Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is this your canoe?

All of a sudden, my family decided to go camping in Pennsylvania last October. I drove up Saturday afternoon. On the way, I called Mom's cell phone. Dad picked up. "Dad, I should be at the campsite around five. I'm passing by Giant right now, do you guys need anything?"

"No," Dad said, "Mom's out at the store right now, picking up a new bike lock." My family uses bike locks to secure canoes. "Some friends borrowed our canoe."

Synopsis of Caps for Sale:
The peddler wandered around town, with a stack of caps on his head, calling, "Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!". He could sell no caps, so he hiked away from town a little bit, and sat down by a tree, and took a nap, because he didn't have any lunch. When he woke up, all of his caps were gone! "He looked to the right--no caps. He looked to the left--no caps." Then, he looked up in the tree, and saw monkeys had stolen his caps.

One time, when Mom and Dad were newlyweds living in Alabama, there was a tremendous thunderstorm. Mom and Dad lived in a little house in the middle of the woods. Their home was so small and in such a desolate place that when Uncle Bart visited them that one time, he changed clothes out on the porch for privacy.

So, Dad and Mom were driving home in the storm in their Pinto, the Pinto that Dad later wrecked when he drove it under another guy's car on his birthday. On this backcountry road, they saw a car stopped ahead of them, and, ahead of the car, the road was flooded. The water over the road was indeterminately deep. Now, this car was a bit larger than the Pinto, but, Dad is a nice guy, so he called out to the driver of the other car, "You wait here. We'll go ahead. If this doesn't work, you can go another way"

"And it didn't, and we did, and we didn't, and they did," Mom says.

Water came in through the doors and Mom and Dad had to climb out the windows and push the car the rest of the way out of the flooded road. The carpet got mildew. The Pinto, with its black velour upholstery baked in the summer Alabama sun, smelling terrible for months. Mom still has no idea what Dad was thinking.

At five, when I got to the campsite, Dad told me the story. Mom had driven up to the campsite a day before Dad, and she had brought our canoe. At the park they were staying at, there were two boat ramps, one in the camping area, and one that was more open to the public, and Mom accidentally parked the canoe in the public area. This was bad because when Dad got up to the campsite, late the next day, the public ramp was closed. Mom had locked the canoe to a tree with a bike lock.

So, early the next morning, Dad went to the public boat ramp, to paddle the canoe back to the campground ramp, where it would be closer.

He walked up to the tree where Mom had said she'd tied the canoe, and he saw no canoe. He looked to the right--no canoe. He looked to the left--no canoe. He looked out on the water.

"Is this your canoe?"

There were two guys in our canoe, out on the lake. They had one paddle between them, and the guy in the front was the one with the paddle. (If you don't know about canoes, the one in the back is the one who steers.) "We commandeered your vessel."

What had happened was they had tried launching their boat on the boat ramp, but forgot to have any ropes out, to keep the boat from floating away. The boat floated away. One of the guys ran up and down the shore, looking for a fisherman or something, but to no avail. The other broke the bike lock and "commandeered" the canoe. They were out in the lake paddling after their lost boat.

Dad got them to come back to the boat ramp. He got into the canoe, and paddled the guys out to their boat, and taught them about tying up boats and steering canoes. They gave Dad $10 to reimburse him for the broken bike lock.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where did he get his ideas?

I notice that, when it comes to big ideas, the writers who get read a lot are rarely the first to think of these big ideas. For example, C S Lewis is super popular, he says a lot of good things, but he has very few original ideas. This is a good thing! He effectively expresses a lot of important ideas, bringing together the thought of some of the most important thinkers. Anyone would have floundered if he was relying only on his own thought, even Lewis.

It is funny how often people that I've talked to think that Lewis came up with, say, the Trilemma, when he didn't.

This is unhealthy: it's easy for our culture to lose sight of the notion that thinking is an ancient tradition. If we see Lewis' thought as basically modern, we're actually doing injustice to what he says, because, while he has a modern worldview, he is so deeply influenced by premodern thinkers, who have timeless things to say. This is dangerous! We are so inclined to regard modernity as qualitatively better than the past, and use this as an excuse to dismiss antiquity.

I would like to see someone write a blog that lists the big influences on individual books.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tabletop Roleplaying Games That Do Not Exist

Here is a list of tabletop roleplaying games that I would like to try that do not, as far as I know, exist.

Contemporary Mormon Evangelist
Boys Building a Fort in a Backyard
East India Company
Persecuted Anabaptist
Feuding Stage Magicians
Medieval Peasant
Dr. Seuss' I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew
Office Politics
Amish Paradise
Child soldier in Africa
Bag Lady
Cistercian Monk

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fitness for lazy people

I'm getting more fit. I'm a little chunky and easily winded, and I like eating, so if something works for me, I think it could work for you.

I estimate I used to take in 50 calories more per day than I should have. I only need to eat a little better than I had been to be in equilibrium; for example, giving up juice and soda as everyday things takes care of that, and then some. As long as I basically eat well every day, I don't have to worry. I eat until I'm full. Life is short. If I can't eat German chocolate cake without questioning my worth as a person, what's the point?

One of my favorite authors, Daniel Pinkwater, eats ratatouille at the start of each meal. He gets a low-calorie nutrient hit and can then eat whatever else he wants, without eating too much of it. Now, I eat a whole lot of ratatouille, fresh fruit, and vegetables. I feel full, so this made it easy for me to give up eating frozen pizza every day for lunch.

I hate being sticky, so just digging into an apple or an orange drives me nuts. Also, I mostly eat in the lab, so don't have a knife and cutting board handy when I want to bust out a kiwi. Bananas are the only fruit I will just pick up and eat without thinking about it, because they aren't sticky and don't need to be cut up.

I shop at Trader Joe's every week, because it helps me feel more cheerful about eating healthy food. When I get home, I do all of my food prep for the week, cooking a hot entree, roasting tofu for sandwiches, and chopping fresh raw fruit and vegetables. It's a lot easier for me to be really intentionally healthy once per week, than for me to have to worry about preparing lots of healthy food throughout the week. The big idea here is to make it easier to grab a pile of healthy food than it is to rip open a package of frozen pizza.

My big problem with going to the gym was actually getting there. It used to be that if I didn't pack a proper gym bag with proper gym clothes and a towel and soap, I wouldn't go to the gym. That worked as a proper excuse to not go to the gym, I just needed to not have a gym bag ready. I can't stand my own sweat, so if I couldn't go home to get a shower shortly after exercising, I wouldn't go to the gym. (Showers at the gym are unacceptable. I got a fungus there, and I'm a bit sheepish when naked.)

Now, I go to the gym as improperly as I can. I go in my regular clothes. I watch TV on my iPod while on the elliptical trainer. I have no idea what I'm doing in the weight room. This is great, because as soon as I get bored with my work at the end of the day, I can wind up at the gym before my better inhibitions can stop me, and, while I'm there, I can be a stupid putz and still be doing more good than harm. Then, I go home and take a shower.

I think the only other thing is motivation. I'm terrible at thinking in the long term. Goals like losing weight and having six pack abs are ineffective for me. Instead of focusing on losing weight, I think about how good I feel when I have had plenty of vegetables and fruit: I feel more alive! I don't mind going to the gym, because I could either watch TV on the couch, or on the elliptical trainer. I like lifting weights and stretching, it's very meditative. I burn off a lot of stress. I feel happier.

Handy, stupid recipes:
Butternut squash:
Get a container of chopped butternut squash from Trader Joes, divide it into smaller portions, season to taste (I just use black pepper, but sage and thyme might work for you), and squirt some olive oil on there, too. When you want to eat some, nuke it for 3 minutes.

Roasted Tofu:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice a block of tofu into about 8-12 slices. Pat them dry, well, with towels, you'll go through about 2-4 towels in this process. Then, coat the tofu on both sides with some soy sauce and sesame oil, and put it in a casserole dish, laid out flat. Cook it for ten minutes, flip the tofu, and then cook it for another ten minutes. I like to use this instead of lunchmeat. I don't know if it's much healthier, I just don't eat meat.