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6 Tips for Pooping at Work 30 July 2010

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Image from Popsci.com

In keeping with the idea that this blog targets twenty-somethings, it occurred to me that so many twenty-something are new to real jobs–the kind of jobs that don’t involve cleaning company restrooms or getting high in them. So to help ease that transition, I’ll give you some tips.  You can use these the rest of your life. That’s how nice I am.

1. It is okay to poop at work. No, really. Everybody poops, and given that work generally takes up more than half our waking hours, that means most everyone poops at work. Obama works longer days that most folks, so I’d guess he poops at work a lot. It’s also a good way to break up an annoying project, like solving unemployment.

2. Scout the area. Pooping is not a social event until it reaches critical, anonimizing mass of about 4 concurrent poopers. Therefore, be sure to scout your intended restroom before settling in. This will prevent any awkward discoveries mid-poop. In the event you find the restroom occupied, you may choose from one of three options: the quick hand wash (preferred because it makes noise and sets your departure timetable); the unnecessary pee (deeply unsatisfying); or the the mirror check (which leaves the present pooper on edge about your intentions to leave).

3. The Courtesy Flush. Unlike your bathroom at home where no one is likely to walk in as you–what’s another term for this?–evacuate your bowels, there exists a strong possibility of interruption at your office. There, should you reach such a point as seems convenient during your tenure on the throne, you should flush. Even if your nose detects only the sweetest scent of lavender about you, flush. Your nose sucks at assessing your own fragrance.

4. You must not under any circumstances make conversation from the stall. If you are a man and are in a stall at work, there is only one explanation why. You are pooping. You are not peeing because 1) men don’t pee sitting down unless they were confused about whether they had to poop and 2) there is always an open urinal at work. This isn’t the seventh inning stretch. So, anyway, when you start chatting up the guy at the sink, he knows what you’re doing, and he doesn’t want to think about it. And if you like that kind of thing, then talk on the phone and wander around naked at home to get your jollies. No one wants to imagine your half-naked hairy self on a toilet.  Not kosher, dude.

5. Do not take a newspaper–unless you trust in your stealthiness. Yes, all your clothes come with you to the restroom, and yes, they, not a newspaper will follow you to the next meeting, but you simply cannot allow the women of your office to notice the path of the paper. They will not be pleased if they discover its journey includes layover in the men’s room. Will not be pleased at all. With that in mind, you face two options: forgo your restroom reading or learn to conceal the contraband. A happy co-worker is one who lives without knowledge of your role in the Times’s daily rendezvous with the toilet paper.

6. Alert newcomers to your presence. The flip-side of tip two. If you’ve employed tips three and four, it’s possible that the next poor soul to arrive will believe he’s entered a vacant restroom. Not so! He must be alerted to this before he can establish himself in another stall, lest the two of you realize your shared mistake in the eerie quiet that you both refuse to break. Or he might linger and primp, extending your stay. You must alert him, then, without giving away your identity: a shuffle of the feet, a clearing of the throat, a sharp inhalation through the nose. These things should be enough to speed him along.

I’m sure that other tips exist, like the point that no one should apply Axe body spray ever, but particularly not in a stall. But for now, I’ll leave it at this. If you have any suggestions, send them my way.

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Cycling Tennessee Pass 26 July 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado Passes, Cycling, Uncategorized.
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Three posts constitutes a theme, I think, and if that theme is that cycling is becoming my summer complement to skiing… well, I’m okay with that. I can now legitimately say I ski and ride. That thanks to Colorado’s near-limitless and beautiful road riding opportunities. Really, as someone who enjoys writing, I ought to know more and better words for describing  the scenery in this state, but it defies a thesaurus. It’s jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, arresting, gorgeous, Edenic, paradisiacal. It’s just super duper if you ask me. Thankfully, writing is about nouns and verbs, not adjectives.

But cycling is about places to see and hills to climb and beers to be had afterward. For all that, you need to check out Tennessee Pass–ideally, from Minturn to Leadville. And back. The 60 miles involved may sound like more than enough, but after the first thirty, it no longer matters. It is very nearly all downhill, which of course means that half the ride went uphill. But no matter.

Check out the elevation profile:

Click to view full size. Battle Mountain is that first bump. It's more of a workout than it seems here.

Expect to burn in the neighborhood of 3100 calories. If you’re like me and measure workouts in fast food menu items, that’s a lot of McFlurries–or about three Chipotle burritos. And you thought they were healthy…

The ride begins in Minturn, a town of unclear purpose between Vail and Avon, and about a two hour drive from Denver. Claire and I departed on Saturday afternoon through a festival of some sort, one of those catch-all mountain town-type festivals that feature “local wares,” dream catchers, and bears carved out of stumps. As a rule, everyone who owns a ski condo shops at these festivals. I hate bears carved out of stumps.

Soon enough, because Minturn is about 100 feet long, US 24 heads out of town and turns up the valley following the Eagle River and a now-defunct rail line. Bumps and breaks in the road make this section less pleasant than it could be, but its two miles offer an acceptable warm-up for the climb that follows.

At almost two miles on the dot, the rails and road split way. The former continues its riparian journey and the latter clings to the valley walls, climbing from 8000 to 9200 feet in about four miles at somewhere between 6 and 7.5% grades the whole way. To a skier’s mind, that sounds like barely enough to start moving, but on wheels, gradients in that neighborhood exact a brutal toll on the lungs. The views at least remain a bright spot: the river that continues to fall farther below, 13,237′ Notch Moutain, and a several hundred foot cascade that falls into the Eagle River on the right.

Nearing the summit brings Gilman into view. Improbably perched on the cliffs overlooking the river, the town no longer serves any purpose. The EPA signed residents’ eviction notices in 1984 and declared the properties and the adjacent mine a Superfund site–uninhabitable. It’s not a ghost town in the romantic sense of the term, but in every other way, right down to the cars left in the carports, Gilman lays bare the forces that have shaped the west. If the funding comes through, the whole area will become a ski resort, replete with chalets and overpriced Bud Light. You may wonder how this squares with the area’s toxic status. The government, however, seems less curious.

The highways falls for a mile and a half after Gilman, a welcome and cooling relief that ends with the steel arch bridge at Red Cliff. If you have a camera, you will take a photo here not because anyone will want to see it, but because the bridge is that cool.

The next seven or so miles continue the upward trend, albeit at a less severe angle, leveling off as the road runs alongside the remains of Camp Hale, training ground for the 10th Mountain Division during and for sometime after World War II. Wikipedia also places it as a CIA training ground for Tibetan dissidents, drawing parallels with the Bay of Pigs invasion. For what it’s worth, this seems like one of the more, well, imaginative ideas I’ve discovered Wikipedia in a while. But who knows. It could be true. I could do more research, but rumors inspire more interest than fact.

What is true, is that the 10th Mountain Division spent most of its time skiing and shooting guns, occasionally at Italians, which is what its soldiers were trained to do in the first place. Another leg-burning six miles uphill (Be sure to stop at the “Standard Service” shack on the right for free water.) leaves you at Tennessee Pass’s 10,424′ summit,  Ski Cooper and a memorial for the men who died during that campaign. It also displays the 10th Mountain’s emblem: a fully-armed panda on skis. This Rambo Panda. Rambo Panda on skis.  I make a promise of payment in PBR or the bad beer of your choice if you can find a piece of ski gear that features it.

Descending from Tennessee Pass feels like entering another world. Gone are the cliffs and pines and bordered the road for the last 25 miles. Now, the highway stretches straight as a string across the valley toward Leadville. Fourteen thousand foot peaks loom on either side, and cows mill in bucolic bliss. If this isn’t the valley where every beef manufacturer makes its commercials, I don’t know what is. Feed lots have to suck after tenure at this, the Upper East Side of grazing addresses.

One last push and you roll into Leadville. I’ll save the description for another day, but suffice it to say the town warrants a stop when you’re in the neighborhood–if only because it offers the best happy hour on earth: from 3-7 two PBRs for $1. Drop in after a stop at High Mountain Pies. It’s a just reward for the 30 miles you put in, and the thirty breezy miles you’ll have ahead. But you really don’t need all that fuel. The return home takes half the effort and is twice the fun. Everyone likes going downhill.

Props to Claire for the majority of these photos.

Boulder Biking 20 July 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Cycling, Uncategorized.
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Speaking of biking: How about some Colorado visuals?

Story here.

(Joe) Brazil’s Biking Ban 19 July 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Cycling, Uncategorized.
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I’m sitting in cycling shorts as I begin writing this. It is, as you might imagine, fairly uncomfortable. Yet before you start snickering about the idea of men in spandex, let me tell you that nothing feels less delightful on long ride than the chafing associated with wearing athletic shorts. Fashion sense always takes a back seat to chafing prevention, stopping short of an anti-chafe dress anyway.

Just the same, allow me to change.

There. Better.

So anyway, cycling’s shown up in the news back home (Missouri) recently, drawing a head-scratching complaint from motorists: too many bikes on the roads. Too many, of course, meaning you actually notice cyclists in the same way you might notice that, oh, the folks a block down repainted their house. You might make an offhand mention at the dinner table, “I saw some road bikers off Highway D today. Funny pants, those guys” or “Did you know the Wilkinsons painted their house? It’s green. Or maybe brown. Were they the ones whose daughter pooped in the lawn a while back?”

I don’t really know what too many cars would look like. I-70 toward the Rockies on a Saturday morning? Nothing newsworthy in that, though. In Missouri, it appears bikes caused more of a headache than all the traffic. “I get more complaints about this single issue [cyclists] than any other issue,” said Councilman Joe Brazil as he introduced a bill to ban bikes in the rolling hills of southwestern St. Charles County. If you’re not of a midwestern persuasion, that means he wants to ban cycling in one of the few scenic in the entire metro area. Here, for instance.

His rationale? Bike is slow. And cars is fast. Oh, and also, the state spent a bunch of money building a bike path that doesn’t go anywhere, so cyclists should use that all the time.

Nevermind that the county can’t actually regulate this sort of thing on state roads. Nevermind this bit of legislation comes from the same Joe Brazil who’s opposed urban sprawl for as long as he’s been on the council. Nevermind that the corn towering over the floodplains makes those highways equally unsettling.

No, nevermind all that, because it’s clear that Joe Brazil has never ridden a bike on a road before. Oh, sure, I bet he had a Huffy as a kid and tore up the sidewalks and so forth. But no, like so many other lost souls the poor man just doesn’t understand. He’s like the guy lounging on newspaper web forums (and hanging out the side of an F-250) addressing  anyone who wears a jersey and spandex on the road as “Lance.” As in, “Hey, Lance, maybe you should get off the road and stop trying to win the Tour de France out there. Real people have places to be.” See? That’s just hard to take seriously. I don’t go around yelling at guys tossing a football when I want to play ultimate. “Yo, Elway, don’t see a Superbowl in your future, so get off the field.” How silly. Maybe it’s because you can throw a football while wearing a Big Dog T-shirt.

I bet Brazil’s more a baseball kinda guy, though, being a St. Louisan and all. “Hey, Wainwright…” Anyway,he says that cyclists should take the Katy Trail instead of clogging the roads. The Katy Trail is nice. It’s one of the Rails to Trails projects that converts abandoned rail lines into multi-use paths, and as I understand it, the trail’s 225 crushed-limestone miles have won it praise from folks who praise that sort of thing. But you can’t ride a road bike on it. You can’t ride a road bike on a gravel path. Imagine driving on snow with bad tires. Except that mailboxes and guardrails look much more frightening as you slide toward them on top of 20 lbs. of aluminum. No, convertibles and motorcyclists cannot be the only ones allowed to enjoy the pastoral beauty of St. Charles wine country.

I cringe to suggest that Brazil might find it more effective to support driver awareness because it carries that “Share the road!” surly biker image, but anecdote at least suggests that drivers more familiar with cyclists also seem to find them less of an inconvenience. In Colorado, a state much friendlier to two-wheelers on the whole, cyclists move in and out of traffic with ease around town. In my daily commute, other drivers treat me like a car. And on mountain roads where it seems that half the cars going by carry bikes on a roof rack, the usual practice is to swing well away. By contrast, and I’m still speaking from anecdote here, Missouri drivers would rather play chicken with me. Not the fun kind, though, because they’ll always win.

So before trying a silly ban–and let’s remember the state already said it won’t fly–maybe take a look at making sure drivers are more comfortable with bikes on the road. Yes, cyclists present one other variable to consider at any given moment, but just as drivers might drive differently in the rain, they can equally drive to anticipate cyclists. Or, you know, Brazil, you could get on a bike to see what it’s like. You might like it.

Colorado Beer 14 July 2010

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Great Divide Brewing Co–my new favorite brew team–doesn’t have the money or the time for video marketing.

But its fans do. Leisure suits, street justice and beer together here:

Yesterday: Where did you come from? 14 July 2010

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So, um, yesterday was like the biggest day in this blog’s history. Thanks to all of you for that, but mind if I ask where you came from? Comments appreciated. Promise I don’t bite.

Bad Econ 12 July 2010

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Traipsing around the internet, I often come across arguments that fail to account for basic economic fact–sentiments like “taxes are intrinsically bad” and the like. But while the sin of omission leaves readers with an incomplete understanding,  rarely does a commentator take an interest in the economics of a situation only to bungle the principles so badly as to actively harm comprehension.  Ed Quillen, published in Sunday’s Denver Post no less, does that. Consider the following thoughts from an op-ed with the thesis “taxes create jobs”

When I posed the question about federal taxes and jobs,[my accountant] pointed out that our arcane income-tax system actually creates plenty of jobs for people like him and his staff. “Why would you pay us to do the reckoning and fill out the forms if you could understand the tax code yourself?” he asked.

At least my annual tribute to him is tax-deductible, I mused, and pursued the question. For some enterprises, higher income-tax rates might encourage more employment, he said, citing his own office as an example. “Suppose my income-tax rate went up to 80 percent,” he said. “If I hired a manager to do what I’m doing, the employment expense would all be tax-deductible. So the choice would be between hiring somebody, or paying more money to the government. I’d be better off hiring somebody. Then I could take it easy, wouldn’t have to work so much, and employment would go up, thanks to higher taxes.”

No. A thousand times no. How could the paper of record for the entire mountain time zone allow this into print?

Let’s explore the critical failure here.

To be sure, Ed cites a few statistics indicating that unemployment fell during years with higher taxes rates, but we can safely ignore those in favor of examining the factors that precipitated them. Typically, higher tax rates can result in jobs because of targeted government spending flowing from the new cash.That is, a bit of government capital makes a budding market bloom, and new jobs appear without the need for more federal (or state) dollars.

The type of job creation he describes, however, is simply “friction” in the tax system. If the new employees exist simply to service a more burdensome tax regime, what value are they adding? None. And that’s the point. Money that may have gone to employ folks in value-building professions now wastes away as a response to government imposition. The only reason the employer hires someone in the accountant’s example is because he’s been forced to choose between two higher-cost scenarios. In one of them he pays more to the government and gets nothing. In the other, he hires someone and gets… something. Either way, he sends more cash out the door.

Imagine that Ed, as a creative writer, faced same situation, and I as a government representative came to his door to discuss his options.

“Well, you can pay an additional $40,000 a year in taxes, or you can hire an assistant with a net cost of $35,000/year,” I might tell him.

“But I don’t have any need of an assistant,” he’d say. “I do all my own writing. I take care of things around the house. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember.”

“Ed, Ed… These are your options. You don’t have another choice. It’s higher taxes or the assistant,” I’d tell him.

He might sigh with resignation, “If it’s one or the another, then I suppose I ought to go with the assistant. Maybe he can make coffee.”

“A wise choice, Ed. You’re creating a job. America thanks you.”

The point is this: if the additional cost of hiring an assistant had made sense in a low tax world, someone would already be bringing Ed his slippers and a latte every morning. But he didn’t need that. Hiring someone simply because it’s the lesser of two evils will not build an economy.  Jobs created through coercion will add little to no value. If, however, Ed spent the$40,000 that would have gone to taxes on boats and trinkets and oriental rugs, he’d have been supporting workers in a range of professions. And the aggregation of money in any business allows its owners to make the choice to hire new employees–employees who will put out useful work.

The economic issue here is deadweight loss. No tax is perfectly efficient, and the employment Ed champions is representative of that inefficiency. Only so much money exists to pass around, and wasting it on tax administrators does not expand the economy. I don’t believe out of hand that taxes kill jobs–they can indeed create them–but the money they generate must go where it will spur job creation after government cash dries up.

You’d do well to check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadweight_loss

[An afterthought: That some folks out there (the bad CEO, the TV DWI attorney) don’t build any meaningful economic value isn’t an indictment of my line of thinking. Generally, employers spend the money on new hires because it is in the best interest of the business to take on another employee. Sometimes they fail, and layoffs follow. Or, if you’re in France, you’re just stuck. In any event, anecdotal bad apples don’t provide a reason to cut down a statistically productive tree. ]

Independence Day Hipsterism? 8 July 2010

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Ian S. downs his glass of Jack Daniels and steps up to the piano, an 1880s Steinway baby grand. It was the first of its kind to arrive in Colorado, its owner says, and the instrument has since made its way to this house in Denver’s Lower Highlands. Ian clasps his hands, addressing the crowd. “I’m going to start with a Chopin waltz in C minor,” he says. “I know, usually waltzes are boring, but I think you’ll like this one.” His fingers fly. Conversation halts in the audience. Ian is a gifted pianist.

He is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and cut-off shorts. This is the Fourth of July in Colorado.

The night progresses, and celebrating America opens a window into the life of a certain brand of twenty-something in this county—over-talented, underemployed and not necessarily disappointed in that. It is, to give a nod to another country about to celebrate a birthday (of sorts), a seeming Frenchification of American young adults. For now at least, work has taken a backseat to other pursuits. It isn’t hedonism per se, but maybe another way of channeling energies? I hesitate to bring the term “hipster” to the conversation, but at the same time it seems to fit.

The internet overflows with investigations into hipster culture, but reading through it, the only insight available is that no one is actually a hipster. But then, no one really likes labels. Who wants to be the “kind of person who…”? It’s too simple to paint with that broad brush. Dave Matthews fans beware. Same to fixie-riders. In any event, let’s stick with the label for these Independence Day partiers if only for continuity’s sake. Hipsters. Of a peculiarly Coloradan bent.

To enjoy Colorado, you don’t necessarily need to wear cut-off jeans. You don’t necessarily have to ride a fixie or a cruiser. You don’t have to listen to music so new it hasn’t even been stolen off the internet yet. But it helps. Behind all that affectation, though, lies thousands of dollars in performance outerwear, mountain bikes, skis, climbing gear and helmets for every conceivable pursuit. The Colorado hipster is a geode best cracked on sunny weekends.

The personalities take on a similar structure. Hipster outside, enormous and diverse talent inside. It peaks out every once in a while, as it did in Ian’s performance, but more often it remains hidden under a bushel basket. A soft egalitarianism reigns. Perhaps it’s too cool to show off. Maybe egalitarianism masks feigned effortlessness.

I don’t really know, but as it appears I’m going to further insinuate myself in this culture, I’ll continue to study it. If I become a hipster, I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, I”ll keep on exploring the twenty-something life here.

Try on the photos for now. No fireworks, but it’s America just the same.