"The weather is news we can always count on as continually being news."
My recent overseas travels have really made me notice that language is a big deal. I’m not talking about foul language, but I’m talking about different languages and how they affect how people interact. First of all, it amazes me that in Europe, in bordering countries sometimes not much bigger than some of the individual United States, people speak completely different languages and they can’t understand each other. I don’t think people here fully realize what this means. To put it in perspective, it’s like going from Illinois to Pennsylvania and not being able to get by at a restaurant. Learning the bare essentials can be tough and even if you know the words and the grammar, the pronunciation is a totally different story. I studied 3 years of high school French, (which was a long time ago), and it really helped in Paris when I read or tried to speak. Still, I can barely understand French when it is spoken to me as words roll together into a continuum oblivion. Had I known German words, it might have been easier to understand as the words seem more succinct. As I also found with Italian, French requires lots of expressiveness, and like German, the words and sentences can be long.
Perhaps the biggest issue with language barriers is that they make you feel stupid and frustrated. You don’t know when to use English or native language X. You try speaking, and the natives don’t understand. They speak, and you don’t understand. Everything that you take for granted becomes a mini ordeal. I think I wasted 20% of my time traveling due to the fact that I wasn’t fluent in the languages of the countries I visited. At my work meetings, my European coworkers were always posed with the dilemma of promoting understanding with customers versus speaking to allow me to understand what they were saying.
We do need a common language, (besides love, math or Esperanto (which I think was a good idea)). I would say that English should be, (and probably is), the right universal language for technology. I’m not trying to be arrogant. Even though it’s a badass mutt of a language that breaks all its own rules, its words are generally short and we don’t use crazy accents or special characters that slow down typing or are a pain to display. For speaking, I think English improves efficiency because our words like “hi and bye” are shorter than their counterparts in other languages. (I have seen increased use of ciao in Europe though). We also make liberal use of ways to shorten longer words with contractions like “don’t or wouldn’t.” This saves time… which saves money.
Luckily for us, English is already somewhat universal. Perhaps we owe that to Hollywood’s and American music have been global. One could also point to the fact that the U.S. is a huge country that has developed lots of technology. Plus, the British colonies still have a large language legacy. After all I’ve learned about the harsh realities of language barriers, and even though I feel like becoming fluent in French, (and Gujarati for that matter), it feels good to be back in the USA where I don’t feel like I’m stupid and 98% of the people understand me.<
It’s somewhat timely that I’m writing this post which has been in the Word document hamper for quite a while. With the tsunami in Myanmar, (which is pronounced myun-mar not mee-an-mar by the way), the earthquakes in China, floods in the Midwest, and the tornadoes all over the U.S., the unaffected sympathize and offer help to those in need. It’s admirable, but nothing we can do will make up for the suffering that people encounter when they lose their family members and possessions. I know this is intruding on religion and philosophy, but why do these things happen to some people and not others? Sharon Stone would have you believe that the Chinese treatment of Tibetans fed some bad karma that led to the earthquake. I’m not sure I buy that. Ultimately, these are natural occurrences that are somewhat random. Such events only happen where the conditions and geography are right for them to happen. And some people happen to live there. If they choose to live there, then they should understand that there’s a chance that they’ll be affected. I think of nature as impersonal and random unless you’re dealing with how God impacts individuals’ lives. But in the case of a large natural catastrophe, many people who live in the same area are drastically affected to a certain. Then it seems more random. However, if you delve further, you see that some people lost everything or died while others lucked out. Is this karma? Nobody knows for sure and it harkens back to that age old philosophical question of why do bad things happen to good people? Regardless, natural disasters aren't evil. They just are, and we unfortunately have to deal with them.
In a similar vein, I often notice that when bad things happen to humans as they interact with animals, the animals are characterized as horrible or evil. They simply are not. A lion or alligator may kill a human because it feels threatened or hungry. It’s nothing personal. The same thing applies to deer, insects, rats, or cockroaches. They were put on this planet for a reason and they are just trying to make a living, so we shouldn’t take it personally if they eat our food or intrude on our property. Humans can have compassion for other beings. Our caring for pets shows compassion that transcends survival instincts. We could just as easily eat these animals when we're hungry, but we care for them like members of the family. But they're not humans. Pets are often characterized as “bad” because they don’t behave the way us humans want them to behave. They’re actually just doing the things that they instinctively do. They are being normal animals and we shouldn't fault them for that. (This reminds me of a prior quote I wrote that "The smartest pets are the ones that don't do tricks.") We are the ones that are trying to fit them to our needs. Sure we try breeding them to be more domesticated, but they still retain instinctively wild behaviors and urges.
So remember that nature is just natural and seemingly evil things have to happen. The earth has its ecosystems and animals that serve a purpose. For there to be birth and life, there must also be death and destruction. I don’t mean to dismiss how horrible a catastrophic experience can be from a human perspective, but perhaps if we all adopted a more detached objective outlook on such happenings, we would be able to handle them better and not take things so personally. But that doesn't mean we can't try to stop natural occurrences from happening or destroying our body/house/city/country/planet.
<<< WARNING: This post is really long, which parallels the ride I’m writing about. >>>
As many of you know, I had been (moderately) training for a 100 Mile Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe called “The World’s Most Beautiful Ride”. I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training to prepare for the event, and I raised nearly $4,000 for the cause. I had always wanted to do a century ride and my father’s passing from complications due to leukemia last year made it that much more meaningful to do it this year. In a nutshell, the story is that I did it! I actually bicycled 100 miles. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but thanks to the Michigan and Minnesota teams’ training, support of cheering crowds, family, and great organization to take care of us during the event, I was successful.Free Shipping on all orders with purchase of Nashbar tires or tubes!
The night before, I started prepping for the ride in my hotel room, putting things together like spare tire tubes, my clothes, my race number 712, my food and drink, my sign, stickers, motivational picture of my dad for my handlebar stem, and helmet decoration. By the time I was done and went to sleep, it was 11 and I had to wake up at 4:30 the next day because we had to start riding at 6. Well, thanks to all the hydration I had to do, I woke up at 3 to go to bathroom and couldn’t go back to sleep but for 15 minutes. So I was tired, but I got ready, met with Team Michigan at the lobby. I put hand warmers in my pockets and foot warmers in my shoes. I needed my coffee, so I had half a cup, ate a part of a muffin and an energy bar and lined up with the team to ride to the start. Then we lined up to start during the cloudy 40 degree morning and soon after, we were off…
The beginning was very familiar because we had done a “22 mile practice ride” the day before. I was still sore from that. Not a good sign. Anyway, after we passed the familiar bend, then began the crazy uphill switchbacks which made us climb 500 feet in 2 miles of horizontal distance up to Inspiration Point. One person fell and broke a wrist, some people had to walk, one was hyperventilating. Luckily, my mountain biking experience came in handy helping me get to the rest stop in decent shape. Then after eating, and hitting the restroom, we had another uphill. This was followed by a huge downhill which had me traveling at speeds up to 34 mph. I was worried about my safety as there was lots of bicycle traffic with some going slow and others going fast. There was also some car traffic going the other way. We finally got to a flat area, and I saw an ambulance going the other way. That couldn’t be good. It was relatively flat for the next 12 miles, and then there was a side trail and road combo with mostly gentle downhill. For some reason, I was somewhat tired and cycling slowly at this point. Going slower than normal was part of my strategy so that I’d be sure I’d have legs at the end, but I didn’t feel like I could go faster even if I wanted to. And lots of people were passing me.
Then my first minor mishap occurred. With all the fast downhills and wind, my left contact lens started drying up and moving out of position. So I pulled to the side to put it back in. Well, I took the lens out and it was so dry, it blew away! Luckily, my parents taught me to be cautious. So I had a spare set of contacts. I wish somebody had told me that bicycling sunglasses were necessary to keep the wind out of my eyes. I had normal ones as I didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money buying bicycling clothes and equipment. Anyway, with my new left contact in my eye, I set back for the road. Then we stopped at Truckee which was basically the halfway point. At that stop, I took off of my sweatshirt and sweatpants to leave with some of the coordinators. I also saw lots of people from Team Minnesota who had caught up with me, and I decided to wait for other friends while I ate significant quantities of food. I ate everything from energy bars to boiled potatoes to bananas to granola bars to cookies to oranges to cantaloupe pieces. And I would need every last calorie. It was after eating that I realized that my knees, wrists, and butt were all hurting in different ways and in varying amounts. Later, I set back on the road with a couple of friends who rode more at my pace and we took turns drafting each other to save energy. Some girls from New Jersey followed for a long time when I led, but they never took the lead.
I was doing fine again for a while, and then around mile 60 or so, I started losing energy and I slowed down. Every slight grade seemed like a major hill. Then, just when I started getting my energy back with some more energy bar and Gatorade consumption, I heard some rattling near my water bottle. I thought a screw fastening the water bottle cage to the bike was loose. It sounded like a slightly annoying bell. I kept riding and then in another half hour, my water bottle and most of the cage fell off my bike. The cage just fractured and fell apart! So I had to stop to get my bottle, put it in the back pocket of my cycling jersey, and then I had to throw away the broken cage. I motored on with a butt that really hurt, a left thumb that went numb and knees that were about the same as before. Shaking my wrists out one at a time didn't make them hurt much less, but it was bearable. At the next stop they had lunch which was a nice team mini reunion and I ate more than before. I had a veg. sandwich, chips, cookies, more fruit, and potatoes. I learned in training that I had to force myself to eat more than I felt that I should.
Soon we were back on the road, mentally prepared for a moderate uphill and then the last major uphill. I was doing poorly on the uphills, but my friend did much better. I was just crazier on the downhills where I made an effort to gather as much momentum as possible before subsequent uphills. We made it up the next moderate uphill, stopped again to take pictures of the beautiful scenery and then we ascended again in a slow and steady fashion. I was mostly in 2nd gear out of 27 but I was mentally prepared. So much so, that when I reached the top of the hill, I thought it was just the midway point to the top of the hill. But I had in fact crested the last major hill and I knew then that there was a good chance I would make the full 100 miles. I had forgotten about my wrist and knee pain at this point but stretching at stops helped with my knees and my left achilles hell tendinitis which started acting up during training about a month earlier.
The next five miles were a blast but they were also downright scary at times. It was all downhill and I hit a speed of 39.2 mph. My eyes were tearing up from all the wind so I had to slow down a bit to see more clearly. Also, I wasn’t familiar with the road or where the potholes were. I did see sewer grates and potholes that I successfully avoided, but, as a courtesy, I also had to hand signal to people behind me to avoid those obstacles. That left me slightly off balance many times. Also, since it is tradition for Team In Training teams to wear a helmet head dress that represents their state, I had a ¼ inch thick foam core Detroit Red Wings logo mounted to my helmet. With crosswinds and 40 mph cycling it actually caused me to veer to one direction like a tailfin would an airplane. Turning my head only helped a little and it changed my perspective on the all-important road in front of me.
Eventually, the major downhill ended and the course transitioned to smaller rolling hills. At this point we were done with 94 miles and I was feeling pretty good because I knew with certainty that I would finish this 100 mile bike ride. I looked down to the picture of my dad with happiness. Pain was not an issue at this point. The remaining up-hills were no fun, but at the very end, I felt comfortable riding 18 mph and I was motivated to finish. I was going so fast in fact that I almost didn’t make the final turn to the finish area, had to really widen my turn. As I approached the finish area, I was riding alone. Then as I got closer, I saw the crowd. There were easily 100 people cheering me on to the finish. It felt great, but it felt like I didn’t deserve so much cheering when all I did was finish about 1,000th out of 1,800 riders for Team In Training. What I did is nothing compared to what people go through when they suffer from leukemia and have to go through treatment, but I’m glad I was able to support the cause by helping to fund research for a cure.
I feel proud of what I have done and I thank all my friends and family who motivated me and donated money to help me reach my goal. I also thank Team Michigan and Team Minnesota and their coaches and staff who prepared me well enough to stay motivated and to finish. Now, I feel like cycling more centuries, or at least 60+ mile rides. Just last year, I rode 123 miles all summer. This year, I rode that much in 2 days. What a motivator a worthy cause can be.
I rode my bicycle more than 70 miles last week with the Minneapolis Team in Training team. I’m training with them for my 100 Mile bike ride at Lake Tahoe on June 1 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and to honor my dad. (Please click on the link to the right to donate.) Anyway, 70 miles seemed like a major physical ordeal to me and my body. It dawned on me that people ride hundreds of miles a week. Some of them are older too. Besides doing these kinds of things for charity, to get physically healthy, or for a sense of accomplishment though, working out in general doesn’t make much sense.
All that exertion doesn’t do much for society. It doesn’t accomplish anything. Nobody gets fed, no power gets generated; we just use up (now expensive) food calories to move ourselves or machines around and the energy exertion results in meaningless motion. What if all the machines in a gym were hooked up to a generator to reduce emissions from our power plants? Or what if we had organized volunteer days where we transported bags of grain or building supplies for volunteer organizations and built up our fitness at the same time? Then our work-outs would be doing work.
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I’m just as guilty as anybody. I play sports, bicycle, and work out to stay (somewhat) fit, and it’s all entertainment and agony. It doesn’t work that great. Of course this is mostly my fault, I would say working out doesn’t work out for most other people as well. That’s because it’s boring and often mindless. Perhaps we would all be more motivated if we worked out for the benefit of society or the environment.
We basically put ourselves through a work-out’s extreme stress to look good and so that we can eat more unhealthy, scrumptious foods. We want to look good so that we can find an attractive mate who brings us pleasure. So when we work out, we are partaking in hedonism. There are physical benefits such as feeling good, and stress relief, but those would be trumped if we worked out to do work.
Accents… We all have them. Well, some of us don’t. Or at least many of us think we don’t even though we do. It’s interesting how even when a language is shared, our various cultures alter it or are influenced by other languages. Letters get ignored, sounds changed, and although not always spoken to reflect it, words have their spellings changed. We accept that other people talk funny, but the sociological implications are broad. Accents tell people a lot about who you are, where you came from, perhaps where you were educated and perhaps how long you’ve been in a country. Even though these effects are multiplied many times over throughout the world, I’ll focus on accents people have with English here in the U.S. because I don’t understand what goes on in other countries.
Travel and earn money by teaching English.
Yesterday was February 29, Leap Day. And it’s kind of a fun day because it only comes around once every four years. So people who are born on the 29th have one fourth as many birthdays as normal people. It makes them mini celebrities. They even focused on some Leap Babies on the Today Show yesterday. It makes me realize that this peculiarity is totally arbitrary. If our calendar was different, then other peoples’ birthdays would be fun. If our number system was different and not base 10, the world would be quite different. That seems like a stretch, but it’s not.
How many times do we celebrate a 50th or hundredth anniversary in a special way? It happens all the time. The Hundred Years war would be called something else. If we used base sixteen (hex), we would celebrate less often. Perhaps our days of the week would all be different, (but maybe not). People get depressed when they turn 30, well, with base sixteen that depression might get delayed two years. Car companies make a big deal when their cars get 30 mpg, but the target might be higher if we were hex. And then when you think of all the rounding that’s done in business, have a different number system could make significant differences to a company’s profits. It could be a make or break difference. It’s really kind of mind boggling.
At least computers have made us think outside of the base (ten). Digital stuff is Base 2 and a lot of programming does use hex characters, but we have to borrow from the alphabet A, B, C, D, and E and the math becomes much less intuitive. 2E – 3 = 2B just doesn’t seem right, (and it might not be right because I’m no expert in hex math).
But maybe we’re meant to be a base ten civilization. We do have ten fingers. That doesn’t explain the whole Roman numerals thing. It’s a good thing that the Indians came up with our modern day number system and that the Arabs took it back to Europe. I can’t imagine computers ever being invented if we had to describe large numbers using Roman numerals.
As I type, my body is moving about 550 mph (in an airplane), and I can still do what I would do as if my body were stationary. Moving at such fast speeds is not a big deal in this modern day and age, but it is a big deal when one considers our past. Humans, thanks to technology, move a lot. I don’t think we stop to think about that enough. Perhaps we should, between all the trips we take. In the U.S. an average driver drives 12,000 miles a year. So if you multiply that times 50 years of driving, that accounts for 600,000 miles of body movement. I’m figuring walking adds a few thousand miles. Bicyclists and runners can add tens of thousands of miles to the odometer or pedometer. When you consider people like consultants and salespeople who fly every week and rack up all those frequent flyer miles, they must travel millions and millions of miles in a very short time.
It’s crazy when you think about the fact that naturally speaking, we were probably meant to move a few thousand miles in a lifetime of hunting and gathering. Once farming villages started, that number probably went down. We did do lots of hard work, just within a closer proximity to a home base. Now we are so transient that things like yearly trips across the planet and cruises and long distance relationships are commonplace. And now as space travel becomes part of the private sector, people will travel faster and farther than ever. But then what are the downsides of all this movement? Well, for one thing, when a person walks or even runs, the most damage she can do to her body is a major bruise or a broken bone, (as long as there are no sharp drop-offs around).
Now that machines move people around, death is possible in a split second. But we accept that risk as part of our busy lives. Some people have a hard time comprehending the impact of velocity without control, so they don’t wear seatbelts and helmets. Perhaps it’s because it’s not hardwired in us to worry about high speed collisions. What’s interesting is that technology makes us more mobile but it concurrently enables us to have to travel less. With the advent of the telephone, video teleconferencing and the internet, remote activities are almost as good as they are when done in person. Whether moving and not moving, interaction over broad distances takes energy. Remember a time when we could do things for free without travel or use of technology or energy? I don’t, except for playing with Legos in the basement. But that’s the topic of another blogpost on my list of posts yet to be written.
Here’s a slightly ridiculous theory. If Einstein was correct and movement at speed slows down time and makes you stay younger, then maybe that’s why our life expectancy keeps going up.
For those of you who don't know me well, my father passed away in July of last year due to complications from treatment for a relapse of his Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I've been wanting to do something in his honor, preferably something that would help others. I'm also a bicyclist who is far from a professional.
So, I put the two together and decided to join the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. I am training to ride my Specialized Allez Sport bicycle 100 miles at their event at Lake Tahoe in June. (The most I've ridden at one time is 25 miles). More importantly, we are raising funds to help
stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more
lives. Hopefully, by donating money for research, scientists will be able to develop a cure for these diseases. My goal is to raise $3,600 and I will have to cover whatever I can't collect. I have to raise close to $1,000 by March to keep training with the team.
Please make a donation to support my participation in Team In Training and to help advance the Society's mission. Anything you can contribute will be appreciated. My donation webpage takes credit cards and of course, donations are tax deductible.
Thanks for your support!