Monthly Archives: November 2010

Riding a motorcycle is like French kissing death

A friend of mine that works at Lawrence Memorial Hospital said that those in the medical field have a phrase they use to describe motorcyclists: organ donors.

I suppose I can understand that mindset. Take today, for example. The warm weather provided an excellent opportunity to hit the road, so I headed out for a ride to Ottawa and back.

Everything started out really well, but about 10 miles from the last Ottawa exit, the wind picked up quite a bit. You’ve probably already figured this out, but when you’re riding at 70 mph without the exterior protection of the car, you feel every gust of wind with greater intensity.

Depending on the direction of the wind and how you’re traveling, it can either be a big boost or a real struggle to push against. For this leg of the trip, it was the latter. The wind was blowing hard enough that the bike was actually leaning into the wind.

“No big deal,” I thought. “I can handle this.”

But then I experienced something I hadn’t come across before – when I reached an overpass the wind gust would instantly shift in the opposite direction and I had to quickly adjust to keep the bike stable. It was, to say the least, bone-jarring.

I felt like I was French kissing death.

There are moments when I wonder why I do this. There I am straddling a hunk of machinery with no protection other than my helmet and my leather jacket, fairly exposed to the elements. Should a tire blow out when driving a car, I could likely bring myself to safety with little effort. Should the same thing happen with only two wheels, it’s quite a bit more dangerous. I pray I never find myself in that situation, but know that if I ride long enough, I likely will.

Even still, it’s exhilarating. I love riding. I love how the world looks from two wheels. I love the sound of the bike when I hit that “sweet spot” and just cruise on without a care in the world.

Yeah, I suppose it is a little dangerous. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much.

I am thankful for my parents

My parents are awesome.

I am thankful for my parents. they have been incredibly gracious this year and I don’t think I could come close to repaying them for their generosity.

When I left Joplin, Mo., in March 2000 for Lawrence, KS, it was a sad day. With my U-Haul loaded and my car trailered behind me, I watched my mom tear up as her baby boy left to make his way in the world away from the area he called home. I imagine my dad wondered if he had given me enough training to not screw things up.

I think they did pretty well, despite a few bumps I’ve had along the way.

There are plenty of people I know who have terrible parents with family lives filled with dysfunction. I’m so grateful I’m not one of them.

So mom and dad, thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I truly don’t deserve you.

I’m getting mixed messages here

I know it’s a tough economy and all that, but I don’t think a business needs to give up part of its core to make a buck.

Here are a couple of examples of local businesses that recently made me scratch my head. Although a big believer in the all things in moderation philosophy, I still found these a little strange.

Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry

We were told by the staff at Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry that it’s really not appropriate for young children to be eating raisins. You see, they warned us that bits of the raisins can get caught in between the gums or in the teeth and lead to tooth decay.

So when our oldest turned four in October, image my surprise when I opened the mailbox to find this gift from Growing Smiles:

Uh, OK. So raisins are a no-go but a giant, sugary cookie is cool? I’m confused. Kind of like when my daughters accompanied my wife to her doctor’s appointment to …

Dr. Pamela Huerter

As a way of thanking our girls for being good while Amy had an appointment, Dr. Pamela Huerter gave them these Smashburger gift certificates.

In full disclosure, I love Smashburger and we totally took advantage of these gift certificates, although the kids hated their food and didn’t eat much of it.

If you’ve ever watched a movie like Food, Inc. or Super Size Me, it seems pretty clear doctors have a hard time recommending that anyone eat fast food. Yes, I enjoy fast food. Yes, we sometimes let the kids eat it as well. But having your doctor give you free gift certificates to Sodiumburger? That’s a little weird.

What’s your take? Got any examples like this to share?

White tiger

White Tiger

There are people in this world that have spent $179.99 to purchase one of these.

After today, I can officially say that the economy is well on its way to recovery.

I had to run to Kansas City today and stopped in at the Lawrence Service Area (northeast of Lawrence in I-70) for a quick pit stop. While scanning the coolers for my favorite drink (Diet Mt. Dew if you must know) I noticed a beast of a statue standing about four feet tall out of the corner of my eye.

It was a white tiger.

It was ceramic.

It cost $179.99.

As I was purchasing  my beloved drink, the cashier asked me if I needed anything else.

Maybe one of those white tigers,” I laughed. “Does anyone ever buy one of those things?

My cashier explained to me that the store carries the tigers in gold, red and, of course, white. And then he said, “We sold out of the first shipment and we’re almost out of the second one.”

I’m not sure how many came in a shipment, but I presume one of each color.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m calling this recession over.

Falling off the wagon

Oh man, oops.

I had committed to posting one thing every day for NaBloPoMo and was doing really, really well.

That is, until yesterday. I can’t believe that I didn’t get something posted. It’s not like I didn’t think about it. I went on a bike ride (from here on out when I say “bike,” I mean “motorcycle”) during lunch yesterday, and came up with the headline How riding a motorcycle is like French kissing death, but didn’t get around to writing the article.

And yet, I’m writing today about not writing yesterday. Way to turn it around, Gruber.

You are going to die.

Note: This is from another blog I used to post to, but I thought it was worth repeating.

A friend of mine is miserable at work. He’s frustrated, really frustrated, and he’s convinced himself of plenty of reasons to stay. Reasons like “retirement isn’t that far off,” or “the economy sucks right now,” or “I don’t want my lifestyle to change.”

If he bears down, he’ll likely make it until the end. Then, he’ll get to do something he likes to do instead of the job he hates day in and day out. He might want to work in home decoration and restoration. He might want to fix up cars. He might want to work with animals.

Some people won’t risk anything to make themselves happy doing something.



I was just going to throw my smoke away so I could use the restroom, but since they've got this fancy ashtray ...

A few years ago I worked for the Mid-America Regional Council. Its building was older and had this classy feature I discovered in the bathroom one day.

I found it hilarious and simply had to take a picture. I found this today while doing TONS of cleaning, both in my physical world and in my digital one.

Five things I hope to teach my children

If I manage to pass these things on to my children, I’ll feel like I’ve done a decent job.

Of course, the list of things I’d like to pass on to my children is much longer than this, but there’s only so much time in the day to write.

How to manage their finances

Apparently I didn’t learn a whole lot about what to do – or what not to do – when it comes to managing my finances well. I’ve learned much in my adult life, but not without having to deal with some major fallout for years (decades?) to come.

We’ve already begun the training with our four-year-old daughter. She doesn’t – nor will she ever get – an allowance. Rather, she has the option to work on special projects for a set amount around the house to earn money that goes into her little coin purse. One day when it’s filled up enough, we’ll take that purse to the store and teach her about buying with the money she’s earned.

Speaking of money, I hope to teach our children …

Going massively in debt for college is a stupid idea

Every month when I make out that payment for the student loans, I want to stab myself in the neck. I went to an affordable college that my parents were generous to help out with, but I also had a scholarship that helped pay for some of the cost as well. If I had that money to spend on anything else than debt, we’d be much better off.

I needed very little student loan money to go through college, but instead used the funds on guitars, recording an album, video games, and other fleeting stuff (see point No. 1). I had no real understanding of how long it would take me to pay it all back. The debt compounded when I got married, as my wife not only had an undergrad degree, but a master’s from the University of Kansas as well (she actually used hers to pay for college, amazingly).

Today we manage fine, but we’ll be paying on these things a long, long, long time unless we find ways to be more agressive to paying the student loans off.

Traveling outside of the country is essential

I was very blessed during college to have opportunities to travel (as part of my schooling, not on student-loan funded getaways) to France, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The things I saw changed my worldview and gave me a deeper understanding of what being an American meant. I know people who have barely left the county they live in, let alone their state, region or the country. From my experience, conversing with people who have never traveled outside the country on major political and social issues can be akin to talking with someone who speaks a different language.

If I have to do it myself (despite my resolve to never fly again), my children will see America through other people’s eyes.

Don’t become, date, or marry a teacher

This one is controversial in our household. My wife became a teacher after getting her master’s degree, and it was pretty rough. The long hours, the endless amount of paperwork, dealing with parents (the children weren’t typically the biggest headaches), the idiocy of administration, the list is quite long.

I don’t understand why she enjoys it. She apparently does, as she started an in-home preschool at our domicile, but if there is any way my children can find something else to do with their lives, I’d be thrilled.

Yes, I know that sounds bad. But parents always want a better life for their children, and I don’t want my kids working 50 to 60 hours a week.

Don’t be fearful

Fear can run people’s lives, but only because they let it. Fear keeps people from going after their dreams, doing the things they’d like to do, or taking the chances they need to take. I see it all the time and it drives me crazy. I know people who want to take a risk, but don’t because of fear. I know some who worry about things that never, ever happen, nor had the slightly probability to materialize.

I also know people who aren’t afraid to take chances and come out ahead, mainly because they’re not being held back like their fraidy-cat counterparts. This hasn’t always been my strongest trait. It’s only within the last couple of years that I’ve started taking more risks, being less “safe,” and overwhelmingly, it’s working in my favor.

By the way, if this is you, check out the excellent video Quieting the Lizard Brain by Seth Godin. It’s long, but worth it.

Audio post: The Last Five Minutes

On Friday, I mentioned my  song writing experiences with my old roommate, Alex Kissel.

Today I have another recording that Alex and I did, with one twist: this recording was done open air using only the built-in microphone on my Apple iBook.

As with I Build Airplanes, I wrote the guitar parts and sang background vocals, while Alex wrote the lyrics and sang the lead vocal part.

The recording of the this song, The Last Five Minutes, is in mp3 format. Right click to save to your computer if you like, or play it in your browser depending on your connection.

The Last Five Minutes (mp3, 5.39 MB)