Friday, June 29, 2007


This morning is my surgical consult, where I get to find out if I'm going to maybe have surgery to fix (?) my neck. And last night was kind of a strange night with Ed. So naturally I had the following three dreams that I remember.

I dreamed that I had some kind of a nervous breakdown and was put into a mental institution. It was a nice place and very restful. I got out after a while, but then Ed made me crazy again (it's just a dream, Ed) and I had to go back in. It was partly because I just never got enough sleep "on the outside." In the last part of my dream I was trying hard not to get classified as actually crazy because then you would get your own room instead of sleeping in the common area, but it was much harder to get out again.

I dreamed that I had some kind of an STD. I don't remember what kind but it wasn't HIV or anything.

And I dreamed that I was diagnosed with some kind of leukemia-like condition. It was probably not going to kill me outright, but was instead a manageable but life-shortening condition like Type 2 diabetes. But I was going to have to go in every week and receive some kind of injections into my bone marrow, which were going to be really painful. I went in for the first two and they were not as bad as I'd feared.

In real life, Mosch is going with me to my surgical consult. It helps to have another person at important medical things.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Danny Boy

Via Andrew Sullivan, this is too great not to post. It gets even more great as it goes on. Enjoy!

Sally, the Muppets always remind me of you bigtime. And not just the old men in the balcony doing our thing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ed's Thesis & Geek Love

Sunday night, Ed did some work on his thesis at my place. He had brought over his computer to hook up to my monitor, keyboard, etc., so that he could do work. I got to watch over his shoulder some.

Ed's thesis work is basically (in my highly generalized understanding) about how to make computers or other devices in a network communicate with each other peer-to-peer if each knows its own location but not necessarily the location of every other one. When he was explaining it to me, I used the goofy analogy of an array of penguins, each drifting around on its own ice floe with a walkie-talkie. If Flippy wants to get a message to Pete, he broadcasts on the channel that any other penguin within range can receive. With his message, he sends his own location. Somehow, given this information, each penguin that receives the message decides whether to pass it on or let someone else handle it. They don't know where Pete is, but only the path the message has followed so far. Somehow given their own location, and Flippy's location, they can figure out how to route the message so that it eventually reaches Pete.

Ed is doing this with some version of the right-hand rule for navigating mazes. This rule (which doesn't work in all cases) says that you can navigate a maze by always cleaving to the right-hand wall. Once you reach a dead end, of course, the old left-hand wall is the right-hand wall, so for many maze configurations, this will eventually result in a full traversal of the maze.

Anyway, Ed was stuck at some point, so I suggested he explain his problem to me. Many people find that explaining a conceptual problem to someone (even if the "someone" is a dog or other noncomprehending beast, which I expected to be) can give them some insight into solving it.

"Do you prefer lined or unlined paper?" I asked. Unlined (score!) ".5 or .7?" He knew I meant lead size (of course) and he had a strong preference. God I love us geeks.

So he explained the above to me, with some sketches, and started telling me about his problem, which was kind of a vector calculus one. (At least, it was material I learned in vector calc that enabled me to understand it; there wasn't any actual calculus involved.)

"It really turns me on to watch you draw diagrams and write math," I said at some point.

He looked at me and blinked.

"You'd feel the same way if it were me," I said.

He thought for a minute. "Yes, I would!" he said, surprised.

Ah, geek love.

This is actually similar enough to the layout of Ed's bedroom to give me a little warm feeling (Comic from

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Mine are kind of a mess this month. I usually track them with great glee and diligence, but I let things slide a few weeks here and just now bothered to actually go and pay bills, some of which are late as a result. Once I knew I was fucking things up, I had to kind of fight to go handle them, because once they're fucked up I don't want to deal with 'em.

Also, the credit card that I use for my spending, and diligently pay off each month, I was not able to completely pay off this month. Partly that's because I have already spent, but have not yet received, the $1500 in grant money from that CREU grant project I did last year. Partly it's because I simply overspent by that much money.

For the first time since October '06 when I started tracking it, my net worth actually went down this month, though only by about $250. (This month's is lower than May's but still much higher than April's.) Yuck.

I need to get my act together. So far I've been doing fine keeping up with school work (my one stupid online class) but my diet, exercise, and financial management are going all to hell. Oh well, new relationship stuff, right? It will pass, right? Right?!?

(For the record, everything is all shaped up now - checkbook updated, bills paid, etc.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Handling Drama

Sunday afternoon, Ed and I had some relationship drama that was kind of interesting. I find I don't often post about things that are super personal here, so I'm stretching myself a little bit.

When we were making our weekend plans, we made a date for Saturday night, and I asked Ed if he would spend the night Saturday and plan to spend Sunday at my house until around my bedtime. (He typically gets up in mid-afternoon and goes to bed before or around dawn, I think, so our schedules are quite different.) He agreed to this as long as he could bring his computer so he could get some work done. No problem.

Sunday afternoon we had some sex and then I said, "Hey, you wanna watch a movie or something?" and he said, "Actually I think I'd rather go home."

I think I kind of froze or something. "Do you have to?" I asked.

"You're disappointed," he said.

"Yeah," I said, and went into the bathroom for a minute to pee and think.

I had really arranged my mind around the idea that I had him until bedtime. Part of me was rational and did not want to trap him at my apartment, and wanted him to be able to get his work done wherever he felt he could best do it, or whatever. I wanted to get over it, let it go, and be mature. But the other part of me was just a child from whom something was being taken away in a completely unexpected and unfair fashion.

Given this, my temptation was to go out and do some kind of passive-aggressive bullshit thing like, "No, it's fine. I'll take you home. I obviously just can't make plans with you and have you stick to them. That's fine, I know that now," etc. Argh. I really wanted not to be passive aggressive and try to lay some thick smack of guilt down on him in an unsuccessfully sneaky fashion. (It's not like he wouldn't notice if I did that.)

So I went back to my room and started putting my clothes on. He came over and said, "You're not OK," and I said, "No, I'm not," and he put his arms around me and I told him how I felt ("We agreed that you'd be here today, and I want to let this go and be mature, but I just can't," to paraphrase) and he admitted he had done wrong in agreeing to stay and then not getting any work done Friday or Saturday and bailing on me, and he apologized and continued holding me tight while I cried a little bit.

(This all sounds ridiculous as I type it out, but you know, in the moment these things are harder. We were probably standing there 2-3 minutes total.)

He sat down to put his shoes on, got one on, thought for a minute (while I closed my eyes, sitting across him on the side of the bed, rocking autistically), took it off, and got into bed with me. I was really getting better by this time and had put my own shoes on, which he took off me. He said he was getting freaky from not having eaten much (I'd made some peanut noodles with seitan but they were a bit weird for him, and also he's really accustomed to eating meat) but he had brought his computer and could just work at my house if he got something to eat. I suggested we could go out for fast food if he liked, and he did.

We went to eat at Chipotle and spent much of the meal giving each other all manner of compliments about our superb handling of the situation. Of course, I want to make it clear that my own handling of the situation was only at all good given the context of my feelings, which I wasn't able to really control in a mature way. At best, I had sort of a bad hand dealt to me by my brain, and given that bad hand, I played well.

Now it's Monday morning and Ed got some good work done last night and spent the night and is no doubt sleeping in my bed right now. I love that boy.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Ed has been trying to get me to play Go with him for a while now, and I've been kind of resistant. It seems to just come up out of the blue at odd times, to the point that it's become sort of a looming topic somehow. Last night he brought it up again and I responded by imitating a meditative posture and pretending to begin to breathe calmly to deal with his desire to play.

This didn't go over so well. Apparently Ed has burned out some other girlfriends on Go, and so he has a bit of a sensitive spot about it. Well, shucks.

I think Mosch was the first person I played Go with. We got really into it, briefly, but had to abandon it because we just had too many other things we wanted to do. Since then, I'd basically completely forgotten how to play.

Go is a strategy game like checkers, othello, or hexes (whatever that game is called). You play stones at the intersection points of a board. You capture the opponent's stones when you cut off all of their escape routes (essentially), but you win by controlling territory with as few stones as possible. It's not hard to learn how to play Go, but it's one of those things where there is perhaps no limit as to how good you could become.

I agreed to play with Ed under the condition that he would not give me advice about what moves he would have made in my place. During the game we played (on 1/4 of the standard board, and with me having a 3-stone advantage to start), I did ask him for his thoughts on a few things as we went on. I lost pretty badly (as expected), but had some good moments. I'm definitely willing to do it some more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Trojan "Evolve" Ad

Trojan has a new ad campaign, an example of which can be watched here on their website. The commercial depicts a bar full of pigs and women, and shows the women rejecting the pigs over and over. Then one of the pigs goes into the restroom and gets a Trojan condom from a dispenser, at which point he is transformed into a man. He returns to the woman who previously rejected him, and she definitely likes him this time. The end of the ad says "Evolve" and "Use a condom every time." Here is their print ad.

Oink oink!
I have kind of a love/hate relationship with this ad. I hate the depiction of men as pigs and women as objects of sexual desire. But I really love the message of the ads ("use a condom every time" or "choose the one who uses a condom every time") and I think the angle of selling condoms to straight men using the motivation that women like men who use condoms is a good one. I really do like men who are happy to use a condom every time. I think it's a smart way to have sex.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Eating with Ed

Anything looks good if you put it in a nice bowl and photograph it from an angle One of the things that dating Ed is doing is kind of disordering my eating habits. We often stay up late at activities and sometimes I eat an extra meal afterwards. We've also been eating out too much, which is partly because I always like any excuse to eat out and partly because it's been slightly logistically challenging getting meals together.

Tonight, Ed is making me dinner at his house. He likes cooking and I think has wanted to do this. I suggested something simple, and preferably CV or near-CV. It'll give us a little extra time together this evening if I don't have to figure out how to work my own dinner into things.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Saturday night, Ed and I stayed up late, and did an interesting activity together. I think Ed was hesitant to suggest this because of my stated pro-empiricism and anti-woo, but interpetive divination is actually one of the really fun woo types of activities, and I'm almost always willing to engage in it.

useful but full of shit, like many non-falsifiable ideasWhat he wanted to do was take the deck of tarot cards, shuffle them together (each of us shuffling half and then cutting the deck together), and then lay them out in a pyramid with each level representing one layer of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. So we had five cards speaking to physiological needs, four for safety, three for love & belonging, 2 for self-esteem (or "self-efficacy," as he cannily called it for my sake), and 1 for self-actualization. For the purposes of the reading, it was considered that the two cards immediately below any given card would influence or impinge upon it.

Typically in reading tarot cards, you are supposed to know what the cards are supposed to mean. But Ed's preferred strategy was to simply look at the cards and interpret them based on the pictures on them. (The cards in his deck are fairly evocative, so this was possible.)

Ed's deck is a bit less whimsicalI don't think Ed expected me to take this seriously at all. But I really enjoy interpreting symbols, so I spent time looking at and thinking about each card, how it related to the level it was on, and how it might impinge upon the cards above it. I think Ed had anticipated a collaborative process of reading the cards, but I basically just gave him my full spiel. It was kind of a depressing reading, even though I don't think I was in a bad mood. I also said uncharacteristically woo-like things like, "I think this card is here to remind me that..."

Then Ed talked about the patterns he had seen, and we did kind of a mutual reading more about our whole relationship. This is the kind of thing you could do all night, building more and more baroque theories about how everything relates and what it all means, but we did call it quits after a while.


Ed's Family

We drove to Longmont to have dinner with Ed's family around 3:30 PM yesterday. I've rarely had "meeting the parents" laid out in such an explicit fashion; usually it's been more casual. I was a little bit nervous - I am not great at meeting people anyway, really, though I've gotten way better over time.

Present were Ed's mom (Jean), dad (Ed) and two aunts - Jean's sister Maggie and her wife Kathy (or maybe Cathy, I didn't find out). All except Kathy had the quality that immediately upon meeting them, you felt you knew exactly what they were like. This feeling is mostly illusory, and of course makes me wonder whether I give off a strong immediate impression and, if so, what it might be. It might be best not to know.

Dinner was barbecued ribs and chicken, corn on the cob, sliced bread, and salad. It was obviously not CV, but I wasn't too worried about it. Everything was delicious. I confess that I caused a controversy by putting pepper on my corn - apparently this is considered barbaric (or otherwise wrong) in some quarters. None of the Krohnes did it, and Aunt Maggie got in trouble despite refraining when Kathy claimed that she (Maggie) was the one who had introduced her to the practice.

Ed's dad took us (me and Ed) to the basement and gave me a tour of his extensive collection of HAM radio equipment, computers new and old, model rocketry (including custom-designed - by him - circuit boards to put in the rockets for various purposes), and jewelry-making stuff. He also had a regulation dartboard (which I was warned not to destroy by pulling the darts out wrong), and we played some darts, but not a game. Ed's dad is like Ed (just like Ed's sister Katie suggested) but not quite as open and happy-seeming.

Later, I spent some time in the Aunts' giant RV, which was parked alongside the house so that you could step into it from the yard. At first I was alone just chatting with them, but then Ed came in and we four hung out for a long while. With the Aunts I was more relaxed and open than I had been with the parents - perhaps because of their personalities or maybe just because they were not the parents. In any case, they were pretty delightful, especially Maggie. They were pretty surprised to find that Ed and I have only been dating for three weeks (which, I think it is actually only two weeks, but for some reason I said three), since obviously we seem much more relaxed together than that. Even our jokes have a certain edge to them that you wouldn't expect in the nervous beginning part of a normal relationship. (We're just abnormal is all.)

I didn't get to spend much time with Ed's mom, which I regretted. She and Ed did spend some time discussing his school and work plans and other personal stuff in front of me, but obviously I wasn't going to get involved in that.

Overall I think that the day went OK. I don't really know what impression I may have left on Ed's parents - I didn't really engage with either of them in conversation very much - but hopefully, despite the corn-peppering incident, I didn't give them any reason to actively dislike me.

I somehow managed not to drink any caffeine all day, so I was kind of headachy and irritable by the time we left around 9:15. I got home a bit late and, despite being exhausted, found it really hard to get to sleep.

Friday, June 15, 2007


did I mention there were cute guys? Apparently my summer of strange sports is going to continue - first kayaking, now fencing!

Ed invited me to go yesterday. I don't know who the people are who meet in the park in Golden, but they were very welcoming and after I signed a waiver they gave me some equipment and attempted to teach me and the other newbies a few things.

Having already been asked a bunch of questions about this by Mosch, let me issue the following disclaimer. I know nothing about fencing. I do not know any names or rules associated with what these people were doing, beyond what is in the post. If you ask me questions I will not know the answers.

OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way. It was a bunch of people, some new, most not, and they met in a park. I was given an inordinately heavy red jacket to wear, and some heavy gloves. Try stuffing thick, too-long sleeves into way-too-big gloves and you'll understand why I got duct-taped together. I didn't need a helmet because I wasn't allowed to fight with anyone for real.

We formed up in lines and learned some things (engarde, how to move forward and backward, thrusting, and lunging, I guess), and then we did some parry drills, and then they broke out the newbies from the others. Three of the leader-people lined up side by side (wearing helmets now) and we formed a line and went to whoever was open and they would put their hand in three different positions and have us hit (touch) it.

For me it was kind of a sexy and fun time. Many of the guys were very pretty to look at. (People were mostly not wearing the kind of plain white fencing gear you usually see, but rather stuff in different colors and with a certain style to it.) It was very casual, people were nice, and it wasn't one of those things where you have to do one thing 1000 times until you get it right and then you can move on. (This is good since I have no real interest in becoming an excellent fencer. Kind of like I am not going to hit 100 baskets of balls just to improve my tennis game.)

It appears that, as these people play, you can hit (poke, at least) people anywhere. If your sword arm is hit, you have to switch hands (so we practiced at least the initial things with both hands). I would speculate about the rest of the rules, but I'd just be wrong, so I'll leave it at that.

After we newbies got retired ("You're using muscles you've never used before, so you guys are done now"; I wasn't particularly hot or tired myself) I got to watch the other people continue playing, and that was very entertaining. They were doing this thing of forming a circle, with points in the middle, then breaking out and fighting each other. It wasn't quite a melee but it was in the melee direction from normal fencing.

Update: Here is a document that describes basically exactly what we did, made by the people I was with. (Ah, the good old SCA. Who knew?) You can get a sense of the style if you go look at it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meeting the Parents

That's what I get to do Sunday evening at their home in Longmont. Apparently there will be some Aunts as well (his Mom's sister and her partner of many years). It makes me slightly tense, but I'm excited to meet them.

It's very hard to know what someone's family is like before you meet them. Most people are not fully accurate reporters about this.

Speaking of families, the funny line of this weekend was when I mentioned my dad and Ed said, "I'd like to meet him sometime." Oops.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend with Ed; "The Talk"; Condoms

I basically spent the entire weekend with Ed, which was great. He brought his computer over on Saturday night so we could continue to hang out and he could still do his stuff.

Red Rocks - 15 minutes from my apartment!We had a short but fun hike on Saturday. (He told me he must love me if he was willing to exercise for me. Not to mention be exposed to all that icky life outside.) We did the trading post loop trail mentioned on this page about hiking at Red Rocks. The first time I did this - a couple of years ago, I guess - I thought it was a pretty challenging trail, but now it's just a short romp, really. We spent a lot of the walk arguing about physics. (For instance, I argued that we had to walk uphill as much as we did downhill because we needed our up and down vectors to sum to zero, and Ed argued that it was because "gravity is a conservative force." The passers-by at a particular point probably wondered why Ed was shouting at me, "You're living in a flat earth!" All in good fun, of course.)

Late Saturday night we had the "what happens if Tam gets pregnant" talk, which is a very difficult conversation that is nonetheless a really good idea to have at some point. I of course told Ed that I want to marry him and have a million of his babies am not completely sure what I would do, but that we would discuss it in detail if it occurred. His position was compatible, but I won't expose it here. I think we are both realistic, reasonable adults who took approximately the positions you'd expect.

'And Protestantism doesn't stop with the simple condom, oh no, I can wear French Ticklers if I want!'Meanwhile, I have BC pills on hand, and am ready to start taking them at the start of my next cycle. We are using condoms right now, and plan to keep using them even once I am on the pill, so the odds of fertilization are pretty low.

I haven't had many partners who were happy with wearing condoms indefinitely. I find them slightly inconvenient and a tetch uncomfortable, but I'm figuring out how to mitigate that, and I really appreciate having a partner who sees no drawback to them and is willing to take responsibility for his own half of the equation. And of course they make sex safer and I guess the bottom line is, I'm getting to be a big fan of the stupid things.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


see for more nifty pyramids
I've been toying with the idea of becoming vegetarian (or closer to it) for some time, and about 5 or 6 weeks ago decided to make some progress in that area. I've refrained from writing about it until now in order to see if it would stick, but so far it seems to be doing so, at least as a goal. (I haven't been perfect about implementation.)

This change is driven by both health and ethics. On the ethical front, I really don't like the unnecessary torture of animals, and, for me at least, eating meat is pretty unnecessary. The production of meat is also ecologically problematic. On the health front, while I think it's totally possible to eat a healthy diet that includes meat (even a lot of meat), animal products (dairy especially) appear in almost all of my unhealthy foods of choice.

I was toying with veganism, but it seems difficult to get enough protein. (I know a lot of people think the medical establishment is full of shit on this issue, but I'm not one of them. And I know many, many people can very easily get enough protein on a vegan diet, but given my weight and the number of calories I should ideally limit myself to, I'm not one of them either.) My sort of "common sense" argument (which is also kind of full of shit, I admit) is that the only veganism in human history until now has been when people are starving to death in some kind of catastrophic famine.

So I initially decided on "vegan + fish." In order to avoid offending vegans and vegetarians with that designation, I wanted a different name. I settled on "Coastal Villager" because of the idea that primitive people living along a coast might eat in a "vegan + fish" way. This is a bit tongue-in-cheek since real coastal villagers don't have access to seitan, tofu, or all the other lovely things I like to eat, but the name stuck; I often call it "CV" for short.

I have been trying not to go nuts with this. If a tuna fish sandwich is the closest thing I can get to CV, I'm not going to quibble over the fact that mayo has eggs in it. If an otherwise vegetarian dish (like at Panda Express) is possibly made with chicken stock, oh well - at least I'm increasing the demand for vegetarian-style dishes. And sometimes I slip up and eat meat or dairy (though rarely, so far, eggs).

I have some super free range eggs at home right now, and some organic parmesan, so obviously in some serious ways I'm not sticking to CV at all. But I'm really trying not to eat eggs out at all, and dairy very rarely.

So what am I nuts for lately? Vietnamese food. Yum!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Radical Honesty, Part 2

Please start with Part 1, below.

Now that I've made my own default views somewhat clear, I can talk about what radical honesty is, and the implications. Ed's words to me were that he defines the central imperative of radical honesty as, "Be as open as humanly possible, and then minimize harm." (That's a loose paraphrase, not a direct quote. Feel free to correct me in the comments, Ed.)

I would break it down into two imperatives: never lie, and always share relevant information. To me, it's akin to a monastic discipline like abstinence or silence. I had a lover with whom I practiced radical honesty, a long time ago, and it was a real challenge, and led to a lot of insights, but it was very difficult and made our relationship pretty dramatic at times. I think it's a good thing to try at least once, assuming you have a partner willing to try it with you.

There are two related things that I'm really enjoying about Ed, and one is directly this matter of honesty. Sometimes he says exactly the wrong thing, and other times he says something so great you can't believe you're hearing it; you believe him in the latter cases because of the former. And because he (compulsively? by choice?) brings up problems almost immediately (which I know partly from tracking his relationship with Mel on their blogs, and hearing about it from him), you really can know that "no news is good news" - it's really not likely that he's saving up things to gripe about later. And if you ask him a question, you'll get a (sometimes painfully) true answer. All of this has a way of being comforting even while it is challenging.

I'm experiencing this as a relief from Mosch's more strategic approach to honesty, but, as I have told both of them, I could just as easily experience Mosch's tact and care as a relief from Ed's bluntness.

I know from the past that I am capable of radical honesty when I choose, so I am trying this with Ed as well. I had an opportunity recently to reassure him in a way that was so cost-free and so ultimately meaningless, and yet so potentially painful to withhold, that only an idiot or a total jackass would have withheld it, and yet I did so because answering the question that way was not quite truthful. And when I told him later that I would have answered differently for anyone else, he thanked me sincerely for the honesty. The guy knows what he wants, and so far he can take it as well as dish it out.

His wanting it doesn't make it the best strategy for me. Probably my best strategy given his preferences would be to do enough to give the appearance of radical honesty, while still being strategic the rest of the time. But I am willing to risk harm to my interests - and to his - in order to actually give him what he wants in this way.

Or at least to try.

Radical Honesty, Part 1

This is something that Ed believes in, and Sally asked in the comments if I would explain it, because it sounded to her like something that is not a very good idea. I suspect what it sounds to her like it means is exactly what it does mean, but it's a fairly fertile topic.

I think most people's approach to honesty is fairly unexamined, and mostly consists in claiming to be honest, and then telling the truth or lying according to what seems like a good idea at the time. Most people are honest enough, but people who claim not to lie at all are, IMO, either self-delusional or untrustworthy. Everyone lies sometimes, as well they should.

My general view of communication is a strategic one. I really want to be understood, and to understand others, so I'm a big proponent of openness where it's possible (i.e., not always with one's parents) and appropriate (i.e., usually not at work). Honesty greatly aids in openness, in addition to its other benefits (it's easier, it lets people trust you, and it's more ethical in its own right).

But in general, I think it's important to maintain your sense of ownership of the privacy of your own mind. If you see openness as an obligation, you may (my sense is) start lying to yourself just so that you won't have to tell difficult truths to others. I really have no qualms at all about people lying about things that are not the asker's business anyway. And I have very few qualms about another class of lying - where the purpose is not to deceive, but to withhold information that would be counterproductive (to mutual goals) to share.

At the same time, my desire to understand other people makes me behave in certain ways that encourage honesty. I resolved early in life not to be possessive, for the simple reason that it makes people lie to you. This is also behind a lot of my acceptance of others. Where it isn't safe to tell the truth, almost everyone is prudent enough to lie. I try not to make people lie to me. (I often refrain from asking questions that would likely tempt someone to lie, for instance.)

I should continue this in another post.

Kayak Lesson

Last night from 8:00 to 10:30 PM, I took a kayaking lesson, the first in a series that I could take. The company that offers these (Confluence Kayaks) does them on lakes and (for the more advanced classes) in rivers, but you can also take them in the pool at the University of Denver, and that's where I was.

this girl should have her head tucked further towards the bowThe first thing they taught us was the "wet exit," which is how you get out of an overturned kayak if you need to. When you get into a kayak, you are wearing something they call a "skirt," which is made of wetsuit material, and fits around your torso, with a flaring part (like a skirt) with a rubber lip at the bottom. You use it to create a seal between yourself and the opening in the kayak.

Wet exits seem scary because they really wedge you into a kayak (so you can control it with your body) and you wonder if you'll actually be able to get out. We were taught to execute the wet exit using these steps.

  1. Lean forward until your face is against the skirt. In a real situation, you'd be wearing a helmet, so this is to protect your face from rocks or other things in the water.

  2. Bang three times on the sides of your kayak. This is to let people know you're trapped upside down.

  3. Rub the sides of your kayak with your fists. (This is useless for a wet exit, but practice for the bow rescue.)

  4. Reach to the front of your skirt, where you hopefully left the tab at the front facing out, and pull the skirt right off the boat.

  5. Put your hands on the kayak near your hips, push it off like pants, and do a forward somersault out.

If you're not intrinsically afraid of being trapped underwater, which I'm not, this doesn't sound so scary until the first time you try to do it. (It's not difficult, but it is a bit panic-inducing.) There were 7 students in our class, and we each practiced one at a time (taking turns) until we were comfortable. Everyone went twice, and one woman went three times. I wasn't completely sure I was comfortable after doing it twice, but I didn't feel like doing it again.

Next we learned a few basic kayaking strokes, with time to practice them. As with paddling a canoe, you want to paddle by rotating your torso rather than by pulling the paddle with your arms. (I feel like this is even more possible and necessary in a kayak, but I'm a beginner at both.) Our teacher seemed legitimately impressed by how fast we learned all of the strokes.

I tipped over by mistake while doing the forward stroke, so I got to practice another wet exit, this time under slightly more realistic conditions (i.e., while surprised).

The next thing we learned was the "bow rescue" or "eskimo rescue" - a way to get righted in your upside-down kayak without having to do a wet exit. We practiced this in stages and, frankly, I was fearful of each stage (I was very very tired by this point, especially because of my accidental wet exit and the ensuing exercise of getting the kayak out of the water, getting myself back in, etc.)

our boats were shorter and stubbier than these, which are more optimized for going straight for long distances

But the basic way this rescue works is that, after you flip over, you signal for help by banging three times (as above), and then you wait patiently while rubbing your fists or arms along the sides of your kayak. The reason for the rubbing (so mysterious earlier) is so that you can feel the other kayak when it comes to you.

Your rescuer approaches you at a right angle, and when you feel the bow of their boat, you put your hands on top of it (he showed us how, if you accidentally wrap your arms around it instead, your head will be under their bow, which is unworkable) and pull your head out. He had us rest our head right on their bow.
see how this guy is real calm and just getting ready to do his hip snap?
Your kayak itself is still upside-down at this point (though dry inside because of the skirt), and even though you feel like you want to just pull yourself up, that's not possible with an upside-down boat on top of you. You have to use your hips to flip your boat back upright, which is actually pretty easy. (In other words, you want to push your boat beneath you, not try to push yourself up over the boat.) It's hard to remember that this is what you want to do, but fortunately your head is out of the water, so you know you have until your arms give out to think about it, so it's not too hard not to panic.

We practiced this in five distinct stages, so we really eased into it. By the final stage, my partner would be off across the pool and I'd flip over, bang, wait (trying not to worry, because of course I could do a wet exit if I got desperate), and then when she hit my boat with hers (never on the side I expected, because flipping over is so disorienting), frantically dig my head out, think/struggle, then flip over. Whew, upright again.

The lesson was exhausting, but great fun. The feeling of being in a kayak is somewhat magical - the way your hips can rock the boat side to side so easily (and you don't capsize as long as you keep your body separate and over the boat - exactly opposite to how you do a bike). And all that time upside-down in the water was pretty special too. I felt the sensations of it all as I was falling asleep.

In the second class, they teach you how to roll.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Misheard Lyrics

For all the Pearl Jam fans and haters among my readership, this is too perfect not to post.

(Found via Andrew Sullivan.)

Deal-Breakers, Non-Negotiables, etc.

Recently, Ed and I have been talking about things that are critical to have in a partner. (A couple of his are "radical honesty" and "sympathetic interpretation.") Neither of us keeps an explicit list, but for me, the things that come to mind are more like deal breakers - the things I can't tolerate in a partner.

Just as a mental exercise, I'll list a few of each kind. These lists are definitely not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Substance abuse. I can handle moderate drinking, but nothing approaching alcoholism. I could handle occasional pot-smoking, but I'd rather not. Anything beyond that is right out.

  • Possessiveness. It's hard to know what to write about this, exactly, and obviously "possessiveness" is a matter of degree. I'm not very possessive myself, and the path that leads from "Where were you? I thought you got off work at 5:30, but I called you at 6:15 and you weren't home" to cutting you off from your friends to beating you up is a scary thing, and even lesser forms of possessiveness or controllingness are not too cool with me.

  • Excessive woo. By "woo" I mean new-agey or pseudoscientific things like crystals, tarot, chakras, etc. I can only handle so much of this before my head starts to want to explode. (See also "reality-based thinking" below.)

  • Intentional hurtfulness. Some people, in a fight, will say the most hurtful things they can think of. I would have a conversation with someone about this before breaking up over it. But only one.

  • Feminism-compatibility. He doesn't have to call himself a feminist (though it would be nice), but I need his basic ideas and attitudes to be compatible with feminism.

  • Reality-based thinking. I need for most of my partner's ideas to be based on empirical attempts to understand how the world works. I don't need my partner to be as empirical as, say, Sally, but a basic respect for and practice of empiricism is something I can't live without.

  • Social liberalism. On the economic front, I can handle a fairly broad range of ideas - anything from "almost libertarian" to "Swedish-style socialist." But if you've got a problem with homosexuality or the legality of abortion, it's not going to work out.

Those are the ones that come to mind right now, anyway.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom!