel’s Montana plate says “YAYBAMA”. Once again, she’s going to have to keep explaining, over and over, that, no, it’s “YAY ALABAMA”, not “YAY OBAMA” : )

Here’s a photo that I took (and annotated) in October, before the snow fell.

home annotated

That house there, with the deck over the smaller garage bay, is my house; the front window on that end, second story, is my office window (where I’m sitting while typing this).

I thought that that pointy peak was Big Sky’s Lone Peak, but Ethel says that she’s done the research, and that I am wrong. (News flash: wife says husband is wrong. Film at 11).

Well, dangit, it looks like that to me. Or it did – now that I look at it again, well, it’s just not pointy enough. Here’s Lone Peak as seen from the village:


It’s pretty darned pointy.

We’ve got three days on the mountain so far; we skiied Thursday morning, then Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, Ethel’s calf was cramping, and she couldn’t put her boot on. Hard to ski without a boot.

The plan is for 57 days this year, since Ethel is 57 years old. Of course, that sets us up for 58 days next year; and that’s the idea. It seems that most folks tend to ski less as they get older; we’re hoping to reverse that trend.

We’ve already reversed a bunch of other trends.

For instance – my eldest son moved back to Alabama last year. My middle brother moved back to ‘Bama after about ten years in Tennessee and Texas. My father moved back after living in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Well, we left 21.5 years ago, and we keep moving farther away as time passes. So maybe we’ve broken the rubber band that tends to snap Pucketts back to the land of flat, red clay.

Another trend – we seem to be adding sports and athletic endeavors as we age, rather than dropping them. After I quit smoking, I started running, and not long after that went skiing for the first time.

Then, after we moved out west, we added rock climbing. Eventually Ethel joined me on the golf course, and then I found an open door on an airplane and – voila!

I picked up triathlon two years ago, and Ethel got on the bandwagon less than a year later. We started all of this well after most folks have stopped doing stuff, and started laying on the couch and chubbing out. A reversal of trends.

(It’s true that I haven’t jumped out of an airplane in a few years, but we’re going to fix that before long. And we haven’t played golf in two years – but golf is generally an OLDER person’s game, so it’s still a reversal of trends).

Some trends, sadly, have overtaken me – but I have to admit that I’m considering fighting back….