Sunday, October 28, 2007

What do you do?

I'm currently spending my "free" time helping with a study that has followed about 250 women for the last 9 years. Each of these women comes in and we bombard them with tests. Anyway, rather than just testing them in silence, I like to ask questions and get to know them. The questions I usually ask is quite simple, "what do you do?" You see, this is a way not to offend (or at least that is the goal). Many of the women who come in do not work outside of the home, and it gives them an opportunity to say what they enjoy doing in life. Others have a job, and that is generally what they say they do.

When you ask people what they do, they often first think of their job. Is that really what defines you? Is that the most important thing that you do? How would someone respond if they asked what I did and I told them that I was a father and husband. They would likely assume that I didn't have a job, yet being a father and husband are my most prized responsibilities and quite frankly one of a select few areas where it really matters whether I succeed or fail.

This brings me to another identity crisis, one that is cycling related. I started my cycling career as someone who did long tours and then by the time I was a teenager I had started racing. I have identified myself in the "racer" crowd for the last 10 or more years, although I haven't really raced in quite some time (like 8-9 years). I look around at cyclists, and the groups associated with cyclists and I feel that I belong in the racing group, sort of as an exception because I don't race. I certainly don't belong in the MTB group or the tri group. I am a commuter, but that always brings to mind old guys on goofy looking relaxed bikes designed for comfort and not speed. I don't race, but that doesn't make me slow. Anyway, I like to be thought of more as a racer than a commuter, even though I don't race. I also have a tendency to make fun of those guys who don't race but think of themselves as "racers".

So here is what I've been dealing with for the past couple of weeks. I've decided to get a new light for my bike. The one I have is fine, but I can't see that well with it and something brighter would allow me to better miss the potholes on the roads I travel. The problem is that "racers" don't have lights, they weigh too much (that's why I currently run a really lightweight light... that and because it was cheap). More important to me now, is conserving the environment and making choices that will be a good use of the natural resources. So the obvious choice would be a generator hub. Perfect would be a generator hub combined with a high powered LED that is actually focused a little to make it so you can see with it. I've done the pricing, and I think that the generator hub is going to be the way to go. This is in COMPLETE violation of my desire to be thought of as a "racer"! Those hubs are a source of both weight and friction!

So why do I want to be thought of as a "racer", even though I haven't raced this decade and why does this light mean such a move to "the dark side"? I don't know. I think it's about image. It's who I am and who I want to be. I want to be a racer, but I also want to conserve resources. My two ideals don't mix so I have to decide. So doing something for the environment is more important to me than maintaining my image. It has really surprised me how hard it has been to give up my image for what I really believe to be more important.

So what do I do? Or better yet, what do I want to be known for doing? Exercise physiologist... no. Father and husband... YES. Cyclist... no. Someone who acts to preserve the environment... yes. Blogger... no. Christian... YES. ... and the list goes on.

So what do you do?

(the poor ladies in my study have no idea what question they are answering)

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I used to do these family posts weekly. Now I sort of do them weakly. I'm going to work on that. I like giving updates about the family, but the problem tends to be pictures. The best part of the family blogs is pictures and our home computer was on the fritz for some time. It's all better now (and I happened to bring my computer home for the weekend). Now we need to get back in the habit of taking more pictures.
This is a picture of the Mugwump with the carameled apple that he made. I don't know what we did different than they do at the fair, but boy, the caramel on those things was as hard as a rock. You sort of had to suck on it and let it soften up before you could get a bite. Then you could never get a bite that contained both apple and caramel. Isn't that the point?
We really don't have the money to go to Theme parks and other such things, and really it's not one of our priorities. This year, for the second year in a row, we attended Hee Haw Farms where they have a sort of harvest celebration with pony rides, free candy, corn cob guns, a hay ride and a big box full of corn to play in. Really it's a lot of fun. The only reason we go is because we get free tickets every year from our mortgage broker. I don't know why our mortgage broker sends us free tickets, but hey, I think it's cool. Oh, and the picture is of Six-pence on the pony ride.
Of course the Mugwump had to do the pony ride as well. He got to ride on the big pony, and he did it all by himself.
Do you know what I hate about digital cameras? If the sun is at your back, you can't see the little screen. And then when you take the picture, the screen goes blank for several seconds while the camera thinks about taking the picture. The result is pictures like this. Sure it looks like it's a picture of the boy in the orange shirt with glasses, but I don't know who that is. If you know him, feel free to download the picture. Really the picture is of the boys in the cow barrel. This is just a little train of barrels made to look like farm animals that is pulled around by a tractor. The boys loved it, and they didn't even stand up or start crying during the ride, which I was a little worried about as they disappeared into the dried up corn.
And here it is, the picture of the century... or at least the last two years. Both of the boys, facing the camera and smiling. And they're not even fake smiles, it looks like they're actually happy (which they usually are). How did we get such a picture, you may ask? Well, they were sitting in a box and having a great time with the lid closed (the lid was on the side). So we opened the box really fast, and the camera thought fast enough to get the kids while they were still smiling and surprised that the box opened.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Reporting bad drivers

In my last post I mentioned that I occasionally call the police on aggressive drivers. This is true. Someone in the comments sections asked me to expound. I don't have a lot of time (which is why I haven't written in awhile), but here's what I do. This is sort of a touchy subject for me because my main goal with my involvement with cycling is to make it safer for cyclists and a big part of that is improving cyclist, car driver relations. If you have any input in the matter, let me know.

The commenter (Chad, I think), said that he had called businesses about business cars that have been aggressive. I've done that too, and I feel that has been a worthwhile use of my time. I would also like to point out that I try to give compliments as much as I call to complain. For example, I pass through the industrial area of Provo every morning as the Provo city drivers are arriving at work or leaving for the days tasks. It only takes one bad pass and I'll make a phone call, yet I am passed by several Provo city trucks every morning and have NEVER had a bad experience. Which is more deserving of a call, one bad experience, or hundreds of non-experiences. Anyway, I called Provo maintenance people and got in communication with the right supervisor and personally thanked him and his drivers for being nice. Now I visualize in my head the supervisor sharing this call with his employees in a complimentary fashion and the employees reflecting on that as they pass me or any other cyclist. I think that helps car/bike relationships more than any call to complain.

Right, I know, the comment was about calling the police, but I wanted to put the most important point first. So if I think that complimenting is more effectively reaching my goals than complaining, why do I call the police? First, I think calling the police makes the police aware that I am a cyclist and I care about their enforcement of the law. Secondly, I want the passing motorist to know that I'm paying attention and can get their information easily enough. This is the one I wonder about though.

OK, I'm going to go through my procedures first. #1, I never call the police unless it was an aggressive maneuver that put me in danger. So I call on intentional close passes when there are no other cars around (being buzzed). When I'm on a road where there is not room for a car passing me to give me the 3 ft required by law and not collide with the oncoming car it often gets dangerous. In this case, I don't mind getting passed, but if I see an oncoming car, signal for the car behind me to slow, see the driver thinking and then trying to squeeze through, I will call the police. This is probably the most frequent reason for my calls (and I am generally positioned in the middle or to the left edge of the lane so they don't try to get by). The point is that I don't call when someone makes an unintentional mistake or is just obnoxious blowing their horn or whatever. I call when someone makes a premeditated decision to drive aggressively in a manner that puts my safety at jeopardy. I also only call if I get a licence plate number.

So when you call the police you talk to dispatch and report what happens. Then they contact a police officer who will have an officer call you back. Then you get to talk to an officer and explain the same thing to him (they've all been men so far) as you did the dispatcher. The officer will want to know if you want to press charges. I never do. I let the officer know that I just want the driver to know that their maneuver was dangerous and illegal and that my life was endangered and I'm a human being who does not want to be killed by a motorist. Besides, from what I've heard, pressing charges doesn't do any good in these situations because it ends up being your word against the driver's (if you got a physical description of the driver) and they generally don't work out. Normally the officer tells me that they will contact the person and have "a talk" with them. Do they actually do it? I don't know, I've never followed up. I have asked the officers if they feel that what I'm doing is a reasonable use of their time. They have always answered that they thought it was. They want the streets to be safer and that talk should help that come to fruition... in a very small way.

Are these reports working to improve cyclist/driver relations? Ah, here's the big question. I'm guessing that the driver is not thrilled to hear from the police about their bad choice. Then the real question becomes, will this improve their behavior around cyclists or cause them to hunt us down? I really don't think they're going to hunt us down, but I don't know that it will make a drastic improvement in behavior for the majority of drivers. But I do think that call raises awareness which is good, especially among the police that are out there day in and day out.

Let me know if you have a different opinion, I'm looking to do the best for all cyclists, but am not certain on this one.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Last night at dinner was quite insightful. To start we asked my older son to say the prayer. At four years old he often has phrases that become a regular part of his prayer. We're not all about memorized or repeated prayers, but I'm especially fond of this phrase that he has adopted into most of his prayers these days. He says, " We're thankful that we have everything that we want". It's so profound, we really do have everything that we want. Not only are our needs met, but we've got what we want. I'm extremely grateful that my four year old recognizes that we have everything that we want... I hope that I can better recognize that myself.

During dinner I told my wife that I wanted to cut my hair. First of all, my sideburns were reaching a length where they could be combed back over my ears and secondly the hair on my neck was beginning to overtake my collar and blend in with the hair on my back. And then there's the real reason I wanted a hair cut. Because my hair is getting greyer and that is less obvious when it's shorter. I reluctantly told my wife that I wanted hair cut to hide the grey, fully expecting her to reassure me that my hair really wasn't that grey. Instead she said that it looked, "distinguished" and suggested that I wait to cut it. Ouch. There's nothing like kicking a guy while he's down. OK, I really don't care that my hair is getting grey, but it sure is a constant reminder that I'm not getting younger. Well, it was a constant reminder until I cut it really short last night so I didn't have to see the grey anymore.

Last night for dinner we had burritos. Since I entitled this blog dinner, I figured I should mention that.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I am on exactly two email lists. You know the type, you sign up because it is a topic you are interested in and you want to be involved with the virtual conversation. Then you are suddenly inundated with emails (or digests) of these conversations that you can eves drop on. In the last few days both of my email groups have been arguing. Actually they both argue quite frequently. It's interesting, you sign up to interact with people of similar interests, and then you end up reading about this group with similar interests arguing.

Like I said, I subscribe to two lists. The first is on simple living. That group seems to be made up primarily of women. This group has a problem because everyone takes offense at what others are saying. I don't know if offense was intended, but tempers flare and people virtually stomp off.

The other list I subscribe to is related to cycling. This group seems to be primarily men, probably a little younger than the simple living group. These guys also bicker quite frequently. Most recently the argument has been over bike lanes (or were they bike paths? Evidently that is EXTREMELY important). Everyone in the bike group seems to stick around through the arguments.

Like I said at the beginning, I subscribe to these things because I want to be in contact with people of similar interests. Why do other people sign up for them?

So here's my point, I feel like the people who I look up to most in my life are people who drew people together. Christ, inviting Jews and Gentiles alike to be good. Gandhi, easing the tensions between the Hindus and the Muslims. Martin Luther King Jr., easing the tensions between blacks and whites. The list could go on, but the point is that leaders bring people together.

Now I'm going to talk about me. When I'm on my bike, I'm often over-taken with feelings of "cyclists vs. motorists" (or is it bike drivers vs. car drivers to appease the bike email group). I don't like that feeling. I really have a lot in common with those driving cars. We are both out to get from point A to point B. We both would like to do so in a timely manner and safely. We both have the same set of roads to use. We would both find it inconvenient and time consuming if we collide. So why the major hostilities between the groups? Why are we divided? I don't want that feeling, but there it is.

That brings up another point. In my commute there are regularly people who are quite aggressive toward me. I don't like that and I feel endangered at times. I generally memorize the licence plate number and call the police when I get home. Does that enlarge the divide between cyclists and motorists or is it a way of expressing that I'm a human and don't want to be hurt while riding to work? Deep down, I feel that call to the police is good because it raises awareness, but really I wish I could talk to the people and express that we have a lot in common and it would be nice if we could work together.

I see this division arising all over the place. Democrats vs. Republicans. Hunters vs. Environmentalists. Cyclists vs. Motorists. Mt. bikers vs. Hikers. The list could go on forever. While I realize that people are different, and I think that is good, I think this divisive behavior is really bad. I look back at key moments in US history (this isn't my strong point, so don't be too critical) and the "glory days" were those times when people came together. The Boston Tea Party, The Revolutionary war (well, we didn't really come together with the British in those events, did we), and fuel rations during WWII are all examples of a people coming together to fight a cause. Currently it seems that people are drawing apart, arguing over causes and I don't think it is helping anything.

So how do we grow together as a people? I have a novel idea, be nice to people. I really think it would work. Serve people. Show people that you care.... Why has that become a difficult thing to do? or has it always been hard to do? One thing I've noticed in my phone calls that I make when people are aggressive toward me on my bike. When I call to complain about aggression, it is usually countered with defensiveness and sort of sets the people back. On the other hand, when I call to give compliments, it improves relationships. I wonder if I could call the police and ask them to compliment a driver with a certain licence plate number? I think I'm going to try that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Simple pleasures

I wanted to write more frequently about things I'm grateful for. Today I've been thinking of talking with people of similar interests. I'm sort of a loner. I always have been, so I'm OK with that. While I've always seemed to have ideas that differed from the mainstream, I am currently living in a place where I feel really isolated. There just aren't many people around who share similar ideas with me. That's fine, I can get along with a variety of people, but there is nothing like sitting down and talking with someone who really understands you. Someone with whom you have a lot in common and you can share ideas, express concerns and simply dream together.

When I thought of writing this post, I was thinking of a few people around town who actually share similar interests as myself and the blogs that I occasionally visit that help me feel that I'm not the only one in the world with environmental concerns. Having written that first paragraph makes me extremely grateful for my wife and boys. OK, I don't have much intellectual conversation with the boys, but I love going home to a place where my ideas are readily accepted and we can share hopes and dreams. Even the boys express their dreams of having a horse (I sort of hope they outgrow that) and living on a small farm with animals. The Mugwump is afraid of cats and dogs, but wants a horse and chickens. Six-pence doesn't really talk yet, but he has certainly mastered the word banana. If we had a banana tree, that kid would be in hog heaven.... So much for eating locally.

So thanks to all who share similar ideas and dreams with me, it helps me keep my life in perspective. I suppose I'm also grateful for those of differing views who help add variety to the earth and force me to think about what is really important to me and why.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

God recycles

This isn't supposed to be irreverent, so please don't take it as so, but the human body is one of God's greatest creations and yesterday in a class we learned the price the body pays to recycle. This entry may take a little biochemistry background to understand, but I'll do my best to make it so all can play along. If you get lost in the biochemistry, the last paragraph is where I finally get around to making my point.

We need energy all the time and glucose is generally known to provide a considerable amount of that energy (we're not talking about fat today, but I know that it plays a huge role as well). To give us energy (ATP), sugar (glucose) goes through glycolysis which changes it from the 6 carbon glucose to a 3 carbon pyruvate molecule. We get a couple ATPs for every glucose molecule that goes through glycolysis. The body can either change pyruvate to Acytl CoA to enter the Krebs cycle where it will yield LOTS of ATP, or it can be converted to Lactic acid (you know, the stuff that makes your muscles burn during high intensity exercises). Previously it was thought the only time that pyruvate went to lactic acid was during high intensity exercise, but they are now finding that at rest, a considerable amount of pyruvate changes to lactic acid (in my field we call that exciting research, do you feel yourself getting excited?)

Lactic acid breaks down almost immediately to lactate and a hydrogen ion. We're going to forget about the hydrogen ion for the rest of this post. What does lactate do? It has always been considered a bad thing, why is it being produced by muscles at all times? It turns out that lactate can enter cells and ultimately the mitochondria where it is transferred to pyruvate, Acytl CoA and goes through the Krebs cycle. So we now have this lactate stuff that can go anywhere in the body and be used as fuel. At rest, 20-30% of all energy comes from lactate, and it is preferred over glucose as a fuel source. (This is another point where you are supposed to be excited).

During times of rest when lactate is especially high (like right after exercise), lactate is the preferred substrate for replenishing glycogen stores. This is the part where I have proof that God recycles. Instead of using glucose that is floating around in the blood which would take no alterations to be put into a glycogen molecule, the body chooses lactate to make glycogen. That will cost the body 6-10 ATP! (remember we only got a few ATP from converting glucose to lactate). So the body uses the stuff just sitting around to make new glycogen and prepare for the next exercise bout. Not only does our body recycle the lactate, but it goes through a great expense to undertake the recycling process. Why were we designed like that? I don't know, but it certainly seems to me that the One who created us didn't want to be wasteful. What are we doing to the earth that He created for us?