Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why I may rip off my ears and gash out my eyes if anyone mentions yet again how much they LOVE High School Musical (HSM)

1. Because it’s NOT (you stupid executive bastards) about tolerance and helping kids, it’s about making millions of dollars

2. Because the “nerds” in the film like Gabriela (Vanessa Hudgens) are stunningly beautiful, thus solidifying the exact opposite of what the film portends

3. Because my 12 year old son’s teacher decided to practice and then put on parts of the musical INSTEAD of having P.E. for the entire year (can you imagine how pissed my son has been for 9 months?)

4. Because songs meant to change cliquish behavior, digging at kids who “stick to the stuff [they] know…stick to the status quo” do NOT work even though every school, church, and community group are running like wild hogs to put on some version of HSM in order to inculcate positive values

5. Because the very act of talking about, trying out for (one high school had more students try out for this play than any in history), and *liking* HSM creates an in-group mentality (“You didn’t like HSM??!!”) which contradicts the so-called message of HSM

6. Because the Ryan and Sharpay are…isn’t anyone else grossed out? and sister!! Can you say incest!

7. Because the people who benefit the most from HSM success are Disney executives—they even charge public schools a fee if they perform the play

8. Because my family (including sister and parents) were subjected to watching my son grit his teeth through 20 minutes of HSM skits after his teacher informed the audience that there had been problems (i.e. if you can believe it, they hammed it up) with the earlier performance (my son was one of the main culprits) and they should not be surprised if she had to walk onto the stage in order to remove any students who were being offensive

9. Because if any number of family members and friends read this, including my own daughter, they will never forgive me for criticizing the Holy of Holiest High School Musical.

10. Because, even though I recognize everything listed in 1 thru 9, I still have to admit, son of a bitch, that I inevitably catch myself tapping my foot and replaying the music in my head

Monday, May 21, 2007

A photo retelling of SF

Oldest son in salty muck outside of Wendover

Youngest son drugged up on video games and movies

Who said there's nothing between Winnemucca and Reno? Certainly not Chief Thunder maker of Thunder Mountain

(for more info see


About 30 hrs of this
and THESE...
And particularly THESE sturdily holding me even with burnt out trunks
And THESE which we will Snapfish into a small poster print which Mormon friends and neighbors will then mistake for Joseph Smith's sacred grove--what blasphemy
Big bubbles and beautiful faces at the Exploratorium
Familiar things in places strange and far away
"cool" brother with bubbly sis
The memories as my father-in-law would say turn sweeter each day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Returning to Chinatown

Sometime ago I visited San Francisco for a conference. We ditched the conference one day, driving to Muir woods and Point Reyes (lighthouse). Walking through the redwoods, thinking how I could take my kids to Chinatown and on the cable cars, I knew I'd return with my kids once they were grown. Almost a decade later, here we are resting in our hotel room on Lombard street about 1/2 a mile from Fisherman's Wharf and three blocks from the cable car line after three days of SF fun.

Unfortunately we failed to bring the little digital camera cord which would allow me to upload some SF images. I will say I'm exhausted by all the things we've done so far: a 4 mile hike in Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park (we really enjoyed the Japanese Tea Garden), boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz, a guided tour of Chinatown (by me with help from Frommer's, 2006), Aquarium, windy Baker Beach and many other little things along with a couple of "where the hell are we?" moments.

I thought I'd been in Chinatown twice and, of course, I have eaten and walked in Chinatown both times I visited SF for conferences, but I never really experienced it. This time I read up on the Frommer's guided walking tour. We didn't do everything but here are a few highlights. After riding the cable car to Chinatown, we hit Stockton street's markets at 8am in the morning. The fish smells and the bustling Chinese people pushed my kids to the limits of their abilities to take in their surroundings. At one point my six year old son said, "I don't want to be in this place where we are different." Ah, mission accomplished! Next, we went inside a couple of silly touristy stores on Grant Street to buy some Chinese junk as we made our way to Waverly Street which is supposedly famous for its painted balconies. This was the low point of the tour--Waverly street was underwhelming, the Stockton market had overwhelmed, kids were crying about trinkets not purchased, and the tour guide was unsure where to go next. Luckily we pushed ahead, denying the urge to sprint for more familiar ground, and lucked onto Woo Woo (I'm serious) playground.

Here the adults rested their legs while the kids played on the equipment. It seemed that this playground was a bit of a cultural center; several men exercised near the equipment and about half a dozen women were doing Thai Chi to music in an open area. Rejuvenated we hit Old St Mary's Cathedral (the oldest--1850--Catholic Cathedral in Sf) where a white priest was, paradoxically, instructing what looked like Chinese tourists on John the Baptist. Turns out the church, which made it through the famous fire, was built by Chinese immigrants. We quickly dropped down to the Gateway Arch for a few photos on the lion. Then we retraced our route back to the Buddhist temple on Waverley Street, Tin How, where we ascended five flights of stairs to the one room temple. It was interesting; we learned something by listening to the grade school teacher instruct her class out on a field trip though the incense was so strong we could hardly breathe. For my finale we ate pork dumplings and sweet rice at a recommended hole in the wall (we were the only non-Chinese diners) and then went around the corner to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie company. Here we got several samples from the flat/broken fortune cookie pieces and we bought some yummy chocolate fortune cookies and almond cookies. This sounds much more official than it was though. In actuality the "company" was a back door in an alley with two women taking hot little pancakes off a press and shaping them into fortune cookies.

I feel like we soaked up China town and for that I'm grateful. It's cliche, I know, but there's some intangible quality to an experience like this which makes it all--the weariness, the screeching child, the ocean soaked pants, the one room accommodations, the sunburn with freezing ass temperatures, the gigantic Visa bill, the fights over directions--worth it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A tale of scrapping flesh, gagging lunch, and many hills

WARNING: Post contains much masculine bravado and mind-numbing cycling details

Just one month ago my cycling summer looked dismal—the bursitis in my hip had not healed even though I took several months off, in fact it seemed much worse. My longest ride was a mere 25 miles at which point my hip generally gave out completely leading to a sorry-ass limping back home. I’d even subjected myself to several cocoa-butter-plastic- tool-beatings (a new fangled physical therapy treatment—ASTYM--where, in my case, one’s leg/hip/butt are scraped raw).

But all that changed on our St George trip. I knew the Bountiful-Mazda Cycling Club (BMCC) I’d joined and ordered gear from (hundreds of dollars wasted I figured at this point) would also be in St. George. I’d considered riding with them so I went out with the club the Wednesday before to see how I’d do—humiliating: so I began to talk myself into a solitary 25 miles max riding summer which my wife loved. Still, I wanted to take advantage of the St. George weather so I left for a ride Saturday morning (while my wife hit the Temple) thinking I’d ride around Snow Canyon park for about 30 miles. After taking my necessary hip-stretch-stop at a park, I got back on the bike and headed up to the main road. At that very moment a huge cadre of the BMCC club rode by, “What the hell, I thought—it must be destiny.” I hooked on to the end of the peloton. By the time I was done, I’d gone up to the top of what they call Utah Hill and put in 50 miles, my longest ride by 20 and my hip felt great (the group road to Mesquite for a cool 100 miles). Maybe that cocoa butter scraping was working.

And it did start working, culminating in the week of many hills. On Tuesday the “easy” ride takes off from Centerville at 5:30; this night we went south till we hit 4th south in Bountiful and then headed up towards the Bountiful Mormon temple. Hills usually treat me well—my 130lb frame seems to be designed for such activities—so I took off with the lead guys and quickly it became a duel (well, I thought it was a duel) between me and one of the ride leaders (i.e. they decide where we go). I was feeling pretty good so when I saw the top of the hill, I stood a bit—which makes one faster--and took it to him. Unfortunately, this was my first time cycling up this hill and I’d misjudged the top by several blocks, totally spent I began, as they say in cycling, to go backwards, the lead guy moving at a furious pace ahead of me. At the top I asked him how old he was: 17--double his age and he’d still be four years my younger.

Then we headed south across Bountiful Blvd. and dropped down into North Salt Lake at the rapid pace of 50mph. At the bottom of the road there is a turnabout which, incredulously, the youngster fully circled till we were once again face to face with the hill. “Ok, I can do this. Just take it easy; no need to impress anyone.” I survived the hill, once again behind the 17 year old, and we then head back north along Bountiful Blvd. but instead of staying on the easy rollers back past the temple we take an immediate right up past the golf course. My engine is already overheated—it’s one of the hottest days this year--and near the top I gagged on part of my lunch or possibly part of my pre-ride peanut butter sandwich trying to keep up with the youngster: I have a “tasty” cough for the rest of the ride. On the way down 4th North in Bountiful I hit a new high speed two-wheeled record: 53.9, one guy hits 58.

Today I finally make it to a Saturday ride to round out my week and guess where we go? Yes, the Bountiful hills. High point (literally and figuratively): I out sprint the two fastest hill guys who had beaten me on the first hill to the highest point in the homes just south of Mueller park, right where I’d regurgitated my food on Tuesday. Low point: I’m almost immediately in trouble once we reach the flats—a skinny ass does nothing for one on the flats. After avoiding pulling (where one has to take on the wind plus keep up the pace) I finally take my turn. I know it will be a short one, but it's no turn at all: the 250lb (I kid not) 50 something guy who struggled some on the hills, moves to the left signaling he’s done pulling. At this point, after having had minutes of the best pull imaginable, I’m supposed to maintain the speed, allowing him to move to the back of the peloton. Instead, I can barely get a half a bike lead on him and within seconds he whips into the lead and embarrassingly takes the peloton around me to the left. When you see someone get passed on the left you can pretty much figure it’s over for them and it was for me. I make a weak attempt to catch on to the end of the peloton as it passes but it’s not happening. Now I face the last 10 miles of our 50 mile ride solo, riding in the wind and the threatening rain. I keep hoping someone will flat or miss a light; at one point I swear I see orange just up ahead (our new club colors) but it turns out to be an orange hazard cone, a mirage of the worst kind. I never catch up but I make it back home before the rain hits, just in time to sit out in the cold for an hour to watch my son play soccer.

While most BMCC members are training for some big event—LOTOJA (a 200 mile race), Sport Mt Bike weekend competition, Category road racing, week long tours—my goal for the year is to keep up on training rides without anymore tasty coughs. That’s about it and I’m fine with it--at least for now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Herpes Simplex of the mouth

Cold sores are a curse I have had since I was youngster.

My earliest memory of cold sore really getting in my way was at Junior Prom. Of all weekends to get a cold sore. Ironically, I’d gone skiing the weekend before with the same girlfriend—the wind and sun always brings them out on me. At prom, I was embarrassed but actually, if I'm honest, more concerned that we wouldn’t get in an hour or so of making out. Fortunately my girlfriend still gave me some lip time. I’m not sure if it was a huge sacrifice for her to kiss my blistered lips, but it sure made me feel better about myself.

As an adult I’m no longer embarrassed about a cold sore. I emotionally understand it doesn’t represent my worth in some way, though I’m still conscious that I have one and I notice that others are too. It’s hard not to notice. Even having been a consistent sufferer of cold sores, I still can’t quite keep my eyes off the broken out sore of others—it’s like a magnet. Maybe this goes back to some sort of deep seated evolutionary (I am biology boy) nervousness about disease. Or maybe it’s because cold sores are, they tell us, a type of herpes. They say it’s just the oral kind. Like that helps—we’ve smooshed oral/genital/sores together in one heap, certainly something one would stare at. Or maybe it’s about blemishes. We don’t like ‘em. As children we pounce on the kid with any type of sore or scar on their face . I remember a kid who had one corner of his mouth all messed up—they said he’d chewed on an electric cord when he was little. At least cold sores eventually go away.

Whatever the obsession might be, when someone notices a cold sore I sure wished they’d say something like: “Shit, that must be a painful sucker.” It would really clear the air. We both know it’s there so just acknowledge it, maybe express some sympathy, and move on. After you’ve acknowledged it, you won’t have to worry that you might be staring anymore—there’s apprehension now because the cold sore bearer knows you know.

I was quite relieved this morning, after a day of no comments yesterday, when my neighbor said, “Boy, big herpes.” Finally, a brave soul to soothe my tender feelings.

Escaping the grind for a moment

I haven't blogged for a bit...very busy and no blogging desire. Blogger blues.

I actually wrote a couple of short little things over the last few weeks but upon further consideration the writing felt lifelessly stupid.

I did mean to blog about the St George trip--we have some great photos--but I knew it would take time to do it right so I just didn't do it. I will say: good to get away with spouse sin hijos. Why we don't do this every year, I just don't know. I will also say that local St George stuff is overshadowed by big Zion stuff: Snow Canyon State Park, boulder hiking/hopping just north of St George, several great restaurants.

I . . . am . . . basically . . . stalling, writing in my blog in order to avoid writing evaluations of final projects to students.

Ok, must stop stalling, must read three more papers before I allow another break. No, not two, but three...must read three.