Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm like a motorcycle...

I have said it before and will say it again, over and over again if needed - although I do fear it might be a case of "The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks." (Nods to my boy Shakespeare.) - I am not a sports guy.

I'm not.

Despite a love for rock climbing, running, cycling, swimming, snowboarding, et hoc genus omne, I do not like sports.

I realise that this seems like a serious disconnect. But it is how things sit in my mind.

Growing up I never enjoyed sports. I had an adversarial relationship with them. While both my brother and sister played basketball and soccer and baseball and volleyball, I did not if I could in any way prevent it.

When I was about eight or nine, thinking that their youngest was most likely very much like their oldest, my parents signed me up for the local youth soccer league. I cannot remember being more miserable in my youth. I felt awkward and out of place. And clumsy. Frankly, I hated it. And I sucked at it.

But as an adult I do many sporty things. And apparently my body is very much like a motorcycle.

According to a little quiz set up by The Car Connection, my body gets the equivalent of 45.5 miles per gallon.

45.5 miles per gallon
And that's a good thing. I like being healthy. I like doing physical things. I like that my body is like a motorcycle rather than, say, a minivan or a mid-sized sedan. But I still maintain that I do not like sports.

If I take a step back and look at things from the here-and-now I realise it is team sports that are not my thing. Yet I cannot separate the "team" from "sport" and when I hear "sport" it invariable registers as "team sport". Sport to me means soccer. Or baseball. Or any of those other games that to my mind seem like military maneuvers, like empty and disciplinary repetition. I just don't like team sports. Not to play. And not even to watch for the most part.

Individual sports, however, I like. Both to do and to watch. Perhaps I don't play well with others. Perhaps I prefer to have it all about me - I am an Aries after all! If I could wash the association of "sport" and "team sport" from my mind I might be able to admit that I am sporty.

Until then, I'll just be happy to be like a motorcycle.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wind. Rain. And hail.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta got quite a send off by Mother Nature today. In just under two hours the play area at our local park was turned into a little lake.

The wind swept in, quickly followed by a deluge of rain. That was followed by a crash of hail stones. It was alarming enough that I felt the need to bring the car in to the garage to prevent it from hail damage.

By the time the storm moved on an inch of rain had fallen and left the neighborhood quite a mess. The Chickabiddy and I went for a walk in the late afternoon and we decided to take a pass on the play structure in the park. We had forgotten our swim fins.
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Finns! Finns! Eveywhere!

As we do every year, we went to a Mass Ascension at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It's always a treat - a feast for the eyes. This year there was a balloon from Hämeenlinna, Finland. This in itself is not remarkable. It is, after all, an international event and there are balloons from all over the world. But what is remarkable is how many Finns here in New Mexico - Finns who are not a part of my Finnish wife's rather extensive expat Finns-in-New-Mexico social network - showed up at the Hämeenlinna balloon.

I have long been suspicious that the Finns are trying to take over the world.

If the Finns are plotting for world domination (I point to Nokia, bluetooth technology and Linux as proof positive that there is some kind of plot) it is understandable that they are taking a slow and methodical way about it. That's how Finns work. They are good at it. But I fear that the intel might be lacking.

If they are taking over the world, one country at a time, they may have misjudged the importance of New Mexico. There are a lot of Finns here. And when they pull that mighty insurrection and gain control of New Mexico they are just going to find that the rest of the country will laugh.

If they notice at all.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Run Isi Run!

This year, for the third year in a row, I ran in the Annual JCC Father's Day 5K. The first year my wife and daughter and I walked the 5K; year two my wife and daughter were in Finland; this year I got to run with my daughter. OK, I ran and she rode in the jogging stroller. I've pushed her around the neighborhood before in the stroller, but this was the first organized race in which I did it. It was tough. But fun. And I managed to come in first in my age category (read: older than I want to be) despite the added effort. I was proud. She was happy. And I love building these kind of memories with my daughter. At the end of July we'll run together (yes, we will both run) in the Chunky Monkey 2008 in the Kids-K (a kilometer). I can't wait.
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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

National Bike-to-Work Day

Pedal harder. Go faster.

May is National Bike Month

The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week from May 12-16 and Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 16.

The Albuquerque Metro Area Bike-to-Work Day event is designed to give commuters both information and incentive to use a bicycle or take other alternative transportation to get to work. There will be four "breakfast stops" in Albuquerque open from 6:15am to 8:30am. At each stop bicycle commuters can enjoy a free breakfast from Einstein Bros Bagels and General Mills. While supplies last, reflective leg bands, blinking tail lights, reflective vests and t-shirts will be given away. There will be free drawings for more than $700 worth of gift certificates to local bicycle shops and restaurants.

For the location of the breakfast stops and more information call 311 or visit

So ride your bike to work on May 16th. And stop by the Uptown breakfast stop and say "hullo". I'll be there giving out bagels.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Me I See

When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?

"The body is a big sagacity, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd."

--Friedrich Nietzsche

"Wisdom begins at the end."
--Daniel Webster

Body image is an interesting thing. I was reading a friend's blog and it struck me how so much value and worth, pain and dread, effort and money are afforded to a subjective, insubstantial thing. Body image is, after all, just a perception. Most people's opinion of their own body is not aligned with the reality of their actual figure. That being said (or typed), much of our self-worth is wrapped up in that perception.

I have never been fat (or to use the preferred term, obese). In fact, I have always been the antithesis of fat. And whereas it is all but taboo to call someone fat, it is perfectly alright to call someone skinny. Being thin used to bother me. I "topped out" at 135lbs as a freshman in high school and did not gain another pound - despite every effort to do so - until I was in my 30's. I don't pretend that my flip-side-of-the-weight-coin makes me good at understanding people trying to loose weight, but body image is body image. And most people need to take a step back.

As my friend pointed out in her blog,
various measurements are routinely taken at health clinics and then certain labels are often (arbitrarily) assigned - underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese - without regard to eating and exercise habits or consideration of a level of fitness or a myriad of other factors.

If anything, the "obesity epidemic" is one of too much emphasis on
weight and numbers without regard to eating habits, exercise patterns and other lifestyle choices. It is a belief that there is such thing as an “ideal body weight” based on height. The “ideal” of what our body looks like is based on body type, bone structure, muscle mass, genetics, what weight at which we feel our best and what weight our body tends to want to maintain.

We should all stop weighing ourselves and spend more time celebrating the miracle of our bodies and the marvelous things we can do with them. Let's MOVE and enjoy. Walk. Swim. Climb. Dance. Bike. Run. Not because it something we have to do, but because it is fun and makes us feel great!
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Friday, April 04, 2008

Saisinko salmiakkia?

Every so often I start to miss Finland more than just the constant light tug at my heart. Finland is home, just as much as New Mexico is home. The decision to leave there 11 years ago was difficult, and the desire to move back always present.

Quantifying why I adore Finland is tough; there's much to love and most of it is rather abstract. But for the sake of a concrete forum like a blog, I will attempt to write a few of the great things about Finland down.

Paukku's Top Ten Finland List

1. Suomalaiset (Finns)
Of course Finns top the list. Despite the fact that typically Finns are sullen, introverted and often have serious difficulties in expressing their feelings, once you get to know them - and more importantly they get to know you - they are generous, compassionate and a lot of fun to be around! Heck! I married one, after all.

2. Salmiakki (salt liquorice)
Not really salty per se since it doesn't have any sodium chloride in it, Salmiakki is a liquorice candy that contains a relatively large amount of ammonium chloride, which tastes a bit like salt. The Latin term for ammonium chloride is sal ammoniac - you see the connexion! (Those Finns are a literal bunch most of the time...) It is an acquired taste that, once acquired, is an addiction! I've yet to meet a Finn who does not love it. And with rare exception, I have yet to give it to an American who doesn't want to spit it out about 1.5 seconds after tasting it.

3. Siideri (cider)
And not just Linda's. Even people who are maddened by the habitually untalkative Finns, disgusted with salmiakki, offended by blood pancakes and think it's just too damn dark in Finland in the winter love Finnish cider. We don't have anything really like siideri here in the States. It is a bit like Smirnoff Ice but really not the same; siideri is not as sweet and there's just more FLAVOUR. I just found out that this spring Golden Cap will be releasing two new flavors: Golden Cap Puolukka (lingonberry) and Golden Cap Lime (citrus). Maybe it IS time to move back!

4. Sauna
Naked Finns love their saunas, and I love naked Finns. Enough said.

5. Koskenkorva viina
Koskenkorva is one of the symbols of Finnishness. It is a grain (barley) alcohol (high-purity industrial ethanol - yes, ethanol!) that is then diluted with spring water and a very small amount of sugar. Never heard of it? No doubt. The Finns don't export it. It is smooth. And will knock you under the table.

6. Summer cabins
Rowing or canoing on a lake, heating up a wood-heated sauna in the (still light) evenings and then having your fill of makara (knackwurst) on the grilli, swimming, eating wild berries in the forest, playing games with the kids, fishing...

7. Ruis leipa (rye bread)
In Finland rye and bread made from rye are as ubiquitous as Wonderbread here - and oh so much better! Rye bread is an essential part of the family diet, with round, flat loaves with a hole in the middle made from rye by a fermentation process. Whenever we travel to Finland for a visit we stock up on ruis leipa. And I make it here.

8. Public transportation
Finland spoiled me. I rarely drove while in Finland because I almost never had a need to do so. The buses and trains are spectacular, both in punctuality and cleanliness. It is what inspired me to use public transportation here.

9. Kauppatori (Market Square in Helisinki)
Finnish food isn't only about doing shocking things with bread and fish (Thank all that is good and holy!). Finland has great street food. Summer is certainly the most vibrant time in Finland and the open-air markets teem with culture and really, really good food. From the fresh-picked berries to the fresh-caught fish. YUM!

10. Finnish
I mean the language. I miss hearing it. I'm some-what and kind-a-sorta literate in Finnish. And despite my sometimes-frustrations with trying to go from an American with "passable" Finnish to the coveted "fluent as a native speaker" title, I really love the sound of Finnish. You just don't hear things like "Aja hiljaa sillalla" or "Kokko, kokoo kokoon koko kokko!" around New Mexico.

Sigh. I miss Suomi.
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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shoes make the man.

As Mark Twain so eloquently put it, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

As I was putting away the sundry rubble of my life in an attempt to set a good example for my daughter, I noticed that my shoes say a lot about me. I don't mean the leather hoohas I wear to work. Although I spend a lot of my time at work, the shoes I have for that activity are based largely on factors outside of my personal choice or even control. (Damn you, corporate America!) But the shoes I wear when not at work, they say a lot about me.

There are my Vibram Five Fingers (; my running shoes. Running, which used to be a chore to be avoided has become a pleasure to pursue since I found barefoot running. There is something very eight-year-old-esque about them that I like. I had forgotten how fun running could be.

And then there are my beloved La Sportiva Katanas. (Hmmmm...there is an undercurrent of a ninja theme here.) The comfort-opposite of the Five Fingers - I can only wear them for short periods at a stretch - they are none-the-less one of my favorite pairs of shoes. I love how I climb in them. I love how they look. They are technical and hard enough for the dreaded little, sketchy toe edges on a 5.11 and make me look pretty good on a V4 or 5.

And my Avalanche snowboarding boots. One word: comfortable. Well, they look cool as well. So two words: comfortable and cool. (Damn, that's three.) I love to hit the slopes - in style - with these guys. Snowboarding - which I only recently discovered as being wonderfully fun as opposed to skiing which is horribly un-fun - gives me that winter-activity to help round off the sports trifecta.

And what do these shoes say about me? For a non-sporty guy, I guess I'm a pretty sporty guy. Interesting. And strange. Running. Rock climbing. Snowboarding. Yet I still don't think of myself as being terrible sporty. But then, do the shoes make the man? Or at least say something significant about him? These shoes are indicative of the choices I make for my free-time; the golden moments I spend with family and friends doing what excites me, what I love, what I crave.

I suppose I should have included my flip-flops in the photo. But that's another story.
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Happy Birthday, Silly Moose!

Yep, it is my birthday today. I am a completely non-descript, un-noteworthy 37. For some reason 30 gets a nod, 35 is important and 40 is a milestone. Yet 37, not so much. Poor little 37.

This year, my 38th year of walking around planet earth in this body, I promise I will indulge more in my blog. I like the bloggity goodness of it, yet I let it sit almost forgotten for long stretches. So that is my resolution: MORE BLOGGITY GOODNESS! Ha!

And what else will this 38th year bring? More rock climbing. More snowboarding. More running. More tickling my daughter (and wife!). More reading. More smiles. More laughter. More living.

I don't feel old. I know, 37 isn't really old at all. But a lot of people seem to feel old when they pass that imaginary line of 35. I didn't and don't. Perhaps it is true that 30 is the new 20. I'm certain a lot of it is that I have such a vibrant life. My beautiful wife and daughter keep me on my toes, and maybe that keeps me young.

In any case, happy birthday to me! I'm looking forward to the next 37 years.
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Sometimes we need a little reminder of our mortality.

I was shopping at Lowe's the other day - we're in the midst of remodeling some of the rooms in our house - and I came across this very poignant, important reminder. Like most people, I walk around feeling pretty indissoluble - or at least blissfully unaware of my own transience. And while I can claim to be pretty resilient and perhaps even strong, I am certainly not UNBREAKABLE.
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