Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rules Rules Rules

I’ve been reading Brad Warner’s book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: it’s a good overview of Zen philosophy applied to the real world. I’m not signing up for any Zen retreats just yet, but I do find the Zen philosophy intriguing. It seems to fit my no religion is the best religion mode of thinking. Anyway while reading Mr. Warner’s book I came across the Ten Precepts of the Dogen Sangha school of Zen Buddhism. Here they are:

1. Don’t destroy life.
2. Don’t steal.
3. Don’t desire too much.
4. Don’t lie.
5. Don’t live by selling liquor.
6. Don’t discuss the failures of Buddhist monks and of laypeople.
7. Don’t praise yourself or berate others.
8. Don’t begrudge the sharing of the Buddhist teachings and other things.
9. Don’t become angry.
10. Don’t abuse the three supreme values: Buddha, the Awakened One; Dharma, the true teachings; and Sangha, the community of Buddhists.

I was struck by how similar these are to the Mike McGuffin Three Rules:

1. Don’t take what isn’t yours.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Don’t harm anyone or anything.

And Two Truths:

1. Nothing is fair.
2. Nothing is free.

I think I need to add Zen Rules 3 (Don’t desire too much) and 9 (Don’t become angry) to the McGuffin three.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mercer Half - Take One

I met a guy last Tuesday at Sam’s cross country meet who’d knocked of fifteen Ironman races, a few ultras, including a fifty miler, and numerous marathons, and he said that the Mercer Island Half Marathon is the most difficult race he’d ever run. Well now that I live on Mercer Island and my house is only fifty yards from the course I decided yesterday afternoon that I’d better check out what all the hub bub is about. According to my bike odometer from my door, around the island and back is 13.1 miles – a half marathon - easy enough. So I had a big corned beef and coppa ham sandwich at 12:30 and then took off at 1:00; I was going to regret my dietary choice.

I took off feeling really full and somewhat slushy in the stomach, but I figured I could run through the early digestive phase and things would get better. I did take along a quart water bottle. I came around the south end of the island at a good clip and then started up the west side (as a side note I did flag down a lady who rode by me with her bike helmet on backwards – “sorry I don’t want to embarrass you but your helmet is on backwards”). At mile seven I was tempted to turn right and climb the hill over the island, essentially shortcutting the route by a few miles. My stomach was feeling queasy and consequently I wasn’t taking on much of my nutrition drink, so in hindsight I see that prudence would have been the wisest decision of the day. I’m neither wise nor prude, so onward I went.

I kept a strong pace across the north end of the island and made it to the city hall, it must be about mile ten, in one hour eleven minutes. I figured once I hit East Mercer I could ease up the pace and even if I ran ten minute miles I’d be home in under an hour forty five – not bad for coming off the couch onto a tough course. I made it to the ShoreClub where I had total shutdown. I mean I was so messed up I could barely walk straight. Never before has this happened. I won’t gore you with the bodily function details, but it wasn’t pretty.

I was now faced with the need to hustle three miles home in order to meet Sophia when she gets off of the bus. I was doubled over more than once. I made it just as Sophia’s bus was rounding the corner, I told Sam to go get his sister and I went straight to the bathroom. As it was Wednesday I had five minutes to recover before I had to drive Sophia fifteen miles to piano lessons. I couldn’t cancel as I’d done that the week before and her high school teacher gave me a good dressing down about cancelling without a twenty four hour notice. Actually she was very nice and respectful about it, but the first version is funnier. Anyway I changed and got in the car.

My hands were shaking and I could barely get the clutch in. One minute I felt like I had to puke, the next like I had to crap, I was sweating, shaking, in other words miserable and with no business behind the wheel. I did manage to drop Sophie off and then went to the Safeway to buy some Squirt, which I figured that might help my stomach. In the store I had to use the bathroom and began to worry that I might pass out behind this locked door; that would be embarrassing, so I struggled to stay cool. I got out, grabbed two bottles of soda and headed for the express checkout. Well I got behind a cashier who felt like she needed to discuss every little detail of the fourteen items the lady in front of me was buying. I about told her that either she picks up the pace or I puke on her shoes.

Sitting in the shade drinking the Squirt helped me a little bit, but it was still touch and go picking up Sophia and getting home. I walked in the door and hit the couch- I’d made it. It took me another four hours to even begin feeling normal again.

Whether it was a bad lunch choice or the eighty five degree weather or something else I don’t know, but whatever happened had never happened before. I’ve never shut down like that. Weird.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Twenty years ago I moved to Seattle with what I could fit in the back seat of an ’82 Chevy Malibu, now I can’t fit it all into two major U-Hauls and a pair of moving vans. I shouldn’t say moving vans as they were moving semi trucks. The amount of “stuff” that I’ve acquired is unreasonable, but I wasn’t able diagnose this unreasonability (if that’s not a word it should be) until I took all my “stuff” from one place to another.

We moved from a large house in the burbs to a small house on Mercer Island for many reasons, many of which came from reading James Howard Kunslter’s book The Long Emergency, and now we’re trying to fit ten pounds of crap into a five pound bag. Bottom line is that it just ain’t all gonna fit. Going to have to purge, which is no easy feat for a guy who places significant sentimental value on delivery boxes.

Leaving the comfort of good neighbors and friends was tough, but in the end I believe that we’ve made the right decision. Simplifying, downsizing and compacting one’s life is a good thing. Dream big, live small that’s my new motto.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Born to Run - Again

Lately I’ve been pondering this whole Ironman/marathon running gig that I’ve thrown myself into: is it healthy, is it purposeful, but unfortunately have come up with no major revelations. Luckily, however, Christopher McDougall, a Michael Pollanesqe writer, has also been pondering similar questions and has come up with some revelations. In his book, Born to Run, McDougall studies the Tarrahumara Indians of Northern Mexico to find out how they are able to run one hundred plus miles with apparent ease. What he finds is that these guys just love to run; they are not mutants with superhuman strength and stamina, they are just regular guys who enjoy bounding from rock to rock at the miles pass beneath their sandal clad feet.

I’ve been running for nigh on thirty years now and though I’ve had some good times I can’t exactly say I find running joyful, that is until last Monday, and all it took was a change in attitude. We were coming home from working on the cabin when I had Melony drop me off about seven, maybe eight miles from home. I figured a nice late afternoon run would be good after a weekend of pounding nails and sawing boards. The weather was nice - mid sixties scuddy clouds – the farms in the Snoqualmie Valley were in full bloom and from the very first step I made a conscious decision to “run happy.” I smiled the whole time, kept a nice even pace and stopped to pick blueberries, and even an apple, when I got a little hungry.

I reached the turn to my house way too early so I took a little detour through the woods. Coming up from McDonald Park required the ascent of a hill that nears cliff status but I just kept smil’n and strid’n and pushed right up no problem. I’m familiar with the trails that exit near my house because I used to mountain bike this area a lot, but now that the exit closest to home has been blocked off by development I had to venture onto unchartered territory. I kept heading north, or at least what I thought was north with the idea that I’d have to come out of the woods some time. After about twenty minutes of wandering around I popped out at the end of some road. I figured that the road had to go somewhere so I just followed it a couple three miles until it ran into the main road. I was about two miles downhill from home, no problem, this was a “fun run” and so I just motored on up. Fifteen seconds after setting foot in my driveway the hail storm hit. Sometimes you get lucky.

I learned that running only sucks if you make it suck. We humans are born to run, our ancestors didn’t live to run, they ran to live, all we have to do is awaken those memories.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Success Vs Significance

I'm finally back after an end of the summer hiatus. The house is sold, we take possession of the new house on Sept 14th, the kids are in their new schools, and with the exception of needing to be packing boxes I have a few minutes each day to write.

It must have been a few weeks ago now, but I recently heard a great interview on NPR with author/farmer David Masumoto One thing he said really struck me because I had just finished preaching to my son about the important role education plays in forming a successful life. Mr. Masumoto noted that he had pursued a life of significance, and not a life of success - the type of material success typically sought after in modern American culture.

Lately my definition of success has been whether or not I've reached a summit or a finish line: I topped out on that peak, I knocked off that race, and I must confess as to not really caring about the significance of my actions. I put a heck of a lot of work into doing things, but really how important are those things?

Significant - meaningful or influential - man that's a tough question: are my actions meaningful. Outside of being a parent I can't say as most of what I do has any meaning, time to start looking at my priorities through a different lens.