August 20th, 2010

Mountain biking!!!!!

So the bad news first: big purple thigh bruises, scraped up forearm, upper arm rash, skinned knee, and long, bloody gash on calf. Also one decapitated reflector, but, hey, it was daytime. Not much of a list of horrors given that it was my first time mountain biking.

At the other end of the spectrum, my bike got dirty. I had enough seeds stuck in my shirt to grow my own field. I burned a million-zillion calories. The vultures I saw weren’t circling me. I had brief conversations with cows and one calf, scared a lizard out of my path, sent small birds fluttering, and watched one little mouse scutter into the leaves by the side of the road. I had the wise guidance and infinite patience of my friend Heidi to keep me from doing anything truly stupid; she also explained to me how to use my gears, which was formerly one of the great mysteries of my universe.

The whole thing was glorious. The sun shone on the hills; the trees shaded the paths; the wind blew. As a kid, I loved the part in Mary Poppins when the children and Mary and Bert jumped into the sidewalk picture. I imagined doing the same thing myself with the picture that hung over the piano, a landscape of golden hills and oaks (hey, it was better than actually paying attention to the practicing I was supposed to be doing…). Wednesday it happened and it was better than I imagined. There were no eucalyptus groves, smelling like dust and childhood, in the picture. No puddles, either. No astonishing grandmother-types blowing past me as I panted to the top of yet another hill, sometimes still pedaling, sometimes pushing the bike.

Heidi rocks. She didn’t even break a sweat and distracted me from the fact that my lungs were burning their way out of my chest with lots of cheerful conversation. I want to be her when I grow up.

I came away already wanting to do it again (next time in long pants and with some bandages in my pack for the inevitable). I have goals: coping with single-track riding without panicking and spilling myself into pokey bushes, making it to the top of more hills, figuring out how to deal with very slippery gravel. Well, and the obvious one: have as much fun next time, too.

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

One of my missions this summer has been to remove T.R. from the couch every so often so they don’t grow together. Yesterday it was easier than most days: I took him to see the Genghis Khan exhibit at the Tech.

I went to the show refreshingly ignorant. Everything I knew about Genghis was contained in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. T.R., on the other hand, is an enthusiast. He will discuss tactics like victory by retreat at length. He considers the fact that the Mongolian recurve bows could outshoot the English longbows of the period by 100 yards or more to be of vital importance, particularly since the Mongols usually shot at their targets from galloping horses. After all, Genghis is a man after T.’s own heart, who believed that one should wear the same shirt until it disintegrated on the body and that washing shirts and bodies was a waste of time.

What surprised me was that Genghis adapted an alphabet for his people, who had always been illiterate. He instituted the rule of law. Religious freedom for all residents of the empire seemed like an obvious thing to him. Did I mention he was elected Khan?

Sure, he wreaked plenty of havoc, but he was more than a violent barbarian.

The exhibit itself contains lots of information, both about Genghis and his family and about the culture around them. Very cool ger, amazing textiles, lots of pointy swords, swank period jewelry, and pithy remarks.

Note: the exhibit includes human remains, the mummy of a woman from his time period. If you have issues with this, you might not like the exhibit. I would have preferred that the woman be allowed to keep her robes on and to rest where she was put all those years ago.

Push Up of the Day

The push-up of the day today:

The barbell bar rested on the drop bars at the lowest level on the power rack. My goal was to do push-ups without sliding the barbell along the drop bars. For once, I was grateful that I took physics because it helped me make sure I had enough of a down-vector to keep the bar in place, at least until my arms gave out. I did about 15.