Thursday, July 2, 2009

Catch-Up: Rides, Small Teammates, Adding to Blogroll, Partial Nudity and Bonus Work-Related Rant

This is going to be a bit of a hodge-podge of a post, for which I apologize up-front, and which I’ve tried to make up for by including a gratuitous partial nudity shot*. June 30 is the end of the quarter where I work, which is always busy time. And when it’s mid-2009 and you’re the head of sales, it’s even busier.

*Oo- that should totally drive up my traffic…

Work-Related Rant

Tangent: I’ve worked really hard in this blog never to whine about work. Today I’m breaking that rule. Here we go:

You know how in stories about abusive husbands, the common theme is that the abuser always says, this time it’ll be different, I’m going to do better, I won’t let you down again, I’m going to keep my word, etc., etc.? And of course, they never do, because they’re unreliable-habitual-scumbag-liars.

Well you know who’s exactly like that in the business world? Purchasing agents at Fortune 500 companies. I’m serious, and if you’re in sales, and you sell to Fortune 500’s, you know it is so totally true. Every quarter, you end up negotiating some special deal with a dozen+ purchasing guys, and you’re way clear up-front that if you give them the oh-so-special deal they’re badgering you for, you need it by the end of the quarter. And they always say, oh yeah of course, absolutely, you can count on me. But then, June 30th, after promising you the PO by June 30 for months straight, it turns out Purchasing is just “too backed up*”, or the favorite for this year: “An additional approval is needed.”

pAgent caption *”Too backed up.” This one is my favorite. How can a purchasing department be “too backed up?” How hard can it be to fill out a few fields on a computer screen so the system can spit out a PO#? We’re not talking about mapping the human genome or splitting the atom here…

You see, Fortune 500’s are reacting to the economic downturn by requiring higher-level “executives” to approve formerly-routine purchases. (Never mind that the “executive” doesn’t use or even understand what the product or service in question is.) And this “executive” is invariably someone who has picked the last 2 days of the quarter to attend a European conference, conduct a “strategic planning retreat*”, or hike the Appalachian Trail.

*Please. Next time I play hooky to spend a day mountain biking and drinking beer, I’m telling people it was a “strategic planning retreat.”

Bad as Fortune500 Purchasing folks are, Higher Education is even worse. I used to wonder what happened to PhD candidates whose dissertations were rejected. Now I know: They spend the rest of their days toiling away in the university purchasing dept., forever venting their bitterness and failed hopes upon hapless salespeople.


AFO Mill Creek 6 29 09 Whew, that was fun. I feel much better. So like I was saying, this is a bit of a hodge-podge post. First some catch-up. Despite the busy week , I’ve gotten a couple of great rides in. The first was Monday night, a last Before-the-Gate-Opens ride on the upper Mill Creek trails, with KanyonKris, UTRider and SkiBikeJunkie, and it was possibly the Best Mill Creek Ride Ever (pic right = me on ride, courtesy of KanyonKris.) The trails were buff, tacky and hiker-free, the road (almost) car-free, and the forest was exploding with life- Bluebells and Utah Sweetpea everywhere, and the Aspens are now fully-cloaked in green. (Pic below, left. The softer light of early morning or early evening really brings out the colors in Wasatch forests; I really think those are the best times to get out.)

mc aspen 6 29 09 This was my first time meeting both UTRider and SkiBikeJunkie; both are great guys and great riders. One of the nicest, unexpected benefits of this whole project has been getting to know a bunch of great people with similar interests, either in person or online. These guys are a blast to ride with, and I look forward to getting out with them again soon.

Partial Nudity Shot

KanyonKris and UTRider have already blogged about the ride, so I won’t re-hash their ride reports, except to include in this post the 2 best photos they somehow omitted. First, is SkiBikeJunkie clearing under a really tight deadfall*, which appears down below when I talk about his blog. Even better is this shot of KanyonKris exposing himself mid-climb. If you met Kris, you’d never suspect he was an exhibitionist. Save this photo- it’ll be worth something someday when he’s famous.

KKris Cheek*Moments earlier I tried and failed the same under-the-deadfall move, in an ugly, uncoordinated snag-fest of a 6-foot+ man on a large bicycle with a Camelbak on his bike and absolutely no concept of spatial relations. It wasn’t pretty. Actually I saw last night that SBJ used the same shot, but it’s a good one, and worth posting twice.

Another Great Ride

The 2nd great ride was an early road ride up and down Big Cottonwood Canyon (BCC) Wednesday morning, which for some reason I hadn’t yet done this year. I’ve decided that BCC is absolutely my favorite road-biking canyon in the Wasatch. It’s fast and thrilling without being terrifying/borderline suicidal (i.e like LCC). The pavement is silky-smooth, and the descent gradual enough that even at 40-45 MPH you can really savor and enjoy the different elevation zones on the way down. From the Blue Spruces up top down to the Junipers at the canyon mouth, this descent’s got it all.

Tangent: I did this ride with a teammate- let’s call him “Elliott”, and let’s also say he could well be “the big brother of Teammate-Jason.” Teammate-Elliott’s one of the 2 fastest racers on our team and just upgraded to Cat2. Lately I’ve been doing more riding with him, and it’s a great example of something I’ve long believed to be true for both road and mountain-biking: if you want to be a better rider, you need to ride with people who are better riders than you. If may be fun, and ego-boosting, to be the alpha-dog in your regular pack, but it you want to improve, you need to get out at least part of the time with riders who push you. Every ride I do with Teammate-Elliott I learn or observe something he does that makes me a little bit smarter, and I’m becoming a better roadie for it.

Nested Tangent: OK, so there actually is one thing I don’t like about riding with Teammate-Elliott: He’s, uh… “not large” (wracking my brain for a euphemism for “small” here…) Where I’m 6’2” and 173 lbs, I’m going to guess Teammate-Elliott is maybe 5’7” and ~140 lbs., which means that riding behind him provides hardly any drafting benefit.

Elliott Drafting When we’re on group training rides I go to great lengths and machinations to ensure I don’t wind up immediately behind him in a pace-line. But when it’s just the 2 of us, well, I always get a workout.

Part Of Post Where I Humbly Acknowledge Making A Mistake

QuickDraw5 OK, the next topic is acknowledging a mistake. As frequent readers know, I welcome corrections and try to acknowledge and correct mistakes- particularly in plant or bug ID’s- whenever possible. But this error is a bit different. A couple months back I went on and on bragging about the new camera-holster I set up on my Camelbak strap. And, on the whole, it’s been great. I’ve gotten many more shots, wasting much less time, and gotten them quickly.

But 2 readers- let’s call them “Enel and “WheelDancer”- commented on that post, urging caution and additional preparations lest the camera work its way out and fall to the ground. At the time I thought, “Ah, I’m fine. It’s never gonna fall out…”, which of course is exactly what it did Monday night, as I was climbing the Mill Creek road alongside SkiBikeJunkie.

Side Note: So here I am, SkiBikeJunkie’s known me for all of 15 minutes, and I drop and destroy a $200 camera. The guy must have thought, “OK this Watcher-guy is a complete Utard…” but he was gracious about the whole deal, even though he probably could’ve gotten a great post out of it.

Cookie Closeup That’s 3 Canon PowerShots destroyed in 4 years. I am singlehandedly supporting that company through the recession. But on a lemons-to-lemonade note, I’ve already replaced it with newer/better model- the SD780 IS. It’s the 12 megapixel version, and should do a much better job on video (particularly zoom- video) and >3X zoom shots. The initial experiments with close-up shots seem promising as well. Here’s a half-eating chocolate chip cookie* from last night.

*Yes, it’s an odd photo-subject. But be honest- when you buy a new camera, don’t you take a bunch of really stupid pics right away?

I’m still working out the revised holster-system details, but I’ve already secured the most important element: the 2-year Best Buy protection plan, which includes 1 drop/break replacement.

Tangent: I am almost always anti-insurance*, excepting things like health, basic auto and homeowners. I never buy extended warranties or “protection plans” or any of that, figuring that an army of corporate actuaries has stacked the odds hopelessly against me. But upon reflection it occurred to me that I am probably rougher on a camera than about 95% of typical PowerShot customers, so I got off my high horse and ponied up the $45.

*The trickiest insurance to buy is life insurance, where the key is to purchase enough coverage to protect your family should you die in a wreck, get eaten by a wild coyote, or ride your bike off a natural bridge, yet not so much coverage that the prospect of your death becomes in any way appealing to a potential beneficiary. Corollary= if you have a big policy, don’t piss off your spouse.

Updating Blogroll

SBJ limbo I haven’t updated my blogroll in quite sometime, so today I’ve added 3 new ones. First is SkiBikeJunkie, (here’s the cool shot I was talking about earlier) a frequent commenter on this blog and fellow racer, whose own posts are interesting, insightful and thought-provoking across a spectrum of both cycling and non-cycling related topics. More often than not, an SBJ post will leave me scratching my chin, thinking about something I maybe hadn’t really noticed or considered before.

JH neander Second, is another “hard-core” science blog, John Hawks Weblog. John’s a Professor of Anthropology at U. Wisconsin, Madison, who blogs about all sorts of interesting developments and insights related to genetics and early human evolution. In particular his posts related to Neanderthals are simply fascinating. It’s a bit different from most blogs, not just in that the guy really knows what he’s talking about (so pretty much the complete opposite of this blog, really) but in that it’s a no-comments blog. A fascinating bit of trivia about John is that his doctoral adviser was Milford Wolpoff. If you’ve followed the major developments in paleoanthropology over the last 20 years, you probably already know who Wolpoff is: the leading proponent of the “multi-regional” theory of human evolution, which has been largely at odds with the more (of late) commonly accepted “Out-of-Africa” theory. Anyway, great stuff.

hawks_jackson_lake *No that’s not John’s pic. That’s just the cool Neanderthal drawing he has on his masthead. Here’s an actual picture of John, standing … in a place that does not look like Wisconsin.

Finally is something a bit different. Last week I was contacted by the Outdoor writer for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, looking for information for a great piece he did this week on Aspen-carvings. Clint Thomsen also has his own blog, Bonneville Mariner. cropped-100_3763 The title references ancient Lake Bonneville (which I described in this post and was pretty much the Coolest Thing Ever, so if you’re clueless about Lake Bonneville, drop what you’re doing and go read it right now), and 100_2864-WPClint’s blog focuses on the natural and human history of the greater Toole Valley, an area largely ignored by most of us along the Wasatch Front, despite it’s being our “front yard.” Clint’s Outdoor column appears weekly in the Transcript-Bulletin, and though it’s for-fee content, Clint reposts all of his (excellent) outdoor columns on his blog. (Clint included some kind words for this blog in this week’s column, for which I’m flattered and grateful.)

OK, that’s the housekeeping. I have a couple new shrubs to blog about, including one that, if you mtn bike or hike in the Wasatch, you are riding by All The Time. I originally intended to include that in this post, but I’m going to try and be better about not doing so many encyclopedia-length posts. So let’s stop here, and I’ll get back to shrubs over the weekend.


KanyonKris said...

When I'm famous? I think that photo is going to bring me all the fame I'm ever going to get.

Funny thing, it looks much more salacious CENSORED than it did without. My cave-fish white butt lit with the flash makes it look like I have underwear on.

I'm not sure why I did it. Watched was back there taking photos (I knew because I kept seeing the flash) so I thought I'd spice it up with a slice of moon pie. Do male humans ever really grow up?

Ski Bike Junkie said...

OK, so I've advised Watcher to wear baggy shorts, Kris, I'm now advising you to wear bibs. That should solve the cave-fish-white butt exposure problem.

And no, we don't ever grow up. At least not most of us. My brother (not Steve, one of the other ones) may be the exception. I recently found out he never farts in front of his wife and even sleeps on the couch if he has gas. Really I thought getting to the point where a girl didn't break up with you for farting was the pinnacle of dating, but perhaps there's a higher law.

Thanks for the link. Now I need to go check and make sure I'm returning the favor...

Enel said...

Ha. I'm famous!

I have had the best luck with the $1-2 camera cases in the photo section of Wal-Mart. Usually they need a little sewing to get them how I want them.

I prefer cases with Velcro flap tops, I will then sew the pocket the camera sits in with a couple stitches until the opening is snug enough that camera can't fall out if the flap is open. It needs to be tugged enough.

The final test it to place the camera inside and shake the pack and case upside down to test how easy it is for the camera to come out. Make sure you are over a soft surface:)

Alternately, zippered cases work well if you don't forget to zip them.

Love the blog. Maybe because I am a total science and bike geek with five young kids and can relate. I even enjoy the racing posts.

Enel said...

PS: When you are tall, going under deadfall like that is greatly facilitated by some sort of adjustable seatpost like a Gravity Dropper.

Watcher said...

KKris, Enel- you don't get famous by being featured on this blog -just embarrassed. And thanks Kris for doing your part to help drive my traffic.

SBJ- you pass gas in front of your wife?? Oh man, I need to work up another marital advice tangent, and quick (and maybe a post on flatulence.)

Enel- Took your advice, just returned from Wal-Mart. (Yeah, yeah I know, made in China, forced labor, yada, yada. Hey, it's the only store I can walk to from the office and besides I already dealt with this issue in this post.) I ended up buying a velcro/nylon phone case with stretchy-elastic sides. I did your upside-down shake test with the flap open and it held great. I'll field-test it over the weekend- thanks!

KristenT said...

I enjoy your long posts! Don't give up on them completely. Pretty please?

Anonymous said...

I am 99% sure that purchasing agent worked at Sara Lee. As a Packaging Engineer. Just sayin'.