Monday, March 26, 2012

Tempus fugit

I just got back from celebrating the 30th birthday of my daughter, Becky.  The extended family had a great time at Kanki, where Becky has wanted her birthday dinners for most of those 30 years.  

It really is hard to believe that she was born that long ago.  It seems just a short while ago when I would carry her on my bent arm with her head cradled in my hand and one leg on either side of my bicep.  And, just yesterday when I taught a two-year-old Becky to say dodecahedron.  Obviously, as the picture shows, it was a long time ago.  I was 24, considerably younger than she is now.  Time does fly.
Watching children grow up is both terrifying and rewarding.  When they’re little you decide everything for them.  To them, you are the world.  Both of those things change over time until the day comes when they do what they want and you can only watch.  To me, the love they give you when they are adults is even more special because it is a choice.  Yes, the love of a baby is unconditional (well, as long as you take care of the basic needs), but it is also uninformed.  

I think that I was much better able to understand God after I had children.  Having raised two-year-olds and teenagers, I am able to catch a glimpse of how God feels when I reject Him—when I act like a two-year-old or a teenager.  And, the joy He must feel when I return His love.

Happy birthday, Beppers!  I’m very proud of the wonderful woman you have grown up to be.  

Love, Dadoo

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I am a cyclist—I love riding my bicycle.  Last year I rode 3,000 miles and I’ve ridden over 10,000 since I started riding in 2005.  I began after I had ACL surgery on my knee.  I knew that my days of playing basketball were over and I needed to find some way of getting exercise with bad knees.  Some good friends of mine were into cycling, so I thought I would give it a try.  It did not take long before I was hooked.  In many ways, cycling is the perfect sport for me—it provides great exercise, requires expensive gear, and encourages data gathering. 

As a result of cycling, I am probably in the best cardiovascular shape of my life.  Cycling burns calories at a good rate and it is possible to do so for hours.  Further, I am fairly weak in my upper body, but my legs have always been strong.  That may be because of rowing crew for a year in college, but I don’t really know.   On a bike, arm muscles are just extra weight to drag around.  Legs are what matter.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of my legs relentlessly powering me up a hill. 

A couple years ago I bought a used carbon-fiber bike to replace the relatively inexpensive bike I bought when I started riding.  After a wreck last fall that cracked the frame (and separated my shoulder), I had to replace it with a newer model.  It rides wonderfully and is very light.  (Admittedly, it would be a lot cheaper and a better idea to lose ten pounds that to spend so much on a carbon-fiber frame!)

Even better than just a high-tech bicycle, cycling gives me an amazing amount of data about my rides.  I have a spreadsheet with at least some summary data about every ride I’ve taken.  I currently use a Garmin Edge 500 bike computer to help gather data.  The Edge 500 includes a GPS that keeps track of where I’ve been.  It also communicates with other devices such as a heart rate monitor. 

The data from a single ride is amazing.  On Saturday, I rode 50 miles in the Trek St. Patty’s Day ride and gathered this data.  Check it out at least briefly to see all the data.  It includes the route, elevation, heart rate, cadence (how fast I’m pedaling), temperature, and speed.  I can look at the ride and see that while my average speed was decent (18.6 mph) given the amount of hills (climbing), my average heart rate and cadence were a bit low (131 bpm and 76 rpm).  That was probably because I was drafting behind other riders a decent bit.  I really need to be closer to 140 bpm and over 80 rpm.  Guess I need to push harder! 

The exercise, gear, and gadgets, however, aren’t enough to explain why I love cycling so much.  In truth, on longer rides I can’t wait to get off the bike.  Especially after riding 60 or 100 miles, much of my body is sore and I am just plain exhausted.  Being outdoors is nice, but I’m not really and outdoor person.  (I have trouble picturing surviving in an era without air conditioning.) 

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the solitude that draws me to cycling.  When I’m riding it is just me with the wind in my face, watching the miles go by.  Those miles can be through the serenity of trees and farms near where I live or the long vistas of the coast or the beauty of the mountains.  I prefer riding with others in a group, but there is not really much conversation.  It the best of both worlds, like being alone with friends (or at least with others who share my love of cycling).  In many respects, cycling is when I feel closest to God—looking at the glory of His creation.  Alone with friends.  Alone with God.  Amen. 

Oh yeah, I also enjoy being able to ride faster than many people and aspire to go even faster.  So much for being a deeply spiritual person!    

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What gas prices?

I’ve hear lots of media coverage about rising gas prices.  Just today, I heard a report that the average gas price in the US was $3.81.  I, however, have not purchased gas since October.  In November, I got my Nissan Leaf.   

The car in most ways is a normal car, but has a place to plug in an electrical cord rather than a gas nozzle.  I liked the design of my Prius a little better, but the Leaf is close.  It seats five (four comfortably) and has enough room with the back seats folded down to put in my bicycle without having to take off the bike’s front wheel.  The Leaf accelerates well at low speeds because of the electric motor’s good low-end torque.  The low center of gravity that the batteries provide makes it handle fairly well.  I think that I am likely to get my first speeding ticket in this car because there is no real sound from the engine nor is there any feeling of the engine straining.  I have glanced down at the speedometer on the highway a few times only to see that I was going over 80.  

I have three main reasons for buying an electric car:
  1. Lowering my impact on the environment – I feel strongly that God entrusted us with the stewardship of the earth.  We have not done a great job with that.  Using an electric car is at least a step in the right direction.
  2. Decreasing our dependency on foreign oil – I am under no illusion that an electric car is truly “zero emission,” regardless of what it says on the side of my Leaf.  That said, however, electricity is something we have a lot of ways of producing, unlike gasoline.  Options are important in whittling away at our oil addiction.  Maybe if enough of us drove electric cars we could stop having to placate (or invade) countries with oppressive governments because we need their oil. 
  3. Needing the latest gadget – I did not say all my reasons were good ones!  I have real trouble resisting the latest gadget.  One time in a Sunday School class, the teacher asked how we can tell the difference between wants and needs.  I responded that it was easy, if it has a power cord I need it.  The Leaf is a car with a power cord.  I need it!
I have been very happy with my Leaf these last four months.  However, it requires some very different thinking.  It is one thing if you forget to plug in your cell phone overnight, but another when it is your car.  My wife, Susie, is rather uncomfortable and really feels the “range-anxiety” that is often discussed in articles about electric cars.  I find keeping track of the range and trying to push the limits to be fun.  

I had one such experience a few weeks after I got the car.  I needed to go to a restaurant after work and knew getting there and back home would be right on the edge of the car’s range.  According to Google Maps, I needed to drive about 42 miles, but the Leaf said I could go only 35.  I decided to give it a try.  I stayed largely on back roads as the Leaf gets much better mileage at speeds below highway speeds.  It was cold, but I did not want to waste energy on heat and used the defroster only when absolutely necessary.   At one point after dinner, I had 17 miles to get home and the car said I could only go 11.  I stuck to the back roads and headed toward a McDonalds with a charging station that is 5 miles from my house.  I got to the McDonalds with the car claiming it had 4 miles left.    

It turned out the charging station cost money.  No problem, except that there was no slot for money or any way to use a credit card.  I went inside, ordered some coffee, and asked the woman how to use the charging station.  Her English was poor, but it was pretty obvious that the problem was that she had no idea either what a charging station was or that there was one outside her place of employment.  She then asked (in Spanish) the only other person working there if she knew anything about using la machina.  No luck.  I settled for azucar y leche for my coffee.  I went outside and could figure out no way in the dark to get access to the electricity that was only inches from my car.  So, I threw out the foul coffee (at 62 cents, it was overpriced) and decided to see how close to home I could get.  It was only small roads from there, so I figured I could pull into neighborhood when the electricity ran out and walk home.  When I turned the car on, it would no longer acknowledge that it was able to go any more miles.  I successfully drove home using every bit of hypermiling experience I had learned from my years of driving a Prius.  I found the whole experience great fun, but I can see why many folks are not quite ready for the full electric vehicle experience!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

TED epilogue

Here are a few loose ends from TEDActive that I wanted to pass along.  First, is a picture that someone took at the bike ride I mentioned.  I guess I was not the only one who found the contrast in attire noteworthy.  

They have started posting some of the talks from this year earlier than in the past.  Here are links to the ones so far that I think are worth watching:

Based on the talks, I bought quite a few books.  Hopefully, I will find time to read most of them.  Here are the books (well, Kindle books) I bought, written by TED speakers:
  • The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
  • Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
  • The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon (resources that Bryan Stevenson referred to in his compelling talk on race in America)
  • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I guess I have a lot of reading to do!  I hope these entries over the past week have given you at least a taste of what TED is like.  Thanks for following along.

I plan to reduce my blog posts to one or two a week for a while.  I need to catch my breath!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 4 at TED

Today only had two sessions of talks, but that was about all my brain could handle.  The first one was about education.  The talks in that session were shorter and at least aimed somewhat at the 300 high school kids they had in the auditorium at Long Beach.  The second session was more of hodgepodge, but contained a couple striking talks.  One was by Brene Brown on the topic of vulnerability and shame.  When that one is available, it is worth watching.  (By the way, some of the talks from this TED are already on the Web site.  It is worth checking periodically.) 

The other talk was by Henrik Scharfe.  He also did a short talk earlier in the week in Palm Springs, and some of the most interesting points were in that one.  Scharfe brought with him a robot (call a Geminoid, from Japan) that looked just like him.  (His talk was delayed a couple days because he had trouble getting it through customs.)  The robot blinked, made breathing motions, moved its head, and could move its mouth to match speech.  When Scharfe was in Palm Springs, I was able to go stand just a few feet from the two of them.  It was very disconcerting, especially up close. 

He raised a few points, however, that really got me to thinking.  What will happen when the technology gets better and people actually feel emotions, such as love, toward the robot?  This is not far-fetched as Sherry Turkle mentioned seeing an older woman in a nursing home confiding in a robotic seal.  I have seen one of these and they supposedly are effective as a therapeutic tools (  She thought it was sad to watch.  What Scharfe next asked was how will we feel if the robot rejects our love.  He described it as a problem of freewill.  If the robot is programmed to act like it cares and is unable to reject love, how will that feel?  Of course, that is exactly what God faced when he created humans.  Force them to obey or allow them to choose to do so. 

From each of the previous times I’ve attended TED, I have come away with a take away that I wanted to implement.  One year, Mark and I decided to create a sabbatical program at our company where every seven years a person is entitled to seven weeks paid time off.  And, if the person will do something good in the world during that time, the company will contribute $5,000 toward that effort.  I went to work in an orphanage in Bolivia and another person worked at a camp for abused children. 

Two years ago, I became a weekday vegetarian where I only eat meat on weekends, or at least try to only eat meat then.  My goal is to lessen the impact on the environment and to contribute less to the horrible conditions under which most food animals are raised. 

So, what to do this year?  Here are some ideas and the talks they are based on from my notes:
  • Check into ways to make solitude possible at my company (Susan Cain’s talk on introverts)
  • Investigate energy self-sufficiency by using solar panels, batteries, etc. (Paul Gilding’s talk on sustainable economy and Donald Sadoway’s talk on new grid-level electricity storage)
  • Figure out what drives me (Andrew Stanton’s talk on storytelling)
  • Write a blog about my back issues and the pit crew approach to medicine (Atul Gawande’s talk on fixing healthcare)
  • Take night time photos of the sky in Bolivia (Karen Bass’ talk on photographing exotic natural locations)

None of those, however, seem like an appropriate TED resolution.  I’m leaning toward finally doing the business book that Mark and I have long discussed.  I need to think some more about the right TED resolution.  One thing I am sure about—I want to come back again next year!  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 3 at TED

The contrast between yesterday and today is enormous.  Yesterday, the choice of what talk to discuss for the blog was a difficult one among a few talks that were good but great.  Today, the problem is how to only choose one of a number of great ones.  There were amazing talks on the optimism bias by Tali Sharot (“Smoking kills the other guy”) and racial reconciliation by Bryan Stevenson (“The opposite of poverty is not wealth but justice”).  There was a 17-year-old (Taylor Wilson) who claimed to have created nuclear fusion in his garage.  Joshua Foer talked about how in the past people trained, disciplined, and cultivated the ability to memorize, while today we don't bother but wonder why we forget things.  Jon Ronson told a compelling story about the problems with the DSM in terms of really determining who is a psychopath (as well as many other mental illnesses) and who is not.  I will be buying a number of books and expect to think more about all of them. 

The talk I want to highlight here, however, is Sherry Turkle’s on how our technology is shaping us.  I have long enjoyed her perspective as a sociologist in books like Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.  In the fifteen years since that book appeared, however, she has soured on the consequences of technology.  Here are just a few of the quotes from her talk that I wrote down:
  • We are letting technology take us places we don’t want to go.
  • Devices don’t change just what we do, but who we are.
  • There is a new skill of making eye contact while texting.
  • We are tempted by machines that offer companionship.
  • We expect more from technology and less from each other.
  • The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
  • I share, therefore I am.
Turkle is not a technophobe, but she is concerned about our constantly connecting, seldom conversing future.  At the end of the talk, I gave it my first standing ovation of this TED.  In a fitting irony, during much of the talk, the person next to me was texting on his iPhone.  I definitely will be thinking about her talk over the coming weeks. 

Today I also had what I consider a quintessential TED moment outside of one of the sessions.  I was riding bikes with a group of TEDsters through a neighborhood of million-dollar homes singing American Pie with a woman from Cairo who was wearing a hijab.  Here is a little backstory.  I rented a nice road bike for a few days this week to try and get exercise in the morning.  I got dressed in my cycling clothes and took my bike downstairs to ride.  Unfortunately, this morning it had a flat tire.  I changed the tire, but the CO2 cartridge failed to inflate it.  I knew there was a TED group riding on cruiser bikes in a few minutes, so I went there in the hopes of pumping up the tire.  By the time I was able to get access to the pump, the group was leaving, so I joined them.  The lead bike was pulling a cart with a big speaker on it playing music.

It was not easy averaging 6 miles an hour, but I decided to just have fun and talk with people.  I spotted a woman riding in a hijab and struck up a conversation.  She lives in Cairo, but had been educated in an American school in Abu Dahbi.  We had a short but wonderful conversation about her upbringing and the uprising in Egypt.  When the music playing was American Pie, we both sang along--she in her hijab on a cruiser and I with my shoes clipped into a carbon-fiber road bike wearing my God’s Glory cycling shirt.  On the back it refers to Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  Amen.