Guns Don’t Kill People, Running Does

In my Career Link class, we toured Leupold Optics, a high tech manufacturer of rifle scopes. Our tour guide, a fat, red faced middle aged manager with a Hitler-esque mustache, sported a bright yellow button that said “Guns save lives!” The button was comical, not only because its message is complete bullshit, but also because the man wearing it was standing under an orgy of death. Guns certainly didn’t save the life of that stuffed antelope hammered to the wall, or the shiny crocodile smiling sharply with his serrated teeth nailed next to it, or the huge taxidermy mountain lion prowling over the entrance to the cafeteria.

When I split open my knee on a run along the Salmon River Trail, I certainly didn’t expect my hospital doctor to pull out a GLOCK to fix it. Guns don’t save lives, they take them–well bullets take them, the gun just starts the process. How can anyone wear a button with such an inane slogan? How can anyone with enough sense to operate a silkscreen be dumb enough to print it?

Lax gun regulations are a problem in our country. In Oregon, it’s legal to carry a concealed gun on your person. The only requirement is a carry and conceal permit. How do you get the permit? Pay $29.99 and take an online course. How much guidance can a person get from a one-shot, online course?

English: AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receive...
English: AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receiver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s easier to legally buy an AR-15 assault rifle than it is to legally drive a car. To get a license to drive, you have to take hours of specialized training, pass a rigorous written exam and demonstrate your skills behind the wheel during a supervised driving test. The state makes you prove that you know the rules. And there are lots of rules for the road, you have to know when to yield, what speed to drive, and how to use your blinker when you turn. And if you get caught breaking the rules, you get a ticket, and if you get caught driving drunk, you pay a hefty fine and get your license taken away. And you can’t just drive any old car you want down the street: your vehicle must be “street  legal.”

Mad Max world
Mad Max world (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are practically no regulations for gun ownership in America. You don’t need any safety training to own rifle or a handgun; there are no penalties for unsafe gun handling, and you can buy high powered weapons like assault rifles and kits to modify them from anyone willing to sell them. The only thing you have prove when purchasing a firearm is that you weren’t committed to an insane asylum or sentenced to prison. Imagine what would happen if we applied gun laws to driving: Mad Max.

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gone barefoot hiking or running in the majestic forests of Oregon and come across fields of shotgun shells and 22 caliber bullet casings scattered along the forest floor, just steps away from crushed beer cans and shattered bottles of vodka.

Our gun laws are shameful. If you need to undergo hours of training and practical exams to drive a car, you sure as hell should have to do the same to buy an instrument of death like a gun.

Guns are dangerous. That’s not a platitude. They are dangerous and they’re designed to kill anything in their path: deer, moose, and even innocent little girls playing jump-rope on their Mamma’s front porch. Here’s one of many alarming statistics:

… we found that states with higher levels of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.

I am not against gun ownership. But we must ensure that gun owners are solid, responsible citizens who have been trained and tested in the safe and proper use of firearms.

Until then, what do I say to the man wearing the “Guns save lives!” badge? “Save a life: shoot yourself!”


A Life of Desperate Caffeination?

According to legend, there once was an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi who noticed some of his goats eating red berries from a bush. After chewing on the berries, the goats who were tired from a long day in the sun, hopped around energetically and bleated happily. Kaldi was intrigued. So he popped a few berries into his mouth, wincing and puckering at the bitterness, just as he was ready to spit them out, he felt a surge of energy and a wonderful sense of euphoria. It just so happened that a monk from a nearby monastery witnessed everything. When Kaldi was away, the monk picked some of the berries to share with his brothers at the monastery. That evening, the monks were able to stay up all night, alert in prayer, asking forgiveness for stealing Kaldi’s berries. (This story was adapted from Zoltan. See “Works Cited”.)

It took me about 3 weeks of agony to stop drinking coffee. Kicking caffeine was harder than running my first 50k ultra marathon.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
Cup of Coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that the cravings for coffee are completely gone, I occasionally ask myself if I made the right decision. After all, many grandmasters, writers, and mathematicians enjoy the psychoactive benefits of arabica. Sometimes, I miss the manic episodes and on-demand vigilance that coffee gave me.  In terms of creativity, I think coffee may have given me a slight edge. Whenever I needed to bang out a post, I’d brew a pot of java.

For the past year, I’ve been in an artistic slump. The urge to write, to play music, sometimes, even to paint or draw hasn’t been as strong. I know that it’s foolish to wait for inspiration because the Muse only shows up when I do. I’ve got to put myself out there for the magic to happen. It’s impossible to paint a masterpiece without a brush in your hand. Even so, I often ask myself:

Would drinking coffee guide the strokes? Am I distorting the past? Was coffee really my Muse? Or just a monkey on my back?

To discover the truth, I’m going to slip into the socks of Benjamin Franklin. After all, he was one of America’s wisest citizens. Whenever the great man was faced with an important decision, he would take a plain piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and put a plus (+) on one half, and a minus (-) on the other. By listing all the positive elements on the plus side of the paper and all of the negative ones on the minus side, his decisions would become obvious.

Here’s my list of Pros and Cons for drinking coffee.

+ Pros:

  • Gives me energy and a slight manic twitch to write blog posts, draw goofy skulls, and play the didgeridoo. Looking deep into my blog, some of the most exotic posts were written when I was hopped up on caffeine. Most of my sketchbooks were filled after percolating a pot of coffee. I even used the grounds to “coffee wash”  some of my tattoo flash sheets.
  • Escalates social inclusion. When I quite coffee, I felt ashamed and exiled, like someone on Survivor with a secret immunity idol who was blindsided at Tribal Counsel. Whenever I tell my friends and coworkers that I’m not part of the Java Tribe, their shocked expressions do little to betray their contempt. I can hear their thoughts, “He’s not one of us. Is he Mormon?”

– Cons:

  • Coffee is expensive. It’s very easy to drop 5 to 10 bucks a day on it.
  • It stains your teeth and breath.
  • It makes me manic, which can be a plus when it spurs creativity but also a negative when it makes me believe that my wife was replaced with an ultra-sophisticated, lifelike, robotic surgeon who sews microchips into my scalp while I sleep, giving government agents the ability to control my thoughts with a radio transmitter; thereby giving them the ability to influence my behavior for military applications.
  • It may have caused some of the mysterious panic attacks that I suffered from years ago.
  • Everyone else is a slave to it. The mass of men lead lives of desperate caffeination. I don’t know any coffee drinkers who can bear the horrendous headaches from missing their morning cup. Caffeine withdrawal is so serious that it’s in the DSM V:

…abstinence from caffeine induces a withdrawal syndrome of headache, fatigue, and drowsiness which begins within 12-24 hours and lasts about 1 week. The syndrome can be severe and appears to be one reason for continued use of coffee. The prevalence of this caffeine withdrawal syndrome is unknown.

Caffeine withdrawal but not caffeine abuse or dependence should be included as a diagnosis in DSM-IV and ICD-10. Future research should focus on whether some caffeine users exhibit clinical indicators of drug dependence.

(“Should Caffeine Abuse, Dependence, or Withdrawal Be Added to DSM-IV and ICD-10?” -direct link requires paid access to DSM-5 online)

The cons outweigh the pluses. I’ll stay clean, eating magic mushrooms or drinking ayahuasca whenever I need a little inspiration.


Works Cited:

“Should Caffeine Abuse, Dependence, or Withdrawal Be Added to DSM-IV and ICD-10?” Ajp 149.1 (1992): 33-40. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Zoltan, Melanie Barton. “Coffee.” Food: In Context. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 138-141. In Context Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

99 reasons to run?

When I see the number 99,  I see two runners, one in the lead, the other chasing closely behind. I also think of balloons.

9 chasing 9
99 looks like 9 chasing 9

Then I hear that silly 80s song, 99 Luftballons. They are cheap, 99 cent store/DollarTree balloons. When I see them drifting up into the deep blue sky, I wonder how I’ll be feeling when I’m running the 99th mile of the Cascade Crest 100. Will I hear that stupid song? Will I hallucinate the red balloons? Or will I merely realize that the word “bed”, looks like a bed, with the b and d as headboards.


Why am I so concerned with the number 99? It’s not because Zues had 9 daughters or because Christ “gave up the ghost” in the ninth hour. Quite simply it’s because there are 99 days left in this year. For some odd reason 99 demands a list. So, here’s my list entitled, “99 reasons to run”:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It’s good for your soul
  3. It’s good for your feet
  4. It’s good for back
  5. It’s good for your knees
  6. It’s good for your toes
  7. It’s good for your blood
  8. It’s good for your mind
  9. It’s sort of good for your skin as long as you wear sunscreen sometimes or have dark skin like me
  10. It’s good for lungs
  11. It’s good for your heart
  12. It’s  good for forcing you to write a list entitled “99 reasons to run”
  13. It’s good for giving you a way to cheat on a list of “99 reasons to run” by allowing you to use the list in place of commas–see items 2-11
  14. It’s good for meeting people who can tell the secret of peeing while running an ultra marathon (This is no joke, I met a guy at the boring Ultra who told me his secret for pissing while running. He was awesome and full of useful information.)
  15. It’s good for proving to yourself that you’re stronger than you think
  16. It’s good for teaching you how to deal with defeat
  17. It’s good for goal setting
  18. It’s good for helping you mourn your grandpa’s death
  19. It’s good for getting home from work
  20. It’s for finding 16 dollars on the Tickle Creek Trail
  21. It’s good for your sex drive
  22. It’s good for relieving stress
  23.  It’s good for a quick blog post when you need to write one a day for the last 100 days of 2015
  24. It’s good for HostGator and other companies who enable runners to create blogs that they sporadically maintain
  25. It’s good for getting you off the warm cosy couch and into the icy cold rain
  26. It’s good for raising money to find cures and treatments for cancer 
  27. It’s good for Oregon brewers like Rogue Nation who make delicious beers for runners
  28. It’s good for sporting goods stores like REI
  29. It’s good for barefoot sandal makers like Barefoot Ted and Xero Shoes
  30. It’s good for physical therapist who treat overly ambitious barefoot runners
  31. It’s good for massage therapist who painfully untangle the knots in your left calf
  32. It’s good for trophy companies
  33. It’s good for the number 99, and for the number 33 because although my list is entitled “99 reasons to run” it only contains 33 items

Something else I like about the number 99 is that you can use in it place of “Goodbye.” 99!

Barefoot Boring Marathon Training Day 12

This morning before ceramics class, I watched carnies run safety checks on rides at the Sandy Days.  Under the scorching summer sun, I recorded a few time-lapse videos and shot some pics with a Yashika 35mm camera.  But I couldn’t get excited about show. Something inside me ached for excitement. So I walked to Joe’s Donuts and ordered a maple bar. Then I wondered down to Meinig Park as people set up their booths for Mountain Days. When I got home, I did Jillain Micheal’s 30 Day Shred. Nothing spectacular. It’s a strength/rest day. I shouldn’t have had that donut, but whatever. I ate healthfully the rest of the day.

Tomorrow is my long day. How far will I run? Check back tomorrow.

Boring Barefoot Marathon Training Day 9

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family  is in its own way a latch-key teenager girl with braces standing on the front porch hurling insipid insults at me as I walk by on day 9 of my marathon training. No, I wasn’t cheating by walking on a training day.  And, Yes, the girl was real. Why then was I walking and not running? Today is NOT a run day, it’s strength day. I like to supplement my strength days with three to four mile jaunts around the neighborhood. As I passed a green a  townhouse a shrill adolescent female voice shouted an ugly insult at me from across the street. I won’t repeat the invective. I pretended not to hear her, but I slowly doubled back. I’m glad I did. As soon as I reached her house, her mom pulled into the driveway. I took the golden opportunity to inform the mother about her daughter’s unfortunate comments. It was beautiful timing. I got a well deserved apology. I don’t think the girl was a cruel person, just young and impetuous.

Whatever happens, I stuck to my training. When I arrived home, I lunged, lifted, squatted my way through Jillian Michael’s Thirty Day Shred.

See you tomorrow.

Boring Barefoot Marathon Fourth of July Edition (Day 6)

I didn’t expect to discover a marathon that only 14 runners have finished in the three decades that it’s been held. And I had no idea that the race resulted from the infamous James Earl Ray.

“You haven’t tested your limits until you try something you can’t do.”
–Founder of the Barkley 100 .

But today isn’t the Barkley 100. Today is the Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day America! I had a pleasant drive along the Columbia Gorge in search of majestic waterfalls. After taking the cool mists of Multnomah falls, I looked to heaven and witnessed a noble bald eagle soaring above me. How American is that? A bald eagle on the Fourth of July! After a serious bout of patriotism, I ate a burger at the Edgefield in Troutdale Oregon with my brother-in-law who visiting us from Spokane and my lovely wife.

In terms of barefoot marathon training, today is another strength/recovery day. I did Jillian Michael’s Week One of Ripped in Thirty. Tomorrow is my long run day. How far will I run? Check back to find out.

Still Kicking Ass

Zola Budd running barefoot
Zola Budd running barefoot

I was killing time at work when I came across this fantastic story about Zola Budd, the barefoot running woman who twice broke the women’s 5000 meter world record. The story gave me some much needed encouragement.  At the age of 47, Zola Budd still dominates runners half her age. She recently competed with college runners and beat all of them, winning the 5k race with a lead of 50 seconds! What an inspiration.

I love her take on running:

“Running is … part of your life… Whatever happens, it’s fine. Just go along with the flow. Take the bad runs with the good runs. Make an experience of it. Don’t be too goal-oriented.”

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Did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Deserve This?

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cover of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Part of my job is to provide instruction to community college students. Here’s what I have them do. I ask them open up Then I tell them to search for “Martin Luther King Jr.” Then we examine the search results. Then they everyone gasps in horror and shock when they discover that one of the top ten results–usually the second or third– is run by Neo-Nazis.

It’s an effective device. Students realize quickly that they can’t trust Google results.

Google Sucks
Google Sucks

Just because Google ranks a page highly doesn’t mean that the page contains reliable or relevant information. In fact, it proves what I have been saying for a over a decade: Google sucks!! As a search engine, Google is a complete flop. Have you ever tried searching for something as simple as “printable haircut coupons”? If you haven’t give it a try. You will be bombarded with spammer sites that try to trick you into giving them your e-mail address and they never once take you to a page that actually has a printable coupon. It’s tragic Google has become nothing more than a promoter for link farms, spam-bots, and porn.  Was that their dream?


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The One Minute Miracle

Virginia opossum
Virginia opossum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 10% incline treadmill makes me feel like a rodent. I don’t like feeling like a rodent. I hate rodents. When I lived in Santa Cruz, there was this ornery opossum who used to scratch at our backyard sliding glass door. He’d put his ugly yellow teeth against the window, leaving a trail of opossum slobber on the window. I would kick at the window, but, as I said, he was an ornery opossum, he’d just hiss at me and scratch his twisted, yellow claws against the glass. One time, I made the mistake of opening the door as he approached. I was hoping to eschew him away before he reached the door. The beast immediately rushed at my leg, I kicked at his filthy white belly, but he dodged the blow and headed for my bedroom, where my dear wife lay asleep. I slammed the bedroom door shut just in time to ceil the opossum with my sleeping wife. When I opened the door, the creature was on my side of the bed crawling up the covers towards my wife. Luckily she was not awake. As soon as the opossum saw me, he again leapt at my leg. I moved just in time to let him scoot out the bedroom door and into the hallway. He quickly scurried into the kitchen. I kicked at his foul jaw. But he dodged my attack, then he made a fatal mistake. He rushed at the fridge; it was the wrong move because we kept the broom on the gap between the fridge and the wall and that gave me a powerful  household weapon. I grabbed the broom and smacked the opossum, until at last he was swept out into the murky night.

The next day my friend, Toby, told me that my critter wasn’t a opossum. He said, unless they have rabies, opossums aren’t aggressive.

“It was prolly a wharf rat,” he said. Whatever it was it was a disgusting rodent.

How running on a treadmill feels.
How running on a treadmill feels.

But this post isn’t about rodents, it’s about running on treadmills. So, let me introduce my treadmill. It’s a 10% incline dominatrix. If it wore clothes, it would wear whips, chains, and a leather face-mask. It knows not forgiveness nor pity. It simply runs it preset routines without love or mercy. Most of the routines are innocent enough. Each one divides the run into two or one minute blocks, depending on the routine. For instance, a forty minute routine will have forty one minute blocks, but a sixty minute run may have only thirty two-minute blocks. The blocks are a terrible visual. They’re so uninspiring. They seem to stack against you and  they take forever to advance. They’re this wall of gut wrenching discomfort. I once ran on a hotel treadmill that had a digital lap counter. It was wondrous. I felt so lucky to be running on that machine. It gave me hope. Each step was visibly represented on the track with tiny blinking LED light as you advanced the light stopped blinking, when all of the lights around the track were lit, the entire track blinked in unison. It was like having a personal cheerleader every time you finished a lap. My machine doesn’t offer that kind of hope, it just presents whose cold and unrelenting blocks and it’s 10% incline.

There is one routine that I have never been able to complete at full speed. It features 40 one-minute blocks. 40 minutes may not seem long, but it’s an eternity when you’re running at top speed uphill at a 10% incline.

My treadmill doesn’t care that I’m gasping for air or that my calves are crying out, it just keeps going. In the past, when it got to be too much for me, I would simply slow down to catch my breath. But lately, that has seemed very much like a pussy move. So I decided to put my zen practice to the test. I set the machine to the forty minute insanity block routine. After three minutes, I was ready to slow down, but this time, instead of slowing down, I looked at my minute block and said to myself, “I can do this minute.” When the minute ended, I said, “I did that minute!!!!!!”. Then when the new block light up, I said, “I can do this minute.” Whenever I looked ahead at all of the blocks ahead, I immediately felt drained of energy, but when I focused on the minute I was running, the task became achievable. Minute by minute, I ran each block. When I finished the run for the first time without slowing down, I was exhausted, swimming in my own waters, bent low, and gasping for air, but also excited. I discovered a secret: never trust a possum and always focus on what you can do and then keep doing it.

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