Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Updates

Of course the night I sit down to post, HBO has an Edward Norton marathon on starting with my favourite: Fight Club. Isn't that how the Brits would spell it? Favourite? I've always liked how they do that. Labour. Be good to your neighbour. Especially if they're coloured.

Anyway, as I glance up to watch Jared Leto get pummeled like Ray Rice's wife (I need to pick on a different race I'm thinking from now on) I wanted to catch you up on everything.

First, Ash got LASIK. She'd been wanting it since before the wedding and although it cost us upwards of 5 grand...well...what's the point of having money in the bank if you ain't gonna spend it? Seriously, I want to know? I'm somewhat obsessive recently with making more money but wealth for wealths sake is pointless. Always save some (a lot) for a rainy day, but accumulation of unspent money just to watch it sit is damn right un-American I say! Doesn't stimulate the economy nor does it satisfy your consumer predilections. So I say go out there and spend some dollar bills. You'll feel better after.

Na, you'll probably just feel guilty. So don't. Although my theory is always make more not spend less...

Speaking of, I'm currently in an unexpected battle with my employer in my attempt to make more money. My boss and supervisor both recommend me for a promotion but an HR rep is thwarting the process as best as she can. Why? No idea. I have never met the person and she is presently making my life much more frustrating than it needs to be. I had to rewrite the position description of my job in order to classify for more pay, and even that didn't appease her. So I am exploring/exhausting all final options before I go all Tyler Durden on the agency. That was a joke.

We traveled to two weddings back to back. Please remind me to post some pictures in the comments and I will post some if you would like to see. The first was in Santa Maragarita Ranch which is just outside of San Luis Obispo. I had been there once before as a high school basketball player but never since. Awesome. Fucking Awesome. We immediately drove to the beach as soon as we flew in. Water was cold but I saw some seals swimming and figured sharks can't be too far off and you can never miss an opportunity to potentially get bit. Luckily for me I managed to stave off becoming a meal for the day and I soaked up the rays. We didn't have sunblock or towels or even a change of clothes. I like it sometimes that way. It's raw, pure, in-the-moment enjoyment. We get so caught up in preparation sometimes we lose sight of what's right in front of us. The waves, the smell of saltwater, the babes in bikinis and the soft sand strewn with seaweed.

The wedding was my cousin's. He is one of 8! It's my Pops' sister's kid. He is the youngest boy (age 37) and works as a screenwriter and actor/producer in Hollywood. She's an actress. Was a wonderful wedding inside of a barn on a ranch. Was fantastic to catch up with the entire fam. You'll definitely want to see some pics of that. We drove to Hearst castle during our stay which is straight out of Gatsby. Spectacular place I highly recommend visiting if ever in the area. I ran each day I was out there actually putting in 23 miles in 4 days which ain't bad.

The next weekend (last weekend) we drove up to Philadelphia. Another wonderful place. We left late Friday night and walked around downtown for an hour or so. It was cold! Our first taste of fall which is far and away my favorite season. The wedding was quite different juxtaposed to the previous weekend as this was a black tie only formal occasion. Most of the guests were doctors and lawyers. We were probably the poorest folks present! I sat next to an interesting kid who is finishing his PhD in Philosophy from Vanderbilt. His girlfriend is in Cornell Law School, eastern european descent. Very attractive.

Ash and I danced and chatted away with the rapacious vampire squids of the world who delight while the peasants down the same street beg on street corners for quarters. Sometimes feel like I'm trapped in Woody Allen's brain...so difficult to enjoy things with so much poverty around! What a wretched thing to think.

The wedding was great, they had a 9 member band and more food than you can imagine including a flambe station and tens of delectable appetizers. The next day we went to heaven on earth which is Reading Terminal Market. If you like food and you've never been you need to take the hajj. It's the mecca of food. An absolute must stop every time if you're in Philly. We did squeeze in one long run in Fairmount Park as well on a gorgeous morning.

Life here has been busy. Mostly b/c of the travel but also b/c I turned 29 (fuck...wow) last week and we've been celebrating and traveling. I need to get focused on my thesis before it's too late so hopefully writing tonight will light the kindle.

Baby bro is hanging in there. We hang out a couple times a week typically. I'm still kicking his ass in tennis but he is improving each time. Hope to post some pics so you remember what this handsome face looks like very soon. Til then. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Going Going Back Back to Cali

Pretty busy these days! Working on my thesis, working on a promotion at work, and traveling a ton!

California tomorrow morning early (San Luis Obispo) for 4 days, followed by Philadelphia next weekend. Both for weddings.

Promise to post more in the next few weeks. Lots to discuss in the world.

Hope you all waved your fucking flags today like obedient people. :). I did.

Til then. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

US Open Tennis


Watching Federer
 
When I played high school and college tennis, I was a bit of a hothead. I used to pump my chest and primal yell after points in some dramatic gesticular way to intimidate and/or distract my opponent. I conscientiously employed this as a strategy to win. Often, it worked. There were times that my opponent would complain to his coach or a line judge, but technically I wasn't breaking any rules and would often supress my gusto for a few games while I was being scrutinized only to revert back to my 'normal operative' state as soon as the glaring eyes left.
 
I wasn't a big pouter. I didn't throw my racket. In fact, I have never broken a racket (of which I am quite proud). I suppose the reason for my shouting was in order to compensate for my skill inadequacies I found it crafty to utilize any other tools at my disposal.
 
I also have an insane amount of testosterone pumping through my veins. Probably double what the average man has and there's actually some family genetic testing to vouch for that.
 
My answer was always, "You think I'm rough on the court...wait til you see me behind the wheel."
 
(Shaking my head) That is something that sorely needs reshaping, but that's another story.
 
We are what and who we are, are we not? As much as we try (and probably should) attempt to silence our obnoxious or unflattering qualities, they shine on. And the debate brews, should we censor ourselves or are we being inauthentic in so doing?
 
Either way, I've always admired Roger's inexpressive playing demeanor. Contrasted with Djokovic (the entertainer) or Nadal (the warrior) our favorite Swissman (Ashley's favorite player too) is unreadable. He would be one hell of a poker player. The most fun is to watch him perform without the score. Very hard to tell who's winning except for the fact that he seems to dominate most of the points.
 
Last night was a special treat. Although Federer appeared shaky at times, he did not for an instant allow his opponent to seize on it. He plowed on without neither applauding himself for his winners, nor hanging his head over unforced errors. The Swiss train runs on time, never early nor late. Never making excuses nor boasting.
 
In life in general, I channel this mentality and it serves me quite well. Ashley too. Things are never that amazing, but they're never that awful either. We are always somewhere in the middle. To some degree we may miss out on the euphoric highs, but we also don't experience the despondent lows. Relatively of course.
 
What I do find interesting on a sociological standpoint is how much awe and respect I have for Federer. Certainly it's because he's a magnificent tennis player and his lifetime achievements speak for themselves, but it is deeper than that. My reverance for him is such a stark contrast to how I used to play and feel while on the court. It's a version of the grass is greener on the other side.
 
Perhaps Federer wishes he had the vivacity of Nadal?
 
What do you think?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ferguson

Many of you know my history as a pacifist. I was a member (founder in some cases) of war protests for most of my late teen's and early 20's. I was dedicated too. Twice a week for an hour and a half. Around age 24 I stopped. Mostly because I moved to D.C. and protests here are quotidian and much larger than they were in Phoenix and San Diego or Colorado. Here, there's a protest every week by some politico, or some organization or another over some cause that we all should give a shit about. Like the environment. AIDS. Civil rights. Gay marriage. War.

I suppose it's the inverse of what I faced before I left. Before departing for DC I would often be the only one standing on the street corners. People were so unaccustomed to seeing a protestor that they'd appear confused or amused by my presence. It was typically a pleasant experience because of the attention I received. In Washington, we're so conditioned to seeing solicitors and/or protestors that we overlook them and simply walk right past most of the time. Myself included. Sigh. Loses its luster so to speak. 

In the household I live in now with my wife (and dog) we are very anti-authority, anti-cop, and anti-military. So in essence, not much has changed haha. What has changed, or waned more accurately, is our brio for discussing it or expressing our discontent. We do a nice job of commiserating over the daily political shitstorms on our dog walks at night. But that's generally the full extent. It's a play of solidarity and a salute to those who still do fight the good fight day in and day out (which my wife does to be fair). But life has a funny way of getting in the way and distracting you just enough to diminish your hope for revolution or change. 

I'd prefer to just eavesdrop and occassionaly chime in on one of the many brilliant minds I follow on Twitter and call it a night. Maybe watch a documentary or read a book. But for the most part I have become a casualty of society. I'm not complaining. At least, I don't think I am. 

I maintain a high quality lifestyle. I have a great little family and a nice ol' job and basically lead a fairly hedonistic life. In fact, that hedonism is itself a rejection of the Protestant-ethic our country was founded on. Suppose that's arguable, but in my acquiescence there remains some fire and nihilism. If that makes sense. 

Sort of (as always) taking a circuitous route to get to the point which is...you guessed it...Ferguson! 

My wife and I are both fairly heartened by the media coverage and disobedience we are seeing. The fight. The tweets. It seems that the hoi polloi are waking up a bit to what is a fairly mundane conversation in our household. People in authority (ab)use their power. The behavior of the cops and national guard is not surprising. At least it shouldn't be. They are trained in a certain method that is mechanical which intentionally separates the humanity that (hypothetically at least) unites us. It's a black/white world and that can be literal for some. 

That is not to say that all cops are bad people. Like most of us, they're just doing their job the best way they know how. They just picked a despicable line of work. And by executing the orders they're given they are often confined to react in a certain manner that forces them to bully/coerce/intimidate/murder etc.. A boxer is forced to punch. A dancer is forced to dance. And cops are forced to 'police'. 

Police are loved and feared because they control the weaponry and hold all the power. We are powerless in front of them and we know it. That's why these sustained protests and brazen defiance is so magnificent to watch. We're both sitting at home cheering, (hoping no more citizens get murdered). Some of them are fools and some are brave but they all seem to be outraged at the militarization of our nation and the reckless use of power and weaponry against others. 

It definitely brings back some nostalgia of college-era self and it feels pretty satisfying. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Scalping on the Weekends

Yesterday my brother and I drove up to Baltimore for the day. I looked into getting Orioles tickets online but couldn't find too many in our area. No worries. I've scalped many a ticket in my day and figured we could wait until the 2nd or 3rd inning and get great seats on the cheap.

Typically this is a simple and effective plan.

However, the weather was particularly nice and maybe the Cardinals have some marquee players, but for whatever reason the game was sold out. This makes a scalpers paradise. Except this time, they had the leverage, not the buyer.

After checking out the inner harbor (always a great place to stroll), we walked to Camden Yards and started negotiating. Haggling is a common process in Asia, Africa, and other regions of the world but highly uncommon in the U.S. Since Dylan and I travel frequently, we're used to bargaining on the cheap for products we want and know when to bite and when to be patient.

After spending 10-15 minutes seeing what the price tags were and weighing our options, we began the negotiation. We didn't want to spend more than 20-25 per ticket. Dylan wasn't overly keen on going to the game to begin with, but I do enjoy the experience of being a part of the action.

We turned down a couple of hustler's that were asking too much for nose bleed seats. No can do. They waved us off as cheap fucks but I knew we could get a better deal.

A few minutes later we came across a heavy-set dude who was perfect prey. We could tell he was exhausted and wanted to go home. This became even more apparent when he said, "Guys, I'm just tired and want to go home." What can I say, I can read 'em.

So we asked to see the goods. He had two face-value seats for 18 each and he wanted 40 for both. I said that's over face value and he said he had to pay a credit card fee. I rolled my eyes and dismissed that comment. Been there. Heard that. I was pretty persistent about getting both tickets for 20 bucks. The seats were terrible. It's basically just paying to get through the doors.

He walked off a few times in a huff, but his bluff was called because he had no other buyers. He finally relented begrudgingly and handed over the tickets for 20 bucks. Solid.

Dylan suggested we should re-scalp them. Great idea. He didn't even want to go to the game anyway.

So I started waving the tickets around (we're about to start the 3rd inning mind you) and had no luck initially. After 5 minutes we laughed and walked across the street to enter Camden. But one final glance back I spotted two fellas who were negotiating with a different scalper and shouted that I had better seats. I didn't. But they didn't know that.

Sure enough one guy come barreling over to see the goods. I told him I have two I'd sell at face value. 18 each. 35 for both. Apparently my math sucks.

Guy shrugs. Looks at Dylan and says, "Will you accept 30?"

I wasn't but Dylan nodded and I said okay and we scalped a 50% profit in about 6 minutes.

It was just a unique, interesting experience. Really great memory. I suppose my scalping (day-trading) is now translating into alternative venues! Crazy shit.

Dylan had never been to Bubba Gump shrimp so we walked over there, grabbed some beers and watched the game. Was really fun. The waitresses loved us and gave us free drinks and we played trivia. We then enjoyed the buskers and walked around this crazy convention (like ComicCon) that was there. Awesome time.

Friday we're heading down to Greenville, South Carolina. We'll spend two nights there, followed by one in Charlotte, NC. Very excited. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Carolina Dreamin'

So we've been talking. Ash and I. As much as we love this city; and its pitiable football team and its historically woeful basketball team and its parking lot of traffic and its astronomic cost of living, there is a chance we may move in the next couple years.

We've discussed moving south because Ash likes the warmth and I'm a diehard confederate so it satisfies both of our deep needs to express ourselves. Her, basking in the sunlight in a light sundress and me face over a musket barrel drinking moonshine while chewing tobacco. We all have our dreams.

For a long time we've considered the Virginia Beach area (so she wouldn't have to take another bar exam) or Williamsburg/Norfolk area. Even though I think I would enjoy all those areas, we realize the traffic is just as insufferable out there as it is here. Ash isn't as keen on it as I am. So I offered Richmond and/or Charlottesville. Richmond is a viable alternative but even I find it a bit quirky and probably will long for the metropolis that is Washington.

So we broadened our scope. And looked down the road a bit longer.

Greenville, SC has been getting a bunch of press lately as a hip, fun, high-quality place to live. For numerous reasons including great restaurants, trails, weather, quaint but also happening, etc. I'm still high on this idea, but since we haven't seen it yet the verdict is out.

Next weekend we're driving down to North Carolina. I have never been down except in and out of the airports so I'm pretty excited. I grew up cheering against both UNC and Duke (I'm a U of A Wildcat fan) basketball. We're gonna spend a couple nights in Charlotte and perhaps Raleigh as well.

It will be a great trip full of first-times that's for sure.

Last weekend I treated Ash for her birthday. We booked a room at the nicest hotel in the city down in National Harbor. She was treated to a Deluxe Manicure/Pedicure and we got tickets to Cirque Du Soleil Amaluna later in the night. Earlier in the day we ate at her favorite restaurant Founding Farmers and we finished the evening by riding the new ferris wheel that overlooks Alexandria, VA. It was quite the luxurious experience for the both of us.

Come to think of it...why do I want to leave here again?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

War and Punditry

10 days ago I watched the new Planet of the Apes movie in theaters. We strolled down to Georgetown to catch it, and while I was mostly underwhelmed, it did strike a chord with the carnage that's happening presently in Israel. 

**Disclaimer: I hate using the words 'they' and 'Israel' (as an example) instead of specific sources (in general). I think it's lazy and moreover, inaccurate. When I write 'they' or 'Israel' or other pronoun, I am referring to decision makers in the military/government. I do not pretend to include anyone more than those particular individual(s). And that goes with any other writing too. We should only attribute actions and statements to those who do and say them. No one else. Please keep in mind. It's important. 

Moving on....

I'm a long time fan of the Planet of the Apes series. Keeping with my general misanthropy, I enjoy cheering for the oppressed (Apes). A couple years ago, I rented all the classic versions in succession, and they are (for the most part) much better than the contemporary editions. The latest installment is the prelude to the mayhem. Minor spoiler alert: The crux of the film's impetus for war, is attributable to aberrant behavior by a very small minority. 

Fairly applicable to today, wouldn't you say? 

The kidnapping of three young Israelis and the retaliatory burning of a Palestinian teenager instigated the bloodshed that is now tallied at roughly 700 lives lost. 700. Wow. That's a big fucking number. It's not perhaps historically, or even in the context of war, but right now as we speak Israel is a war zone. 

My feelings are predictably mixed and complex. I am part Jewish. I have been to Israel due in whole part to the generosity of other Jews. I am married to a Jew. I've participated in the Maccabi Games for my state and was chosen to represent the USA. I've worked at a Jewish Community Center - so hopefully that gives you a general idea of my background framing this issue. 

Despite those connections, I am disgusted by Israel's wanton disregard for human life during the past few weeks. The civilian casualties discredit any argument for Israel's moral high ground. Not to mention, it discredits the notion that the intelligence and technology employed by the IDF is precise and unparalleled. If this is precision, than a junker car is a Tesla. 

Perhaps Israel would retain a shred of integrity if they were honest with the public regarding their mission. They claim to act in self-defense. But tanks on the ground and aerial bombing of schools and hospitals is what's reality. Intercepting missiles via Iron Dome is one thing. But the reckless mass slaughtering of children and women and others is despicable and makes it hard to sleep well at night. Especially when, like me, you have an affinity for Jewish culture and the people.  

While I'm not a game theorist, nor a 'realist', I could actually appreciate Israel's take on the situation if they were honest and transparent. If they came out and said that their goal is to cripple Hamas, show that their military strength knows no boundaries and to prove that they are willing to decimate land and people without pause, I'll tell you how I'd react. I'd be repulsed. I'd be upset. I'd be stricken by the lack of ethics and compassion. 

However, I'd at least philosophically understand that mission and viewpoint. I may not agree with it (I don't), but I can appreciate the honesty. But the wishy-washy statements I've read and the offensively defensive statements made are making it hard for people to view Israel as the 'Apes' in this scenario. 

Quite simply, they're not. 

I do not make excuses for Hamas' erratic statements either nor their lust for violence. They are despicable as well. The entire situation is tragic.

I suppose I just expect better from Israel. If not consistency and honesty, then how about actual humanity and ethics. For a people who suffered greatly over the past centuries, it's quite astounding how trivially they're approaching this war. 

And the media's portrayal has been just as awful. But that's another story...

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Decision Part II

Unless you've been locked in a closet the past few days, you know that Germany won the World Cup, Jews still hate Muslims, and LeBron chose to return to Cleveland. One of the three is more exciting than the others so I'm gonna focus on that today.

As you may know, I am one of LeBron James' biggest fans. He and I graduated from the same high school class, and although he diverted some of the coaches/scouts during our AAU games (shit our coach was lucky we didn't skip our own game to watch his), we all venerated the King. He put on a spectacular show in warm-ups that was astoundingly underwhelming compared to his in-game highlights. He's not just gifted and a hard worker, he's an entertainer who wants fans to enjoy the performance.

He also lent me a dollar during a tournament, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Anyway, I never felt the hostility others felt during the Decision Part I. Sure it was a bit pompous and dramatic but the dude is an entertainer and he did draw an audience. He came through and won championships as promised and got to four consecutive finals. He donated the money to charity from his TV interview, and took a pay cut to prove his dedication to winning.

Plus, it was the right decision for his family.

Of course the angry Ohio residents felt spurned. I would too perhaps. But the vitriol exceeded the 'crime' and the owner's public denunciation was egregiously distasteful and bitter. The burned jerseys were inexcusable. LeBron became the villian, even though that depiction was wholly unwarranted.

Instead, he went about his business. Lead his team to two championships and two MVP's.

Now, he returns to the town that excoriated him. That's the thing about LeBron I really admire. He is able to forgive. He is not the asshole that people want him to be a la Michael Jordan. He proves that you don't have to be a prick like Kobe Bryant to win. Teammates don't have to fear and cower at your presence. You can win AND be a good teammate. These concepts aren't mutually exclusive like the sports pundits and rabid fans prefer.

Now he will build a conteder with a new cast of supporters and the fairweather fans will be back cheering his every move. I will follow my affection for LeBron back to Cleveland as I would cheer for him if he signed to play in Brazil.

It's funny, loyalty is a very important virtue across the world. Every nation I visit patriotism is strong. People literally kill over soccer teams. People brand themselves for their fraternities. College alumni sport bumper stickers and t-shirts all the time.

For many reasons, I think this is dangerous and supress the urge to do so myself. But I understand why people do it from a socio-psychological perspective.

If LeBron began acting like an asshole and being the person fans want him to be, I don't know if my allegiance to him would remain. He would have to consistently demonstrate poor behavior in order for that to occur, but even if it happened, I doubt I'd allow my hostility to overtake my nature. I'd simply find someone more worthy of my time/appreciation and transfer it over.

There's a notion about love that is similar to my point here. My relationship is special with Ashley because I choose her. Not because we're rigidly loyal or inflexibly dogmatic. Our conscious decision to treat each other with love and respect day after day keeps us together. I do not retreat behind the laws that bind us together, nor the societal norms that put pressure on us to stay together. We will stay together (or we won't) based on our continued efforts and appreciation of one another. It's special because we choose it.

But when you're so intransigently loyal over a team/college/fraternity/etc... it is not a special bond. There are no qualifiers, unconditionality reigns.

Yet I can't help but wonder that perhaps we diminish the value of our bonds and affections when we so reflexively and flippanty assign them without any reflection.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Riding in the Rain

I've skipped the Arlington Hills Ride the past few weeks for a myriad of reasons. I was too tired. It was too hot. My brother was in town. Etc. But last night I convinced myself not to skip because I live so damn close now and it's ironic I would drive 30 minutes to ride it and when it's right outside my doorstep I will skip it. It's almost like paying homage to my younger self. Plus, I had to remind myself how much I enjoy the pain of climbing hills with unskilled riders such as myself. Carnage galore!

I was additionally motivated by the fact that the Tour de France (you're watching...right?!?!) passes over cobblestones today. In the rain. I read the pre-race report yesterday at work and I've been torturing Dylan and Ash with watching the coverage each night. It's only once a year and I love every second of it. Truly I do. No better time to ride your road bike than after watching night after night of the best riders in the world.

So last night I did a couple mile warm up on Pershing Drive to get the legs ready and the tailwind was incredible. It was propelling me forward up the slight hills at 25 mph. Well...good thing I was gonna be in a pain train (paceline) to protect me. By the time I reached the park where the ride starts, I noticed bikers were already rolling out. No police escort.

I glanced west and saw a doomsday view of deep blue and grey. Looked like we would be riding directly into the belly of the storm. The wind was fierce. One girl stopped riding after 20 meters because the wind nearly threw her from her bike. It was pushing men near 200 pounds around the road.

Surprisingly, most trudged onward. As we rode past Ballston, rider after rider dropped back. You didn't need to be a meteorologist to know things were going to get much, much worse. I debated it myself, but wanted to prove my toughness and kept up with the remainder of the disintegrating pack.

By the time we finished the first two hills on Military Road, there were only 10 riders remaining. Because I'm a bit heavy, they gapped me and with the wind not playing any favorites, I was left to ride alone on Glebe. At this point the wind relented some and the rain started pummeling the streets. It was fantastic. I mean that earnestly.

It has been so hot and sunny lately. What a wonderful repreive to be drenched and cooled by the hardest route in the area! I embraced the wet as my socks became soaked and shoes began to feel heavy to pedal. I was probably averaging 15 mph but I was in fucking heaven.

Granted, I was a bit nervous as the wind blew debris into the road and visibility was poor. I don't have reflectors on my bike and cars are often as unsteady as bikes in the rain so I was somewhat on edge while enjoying the beating the weather was serving.

I kepy thinking that within 5 minutes the sun would be back. 5 minutes passed. Another 5. Another. Instead, the rain came down even harder. It was pelting my skin.

I reached an intersection before a short, steep, climb and caught up to two men in their 30's. They said they were calling it a day and invited me to their place to wait out the rain. No thanks. I said as long as I don't fall, this couldn't be more fun for me.

I was lucky. There were a few corners I easily could have lost control and skidded out. But I took the downhills and turns slowly. No one was left. Not a single bike on the streets. Lightning began to strike nearby and the thunder was growling overhead.

I thought of myself like a soldier in a battlefield dodging bullets by averting the lightning. Probably in either case you need a bit of luck.

By the end of the ride, I was thrilled to not have crashed. My wife was admittingly upset that I continued to ride but it's something that I cannot really express to her for explanation. There are so many reasons and most are illogical/emotional/impulsive. They don't even make sense to me.

But I will say, that the grilled cheese and tomato soup that she made me once I came in the door never tasted more delectable. Wouldn't trade last night for a trip to Greece that's for sure.   

Monday, June 30, 2014

He's Heeeeeeeeerreeeeeee

Quick update about the You, Me, and Dupree situation. Friday afternoon around lunchtime, Dylan arrived. He drove from Colorado - poised to be an uneventful journey through middle America...welp....didn't go exactly as planned.

Pulling into Kansas City after a long day of driving, Dylan turned his head to check for hotels off the exit ramp and when his eyes glanced back at the road the cars in front of him were at a complete stop. He said the driver in front of him went from 60-70mph to 15 mph in an instant, and in order to avoid plowing into that car, he swerved right into the hazard lane. Unfortunately, he had his foot locked on the brake and his back wheels locked up. He said it felt like he was going to flip his Pathfinder.

He tried to correct, but control was lost and he smashed into another car whose driver had seen him coming and braced himself accordingly (thankfully). The car is totalled. Dylan's air bag did not deploy. He banged his knee, but other than that he escaped unscathed. The other driver was also unharmed. He must've hit the nicest dude in Kansas City, Dylan said. A mature gentleman in his early 60's, he actually physically moved Dylan's Nissan off to the side of the road in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

Ash and I were eating at Red Robin when this occurred. She had texted him a joke and he responded with, "I just totalled my car." We figured this was metaphorical. Kinda like when you type: ROFLMMFAO, you typically aren't literally rolling on the floor. Apparently the joke was on us.

Obviously, this has caused quite the stir in our family, and has set Dylan back a bit in his eastbound move. It took him a day to get an appraisal on the car and to track down a rental. He then drove the remainder of the trip, and as soon as he arrived had to return his rental and rent a storage unit (since he couldn't keep his belongings in his car as he planned). Thankfully, Dylan knows the storage industry quite well, and found a convenient, cheap place with ease.

Nevertheless, he is now carless as he searches for jobs and a place to live. Not exactly the prologue we were anticipating.

But he is here, and we had an excellent weekend together. The old married couple (Ash and I) even went out for a night on the town Saturday to show him around. We all had fun. We played tennis yesterday and Saturday, and he has been locked into his computer like a bee to the hive almost every other minute - scouring for jobs/apartments.

It's gonna be an interesting summer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Roommate??!!

It's possible that this week (or next) my brother will move in with Ashley and I. I've been persuading him to get out of Colorado (where he's unhappy) and to give the east coast a chance. He considered it for awhile, but it's only very recently where tangible steps materialized. He quit his job, applied for  new ones out here, and got his car worked on in preparation for an extended road trip. Each time I speak with him he reiterates his enthusiasm to give DC a shot.

Supposedly this is the week where ideas become reality.

My brother resides in a fairly typical post-graduation malaise. College years are some of the best of a person's life. Of course things are going to be difficult once you enter the 'real-world'. I always hated that term, 'the real-world' don't you? College is its own world, admittedly quite different than post-college, but still very real and challenging nevertheless. I believe college years are integral to our future success. During those years we develop the decision-making skills that end up defining what type of man or woman we'll become. It's like my Pops used to say, "The first half of your life you make your habits, the second half your habits make you."

This isn't true for everyone. But for the vast majority, the decisions made in college inform our future perceptions and the depth of our thinking. For example, although we may date losers during part of college, by the time our junior/senior year rolls around, we know more specifically what to search for in a partner. It may be glamorous to walk into a party with the sexiest girl on your arm, but that doesn't mean she makes a quality spouse or partner. This gets obvious pretty quickly.

Or we may forget what we learned in Art History at 7:35 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we will (if subconsciously) remember the dedication it took to study and ace the exams and to wake up in time to make it before the professor took attendance. The material may very well be irrelevant, but the process is not.

It is not 'what' you learned in college, but the intangible 'how you learned it'. This is especially true for liberal arts majors.

I'm a strong believer that previous suffering helps us endure and overcome future/present discomfort. There will always be times in our lives no matter how old we are, where we are depressed, stressed, or otherwise flustered. That is why I like to push my body to the limits in training. I like to know that when the going gets tough, I won't crumble. I like the assurance that I can tap into my reserves and beat any obstacle that presents itself. Some may not see the value or correlation between physical suffering and emotional/financial/familial stress, but I do.

There is a direct connection between the days I've inured through 12 mile runs in the heat with no water and the days where I face unrealted challenges with work/family/etc.

Much of it comes down to composure. How will I react when the going gets tough? Do I have the fortitude necessary to perservere?

There are times where I submit to the obstacles and throw my hands up in futility. I still have a lot more suffering to experience and a lot more to learn from those experiences. But I recognize that things will get better if I stick it out and refuse to panic.

Hopefully, I can instill some of that confidence to my brother. He will be a success. In fact he already is. He is a wonderful brother and an incredible friend. There is no impediment that he can't surpass, and if that means that his older brother has to remind him of that every single day, so be it.

Things will get cramped. There will be arguments. We will both be frustrated and upset at times. But the 'real-world' isn't always so bad either. 10 years from now I hope we can look back on this time together and appreciate how special it was. Here's hoping.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane knows humor. Family Guy, his brainchild, is one of the greatest TV shows in history. Peter Griffin is more (in)famous and renown around the country than Homer Simpson. That's pretty incredible if you think about that for a minute.

His movie Ted was an absolute riot. The premise centers on an (quasi) adult male whose best friend is a talking teddy bear. This particular teddy bear is about as warm and fuzzy as a cholla cactus. The protagonist's immaturity allows the plot and characters to develop as we see him (and the bear) progress into a more respectably refined duo more capable of saving the day than hell-bent on destroying it.

MacFarlane's latest foray features himself front and center...and so the agony begins.

A Million Ways fails miserably in just about every quantifiable category.

There are times when the audience is forced to laugh out of pity rather than indulgence. It's more like a million seconds of suffering and praying that things get funnier. (They don't)

It has potential. Especially for a viewer such as myself who grew up in Arizona and knows a handful of stories about the wild, wild, west where the film takes place. Unfortuantely, the highlights are exhausted in the trailer, and the numerous cameos in the periphery cannot counteract the gaping whole center stage. I am not piling on the bandwagon that MacFarlane is a bad actor. I agree with the assessment, but I don't think that's the glaring issue.

The jokes he delivers are so poorly constructed and eager to please that it detracts from MacFarlane's greatest talent. He (his characters) are funniest when they're relaxed, unfilitered, and in their natural element. The best lines in Family Guy are in the midst of conversation when you have to actually pause for a split-second and realize how fucking hilarious that joke just was. The line is delivered with such organic cadence and insouciance that the viewer doesn't realize it's a joke immediately.  

Additionally, the exaggeration and length of some of the scenes in Family Guy are often its shining moments (Fight w/ rooster, banging of the knee - owwwwww, and the ensemble musical portions like Teri Schiavo). To be fair, the best scene in A Million Ways also taps into MacFarlane's knack of incorporating song and dance. The "Moustache Song" is genuinely funny and original. Other highlights include pointing out the ridiculousness in certain antiquated practices (posing for photos - especially in the era of selfies), irony (Sarah Silverman's relationships), and Charlize Theron...whose character is the real reason the audience stays vested (or at least seated for the duration of the film).

Other than a few minor chuckles in between...that's about all you're gonna get.

The cameos can't save this film from cheap, lewd jokes that don't resonate nearly as strongly as the depth MacFarlane's capable of. At one point I turned to my wife and said, "Do you think Seth made this movie solely so he could kiss Charlize Theron?"

I still don't have an asnwer to that. And if you see it, you'll be left wondering the same thing.

 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfect Salary

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am fully immersed in the study of personal finance and gobble up any and all insight into the field. Pops and I discuss investing strategies for hours, and even my brother is moderately obsessed. It's a bit of a flaw or quirk to my family. Like many other endeavors, once I commit myself I go full-on, head first, to a point of obsession. Triathlon is a great example. After 3 years of harnessed focus, I finally let myself take a break and am actually enjoying my low-stress training this year. I still love the sport and I will compete again (likely next season).

Probably the same thing will happen once I've exhausted the most valuable resources of finance and acquired a broad knowledge base. However, ignoring finance is arguably an egregious error, while suspending triathlon training probably isn't. Regardless, many of my readers perhaps are uninterested with the nitty-gritty so let's dive into a broad topic. Salary. Or income. That should interest everyone. Plus, as usual, I solicit your opinion.

Many studies have saught to discover the 'perfect' salary. How much is the ideal amount of money to earn each year? We can all agree that two ends of the spectrum offer a starting ground to ascertain this elusive number. Clearly we don't want to live near the poverty level (or really anywhere close to it). Even fairly altruistic saps like Peter Singer do not subject themselves to the misery of destitude. Charity starts at home, right?

On the other end, as highlighted in the media and most recently through Thomas Piketty's book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," is the uber-wealthy. The 1%ers or even the half of 1%ers. Perhaps that is too much money and comes with a slew of stress and problems. (The least of which is public outrage).

So somewhere in between is this magical area of contentment.

The most recent colloquial attempt link based on surveys found that 75k is the ideal amount. Here is a direct quote: "The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness."

Interesting. Wouldn't you be happier with 100k, or 125k? Or would that extra money bring extra challenges and stress. Bigger houses mean higher property taxes, require more furnishings, and demand more maintenence and repair. Is there a point of diminishing returns?

I should specify that this number is for US residents. I imagine in many other parts of the world 75k would go a hell of a lot further.

To me, it all depends on your goals, priorities, interests, and long-term plans. And clearly those are quite personal. If you love to ski and take trips to South Africa each summer, than you probably need to generate substantial income to afford those excursions. Likewise if you're afraid of flying, love your house that is paid off, and enjoy biking around your town and living modestly, then you require a whole lot less each year. Also, varies depending on if you have children and what age they are, if you're collecting Social Security and/or Medicare, where you live, etc.

We're all at different stages of our lives.

As a young man who has yet to fully form his family, money is increasingly important to me. As I've discussed with my wife, earning 200k per year is near the 'perfect' amount for the metro DC area. We would certainly enjoy more, (she would be content with less) yet we believe that if we chased more money it would detract from our primary focus and standard of living. For example, there's no doubt that she and I are capable of obtaining that amount. However, we would sacrifice time exercising, walking Leroy, trips on the weekends, and nightly dinners to spend more time in the office. Wouldn't be worth it to us.

However, we may very well be content with half that amount if, as I hope we do, move to a less expensive area where the cost of living is significantly cheaper. Also, we probably wouldn't have to work as hard to maintain that same freedom and utilize our most prized asset...our time.

Seems the most important thing (especially if you're married) is to have open and honest dialogue on the subject. Money can tear people apart. However, it's also true that it can bring couples together when they chase a common goal. We'll never be entirely on the same page, but we can try to get close...just as we can try to attain that mysterious number for our personal contentness.

Question I have for you: What is your ideal amount in your life stage/area. Why? And what impediments do you face either obtaining your financial goals or solidifying them?

As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Buddy Featured in the Washington Post

My friend and his wife were featured in the On Love section of the Washington Post today. Ash and I were featured a bit over two months ago if you remember. Great article and it's a nice recap of their journey. They live in D.C. in Burlieth (north of Georgetown). Their wedding was awesome. There were so many familiar faces to catch up with and new ones to meet.

Check it out - http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/on-love-rose-overbey-and-peter-silva/2014/06/05/69ef1e00-eb3a-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

His brother is a good friend of mine as well. An Ironman triathlete matter of fact... enjoy. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dog Co-Op featured in WSJ's Market Watch

Cool stuff. The dog co-op I founded last year at our complex got some MAJOR press this weekend. Our commander-in-chief somehow promoted the story to the Wall Street Journal and she talked about our group. We were joking outside yesterday that my new job should be like a 'Fight Club' promoter where I fly around the country setting up dog co-op chapters in each city.

I'm pretty stoked about it, check it out here - http://www.marketwatch.com/story/4-ways-to-plan-your-dogs-summer-vacation-2014-05-22

Monday, June 2, 2014

2nd Post of the Day (On Brokerages)

Here's a finance article I wrote:


Tired of Fees? It pays to shop around

No matter how much money is in your account(s), or how infrequently you trade, pesky commission fees are always unwelcome. They eat away at our proceeds and in some instances, discourage trading in the first place. For a small-time retail investor hoping to execute one buy and sell each day, Charles Schwab will charge you $17.90 ($8.95 x 2). Trading with TD Ameritrade will cost you $19.98 ($9.99 x2). Fidelity is a bit less expensive, costing you $7.95 per trade, and TradeKing beats all three, requiring only $4.95 per trade.[1]

No big deal, right? These brokerages provide you with a service. They should be compensated for their trouble. Or should they?

Enter, Robinhood.

Robinhood is a fledgling brokerage which aims not just to reduce these irritating fees, but eliminate them altogether. Sure, tossing commission fees to TradeKing ain’t bad at a measly $10 per trade, but I’d prefer a couple cafĂ© lattes instead.  After just 10 buy and sell orders per month, we could pay off our cable bills.  

If something sounds too good to be true, typically it is. If Robinhood doesn’t charge customers commission, how will they make money?

An excerpt from their website states, “Robinhood will offer margin trading as well as API access, which will allow partnered developers to build applications in conjunction with Robinhood. Robinhood will also receive remuneration for providing trade volume in certain markets. In the future, we plan to offer premium services for active investors.”[2] Robinhood also will charge $10 for broker assisted phone orders and assesses many of the traditional fees (of other firms) for things like domestic/international wiring, and paper statements. 

Robinhood is registered and approved in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.[3] Most importantly, it is a member of FINRA and SIPC which should allay investor fears over whether their accounts will be protected.[4]

Unsurprisingly, demand for their platform has skyrocketed. According to a CNN story, as of May, over 340,000 people are on the waitlist.[5] I think it’s safe to assume that many of those individuals are existing members of other firms. Unfortunately, Robinhood remains in beta testing…so where should savvy investors go in the meantime?

Fortunately, competing firms see the writing on the wall, and are enticing investors with great deals. For example, Merrill Edge is offering 30 free trades per calendar month with very few stipulations.[6]  They’ll even gift a (graduated) cash incentive if you open an account with over $25,000.[7] In fact, they’re so anxious to gain your loyalty and satisfaction that many of the brokerages I spoke with offered to cover (deposit) any transfer fees associated with journaling shares from competing brokerages or account closure costs. Not too shabby.

TD Ameritrade offers another stellar deal. TD offers 60 days of commission-free trading with a deposit of $2,000 or more.[8] They’ll up the ante if you open an account with over $25,000 by offering a cash incentive. ETrade offers up to $600 and 60 days of free trading for large deposits or transfers for new customers.[9]

The good news is the days of exorbitant trading costs are behind us.

Yet, there are valid reasons to resist the impulse to swap one brokerage for another.  

Many experienced investors have cultivated a relationship with their brokerage. Some receive favorable margin rates. Others receive benefits like free trades or waived/reduced fees. Many technical traders may find that only certain platforms enable them to trade with the charts and tools to trade expeditiously and effectively. Some OTC traders may require sub $.01 limit orders that brokerages won’t allow. For some investors, having 24/7 call access is essential. Others rely on a user-friendly smartphone app. There is no dearth of reasons why one particular brokerage may be right for you, because we each have different trading needs and preferences. That said, as existing customers with fire sales down the street, we do have some leverage and should use it.

It’s often as simple as….just asking. For example, ask your brokerage if they can match the margin rate of another. Or request a certain amount of free trades per month. If they say call your bluff and decline your inquiry, you can move your holdings accordingly.  It’s truly not much of a bluff when brokerages are crawling over one another to fight for your business. Just ask.

It’s a great time to be ‘in the market.’ Investors are finally in the driver’s seat. It is important to do your due diligence and prioritize what’s important to you before selecting a brokerage.

It pays to shop around.



[1] Source: http://brokerage-accounts.findthebest.com/
[2] https://www.robinhood.com/faq/?q=how_we_make_money
[3] https://brokerage-static.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/robinhood/legal/RHF%20Jurisdictions.pdf
[4] https://www.robinhood.com/faq/?q=how_we_make_money
[5] http://buzz.money.cnn.com/2014/05/17/robinhood-trading-app/
[6] http://www.merrilledge.com/pricing
[7] http://www.merrilledge.com/cmaoffer?oc=1-ab831g
[8] https://www.tdameritrade.com/specialoffer.page
[9] https://us.etrade.com/home#

On Finance and Brokerages

Some of you may have noticed a couple changes lately. First, is that I have monetized the blog. To be transparent, I am trying to make a little money on the side. And in my brain that either meant peddling drugs, turning tricks, or attaching harmless ads to this blog. I chose the latter becuase in life we only have two or sometimes even three choices. You're either with me. Or against me. Or against us. :).

So if you stumble upon an advertisement or two you don't need to get your eyes checked. You can respond in one of two ways; b/c like I said, you don't have any other options :). You can ignore them and continue to read the blog. Or, if the ads are of interest to you, you can click on them and learn more about the product. The latter in this case, benefits me directly as I earn a nominal amount for each valid click. However, I cannot and will not ask you to click on them just because. Google Adsense is quite adamant that you do not inflate impressions for undue gain. Hence, I am not asking you to click on any ads on my behalf. Let me starve. :). That said, I want you to have all the facts at your disposal so you can decide for yourself what to do each time you visit my blog.

If you find the ads distracting or annoying, I apologize. Hopefully you can read past it. If I get substantial negative feedback, I may cancel my ad account. I may decide after a few days/weeks/months that I don't want the ads anymore. So if they disappear suddenly, don't be alarmed. In that case I will then be charging a measly $10 per visit instead. You can afford that, right? You don't want me to sleep in a van down by the river do you?

Kidding. Feel free to let me know what you think either way. And by letting me know I mean one of two choices:

A) Love the ads!
B) Could not love the ads anymore!

Make your pick.

The second change is my fledgling interest in the stock market and finance. For that, I wrote a column that was declined for publishing from a popular online forum. Bastads. So I will post it here instead. I do believe it will benefit you and plan to either create a sister blog where I write about finance...or post it here and keep this blog as wonderfully dynamic and random as possible. I will post a subsequent post later today so let me know if you think it's decent.




 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Iron Horse Race Recap

Last Thursday I flew from DC to Colorado to visit my folks and again challenge the monster Iron Horse bike ride from Durango to Silverton. For those of you who remember last year link I had an incredible day. I rarely ride 50 miles when I train, even on flats. And when you combine that with over 5000 feet of climbing and a starting elevation around 5500 feet..well, you have your work cut out for you. The weather last year was spectacular. Cold in the morning, but 70 degrees by the finish.

Fortunately, last year I was in the best endurance shape of my life. I weighed less than 170 pounds and practically flew up the mountain. I ended up something like 22nd overall out of a thousand. I was proud.

This year would be very different.

Colorado has encountered a bit of a drought this year, but last weekend the spell would be broken. The forecast called for rain most of the weekend and when it rains in the valley....it snows in the mountains. Not. Good.

Nevertheless, Thursday less than an hour after I arrived, Pops and I took the wheels out for a ride. We biked about 32 miles including one decent hill (Shalonah) to get me acclimated. Weather was sunny and warm and my legs and heart held up well. I was excited for Saturday.

Friday was an easy day, I lifted weights at the rec center but refrained from any cardio. I'm nowhere near the kind of shape I was this time last year and wanted to conserve all the energy I could.

Late Friday night, the race director sent out an email shortening the race due to snow in the mountains. We were all disappointed and complaining that he preemptively thwarted our day...until we saw a photo of the mountain pass completely covered in snow. I found it odd that the new race director's last name was Frost. Oh well. The race would begin in town and end at Durango Mountain Resort (the famous ski resort formerly known as Purgatory). Still one solid climb and about 25 miles total.

In a sense, I was relieved. Hauling my fat ass up the other two passes would've been a helluva task. 25 miles I can do in my sleep.

The plan was similar to last year. Stay in the pack and draft for the first 10-12 miles before attacking on the climb and dropping the hammer. Unfortunately for me, I never made it that far.

The morning of the race was beautiful. It was chilly (low 40's), but sunny and visibility was excellent. This year was less of a 'race' than a citizens ride. Sure, the pros still had their category, but everyone else huddled in a mass start. It was timed, but there were no prizes, only glory. It was balls to the wall last year. This year it was just get in a good workout and enjoy the views.

The first few miles passed by rapidly. We traversed Main Street and made our way out of the town. As soon as we got on the open roads, instead of opening up a bit, it got more and more congested. It was like being on a freeway. We would be up to 22mph. Then down to 12mph. Back up to 18mph. Then slow down to 8mph. Stop and go. Stop and go. Clearly this is an abysmal way to ride, but with thousands of riders clogging one lane, there's not much one can do unless you're in front.

In hindsight, that's exactly where I should've been.

Moving along around mile 7 the dude in front of me was chugging along around 20-23 mph. Decent pace. We were in the peleton, not working too hard. When, out of the blue, the guy slams on his brakes. We're not talking a gentle tap. He full-on grasped his brake lever like he was falling off the edge of a cliff. I tried to slow in time but it was just not possible.

So I did what I do best. I crashed.

Can't say I remember exactly what occurred but about 8-10 people went down instantly. The first thing I noticed was that my sunglasses shattered (the lenses). And the second thing was that I wasn't in too much pain. Which made me nervous. I thought I might have my elbow bone sticking out of my arm and it hadn't set in yet.

Nope. Stood up and tried to move my bike to the side as riders behind us were bumping into eachother to avoid our mishap. Some dude yelled, 'stop! my seat is in your spoke'. A strange line to be sure, but he was correct, his seat was stuck in my spokes. I was anxious trying to get to the side of the road and out of the way of the race, so we got it out quickly and noticed that the spoke was bent.

I had road rash on BOTH hips, but other than that I was fine. Someone rode into the back of my helmet though, as I was initially on the ground. There's a dent on my neon-green helmet and a tire skid. Battle wounds.

Since I was okay (the two worst injuries I overheard was a broken wrist and a separated shoulder), I tried to fix my tire and trudge onward. My wheel would not cooperate. It was wobbly and spinning like flicking a quarter on a table. Each revolution the wheel hit the frame. Damn.

My day is done.

Right about then at the exact place where I had crashed moments before, 3 other riders went down just as hard. Ouch.

I took my shoes off and walked a half mile carrying the bike to the nearest intersection. A kind nurse stopped and asked if I was okay and needed to use the phone and I phoned my Mom.

I was more disappointed and upset than angry. As soon as I got home I examined my wounds, scoffed, and went for a 10 mile run. Not sure what I was trying to prove, or to whom (especially since my head was throbbing), but I had to get out of the house.

Now I have two twin raspberries on each hip. I sustained no other major injuries. Wasn't my day this year, but suppose I was lucky I wasn't hurt worse.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cycling in Arlington (Tuesday Night Ride)

Perhaps the most exhilarating ride in the greater DC area is the Tuesday Night (TN) hills ride leaving out of Fresh Bikes in Ballston. When I lived near American University, I would drive to it each week I loved it so much. Now, I live literally two and a half blocks away. I am proud to say, I don't drive over anymore because I'm a #badass and putting in the extra .5 mile is proof.

The ride link is one large loop that begins flat for a few miles before the glorious hills begin. The start is a perfect warmup to get your heart rate moving, get the legs accustomed to pedaling, and skip the lights as police escort you out of the busy areas. Then you hit the wealthy neighborhoods of suburbia and the pain begins.

Yesterday was my first TN ride of 2014. I checked the DC Triathlon Club website - dctriclub.org before I left to check the start time and someone had posted about a bike-on-bike crash link that occurred the week before. As someone who's crashed on (off?) a bike a few times, this always jolts my nerves. It's bad enough that the roads Arlington County supplies could passed for Cambodian minefields. Add a couple hundred riders to the mix and ordinary congestion and shit is bound to go awry.

Last night, approximately 20 seconds before I found myself in the same precise spot, a rider was hit by a white Toyota Prius. I did not witness the accident, but I stopped to ensure she was okay and asked two fellow riders who saw it what happened. They said the Toyota was going straight from south to north and must've not seen her as she was reaching literally the fastest point of the ride.

After a mini-spike of a hill, riders are rewarded with the longest downhill of the course. It's perhaps less than a mile long and you can reach speeds >40 mph. The riders implied she was probably closer to 20 mph at impact. Ouch. Thank God that woman is okay. Ambulances arrived quickly and took her to the hospital for a check-up. While many accidents cannot be avoided, we can enhance precautionary measures to diminish the likelihood of accidents like the one last night.

I am grateful Fresh Bikes hosts such an exceptional ride. I commend them for it. However, I have a few suggestions to improve the experience for everyone.

1) Change the start time.

Rumor has it that the chiropractor in the same plaza complains that the ride adversely affects his business (ironic someone noted, as many riders use chiro's) and wants it pushed back. Could also be that the city prioritizes motor vehicular traffic ahead of men in tights. Not sure. Traffic is dense in these areas and the commuters are anxious to hit the couch after their long days bureacratizing. Currently the start time is 7PM. You read right, 7! I believe it should be 5:30, perhaps 6:00. 6:30 is the latest the ride should commence.

Afternoon turns to dusk by 7:30 (or earlier), and visibility dissipates accordingly. This leaves 200 some-odd riders vulnerable. We can't see potholes that well. Cars can't see us very well. We can't see each other very well. If a compromise needs to be made, 6:15 could be a reasonable start time. This change should be implemented immediately.

2) Leave in groups.

Previous years I heard leaders shouting out designated pace groups. Of course, it's hard to determine if you're an A, B, or C rider. It's mostly a trial and error process. Most of us are B riders. Novices and some of the heftier folks ride C. Semi-pros and competitive triathletes and roadies 'crush' the A. Last night, the police moved everyone out at once which created a VERY long peleton. A very disparate group including beginners, experts and all those in between. This pisses drivers off because they're stationary at the traffic lights missing two-to-three cycles. So what you may say? Sowing even a morsel of animosity between car drivers and bike riders is something that should be avoided. I don't think it should be viewed as an adversarial relationship as most bike riders drive cars. Regardless, appeasing our friends in motor vehicles or at the very least, minimizing their inconveniences is something that benefits everyone.

They could fix this problem by splitting the group into three sections. There is at least 10 minutes of idle chit-chat before the ride begins. Better organization would have people moved around during this time according to ability level or pace preference. A closely knit group of 75 (3x) works better than moving a disjointed group of 250+. Trust me. Smaller lifts are uniformly easier in our world. It's also more likely that people will not get lost and/or dropped from the ride.

3) Suggested donations

After I witnessed the crash last night, a nearby resident saw me pedalling up the hill in front of his house and inquired about the crash. I stopped to chat and he told me there's been numerous close calls in the exact same spot. We have a problem area. It is paramount to put a few signs up warning both riders and cars of the dangers of this area. It's difficult for cars to judge the speed of the bikers (or see them in the first place coming from the apex of the hill). It's difficult for riders to reduce their speed during such a steep descent. Flourescent or lighted signs may alert both parties. Cyclists are wealthy. I'm sure we'd all have no problem donating $10 if it helps us not get injured. Let's do this.

The money can also be spent to provide tail lights to riders so their visibility increases. I'm sure creative minds can think of many other uses for the funds.

4) Communication

Fresh Bikes does a commendable job attempting to explain the route, the rules of road, and the police escorts, but we can always do better. People need to be reminded to ride in bike lanes whenever possible (even when it's legal to do otherwise). Riders need to be reminded to stay to the right and ride on the left only when passing. They need to be reminded to signal and/or verbally shout what they see or are planning to do.

A semi-related tangent here is that riders should thank the police for assisting us. Yes it is their job. Yes, this is what they should be doing. But some gratitude goes a long way and so does a nod/wave. I try and do the same with cars that stop for us to acknowledge their patience. I have very little of it myself, but it would make me slightly less irked if people were kindly waving and smiling and appreciating my sacrifice.

I'm gonna leave it at that for now. I'm sure there are things that I've omitted. Once again, I appreciate all that Fresh Bikes and their staff does for DC area riders. They deserve our patronage and appreciation for hosting this ride. It's up to us now to advocate for our well-being and improved safety.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Honeymoon Pics Part IV

Some more shots of Costa Rica! Hope everyone is enjoying these. I depart for Colorado on Thursday morning (returning Monday night). I'll be riding the Iron Horse again, albeit this time I'm about 15 pounds heavier than before so I am expecting to be about 15% slower! The current forecast is rain which makes me a bit uneasy but let's hope for the best! Once I return my buddy is getting married in DC the following weekend so that should be fun as well. Staying busy in the summer.