The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!


The Madness of Being Indoors

Me at Mastadon Peak - Joshua Tree National Park

I am developing a severe case of wanderlust. I usually have a slight case of wanderlust at any given time. Who doesn't want to get out and hit the road? But this spring it is much worse than ever for me. This probably has something to do with the fact that I took a rare Spring season vacation. During this vacation I headed to Colorado. On the way back to my home in Southern California I stopped in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. After spending a period of time hiking in both parks I had quickly surmised that they were each worth a longer visit which included some back country hiking. For those that are uninitiated, the front country is the part of a National Park that most tourists see, the short trail to a waterfall from a crowded parking lot is a good example. The back county consists of miles of trails where the only items available to you are those things you carry in with you (and carry out, all of it.)

I have also found myself becoming more and more interested in some of the longer "thru-hike" trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail. The idea of spending a month, or several months hiking one of these trails appeals to something in me. It's like a primal calling that is going unfulfilled. See there are responsibilities. I have a wife (whom I adore and am extremely lucky to have) and three kids, two pre-teens and a toddler, that are the joy of my existence. These people require more than my love, they require food and shelter, which my 6AM-6PM job provides. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy most of what I do for a living, but damn if I wouldn't enjoy hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney over a period of a month.

Now the two older kids are getting into being outdoors. Both of them being excellent soccer players, they are in fantastic shape. So the last couple of multiple mile hikes I have taken them on didn't even phase them. My old body moaned and groaned about it. Taking the two year old on a day hike is pretty much the limit. I have one of the excellent Kelty carriers for him. But as with any two year old, after a few hours in the backpack, he is ready to do anything else. This usually means walking. Now I am thrilled that he wants to get down and walk the trail. But his pace is quite a bit slower than the rest of us. His idea of where we should be going is always diametrically opposed to mine. I think we should stay on the trail and follow it to the logical conclusion. He thinks we should walk over to that cool looking rock, try to pick up that big rock, then sit on the big rock, followed by standing on the big rock, standing on the big rock is a must. Once we can stand on the big rock, we absolutely most jump off of it, and we must jump off of it not once, but several times. Now I consider myself a good father, and I want my kids to learn to enjoy the outdoors and I think that allowing them to engage with the outdoors is the best way for my kids to develop a love for being in the outdoors. So the last thing I want to do is drag the two year old off the rock and force him to hike the trail 'my way.'

But see now you've forgotten, I have pre-teens, a boy and a girl. So things are a bit different for them. I do have one rule, cellphones/ipods etc. are not for the trail. You can bring them for emergency, but they remain unused unless there is an emergency. So now I have two very vocal people making a logical argument that we should move on, as the trail goes "that way' and all of this standing around is 'boring.'  I try suggesting that they enjoy jumping off of the rock, the two year old seems to be enjoying this activity. They both look at me as if I have suggested that they reach into my armpits and extract something unpleasant to put on a sandwich.

The wife of course has an excellent approach to all of this, 'can you all be quiet, you are making too much noise.'

So while a hike with the family is something that I would do every single day if I could, the distance traveled would be something akin to getting just as far as where everyone else is. When I hike I want to get way from everyone else. In order to do that, we have to split the family up. This past weekend, I took the pre-teens to Joshua Tree National Park. We did a nice day-long loop hike that included a 75ft. rock climb to a peak. The wife stayed home with the two-year old where I presume he spent the day climbing onto, and jumping off of, various items around the house. He of course did this quietly, for the wife's sake.

My Daughter at Mastadon Peak

During this Joshua Tree hike I got to do several things I never get to do with my kids. First, I saw what my daughter looks like without those white buds with wires attached to them sticking out of her ear, I was really happy to discover that those weren't permanently embedded in her body. I also discovered that her hands could do something other than not touch a soccer ball (the hands aren't supposed to touch the ball in soccer, remember) send an inordinate number of text messages over a cellular network, or sit firmly on her hips in a pose that demonstrates to me just how 'out of touch' and 'lame' I am. Her hands did things like dangle loosely at her side, occasionally coming up to make a gesture which was meant to illustrate an important point she was talking about. That was the big thing, she talked to me. We talked about boys (turns out we are pretty dumb as a gender) her friends (like her father she prefers a smaller number of tight knit friends to being the social butterfly) and the fact that (much to my disappointment) she will not be continuing her musical classes next year. I also saw a confidence in her that I had not seen before.

Now, the boy talked to me too. His hands could do a lot of things that didn't involve a video game controller manipulating some fantastic creature into doing some form of destruction on another creature. He also overcame a fear. That 75ft rock climb up to the top was not a technical climb, most of it consisting of a simple scramble. But when you are afraid of heights, it can seem debilitating. For him, this was the case. But a bit of logic was able to get through to him. I am really glad I didn't go with my first approach to try to encourage him up the rocks. I am not sure that telling him "If Lego Indiana Jones needs to climb up to the top, is he afraid?" would have cut it in this situation. Sure I would have been speaking his language, but the content was lacking any substance (much like that video game.) So I went with the approach of "You walked all those miles to get all the way up here, are you going to let a little bit of fear keep you from going the last 75 feet?" His fear was quickly squashed under a puff of logic and he scrambled to the top.

So a balance can be found. While I can't abandon everything and go on a multi-month hike, I have talked to my two older kids about taking our first multiple day hike together, and they are in. So now I am driving myself crazy thinking about it. I want to go now. While I know it would not offer the same life altering experience that a 6 month hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border would provide, I know that it will deepen my relationship with my kids. That's the kind of life changing activity I can really get into. I haven't decided where we are going yet. We may do the San Bernardino Mountain section of the Pacific Crest Trail, or we may do a portion of the John Muir Trail. I just don't know yet. But to give you an idea to how much I have been thinking about this, here is what I am taking with me:

My Pack - Osprey Aether


I have decided on Osprey for all of our packs. We already have an Osprey Aura for Sarah's pack. Steven will be wearing an Osprey Sprint Jib. My pack will be the voluminous Osprey Aether. I chose Osprey because of their reputation of quality. I have also owned the Aura 50 that Sarah will be using for a while. It is an excellent pack.

As far as out lodging goes it will be the REI Half Dome 4 tent. This tent is lightweight, easy to setup, and will keep the rain out if necessary. Why a 4 man tent instead of a 3 man tent. Because it is a well know fact that if you need to sleep 3 people you really need a four person tent. If you want to sleep 2 people, a three person tent will be needed. Another reason for the REI Half-Dome is the reliability of the tent. Reading reviews online says that people have had great experiences.

Cooking will be handled by the Soto OD-1R. This stove has a micro-regulator that insures that the flame stays constant, even in wind. So as  pots and pans go, I haven't settled that yet. I also have yet to do my research on a water filtration system.

The plan is to cover 10-15 miles a day. That means that over 5 days we could easily cover 75 or more miles.

So what about this madness, well I am thinking about this hiking trip constantly. I need to get it scheduled for my own sanity.


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The Idiocy of Excercise

Excercise is Boring.

I am overweight. There is no way of avoiding it. As I have gotten older, the beer and burgers have caught up with me. There is a really good reason for this. I hate exercise, period.  I own, or have owned treadmills, ellipticals, weight machines, punching bags, excercise video games, store bought workout videos, and workout videos purchased online due to infomercials. I have enjoyed none of them. Cardio, no thanks. Weightlifting, meh. Muscle confusion, why bother? Running, I just can't shut my brain off for that long.

I can do the exercise, I just can't do it for a long period of time and find any enjoyment out of it. It is a form of torture for me.

I enjoy refereeing and playing soccer both activities that require a lot of running. But the key thing is, I enjoy these activities, immensely. According to GPS data I cover over 5 miles while center refereeing, and over 2 miles while being an assistant referee. Neither distance is anything to sneeze at. On a Saturday I will referee 2 to 4 matches. When possible I will play soccer anytime that I can find a pickup match to play in, usually with friends or co-workers, which usually ends up being 2 to 3 times per month. The point is, not enough to constitute a workout program.

I enjoy hiking a lot as well. Getting outside and getting away from people, cars, cellphones, and the rat race to enjoy nature. There is very little that is more enjoyable. A bike ride, another thing that is enjoyable, so long as it is on a bike trail away from traffic. Due to the amount of prep involved, the amount of time these activities take, and the amount of time spent commuting to and from work, work itself (a desk job), the amount of time spent on family activities (not complaining, but these activities take a lot of time), and  the less than 8 hours of sleep I get a night, finding time for a hike or a bike ride is not easy to do, much less a daily soccer game.

So why not go for a run? I enjoy soccer, and that is running, right? No! Running is putting one foot in front of the other until the pain sets in. Whether it is on the street, sidewalk or a treadmill, it just flat sucks. First it is boring as hell. Second my brain needs something to do, so it focuses on the pain, the discomfort and the absolute futility of the fact that I am just running for no other reason than to run. I will finish the time I set out for running, but I am miserably focused on the pain and discomfort the entire time. Conversely, when I am on the soccer field I can easily cover several miles without a second thought given to the pain that I am feeling. Later on that day after finishing several matches, I will feel the pain. But during the match I feel nothing because my mind is so steadfastly focused on the match. So running is torture, largely due to the fact that I just cannot run without being constantly focused on the futility of the pain I am putting myself through.

Yard work, small construction or household projects, or moving a friend is something that requires lifting, pulling, hoisting and other activities that are simulated by lifting weights. These are all things that I don't particularly enjoy, but that I can do for a day, or over an entire weekend if necessary. However, put me in a gym lifting weights and I am miserable. Once again I am fighting my brain. While lifting weights I focus, once again, on the idiocy of performing this act and the pain it causes. So I can do 200 reps of lifting a heavy item up the stairs, but getting through 3-5 sets of lifting a weight, is a herculean effort for me. It is literally a fight between what I know is good for me and the logical part of my brain that is pointing out the idiocy of what I am doing.

I hear about runners that have found a 'high' from running. I have never experienced this. I have felt the very mild euphoria after some activities, but it hardly outweighs the pain of the activity. Now with the activities I enjoy, the exercise is not the focus the focus is on the activity. Whether it is the game, or the scenery, that is what I am enjoying. The exercise level of activity is just means to an end, the end being the game or the scenery.

This has been the crux of my problem. If I had friends for a pick-up basketball game, I would enjoy the activity. Doing runs from baseline to baseline, not so much. Refereeing a soccer match, hell yes. A 5 mile run, hell no!

This is a fight that will wage within me for the rest of my life I presume. It's 9:30PM, I have to go torture myself on the treadmill.

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The Idiocy of Indecision

To not make a decision, is to decide to fail.


Decisions. Some are easy, some are hard. But they have to be made.


Or do they?


Well According to some people I have met in my life, making a decision is not something they feel they have to do, ever. Every time I encounter these people it is always the same thing holding them back, fear. Sometimes it is fear of being the one responsible for making an incorrect decision. Sometimes it is fear of living with the decision.

The problem with indecision is that you are still making a decision whether you meant to or not. By choosing not to decide, you are choosing to let fate carry you and you are putting that critical decision into either the hands of someone else, or nature.

Imagine for a minute that you are in the middle of the Mississippi River, floating along in a southward direction. You have several choices:

  1. You can get out of the river, whether by swimming to the side or summoning help etc.
  2. You can choose to stay in the river and have the river carry you out into the ocean and certain death.
  3. You can decide to swim against the current ultimately wearing yourself out (turns out the Mississippi can flow for longer than you can swim.).
  4. You can chose to not make a decision

In this scenario, if you choose to not make a decision, you have inadvertently chosen certain death.

I see it in conference rooms, board rooms, sports, and personal lives. Fear of making a decision. Yet it seems that there are so many people that are happy to just float along and see what life brings them.

So next time you are faced with a decision, grab a hold of that decision, weigh your options, and make a damn decision.

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