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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 15 - John O'Groats, Scotland

 

Well!  Because Mother Nature has a sense of humor, our "victory lap" turned into "50 miles in the driving Scottish highlands wind and rain".  But honestly I wouldn't have it any other way; it totally fit to come, dripping and shivering, to the sign at John O'Groats and the end of the journey.  It's hard to put into words what these trips mean to me and how much of a role they've come to take on in my life.  I feel full and complete when I do these rides, like the real me has a chance to shine through.  The night before, I "won" the "most improved attitude" award at the little awards ceremony, and far from being angry or hurt, I totally understood what they meant; at the beginning of the ride I was very grumpy and hurt and sad, and by the end I felt much, much better.  Sadly it takes about two weeks for me to really unroll from the previous year, so I only had a few days to really enjoy it.  Last night was one of those times, and today was another.  After taking some shivering pictures and opening some bottles of champagne, we all retired, laughing to the fields outside the ocean, where we pitched our tents and hoped for the best (but more on that later).  I love doing this so much, I love the people that I meet both in the groups and along the way.  

One more day of fun and a bit of traveling, then a day of hard core traveling, then finally I arrive home, in time for the next leg of the journey.  More on that soon!

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 14 - Bettyhill, Scotland

 

We've finally reached the ocean and our second to last day of cycling; now we just turn east 50 miles to John O' Groats for a victory lap of sorts.  The trip is winding down, and it's sad, but the second to last day had some nice surprises for us, including church ladies waiting with finger sandwiches, hot showers at a rec center with a pool and a hot tub, a fun ceremony where we gave each other prizes, and a trip down to the beach at night to watch jellyfish (!) in the cold Atlantic waters.  Every time I do one of these trips I am reminded that this is where my heart is, and likely always will be.  I could say more but I'll leave it at that.

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 13 - Evanton, Scotland

 

There are so many things I could write about today: how beautiful Inverness was, how great it was to do a downhill at 38 miles per hour, how much I still enjoy riding my bike.  But what I want to choose to focus on is Steve Heltham.  Steve is the man behind NessieHunter.com, and we ran into him up at Dores, on the north shore of Loch Ness, where we stopped for a midday meal and to just take in the scenery.  He runs a little shop, which I believe he also is living in, along a rocky beach in a sleep slightly-touristy town next to the OutDores Inn.  It’s a ramshackle little place made out of what looks to be an old railway car with wood paneling on the inside.  His life story is on a billboard outside the shop, probably so he doesn’t have to repeat it over and over.  It’s long, but the short version is this: he got to be 24, had a solid job and a girlfriend, an interest in studying the Loch Ness Monster, and then one day just decided “the heck with all this, I’m going to move to Loch Ness and just spend my life looking for this thing”.  And then he did.  I met him, briefly, as I bought this figurine in the picture - Nessie - from him.  He seems solid, sturdy, quiet, a bit weathered but happy.  Wistful, is a word I might use.  And in his mid to late 60s.  The article outside is pretty standard stuff; he talks about just speaking with older folks he knew and hearing over and over how they regretted certain choices they made or didn’t make and how he didn’t want to end up that way - with regrets.

 

It’s a message I’ve heard before, of course, many times, but like many messages I think I needed to hear it right in that moment.  This whole trip has sent me a bunch of signals that there are things that I need to reinvest in and change.  For various reasons - none of which are bad - I’ve had to focus on other things but I think it’s finally time to come back around and really focus on myself and making myself happy.  Going after my own Loch Ness Monster.  Nessie is going to stay with me now as a reminder of how important that is.

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 12 - Fort Augustus, Scotland

 

What an awesome day!  The beginning of today turned out to be what is so far, and might turn out to be in general, my favorite segment of riding.  We finally hit the Scottish highlands and they are exactly what you would think from the movies - rolling verdant hills and stone walls.   The green is so amazingly *green*.  The pictures you’ll see below - what I call my Windows Desktop Series, if you catch that reference - look almost fake, like the Photoshop saturation tool was used.  But they’re right out of the phone.  The ride through the mountains felt so peaceful, and I had one of my Moments.  If you’ve followed this blog before, I occasionally have these little moments, things that I feel I will remember forever, a single snapshot of a time and place and feeling.  In this case, it was coming around and down a long straight downhill in the highlands with a big mountain straight ahead, as green as you could imagine, and short enough that we could see the top, where wisps of clouds were coming off the top as if it was a volcano releasing steam.  Up ahead my friend Andrew was riding around a curve wearing a bright red cycling jersey.  The primary feeling was one of release - maybe releasing my brother’s cancer, or the things holding me back, or the last ten years, I’m not sure, but just a release and an energy, an energization (even though I think that’s not a word).  A calm certainty about myself and what I need to do.

Tonight we’re staying in this very touristy town of Fort Augustus.  It’s nice.  I got to watch a working lock do its business moving local tourist boats into Loch Ness.  And we swam in Loch Ness - although I only went in halfway because it was coooooooold.  Sadly, no monster today!

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 11 - Tyndrum, Scotland

 

Last night we stayed at a campground for only the second time since we’ve started this trip, camping outside.  The Pine Tree Leisure Centre.  It was the sort of place you’d find cropping up near Lake Tahoe, and made for one of those nights that remind me why I do this.  I parked my tent down right next to the river and set up my hammock and hung out in, just thinking about my role in life and what I’m coming back to.  A few things that I notice about these trips.  One, I really feel a profound sense of wanting to live, and wanting to do things - a sort of joy, sometimes almost a desperate joy - about what’s to come and wanting to see it.  The second is that riding through nature is very calming for me, and in that calm and clarity I have a lot of deep thoughts about how to move forward with myself.

One thing - that I’ve said over and over, but it’s because it’s true - is that I really, really want to get in excellent shape.  I look back and pictures of myself from trips prior and it makes me sad that I’m kind of overweight in some of them, and conversely the few times I’ve been in really great shape it makes me feel so alive.  I know people say you shouldn’t judge your body that way, but what I finally realized is that I’m not doing it for other people, I’m doing it for myself.

We rode through Glasgow.  It looked nice.  They have a wonderful bike path all the way through the city.  Also some very interesting looking modern architecture.  Overall, though, what I will always take away from these trips is the nature.

On the negative side, we’re getting a lot more annoyed drivers and honking.  Not that bad yet, but a noticeable change from England, where we didn’t have any at all.

Also - and there’s no nice way to put it - England was so clean and tidy, and Scotland is just a bit messier and more like, well, America.  

There’s supposed to be these little biting gnats called midges that everyone warned us about, but honestly they weren’t that bad.  Maybe it’s the unseasonably hot and nice weather!

I did feel pretty sick last night for a while.  I think the “road diet” has caught up with me.  I ate a rich dish with a cream sauce and mashed turnips and haggis and I think it came back on me.

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 10 - Carluke, Scotland

 

Yesterday we did our first century of this trip - that's 100 miles.  I've done them before of course, but this one was especially fun.  It was nice to see that I could still do it, and actually do it pretty easily - I mean, I'm tired, but it wasn't that bad.  It helped that the weather was perfect, slightly cool and overcast.  Scotland is very nice but reminds me a *lot* more of the US.  The roads are wider, and we even had - gasp! - a shoulder to ride on for a while.  And the building constructino is more modern.  But James says that might just be because of the area that we're in.  I stopped in a random little shop in Suquhar and struck up a conversation with the owner and her little dog Daisy, and was reminded of how that can be one of my favorite parts - just random conversations with locals - and I should do it more often.

Top 10 Questions I Have For Scotland About Irn-Bru, the Unofficial Drink of Scotland:

1) . Seriously??!?
2)  You are a nation of warriors, shouldn't you drink the blood of your enemies or something?
3) . Why is it orange?
4) . Just please tell me what it's *supposed* to taste like.
5) . In what sense is it "Brewed"?
6) . Does the "Irn" leach out of the can you put it in?
7) . I mean, c'mon, you're joking, right?
8) . When you drink Red Bull, do you think "hey this is like Irn Bru but worse"?
9) . Do you mix it with alcohol?  And, if so, do you then have a seizure?
10) . Would you like some help thinking up new beverages?

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 9 - Carlisle, England

 

Yesterday we rode over Kirkstone pass, which was a beautiful 11-1200 foot climb into picturesque northern English highlands.  At one point on the down slope we came across a sheep which had parked itself right in the middle of the road and was just bleating.  I hope it wasn’t sick.  The climb was fun; if I lived around there I would do it every week, and in fact we saw a lot of locals because it was Sunday.  After the descent, we rolled into a more lower-middle-class industrial area called Carlisle.  It was an easy day overall, only 55 miles.  The town wasn’t particularly notable but we did stay in a very nice church and met yet another MS society.  We’ve had a lot more interactions with people with MS on this trip than I’m used to in the US and it’s interesting to hear their life stories.  The thing that comes across is how frustrating it is to have good days and bad days, and to have a disease that to many observers is invisible.

Even in the more industrial areas we were in, England is remarkably clean.  Tomorrow we head into Scotland for a 100 mile day!

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 7 & 8 - Kendal, England

 

Hmm...so much to write about.  The riding on the day before yesterday was fun but not especially interesting.  We finally got a taste of this rain, wet and cold we'd be hearing so much about it, but it wasn't bad.  We chose a nice sloooow pace and still got there in plenty of time.  I have often been elected unofficial leader because of the Garmin that I have, which, by the way, has turned out to be worth its weight in gold.  James - the route director - did a great job putting together his own maps but there is no substitute for having the device guide you around, it lets you really relax and take in the sights.  We stopped at one point at got warm at another nice pub with some more delicious food, this time a cheese and onion pie.  I might be full up on pubs for the moment.  :)

Kendal is beautiful and amazing.  It's not a huge town, but it's everything you'd want from a small British town - cobblestone streets, gorgeous yards.  I didn't get to explore as much as I might like, and anyway it's been cloudy, but the town is beautiful.  We went out to this really cool Activity Center; I've never seen anything like it, it was set up for people with disabilities to do activities like rock climbing and riding bicycles and we all rode bikes with the folks with MS.  I spent a good bit of time talking to a younger couple Judith and Craig and their two kids; Judith has MS and still is in great spirits but you can tell she is desperate to be rid of the disease.  I have hope that the same treatment that worked for my brother will work for them someday, so we spent some time talking about the Stem Cell treatments.  They talked a lot, wistfully, about visiting San Francisco, and you can tell they would have if not for MS.  :(

And last night the local MS director took us out for drinks and tapas appetizers.  The food here is, really, so good.  And now I know that I really like British bitters.

One of my friends sent me a text saying "Are you ready for your second half of your journey?"  And the thing is, I really, really am, in many more ways than one.

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 6 - Eccleston, England

 

Today I (essentially) caused a wreck by one of my friends Andrew.  I am using this Garmin to track the route instead of the maps, and I realized right away I'd missed a right turn (remember, right turns are harder here).  I called out "stopping" but I stopped too fast and he was behind me and got flustered and essentially went over his handlebars.  He's OK but I felt super bad.  We ended up hanging out in a local town for some coffee while a local ship fixed his mech hanger.  Lucky he did it so close to a shop! 

I mentioned to someone where we were headed yesterday and he said we were headed into a poor area, and then - quite possible by coincidence - it started to look like America.  :( . It's probably a coincidence.  

Oh my god, does everyone here hate Donald Trump!!  They are all quite relieved to find that there are Americans who didn't vote for him, don't like him and think he's just as stupid as they do.

The weather has been amazing.  Even though I know England/Scotland is really rainy, I have to admit I'm OK with seeing the sunny side.  :)

Also, the beer is outstanding, and cheap.

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 5 - Wharf Tavern at Goldstone, England

 

Yesterday was one of those "uneventful" days that sometimes happens during cycle touring.  I say "uneventful" because of course a lot of things happened, but they were the things that you would expect to have happen during a cycle tour, i.e. cycling, and eating.  There are a lot of little things I could talk about: the dozens of tiny harmless black flies that coated us, the amazing food we were served in the little pub we're staying at, the way you learn the rhythm of a new place just long enough to enjoy it before moving on.  But the thing that really strikes me is how calming it can be, for me, to be out here on these trips.  Staying in my tiny little tent, waking up naturally at 6:30 am - it's just very soothing.  Nothing particularly happened yesterday, and sometimes that's just the way I like it.

We've built up a good 400 or so miles now are heading towards the halfway point.  I have to keep reminding myself this is a relatively short trip.  Everyone has been very nice to me.  I have a lot of trouble with social groups and I often spend a lot of time alone at home.  I know I have a very unpleasant personality and people take a while to warm up to me, if they ever do at all.  It's weird - but nice - to have such an intense relationship with these people many of whom I might never see again.

I'm still dreaming of my trip to Iceland to ride around the country.  I'd like to ride it once, either on my own or with one or two other people, then do a "test ride" where I simulated what it would be like as a Bike the US for MS-style ride, then submit it to them for approval to do it as an actual fund-raising ride.  I think it would be great!

Oh, and last but not least, we've been meeting folks from the various MS societies - the local ones - which is fun.  Over here, the group gives donations directly to these local societies, so in some ways they are "campaigning" to get some of the funds.  But they're very nice people. The pub owner, for example, her sister has MS so she lets us camp here for free as long as we eat dinner in her pub (which we would do anyway because there is literally nothing else here!)

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 4 - Hereford, England

 

Today we went - very briefly - through Wales!  It was cool.  We stopped in at a little tourist stop and bought some stickers - my first ones here!  We had lunch at this placed called the National Diving Center which is an old quarry where they do ziplining, diving training and some swimming.  I would have done all of the above but they were closed.  I had an interesting conversation with a British man named Graham whose wife has MS about the differences between the US healthcare system - having watched my brother go through it - and the British one, and especially how it relates to having chronic illnesses.  It's always interesting to get a new perspective and although it didn't change much about my opinions - I still think the British system is superior - it did fill in more of the details about how it works in practice.  For example I asked how the quality of care for MS is and he said it varies widely based on your postcode (like our zipcodes).  Which I would expect to be true in a capitalist system but less so here, but it's still true.  So I asked him if people move to get better quality of care and he gave me a funny look and said Britons are too attached to family and place to do that.  Just interesting to get that perspective.  I have to imagine if I was sick with a chronic illness I would at least consider moving to get better treatment but perhaps that is a uniquely American attitude.  Everyone continue to be very awesome.  I alllllmost got hit by a car today - not my fault!  Driver just wasn't paying attention.  Some of the roads are incredibly terrifying - bumpy downhills through these narrow "death chutes" with hedges on either side.  And so narrow!  We had a few minor mishaps such as chains falling off but everyone is doing great.  This ride is somewhat more relentless than the US rides - we don't have short days - but I'm absolutely enjoying it.  And I'm finally used to riding on the left side of the road!  More later.

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 3 - Bath, England

 

In honor of David Letterman, I present to you Top 10 Things That I've Said While Being In England:

1.   "No, I actually don't think I want any more mayonnaise"
2.  "You don't see a lot of cheap plastic siding, do you?"
3.  "Cheers, mate"
4.  "On your right"
5.  "I think I'm getting a sunburn from this intense English sun"
6.  "Well, see, what we do in America is"
7.  "There all the same words, but it's like you scrambled them in a blender"
8.  "If a car comes, we can ditch into this hedge"
9.  "Hey cow, can you get out of the way of my bicycle?  Thanks."
10. "It's great that we haven't had any rain...oh."

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 2 - Honiton, Devon, England

 

Yesterday was tough.  A hard Day 2, and I’m out of shape.  We rode over Dartmoor, which reminded me, unsurprisingly, of Connemara.  The roads wind around fields and rocks and the animals are allowed to just wander - and they do.  We saw tons of sheep and goats and cows and they walked right up to us.  We stopped up for lunch at this magical tavern in the middle of nowhere.  It was like brigadoon, magical.  A border collie someone had as a pet tried to actually herd the sheep.  The trip is hard and I’m tired but it’s worth it.

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 1 - Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England

 

So many things to write about today it's hard to keep them all straight.  Perhaps today is a good day to pull out the "Top 10 List":

Top 7 Things That Are Different About Riding in England Versus the United States

1.  The left-hand-drive thing.  We might as well get this one out of the way.  It's the clearest signal that you're living in a parallel universe.  It affects everything, sometimes in hard-to-understand ways, but the primary thing is to introduce a vague feeling of unreality, as if this is all some strange dream.

2.  You have to sign your credit card every time you use it.  I don't know why, nobody seemed to have a good answer, but it's especially awkward when you're sweaty and gross.

3. The roads are incredibly narrow.  Especially in Cornwall, we found ourselves on these tiny, tiny country roads, hemmed in by tall hedges, with maybe 5-6 feet of horizontal spread.  Like a video game, the challenge level kept going up by shrinking further and further until I was sure we were going to get squeezed out.  And still the cars came!  And not slowly, I might add!  Terrifying.

4. Related to the above, there are no shoulders on the roads.

5. For some reason, UK plugs are enormous.  Which means, there tend to be fewer of them, and it's hard to have a "power strip" because it would be huge.  Which, if you're running a team of cyclists that all need to plug in a phone, a garmin and a headlamp, is a pain.

6. Drivers are very friendly.  None of this Texas cussing nonsense.  And even if they do cuss - bonus!  I have no idea what they're saying!

7. Pubs everywhere!

 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Day 0 - Lands End, Cornwall, England

 

So it begins!!! I can't wait.  Obviously everything over here is just a little bit different, like being in some parallel universe.  It was surprisingly easy to get used to biking on the left hand side of the road (fear is a very powerful motivator, and having a lorry bear down on you is quite the motivation).  I got to show James, the guy who runs the UK rides, the fancy new app that I wrote, which really was very cool.  The more I work with this organization the more I want to help them do things.  

I got to go up to Mount St Michael today in Penzance.  It's amazingly beautiful, as you can see from the photos I got.  It reminded me of the place we start from in Bar Harbor, Maine - it's an island out in the water, that you can only walk to when it's low tide.  Everything in Cornwall is amazingly quaint and beautiful.  It's like a weird combination of Kansas - with the wide open wheat fields - and St. Augustine, with the old cobblestone and tight roads and limited views that then explode open into beautiful vistas of the water.  I shot this amazing video I wish I could upload but the wifi here isn't so great; we're at a hostel, and it's nice but there's not much for internet.

Tomorrow is our first day, 65 miles!  I can't believe how much time and energy James has put into making these maps; the roads around here are, shall we say,  not designed for optimal navigation!  (Most of them don't have names for example).

Cornwall is amazing and beautiful and I wish I had more time.  Oh!  I forgot to talk about the Art Deco pool in Penzance!  That thing is unbelievable.  I really wish they would rebuild the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, because this (the Jubilee Pool is the name) is so awe-inspiring, that's what it could be.

 

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2018 United Kingdom - Penzance, Cornwall, England

 

 

Today I want to talk about cucumbers.  You see, I don’t like them, or at least I didn’t think I did.  For years I have been going to Subway and the only vegetable I tell them to leave off are the cucumbers.  But today, I went to a McDonald’s in Reading, because I was tired and it was there, and I got a McWrap Chicken Garlic Mayo, and it came with cucumbers, and they were delicious.  The fact that I was in a mood to try something new and see it in a different way made all the difference, and maybe now I will start eating cucumbers.  Who knows.  This, of course, will not come as a surprise to anybody who likes to travel, because that’s why we travel; to see things in a different way.

Another few random things:  hotel rooms in America are really huge.  Every time I’m somewhere abroad and I get an economy hotel room, it is incredibly tiny by my standards, not that I generally mind at all.  

Also, I already told this story, but I can’t help but repeat it: when I walked into the Reading station, which is pretty large and multi-story, I could hear the strains of what sounded for all the world like a 3rd grade band practicing.  They were playing hymnals and marches.  I followed the sound to find what looked like a Lions Club in America, except instead of doing the crosswords they were all playing marches while wearing what looked like vaguely high school marching band uniforms.  The thing is, they were doing it sort of half-heartedly, as if it was their duty, but their heart really wasn’t in it.  It was, without a doubt, the most British thing I’d ever seen in my life.

 

Cant wait to meet everybody tomorrow! 

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Ha!  I caught you using miles! 

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2018 - United Kingdom - Oakland, CA - So it Begins!

 

 

I can’t wait!   Well, ok.  I can wait.  Wait for the train to the train to the 10 hour plane to the train to the 8 hour train.  But hey, I’ve started!  The sun was shining for a beautiful Oakland day and so far everything is great.  I got to say good bye to my brother who is doing well.  Boxed up Ross (that’s my bike) and handed him off to Norwegian.  I hope they remember that I’m not going to Norway.  Traveling is nerve wracking but everything is good so far, including my $5 cold brew coffee at the airport.  My next post will be from England. 

 

As alwqys, donations welcome at www.biketheukforms.org. 

 

 

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2018 United Kingdom - T Minus 3 days (40.7 miles)

I can't believe it's almost here!  In 3 days - Wednesday evening - I will be departing for a bicycle tour of England.  As many of you already know, I love this organization that I bike with, Bike The US For MS, and they have a sister organization, called Bike The UK For MS.  Basically the same deal - we ride very long distances to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.  Well, the longest you can ride in England is from bottom to top, called "LEJOG", or Land's End to John O' Groats.  So on Thursday I will be staying in the appropriately named Land's End, near Penzance, in the South of England.

Yesterday I went on a "test ride", I rode about 40 miles up and around the Oakland and Berkeley Hills, and also went out the Bay Bridge bike path.  I just bought a new techie thing, the Garmin Edge 1030, the highest end bike computer they make.  I expected to be disappointed by it - Garmin products are often known for their tradeoffs - but instead it actually was a joy to use and worked perfectly.  I started out by using it for good old fashioned navigation to the Apple store.  Then I told it to play a course I'd downloaded from someone else and it guided me to the start and then took me along the path.  I got lost briefly once but figured it out.  Then in the middle of that path I got tired and searched for a convenience store, got some water and coffee, then just rode around until I was done.  It worked great, and in 4 hours I only lost 15% battery life, which is amazing.  I bought this one because it comes with a clippable spare battery pack, but I may not even need it!

As always, the organization could use your donations.  It's for a great cause.

http://www.biketheukforms.org/cyclists/detail.asp?cid=1479

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2837025112

 

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2018 - Practice Post 1 - Laserdiscs

Hey everybody out there in blog land!  I am once again turning on the ol' blog.  The main reason is because I am once again heading out into bicycle-trip-ville, this time by taking a journey out and across England.  But before we get to that, I figured i would limber up the ol' pen by just writing about some thing that interest me.  I miss the blog, and I miss blogging.  It's fun to get yourself interested in something and put that interest out there.

Today's post will be about Laserdiscs, and why I love them.  Laserdiscs, for those who don't know, are an ancient technology for selling movies for home use.  They came on these really gigantic discs which are basically the same size as records, but thicker and heavier.  I like them for a few reasons: one, I admittedly just like being weird.  But also, they are often for sale super cheap, like at the Amoeba records in the Haight, where I can buy them for $1 apiece.  And they stack and store really well; they fit inside record boxes or crates, which is handy.  Also, they don't have any ads or trailers or "intro menus"!  You just put the disc in, and the movie starts.  I have an older theater model of Laserdisc player, and that thing makes a great picture.  No, it's not Blu-Ray quality, but it has a certain something to it.  One reason for that is because it's an analog technology - analog video!  Much like VHS tapes, except using a radically different technology.  It's like a tape player and a record player and a DVD player had a three-way baby.  And, lastly, the technology was popular during an era that I think made some of the finest movies anyway.

Anyway, next time you see a laserdisc player on eBay or at goodwill, pick it up, and you won't be disappointed.  More next time!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaserDisc

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2018 - My God, It's Full Of Black People

(With apologies to 2001: A Space Odyssey).  OK, Real Talk time: The McDonalds that I go to for breakfast in the morning - yes, I go to McDonalds for breakfast - is full of black people and, yes, sometimes it wigs me out just a little bit.  As a card carrying hippie liberal anti-fascist post-modern yoga instructor, I find this highly embarrassing, as if I just discovered that I had food between my teeth.  Sometimes I hear conversations around me that make me clutch my bag with my laptop in it just a little bit tighter, like the time the guy behind me went on for 10 minutes about how he just wanted to not have to have a "necro funeral", and I had no idea what that was.  There's a lady in a wheelchair who talks loudly about her dialysis appointments.  One time I walked in to find one of the tables covered in half-empty bottles of expensive-looking liquor and two guys standing next to it getting really drunk quickly.  Sometimes I feel like things are happening around me that I don't quite understand.  Not directed at me, mind you; like in Black Panther, I'm the token white guy and nobody seems to give a rat's ass that I'm there.  But they speak a language I'm not sure I totally understand.

Here's the thing, though: I'm gonna keep going.  There's another, whiter McDonalds up the street, but I'm gonna keep going to this one, because I have work to do.  As the famous song from Avenue Q says, "If we all could just admit / That we are racist a little bit".  Obviously I need to grow, as a person, and I'm not going to get there by hiding from it, or by being in denial about it.  

Many years ago, when I was in high school, me and three of my fellow classmates on a class trip got mugged in the Paris subway by 4 black guys.  And for a year or so afterwards, every time I saw a black person on the street, I crossed to the other side.  I was afraid.  I didn't know what to do with those feelings.  I couldn't admit I had them because that would be racist, and I knew I didn't want to be that.  But I still felt scared, and ashamed that I felt scared, and terrified that someone would find out that I had those feelings.

I don't think that I *intend* to be a racist but, much like the whole country, it does no good to pretend that I'm some sort of post-racist post-modern angel of virtue.  I have the right ideas in my heart but truly expressing those ideas, really understanding people different than me, is not so easy.  It takes constant practice.

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