Monday, January 31, 2011

Office Physics: The Swivel Chair

Most people look at offices and think, This place is totally lacking cool physics. No lasers, no microscopes. Just a bunch of desks, computers, and chairs. I've never given any tours of my office, but I have given several tours of my labs (if you ever want one, I'd be happy to give you a tour).

But today, during my first 15 minutes of my lunch break I decided to change this view. Surely there is some interesting physics going on even here in this dingy office. I looked around the room and was amazed by what I saw: A bunch of desks, computers, and chairs. Still a lame office. I turned around in my swivel chair to throw my orange peel in the trash can and my eyes were opened to one of the most wonderful objects in the office: The Swivel Chair.

So there I was, eating a delicious orange, thinking about the fiber that's found in the peal. It would be very healthy for me to eat, but I chose to throw it away like any self-respecting American would do. I also thought about how if I was on a mountain, starving in a snowstorm, I would have eaten every single bit of that orange. But thank God, I'm not stranded on a mountain.

So I turned my swivel chair so I could throw away the peal. Mid rotation, I realized that I was spinning way too fast! My heart pounded and my forehead started to sweat, thinking about how embarrassing it would be if I couldn't stop myself before ramming right into the divider. My coworkers would surely ridicule me for the rest of my life. It was at that moment, just in the nick of time, that I remembered a very important lesson I learned in physics 1: Conservation of Angular Momentum.

In times of survival, while the adrenaline is rushing, your brain operates much faster than normal. This was my situation. I was to become either Dwight Schrute or Jim Halpert (which is no different from a life or death situation). Faster than ever, my brain calculated how I could change my body so that I could slow down before disaster. The solution to the equation was to stick my legs out. I slowed down so that I could gently place my feet against the neighboring desk without disturbing anyone. I quietly dropped my orange peal into the can and carefully turned back to write about the experience.

Conservation of angular momentum says that angular momentum is conserved. Please don't be shocked. When you spin yourself in your swivel chair, you're giving your body angular momentum. Angular momentum is dependent on your moment of inertia and your speed of rotation. Since angular momentum is always conserved you can only trade off between moment of inertia and speed. If you want to spin fast, you must reduce your moment of inertia by bringing your legs inward. If you want to slow down, you must increase your moment of inertia by stretching your legs out.

Hopefully this tidbit of knowledge will save your life someday.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moab: God's Playground

During college I did a fair amount of mountain biking. Just so you know, it is way more fun than road biking. Well most of it consisted of me riding my bike to and from school, but occasionally I would actually ride on trails. The only times I ever did real mountain biking was with my friend Zach. Zach absolutely loved mountain biking, so he was always eager to do a ride.

One year Zach had the epic idea of going to Moab, Utah for spring break. What better place to go? It was cold in Colorado, so we figured it would be perfect out there in the hot desert of Utah. So we got several guys together and left. Trevor and I drove down early and Zach, Steve, Caleb, Bryant, Alex, and Nathan planned on driving down there later in the day in Alex's 4Runner and Steve's very old (but awesome!)Buick sedan.

Day 1
Trevor and I got down there around 5. The plan was to camp on the side of a dirt road to the north of Moab, close to the Bartlett Wash trail. We set up our tent and then started looking for some firewood. It was pretty hard to find since it was a desert and the trees occurred about once every 50 feet. We walked all around the camp site and found lots of smaller stuff that looked like it was just old branches that had fallen from the trees. We didn't have any big pieces, so Trevor and I decided to cut down a dead tree that was still pretty firmly attached to the ground. All we had was a puny little saw, so this took us about 45 minutes to cut down and a significant amount of effort to drag it over to the fire pit. We started up the fire and started wondering where the other guys were.

Trevor, wondering where the other guys were

Cell phone reception was pretty bad, but we got a call from the others saying that Alex's 4runner was having issues. We got another call about 30 minutes later saying that Alex's 4runner was no longer drivable. Now it was 8 guys, 7 bikes and 2 sedans (saloons in England). Some of the guys finally arrived in an old Buick completely crammed with gear, people, and bikes. It was one of those experiences when you look into the window and have to really look for the guys hiding behind all the stuff. Zach and Trevor drove back to where the 4runner was parked and after another hour or more we finally had everybody at the camp site.

Day 2
I woke up learning a valuable lesson: Sleeping on sand is very uncomfortable and cold when it's just 2 guys in a tent without a sleeping pad.

We were all disappointed about Alex's 4runner, but we weren't going to let that stop us from having fun. So we rode our bikes down the dirt road to Bartlett Wash trail. This is a slickrock trail, which basically means that you're riding on one big piece of uncovered sandstone. Slick rock is really fun because it means you can ride any where you want, just like on a ski slope. You don't have to stay on the single-track like most mountain biking trails. The only problem is that some routes end up being really bad ideas. You get all excited to be riding out on the open rock and then all of a sudden there's a 3 foot drop or a foot deep hole that you do not want to ride over. So it can be sketchy.

Water also likes to carve out beautiful mushroom-looking things right on the edge of a cliff. Zach had heard all about the famous "Mushroom Drop" on this trail and was just dying to try it out. We all begged him not to do it, but he did it anyway as you can see in the following picture.

Zach dropping the "Mushroom Drop," smiling all the way.

Just kidding. He didn't do it. He looked at it and realized you would have to be crazy to do it.

Anyways, we rode for a while and had no crashes, which is very convenient since crashing on sandstone doesn't sound pleasant (Just ask Bengsoon). Although we did have some close calls with several drops that came out of no where. We also learned that banana peals do not bio-degrade in the middle of the desert.

Back at camp, after a long day of riding, we enjoyed some New Belgium and some delicious food around the camp fire. Trevor had spent the day by himself somewhere else in Moab and left for Golden that afternoon, so it was now 7 guys, 7 bikes and 1 sedan with an abnormally large trunk. We fell asleep wondering how we were going to get to the other trail the next day.

Day 3
When I woke up I realized that packing many guys in a single tent and sleeping in all my warm clothes is a good idea when you're in the desert in early spring. It was really cold the night before, so it was nice to be packed in with several other guys helping keep the tent warm.

We decided to take two trips out to the "Slick Rock Campground" since we only had one car. It was pretty boring waiting around, but once everyone got there we were ready to go on a ride. It took so long to get everything out there that it was lunch time before we left. So we ate lunch and headed out to the Slick Rock Trail.

When people say the "Slick Rock Trail" they're talking about this one. Hundreds of people ride it every day, and for good reason. It's a ridiculously fun trail. The whole ride you just weave around the wavy sandstone. There's tons of ups and downs but they're all pretty short, so it makes for a pretty technical, but easy, trail. I can't really describe how much fun this trail is. The grip between the sandstone and your tires is so amazing that you look back at what you just rode across and can't believe you didn't die or have to walk your bike. The sandstone extends the limits of mountain biking.

Left: Zach being legitimately cool at Slick Rock the year before.
Right: Me trying to be as cool as Zach

After the ride, we enjoyed a nice dinner and a conversation with a self-entitled "Adventurer." This man we met traveled all around in his little pickup, sleeping in the bed of the truck. He was an interesting guy who seemed to think that the absolute truth was that there was no absolute truth. It was cool to here his take on life, especially after the decades he had spent travelling around the world.

Day 4
We woke up in the morning and had a decision to make. Who would ride the Porcupine Rim trail and who wouldn't? My apologies for not remembering exactly who went, but 4 or 5 our of the 7 of us went and the others stayed back at camp for the day.

This was, by any standard, an epic ride. But my body had never been so sore afterward. It was a pretty bumpy, difficult ride along a "road" for a long way. You can sense my combination of emotions of awe, exhaustion, excitement and soreness by my blank stare in the following picture.

Me expressing a spectrum of emotions on Porcupine Rim Trail

Then the most memorable section of the trail was riding along a canyon rim, with cliffs to either side. One way was straight up, the other way was a nice 10 second fall to the Colorado River. Some of the spots along the rim were the scariest places I had ever been while riding a bike. It took a lot of balance and self-control to keep from falling over the cliff or having a panic attack.

We thought we were making good time, but this guy riding by himself on a crazy downhill bike just flew past us right before the most technical section of the entire trail. This was the only extended part of the trail we had to walk down. When we saw the guy at the bottom of the hill in very little time we really couldn't believe he had just ridden right through that section without getting off.

We got to the bottom of the canyon finally and had a nice snack and drink before riding down the highway to Moab. We ate out for dinner and ended up leaving that night with the help of Alex's brother who towed the 4runner back to Golden.

Good memories.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why it doesn't matter that Lance Armstrong finished 67th in his last pro race

99.99% of you people reading this had no idea that the Tour Down Under finished today, well yesterday in the U.S., but today in Australia. Something like that. If you are part of the 0.01% who have heard about the Tour Down Under, you would know that this is Lance Armstrong's last professional race ever. If you've never heard of Lance Armstrong, you can just quit reading this and come back another day. No it's okay, I'll give you a summary of his life.

Lance's Story
Lance grew up in Texas. He was not a very popular kid. His dad was a jerk and Lance actually hates that his last name is his deceptive step father's. His mom is legit though. She supported him in everything. She bought him every bike he ever wanted even though she was poor and had very little money to spare. She brought him up to believe that he could do anything and it didn't matter who told him he couldn't do it. Lance started his athletic career doing triathlons and he blew his competition away. He started doing plain old cycling races later on in high school and he kept blowing his competition away. His favorite way to train was to ride in the city, trying to keep up with the lights and running red lights through busy traffic. If you've ever ridden a bike on city roads, then you understand the excitement.

He became a professional cyclist and quit blowing his competition away, especially in stage races. He was a pretty bulky guy for a cyclist, but he ended up winning his first Tour de France stage. The Tour de France is the biggest race in cycling. It's 20ish days of cycling around France and to win a single stage in the race is a very prestigious thing. But he hadn't won the whole tour yet.

One day he noticed graphic details that indicated he had testicular cancer. He had a low chance of survival because the cancer had gotten to a pretty advanced stage. He had chemo-therapy, he was very sick for a long time, but he ended up recovering after the long and difficult struggle.

Cancer was arguably the thing that caused him to be the best cyclist that ever lived. Like I said, Lance used to be a pretty big guy for a cyclist. He had all kinds of power, but couldn't do the mountain stages. Well cancer, that jerk of a coach, forced him to lose a ton of weight. He was now significantly lighter and his muscles were better built for fighting through long, difficult stages and long difficult tours. Cancer also inspired him to be so much better than before because it was one of those things that said, "You can't do it. You can't survive. You'll never be a good cyclist again." Lance thrives off of people (or diseases) telling him he can't do something. If some cyclist does a jerk move, Lance will funnel his anger and use it to help him ride faster... and it works really well for him. The same thing happened with his fight with cancer. It pushed him to be better than anyone else. It also inspired him to start the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a group that helps people who have cancer.

Well Lance won his first Tour de France. Then he won another...then another. The next thing you know he's won 7 Tours de France, which is 2 more tour wins than the previous best cyclists ever. This is very good evidence that he is now the best cyclist ever. Lance's story is pretty amazing, so if you want a good biography to read, you should read his, which is called It's Not About The Bike.

Anyways, The Tour Down Under is Lance's last race. He got 67th place. At first glance I thought, wow, that's a lame way to finish. But on second glance, I realized, who cares? Michael Jordan was the best basketball player ever and he came back for a little while for a less than stellar end to his NBA career and people still say he was the best ever. So it's a common thing for the best athlete to come back for a lame ending, but why do they do it?

Maybe Lance just loves cycling. Maybe he doesn't know how to live life outside of riding a bike every day. Maybe he wants to keep demolishing career records and make it harder for the next cyclist to catch up to his legacy. Maybe he just wants to make more money. Maybe he wants to spend time mentoring other riders. Maybe he wants to learn what it's like to be a domestique who's entire purpose for racing is to help his team leader win.

A quick Google search reveals all. Upon his comeback #2, Lance said "After talking with my children, my family and my closest friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the global cancer burden." If you have ever seen someone wearing a yellow plastic bracelet that says Livestong on it, then you have heard of Lance's organization. They provide all kinds of resources for cancer patients. Their annual costs for the resources they provide is about 24 million. This is pretty small compared to the Red Cross who's program costs are 3 billion, but it's still pretty awesome.

The Moral of The Story
Now that I realize the moral to the story, I'll tell you. Celebrities, professional athletes, and rich, famous people in general have incredible potential for doing good and it's really cool when you see someone actually doing good with their fame and their money. Lance is the biggest contributor to his charity and he has pretty much dedicated his life to it. Not only does he give a lot of money, but he uses his fame to get others to donate. I think there are a lot of celebrities that have realized their potential to do good, but I am most familiar with Lance's story. He became the best cyclist to ever live and did something very good with that status.

It's good to see celebrities using their position to do good, but the same goes for us. God has put us in positions where we can do good in areas where others cannot. God gives us talents and abilities. He puts us in different areas of the world, different offices and neighborhoods. He makes us fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. We are all in different situations so we can bring good to this world in diverse ways. It's wonderful to see our diverse potentials, but it all goes to waste if we don't recognize our position in life and take advantage of it, stepping out to bring the Kingdom of God to the area he has put us in.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Probably the most popular hike in Eagle River is Baldy Mountain. It's a pretty fun hike and not too difficult, so it makes for a popular walk. This is also one of the notorious places that you can roll up a doobie and nobody would do a double-take.

Me on Baldy, pretending to smoke a joint

From the bottom of Baldy, it looks pretty impressive, but when you get on any of the nearby mountains, you see that it's pretty small as this picture illustrates.

That tiny bald mountain

I won't pretend it's a casual Sunday afternoon stroll though. The climb up to Baldy is really really steep, so you're usually quite tired by the time you get there. After the climb you feel very satisfied with your work out and if you're like me, you can feel guilt free for weeks for exercising this one time.

But there's always a sense of disappointment when you get to the top of the mountain. You see, Baldy is really just a false peak. Beyond Baldy there lies a series of wonderful mountains that are much more interesting than Baldy.

The view upward from Baldy

Once you pass Baldy, you still have Black Tail Rocks, Round Top and Vista Peak. If you're really ambitious, you can even get to Mt. Significant (which is a mile high) and loop back to Mt. Magnificent (which was where the second photo above was taken from).

Back in 2007, after having climbed Baldy several times, I decided to keep going to Black Tail Rocks, named so because of the following photo.

Black Tail Rocks from the backside with Vista Peak in the background

Well I got to Blacktail and was pretty tired because that's a pretty long hike when you do Baldy, then Blacktail. I walked down the mountain overjoyed that I could go back and tell my brother and dad all about it. We had talked for years about going past Baldy up to Blacktail. It was beautiful being even higher than Baldy. I took lots of pictures and enjoyed my time up there.

Getting to Blacktail was wonderful, but like Baldy, it made me want more. I had an even better view of Roundtop and Vista Peak. How far back did I have to go to find satisfaction? Who knows.

The next summer my brother Josh and I were talking about Blacktail. We decided we wanted to hike up there, but I told him about all the cool mountains behind Blacktail that were just begging to be explored. We had the amazing idea of hiking up to the base of Blacktail and camp in tents there. The next day we would wake up and explore the back mountains with lighter packs.

So one Friday, I came home from work around 6 and we headed up the side-route around Baldy that goes to the flat part between Baldy and Blacktail. We didn't want to have to do the steep climb up Baldy with 30 pound packs. Following an old mining road, we cut off onto what looked like a trail...kinda. It ended up being a lot of bush-whacking for a little while, but tree line came fast. So the rest of the hike to camp was pretty easy. We came out of the trees at a bad place and had to follow sheep trails to the main trail, but made it up there around 9pm (remember, this is Alaska so it's still light out). We made dinner, hid our food in a hole 50m from the tent and went to sleep.

In the morning we woke up to a hot and stuffy tent, so it didn't take any motivation to get us up and out. I started up some water for oatmeal and found that some ground squirrel had gotten into the food bag. He must have not had skills because he just broke the plastic bag and didn't actually get any food. After eating, we left the tent up and started walking up Blacktail.

It was a good hike and I told Josh about my strategy of counting my steps and setting a number of steps to take before taking a 10 second break. This is my favorite way to hike when it's steep because I just don't think hiking is any fun if you wear yourself out. We got to the top of Black tail in about 30 minutes and regretted forgetting our cameras at home once we got to the top.

We had plenty of time before we needed to head back, so we pushed on. We descended the backside of Blacktail and hiked along a ridge to a saddle that connects Roundtop and Vista Peak. From the saddle we could see down to Peter's Creek and all kinds of other mountains that we had never seen before because they were always hidden. We were pretty satisfied with how far we had gone, so we sat down on the saddle, ate our PB&Js, and watched some Dall sheep that were up on Roundtop.

I kind of regret not going any further, but we were pretty tired by then and decided to head back down. I had accomplished my goal to see if it was possible to get to Vista Peak and Roundtop from Blacktail. It looked possible and it looked like a ton of fun.

We got back to the tent after traversing around Blacktail and dipping down to a tiny little stream. Traversing along steep slopes is a pain and it ended up being more difficult than going up and down Blacktail would have been. But we made it back to camp, packed everything and headed back down to the car.

We couldn't wait until next time when we could go all the way to Vista Peak.

Exploration is addictive. You get to a certain point and can't just stop there. You always have a strong desire to keep going. It's nice to be familiar with an area, but it's never enough. Once I started exploring those mountains behind Baldy I couldn't get enough. I would constantly be wondering what it's like if I just went a few miles further. There are so many new things to see and experience. I'm always left wanting more. So, to steal North Face's motto, Never Stop Exploring.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snacking...ALL DAY LONG!!!

The art of snacking is a very delicate one. We all want to have snacks at our desk at work that we can eat all day long. Really, who wouldn't want an infinite supply of food and drink that you could enjoy all 8 hours of the work day, then go home to another infinite supply that you can eat while doing whatever you do at home?

Some people's self-control amazes me. I know some people who can keep Little Debbie chocolate-peanut butter bars in their cabinet for months before they're done with them. I just don't understand people like that. I have nothing to say to them except, "Wow. Props."

If you're anything like me, snacks like candy bars, wheat thins, ice cream, orange juice, and other irresistible foods disappear in less than 48 hours. If I had a craving for Wheat Thins some day and I bought them in the morning, they would probably be gone by the end of the day if not, by 9:00am the next day. The problem is that they are irresistible for me. I have very little self-control when it comes to junk food. The only time I stop eating it is when I finally get tired of it (which can sometimes take a very long time) or when I run out.

So I came up with a solution, because I absolutely love snacking throughout the day. One day my supervisor was at my desk with me and noticed my "Hint of Salt" Triscuits. He was a bit taken aback because Triscuits aren't exactly the most tasty cracker out there and when you take most of the salt out, they're even less tasty. The way I solved my problem of eating too much junk food was by buying food that tastes boring enough that I can stop eating it before eating half the box. My three snacks that I have regularly are "Hint of Salt" Triscuits, Unsalted Almonds, and Carrots. None of these particularly taste that amazing, so that makes them the perfect snack.
  • Triscuits, even though they are whole wheat, they're not perfectly healthy. They still have lots of carbs, so they aren't exactly good for me if I'm sitting around, not burning them. But I am able to eat the Triscuits in small enough quantities that they aren't bad for me.
  • Unsalted Almonds. I could actually eat these forever, but they are the most healthy of all the nuts, so it's okay. Low fat, high protein, no sodium. And they're just the right amount of sweetness for me to enjoy them. The only thing that really keeps me from eating an entire can of almonds every day is that they're so darn expensive.
  • Carrots are so good for you that once I start eating them, I allow myself to eat and eat and eat till I'm tired of carrots or until my coworkers start complaining about the loud chomping. I'm hoping for good eyesight and orangish skin since that's the trend these days with tanning salons and whatnot.
So take heart, fellow snackers! You don't have to wallow in guilt for eating boxes and boxes of irresistible snacks. You don't have to sit in starvation and boredom, wishing you had something to snack on. Just eat boring foods. It's much better than not eating anything and makes you feel less guilty than eating way too much junk food.

Monday, January 17, 2011


"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
Read the rest of it:

And this is the Bible passage he references in the above quote: Isaiah 40:5

Friday, January 14, 2011


Failure makes you question. What went wrong? Did I not prepare correctly? Did I procrastinate too much? Am I stupid? Am I really meant to be doing this? Am I doing more harm than good?

For those of you who don't know, I teach a Sunday School class at my church. For those of you who aren't familiar with the weird things that Christians do, a Sunday School class is a small group Bible study. We read the section of the book, then discuss it. We try to learn more about God through it and how we can actually change our lives for his least that's the idea.

Well, I felt like I failed at teaching last Sunday, teaching on James 4:11-17. Perhaps I was just being hard on myself, but nevertheless, that is how it felt. I went into Sunday morning actually pretty excited to teach. Some weeks I feel unprepared and am less excited, but I thought this passage was pretty inspiring and I thought I would be able to help the rest of the class learn something valuable. It didn't go as well as I had expected. My questions seemed elementary and I did not get the feeling that we really learned a whole lot after the discussion.

That was hard. It was hard going from feeling really excited about teaching to feeling disappointed with myself for not doing a good job teaching the passage. That apparent failure made me think, a lot. I wondered what happened. I felt like I had prepared for this lesson better than most of my lessons. I had actually meditated on the passage for several days before Sunday, writing out my thoughts on every single verse. I was as prepared as I could have been. For a while now, I have felt like God has given me the ability to teach. I thought that was his calling for me, to teach. But after that failure I started wondering if teaching really is my "spiritual gift," as Christians call it.

I seriously thought about this all day. If my mind wasn't distracted by the football games I was watching, it was thinking about why I had failed. I did come to a conclusion on some things that were wrong.
  1. My life has not truly been changed by the scripture that I teach on. I thought back to one of the subjects in the passage I had just taught on. The passage says that we should not think the future is in our hands, but recognize that it is completely in God's hands. We naturally want to feel certain about things, so I think our natural tendency should be to find out what God's will is for our lives. The 3 ways I gave for how we can do this is by prayer, reading the Bible, and by asking Christian friends. I realized that I don't actually do those things. I will sometimes pray a little bit, but not really listen for God's will. And in most areas I do not read the Bible or ask friends' opinions. The thing that came to mind is the fact that I have never once looked in the Bible to try to decide what kind of career I should pursue. If I really want to be a good teacher, I need to let the scripture I teach truly change me, otherwise everything I teach on will be hypocrisy.
  2. I have not been a friend to the people in my class. When teaching in a church, there is much more that goes into it than just being a good lecturer or a good discussion leader. I realized that I really could not consider any of the people in my class a close friend. The reason for that is not any kind of neglect on their part, but a complete neglect on my part. You can learn a lot more from someone who is your friend than someone who is just doing their job with no emotional connection. Somebody who you know really cares about you.
So, I really think that my failure on Sunday was a very good thing. It really made me question the deeper reasons on why things aren't going the way they should. The important thing is to move past the questioning and make the necessary changes. If a failure doesn't lead to a change in behavior, then you will never improve as a person and will be doomed to a life of failure.

And if you never fail, then you're just lame.

Much thanks to Rick for helping me think this through.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Self-Inflicted Torture

I have made one big step towards actually doing The Big Bike Ride (that one from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific coast). I bought a trainer. I paid $200 for it because I bought it from REI (more expensive product, but free shipping since I'm a member). Anyways, this is a big step.

Anyone who has ever bought a treadmill knows what happens when you buy it. You use it for a while and you're very proud of yourself for getting in good shape. But it doesn't take long until you realize how ridiculously boring it is and you give up.

First, you start out with the treadmill facing the wall and it takes about 5 minutes to realizing that you're staying in the exact same location, staring at the wall...the wall. If you're lucky, there's a picture on the wall and you can marvel at it's beauty for another 5 minutes. Pavlov would tell you that it will take you another few minutes to have that picture so deeply ingrained in your head that whenever you see it in the future, you will immediately feel bored, angry, tired, sweaty, and sore. Academically, this is very interesting, but practically, it is torture.

You move up in the world. You bring a TV into the room and watch TV while you run. 3 hours later, according to your body clock, the 30 minute (measured by your sundial) episode of The Office is finally over. You need to keep going for another hour, but the only thing on is Glee. "Why, God! Why!!" you exclaim out loud. It was torture enough to watch The Office, one of the best shows ever. I can only imagine the pain I'm about to put myself through by watching Glee on the treadmill. Well 5 minutes into the episode you realize something. I don't have to do this to myself. I can just get off this treadmill and actually enjoy life. Forget the torturous combination of exercise and Glee! By darn, I'm going to go eat me some potato chips and watch me some YouTube videos!

And that's how it ends. Your treadmill is never used again. You just live life as happy as ever, ruing the days you spent on that horrible treadmill. You resolve to never run on the treadmill again.

This example I give is one that is familiar to many of you. More people have treadmills than have bike trainers. Think of the let-down it is to go from running outside in the beauty of the world with the wind flowing through your hair to running in place on a treadmill. Well, my average speed when running is around 9mph, I think. My average speed on a bike is around 14mph. So to be conservative, multiply the let-down of running on a treadmill by 1.5. This is how much of a let-down riding a bike on a trainer is.

That being said, I will be putting myself through torture for the next few months because it will usually be too cold and/or icy to ride outside. But it's all for the sake of The Big Ride and will certainly make me more thankful for riding my bike outside...assuming I don't give up before the end of the winter.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Swimming: Why keep kidding ourselves?

Today I had the motivation to ride my bike to work. The temperature was above freezing (my lowest temperature I like to ride in), so I didn't have much of an excuse to skip the ride. As hard as it can be for me to motivate myself to ride my bike, I still enjoy it much more than most other forms of exercise. A little after the half-way point in my ride today I had the most wonderful thought. I thought to myself, I'm so glad I'm riding my bike and not swimming this morning.

I've never really put that much effort into swimming, so I may be a bit biased, but I did put lots of effort into it in the spring semester of 2010. I took a swimming class because I figured it would be good to actually learn how to swim well. I had heard how great exercise swimming is, so I tried it out. We met three times a week. The first day we were in the water was torture. They tested us on how fast we could swim a lap. The first test was one lap of freestyle and this was doable but still quite difficult since my previous maximum swimming length was a half a lap. I was in the middle of the pack for that test. Next was the kicking test. After a quarter of a lap I was dead. I got to the other end of the pool and waited a good 15 seconds before I came back. I started coming back and it took me forever to get back to the other end. I was surprised that I did actually beat one person, but only by a tiny bit.

I didn't know how to kick. Three days a week I would go swimming, trying to improve my form, but the improvement was minimal over the entire semester. I was in better shape, for sure, by the end of the semester because it was so ridiculously difficult for me, but I was barely any faster than that first day.

Here's what I learned:
  • Swimming is boring. You're going very slow and have nothing interesting to look at. The peak in excitement is turning at the wall, taking breaths, and changing your stroke. I never once was excited to jump in that pool and was never once regretful that I had to get out of the pool at 8:50.
Cycling is fun. You go quite fast and have lots of good scenery to look at if you don't live in Kansas. It's actually pretty often that I'm excited to get on my bike, although I'm usually pretty tired by the end of the ride, so I'm happy to get off.
  • Breathing is difficult while swimming. You turn your head or lift it up just above the water, hoping that you don't breathe in the water that's pouring down your face. If you don't use the correct form while breathing, then your body will shift to a more vertical position and cause you to slow down, messing everything up. I found myself thinking, "I need to breathe. I should have the freedom to enjoy plenty of oxygen, but every time I breathe, it slows me down and gives me a high chance of breathing in water."
While riding a bike, Oxygen is plentiful. Nothing is restricting you from breathing to your lungs' content.
  • Swimming ignores God's gift of fully bendable legs. Look at a dolphin and try to bend it's tail as far as your legs can bend. It won't work. They don't have our range of motion, so swimming is their natural form of transportation. Humans weren't built for swimming. Why keep kidding ourselves?
Cycling embraces humans' design by taking advantage of the legs' full range of motion. Humans have a great range of motion for their legs, so they were built to walk, run, push gas pedals, and bike.

All that being said, I'm happy I don't have to swim anymore and am able to enjoy riding my bike.

P.S. Don't be offended if you think swimming is better than cycling. Most of the above reasons I hate swimming would be very different if I was actually good at it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Social Phenomena: Dance Parties

Most people are horrible dancers. Once the music starts, a bunch of horrible horrible dancers go up to the dance floor and make fools of themselves. Almost all of them look like complete idiots and have no idea what they're doing.

It was when I realized this that I started enjoying dancing.

The first dance I ever went to was Homecoming when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. After that, I only went to dances that I was forced to go to (prom junior and senior year). It was a horrible experience. I was afraid to dance, so I just walked around, looking for people I knew who weren't dancing and talked to them. I may have tried dancing once during the night, but it only amounted to bobbing my head since I thought I would look dumb if I actually tried to dance. From then on, I hated dancing.

Junior year I went to prom with Bethany and Justin. Bethany was so proud to have two dates and Justin and I awkwardly shared her as our date. We had trouble deciding who was opening the door for her and stuff like that. I didn't want to go to prom because of my traumatic experience at the last dance I went to. But Bethany convinced me to go because she was moving to Texas that summer and wouldn't be able to go senior year. Well we went and had fun. I only danced when people dragged me out to the dance floor and bugged me to dance and I did one or two slow dances with Bethany, I think. I figured slow dances would be pretty easy and it would be almost impossible to look like a fool. The slow dances were good, but I didn't enjoy the rest of the dancing, but the whole night was a lot of fun anyways. We went to Barnes and Noble all dressed up, went to Outback for dinner, then went bowling after the dance. Still hated dancing, though.

Well, Bethany tricked me. She ended up coming back up to Alaska for prom senior year, even though she had moved to Texas. But this year the table turned. This time there were 3 guys and 6 girls. Justin, Andy, and I felt pretty cool to have 2 dates each. This one was pretty fun too. Glacier Brewhouse for dinner, the dance, then we hung out watching movies afterward. I danced with almost all the girls we went with that year and did a very small amount of dancing, if you can call what I did, dancing. But I started realizing something that night, everyone around me looked really stupid. Nobody I was with actually knew how to dance. In our little circle of eight, we were all dancing (some with more passion than others), and we all looked kind of dumb. I finally realized that dancing would actually be fun if I could get over myself. I didn't get over myself yet.

I ran away to Colorado and avoided social events with dancing for the first year. The second year I actually danced some. I was finally getting over myself. I probably went to two dances that year. The first time it was line dancing, so that was right up my alley (plus I got to hold a pretty girl's hands). Tell me what to do and I can do it. But the second time was the kind of dance where you have to make up stuff. With my new realization that everybody at a dance looks stupid, I started dancing, all the while looking stupid. Still feeling a bit awkward about it, I took lots of water breaks and made sure I spent some time not dancing.

Well through the next years I found myself at one or two dances every year. I started dancing more and more at them. I got to the point where I would pretty much dance to every song I could, assuming it was a good song to dance to. I started noticing the different dancing styles for different kinds of music, rock, hip-hop, swing, etc. I was finally enjoying dancing, all because I realized that we're all up there making fools of ourselves.

Most of us all-out have no idea how to dance. But even people who do organized dance find themselves feeling like they have no idea what they are doing at a dance party. Even people who run dance clubs in Poland feel clueless on the dance floor.

No matter how clueless you may be or how foolish you may look, dancing is still fun because it takes your focus off yourself and lets your body do what it was made to do-Dance to the Music. So, if you don't dance because you're afraid of looking like a fool, just remember that everyone else looks like a fool, and start dancing...especially if you're older than 40. All the young people will be overjoyed that you joined them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How to tell the difference between a man and a woman

I' m always amazed to see amazing technologies that exist in nature. You can just look at yourself and find a lot of them, although I wouldn't recommend operating on yourself for the sake of marveling at your heart. The most recent thing I've learned about is the lyrebird. They can imitate any sound they hear. It's pretty amazing hearing them imitating all kinds of other birds, but they also imitate chain saws, car alarms, and cameras (at least in the link above). It's pretty amazing what they can do.

Humans aren't all that bad at it either though. If you know how to speak english, then you can do this to an extent. If you can speak several different languages, getting the accent right every time, then you're pretty much amazing. When you look at the basics of what's going on when we do this, I think it's quite impressive.

If you heard the word, flabbergasted, then you can recognize it and probably know that it means exhausted. You could also hear two recordings of the word, one by an Englishman and one by an American woman and probably distinguish the two.

Now here's a fun-filled quiz: Which audio sample is the Englishman and which is the American Woman?

You guessed it. Audio sample 1 is the American woman and audio sample 2 is the Englishman. Now let's look at what your ear heard when you played those audio samples.
If you compare the two samples, you can see that they actually look pretty similar. The top line of both images gives you an idea of the rhythm of the syllables and the emphasis on particular syllables. On the second and third lines you see more detail. It's pretty easy to see in the second line that the frequency of the woman's voice is higher than the man's voice, hence your ability to tell that one was a woman and one was a man. Also, your brain has some way of recognizing which waveforms make the sounds fla-bber-gas-ted. I guess by looking at the higher frequencies. And then, to top it all off, your brain can look at the sounds each letter makes and tell the tiny differences between an American and English accent.

It's pretty impressive what your ear can do. And then if you can turn around and mimic the word and the accents, then it's even more impressive.