Sunday, December 25, 2005

Reason #752 why I should just keep my mouth shut

I've learned a harsh lesson in the last year, mostly because of our most recent presidential election. I never understood the notion that something silly like politics could divide family members, but now I know from personal experience how this is possible.

I've had a lot of wine this evening...

I just got back from an otherwise pleasant Christmas evening with my brother and his family. My brother has become a rather surly individual as he's gotten older. I'm sure this stems from having his own business, and his constant dealings with the Philadelphia gentry and their constant demands for lower prices when they need landscaping work done on their summer homes at the shore. I can see how he's become a hard man from all of those dealings. Tonight, I made the mistake of bringing up politics. It was a complete accident. My brother tends to think of such things on a more local level, where my focus tends more the more national and international side. What I learned this evening is that I should never, EVER launch into a discussion of politics. Not even with my own brother, who I normally categorize (only half in jest) as the family redneck.

I'm less frustrated at the fact that he and I are on somewhat different sides of the political debate (although less so than I had originally thought) than I am about the fact that I just don't know shit about articulating my own opinions. I read a lot of books, and a lot of websites, and I am very clearn internally about how I feel. Yet when it comes to defending my position, or even suggesting that someone else should really reconsider, I become this unintelligible and boneless mass of flesh. This really pisses me off. I suddenly feel yet another level of envy about people who are able to succinctly state their opinion, and back it up with quantifiable data. All that happened tonight was that I said some things not very well, realzed it, and then sat there closed-mouthed while my brother listed the reasons why he decides the way he does.

What I do, is just read all the quantifiable data, and then forget the ability to think when confronted with the opposite side of the debate. In this case, what little chance I had to make the attempt at opening my brother's eyes probably did little more than cement the notion in his head that I'm still only 12 years old. What an idiot. This time, I mean me.

I caught myself thinking of how Andy Armstrong would respond in a similar situation. Andy is one of the best debaters I've ever had the privilege to meet and listen to. I know he would have been able to listen to my brother, and addressed each and every point in a way that would have been clear and consise. 'I agree with you on points 1, 4, and 5, but on 2 and three you are wrong, and here's why...'.

I couldn't do that. It's hitting me pretty hard. I'm sitting here wondering what the point of all my reading is. Why do I even bother trying to educate myself about something like this when all that happens is that rather than me demostrating my intellectual capacity, I just make myself look like even more of an idiot. Then, I beat myself up for being stupid in the first place.

I fucking hate politics. If there's any sort of moral to be had here, it's that my idea of just burying my head in the sand is one I should have stuck to a long time ago. I think it's high time I did that now, and leave the discussion to people who are much smarter than I am. This country is going into the shitter really quickly, and we're trying to bring everyone else down with us. I've become so cynical about the end result. I really don't think the people that give a damn will every be in a position to do anything about it. Instead, people like Bush and his friends will always run the show and do whatever the hell they want. I think I should just focus on being one of the people that doesn't get in their way, rather than someone who actually expresses any discontent.

Merry 'effing Christmas.

[Insert politically correct term for 'Merry Christmas' here]

Well Merry Christmas, everyone! And Happy Holidays to all of my non-Christian friends.

So there's this micro brewery in Vermont called Magic Hat. I've always enjoyed their ales, and in my search for a last-chance six pack of some pumpkin ale, I came across Magic Hat's winter brew called Jinx, 'an Ale inspired by the doctrines of medieval chemists'. It's not a pale ale. I guess it would fall under the category of a dark ale. Either way, it's yummy. It comes pretty close to the stuff I really like in the UK. I should probably get another sixer before it goes by the 'seasonal' wayside.

I hope everyone had fun on Christmas. The best gift I got (other than a surprise call from Chipps) was a Lens Baby. It's something that Brad from Dirt Rag turned me on to at Interbike. It's all manual, right down to having to change the aperture yourself by putting different sized aperture rings in front of the optic. I really like the effect that you can create with them, though. No doubt I'll post some things to Flickr once I'm home and experimented some.

Speaking of home...It's been nice being here with the 'rents. I'm always happy to see them, and of course my dog is here. I wish I could have him with me, but he's happy here, and my folks are happy to have him. I've always heard that dogs can contribute to longevity of life. I don't like to think about how sad my parents (and the mini dog) would be if Frazier wasn't here anymore. It's easier for me to only see him every once in a while, than to put anyone through that.

So I'm home to Boulder in 4 days. CJ and I are planning to have a New Year's party, and with any luck I won't have to run off to Boise right after that.

I think it's time for another Jinx.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Seasonaly dysfunctional

I watched TV tonight. Might not seem like a big deal but it's the first effort I've made to watch TV in quite some time. Since it's Christmas time, there were obviously lots of commercials that reflected the season. My birthday is in 7 days, and I really don't feel like it should be either Christmas, or my birthday time of year. I can't figure out if this is a reflection of me just not really being all that bothered about the holidays, or if it's because I'm not home long enough (or at all) to really get into the festive spirit. Right now, I have no spirit whatsoever. If anything, I'm sort of just hoping the holidays will hurry up and go away.

What upsets me the most about this, is that I've always been someone who really got into the holiday mood, and something changed a few years ago that just completely sapped any desire I had to be festive. I don't really know what that something was. I just seem to regard the whole time of year as more of a hassle than something to be happy about.

I'm not looking forward to my birthday, not because I have some hang up about getting older, but because there's no one 'special' in my life to share it with anymore, and more than likely I'll be driving alone somewhere across the nothingness of western Utah on my way back to Boulder. I'm sure I'll spend some time shrouded in 'this time last year' syndrome, when things were much different. That all makes me very sad...for lots of reasons.

My mom is after me for some Christmas ideas. I just don't really want anything. Well, that's not true. I want lots of expensive camera equiment that I won't ask my parents for, and I want to be back in the UK, which is obviously something they can't help me with. I just don't really want any 'crap'. My mother makes a big deal out of Christmas, and she really doesn't accept me saying that I don't really want anything. It makes her happy to shop for presents, and I've had to try and make an effort to give her some ideas. I don't want her to spend money on me, but it makes her happy to do so, and if I insisted that she not do anything, she'd be upset. The best present I can give her, are suggestions for what to get me.

I just need to get through January. I have too much anticipation going on about a conversation that is supposed to happen. I don't have any idea what the outcome will be, but it's the most important discussion that will have happened in a long time. There's a lot riding on it, and I'm terrified that I'm setting myself up for failure. I almost wish my January trip were already over, because at least then I'd have a clearer picture of my future employment.

I really should stop drinking so much wine. It's near impossible to avoid when you are staying with California locals.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cone factory

If you asked me what my strengths are, among the short list I'd give you would be public speaking and my sense of humor. I've had my sense of humor while presenting come under fire. I think I've pissed more people off in the last few weeks than I have ever in my lifetime, all while trying to get people to laugh. This is definitely a case of the bad apples spoiling the bunch, but it's hitting me pretty hard. I'm obviously not trying to offend anyone, yet I've managed to do so in probably every seminar I've done this winter.

The worst example of this came to my attention today after getting a request from Zap to call him. Evidently, a guy from the Santa Monica session wrote him a 500 word email complaining about me and saying how pissed off he was at Trek. I was heckling the guy after a comment he made, which he returned in kind. Then his co-workers got involved and suddenly, he was pissed. So Zap gets the email today, which is a week after this happened. The guy has been seething about this for that long. He was telling Zap that he rode all the way there and all the way back, in the cold. Santa Monica. Southern California. Cold? Suddenly, I am the embodiment of Trek, and his whole attitude towards the company has changed because I was giving the guy a hard time. I honestly can't figure out how some people could be so easily offended.

The worst part about this is that it carries so much more weight with me than the positive comments I've gotten, and I have gotten some. I guess I expect myself to do a good job, so when someone suggests that I'm not, and they do so in an unreasonable fashion, it's frustrating on many levels. I welcome constructive criticism, but this sort of thing, I take personally.


Ever notice how powerlines ruin otherwise very picturesque scenes that would make a nice photo? I think this electricity thing is getting out of hand.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Bansai Sheep

It's been ages since I posted an update. I've had 3 glasses of some fine Pinot from a vineyard I went to yesterday, so I'm drunk enough to open the thought gates.

I'm sitting here at Chez Bontrager and enjoying the spoils of Santa Cruz. Keith isn't here and I haven't actually seen him. He left for Pittsburgh before I got here yesterday. He's there for the weekend, then he's off to the UK. He left plenty of good food to eat, though. Nevertheless, I've already expressed my displeasure at him not being here and offering me the 'shoulder to cry' on that I need after my trip. Lucky git...he gets to go to the very place I'd be crying about. The good news is, I get to hang out with Laura and the girls. I always have a good time with Laura. She's just one of those people who is so easy to talk to about anything. She's a good friend, and one I wish I could spend more time with.

I had a fantastic time on my trip to my adopted land. It's like your favorite pair of shoes that fits perfectly no matter how much time has passed since the last time you wore them. The trip did nothing but solidify my desire to be back there on a more permanent basis.

Geez, that was fun. It was so great to see everyone, event though most of the time spent was way too short.

Bring on January!