Friday, August 25, 2006

MySpace is down...Again


I can't log into MySpace this morning...what a surprise!!! Ah well it's just the start of my crummy day. Today is going to be one of those truly crappy days. I need to ride, pack, work, altitude train, drop the dog at the kennel, drive 5 hours to Wichita Falls, TX, register to race the Hotter-n-Hell, find my host home (I'm staying with my teammate who lives there), sleep and get up and race at 6:50AM tomorrow morning. Oh, did I mention I'd like to be fresh for the race tomorrow? Somebody just shoot me and put me out of my misery! I have zero vacation days to my name...in fact I'm about 52 hours in the hole so this combined with last weeks visit from my sweetie and her girls has me about 30 hours short for the pay period. Am I stressed? Nahhh...

Meanwhile, I'm weaning myself down from my 6+ cup a day coffee habit. My approach is to simply brew and drink only half caf and half decaf. I'm still drinking as many cups but at least now it's only partially caffeinated. This might not be the best time for this but then it never is.


What else is new? Pluto isn't a planet...and this is news? Heck, they were teaching us in college nearly 20 years ago that Pluto wasn't really a planet. I can't believe it took this long for the Astronomical Association to make a formal declaration. Hmmm...I loved that class!

Well, I'm two cups into my day. This is the time when I finally start to feel alive and gain a tiny bit of motivation. Time to get running!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Random Musings


I'm up early...training early today! I want to get it out of the way before I get a massage later today. I just saw a report that Tom Cruise was released from Paramount. While I think this was a poor business decision on their part, I have to agree with Redstone that Cruise has completely lost his mind. For crying out loud, he's even being parodied in movies like Taladega Nights. I think if you are a celebrity and want to be a wacko at least have the good sense to keep it to yourself. Then I see a report that liberals aren't having enough children. What?! Ouch! Maybe the liberals should come up with a winning candidate and a great platform??? It's not like the conservatives aren't throwing them softballs. Just a thought. Finally, is technology as addictive as cocaine? I've heard my friends refer to MySpace as crack and Blackberrries are commonly referred to as crackberries. As for me, I can certainly admit to a serious inability to control myself from glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone emailed me since I last looked. Do I see it as a problem? Sometimes...perhaps...How do I combat it? I turn off the phone, the email, close my door and challenge myself to do real work for an hour uninterrupted. Somehow this seems to help!

Well, it's time for me to get going (6:20AM)...sunrise is 7AM and I need to be on the road with the sun! I race this weekend at the famed Hotter-n-Hell Hundred. It will be my first road race since June and I'm interested to see what I have left in the legs for the season. I've started some altitude training and will be 2 weeks into the regimen by this weekend. My understanding is that there's a little setback in performance the first 2 weeks and a full turn-around in 3 weeks. That's good because I plan to fly to St. Louis the following weekend to participate in the Gateway Cup. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Team Joy Rides on the Podium in Downer's Grove

My teammate, Shontell Gauthier, grabbed 4th place at the USCF National Criterium Championships yesterday. Here's a photo of her on the podium. The related story is interesting and unfortunate because my coach, Jen McRae, got caught up in a crash just 200 meters from the finish. I'm still proud of her, though.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/aug06/USPROcrit06/?id=/photos/2006/aug06/USPROcrit06/USPROcrit063/MZ06_2006downersGrove_06

Here's the main page for the race: http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2006/aug06/USPROcrit06/?id=results/USPROcrit063

Way to go, ladies!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

MIA

Sorry for the lapse in posts...I'll be back very soon!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Power of the Mind

So what happens when Tibetan monks and the Dalai Lama and psychologists get together to study the power of Buddism/meditation to overcome negative emotions? Pretty amazing stuff. I'm reading a book narrated by Daniel Goleman titled Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? I'm only through the first chapter and I'm enthralled. In this chapter, one of the Tibetan Lamas goes into the neuropsychology lab to undergo some tests jointly designed by the Lama and the neuroscientists. [I had no idea the Tibetan Lamas and monks were so interested in science...fascinating!] What did they find? First, they found that brain imaging results are very distinctive among various types of meditative activity of these highly trained contemplatives. They are able to voluntarily regulate their brain activity whereas the untrained subject are unable to focus exclusively on the task and have considerable amounts of "noise" to the signals that reflect their voluntary mental strategies.

Second, the book discusses the fact that researchers have located the area in the brain associated with emotions and have discovered that we have (all of us) a characteristic ratio of left-to-right activity in our middle frontal gyrus (in the prefrontal area of our brain). High levels of activity in the left side of this area are associated with happiness, enthusiasm, joy, high energy, and alertness. High levels of activity in the parallel area in the right hemisphere of our brain are associated with sadness, anxiety, and worry. We each have a ratio of left-to-right activity and this is a barometer of the moods we are likely to feel day to day. The ratio of activity amounts to an emotional set point. Individuals with extreme levels of right prefrontal activity are more likely to succumb to clinical depression or and anxiety disorder at some point in their life. So, what 's the good news, says Goleman? Each of us has the capacity to shift our moods, at least a little, and change the ratio. What's more fascinating is that the Tibetan Lamas are able to dramatically shift their ratios. When generating a state of compassion during meditation, one monk showed a remarkable leftward shift, one unlikely to occur by chance alone. The shift seemed to reflect an extremely pleasant mood. The conclusion? The very act of concern for others' well-being seems to create a greater state of well-being within oneself. This supports an observation made by the Dalai Lama: that the person doing a meditation on compassion for all beings is the immediate beneficiary. Wow!

Other cool findings? Contemplatives are significantly more aware of micorexpressions. These are split second facial expressions of emotions which happen outside of the awareness of of both the person displaying the emotions and the observer. These are completely uncensored displays of emotion revealing a person's true state. In fact, contemplatives score higher than anyone ever tested, including Secret Service agents, a group previously distinguished as the most accurate.

Contemplatives are also remarkably able to suppress their startle reflex. This is a brain stem activity, which is the most primitive reptilian part of our brain. These kinds of brain stem reflexes are beyond our control and cannot be modified by any intentional act...unless you're a Tibetan Lama highly studied in the art of meditation. Other interesting research that I wasn't aware of--the intensity of the startle reflex predicts the magnitude of the negative emotions a person feels--particularly fear, anger, sadness, and disgust. The bigger a person's startle the more strongly that individual will experience negative emotions. [There's no relationship between startle and positive emotions, though]

Finally, these studies found that when interacting with someone who doesn't return aggression, or returns aggression with lovingkindness, aggressive people are unable to remain aggressive. Also, when viewing video of extreme human suffering, this Lama reported his thoughts focused on human suffering and how to relieve it. What's more interesting is that during the time when viewing the video, the Lamas physiology was more relaxed than when measured during a resting state. Again, wow!!!

Essentially, the upshot of the chapter was that we are capable of changing our emotions and the set-point of our regular emotional states. Also, the very act of being compassionate brings us into a more relaxed, happy state. I also learned that the Tibetan monks, unlike other religious traditions, are more concerned with helping people learn how their tradition might improve the human condition completely apart from any religious aspects of the tradition.

Can't wait to read more!!!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Love in the 21st Century or How to Survive Long Distance Dating

Yes, I am dating long distance...really long distance (try 1,400 miles). It's going great so I wanted to compile a list of things that I think really helps keep things going. This is a random list and I'll probably add to it, but it's a start. I'd love to hear other ideas if you have any.
  1. Communicate communicate communicate…say what you mean and mean what you say!
  2. Get on the same phone plan or get your partner a cell phone and put her or him on the family plan so you can talk for free anytime. There's nothing worse than not being able to talk because of outrageous overage fees.
  3. Get a decent computer and web cam and install Skype on your computer. You can talk phone-style with or without real-time video and/or chat with anyone else that has Skype at any time of day for free. It’s the next step in IM…
  4. Always have a visit planned…gives you something to look forward to.
  5. Send snail mail…everyone likes to get some thing they can open and hold in their hands. Cards are great surprises.
  6. Send regular email…everyone loves to know their partner is thinking of them. Also, chronicle your day. The person that loves you really does want to hear how your day went and all the details.
  7. Send video email with your web cam. Logitech has some great software for this.
  8. Try a movie date. I recently tried this. We each ordered the same film from Netflix (boy everyone's getting their plug here...I should charge for this!) and agreed to video chat through the movie. It worked really well until the network started getting busy on a Saturday night. While it worked it was a lot like getting to hang out in person.

Okay, that's as far as I got...I'll keep working on this but leave me a comment with your ideas, okay???

Friday, August 04, 2006

Global Warming?


It's a hot topic these days...okay, okay...that was bad. I can't help but believe that it's happening and it scares the life out of me. Are we doing irreparable damage to our planet? I haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth (see http://www.climatecrisis.net/ for more info) yet but I am hoping to catch that this weekend before it leaves our theaters here in Austin. Meanwhile, I'm seeing news segment after segment about what we can do to decrease our emissions.


Meanwhile, cardinals in Rome want to excommunicate Madonna. She plans to crucify herself on stage in Rome not even a mile from the Vatican---just part of her show. She's been thumbing her nose at the Catholic church from the very beginning of her career so this is nothing new, really. I just think you can take it a litle too far. Even Jewish and Muslim leaders think her show is "in bad taste." Probably the understatement of the century. Here's the full story...


MADONNA: CATHOLICS, JEWS AND MUSLIMS AGAINST HER SHOW
(AGI) - Rome, Aug. 3 - Rome's Catholics, Jews and Muslims are united against pop star Madonna: she is accused for her parody of the crucifixion inserted in the "Confessions Tour" that will be put on stage at the Olympic stadium in Rome on Sunday night. Veronica Louise Ciccone - alias Madonna - during the show will put on stage a personal interpretation of Christ's passion not far from the Vatican. The performance sees the singer appear with a fake thorn crown. This performance was already criticised in the US and now the Roman Catholic world says that it is blasphemous. "It lacks respect, it is provocative" father Manfredo Leone of Santa Maria Liberatrice church says about the show. Appearing crucified with a thorn crown like a modern Christ is absurd. And doing it in the cradle of Christianity is blasphemous, he said. The roman leaders of the Jew and Muslim communities have condemned Madonna'show. The queen of pop is famous for including controversial sexual and religious images in her concerts and shows. "I believe that it is a bad taste idea and she'd better come back home", Italian Muslim League head, Mario Scialoja has said referring to the crucifixion. The Jew community spokesman and deputy president, Riccardo Pacifici, has said that this show is not routine if we consider the place where the singer will make her show, a stadium that is only one kilometre far from the Vatican. It is not the first time that Madonna, who has an Italian-American and Catholic father, enrages the Catholic Church: in 1989 her controversial video 'like a prayer' was condemned by the Church. The video showed burning crosses, statues that had tears of blood and the singer was seducing a black Jesus. In 2004 the Vatican set the alarm that Madonna's last religious faith "Kabbalah", a mystic form of Judaism was a menace to the Catholic doctrine. The pop star did not make any comment. In an interview for the Italian edition of Vanity fair Madonna has praised her Italian origin speaking of her 'excellent Italian genes' and said that her form was due to them. Madonna, who is 47, exhibits wearing a body as showed by a recent video.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Life in the not-so-fast lane

Hello to you wherever you are...whoever you are. My one complaint about this blog site is that I can't tell if anyone is listening...lol! Well, I *know* one person is listening only because she tells me so...thanks you! I hope you are enjoying your book.

So I'm liking the new phone but, as always, the grass is always greener. I bought one of those ultra-slim models kinda like the Motorola Razor but it's called the Katana by Sanyo. Well it turns out that thing is not so easy to flip open cuz it's so darned thin. It's like separating two credits cards on a hinge! I do like the camera in the phone, though. I'm already taking picture ids for my phone numbers in my contacts...got 2 so far! I even have my dog as my screen saver! Love it! Takes and displays awesome pictures, too. It's funny because sometimes I think camera phones can be a little scary. For example, what if you have a one-night-stand that you'd really like to forget about but it turns out that person took your pic in the middle of the night. Yikes! Yes, I think of things like that...I'm goofy.

Believe it or not but I worked until 9:45PM last night. Yes friends, it's true. Beth really does know how to work she just chooses not to as often as possible. With the rapidly approaching deadline and because I was on a good roll, I decided to go out for dinner and come back and work. I made good progress and I am feeling like I might actually make my deadline! I almost wish I could tell my boss to impose more deadlines because I think I work better that way. But if I tell him that then he and I will both know that these are artificial deadlines and it won't work. For example, I don't work well setting my own deadlines because I know I can move it whenever I want. So, I miss the deadline and reset it...over and over again. If you look up procrastination in the dictionary you will see my picture beside the definition. So you see my delimma.

Okay I just wandered back inside from my patio because the lone surviving mosquito of the Texas drought began harrassing me. So I'm watching TV. I've seen it all...Huggies has come up with some products called the Clean Team because toilet paper is so confusing to small children. Since when is toilet paper so damned confusing??? LOL! What a riot!!

Meanwhile, Good Morning America is rating the best water parks in the US...the best one is Schlitterbahn right here in New Braunfels (about an hours drive from me). It's a 65 acre park with a 7-story water slide and a "river" you can tube down...righteous! You can even bring your own food and drinks. This looks awesome. I'll bet me and any girls could have a great time there! Hmmm...might have to plan a day trip!

Alright...'nuff playing around this morning...Y'all have a great day!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Techno nerd alert!!

Yes, I have officially entered the inner sanctum of techno nerddom. I bought a blue tooth phone and a blue tooth headset today. I know what you're thinking... ...they look dumb as all get out but I wanted something hands free for the car and well...[shuffling feet...kicking at a rock]. I've only tried it on one call and I have to admit it did feel weird just walking around the hall at work not holding a phone, but I sure did like the convenience. Basically, this thing rocks!

I promise not to wear it 24 hours a day and will probably just leave it in the car so I'm not tempted to do my best Borg imitation. We'll see how long I resist that urge...lol!

Second peaks are humbling

I did the Tuesday Nighter last night. What an awful experience. I knew that since this was only my second hard effort since my midseason break that it wasn't gonna be pretty. I just didn't know how bad it was going to be. The race started exactly at 6PM and I rode myself straight up to the front and got on Jen's wheel. She was coaching me into position but then she jetted off to the front and I suppose I should have followed because shortly afterward I found myself seemingly going backwards. Yep...popped and dropped on the last hill before the first turn on the first lap. Ouch! Although I almost reattached at a point or two I just couldn't bridge that gap in that wind. Thinking I would still get a workout out of this, I continued to chase. I was going great until I had to make a right hand turn. I knew a car was behind me and I was moving at a good rate of speed. So I signalled my right turn and swung out to the middle of the street to get a good angle on this narrow corner. Well, apparently the guy behind me thought that meant it would be a good time to pass me on my right. Thankfully I either heard his engine rev or I had a guardian angel or something because I glanced over my right should and saw him blasting through just before leaning my bike into the turn. Whoa! That was just a little too close to becoming someone's hood ornament! I had the good sense to continue forward now pushed to the yellow line but had to come to a stop turn around to get back to the turn. Bummer...totally out of it now. The good news is that everyone was hurting and I soon found two teammates and my coach who had also been popped. Summer doldrums and the agony of trying to achieve a second peak, I guess. We all feel crummy and I feel the worst! Ha!

Meanwhile, work is closing in on me. I have to get the deadly project done by next Tuesday. Uggh! My boss is having knee replacement surgery (which probably explains why he's so crabby these days) so I need to get him this stuff before the surgery. This means I gotta run!

Peace!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sorry! an unexpected error has occurred...

I am soooo tired of seeing this message! Yep. That's why I'm here...again. Okay, so I started a blog here almost exactly a year ago and never followed up on it. Funny 'cause now I'm a blog junkie. It's like my diary and I find it quite enjoyable to post my random thoughts. Mental masturbation? Perhaps...but in the immortal words of Sheryl Crow "...if it makes you happy...it can't be that bad..."

Meanwhile, I'm having fits with my Internet connection every night after 9-ish. I just loose my connection for some unknown reason. It is driving me crazy since I have also learned to love instant messaging and Skype. I guess it's time to give Time Warner a call. Dammit! It's always something!!

So today was the 40th anniversary of the Whitman shootings from the UT clocktower. What's this about? Well Charles Whitman found himself unraveling mentally and grabbed his footlocker of guns and headed up to the clocktower and started shooting folks. If you've ever been to Austin, you would know that the clocktower can be seen from almost everywhere in Austin so he had a good view of a lot of campus. Unfortunately he killed his mother and wife the night before. Seeing as how he was a Marine sharpshooter, he did a lot of damage--killed 16 students.



This is a rather famous case in psychology circles because, as I was taught, Whitman had a tumor pressing on a the emotional center of his brain inducing rage. The problem is that apparently a tumor was never really found or what was found was really small and not likely to cause this kind of rage. Conspiracy theorists suggest that this was simply a cover-up on the part of the university because he had been to talk to a school counselor and told him he wanted to go to the tower and shoot people.



This has been all over the news here in Austin and they've even shown footage of the shootings (he was at it for 90 minutes before he was finally subdued). What was the result of all this. Well, SWAT teams were created all over the country and LBJ called for stricter gun control. Hmmm...good idea. The tower has been opened and closed randomly after this event and has most recently been opened back up in 1999 to tourists with a tour guide who closely watches visitors to prevent anything like this from happening again. Of course they don't mention the shootings on this tour. I've never been on the tour because I've always assumed the tower was still closed. I sure want to go now!

For further reading, check here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman#Tower_shootings It's a great minute-by-minute detailed account of what happened that day as well as lots of other information including his suicide notes and other notes written after he killed his family. This is an incredibly interesting case from a psychological point of view. After reading the suicide note I still believe his tumor was sufficiently large enough to cause this shift in personality.

MySpace Sucks!!


Welcome to BlogSpot! I am moving my blog to this location because MySpace has been so unreliable. Give me some time to gear up on this site and I'll be back in business!