Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blog Stats and you (Mark)

Dear Mark
If you learn one thing about any technology it is that data rules. I was looking at that stats our (my) blog and wondering what they informed us (me) of. It's been 7 years since our (my) first post to the blog. Since that time we (I) have compiled many a post/letter to ourselves (you) detailing where our (my) life was at the time we (I) posted.
I'm really glad we've (I've) gotten back to posting more often. I'm really enjoying reading our (my) letters to each other (you) and staying current on our (my) lives (life). Hearing about the daily things that our kids (Jack) do is hilarious.
Using the blog stat tool I queried to see which posts were the most popular. It is pretty clear that cycling dominates our (my) posts often. The top honor still goes to a post from May 30, 2007 about riding up Stevens Pass, but my recent post about the fall of Lance Armstrong has quickly taken 2nd place.



One thing that stats do tell us (me) is that you (yes you) do not post much. Even the top post on Daily Fiona was penned by me. Some say this might be a call to action. For me it poses an age old question, "if you blog about your brother and make fun of him and he doesn't read the posts, will he ever know?" Frankly we (I) may never know the answer.
This thing on?
Jeff

Meditation

Dear Mark

I've been feeling stressed and a little unfocused these last few months. I have been trying to figure out why and what I can do to counter it. I looked at my daily coffee cup and asked "are you, and your 4-6 friends that I drink every day, responsible for my stress and lack of focus?" I looked at all video inputs. I gathered them in the TV room (because he refuses to get off the wall) and as I looked at the phone and various tablet devices said "are you to blame for me being at my wits end and scatter-brainness (yes I invent words when I'm tired)?!" I asked Lavi and she told me to figure it out and that she had bigger issues, then went back to calmly reading her book and ignoring me.

Racing ahead to the end of the story but not revealing the point of my writing yet, I think there were a lot of little things. I've already made a lot of improvement in 2013 and my stress level is down. This was not so much about stating that I was stressed, but (there it is again) more about one thing I discovered as I searched for the answer.

As I sat stressed out and unfocused, no less than 3 different individuals asked if I meditated. Do I meditate? No, not really. I mean I don't sit cross-legged and hum to myself. I hum to myself while walking, or talking or writing.. or... well I do that a lot but I don't call it meditating. I call it aggravating because I can't get that song out of my head. I began to think about it. Do I meditate? Have I ever meditated? I found myself feeling that I needed to think about what meditation was.

Tangent: referring back to my spelling post. I've already caught 3 mistakes of "meditate" written as "mediate." Now that would have Mom slapping her sides in laughter don't you think? But I digress in sarcasm again.

As I puzzled over the meaning of what it was to meditate I was reading an article a friend sent me called "why we need more research into cycling and brain science." Now at first I thought of course. We cyclist are a naturally very smart group and we should be studied. Then I thought, oh wait maybe they mean we should be studied because individuals who willing dress in tight lycra, train crazy hours, shave their legs and attempt to gain speed that only cheetahs and sport cars are capable of are down right loonies. But then I read the article and it discussed how the affect of bike riding has been seen to add focus and attention.

It struck me what has been missing these last few months, I have not been bike commuting nearly as much (if at all) as I did in years past. Now I know I have legitimate reasons and my commuting accolades are massive (and unaided by sports enhancing drugs), so I'm not down on myself (disclaimer to those that would rush to talk to me... I'm okay). Bike commuting offered me decompression from the day, exercise and a sense of doing something good (less carbon, car trips, etc.).



I thought more about it and realized my meditation was on the bike. I just haven't had that in a while. I haven't been commuting by bicycle lately and when I do (in the warmer months) it is with Jack. Now cycling with Jack is another whole level of decompression, but what I'm talking about is the time in my head, letting go of the day and subconsciously solving problems. I recall times commuting home when I won't remember parts of the ride. At first it would make me not want to tell Mom for fear of a lecture based on worry. Then I would remember the ride but just having been in a, for lack of better words, zen like state.

I get this some times when I go for a solo run. I think cycling though really brings a level of focus. Maybe it is just the exercise endorphins. Whatever it is I want to get it back. I think meditating might be not only good for me, but necessary.

On your left, reflectively,

Jeff

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rock Climbing

Dear Mark

This past weekend I took Jack to the local rock climbing gym. Our friends from PEPS took their son there a few weekends ago and they had a good time (Bridie and Calvin). We missed the chance to sync with them because Jack was attending a roller skating party, but I wanted to give him a chance to try this out.

He had a lot of fun and kept saying "Dadna, wasn't that awesome!" We paid for an hour of belaying support and put Jack on the wall and watched him go. He climbed a lot better than I thought he would have. In the past Jack has been like his Dadna, all leg strength. While this bodes well for his career as a TdF stage sprinter, I was worried about his upper arm strength. Surprisingly he did just fine. He would climb up and get to a point, then want to come down. The next time up he go fast over the previous route and take 1-2 more steps up and come down. Each time he made a little more progression. He never reached the top but he was impressive.

I added some pictures to the following gallery. Enjoy. I'll write later when I have a bit more time.

http://jemoran.zenfolio.com/rockclimbing

Cheers
Jeff

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The good, the bad and the boss I wanna be

Dear Mark

I've been a Manager for several years now at Adobe. I really enjoy the role. I feel that of all my soft skills seem to lend themselves to the role as well. I try to stay current with the latest management trends and buzzwords. I mean I've created synergy within paradigms that align our teams and bring to the table clear goals and countless exit strategies that can help foster organic growth while still being proactive and moving forward which at the end of day is win-win. (reference) That's a management buzzword score of 12 by the way. See, I gotz mad skillz yo! Aside, I'll admit that I completely over use the word "organic" these days. I have to find another way to convey the meaning of allowing my team or individual or process to come to success without forcing it. Every time I say "organic" I can feel my team wince, as does my inner douche meter.


I was recently reading highlights from the book "Good Boss, Bad Boss. How to be the Best and Learn from the Worst." My employer has this cool service that allows me to read highlights, or cliff notes, of recent books. It's a solid way to get the main points and decide if you want to read further. I'm not going for a back-handed compliment here, but I'll say that the book describe many things I aspire to be as a boss. Listening, asking insightful questions and knowing that individuals are different and each person reporting you may need a different approach were some of the main points.

I've been pretty lucky I admit. I've had some really good Managers and an individual who mentors me in managing while at my current employer. That said, I've seen and had some who have failed miserably. They say that the #2 reason a person may leave a job is their direct manager. It's definitely a reason I keep up on trends and do my best to be the value add manager.

All of it made me remember a game that Lavinia and I play while watching TV called "Who would you want to be your boss?" The game is pretty easy. Have a compelling reason why you would want a character from TV, who is a boss, to be your boss. Let me run through some examples and show you the reigning winners of our little contest.

I think the game started years ago when we were watching the first seasons of CSI (the original one from Vegas). William Peterson was playing the role of Grissam. We followed Grissam through his science crime solving ways and started to think he would be a fun boss. Sure there seemed to be weekly danger surrounding him, but we chalked that up to the job. I mean look at how he mentored a young CSI Nick Stokes or kept a veteran CSI Catherine Willows from over running everyone with her years of experience. Yes, for a while Grissam was the boss we wanted.

After this we of course naturally thought about other crime shows and wondered how the TV characters from those shows would do. CSI Miami is pretty well known for the overacting David Caruso as Horatio Caine. I always argued for him being a good boss. He was straight to the point, always had the last word, motivated his team to do really dangerous stuff, he never sunburned in the Miami heat. This was a guy I could learn from. Lavinia busted me on the fact that I just wanted to be on his team so I could work with CSI Natalia Boa Vista and I'll admit that she was partially right. I just really wanted to learn how you could be the manager that takes off his sunglasses all the time, cool. While Lavinia may have defeated my nomination of Horatio Caine, she was equally defeated with her nomination of CSI NY's Gary Sinsie as Mac Taylor. Sure Mac is the hard nosed, get it done, you honest with me and I'm honest with you kind of manager we all want. Some one who has more years of experience in his personality that he/she does years on the earth. In the end, Lavinia just wanted to follow him around the crime lab like a teenager with a crush. The comforting part of her liking older gentlemen is that I seem to be trending that way myself.

So far Grissam was reigning supreme, but we really started thinking about it. We decided that if Joss Wheedon had been an actual TV character we'd chose him for sure. However, we could decide between many of his TV shows. Immediately Giles the Watcher sprang up. I was a big fan of him because he helped teach you how to fight demons with kung-fu. Doesn't everyone want that boss? While Giles is loved and appreciated he is no match for our favorite. Capt Malcom Reynolds of Firefly. The two of us would board Serenity and fly out in the black with this character in a heart beat. His is the ultimate cowboy/sci-fi captain. Hard-nosed and rough, yet caring deeply for his crew. Mal knows well how to build a team when he says "every one's got a job to, so lets get to doing it." If the team is working well together than success follows. In business that may seem low-key, but for Mal it meant not being captured by the Alliance or eaten by Reavers so it's important.


"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand

I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me..."

Mal also scores high on the list for best theme song. While CSI has made liberal use of songs from the Who, the Firefly theme song is best. 

Over the years we have had many candidates and even winners who held their own against them. Some honorable mentions and past winners are worth mentioning. Robert Guillaume's Isaac Jaffe from "Sports Night." In fact we often wondered if Dana (played by Felicity Huffman) could be a candidate. Isaac's character was great, but we curse ABC for canceling it too early to really know. I usually just wanted to be Danny any way. Recently Hawaii Five-O's Capt Steve McGarett played by Alex O'Loughlin seems to be Lavinia's recent candidate. I would say it has less to do with this take-action style of management and more with his six pack abs, even by which I find myself swayed at times. I mean you could seriously chip a nail. I guess in the same vein as that I'm constantly pitching Bones' Dr. Saroyan played by Tamara Taylor. While I argue it is because she is very smart, doesn't get squeamish when things get tough (which in the show is usually dealing with dead body parts but there is an analogy there to work I'm sure), and lets her team contribute by maximizing their talents to create a greater level of success, it's pretty much because she is extremely hot. Sue me. 




While I hope my next re-org will have me reporting to Dr. Saroyan, I think Lavinia and I would both be happy to report to Henrietta "Hetty" Lange, played by Linda Hunt on NCIS LA. No one delivers that look of take caution coupled with make the right choice which is my choice look than Hetty. She's witty, always seems to know what the path to success is and teaches her agents the value of team. She's the current winner of the "Boss we want to report to" contest. Although if Dr. Saroyan has an opening I'll be hitting my network hard for referrals because she's just awesome.

While thinking about what boss we want to report to, I began to wonder about what TV boss I'd like to most emulate myself. I mean I have so many choices. There is J. Jonah Jameson and Nick Fury from the Marvel universe. You could pick from any of Edward James Olmos from Battlestar Galatica or his time in Miami Vice (definitive!). You may hit want to emulate Optimus Prime from the Transformers cartoon. While I act more like Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, I think I've settled in on my choice. I'm sure anyone who works with me will just laugh because the odds of emulating this character are border line insane, but I would chose Jethro Gibbs of NCIS played by Mark Harmon. Is it because he, like me, makes salt-n-pepper hair look amazing? Possibly. Is it because he plays by the rules but will bend them to benefit his team at any cost to himself? Likely. Is it because he can stare down a report and make him/her jump to it on command? Most definitely. All in all he gets results and he gets respect. At the end of the day you can't ask for much more than than.

Cheers
Jeff


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Year(s) of the Cape!

Dear Mark

Jack has had many things he has been into over the past few years. There was Dinosaurs and PBS's Dinosaur Train show that mesmerized him for some time. Who could forget how Lightning McQueen and the Cars movie still to this day are some of his favorites. Star Wars is a big thing now too and that is just down right awesome. I've often wondered how he gets into things we've never introduced him to, such as Angry Birds (Uncle Ben) or Ninjango (school friends). You know he currently a huge fan of Batman right now. Even though he started off as a Robin fan, he quickly moved to dressing up as the Batman.


One constant that seems to have held with Jack over the last few years has been, the cape. Jack loves his Capes and wears them all the time. This little 2012 montage shows that (minus the jumping in the pool shot, but he would have warn it had we let him).


Jack's cape obsession, if you can call it that, started when he was little. Lavinia bought him a simple black cape, with red borders and a red star. I think this cape is the equivalent of our blankies (oh, did I just out you.. so sorry). Whenever he puts one on he seems to be playing the part. When he was 2 he'd run around the house like Superman saying "Dadna, it's fly time!" and zoom off he'd go. It got to the point that I could put on the Superman movie theme song (another John Williams classic) and he start zooming and zooshing around the house.






The Super Hero angle really started with Robin, then quickly moved to Batman. His first foray was a dress up day at school. At home he'd wear his mask and cape and watch some cartoons.  After a while he had started acting out the title sequence of the Batman cartoon. It was funny to watch.

Jack would insist on wearing his cape everywhere. We'd go to the store, the market, a bike ride, a walk, to the beach, etc he'd want to have his cape on. As much as it was a bit corny he would get the coolest compliments from other adults. "Hey kid, nice cape!" "Are you Batman?" "Wow, superhero kid coming through." Very rarely would I get a second look from a disapproving parent, but I knew that those adults were just refused a cape when they were little, which was probably why they were such judgmental jerks.

Jack would play all kinds of fake-believe (our family word for make believe) games with his cape. Some of the games had nothing to do with super heroes or even the cape. It just became an accessory, like wearing a coat. The picture to the right is him, building a city in our parent's backyard. No need for the cape, or the Robin R but he had it on anyway.

With capes come masks too. We've had Batman, Robin, Darth Vader, Nightwing (yeah, my kid knows how Nightwing is, how cool is that) and more.

Jack has had a few capes over the time. His favorite is still the black and red one. He's added a new shinny one from xmas that has a bat on one side and spiders on the other. He earned a treat at the toy store and purchased another one with lizard spikes on it. Your own mother made him a yellow Robin one one day. The most creative was the one he made himself. The one below that is Jack hanging out with me and my buddies one night when Mama was traveling. He was just hanging, shirtless, having some crackers and juice while we all had a brew or a Tequila... with his cape.

Jeff & Lavinia Moran: The Cape &emdash; One day Jack had sassed his Mama a bit too much and his cape was taken away. He was heartbroken, how could we he asked. He was told that he needed to respect his Mama and indeed things did get much better quite soon. However, in a fit of what can only be called "Creative Defiance" he set out to make his own cape, and make one he did. With construction paper and tape he fashioned a cape that he wore for over 3 weeks. He even wore it out to the stores. Oh the looks we received that I'm lucky I never saw. While a bit defiant, it was super cute and creative.

I wonder what dress up symbolizes or means for young children. I know that I when I go bike riding there is a large difference between casual dress to some bike specific clothes to even a full on team race kit. When I have my kit on I ride harder, I visualize success on the bike, I'm serious and it helps me enter the zone. I begin to wonder if Jack would do better in school wearing his cape. Would it give him the edge, the focus? Or would he just daydream, like I do, about what it would be like to fly through clouds or lift a bus off the ground.

I guess every kid has something that they latch on to and won't give up. We had our blankies, other kids have a hat they never take off, some kids carry a stuffed animal and so on. At the end of the day I pretty happy that Jack has found a fondness for his super hero cape. Maybe it will help foster a kid that not only quotes Peter Parker's Uncle Ben but also walks the talk. Every parent believes his/her kid is special and capable. Maybe that is why it doesn't phase me at all that my kid likes to wear a cape, because I already think he's a pretty Super Kid.

Cheers
Jeff

P.S. Here's a couple of galleries of his best Cape wearing photos and a good video of him dancing to the Batman cartoon theme.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Thursdray

Dear Mark

I didn't make a spelling error with the title. "Thursdray" is what me and a few of my friends call our Thursday night outing. About 3-4 years ago my buddy Joey and I had been frequenting a local waterhole called The Dray. You've been there. It's a Belgian style brew pub serving mostly beer and some wine, no liquor, and some small food fare. We some how settled into hanging out there on Thursday nights.

Thursday + Dray = Thursdray
Ain't we clever.

Since then the owners of The Dray have opened a new spot in Greenwood called the Yard. It has more substantial food options and a full bar, which means this brother can have a Tequila. We've been meeting there for a good 2 years now. Yet, the name Thursdray has stuck because frankly Thursard sounds stupid.

I look forward to Thursday nights a great deal, some weeks more than others depending on how things go. In the spring, summer, fall I manage to ride my bike or walk over it is so close. I like the idea of a weekly time to get away, have a tequila and see some friends. The staff spoils us and we don't mind that one bit. I feel like the place could yell "Norm" as one of us walks in and it wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Usually there are about 5-7 of us that meet up. But the beauty is that we don't all have to show up. Who ever is free usually makes it and the night is something we all look forward to. You know Joey, and Rod shows up now too. I've even managed to get a few other high school folk to show up. Our conversations run from "guy talk" to juvenile (yes there is a difference), from cycling to other sports (we have a couple of us that like cycling, surprise!), and from technology to down right stupid. At the end of the night we've decompressed and laughed, a lot.

I really wish you were here in Seattle so you could join us. It reminds me of that joke that Dad always tells.
An Irish gentleman walks into a bar and orders 3 beers at the same time.
He takes them to a table and sits by himself, proceeding to drink each beer in turn.
He pays his tab and leaves.
The Irish gentleman returns every week and does the same thing.
The bartender finally says "Sir, if you like I could serve each beer in turn so they don't get warm on you."
The Irish gentleman says, "Oh thank you sir, but you see I have 2 other brothers and they live far abroad. We miss each other a great deal. We decided we would each visit our local watering hole, order 3 beers and drink them as if we were together each week. So I appreciate the courtesy, but I'm quite fine."
Well the reason for this gentleman's beer ordering became well known over the year.
One day in early spring he showed up and ordered only 2 beers and drank them.
The local patrons took noticed and discussion began.
After 2 weeks of doing this the bartender said "Sir, I want to give our condolences for one of your brothers. We noticed you are only ordering two beers these days."
"Oh no you have it mistaken. " The gentleman said. "They are both doing just fine. I simply gave up beer for lent."
I hope you are doing well and that you get a chance to visit your watering hole with some buddies on a routine basis. It is really a great consistent thing to do each week. I put it right up there with exercise.

Cheers,
Jeff



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random Updates and Thoughts

Dear Mark

I've been a pretty busy older brother. Rather than spending my times worrying about you, as big brothers are apt to do, I've been busy with work, family and just things in general. I can hardly believe that the first month of 2013 is almost in the books. I have some updates and usual randomness below. Most of it making fun at your expense, but like I said, "Older Brother." I hope things are well for you and that you three are weathering the winter storms. I have plans to come to Boston in March. In doing so I hope to avoid all that silly winter seasonal weather.

New Year's Resolutions
I'm happy to say that most of my resolutions are still going strong. Good work out schedule and picking up a bit more. Eating a tad bit more healthy during the week. Taking time to relax and enjoy has been the best. Nights at home with the family and finding different things to do with Jack has been great. It is the wet winter months so we've been playing a lot of board games. I had a great time last weekend playing Sequences and Blockus one wet afternoon while drinking some hot apple cider and listening to music. Truly enjoyable.

17 Years
Lavinia and I celebrated our anniversary. We've known each other since 1992 and have been married 17 years. That amount of time is longer than some people have been on this earth, which only accelerates my gray matter. Funny enough aging seems to bounce off Lavinia as she continues to be the face of youth and beauty I met back in a UW classroom in 1992. We had a nice dinner out while Jack had a sleep over with the Grandparents.

Judgment 
I mentioned the wet winter month that we are having. It has been cold by Seattle standards, which are of course laughed at by your east coast standards, but bite me. It's been cold. I have stood in silent judgement of some of my fellow Seattleites. It's cold enough that you see wool hats, scarves, north face coats and pants. All of it accompanying flip-flops and no socks. Take that in. Really get that picture in your head. Then envision me slapping that individual with their wet flip-flop.

Jack seems to be the typical kid that wants to wear shorts all the time. We had a teaching moment the other day. We were going to head out for a walk on a cold sunny afternoon. He began his protest to the oppression that was "pants" pleading that I just didn't understand his plight of freedom. I asked him to join me on the deck for a moment to discuss the matter. In seconds he was cold and asked to go inside. I informed him that he was dressed fine according to his own words and that we should finish the conversation. He quickly admitted that I was right, went in got on his pants and off on our walk we went. Score one for Dadna!

More to come. I've several letters started but I need time to make a point. I hope you all are well. Please write back soon so you Mother will be insured you still know the written language.

Love,
Jeff



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Come run with me


Dear Mark

I was thinking you should come along on a run with me. I've been putting in the miles again this New Year. I started it off with a 8.5 mile run on 1/1 and I've managed 18-20 miles a week since. Legs are feeling good. I even enjoy the cold weather to run in. I've even been out running with Rod which is a lot of fun. I have a group at work that I manage to get out with for a lunch time run around Lake Union 1-2x a week. 

I never would have thought after all the bicycling that I've done that I would be running more miles per week than riding. I giggle when people try to give me the winter weather as a reason to not ride when I use to commute 12 months a year. I think it comes down to time. Pre-Jack Lavinia and I had more time on our hands. Post-Jack, not so much. Not out of obligation or being stuck, not that at all. We both just want family time and enjoy that so much. I find when I have time to go for a 4 hour ride that I'd rather play Legos. 

When I run by myself I have tunes going. It's a pretty random shuffle mix. I've talked about it before. I think I'm only one on the planet that mixes Shakira (en espanol) with AC/DC and Lionel Richie with Living Colour, but I do. Most of the songs I listen to make me giggle and smile. When I ran the half marathon this past year with Rod we would take turns stating what song were listening to. He too has some random, but great, choices. 

I like running with my friends but I also enjoy a good solo run. What is missing most from the time not cycling is not my precious saddle sores as you would suspect but the time alone in my head to decompress and think. I always value that when I ride. It's like a mini mediation session rolled into an asthma fit. 

Here's the latest set of songs I listened to while running Lake Union. I thought you might understand some of the song choices. I suspect you'd have some rocking Gaelic fiddle music in your mix, followed by your secret stash of Goodness songs, mixed in with some Pearl Jam. I do wonder what Power Pop star/band you would have. You'll have to share that some time. 

Kim the Waitress - Sister Psychic
Starting out with this song was awesome. Always makes me think of Lavinia. I have this whole MTV video thing with her, me and Rod at the old Crocodile Cafe

Type - Living Colour
Always in the shuffle, a good driving song. The pace picks up a bit. 

Take Her Out Again - Alice In Chains
I actually liked the latest Alice record. It was nice to see Jerry Cantrell making music again. This song drives hard and sounds good. 

Cowboy Bebop Theme - Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts
I don't know if you have ever watched this Japanese Anime show. It's pretty good and the theme song is kicking. Check the link

Beautiful Day - U2
To me this song is about being hopeful and having optimism. nuff said. 

Beyond the Horizon - Screaming Trees
I'm a closet fan of these guys and this is one of my favorites from the earliest album. 

Scratch - 7 Year Bitch
If I was a baseball player this is the song I'd have the stadium operator play as I came to the plate. Awesome.

Cult of Personality - Living Colour
The only repeat band here this day, and while that shows iTunes shuffle is for crap, I was okay with it. 

All Along the Watchtower - Bt4
This version was on season 3 of Battlestar Galatica. I know it's sci-fi heresy but that was the season I gave up on BSG. The first 2 were really good, but the writers strike that year really hurt the show. Still this version of the song is hauntingly good. I never thought I'd own another version behind Jimi and Bob, but there you go. Thank Coverville too for playing it. 

There's Only One Way To Rock - Sammy Hagar
Indeed Sammy, indeed. I do find it funny that Sammy solo came up before any Van Halen. 

Espionage - Green Day
From the "Spy Who Shagged Me" soundtrack. This is all instrumental and a kicking beat to run to. 

Symphony of Destruction - Megadeath
I'm getting a bit tired of this isn the shuffle, but it rocks hard and the bass line drives. 

Space Age Love Song - Flock of Seagulls
This song is the reason for the post. As I'm finishing my 6 miles this song comes along. There isn't a song in the shuffle I like more. The reason is that it makes me think of Lavinia and how much I not only Love her but how amazing it is to remember falling in Love with her every day. I'd say it's our song but she's not a huge fan, we've never danced to it, but some how the lyrics just take me there. 

I think I must look like a simple grinning fool as I run. Other runners must wonder what I'm on. "What am I on? Good memories, what are you on?"

Still, on your left, 
Jeff 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fallen Hero


Dear Mark

We read a lot of comics for sure. We both love 'em and still read/collect today. The stories and the art are fantastic. I have enjoyed watching Jack's curiosity in comics grow too. Instead of a book a week ago before bedtime, we read a (age appropriate) Avengers comic. The stories of Spider-man are my favorite. Perhaps it's Uncle Ben's famous line of "with great power comes great responsibility" and Peter's unwavering hold to his moral code that resonates, or that he can shoot webs because that part is cool. It's likely his smart alec comments that we love actually now that I think about it. 

One thing that seems to come up in comic stories is that the hero has so much to battle through. They fall to defeat and are in despair. Often unsure if they have been chosen for greatness or set up to disappoint their loved ones. Of course Spider-man just makes with the quips, remembers Uncle Ben and then goes all spidey-punch on the bad guy and wins while at the same time losing because JJ paints him as a menace. 

Recently one of my heroes fell down. Fell down, hit the ground, skidded, got stampeded, hasn't gotten up, seems to have acquiesced to being beaten and frankly I was stunned. I'm talking not about a comic book hero, but Lance Armstrong. 

Lance Armstrong cheated. 
My cycling hero cheated. 
His cycling gains were all a result of cheating. 

That sucks. 

You know that I have been his fan for so long that you can probably guess how much his non-admission, that is an admission, along with volumes of evidence, eye witnesses and other compelling evidence, has struck me. Sure it's old news as of today, but frankly I have not really talked to you about it. 

Lance's rise after beating cancer and winning the TdF was epic. Hollywood could not have convinced us of that story in 1999. Yet, there he was on the podium in Paris. What followed was nothing short of astonishing. 7 straight TdF wins, stage wins that were epic, famous moments ("The Look") and the rise of American cycling. He looked to have the right training, the right approach to winning the TdF, to building the right team. He even pulled a Michael Jordan and came out of retirement and stood on the podium again in 3rd place. Just amazing. 

Then in 2012 it all fell apart. This person who I rooted for. Whose poster was up in my office for 10 years. Whose books I bought and read and took training inspiration from. I wore his jersey for pete's sake. I bleed USPS blue during those victories. I had his Livestrong bracelet on for 8 years. He didn't just fall down, he got smacked down. He's been accused before, but this time he just took the hits. There is a moment during Mt. Biking when you are about to crash, the forest is quiet, you see all around you and then WHAM! pain as you hit the trail. You learn to get back up. "The reason we fall down is so we can learn how to get back up." Lance hasn't gotten back up. 

I'm a little ashamed to admit that the news of his downfall put me in a funk for a bit because I was just in disbelief. I took down the poster in my office. Seemed right to do that. Seemed everyone who has ever seen me in bike tights (and lets face it, that's a lot of people) asked my opinion. "Jeff, can you believe it?" "Jeff, do you think it's all true?" "Jeff have you talked to Lance?" "Jeff are you racing the TdF again?" (some people don't get cycle racing). 

I wanted to share stories with Jack about him.
After being a Seattle Sports fan I wanted to be associated with a winner (too harsh?)
I was a fan of Lance, as much as cycling itself. 
More than that, I was a believer. 

Maybe that part sucks the most. I believed in him. I believed he could be clean. I believed that his journey through cancer made him some how above this. A person who stares at Death and says "see you on my terms later" and walks away from Death couldn't possible stoop that low could he? I defended him every year. I had reasons that made sense of why I didn't think he cheated. He has better training. He was more focused. He was smarter. He built a better team. Riding with one testicle must be the reason. In hindsight it looks like I was reaching. I must have sounded stupid. 

All of cycling cheated, some still do. It seems as if Lance was the only one cheating, but he wasn't. We need to remember that. In fact half of his teammates turned evidence on him. You look back at his 7 titles and there is only 2 individuals among all the podium finishers who have not been implicated in cheating. Sad. 

So what do you do when your hero falls down? When Spider-man was in despair he threw his suit away, only to remember his responsibility a few pages later. When things were down for Batman he remembered that the "mission was not over." When Hulk got upset… okay when Hulk gets upset he just hits things and there is no real lesson there, but I'm saying.. I get it. 

Lance is going to have an interview with Oprah soon. Some say he'll confess. Some say it won't be enough. Others say he'll be sued to an inch of his life. I don't care. He cheated,but it seems like he'll get a marketing chance to save his reputation. Although he was on Oprah once. He lied to her. Last person to do that she brought back on her show and made him apologize. Lance may get his butt handed to him along with his one remaining testicle. 

At the end of it all I know that Lance used drugs. In 1995 when he went through chemo and beat cancer, a cancer that by all accounts should have killed him, he used drugs. He was suppose to. In doing so he climbed the biggest podium in life. He beat Death. 

Looking back I wished the story stopped there. It would have been a better memory of him than the one I have today. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mom still carries a Red Marker

Dear Mark

Do you remember growing up how we learned more about grammar and writing from our mother than any teacher we had? I'm not insulting our teachers but more just giving Mom the credit for what writing skills I do have. I mean I did put them to good use in getting my History degree in college. That was 100% writing. I'm finding in this day and age that the auto-correct and grammar checking devices we have now built in are starting to make me sloppy. I make mistakes, no don't laugh I do. It's true. I'll usually make at least 3 grammar mistakes before I have my second cup of coffee each day. (I just now had to go back and change "grammer" to "grammar" 4x, sigh)


As I write more to you I think the only true fan of our little blog effort is our Mom. Oh sure I get some analytic hits from Kansas (thanks Katie) and a few in Utah (I know you are reading Jeannie) and I'm still not sure who our fan in the former Soviet Union is but I trust he/she is enjoying the reads. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Mom reads. It's just funny that she still is my best grammar checker. Here's evidence in a little email I received last night.

Dear Jeff,

I just found your new posts and read them all.  Loved it.  It has been a long time since the new deck was posted.  I especially loved the little fun things that popped in unbeknownst to you:

Wallmart greeter/hugged would be a good use of your special skillet
I can just imagine you with a skillet in hand beating back the customers.

I'm taking that attitude into 2013 and plan to do good thinks
Well, Lord knows thinking is the best way to get somewhere in this world.

Coach Chuck Know
Had he, we might have gone to the Super Bowl a long time ago.

Now if we could only get your brother to post something.

Love
Mom 
Well Mom, I love you too and I'm glad you got my back. If you were a superhero you'd be "THE HYPHEN!" Or maybe the "THE CORRECTOR!" and you would run around the city with your red marker of justice correcting wrongs and occasionally correcting copy for the local news rag. 

Mom's affect on our writing doesn't stop at the Red Marker. I mean how else do you explain our love for Scrabble. I mean is there anything better than the smell of the wood letter trays, the rattle of the letters in the bag and slapping down the an 8 letter word on a triple word score that would make an old lady mutter a curse under her breath (not you Mom, you don't curse, nor are you old, grin). I mean I just love the smell of Scrabble tiles in the morning, smells like... victory. Did you know Jason is actually afraid to play her in Scrabble. She is L-E-G-E-N-D (8 points). 


In fact her influence makes the following clips from one of my favorite sitcoms funny. I love grammar humor! 





Well, I need to wrap it up. I'll grab our game on Words with Friends and "give you the spelling thrashing of a lifetime you deserve Smithers!" 


Cheers (11 points) 


Jeff