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Showing posts from 2010

Eulogy for Billie Meyer

This is sort of an internal thing. I was asked to speak for our family at my Grandmother's memorial. This is roughly what I said.

This is hard. This is hard for several reasons. It’s hard because Billie Meyer was so many things to all of us. And though I should speak of her life, and what she meant to us, I can only speak about the Grandmother I knew and I apologize for that. It’s impossible to say something that could in any way sum up the collective experience of the life we shared with her.

This is hard because I have trouble seeing my Grandmother as anything but my Grandmother so I'm afraid this is rather family-centric which is unfair to her friends new and old. Those she was a second mother to, those who cared for her as she grew older and those she regularly crushed at bridge.

This is also hard because I’m finding it very difficult to let her go. That may seem strange considering she lived 99 astonishingly healthy years, a full life by any measure, and all of us unders…

Bille Meyer

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Yesterday evening my grandmother passed away. She was 99. She had a bad fall down her stairs and she just didn't have enough life left to get over the physical trauma. She had excellent care, she was not in pain and she didn't linger. She arrived at the hospital not understanding what the fuss was about, wanting to get home to watch the baseball game. When you're 99 you don't get to walk away from a fall down the stairs. She wouldn't have accepted that as a truism but swelling and bruising quickly set in and settled the argument of mortality.

The picture above is from about three weeks ago. She'd just finished a huge sloppy joe sandwich,  perhaps the cruelest sandwich to give to a centenarian. But she dispatched it with ease and here she's winding up to punish the desert case. She and I each ate a mini cheesecake. 

I can't help but think some part of her was thinking "that was a stupid way to cut my life short", but a far greater part of her …

On Being a Geek #heweb10

Some years ago, walking to lunch during a regional IT conference, I was complaining about something to my friend Renee. Her response was "You're a geek. Get over it". I think that was roughly when I left my arts past behind and embraced my new reality.

A decade down the road, being a geek has served me well. It's taken until now for my general contracting skills to decay to the point that I might hurt myself with a saw, but in those intervening years, I was able to build a bathroom with fixtures ordered online. I finally found a digital device that Carolyn bonded with. I've kept my employer happy and, in what may be my greatest moment as a geek, I managed to move an entire college into a content management system without their noticing.

As proud as I am of that, I'm not sure I qualify as a geek anymore. Maybe something like a geek ambassador. I've lived the life but now my home has no television and is heated with wood. I don't fawn over the latest iP…

My Hi Ed Web Family

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I'm ensconced in the exquisite art deco bar of the the Netherlands Hotel in Cincinnati on the last night of the High Ed Web Developers Conference. I was going to call it an early night but I wasn't quite ready to shut myself in my room. With something like 600 of us in this hotel, I don't feel slightly embarrassed to have the laptop open in the bar. Everyone else is doing it. It's sort of like a geek nudist colony where you can let your technology hang out instead of your privates. It's strangely liberating. You should try it.

For someone who makes their living on the web, I'm really kind of a Luddite these days. I still have a land line. We don't have television. I own a tractor. We heat our house with wood. I cringe at the advent of a new standard or media type that I'm going to have to pretend to understand. But 24 hours at this conference and I've fired up Tweetdeck again and I'm lurking on the backchannel and even occasionally tweeting as i…

Oakridge Fat55 - 55 Miles: Finally...

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This is a long post and a bit more self absorbed than usual but it's late, I'm in a hotel room in Cincinnati at a web developer's conference and I don't have anything else to do except blather at the screen.

Racing season is over and Fall is really coming down hard. But it finished with a great memory. For those inclined to skip to the end I'll tell you this: Oakridge does have awesome mountain bike trails. The people there are really, really friendly and support the sport, and it really does rain a butt load in Oregon.

Sometimes fate throws you a bone. I was reading Mike Ripley's blog wrapping up his season and he mentioned a couple of endurance races I had never heard of including the Oakridge Fat 55. I'd been spending a good deal of the summer grumpy because I got pulled from the TOE 50 at the cutoff and a little cheated that I didn't get to do a 50 mile race while I was 50 years old. I was so hung up on the TOE that it never occurred to me to …

Mt Ashland Hillclimb

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So anyone who looks at my Facebook profile noticed that my sister kicked my ass at the Mt Ashland Hillclimb last week. She really did. She beat me by 15 minutes. Think of the things you can do in 15 minutes. Get an oil change. Fall in love. Walk in to town. I mean, if you can't hold your breath that long, it's a long time.

For those of you who haven't done a hillclimb race, which I think is everybody else on the planet  but the 80 people who showed up for this one, it's a very pure, lovely sort of competition. There's little skill besides not falling over because you are moving so slowly at times. No tactics. It's all about fitness, endurance and pain management. It's about being as light as you can be on the way up. People ride the strangest bikes. I ride my 1987 Bridgestone with this nasty carbon fiber seat and titanium seatpost and handlebars. Gets the whole rig in around 24 lbs. My sister showed up on her Specialized Epic with a rigid front fork and rear…

The wheels keep turning..

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Last month I was blessed with one of those rides that just brings it all back to a good place. Our old friends Jim and Wendy stopped by for the night on the way back from vacation. They had been doing some riding in Bend and had their Felt mtn bikes with them so I suggested we go for a ride the next day down in Falls City at Black Rock. Black Rock is a freeride park filled with crazy jumps, stunts, skinnies and all sorts of features designed for riders who weren't in touch with their own mortality. With our combined age of around 150, you might wonder what we were doing there. You would be right to wonder.

On the other hand, there are definitely some perks to a place like this. It's all bikes. No hikers, no horses, no ATVs, no guns, no conflict,  just like-minded folks.  I've never been close to riding at the level this park demands but I've never been treated with anything but respect by other riders here. It's also totally in the shade. It's a lovely forest …

Pickett's Charge

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I don't think the Bauhaus had a fashion school. But if they did, I'm pretty sure their designs would have been slimming!

Sunday I poked Carolyn awake at 5am, handed her a travel mug of coffee and off we went over the Cascades to Bend for Pickett's Charge. Our charity ride went really well on Saturday and we had a fine evening with a bottle of prosecco and a light dinner, but neither of us slept well and my sunburn was worse than I thought. I was also hitting the bathroom more than usual. I was feeling sick. The symptoms seemed consistent with mild sun poisoning.

We found the Wanoga sno park, the new location for the race and Mallory and Joe's Westy parked in a minor sea of Westies. Mallory had a new bike for the race and she looked, well, different. A year and a half ago, she was terrified at the beginning of the Mt Ashland hill climb, her first race. Now, with several medals behind her and maybe 20 lbs lighter, she was in the mood to race. It got me thinking about rac…

One Big Weekend of Cycling

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Last weekend I was bound and determined to make up for getting pulled in the TOE 50. Saturday Carolyn and I did a 75 mile (actually 80 mile) charity ride for the Boys and Girls Club. Sunday I was going off to Bend to race Pickett's Charge and I was going to have fun. I was not going to push the outer edge of my fitness base. I was not going to push my bike through 50 miles of mud. I was not going to engage in one more exercise in humility. I was going to raise money for a good cause and have a good old time racing CAT III with people I might actually beat.

Saturday we loaded up the old bikes and headed for Willamette Mission Park for the start of the B&G ride. We used our iPhone maps to find the park. They told us it was in the middle of a field of hops in the middle of nowhere. Zillions of dollars of technology. GPS connections to satellites.  We're getting telemetry from military satellites and we still got lost! Give me a paper map any day.

We got there late, just in tim…

Epic Fail

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I've spent the last 24 hours thinking about racing, volunteers, failure, and the myth of coming in last.

For those who like to skip to the end - June 20th I did a 50 mile messy, dark, drizzly race and because of a breakdown in communication with the race director and the course marshals at the  lap point, I was pulled from the race by mistake. The marshal assuming I had missed the lap cutoff by three minutes didn't know the race started somewhere between five and ten minutes late so I was actually under the cutoff.

For those who want the backstory - Yesterday I entered the Test of Endurance 50 mile mountain bike race. This was one of those personal goal things. I knew I wouldn't do particularly well. I just wanted to finish, to prove I could do it. I'm 50. It was 50 miles. It was almost a year since my cancer surgery. Seemed a slam dunk for a symbolic personal victory. The race was two 25 mile laps with a four hour cutoff on the fist lap. The assumption is if you can&#…

Mudslinger

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I so suck at this.

To be fair, nobody is good at riding in this kind of mud. Well, those people who finished an hour ahead of me were probably pretty good. At least they were taking it less personally than I was.

The funny thing about mud is you need to go fast through it. "Speed is your friend" someone said at last year's Mudslinger. They were right. Forward momentum keeps you from sliding out. By speed they didn't mean walking.  It takes nerve that I seem to lack.

And so ended my first Cat II race. Dead last in my age bracket. Actually just dead last, or nearly so. I think a guy with a broken chain might have come in after me. I did finish, so I have that going for me.

The thing is, I decided I want to try and do the Test of Endurance 50 mile race at the end of June on these very same trails. I thought I should up my racing miles and this was an opportunity to gauge my average speed over 20 miles to see if I could make the four hour cut-off on the first lap of the …

Cooking and Eating

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On our arrival in Sicily, we seemed to be off everyone else's schedule. We kept arriving too early or too late for meals. The wonderful guy at the Palermo tourist office, the only bloody tourist office that was actually staffed in Sicily, as near as we could tell, gave us a couple of notes about eating in Sicily. Breakfast is light - usually espresso and a roll. Then there's a break around 11 a.m. for espresso at a local bar. Lunch is usually 1 p.m. and probably the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is late ( 8-9 p.m.). You show up for dinner at 6 p.m. and you are going to spend two and a half hours outside a locked door with a big neon "Loser Tourist" sign flashing over your head visible to everyone but you.


We cooked a fair amount on this trip. Dining out can be expensive, especially with our  tastes in wine. Since we had apartments with pretty well equipped kitchens, it was pretty easy to dine in. There are some trade offs cooking for yourself. You don'…

The Dead

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A couple of years into our one night stand, I learned that Carolyn had a high tolerance for gore. I also learned she liked cigars (oh yes, if you're a man, I'm living your fantasy), but that's another story.  I knew I found my life partner when she went off at length on why "Hellraiser" was better than "Hellraiser II". To this day, we pull out "Army of Darkness" or  the Dark Castle remake of "House on Haunted Hill" when we need to feel the love. Mind you, it's a certain style of horror that works for us. We like horror that follows certain rules and delivers a certain moral lesson. It's alright for someone to get their head sawed off, so long as they deserved to have their head sawed off.

So it was no surprise that one of our first scenic stops in Palermo was the Capucin crypt to view the thousands of mummified bodies arrayed there. This wasn't our first crypt. In 2006 we visited the Capucin crypt in Rome beneath the chur…

Driving and Crying

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We circumnavigated Sicily by car going counter-clockwise. The theory was we would lose less time transferring between train or bus stations and having the car to stash things in would save our backs. We'd also have more flexibility to make spontaneous changes to our itinerary.

It kind of worked. I suppose the aspect of our plan we didn't really think through was - in order to drive around Sicily, we actually had to drive around Sicily. This means engaging with Italian road culture which has more in common with a first person shooter video game than what most Americans would recognize as driving. If I can impress any single thing on you with regards to driving in Italy, it would be that the rules of the road - all the rules of the road - are like the Pirates Code: they're more like guidelines. Speed limits? How fast does your car go? Lanes? What's the point? Turn signals? Just leave them on, eventually you're going to do something.  Stop signs? AH HA HA HA!

I should…

Peter Thomas

I'm supposed to be telling you about our trip but I had to stop for a moment. Peter Thomas passed away a few weeks ago and he's being remembered today in Ashland. He died of cancer. A very obscure liver cancer, I think. He was on his last legs before they figured out what was killing him.  He must have been about my age. He was the development director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's not cliche to say that theatre people take care of themselves in their own way. The remembering is more important  than the laying to rest for those of us who are or were in the business.

We were friends though not close ones, and it had been years since we spoke at length. He and Paul-James and I roomed together back in 1984. I was the straight one, though you couldn't tell by looking at me. I've been trying to find a picture of us but I don't have any. I'm so sorry. Eventually we all moved out and moved on.

Peter was much closer to my sister Mallory, who way back i…

Selinunte

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Selinunte is on the south coast of Sicily, maybe 40 Km west of Agrigento. Like most destinations on the island, getting to it is a run through pretty unremarkable country. We always think that beautiful destinations are like climbing mountains. The closer to your goal, the more beautiful the surroundings. The truth is, most of these places are surrounded by the unspeakably ugly, the byproduct of people profiting from beauty.

Selinunte is a long gone Greek city. A bitter rival of Segesta, the more photogenic ruin up north. You'd probably hate this place. The ruins themselves are pretty, um, ruinous. Close to the ground, shall we say. A couple of renovated temples, but mostly piles of bigger temples laid low by time, earthquakes and Saracens. Add to that, minimal services, bad lighting and a kind of seedy neglect and you have a recipe for a sad scenic destination. I can say with great certainty, it was our favorite stop in the Greek ruin department.

There's a joke about native Ne…

Palermo

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I don't want to give you the impression that Palermo is full of garbage. Wait... Yes I do. It is. Actually, much of urban Sicily is. Several odd things happened as our trip progressed. Our already tentative Italian got worse and we began to photograph the garbage we had been stepping around for two weeks.

On the one hand, it's horrible. It smells, it's ugly. It feeds rats. It means you have to walk in the street. On the other hand, you do feel like nobody is going out of their way to make the place look like something it isn't.  You know you are welcome in a home where people know you well enough to not bother vacuuming before you drop by. Or maybe they just don't care. Or maybe they do but the vacuum is broken. I think the last one is maybe closest to the truth in Sicily.

The problem has been around for quite awhile in parts of Italy where Camorra or Cosa Nostra have strong presences - mainly Naples, Southern Italy and Sicily. I found blog posts going back to 200…

Sicily

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We're back from Sicily. I had planned on blogging the trip as we went. Enough of our friends have traveled to Italy that a few might actually have kept up with our journey. Sadly, internet was a bit dodgy in most of the places we traveled. It was either not there at all, heavily secured, or unavailable even where access was advertised because every building in Sicily has 2' thick stone or concrete walls. Not a wifi friendly place.
It might be for the best. Honestly, as I look over our pictures and think about the trip, it comes off as rather repetitive. Temple, photo of the two of us taken with camera at arm's length, B&B room, Negronis, wine, repeat.

That's not to say the trip wasn't wonderful. It was. It was just... different. When you read about Sicily, you end up reading books that are long uncertain ruminations about what Sicily is. We know what Italy is: "Cradle of the Renaissance", "Seat of Imperial Roman Power", "Seat of Catholi…

Echo Oregon to Trapani Sicily - Funny sort of week...

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Last Saturday was the 2nd annual Echo Red to Red bike race. I decided to drag my flabby winter body out to the other side of the state to see how it felt to race again. The course is over high desert country up and down a low series of mesas on 17 miles of well maintained single track. Last year the race drew about 175 riders and was held about two weeks earlier. It was snowing coming into town but the freezing rain held off until the end of the race. Despite the weather, hypothermia, and nearly five hour drive, I loved it. The course totally thrashed everyone. I cramped up about a third of the way into the race and really struggled just to finish. It's one of the few races where I've felt like I just wanted to stop riding and rest.
This year race day was sunny and in the 60's. It felt great to leave the jackets, booties, wool hat and winter gloves behind. No really, I looked like Ralphie's brother Randy in "A Christmas Story" - I couldn't put my arms dow…

Back in the Saddle

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The downside to hijacking one's own blog to dwell on cancer is that, at a certain point, there's not much left to write about. There could be bad reasons for that - like you're dead. There could be good reasons too. The latter is certainly the case for me. My last appointment with my PA on December 11th went great. There was so little to go over we spent most of the appointment looking at pet pictures on each other's smart phones. My PA levels are undetectable which means the cancer is as gone as cancer gets. This is the dream outcome. I'm keenly aware of how lucky I am.

Ironically, I have two friends who have developed much more serious cancers in the last year. Both are blogging - All About Matt and Troy Hemmerling's Blog at CaringBridge. Both are excellent, informative reads and Matt and Troy could both could use all the good wishes you can give. My entire treatment was easier than any of the individual steps they've had to go through just to get ready …