Monday, February 28, 2005


Last year i saw a bumper sticker that said "May all beings be free of suffering". Although i think i agree with the sentiment, at that particular moment i was about 2/3 of the way through a particularly grueling 20 mile run, and i was by some measure suffering. I realize that there's a difference between self-inflicted suffering and externally-inflicted suffering, but i've also come to realize that the difference is less clear than i originally thought.

The obvious difference between voluntary pain and involuntary pain is that you can choose to stop the former. That's such a significant difference that it's reasonable to ask if self-imposed suffering is really suffering at all. To endure pain is to not know when it will end, or even to expect that it will never end. This is also crucial because most research on pain indicates that knowing what to expect is essential to controlling pain; some pain researchers think that this is why acupuncture and self-hypnosis work for anaesthesia.

My personal mid-life crisis did not result in the most predictable outcomes (no Porsche, no young women, no surgery or wardrobe changes) although i did pursue one of the more cliched options: getting in shape. For me this began as relatively straightforward attempt to lose weight and get a little stronger, but somewhere along the line it took a strange turn. Both in endurance events (biking and especially running) and in the martial arts, i began to crave the challenges of more difficult (and by extension, painful) activities. This is not (i hope) simple masochism; in other words, it's not the suffering that i enjoy. And while it's always a relief to finish a hard activity and rest, it's not only the cessation of suffering that appeals to me. What i think does attract me to these activities (and i apologize for this turn of phrase) is that they take me into unexplored, potentially dangerous territory.

So far i haven't ventured so far into that territory that my return was in any question. But the ends of the marathons that i've run have taken me into realms of pain and suffering that i hadn't previously experienced. For me, at about 22 miles my body stops functioning normally and i have to run the last 4 miles in a state that's something like delirium, but accompanied by an acute awareness of every physical pain: cramped quads, blisters, nausea, burning chest. But i was never in serious physical jeopardy. There is plenty of water available and i can always stop if things get too uncertain.

Martial arts training has several different types of potential pain involved. There is of course the pain of being hit, and ocassionally the pain of hitting if you do it incorrectly. There's the aerobic burn of finishing a sparring round or doing a long form. But the worst type of pain comes from stance training or flexibility training. This is where things start to get interesting. It's hard to describe stance training, but if you've ever done the exercise where you press your back against the wall and then lower yourself until you're in a sitting position (sometimes called "electric chairs"), you'll sort of get the idea. Picture that same thing, but without the wall, and there you have stance training. Stance training hurts, particularly when you begin, and for most people a couple of minutes is hard.

What's interesting to me about this type of pain is that is doesn't come from any injury or pathology, and yet it undeniably hurts. This type of pain is familiar to anyone who's ever trained seriously for any athletic endeavor, so familiar that there's an entire cottage industry for not-so-clever aphorisms about it. "No pain, no gain". "It's pain leaving your body". "More pain now means less pain later". And so on. The reason why it interests me is that you can know intellectually that you are not incurring injury, but you will frequently succumb to the pain well before your body actually reaches the point where it can't support the activity.

What also amazes me is the extent to which you can train yourself to endure this pain. To some extent this is just a side effect of improving strength and conditioning. But there's a psychological aspect that's undeniable (which is not to say that the pain is "in your head", it's definitely real). For example, i've personally found that it's easier to endure stance training or flexibility training if you're doing it with a group of people rather than alone. Most runners find that they run much faster than would normally be comfortable when they're racing. You can also develop an ability to focus away from the pain by finding the muscles that can relax and by concentrating on your breathing.

If you train long enough at something, the gap between where the pain becomes unendurable and where your body is truly incapable of doing any more narrows, though it only rarely closes completely (you can find plenty of stories about people who have died while attempting some remarkable feat of endurance). The gap doesn't narrow linearly though; the further you extend your pain threshold, the harder it becomes to push further. This is the gray area of suffering that interests me. If you can continue when your mind tells you that you want to stop, you are temporarily in the same mental state that comes from externally inflicted suffering. And in the same way as externally inflicted suffering, you experience something- i don't know what the word for it is-- by overcoming this state.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Drive-By Truckers

Several reasons why the Drive-By Truckers are the best band that you're not listening to as much as you should.
  1. They have not only one of the best band names ever, they also have one of the best album names ever (Pizza Deliverance), and some of the best song names ever (The President's Penis is Missing, Hell No I Aint Happy, Women Without Whiskey, Too Much Sex Too Little Jesus, Buttholeville, etc.)
  2. They managed to get a rock opera out of the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd and part of another from Buford Pusser
  3. They're a Southern/country rock band that doesn't sound like they're trying to ironically imitate a Southern/country rock band.
  4. They'll only make you feel stupid if you are in fact stupid.
  5. Some of the best, most consistently good songs in recent rock'n'roll.
  6. They sound absolutely nothing like Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, or The White Stripes.
  7. They sound absolutely nothing like Blink-182, Good Charlotte, or Yellowcard.
  8. Carl Perkins' Cadillac is a great song. Not just good or catchy but really great.
  9. Cool art on The Dirty South
  10. They'll make you feel a hell of a lot better about the red states
  11. On New West records, who also carry Slobberbone, Vic Chesnutt, Chuck Prophet, and Buddy Miller.
  12. Where else are you going to hear a song that refers to a pit bull that takes Zoloft? Seriously, where?


As a friend of mine quipped, here is where Christian conservatives go to get their porn.

My two sons are aged 7 and 10. They are not allowed to watch television on school nights, and on the weekends when they can watch TV they prefer Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, on which the only indecent content is that flaming homo Sponge Bob and his "friends" in Bikini Bottom. The point being, if your children are too young to be watching this stuff, then they're too young to be beyond your ability to control their viewing habits. I'm not attempting to claim some sort of moral high ground here. This is what basic parenting involves, and if you're not up to it then don't have kids (please).

Honestly, i find some of these clips to be pretty nasty. The necrophilia bit on Medium and the infantilism stuff on CSI are pretty gross (i think The Surreal Life clip with the Brady Bunch guy is hilarious though). But anyone idiotic enough to watch Medium gets what they deserve, and if you can't anticipate that there will be gross stuff on CSI then you haven't been paying attention. These shows are for adults, the word "adult" implying that you are capable of deciding all by yourself what is appropriate, tasteless, stupid, indecent. And don't give me that "i can't monitor what my children watch 24 hrs a day" crap. If, by the time your children are old enough to be watching television unsupervised, you have not inculcated them with principles sufficient to survive these fairly tame (compared to reality) images, then you've screwed up.

There have been officious idiots attempting to dictate what other people watch, hear, and read for as long as i can remember. What's doubly irritating these days is that we've got conservative pundits railing against the interference of big government and using terms like "nanny state" to describe government regulation or excess political correctness. Please people. With everything that's going on in the world, this is the best thing you can find on which to focus your outrage?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

No Business Being Invented

Several years ago i was in Cambridge, England and i was hanging out with a coworker and acquaintance named Marius. We went to dinner at a French place that's part of chain (i can't remember the name), thinking that it might be better food than the average English fare. It wasn't but at least i didn't have to feign enthusiasm for English beer or Welsh fish pie.

Marius is Romanian, the son of an opera singer who had defected in the 1980s. He had traveled all over Europe and spoke several languages. He was especially fluent in French because he had lived in Paris, and the French waitress at the restaurant was unabashedly flirting with him. For these reasons and others i was unduly impressed with Marius and i respected his opinion even though he is much younger than i.

At some point the conversation turned to computers and the Internet. Marius held the opinion that, while these were interesting and potentially useful inventions, they weren't necessary. Specifically, he felt that without these inventions the world might be a different place, but it wouldn't be a worse place. At the time i wanted to believe that this opinion was either so obvious as to be facile, or wrong; but i took it seriously because it came from Marius. It seemed that you could argue that any technological innovation, even biological evolution, was not necessary so long as you assume (as i more or less do) that there is no grand purpose to the universe. I was very hopeful at the time about the promise of better simulation technology and the historical inflection in communication wrought by the Internet. To me it seemed that computers were, at the very least, as necessary as any of the major inventions of the 20th century, like electric light, automobiles, or microwaveable popcorn.

The older i get though, the more i see his point. Like the auto industry, it would be impossible to extract the computer/software industry from the universe and not cause a lot of economic distress, because so many people have become dependent on it for their livelihood. In that sense computers are necessary: the industry is an engine for economic growth. There also have been triumphs of free expression enabled by the existence of the Internet. But i can seriously consider this question: If computers and the Internet were to suddenly disappear, would i miss them?

Since my job would disappear, i have to admit that there would be an impact. But if i make the assumption that i could still make a living at some fairly unobjectionable career (say, being a teacher like my father), i don't think i would miss computers too much. Here are some of the thing i would probably prefer not to live without:
  • E-mail. I hate telephones. I don't really enjoy talking much at all, but to converse with a disembodied voice is annoying. E-mail, or some alternate text-based, asynchronous form of communication, i would miss. The traditional post is just too slow.
  • Medical imaging. Although i've never needed it, it's hard to dismiss the value of modern imaging technology in medicine. Much of it could not exist without software and sufficient processing power.
  • ATMs. I'm just old enough to remember life before ATMs. To get cash you had to actually go to the bank during operating hours. Can you imagine?
  • Digital Photography. I'm not a camera buff, so i can't judge the relative merits of film vs. digital for image quality. But as a casual picture taker, digital photography is orders of magnitude superior to film.
None of these, with the possible of exception of medical imagining, is really crucial to a comfortable and fulfilling life on planet earth though. Both of my grandfathers were farmers (technically one of them was my mom's step-dad-- her real dad was an accountant, sort of). They and my grandmothers lived in a pre-computer,pre-Internet world though of course these things were in the works while they were alive (my mom's mom is still alive at 94). They were, i think, relatively happy people though, with apologies to Tolstoy, not happy in the same way. In many ways i think their lives were better than most people. My dad's family farm had an orchard with apple and cherry trees; and fencerows with gooseberry and currant bushes. My grandmother would make pies out of all of these that were better than anything i've ever had in a restaurant. My great-grandfather, on whose 90th birthday i was born, would sit at the kitchen table all day and people would naturally gather to him and they would talk. Not anything profound, but interesting, diverting.

I'm not going to claim that computers and the Internet have changed society for the worse, as people have done with automobiles for decades now (my title is from Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons in reference to cars). The truth is that i enjoy working with computers and maybe that's enough. But i also know that i could never use another computer for the rest of my life and be perfectly content.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


It rained for most of the weekend in San Diego. We've had over 9 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, which exceeds our typical annual total. We've had more rain during this period than Seattle. Some houses in coastal areas are slipping off hillsides into the backyards of the homes below. Damns are overflowing. So far, this is the 5th wettest rain season on record, though we need only about 1/2 inch more to move up to third place.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Strange Day

I spent most of the day at work yesterday messing around with RSS feeds and XSLT and if that means nothing to you then congratulations. It was one of those strange days when everything seems to work. Granted, XML and related stuff ain't exactly brain surgery, but it's nice to get into a good flow occasionally and get some work done even if it's not terribly meaningful. Since basically nothing on the Internet is meaningful, it's mostly a matter of degree.

After work i went to my kung fu school and broke boards with my instructor. Yup-- 1 foot square, 1 inch pine boards. It went pretty well except for my side kicks, which i had to try a couple of times before getting the right force to break the board. I also managed to do 3 boards at once with an elbow drop. I'll probably work up to 5 or 6 before my test. I had a few spectators at the school. People are impressed with breaking even though it's far simpler than a lot of the other things i have to do.

In the evening i went to the boys' school because Nathan was part of a program about Martin Luther King. It was a fairly typical 5th-grade presentation, but one feature caught my attention. They projected video of both the "I Have a Dream" and the "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speeches using a computer and some media player (InterVideo maybe?). I guess it really is the 21st century. MLK was such a great speaker. Compared to the banal idiocy that passes for a speech these days, MLK seems almost supernatural, almost magical. My 7-year old son Henry, who was watching with me, said to me "Do you know why i like Martin Luther King? Because if he hadn't made all of those laws i wouldn't be able to be friends with Josh". It's hard to capture everything that's wrong with this statement, not the least of which is that his friend Josh is not African-American (he's either Asian or Latino). But i liked the sentiment.

After we got home i started messing around with my Linux box. In the space of a couple of hours, i managed to install JBoss 4, deploy a servlet i wrote during the day, poke a hole in my firewall with iptables, and set up dynamic DNS for one of the domains i own so that it would go to this computer (i had to get up early this morning to set up port forwarding on my Linksys router). Did you know that kung fu translates roughly to "skill acquired through time and effort". Kung fu, indeed.

Right about this time, the time passed midnight and Charlie Sheen was on TV dropping bowling balls off of a building in New York. Another fact that is probably only interesting to me: I now have at least 3 ways to transfer files from any wired computer to one of my home computers without using any sort of hard media (no floppies, tapes, or zip disks).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dog Show

I have a strange fascination with the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The film Best in Show eliminated whatever chance there might have been to take the thing seriously, but i still end up watching it every year. I think the show would be more accessible if they'd change the groups. Currently they have things like sporting dogs, hounds, working dogs, etc. I propose new groups that have closer ties to popular culture. So far, i've got these groups: Yappy Dogs, Dogs That Can Kill You, Dogs from Cartoons (non-Disney), Dogs from Cartoons (Disney), Frisbee Dogs, and Dogs That Look Funny.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Love At First Sight

I spent my formative years in rural Indiana, a perfectly adequate place to grow up, but a place that desperately needed a window to the outside world. My grandmother had been a librarian, so we had a houseful of books, but to be honest i spent more time watching TV than reading. But this was pre-cable, in fact, TV in rural Indiana in the 70s had 4 channels. No, i'm not kidding.

Three of those channels were the major networks, but the fourth was an independent channel that broadcast old movies 24 hours a day. So far as i was concerned they were all black and white movies, because i had a black and white TV, though a large percentage of them were from the 30s and 40s anyway. I watched everything from the Bowery Boys, to Hope and Crosby Road movies, to Cagney/Bogart/Robinson gangster movies, noir classics, screwball comedies, everything. There were certain actors i particularly followed: Fredric March, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Mirna Loy, Joseph Cotten. These movies had an inordinate influence on my picture of what it meant to be grown up and what i imagined my adult life would be like.

One assumption i made about my adult life is that i would not marry while i was young. In rural Indiana, it wasn't uncommon for people to get married immediately after high school; but i was convinced that my life would be radically different, because i knew that the first thing i was going to do after high school was leave rural Indiana. I would go to college, grad school, live in a big city, travel the world, and then in, say, my late 30s i'd meet the perfect woman and we'd live happily ever after. More or less, i'd be like Cary Grant's character in Indiscreet.

My plan started out well. I left Indiana about a week after high school graduation, and went to Arizona for college (why Arizona? I'm not sure, but it was a long way from Indiana. I had lived there for a few years as a young kid, and my grandparents still lived just outside Tucson). After my first semester i moved from the dorm to an off-campus apartment with three other guys from my dorm wing. I'm far away from home, living on my own, experiencing a different life. So far, so good.

Slightly more than a month later one of my roommates told us that he was expecting a friend of his to come visit from Phoenix. This friend was a senior in high school and she was coming to Tucson for a CCD meeting. Though i didn't know it, she was also bringing a friend of hers, a classmate named Emily. Emily was coming to the CCD meeting, but also to visit her boyfriend who was in a fraternity at the campus.

I was already a staunch believer in love at first sight, because it happened all the time in the movies. Still, i was unprepared for my reaction to Emily. I was only slightly deterred by the fact that she was in town to see her boyfriend and that at least one of my roommates had designs on her as well. She arrived on Friday, and by Sunday i was kissing her goodbye at the bus station.

For weeks i didn't sleep well and i didn't eat. One of my roommates, and my best friend, and i would travel to Phoenix almost every weekend so that i could see her and we'd stay with his parents. Fortunately, Emily decided to attend the U of Arizona, so by fall we were able to see each other daily.

Although we had no intention of getting married before we got out of college, i knew with certainty that i'd spend the rest of my life with Emily. When we finally did get married 4 years later, i had no cold feet, no second thoughts at all. It was the easiest decision i've ever made.

Now, 17 years later, i know it was the best thing that ever happened to me also. I can't speak for the world, but our marriage has defied almost all of the platitudes that popular culture promotes. We've never had to "work" at our marriage; we've never lost the passion we had in the first years, we've never transferred our attention completely to our children. I have some regrets in life, but my marriage and the things that have come from it are a source of nothing but joy.

At this point it would probably only be fair to admit that one reason why my marriage has been so good is that Emily is a very nearly perfect woman. What prompted me to write this entry is not Valentine's day, but rather the fact that Emily turned 40 yesterday. She could easily pass for 29. She celebrated the day by running a 5k in the morning and then going to boxing training during lunch. Yep, my wife is a total babe, she's amazingly cool, and she could kick the butts of all the other soccer moms. As i've said in the past, her only real fault is her somewhat dubious taste in men.

Steve Martin used to tell this joke that went something like this: "Do you want to know how to be a millionaire and not pay taxes? First, get a million dollars." My advice on how to find true love and live happily ever after would be something similar. First, find the love of your life. Which is to say that, unlike Dr. Phil or any of dozens of other so-called experts, i have no idea how to make it happen unless, through destiny or great good fortune, it just happens. When i look back now at all of the old movies i see something different than what i saw as a youth. I'm still attracted to the witty, urbane characters, although i now identify more with Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins in The Third Man than with Cary Grant in any of his roles. I'm just not that cool. But what i see now is that almost all of these characters, regardless of how easily they kept their equanimity, were fools in love. That, i think, is the prerequisite for happily ever after; and you simply have to deal with the fact that it's also the prerequisite for tragedy and sorrow.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Happiness Industry

Those commercials for the on-line matchmaking service E-Harmony alway crack me up. The founder announces that they look for compatibilities along 28 dimensions, or some such twaddle, as if finding a mate could be reduced to a shopping list of characteristics (as an aside, Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Blink has a section on how what people list as the desirable characteristics for a partner rarely match what actually attracts them-- i'm not sure if that's an argument for or against E-Harmony). Basically, E-Harmony is a recommendation system for potential mates.

Of course, there have been social networking sites like LinkedIn for years now, and there are other interesting experiments in the personal happiness vein, like 43Things. But i think that the driver behind the ever-increasing personalization of our entertainment and news experiences will be, for lack of a better word, happiness. This of course presumes that identifying content or people that match our preferences will bring us satisfaction or pleasure. So the combination of all the media with social software and personalization technology could roughly be designated as the Happiness Industry. It's possible that either the sex or drug trades might lay original claim to the name, but have they blogged about it?

The emerging technologies in this arena (recommender systems,, Technorati, Friendster, etc.) are close to achieving the idea of an intelligent agent as it was envisioned in the early days of the intarweb, although they require a bit more work. The intelligent agent is a very smart black box that infers your tastes, finds content or fellow net denizens who match your taste, and brings them to your attention. At the time intelligent agents were first imagined, few people had the vision to imagine that the black box was the whole freaking on-line community, suitably monitored and filtered.

My problem with intelligent agents then, and the Happiness Industry now, is that they don't work like my brain, and i hope they don't work like anyone's brain. To illustrate, allow me a large digression. A couple of times in my career i've worked on simulated annealing, which is a technique for doing optimization by mimicking the physical process of annealing (you heat something up, and then let it cool slowly, then repeat). Simulated annealing approaches generally attempt to solve the problem of getting stuck in a local minimum by using a statistical approach to choosing the next state of the system. To visualize a local minimum, imagine an olive in a martini glass. The olive will sink to the bottom of the glass, but it can't go where gravity really wants to pull it, unless it magically jumps over the rim of the martini glass. The statistical methods used with simulated annealing choose a new system state based on that state's probability according to the Boltzmann distribution. Unlikely states will become more likely the higher the temperature. Put more simply, in some relatively improbable cases, the olive will jump out of the martini glass and drop to the floor.

The point being that personalization technology might never let you out of the martini glass, which might be a piss-poor metaphor, but i hope you grok my meaning. I don't want software that will interpret my compulsive visits to Slashdot and ESPN as evidence that i really want more sports and technology news. And god forbid that it should interpret my bookmarks as indicative of the sort of people i want to hang out with. I've often said that i think hell will be a cocktail party in which all the guests are identical copies of myself. I don't think i'm unique in that i often want to discover music, art, literature, people, experiences that are completely different than anything/anybody i've experienced before. And if you're thinking that you can accomplish this by simply finding negative correlations, then good lord you are a hopeless geek.

My personal view of happiness is more wholistic. Over the years i've reduced the idea of happiness to a single question: is there anybody with whom you would trade? If not, you're probably as happy as you should be. There is a certain subtlety here, which is that you have to trade lock, stock, and barrel. No picking and choosing. For example, i'd really like to have Johnny Dep's looks and money; but i would not trade my life for his because under no circumstance would i give up my wife and kids. That doesn't mean though that if i listed everything in my life that makes me happy, and everything that i don't have that would make me happier that i could find correlations with somebody else with whom i might trade. Even if the idea weren't patently absurd, the set of things that make me happy is fuzzy and time-dependent and mood-dependent and subject to all of the other vagaries of the human brain.

The practical reason given to justify personalization technology is that it assists in filtering the overwhelming flood of information into a manageable flow. That might be true so far as professional concerns go. But it's equivalent to saying that you'd understand the world much better if you never left your neighborhood. On the contrary, that would only reduce the entire world to just your neighborhood.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Palm Springs

On Friday my friend Vincent and i drove up to Palm Springs to spend the night before doing the Tour de Palm Springs century ride on Saturday. On the way up we picked up his friend Volker from his parent's house in Moreno Valley. We got to Palm Springs about 5pm and then went to the ever-luxurious TravelLodge on E. Palm Canyon. I've stayed there for the last three years, not because it's a nice hotel, but because it's almost always good for a story or two. After the first year when one of the desk clerks got into a shouting match with a customer, i was hooked.

We dropped off our bikes and then went to the main section of Palm Canyon to get some pasta. We went to a place called Al Dente, which was good despite the trendy location and clientele. We had an interesting, wine-induced discussion about traveling, politics, and religion. Afterward we stopped by a grocery, got some water and some beers, and went back to the TravelLodge to sit in the jaccuzzi. We hung out in the jaccuzzi and pool for about an hour, drinking beer and talking to whomever else came by. Some Mexican guys came around with some Coronas, but soon the hotel manager came out to yell at us for having glass bottles in the pool area so we decided to call it a night. Volker, an experienced rock climber, took a shortcut back to our room by climbing up the outside of the hotel to our second floor balcony. Vincent was about to follow him when the manager came out to yell at us again.

We got up at about 5:30 on Saturday morning, got all spandexed up, and drove over to the ride start area. The ride got underway about 7. It felt like it might be a bit windy, but it never got too strong. By the first SAG station at about 15 miles, the worst of it was over. We burned through the next downhill section, stopped briefly at the SAG station, and then hit the long, straight section of rolling hills that lead up to the halfway point. As usual it was a lot of fun, although it was a bit scary this year since there seemed to be high percentage of wannabe Lance Armstrongs who couldn't quite keep to their line on some of the 40 mile/hr descents. But we reached the 50 mile point unscathed and relatively fresh.

There was a really bad local post-grunge band playing at the 50 mile stop who had perfected the art of writing original songs that nonetheless sound like covers of Staind. But there was water and peanut M+Ms and Chex mix, so all was good. By now it was a bit overcast and still fairly cool, but the wind had died down. We hung out for a while and then hit the road for the second half.

The section following the half-way point was changed this year, probably to avoid the shitty roads in Indio. It wasn't as scenic though, and about 5 miles along i flatted. Volker helped me fix it and we got back underway. Fortunately, a big group of riders came up from behind us at around 60 miles and we jumped on the back and let them push the wind to the 75 mile SAG station. This stop had the Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony, which we enjoyed far more than the previous band. We got some more munchies and water and took off.

After the short incline that comes after the stop, we dropped back into the valley and then we started doing a 3-man rotating pace line. After several miles we hooked up with a group of riders from Phoenix and basically stuck with them until nearly the finish. Both Volker and Vincent had it at about 101 miles. We finished in about 5 1/2 hours of bike time.

All in all a pretty good ride. Some of the roads around Palm Springs are getting so rough as to be dangerous, and i think the traffic control was badly managed this year. There were some really pissed-off motorists, and all bikers know there's nothing scarier than an angry moron with a two-ton weapon. A fun ride though, and it was great to ride with Vincent and Volker.

After the ride, we went back to Palm Canyon and went to our traditional post-race Mexican restaurant, Las Casuelas Terrazza. I've never eaten at this restaurant without first having ridden 100 miles, so i'm not absolutely certain that the food is any good. After 100 miles on a bike, roadkill would be tasty. It's got a great atmosphere though, the beer is always nice and cold, and this year they had an excellent band.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Santa Monica

I spent most of the day traveling to and from Santa Monica. LA is the only place i visit where the trip takes longer than the visit. It was LA Story LA today: sunny and 72, smog, traffic. I had lunch at a sushi place, and my host used the GPS in his BMW to guide us the 2 miles to the restaurant. I now have the Tool song Aenima running through my head. Fret for your figure, and fret for your latte, and fret for your hairpiece, and fret for your lawsuit, and fret for your prozac...

On the plus side, i think the 73 toll road is the best thing ever. You can completely skip the the 5-405 merge now if you're willing to pay about 4 bucks each way. It's worth it. If you've never had the pleasure, the 405 merge is like one of those games where you have 8 interlocked plastic squares arranged in a 3x3 grid and you have to slide the pieces around to make a picture. Except there are about a million plastic squares and it's not fun and it takes longer and there's a non-trivial probability that somebody might shoot you.