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Here’s last Friday’s forecast pic:

fog

…and it’s still just like that. Foggy, overcast, cold – highs in the 20s. Bleak. Sort of like Phil Connor’s later forecast – “It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” It’s been like that for almost a week, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.

Contrariwise, here’s the forecast for the same period for the summit of Big Mountain, just a few miles away:

sunny

I was up there on Saturday and Sunday, and I can assure you, it was just like that ๐Ÿ™‚ Gorgeous, sunny, blue skies – wonderful soft bumps on the backside.

When I lived in Utah, an “inversion” meant that the Salt Lake Valley was full of gooey nastiness that you could taste on your tongue. When we’d drive down from Park City through Parley’s Canyon, we could see the layer of brown cloud, usually right around the East Canyon exit.

Here in NW Montana, an inversion has the same causes, but the effects are much different. The air doesn’t go bad, you can’t smell it – and it really doesn’t last anywhere near as long. Usually only a couple of weeks.

But the nice thing about an inversion is when one goes skiing – then the view from the top is amazing:

inversion

The world becomes an ocean of cloud, with mountain islands everywhere. And, since one is above the clouds – there aren’t any clouds above you. Wonderful.

And one can ski down the front side from the sunshine, into the clouds, into the clear area below – and then ride back up the lift in the other direction. Wonderful.

I’m sort of gray and overcast myself, today – it’s my 60th birthday. I’m having to type that over and over – SIXTY. SIXTIETH. 60.

When I was a kid – or a very young adult – I bought a science fiction anthology called “2020”. In it the editor offered to buy anyone a drink if they brought a copy of the book to a particular science fiction convention in the year 2020.

I remember thinking, at the time, that when 2020 rolled around, I’d be SIXTY YEARS OLD. It was unfathomable.

Well, it still is.

I’ve had 59 years to get used to the idea of being 60. You’d think that I would have adjusted by now. But, no, I reckon I kept thinking that something or Someone would intervene and keep it from happening :)So now, here I am, turning 60. And, right now, things are foggy all around me – nothing is clear. Nothing is normal.I’d like to think that I’m riding the lift up through the clouds, and that soon, I’ll break out into the blue skies and sunshine.But I’m afraid that, no, I’m skiing down at high speed through the clouds, and when I finally break through, I’ll be down in the overcast ๐Ÿ™‚(*editor’s note – on Saturday, I was skiing fast down Big Ravine [where Ethel broke her shoulder last year] and hit 58.2 MPH. Walt at the club pointed out that I should have gone ahead and “skied my age” by hitting 59 MPH. So the next day, I hit 61.0. Maybe I should consider “downhill racer” as my new hobby ๐Ÿ™‚

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The University of Alabama Crimson Tide ended their 2019 season in ugly fashion on Monday night.

scoreboard

It was the worst loss in the Saban era – in fact, the worst loss since at least 2004. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when the last time was that we lost a game by 28 points. I don’t have a database, and have “neither the time nor the inclination” to go digging through the Interwebs.

It wasn’t a lot of fun to watch ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve learned how to watch football. I come from a state where folks get serious about college football. I suppose that, at one time, I might have been like that.

But I’m not serious about college football today. In fact, I dropped the seriousness soon after I got sober; had to do so, in order to be able to watch football without it affecting my serenity.

Now, there are probably folks who watch college football with me who might tell you that I AM, indeed, serious about it, but they would be mistaken.

I’m not serious. I’m earnest.

I’ve looked at the definitions, and they each seem to use the other word as a synonym. But there’s a word missing from the definitions ofย  “earnest” which is important to me – that word is GRAVE.

I can play volleyball earnestly without being serious about it. When I’m serious, I’m not smiling, but I’m often smiling earnestly – in fact, I’m usually doing so ๐Ÿ™‚

The difference for me involves the presences of FEAR.

In that volleyball game, I’m not afraid ๐Ÿ™‚ Whenever I am being SERIOUS, I am aware of fear – it’s the driving force behind my seriousness.

So I watch college football EARNESTLY. But not SERIOUSLY ๐Ÿ™‚

I sometimes have to take a break from watching – whenever, say, I start to think that it actually matters. At such times, I’m in danger of taking it seriously. So I have to detach to remind myself to detach. It really doesn’t matter.

It’s like a movie – I have to be invested in the story of the game as it’s going on, or I won’t care, and if I don’t care, then why watch the movie? But when the movie is over, it’s time to go on with life. Same with a football game.

Or a volleyball game.

When I’m EARNEST, I’m fully invested in the effort;ย  when I’m SERIOUS, I’m all concerned about the outcome.

Earnest is happy. Serious is unhappy.

Of course, there’s always Mitch Henessey‘s take –

“I’m always frank and earnest with women. In New York, I’m Frank, and in Chicago, I’m Ernest.”

 

Last year, I “ran” only 535 miles. (Most of that was actually on the elliptical; when I ellipticate, I hit a running cadence and a running heart rate. That’s as close as an injured runner can get to actual running).

Bike wasn’t spectacular, either – just over 4000 miles, which is cool, but my FTP was down about 10% from the year before. I suspect that that will work itself out, if I can avoid immobilizing knee injuries and surgeries for a while. It’s started to work its way back up.

Then there’s the swim:

100 second average pace

I do two workouts per week, generally – one that’s all 500 yard pulls with paddles and buoy, and one that’s repeats in a ladderย  – 200, 150, 100, 50, 25.

In the last two weeks, I’ve done my fastest-ever paced pulls, and today I hit a 1:40 average in my repeats. For me, that’s really fast.

So I can swim better than ever, and I can bike almost okay, but I can’t run.

So, we adjust.

Here’s my planned race calendar for this year:

Troika Olympic Aquabike – 31 May
IMCdA 70.3 – 30 June
Whitefish Sprint Triathlon – 21 July
IMAZ – 24 November

The Aquabike was suggested by my friend Ryan. Okay, I’m cool with that. It’s with the triathletes, but one just hits the finish line at the end of the bike. That actually sounds refreshing ๐Ÿ˜‰

The half and full Ironman distances? The plan there is to RACEWALK. Or, failing that, just to powerwalk. Currently, I’ve started adding some short racewalk after my elliptical workouts, at 13:20 pace. If I could actually do that pace for a full, that would be faster than my PR “run” in 2017.ย  So who knows?

The Sprint? Heck, I’ll hammer the swim and bike and maybe try to run. If it goes bad, there’s always time for surgery and recovery before IMAZ ๐Ÿ™‚

….Disclaimer: Ethel wants to do a staged ride this year; possibly RAGBRAI, which would supersede the Whitefish Sprint, or possibly one of the catered rides on the Natchez Trace, from Nashville to Natchez. Whatever she wants to do will certainly preempt any of my plans.

That’s the phrase that gets you there – to the place where one realizes just who’s to blame, and how badly.

Here’s a quick drawing of the moves that we’ve made since I married Ethel:

mess

Decatur, AL, to Athens, back to Decatur, to Bisbee, AZ,ย  to Tucson, to Waterbury, VT, to Salt Lake City UT (briefly) to Park City, to Anthem, AZ and then New River just east, then back to Park City, then to Bozeman, MT, then west and north to Whitefish.

And, now, getting ready to move across the highway here in Whitefish.

I’ve always enjoyed moving around; and Kim Puckett has always said that she enjoyed it, too. Going to a new place has always been exciting – new places, new activities, new people.

However, like many things that bring enjoyment and distraction, it’s possible that I’ve become addicted to it. I may have gotten used to staying somewhere for a while, and then running off to somewhere else.

AAs talk about a “geographic cure”, and, as one of the stories in the Fourth Edition points out, there’s something to it – at least in the early stages of the illness, it seems that a major move can sort of slow the illness down or even put it on the back burner for a while. But, of course, eventually the bottle catches up with us.

Well, that’s never been an issue for me – at 108 East Texas Street in Kileen, TX, they schooled me on the Steps out of the Big Book some 12297 days ago, and the illness of alcoholism has not darkened my door since.

And it’s been a great life – “the only good life life I’ve ever known, the only easy life that’s ever been mine”. Eighteen months later I met Ethel, and it’s been wonderful ever since.

And we’ve lived in all of these cool places and done all of these cools things – and they are enjoyable, entertaining and distracting.

However, now we’re HERE, and Ethel won’t go any farther.

We thought that we were moving to Mexico earlier this year – Ethel spent the last two years pining away for the tropics, so we went down and did a lot of househunting on Cozumel, and then decided instead to buy in the Baja, because of the dogs – we can’t drive to Cozumel, and we can’t fly the dogs there, because of the temperature on the tarmac.

So we made a househunting trip to Baja California, and after a week, we had three homes, any of which would work – so we decided to wait until we got home to Montana to make our choice. A nice, mature, sensible resolve.

When we got here, Ethel said, in a very small voice, “I want to stay in Whitefish.”

So we’re staying in Whitefish, and building a house.

But, by that time, my “moving self” had already gotten used to the idea of Mexico. So I was sort ofย  “leaning forward” and fell over – like the top step on the stairs, in the dark, that isn’t there.

I’ve been adjusting to staying here, but, well, there are things wrong now – things wrong with me. My body is betraying me – I haven’t been able to run a step for months. Doctor says that it’s age – wear and tear on my knees. If I spend a few hours skiing the way that I want to ski, it hurts.

Work is not going well – now, it hasn’t been going well for a long, long time, but sometimes I can stay busy enough to not notice the fact that I’m not productive. That hasn’t been the case, lately.

And so I find myself wanting to run away.

Mexico would be fine – cheap enough so that I don’t have to work, and enough different things to do that I might not notice that I can’t run or ski anymore. And the “new and different” would be nice, all by itself, in that it might keep me from noticing everything that’s going wrong in my life.

But we’re not going to Mexico. And I have to keep working to build this house. And I go do workouts four to six days per week, and even if my knee doesn’t stop me, my age does. I’m not going to get better, or faster, or stronger.

And maybe I just want to run away because I’m used to always changing my life every few years, and maybe I’m now addicted to those big, expansive changes. Change is fun. And it distracts me from the things that are going wrong, or painful, or static, in my life.

But it ain’t gonna happen. And I have brought this on by all of the moves that I have made – that have given me the HABIT of moving, and that have caused Ethel to dig her heels in and refuse to go any farther.

Oh, what a mess I’ve made of things.

Some time back, I mentioned how, on Tuesdays, I ride like an Egyptian.

Now, on Thursdays, I’m Making Miles out of Nothing at All:

Miles Outa Nothing

Thursdays is Eichorn, which is a Trainer Road workout that has the two 20 minute “Sweet Spot” intervals (I don’t know who named them . I’d like to have a long talk with him. Alone.) These intervals are at 90% of FTP (Functional Threshold Power) which is working, but not HARD working.

It can simulate a “tempo” ride, or a long climb. The way to make it a “climb” is to do what Corch Ian had me do – slow down to a cadence around 70 RPM, instead of the 90+ that the text of the workout tells you to do.

(This also has the effect of running at the lowest heart rate for the work load; thus, it’s the LEG MUSCLES that are working hard, rather than the CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM. The idea is that it increases what they call “muscular endurance” rather than cardio endurance).

Okay, that’s all technical stuff – but then comes the important part. How, exactly, does one go twenty minutes of hard effort while maintaining the same tempo? One’s mind wanders. Things hurt. The body wants to do something different – anything different, like pushing on a toothache.

The way I have always regulated this is either by using the Metronome Beats application set at 70 RPM, or I use my Maple music player on one of the Podrunner hour-long mixes – Maple allows one to change the tempo of music. A Podrunner mix at 180 BPM running at .80 tempo (easy to do in Maple) turns out to be right around 70 RPM.

That is, until about six weeks ago.

A month or so ago, my Google Pixel 2 phone did an update. One of the side effects of this update was that it now chimes a chord whenever I plug in the USB C cable to charge the phone.

I believe that this soft piano chime is in G Major.

It sounds exactly like the first, soft, piano chord of “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All“.

AirSupply

This is my Favorite Air Supply song. It was written by Jim Steinman – and if you know your Meatloaf or your Bonnie Tyler, the fact that this is a Jim Steinman song will be immediately apparent as soon as I say it, and you’ll say “Oh, yeah – of course it is!”

At first, I was a mite irritated by this new behavior by my phone. It’s not that I don’t like MLooNaL – it’s that it’s a powerful, persistent earworm. And it would hit me by surprise; I was never ready for it when it happened. I’d plug in the phone, and – CHIME! – and next thing I know, my brain is serving up

I know just how to whisper, and I know just how to cry
I know just how to find the answers and I know just how to lie
I know just when to break through, and I know just when to scheme
I know just when to face the truth, and then I know just when to dream…

….and I would be powerless before the onslaught. Good stuff, but who needs THAT in one’s head while one is trying to pray, or write code, or have a civilized conversation?

But one morning about six weeks ago, I was going to climb on a hotel spin bike in California on a Thursday morning, and when I heard the chime, it suddenly occurred to me that this song seemed to be very close to the tempo that I needed for the Eichorn workout.

I got to the gym and climbed on the bike, got everything set up, and started the song playing over my headphones – and I’ll be darned. The song’s about 5:40 long, and starts in the high 60’s RPM, builds, and finishes in the low 70s. Just perfect for this workout. I put it on “repeat”.

I really enjoyed listening to this song during the workout. And hearing it over and over gives me a slight innoculation against the earworm invasion when I plug in the phone ๐Ÿ™‚

But something else happened – the Law of Serendipity took over.

I found that, not only is it a great song (you don’t have to ask or argue about that – it’s a Jim Steinman song)ย  it’s also a great meditation.

With just the simplest, tiniest alterations, this Steinman song can be taken to be about God, and then – suddenly – it becomes a strong, powerful restatement of spiritual principles. It sounds like Isaiah talking to St. Paul. It sounds like A Course in Miracles or Emmett Fox.

It becomes a man boasting of all the things that he can do, and can be – but of his utter humility in the face of the Almighty, and his complete inability to do anything comparable to the creation of Love, and all that Love can do.

The beating of my heart is a drum, and it’s lost
And it’s looking for a rhythm like You.
You can take the darkness from the pit of the night,
And turn it to a beacon burning endlessly bright –
I gotta follow it!

Cause everything I own,
Well it’s nothing
Till I give it to You.

So now, when I’m riding Eichorn, I’m Making Miles Out Of Nothing At All, and singing to my Lord, and smiling really big.

 

Back in 1989 or1990 (it predates when I started my Excel running log, so I don’t have the exact date on tap) Ethel – who, at the time, was just Kim, not having gotten the rest of her names – went with a bunch of our friends on a white-water rafting trip on the Ocoee River.

She came home with a T-Shirt that said “Paddle Or Die!” – it wasn’t this graphic, but this is the idea:

paddle_or_die

The notion, see, is that once you get on the raft, everybody has to paddle together, following instructions as to which direction to paddle, or the raft will hit the rocks too hard or capsize.

You don’t get to decide not to paddle in the middle of the river. You can’t get off the raft, and you can’t get out of the river – you’re going downriver. You’ll either go on the raft, or in the water, where if you don’t drown, you’ll break all your bones on the rocks.

Paddle or die.

I’ve lately been using this as a metaphor for the Third Step.

STEP THREE: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

A lot of the time, in meetings, I hear people talking about “taking our will and lives back”. That’s a curious phrase – it sounds, to me, like more folklore.

There are a couple of reasons for why I don’t believe that we can “take our will and lives back”. The first is the simplest – it never, ever, mentions anything about this in the Big Book.

To me it seems that the Big Book, being a manual designed to give me precise instructions on how to work the Steps of recovery, is verbose on milestones – almost every action Step has “promises” which really means “this is how you know that you did it right”. And many of them have warnings – saying “don’t do this” or “if you do this wrong, this bad thing might happen”.

Never, ever, at all, in any way, does the Big Book ever say anything at all about us getting our wills and lives back – or being able to take them back. It just ain’t in there.

Secondly, there IS a warning at the end of the paragraph with the Third Step prayer on page 63:

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

Not too long ago, Ethel and I were considering getting a radio-collar fence for the husky pups; living in a condo, we don’t have a fenced yard, and we were tired of having to put them on long leads every time we let them out to go potty. We wanted to be able to just open the door and let them out.

In reading the write-ups on the most promising product, it sounded okay, but the cost seemed quite high – however, then I saw this line in the “returns” policy:

“If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 45 days for a refund of your purchase price.”

Oh, okay – gee, that’s easy. No reason not to try it, right?….No real risk….so we ordered it, and it didn’t work for us, and they refunded our money most riki-tiki.

Notice how the website did NOT say – “Think well before ordering this product, that you can, at last, abandon yourself utterly to keeping it and losing your money“.

The Big Book is telling us that, when we do this, we are abandoning ourselves utterly to Him. No return policy.

We think of the First 100 as early members of Alcoholics Anonymous – but they weren’t. They didn’t have the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” until AFTER the book was written. In the early days, most of them were members of the Oxford Groups – a Protestant evangelical group. And the instruction is to say this prayer with another person.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”ย  – Matt 18:19

There’s a belief there that asking for this to be done means that it will be done. Couple that with the fact that what’s being asked for is, indeed, God’s Will, and it’s a slam dunk.

So I don’t believe that we can “take our will back”. The way the model works for me is this – once I say that prayer, with somebody else, understanding it and meaning it, then it’s cast in stone.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I can’t believe that I can still run my own life; but, again, I sorta suppose that trying that, after I’ve made this decision, means that those events are nothing but teaching opportunities ๐Ÿ™‚

But I hold the belief that once we do this, we then are in God’s hands. He’s going to help me work the Steps if I do that. If I “decide” that I’m going to do something else, that’s just fine too – because He’s going to keep pushing me back to a path towards Him. What looks like my “decision” to not do it is just another part of the plan.

Perhaps, before I do this prayer, there might be random chance in my life – but once I take the Third Step, random chance is no longer a factor. Now I’m being taken back to God – helped and supported, or kicking and screaming, but I’m going to God ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s like the Ocoee River – as long as I’m on the shore, I can dither and waffle and hem and haw – but once I get in the boat. I am going down the river. I might follow the guide’s instructions and paddle correctly, and have a ball and yell with my raftmates and wave joyously to the people I see on the shore as I pass.

I might balk at the guide’s orders, maybe only following the ones that I want to follow. It won’t go well, but I might get to stay in the raft.

Or maybe I decide not to listen to the guide, and think that it’s okay if I throw my paddle down and just try to hold on to the handle. This might get me thrown out of the raft – and who knows? Maybe my life jacket will keep me afloat long enough to get back into the raft in the next calm spot.

Or maybe I’ll drown, or bash my head against a boulder, and die.

It doesn’t matter – I am still going down the river. God’s Will will be done in me, even if I’m not alive for it.

Paddle or die!

 

Here are the elevations from our final set of builder’s plans for the house on Vista Drive:

Elevations

We met with Matt from Stumptown Design and Build last Thursday to go over the estimates and budgets – this much for framing, this much for excavation and foundation, this much for cabinets, this much for plumbing fixtures – once I’d settled back down into a lower orbit after getting the final full number (read: much, much larger than I was expecting).

So now Ethel has her nose stuck into her laptop and tablet, Making Decisionsโ„ข about Important Stuffโ„ข while I sit in the corner and laugh maniacally about how much this darn thing is going to cost.

That’s how I know that it ain’t real yet – when it really settles in and becomes reality, I’ll stop laughing and start shivering in terror ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Important Stuff includes such topics as – Siding types and colors. Trim types and colors. Garage door styles and colors. Roofing shingle types and colors. Window materials, brands and features. Hardwood. Carpet. Tile. Cabinet styles, features and placement. Countertops. Plumbing features and placements. Appliances. Hardware fixtures. Lighting. Interior colors. Door styles and colors/stains. Toilet types. Bathtubs, vanities and showers.

There’s other stuff – it starts to all run together in my head. That’s why she’s making the decisions – I would hit decision fatigue the second time they asked me what color something should be.

Looks like we can start to think about planning on scheduling an tentative move-in date for sometime in the time frame of late April; at least, that’s the current mindset. I’m torn between “let’s get this over with” and “the longer it takes to build, the longer it will be before I have to pay for it” ๐Ÿ™‚

But at least the dogs will have somewhere to run and play…whups: Sod types. Sprinkler system. Fencing types and colors….