Nipplepalooza III at California Brew Haus

I headed to The California Brew Haus (402 West Ridge Rd.) for Nipplepalooza III. I got there just when the show started although I guess I missed Rob Balder. I did get to see him emcee the show, though and he was good in that context at least. When I arrived, Ookla The MokMySpace link had just taken to the stage. I think they're pretty funny but they have this groove-rock, full-fledged song mentality that really doesn't sit well with a one-joke song. Next was Worm QuartetMySpace link who follow the traditional form of novelty songs: only go as long as is necessary. And fast. And sometimes absurdly short — but always really quite funny. Next was Carla UlbrichMySpace link, a funny, witty acoustic soloist … chatty and friendly too. Closing the night was Sudden DeathMySpace link who did novelty hip-hop of a caliber similar to Worm QuartetMySpace link but with videos to go along with it.

Joshua Grosvent at Boulder Coffee

I headed to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) a bit after the show started. I got there just at the tail end of the opening comic and I didn't get to hear his set. Shawn Murphy was next. He was pretty funny — he did "thoughtful" comedy which was kind of the theme for the night. Kate AndersonMySpace link was the same way although so dry that I she was only "pretty funny". Closing out was Joshua GrosventMySpace link whom I've seen before — at Milestones when it was Milestones. He didn't attempt any songs this time but had an enjoyable and funny set … even if it got uncomfortably personal at times. Well, "uncomfortably personal" throughout.  But funny.

Matt RohrMySpace link did a fine job opening and emceeing. He had set up the show as a benefit for The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and (checking his blog later) collected several hundred dollars at the show.

Winning the National Novel Writing Month challenge

I was way behind at the start of today for my National Novel Writing Month novel. I should have been had around 1,667 words to go but I lost a couple days and haven't been writing as much as I'd hoped so I started the day with 3,143 words to go after finishing a 2,670 day and a 1,931 day before that — all above average. But I have persevered, and accomplished the goal with 50,098 words written. That count will probably stay if I don't update my profile again before the end of the day.

NaNoWriMo 2007 Winner

I had been reading the inspirational messages from published authors — the website sent them out about once a week — and somewhere in the halfway point, they all seemed to get mired in writer's block. At the time, I felt pretty good. My progress was steady and although I didn't know where things would go or where I'd finish, I could always keep moving. The authors said that was important and I took it to heart.

Well unfortunately, it appears those days are upon me now. Writing slowed to a crawl after Thanksgiving, and I started having doubts. I guess I have a vague goal of where I think things will go, but I don't want to put too heavy a hand on it. I get the impression that things around this point are dogging (and should you ever get to read it in some form and this scene survives, they headed to a coffee shop before going out dancing.) It seems the action is dreadfully slow — my god, will they ever get to the fucking club? But no, I've got to write dialog that plausibly consumes about the right amount of time. At least by my rough estimate. Who knows … it might take days for them to speak it all, but to me it's all done in half-hour bursts. Hell, do people really talk all that much?

So now comes the really hard part. I've finished the challenge and got half a novel sitting here. I no longer feel compelled to write every day thousands of words, so now what? I think I'd like to finish it, but will it just sit on a shelf? I sure hope not … it would be nice to be done with the first draft in the next few weeks, but who knows. At least I gotta get those folks out of that coffee shop before they're stuck there for all of eternity.

Running barefoot in the not-too-cold

Just a quick note that I went for a run this morning. It was about 32°F outside (the ground was probably a little colder still), the ground was dry, and it was somewhat breezy, but I was much warmer than Wednesday's run — when I got home the bottoms of my feet were around 60°F. I timed myself: 27:43 to run the 2.6 mile course. Although it's slower than my estimates, 10½-minute-miles are not all that bad.

Hearts and Minds at the Dryden and a philosophy of good government

I headed to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Hearts and Minds. I really wasn't prepared for it at all. I watched in horror as the war in Iraq played out before me. I mean, if someone were to take the footage from this film, edit it together exactly the same way and release it today, people would definitely complain that it tries to make Iraq look like Vietnam. The only trouble is, this was made in 1974 as a postmortem documentation of the Vietnam War.

So here's the play book to be used by leadership:

  1. Fabricate a "threat" to America.
  2. Identify a place where a quasi-rational claim can be made that the area is imminently threatened. Be sure to pick one where the language and culture are very different from English-speaking, Christian Americans.
  3. Declare war on the "threat" and engage in combat in the selected area.
  4. Align all dissent with support of the "threat". Any disagreement with the position of the military and its hopeful outlook is "dissent".
  5. Declare the enemy to be less-than-human.
  6. Make claims that the enemy does not respect life which gives them a tactical advantage.
  7. Continuously claim that great progress is being made. Produce no undisputed facts.
  8. Attempt to fine-tune military tactics and technology in an attempt to defeat an enemy who will never stop trying to defend their homeland against an enemy invader.
  9. Ponder whether America chose the right allies and neglect that America's actions are the wrong side.
  10. Establish a "democratically elected" government — one that specifically supports the United States policies. Remove any government or authorities who disagree with U.S. policy.
  11. Support troops that align under the new government and migrate military control of the region to them.
  12. Disengage U.S. military involvement in the region.
  13. Make claims ex post facto that all success was as a direct result of action taken, and certainly not a result of the United States leaving the region.

In Vietnam the "threat" was Communism — a holdover from the 1950's and even called the "Red Threat". People were (and are) taught that Communism is a threat to freedom. In reality it competes with Capitalism as an economic system, but no more a threat to freedom than Capitalism is. The theory is (see above) that Communists are less than human — they act like hornets: their individuality is crushed by the goals of the collective so much that they don't even fear death. They use lies and any immoral tactic necessary to recruit new members.

In Iraq, the "threat" is terrorism. We're taught that terrorism is a threat to freedom. In reality, the tactics to stop terrorism are the threat to freedom: undocumented police searches, torture, secret arrests, and the suppression of free speech. The theory is (see above) that terrorists are less than human — they act like hornets: their individuality is crushed by the goals of the collective so much that they don't even fear death. They use lies and any immoral tactic necessary to recruit new members.

So I started theorizing on what goes wrong — how did we get here again? I think the crux of it is that we supposedly have a representative government but that representation has failed. We expect our representatives to listen to the will of the people and to lead based on that will. We expect our leaders to find solutions that make everyone happy — to unify these United States rather than to divide them.

I spent the better part of my free time trying to develop a graph to represent the whole thing, mostly erroneously trying to represent population in some proportional way and also to present the data in a logarithmic fashion. But the gist is this: assuming that people are free to organize in protest of the government, the measure of "good leadership" is that few people choose to organize in protest.

Chart showing percentage of actively protesting people.

The numbers in parentheses represent a population based on 300 million people — approximately the population of the United States in 2007. The goal of leadership should be to keep the percentage of people actively protesting as low as possible, and divided in support/opposition of an issue as balanced as possible. The ideal is zero, but if that cannot be attained, then equal numbers on either side should be the goal. This is represented by the outer ring with green toward the bottom "zero" point and orange indicating a problem.

The inner colored ring indicates likely types of problems. The yellow area between 0.01% and 0.04% is a danger zone for a politician, for between 0.04% and 0.6% is when their approval ratings will begin to drop. Between 0.6% and 10% is an increasing risk of revolution (in the case of activity on one side of an issue) or civil war (in the case that both sides are equally ired.) The red area above 10% pretty much guarantees violence.

Let me qualify this that it's just speculation. I'm no expert in politics or leadership. I was just picking numbers out that "sounded good." However, the I feel the underlying theory is valid: that the goal of leadership should be to minimize the need for protest. And that's something else that I should reiterate: this chart is about the number of people actively protesting — that is, picket-signs in hand, involved in a march or other form of public dissent.

Now there's three cases that a leader will typically be looking at: virtually no protest, protest that is lopsided, and protest that is strong but balanced. If there is little protest, then that's a sign of a "good job" and the leader should look to fix other more controversial issues.

In the case of a lopsided protest — where there is a significant population that is protesting one side but very few on the other side — then there are several possibilities. One is that the protesting side is vehement about one facet of the issue, and in that case, the leader should have the wherewithal to re-frame to defuse its antagonistic component. Another is that the leadership is not representing the will of the people — and in that case, the leader should adjust their position and policies to be more accommodating of the protesters.

In the case of a balanced, strong protest, it's the leader's role to act as diplomat. They should consider whether another option — outside the spectrum of the opposing poles — could resolve strife. If they are unable to accomplish that, then there is the likelihood of bloodshed and the possibility of full-blown civil war.

So back to Iraq — if I recall correctly, protests against the war — the largest protests — are in the range of 200,000 to 500,000 people. In that range, we're talking about 0.08% to 0.2% of the population. I am not aware of protests to support the war although there are typically a small number of protesters against the anti-war movement — a bit derivative, but (again, if I recall correctly) typically a small number. Perhaps 2,000 to 10,000 at most — 0.001% to 0.004% or so.

In this case, I think it's the responsibility of our leadership to either (a) re-frame the war to make it amenable to anti-war protests or (b) to change policy to balance opposing factions. It's clear that their efforts are squarely in re-framing the war: that it's a war for freedom, or peace, or against terrorism — but the anti-war movement is not buying into it. This opposition is simply against the war. And in that case, the move should be to get out of it.

So then, imagine more generally if we actually had balanced leadership. Imagine if people had to protest in the streets to favor a war rather than to protest only to oppose it. Imagine if our country believed in peace so much that our leaders insisted that the people ordered them to start a war. Imagine if war was not the default action but the exceptional action — a complete reversal of our current policies.

But then again, what do I know about leadership? I can't understand why anyone would resort to war when diplomacy and peace are alternatives. I guess I can't stop believing in the ideal of "good leadership" — where the seemingly miraculous solution that appeals to everyone is commonplace and war is seen as the pathetic, stupid cop-out that it is.

Too cold to run barefoot this time

I went out for a run and it's about 23°F outside. I figured I'd see how far I could get since there's no snow and it's calm. I ended up going down the block and back — about 6 minutes. My feet got really cold and the bottoms were numbed enough that I decided to cut it short before I injured myself. I got back and the bottoms of my feet were around 55°F and my toes were 52°F — just a few degrees colder than I'd experienced before, but cold enough. At least for now.

I also spent some time on Gmaps Pedometer which lets you draw on a Google Map, point-to-point and accumulate the distance. I did some measuring and the course I thought was 2 miles was really more like 1.8, so I'm not running as fast as I thought I was. Oh well.

Dr. Strangelove and Bridge on the River Kwai at the Dryden

I rushed to get to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It turned out to be quite the popular movie and it wouldn't have mattered if I hurried or not for I just ended up at the end of a long line. I also ran into Rebecca and her boyfriend, so the three of us got together for the film.

I've long enjoyed it as the blackest of the black comedies — I mean, it really doesn't get funnier than "mutually assured destruction" [perhaps save for "mutually assured self-destruction"]. The very idea that one erroneous step in the arms race and kaboom: life would be far different now than it turned out to be.

Last Wednesday I headed there (the Dryden, not nuclear apocalypse) to see The Bridge on the River Kwai. I hadn't seen it before, but Stanley Kubrick blurs the line even further between black comedy, satire, and drama. I mean, can you really do a serious movie about war — or more particularly, the logic of war? It just doesn't make any sense outside its absurd context, as if the rules of life were completely dumped topsy-turvy.

But both films really dismantle the idea of the romantic view of war as some kind of beautiful peak experience. The reality is it's bat-shit fucking crazy. It really gives me, well, strange feelings toward our troops in Iraq.

On the one hand, I genuinely dish out gratitude for their actions. I get confused as to why, exactly. I mean, I'm not glad that they're killing people. And I don't believe that what we're doing is making anything better — short-term unquestionably worse, and long-term unlikely better — at least from my broad, detached, ill-informed [thanks media, government!] view. But then for what? Perhaps that they believe — they believe so much in America that they're willing to go to a far away place where people want to kill them and stand up and say "I'm an American" and shoot anyone who tries to shoot them.

I kind of envy that kind of thinking, for it's not so simple for me. I think the Constitution was a fantastic architecture for a government, and the Bill of Rights is a stupefyingly excellent invention. But the constant attempts to leverage power — oy!, enough already! Maybe it's inevitable human behavior to abuse power, but if so, then why permit authority in the first place?

So then the jingoist asks, "so are you for America or against it?" Let me answer this way: "I am all for my version of America." The one that puts the individual at the head of the pack — not the judge or the President, but the individual. I mean, imagine the difference it would make to hear, "I'm your representative: how can I help you?" rather than "I'm your leader: do what I tell you."

I'm kind of an idealist about the whole thing. I mean, I believe that, given freedom, that people will behave well toward one another. Unfortunately, I'm up against people who believe so strongly otherwise that they will demonstrate behavior counter to my ideal for the purpose of proving it false.

But hey, that's the nature of war.

Great sandwiches at Boulder Coffee

I headed to O'Bagelo's (165 State St.) around noon even though I didn't really have many plans for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I determined they had closed for the holiday. I meandered back and went to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) instead. I got a coffee, a stew (I think they said it was called "Montana Stew") and a grilled cheese with tomato and pesto [unfortunately the website doesn't have an up-to-date menu that I could readily reference … hint, hint Boulder]. The stew was great: a beef-based stew with nutmeg and cinnamon spices. The sandwich was good, but the whole wheat bread detracted from the chewy, gooey cheesiness.

I decided that I'd surprise Ali — after all, she was working her regular job then going to our friends' business for the rest of the afternoon immediately afterward, and I didn't think she'd get a chance to have lunch. I got her a grilled cheese on focaccia bread (my preference) with no tomato (her preference). I also got a cup of the cream of broccoli soup as I didn't think she'd like the spices in the stew. I also brought leftover pies for the owners and the rest of the crew.

Well she was suitably surprised and glad that I brought food. We spent her lunch break together.  The cream of broccoli was excellent although thinner than I prefer, it was at least packed with vegetables.  I liked the grilled cheese with focaccia better as well.

Thanksgiving 2007

I got up at 7 a.m. and put the turkey in the oven (after having prepared it all last night) and I got the rolls thawing. I got the kitchen cleaned up and then finished up cleaning up the house. I intended to go back to bed but it never actually happened. Ali came by around 10 and I got the coffee going. The flurry of activity around the house crescendoed around noon when I took the turkey out and Ali and I worked on potatoes, broccoli, gravy, cheese sauce, cooking the rolls, and getting the pies warmed up.

My parents arrived around 1 and Ali's parents and kid sister arrived shortly after. Ali had brought her artichoke casserole, my parents brought stuffing and another pie, and Ali's family brought pumpkin bread, wine, and squash. While moms and dads spent some time getting to know one another, Ali and I buzzed around, getting an excellent meal set up that basically went off without a hitch. I thought it wasn't as organized as last year, but then I had no standard upon which to base things and everything I tried was pretty much for the first time. Our guests disagreed and felt it was even better (well it was just my parents and Ali last year so her family was without a point of comparison.)

It all went well and even the pies were well received (I had made pumpkin and apple — apple for the first time). Afterward it was off to Ali's new house so my parents could see it and then everyone went home. All that work for a really great 4-hour period. It's disproportionately skewed toward planning, but that's the name of the game.

So Ali and I got things cleaned up a bit then took a nap. Thank goodness. We slept for 2 hours or so then got up and headed to my friend Rebecca's party. It was once an annual thing, but last year she apparently broke her foot, bought a house, and disappeared. Well the hugely amazing party was back this year — with dozens of desserts that followed an astounding buffet that Ali and I had skipped for our own.

The friends and family there were all very good people. Ali had a great time and was glad she didn't skip it — after all, she planned to get up early to do some seasonal work for our friends business at 5 a.m. the next day. She didn't even leave until 11 or so — although both of us thankfully live just around the corner. I ended up consuming a steady stream of alcohol until quite late — I got home around 4:30 a.m. and considered calling Ali to see if she was up. [In fact she was.]

So it was an excellent holiday overall.

Running wet, cold, and barefoot

I went out for a barefoot run this morning. It was about 42°F outside and wet from drizzle. The ground sapped away heat from my feet fast and it felt colder than dry pavement that was 10 degrees colder. However, I got back from 2 miles in 18 minutes and my soles were 58°F and felt okay — cold, naturally.

Now you may be wondering why I started doing this. I briefly touched on some of the benefits when I first started, but since then have mentioned only that my calves got sore from the workout and that I kept with it. Well, way back when I was running — in shoes — The Corporate Challenge back in 1999 and 2001, during the race and during practice I felt like I was beating myself up. All the joints in my body were sore, especially my knees, but also my back, and I would finish up wheezing like I was going to die right there. I quit running for a long time because of that — and especially because I started getting chronic knee and back problems.

So I happened to start reading about this "barefoot running" on and off. Once I heard that you use the arch of your foot and your calf muscles as shock absorbers, I was intrigued. I mean, running is a great way to lose weight, but if you end up spending more time on a chiropractic bed then doing it, then it's probably not all that great. So I started — slowly at first — and now I feel like I can run a 5K race. Well, maybe with a little practice.

The best thing is that when I get home, I feel great. I'm tired from the exercise, but I am not sore at all. After today's run, for instance, my toes were scolding met that they were really quite cold, and my calf muscles complain when I walk up the stairs, but that's it. My knees feel great. My back feels great. And I certainly don't feel like I just got beat up.

Now if only I can figure out a way to continue without actually getting a debilitating case of frostbite this winter …