Hiking Boots Are For Sissies

Though we got a bit of a late start (by desert standards) and didn't get to the trailhead until 7:30 AM, we decided to tackle the most famous and popular hike in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch; when we arrived, the parking lot was already half full and there were a fair amount of people walking into the red rock desert . . . we were well-prepared for the heat and the slickrock, with our sun hats and hiking boots and plenty of water-- the hike is over three miles, with a strenuous steep ascent without much shade, but apparently-- if you're really tough and Asian and came by tour bus-- then you make the hike much more difficult by wearing completely inappropriate clothing and footwear; we saw Asian folks wearing heavy jackets, jeans, flip-flops, dress shoes, wedge heels, carrying umbrellas in one hand and cameras in the other . . . and despite these encumbrances, they moved along at a decent clip; in order to embrace this challenge and do America proud, I am going to do my next Arches hike in sandals, long underwear, sweatpants, and a sweat-shirt, while carrying a laptop computer and a lit sparkler . . . and I did harness my inner-Asian when I descended low on the slickrock bowl below the Arch to take a picture of my family-- my wife said I was making people nervous because I was close to the rim and not looking at my footing and she reminded me that many people fall while snapping pictures, a fact I did not know . . . anyway, despite the late start and the biting gnats that only swarmed Catherine (a very rare occurrence, according to the ranger) and the line of people waiting to get a picture inside the Arch, it was still beautiful at the top (and quite cool, I guess because of the shade, the desert, breeze, and the altitude) and it was a fast walk down (with an excellent side trail to see some petroglyphs) and then we stopped for lunch at The Moab Brewery, which now serves full strength beer . . . the last time Cat and I were there-- twenty years ago-- they only served 3.2 beer, so that's a major improvement, but we still heard the waiter give a long, apologetic explanation to the table next to us about why they couldn't order a flight of beer . . . in Utah, you can't order more than two drinks at a time-- even if they're just shot glasses of beer-- and the two drinks can't both be liquor drinks, so you can order a shot and a beer, but not two margaritas (according to this waiter, who sounded like he'd done this spiel a million times before) but he told them once they chugged their two shot glasses of beer, they could order two more . . . and then drive 80 mph to the next bar . . . and if you need more visuals to understand all this gibberish, head over to Captions of Cat.

Denver to Moab: Ice Your Beer!

Utah: the land where you can legally drive 80 mph, but you can't buy full strength beer in the grocery store (and after white-knuckling it along the scenic route into Moab-- Route 128, which is an incredibly scenic route, as there are no unsightly guardrails to ruin the views-- so after navigating that, I really wanted a cold beer . . . but the good stuff I bought in Colorado was warm, and the only full strength beer available in Moab was in the State Liquor Store . . . and they only sell that warm . . . warm? . . . and the stuff Cat bought in the supermarket in Utah was 3.2 . . . because that's how Utah supermarkets roll, and that information was extremely difficult to find on the label, so I did the usual stupidity and put some cans of warm Colorado beer in the freezer, then went to the pool, then came back and tried to pour a cold one, only to find it was frozen slush . . . so next time I'm coming through, I'll remember: ice your beer in Colorado if you want a cold one in Moab).

Things To Do in Boulder and Denver When You're Dead (Tired)

While the ride from Jersey to Boulder nearly killed me, I miraculously recovered-- I'm not dead yet!-- and did some things, such as:

1) catch up with Jason at his favorite beer and burger joint (Reuben's Burger Bistro) while watching the USMNT get annihilated by Argentina . . . I recommend the River Runners Pale Ale, the Escape to Colorado IPA, any of the Renegade beers, and some better goal side defending;

2) eat a gigantic breakfast burrito (the size of my thigh, Jason claimed) smothered in thick and delicious green chile sauce at Snooze an AM Eatery;

3) hike to the Royal Arch in Chautauqua Park . . . the view of Boulder through the arch is spectacular but the park is quite busy-- apparently no one in Boulder works, they just hike around (even if they're old or pregnant or have to carry a small child in a pack) and so I had to park down the road and hike to the park and the trail is steep and rocky in places, so I was sweating up a storm by the time I got to the top (because I overhydrated to deal with the altitude and so I had plenty of liquid in me to sweat out) but I did NOT get a high-altitude headache-- I'm getting smarter about this: I took it easy the night before, only drank four beers at Reuben's, and then drank plenty of water during the hike-- despite this my legs felt like jelly on the way down;

4) drink a few Norns Roggenbier at the Fate Company in Boulder-- good stuff;

5) wander around the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge before and after I picked up my wife and kids at the Denver airport . . . Ian caught a toad, we all saw lots of prairie dogs, and the jackrabbits and the buffalo roamed;

6) enjoy the Denver Art Museum and the food truck festival just outside;

7) sample the rattlesnake/pheasant, buffalo, boar, and beef wrapped in bacon dogs at Jim's Biker Bar;

8) reference a '90's noir movie that I barely remember . . . stay tuned for a Red Rock West allusion!

President Obama! Explain this Political Policy Paradox!

President Obama has been pushing for new regulations on the payday loan industry, and has spoken out very clearly against predatory lending: "If you're making a profit by trapping hardworking Americans in a vicious cycle of debt, then you need to find a new way of doing business," but -- ironically-- one of his policies has caused people struggling financially to take out a similar loan . . . in order to "rent" tires . . . because the price of tires has increased enormously due to a 35% punitive tariff President Obama placed on Chinese tires, which were flooding the market and driving down prices (you can learn all about this by listening to Planet Money Episode 467: Tires, Taxes, and the Grizz) but the long and short of it is that the United Steelworkers Union lobbied for the tariff, and Obama proudly saved 1200 US jobs in the tire industry, but Planet Money figures that it would have cost 48 million dollars to pay those workers, but the tire tax is costing US citizens 1.1 billion dollars in tire costs, thus people can't afford tires and so are "renting" them from predatory lenders, being trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, and paying much much more for their tires than they would have if Obama would not have intervened . . . and so I wonder if the President is aware of this irony-- he's a smart guy-- and just has to live with the awareness, because saving jobs and catering to special interest groups is a part of politics, or if he doesn't realize the paradox in his policy and see that he's created the exact situation he has tried to eradicate . . . someone pass this post to him, and he can defend himself in the comments (but you better watch out for zman, Mr. President, his comments are incisive and funny and might be the end of you).

Topeka to Boulder . . . Not as Close as It Looks on the Map

I made it to Boulder and it's beautiful (but quite hot) but I nearly lost my mind in Kansas . . . and if you're a fan of Sentence of Dave, then you'll really appreciate this-- I got incredibly pissed off TWICE, once on each leg of my journey, each time when I realized I had an hour more to drive than I thought because of the time change (I hate time changes) as I was relying on the GPS, which based its ETA on adjusted time (and so I got pissed off at Central and Mountain time, respectively) and I also learned that listening to stand-up comedy album after stand-up comedy album, one after another, each angrier and edgier and more political and weird than the last, is a great way to stay alert, but also a recipe for going crazy, podcasts are a lot more mellow . . . anyway, here's how I killed eight hours yesterday:

1) Patton Oswalt Feelin' Kinda Patton;

2) Slanted and Enchanted Pavement;

3) Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots The Flaming Lips;

4) No Respect Rodney Dangerfield;

5) Fashion Nugget Cake;

6) Funkadelic America Eats Its Young;

7) Shame-Based Man Bruce McCulloch;

8) Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club;

9) Rant in E-Minor Bill Hicks;

10) Born to Run Bruce Springsteen . . . of course;

11) Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything;

12) The Test, episodes 34 and 37 . . .

and, yes-- I know it is narcissistic and absurd to listen to your  own podcast-- but I was really losing my mind and it was nice to hear the sound of my own voice, interacting normally with other people and here's a few things I chose not to do: I did NOT stop at Eisenhower's Boyhood Home and Library, nor did I care to take a gander at the World's Largest Czech Egg or the Kansas Auto Racing Museum . . . maybe next time, when I'm in a self-driving car, I'll have the robot driver pull over so I can check out the Czech egg.

Cross Country Again: Jersey to Pittsburgh to Topeka

I have driven out West five times now; once with my buddy John-- we made it all the way to Montana before I blew four of the engine rods of his Jeep Wagoneer-- and once with Catherine, we took the Jeep all the way to the Grand Canyon, and once with Whitney-- we lost our minds in Kansas but finally did make it to Boulder-- and once with the entire family, again to Montana, and now this time-- alone-- and I've made it Topeka (the family is flying in to Denver on Thursday morning) and I'm not doing this again until we have self-driving cars . . . but while it was a long way, I had a great pit stop at John's place in Pittsburgh and watched the NBA finals and I had far more to listen to than on the previous trips; I don't remember what John and I listened to in the Wagoneer, but I had to take the bus home (John and Ryan abandoned me and flew, but I didn't want to spend the money) and all I had were two cassettes -- Dead Letter Office by R.E.M. and The Velvet Underground & Nico-- and a yellow walkman, so I listened to those over and over . . . with Catherine I guess we listened to CD's and talked (this was the mid '90's) and I don't remember what Whitney and I listened to because we mainly played stupid games, including drafting bizarre "Olympic" teams from among our fraternity brothers-- the events were darts and pool and such-- and these teams offended a lot of people once we arrived in Colorado (plus we were very very hungover, so if we listened to anything it was at a low volume) and our family trip two years ago we were stocked digitally and listened to plenty of podcasts, including Professor Blastoff and This American Life . . . for this trip I have a smartphone loaded with stuff, and so here is an incomplete list, for posterity, of how I killed twenty hours alone, driving from Jersey to Topeka:

1) Squarepusher Go Plastic-- yikes, like being inside a broken computer;

2) Slate Money;

3) Paul F Tompkins Impersonal;

4) Norm Macdonald Me Doing Standup;

5) Wilco Summerteeth;

6) Beck Odelay;

7) The Grateful Dead Live/ Dead;

8) Jimmy Smith All the Way;

9) Shut Up You Fucking Baby David Cross;

10) Maria Bamford Ask Me About My New God;

11) The Replacements Tim;

12) Chris Rock Never Scared;

13) Christopher Titus Norman Rockwell is Burning;

14) several episodes of Planet Money;

15) several episodes of Vox's The Weeds;

16) an episode of Invisibilia;

17) some Rush Limbaugh . . . when discussing the Orlando alligator incident, he claimed that "animals don't think" and "alligators don't think" and "your dog doesn't think," which flies in the face of all current research, and then he ranted about how there is no gun show loophole and that the Obama administration is redacting the fact that the Orlando shooting was connected to Islamic terrorism because the administration doesn't want to offend Muslims;

18) Husker Du New Day Rising;

19) a fantastic episode of This American Life: Tell Me I'm Fat;

in other notes, I did NOT stop at "The World's Largest Wind Chime" and I had a delicious burger and two local pints of beer at Henry T's in Topeka.

The Test 54: Name That Comic

This week on The Test, Stacey demonstrates her uncanny ability to recognize stand-up comics by voice alone . . . Cunningham claims to have the same ability, but you'll have to be the judge on her uncanniness; I provide the clips, see if you can identify the comic and theme (and, most importantly, see if you can keep up with Stacey).

Sucking It Forward

In preparation for our cross country trip, I took the van to Glow Express Car Wash on Route 27 in Edison, so I could vacuum all the dirt, leaves, sand, turf pellets, and garbage from the floor and the mats (as we would be tracking in new and exotic dirt, leaves, sand, and garbage on our trip and I didn't want the fancy new vacation debris to get confused with the old Jersey debris) and I pulled in front of the second vacuum on the right of the dumpster (this is important) and inserted four quarters and the vacuum was totally lame, barely any sucking power, a waste of a dollar . . . but I sucked up what I could and then switched to the vacuum directly to the right of the dumpster and this is the vacuum you want, it's a beast (at one point, when I slung it over my shoulder so I could proceed to the next section of the car, it attached itself to my back, like a giant sucking python, and I had trouble removing it from my shirt) and then as I was pulling out, job completed, a woman was pulling in front of the lame vacuum, and instead of letting her suffer the way I did, I opened my window and told her the deal and she thanked me profusely and that was my good deed for the day.

Fantastic Moments in Coaching Part 1

Last night, we ran travel soccer tryouts for the U-9 kids, and I was in charge of organizing the drills and games; I had lots of help though-- several other coaches and some youngsters-- and things were going smoothly, until I asked the twenty-one first and second graders to form a circle inside a big square made of cones . . . apparently, little kids CANNOT organize themselves into a circle: they kept getting into a weird lumpy line and then I would say, "That's a line! Not a circle!" and then they would bunch into the corner of the square (as far away from me as possible) and I was trying to send kids to either side and then have the rest fill-in and the other coaches were helping and the kid-assistants were trying to help, but they were laughing so hard they weren't of much use and finally a mom stepped in-- thank God-- and had them all hold hands, so that they formed a ring, and then they all took two giant steps back and we did the drill (which was a mess, and it works great with kids a little bit older) and when I told my wife, who teaches elementary school, she said that it's developmental, little kids can't make a circle until they get to fourth grade . . . and sometimes, they have trouble beyond that: as evidenced by this this fantastic moment in teaching.

5 Soccer Games and a Wake

I apologize in advance for being a one-upper, but I definitely one-upped Four Weddings and a Funeral yesterday: I watched five soccer matches and attended a wake . . .

1) at 9 AM, while entering grades and checking email, I watched England vs. Wales . . . I was rooting for Wales-- I love to see England choke in these big tournaments-- and England won 2-1;

2) at noon, while eating a delicious five dollar lunch special (chicken cheesesteak) at The General Saloon, I watched Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland, and I was rooting for the Ukraine, in honor of my buddy Roman . . . and the Ukraine lost;

3) we then attended my friend, co-worker, and podcasting partner Stacey's father-in-law's wake;

4) at 3 PM, while I was getting my kids ready for my son's travel team semi-final game, we watched Poland tie Germany . . . I was rooting for Poland, of course . . . no one but the Germans root for Germany;

5) at 6 PM, I watched my son's semi-final game . . . they had a heroic win against a better team in the quarter finals, and they went up 1-0 on this team, who didn't look quite as skillful but was more organized, and my son's team eventually lost 2-1 . . . and I was rooting for my son's team, of course, so that was the toughest loss of the day;

6) at 9:30 PM, I watched the US beat Ecuador, and I couldn't lose because I was rooting for both sides, as I'm a US citizen of course, but I have some Ecuadorian players on my soccer team who were decked out in full Ecuador gear at my son's game and I'm a big fan of the Galapagos Islands . . . so a 2-1 US win in a fast-paced game was all I could ask for . . . and, as a bonus, before and during the game we listened to Phil, who is a soccer guy, sing and play music on his guitar and they set up cornhole in the back room of Pino's, so it was an excellent end to a soccer-filled day of mindless rooting, which was briefly interrupted by a reminder of our ephemeral mortality.

I'm NOT a Robot!

Is the only difference between humans and robots the ability to recognize noodles?

The Test 53: Last Words

This week on The Test, Cunningham knocks it out of the park with a fantastic quiz on famous last words from literature-- not only are her excerpts well-chosen, but she pronounces them trippingly on the tongue . . . until number seven, that's when things get weird; as a bonus, Stacey explains why she couldn't name her dog Walter White, Cunningham is right again, Dave explains the difference between white power and white powers, and Stacey's eyes get mad at her brain . . . this one is a classic, check it out, keep score, and see if you know your ass from your Waymunding.

Teach Your Children (to swim) Well

Politically and diplomatically, the word is doing a much better job addressing the looming threat of global climate change-- cheers for humans-- but, unfortunately, we may be past the point of no return, and the mainly self-enforced emissions regulations countries are placing on themselves are probably a drop in the bucket . . . this isn't one of those catastrophes like a pandemic, where if you get the vaccine to half the people then you save half the people-- which isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing . . . but with global warming, if the ice melts-- and it's melting-- then there's not much you can do to reverse that . . . so while you should find inspiration and solace in the cooperative spirit of mankind, you'd also better check the elevation of your house; I live right next to a floodplain: best case scenario, I'll have a fishing dock off my back porch (and possibly a great view of the park, if the house just below me gets flooded out . . . not that I'm rooting for this to occur, but if we're already past the point of no return, then you've got to find the silver lining) and worse case we're completely swamped and get cholera from contaminated drinking water . . . anyway, we should probably let Donaldson Park return to being a wetland, so it can absorb some of this water (and the soccer fields are so awful that this would be no great loss) but I think we'll avoid doing radical things like this until it's too late, because that's just the way people the American people operate (or at least according to Winston Churchill, who famously said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing-- after they've tried everything else . . .  Hurricane Sandy wiped out the Jersey Shore and people went and rebuilt their houses-- with government and insurance money-- right back in the same places, hoping they won't have to do it again in their lifetime) and while we may eventually use a fairly simple and sound Carbon Emission Tax, which I learned about while listening to this 2013 Planet Money podcast, but we probably won't do that until things get really dire, and by then most of the readers of this blog will be old or dead, and it's fine if our grandkids have to deal with the problem, in fact, I've heard that a bit of flooding builds character, which is just what our robot-reliant  grandkids will need in spades.

Keeping It Real (Literal)

On Saturday, my son twelve year old son was on the phone with Catherine and I was in the kitchen, and we were ironing out lunch plans-- either I was going to cook something or Catherine was going to pick something up on her way home-- and it was one of those awkward, ugly attempts at communication: Alex was talking on the phone and I was trying to follow the conversation from my end, but only hearing one side of it, and so I was yelling things to Alex so that he could convey them to Catherine, and finally, I needed some logistical information so I could figure out the options-- and I should point out that my son Alex is a smart kid-- and I asked him-- "Where is mommy right now?" and he replied, "On the phone!"

I Know What Google Wants (But They Know I Know)

According to Laszlo Bock, Google's Senior Vice-President of People Operations, if you are being interviewed by Google and the interviewer asks you to rate yourself as a software engineer on a scale of one to five, with five being the  highest, and you are a man, then the answer that correlates with the most success at the company is "four" and if you are a woman, then the answer that correlates with the most success is "five," and this is probably because men tend to overrate their abilities, and so a man with some intellectual humility and an attitude that he can grow to be better tends to work out well, and since women are generally more accurate when they reflect on themselves and not usually as confident about their abilities as men, then a woman who rates herself as a "five" is probably not only very skilled but also quite self-assured, and this has worked out well for Google . . . but now this information is out in the world (like the classic "old school" Google interview questions such as: why are manhole covers round?) and so Google knows that I know these numbers, and I know that they know that I know, and so this is how I am going to proceed:

1) I'm going to learn some software engineering skills, enough so that I'm a "three" on the scale;

2) this actually means I'm a "two" on the scale since I'm a man and I tend to overrate myself;

3) judging by how I did in my 8 AM PASCAL class in college (D) and my wife's analysis of me: "you have a huge ego, your self-esteem is out of control, and you think you can do anything," I would probably be over-estimating significantly and I'd actually be a "one" on the scale;

4) then before my interview I'm going to dress as a woman, and wear a long-chestnut colored wig, so that I'll look like a female version of Brad Pitt . . . very beautiful, but also a bit manly;

5) and, during the interview, I will rate myself a four and a half, which is the perfect rating for a gender-bending female/male Brad Pitt look-alike and I will definitely get hired, and while my lack of coding skills will soon be discovered, there's no way Google is going to fire a transgender Brad Pitt look-alike, and so my job security will be insured, until I quit and write my tell-all memoir . . .

6) unfortunately, now Google knows this plan, so I'm going to have to do the exact opposite . . . or am I?

The Chinese Curse, American Style

If you want to hear some scary political stuff, listen to Dan Carlin's new episode of Common Sense: Disengaging the Lizard Brain . . . he wonders if our country needs a post-civil-war style reconstruction to assuage the absolute hatred in our country between liberals and conservative, and he doubts the country can proceed forward without doing something about this antipathy . . . both of our presumptive presidential candidates are regarded as loathsome by their detractors-- and this hatred isn't restricted to those of the opposite party-- there are plenty of Democrats who won't vote for Clinton, and plenty of Republicans who won't vote for Trump . . . and while I'm sure most of it is hyperbolic, there are a lot of people claiming they'd rather move to Canada then endure a Trump or Clinton rereign; Carlin wonders if it would be better to break America into five separate countries and let people go their separate ways, rather than continue in this manner; Ezra Klein, who hosts Vox's policy podcast The Weeds, has studied a corollary to this idea . . . his article "No one's less moderate than moderates" explains that the American moderate is "a statistical myth," and that people labeled moderate tend to have a diverse variety of extreme opinions-- some of the opinions may be to the left and some may be to the right-- but there's no moderation of thought and logic . . . we're talking about people who want legalization of recreational marijuana and want a much harsher immigration policy-- they aren't moderate in either opinion but the mean of the two categorizes them somewhere between liberal and conservative, and so Klein argues that when we say moderate we actually mean what corporations want, because corporations don't want radical changes in policy in any direction . . . and while it's best not to think about this stuff too hard, because if you do then you might begin to think our country is a powder keg, and that this presidential election might light the fuse, it did make me reflect differently on the tired cliche "America: Love it or Leave it," which I just saw written on the side of a landscaping company trailer which was parked on my block . . . "love it or leave it" is a either/or logical fallacy if I've ever heard one, and it makes no sense whatsoever . . . the phrase leaves no room for revision (although that's not particularly catchy . . . America: love it or revise your thoughts about much of our government policy and look for diplomatic solutions that will mollify the polarization between the political parties) and also presents an option that's damned close to begging the question . . . most American don't even have passports, let alone the ways and means to emigrate to another country.

Karate = Soccer?

If you're a good soccer player, does this qualify you as a black-belt?

Sketchy Samaritan

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking my dog and he pooped for a second time-- but I did not have a second bag-- and so I sheepishly left the poop where it lay, but I am a responsible dog-owner and I hate it when other people don't clean up after their dogs, so I made note of where I was: Third Avenue across from a brick building, I walked the dog home, and then I got on my bike (armed with a plastic poop bag) and rode my bike back to the scene of the misdemeanor . . . but there's a lot of brick buildings on Third Avenue and I didn't take exact note of the cross street nor did I register exactly where he pooped . . . so I parked my bike against a tree and began my quest for poop . . . and while I knew I was doing the right thing, and I knew I was being a good person, I certainly don't think it appeared that way to the people walking and driving past . . . in fact, I think I looked downright weird, plastic bag open, searching the ground from corner to corner . . . and so from here on in, I'm always going to carry two bags when I walk the dog (a lesson I should have learned long ago).

I Did Not Receive a Tip

My son was begging me to shave his head for over a week, and-- from my (rather limited) understanding, my wife gave me no clear indication that I wasn't supposed to shave his head-- and I'm fairly sure that everyone in my family knew that I had no experience in the tonsorial arts-- but when I was getting out the scissors and the electric razor, no one told me explicitly to stop, and my son was quite pleased that I was taking the time to buzz him: so first I chopped off some of his hair with a pair of kitchen scissors, and then I shaved his head, and I honestly thought I did a pretty good job on the back and around the ears . . . but now my wife is mad at me because "it's too short" and makes our son "look like a skinhead" and I'll admit it's a little ragged and a bit uneven, and it is shorter than I intended . . . but what did she expect?

Turn the Dial and Lose That Smile

If you've got Netflix and you've been overly sanguine lately, and you're looking to a way to quell your cheerful alacrity, I suggest Happy Valley (irony!) if you want to be scared, anxious, and depressed for twelve episodes and Short Term 12 if you want to be scared, anxious and depressed for ninety minutes . . . both are visually compelling, well-structured, and emotionally exhausting . . . and don't let them fool you, they both start with relatively humorous scenes, but it's a trap!
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.