Warren Miller and Human Nature

"You know what the street value of this mountain is?"

Every year, the Warren Miller ski movie marks the unofficial beginning of winter. This year was no exception. I sat in a packed theatre and issued my share of "oohh"s and "aahh"s as we were all mesmerized by 8000 foot verticals in Alaska, waist deep powder in Utah, and something called "speed riding" over the craggy alps (more about that later.)

Despite the fact that the lifts and trams won't run for another month, I find myself anxious for the white stuff. Unlike so many people I know, I want it to fall by the bucketful. I figure that if I'm going to live in a place that's freezing cold for a third of the year, I might as well enjoy it! It's all I can do right now to NOT put the snow gear on right now and waddle around the house.

So, back to this "speed riding". This is, basically, the most insane thing I have ever seen in a Warren Miller film. These two guys fly down this mountain in the alps using parasails, going 50 to 60 miles an hour, jumping across this Seussian looking terrain in a surprisingly similar fashion as those really weird flying scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but with a punk rock soundtrack. The footage is amazing, and the mountains are so shear and violent that they look decidedly alien. When you're done marveling at the scenery, you quickly realize that these two men are probably the most insane people in the world. Every second of flight, the line between an eventual safe landing and becoming a tomato colored stain on a granite outcropping is blurred.

And, that brings me to my second thought of the evening. It occurred to me today that one of the biggest differences between man and animal is that man will purposefully do things that he knows are not good for him. In fact, this seems to be the very curse of our intelligence. Though granted the wisdom to avoid hurt and and limit pain, both physical and emotional, we still, at times, ignore it. Sometimes we move inexorably towards self destruction. Other times, we take risks and expose ourselves because we hope for something better or more exciting. And while we're not always successful, and pain does inevitably ensue, I think it's this very proclivity to rise above the "safe" course that does truly make us human.

That said, I'm still not jumping off of any French mountains.


The Hot Crazy Line

Where are you with relation to the Vicki Mendoza diagonal? Barney's comments are very sexist, so I'd like to point out that the hot/crazy line applies to both sexes equally, though for men, it's more of a money vs "funny looking" line. In other words, the funnier you look, the more earning potential is required.

In a similar vein, have you heard about the woman who advertised her self-described beautiful self on Craigslist suggesting that only men earning over $500,000 need apply? Well, some hedge fund honcho replied to her with a little lesson in economics (edited a little, because apparently Mr. Half-Million didn't have his secretary write the post):

"Here's the rub: your looks will fade, but my money will likely continue in perpetuity … in fact, it is very likely that my income will increase, but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful...

So, in economic terms, you are a depreciating asset, and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, but your depreciation accelerates. Let me explain: you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 it's over.

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold... if you want to enter into some sort of short term lease, let me know."

As for me, I'm more in the market for a lease with an option to buy. Eternal amortization is okay with me.



"From up here, these city lights burn like a thousand miles of fire..."
-Story of the Year, Anthem of Our Dying Day

One can only imagine how harrowing it is when a fire burns like a thousand miles of city lights. That's exactly the view I saw on my flight out of San Diego this evening: ribbons of red flame snaking through the canyons and engulfing mountainsides.

That view punctuated the end to a very short and surreal trip to Southern California. I woke up this morning in my motel room to a surprisingly calm city, given the situation. E-mails from the boss reported that the San Diego office was shut down, and the news reported that that massive evacuations had been ordered. Some freeways were vacant, while others were packed. My car was coated in fine ash.

It's amazing how, in the midst of so much devastation, life keeps going on so quasi-normally. That was the surreal part to me. I ate lunch at a restaurant perhaps 10 miles south of an evacuated area, and it would have been entirely business as usual, if it weren't for the TVs showing nothing but news coverage, and the hostess mentioning that she had just been evacuated and decided to come into work. If it wasn't for the pervasive smoke in the air and the unspoken sense of unease, you'd never know how bad things were.

I hope that the winds calm down soon.



I have terrible timing. The worst. I wonder how it's possible for me to have worse timing sometimes.

I find it ironic because I've been so amazingly fortuitous in other areas of my life: school, finding work, finding a place to live, but my dating clock seems to be synchronized to the clock on another planet or something. I have the impeccable ability to call exactly when the girl just decided to date someone exclusively. (Someone, that is, who is not myself.) Ack!

In other timing issues, I was rear-ended on the 7200 South off-ramp list last Friday. I was able to stop without hitting the person in front of me, but the person behind me wasn't. Foiled again by timing!

I could use a little dumb luck. Anyone feel like they have extra to share?

I guess I'll just have to start making my own.


Two little buttons...

Every e-mail program has two little buttons right next to each other. Each are very useful, but one has great potential for social regret.

You will almost NEVER use the button on the right. You've been warned. If you disregard this advice, the following will almost certainly happen at some point:
  • Your co-workers stone you for filling their inboxes with pointless e-mails that say, "I agree!"
  • You will reply to an e-mail from sibling 1. In your reply, you complain about sibling 2. Sibling 2 now has proof that you're a total jerk.
  • Everybody and their dog will think you have a crush on someone in accounting.
  • You will inadvertently reveal the grisly details of your intestinal discomfort to someone you find very attractive.



One week ago today, on October 4, Army Specialist Vincent Kamka of the 82nd Airborne died while serving in Iraq.

I knew Vincent.

For five years, my father and I home taught the Kamka family. From the time that I was twelve until I left for college, we visited the Kamka's home once a month and knelt in their living room to pray together. In those days, Vincent was a quiet, honorable young man. He is all the more now.

Being touched for the first time in a personal way by the inherent tragedy of this conflict, I have reached two conclusions. First, politics are irrelevant when considering weight of this, the ultimate sacrifice, and second, words seem too blunt and insufficient an instrument to express my gratitude.

All I can think to say is, "Thank you Vincent."


A Utah phenomenon?

Attending the Priesthood session on Saturday night, I witnessed a very irritating Utah phenomenon. Just after President Hinkley finished his closing remarks, but before the closing hymn or prayer, a number of men (some were fathers with sons) fled the chapel with the urgency you'd expect of someone with bladder control issues. I felt like booing or at least mocking their apparent incontinence, but that would have been juvenile and immature.

These guys didn't realize it, but they were making a subtle statement about what kind of people they really are. It's one of those very small things that I think is a surprisingly good indicator of a person's true character and priorities. When someone leaves early, it makes you wonder in what other ways they might "leave early". In life and particularly in relationships, there's no "leaving early." Those who cut corners and bail out before the end simply aren't successful.

It may seem a stretch to infer the nature of someone's character from such a simple act, but there's really no excuse for leaving early like that. What pressing business do you have on a Saturday evening? I don't care how bad you think traffic might be. I don't care what football game might be on TV, or that you're going to miss the beginning of Grey's Anatomy. Just don't leave early.

If you have a genuine NEED to leave early, you will probably know this in advance and should make arrangements to leave inconspicuously (ex: Sit near an exit and leave between acts.) Or, you should try apologize in advance (ex: "Please excuse Brother so-and-so, his daughter is singing in his home ward.")

In certain very rare circumstances (such as being morally offended) it is appropriate and justified to leave early, as you both making an important statement and defending your character. In most other situations, however, leaving early says that you are any combination of being insensitive, uncultured, pretentious, ignorant, self-absorbed, and just plain lazy.

I think we need a code. My suggestion is below.

Though shalt not leave before:
  • the closing prayer.
  • the mess is cleaned up.
  • the fire has died.
  • the last pitch.
  • the last shot.
  • the last pass.
  • the clock reads 0:00.
  • the credits roll.
  • the house lights come up.
  • the last encore.
  • the last curtain call.
  • the last kiss.
  • saying goodbye.
The list above is certainly not all-inclusive. And I should mention that great experiences are to be had by lingering -- don't be in such a hurry to take off when things are over. I remember deep conversations while credits roll, running into old friends where you least expect them, and really getting to know people while doing dishes.

Okay, my rant is over -- and I'll bet that no one who reads this is someone who leaves early. But I have to wonder, is it just me, or does "leaving early" seem much more common in Utah than elsewhere? (I've even seen it at the Conference Center, of all places.)


Intimidating Women & ROI

It's been a year since I left the old college town that I loved so much. It took a fair amount of time to acclimate to my new and more metropolitan surroundings, and one of the biggest adjustments has been to the increased caliber of the women in the dating pool. I've noticed that men have a word for high caliber women: intimidating, and it's rather unfair, but let me explain why.

These women are successful, intelligent, and poised -- all things that make them all the more desirable, but it can give you a serious inferiority complex. When a women has a successful career, a great education, and everything she appears to need, it makes you wonder what you could possibly offer. It doesn't help that a quality woman is usually busy with all sorts of worthwhile activities: callings, volunteering, taking classes, dancing, singing, rescuing orphans and hedgehogs, you name it. And let's be honest guys, is this the sort of stuff that we do with our free time? Not usually.

So, in some ways it seems laughably absurd to suggest to a woman like this that she take some of her time to go out with you. If you were to view dating and relationships like a business venture, its a simple question of ROI (Return on Investment). Are you really making her a good offer based on the value of her time?

To be successful, you have to believe that you are, implausible as it may seem. And why do I bring this up? Because it's something I struggle with. For some reason I'm attracted to really smart, talented women. (I'm attracted to hot, ditzy ones, too, but I realize that's mostly chemical.) Maybe I should lower my expectations like Calvin. (Okay, not really.)