Sunday, January 25, 2015

Poop Bags and Microwaves. Equity Will Not Aid a Volunteer, So Why Bother?

Can I sue them for using my name?

Sometimes, the law sucks.  But sometimes it makes sense.  Allow me to illustrate with a parable and then you tell me whether this particular aspect of the law makes sense.

This is a microwave.

Now, you might not recognize it as a microwave, because it is in my Jeep.  But it is.  And, it's not just any microwave, it's a beige Sanyo microwave from the 1970s.  It's one of the original microwaves, made like a real appliance.

The shell is made of steel.  How do I know?  Because it is rusty.  And, the damn thing weighed roughly 40 pounds.

This is the microwave of the future past.  It's the beast that your mom first realized couldn't handle aluminum foil.

The "I Hate My Family Cookbook"
 I searched online for quite a while, but I couldn't find a picture of this beast.  Why?  Because it's a hateful, awful piece of technology, that no one wants to remember.

Anyhow, if you have ridden at the Beginner Trail at Alum Creek anytime recently, you may have noticed this particular model of engineering magnificence at the bottom of a creek bed, quietly, but obtusely rusting away.

I noticed it.  I noticed every time I rode past it.

The beginner trail is a great place for a warmup or cool down ride when I ride at Alum Creek Phase 1.  It's right across the street.  If  I'm too tired to do another 6 mile lap of P1, sometimes I'll pick up 3 more on the beginner loop.

And I take the family there pretty regularly.  It's an enjoyable trail for beginners.

But, every time I have ridden there recently, I have had to see that damned microwave.  The creek bed it sat in was in the direct line of sight as you passed around a bend near the 2 mile mark of the trail.

And it's jarring.  Alum Creek is a thickly wooded, natural state park, full of Ohioey natural beauty.  It's the kind of secluded wilderness that lifts the spirit and makes one forget about the workaday worries of everyday life.  And then you round a curve to see that rusty piece of outdated technology, wantonly abandoned to decompose in the middle of the woods, not too far from the roadway. 

I would like to find the person that dumped it and make them eat a meal from it.  To me, this is the worst kind of sacrilege.  Don't desecrate the dirt church.  And why would they dump it?  Because this flavor of asshole didn't want to pay to have the old microwave picked up or drive it to the dump.  

 Almost as bad as those shitbags who leave their dogs' shitbags on the trail.  I mean, why bag it, if you're just going to leave the bag on the trail?  As your mom would say, who do you expect to clean that up?

Shitbag's shitbag
But I digest.

Point is, I hate the microwave.  It's stupid and I wanted it gone.

So, at the last COMBO trail day, when we happened to be working on the beginner trail anyway, me and my boys broke off the group to get it out.

It wasn't easy.  The thing was heavy and it was laying at the bottom of a creek bed with steep banks.  That were covered with snow.  And the creek was frozen.  And the microwave was frozen in it and half full of icy leaves.

Not the creek in question, but you get the idea

We could have gotten hurt.  And, I was going to have to pay to haul it away and dispose of it.

Here's where the law comes in.  See, at law, if you had an agreement with someone, you could sue them if they didn't hold up their end of the bargain.  Even if you didn't have a written contract, so long as you had an agreement and an exchange, the law would often enforce your rights as a matter of equity.

But, there are exceptions.  One exception in the law is that "equity will not aid a volunteer."  What this means, at bottom, is that if you do work that benefits someone else, but you did it for free and without them agreeing to compensate you for the work, then tough titties.  You're out of luck.  You're considered a volunteer and your time and effort are lost.

Volunteer work is, in the eyes of the law, gratuitous and perhaps, by extension, a foolish endeavor.  I can still picture my first-year law school contracts professor, with his elbow-patched jacket and thick eyeglasses, warning us "don't be a volunteer."

A particularly bad time to volunteer

So, why bother?  Why volunteer when you have no hope of personal financial gain?

For me, it's simple.  I don't have to look at that goddamned microwave anymore.  That's compensation enough.

I could say that it's out of some sense of community duty, that it's out of civic goodwill.  But that would be bullshit.  It's selfish.  I like being out in the woods and I don't like looking at rotting appliances while I'm doing it.  Simple as that.

I suppose my work benefits others.  And, I suppose that other trail users will be happy that it's gone.  But those are really only secondary benefits to me.  I did it for me.

Why do you volunteer?  Isn't it, at base, just out of self-interest? Does that matter?  Does it need to be altruistic? 

Whatever.  Just keep getting it done.

Changing gears from things that are ugly and out of place to works of art that enlighten and entertain, here's a bumper sticker I saw recently.  Guess where I saw it?

Florida, of course
And here's one I saw a little closer to home.

West Side!

Apparently, big sister moved to LA to pursue a modelling career.

So, from the obtuse and out of place, to beacons of right here and right now, whatever you're doing, enjoy it.  As they say, "awesome is as awesome does."

Be brave.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How My Wife, My Brother, and My Bike Saved My Life and Why I Hate New Year's Resolutions

I have a friend who says I like to piss all over everything good.  She says I take something simple and enjoyable like Valentine's Day or a pot luck dinner and pull it apart.  Well, Christy, allow me to piss all over New Year's.

New Year's resolutions are a terrible idea.  Philosophically, we are short-lived sacks of organic matter, crowding a smallish rock in outer space that is circling a medium-sized star.  The universe doesn't give a fuck about the brief periodic episode of sunshine that hits our portion of the planet every 365.24 rotations around the sun that we call "New Year's Day."

Yeah, Just went all Carl Sagan on your ass.  Science.
Divisions of time like years, days, and seconds are constructs of our sensory primate brains, all merely relative to our own mortality.  We use these constructs to help us understand and arrange our brief and fleeting time in the sun.

Algal blooms like the sun too.
Point is, each day is as good as the next.  If you want to better your evanescent experience, why wait for a specific day?  You probably knew, long before, that you needed to make a change.

In fact, waiting for New Year's Day to start making life changes is almost sure to fail.  It probably means that these are changes that you don't want to make because they're difficult and unlikely to succeed.  In fact, a study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology recently found that of the 47% of Americans who make resolutions, only 8% will succeed.  The number one resolution?  To lose weight.  But, as Dean pointed out in the COMBO blog recently, most people don't really want to lose weight, because it's hard. 

I too want to lose weight.  Again. 

My old friends know that I used to be bigger.

It was hard to find this picture.  I avoided cameras when I was this big.  Mirrors too.  I knew something was wrong, but I hid from it, ignored it.  Hard to hide when you're that big though.

Now, I was never skinny, but as an adult, I wasn't too fat.  But I also didn't take care of myself.  I used to joke that I wouldn't run unless someone was chasing me.  Humor was a defense mechanism, I think.

During undergrad, I started eating more and moving less.  Kids followed, and my life got busy.  I used this as an excuse to not take care of my health.  Being busy is no excuse.  But, you've heard this story before, right? 

By my second year of law school, I had ballooned up to 287 pounds.  On my 5'11" frame, this was ruinous.  I was headed for heart disease.  My cholesterol was high, I would get gassed walking up the stairs at Ohio Stadium, and I was on my way to type-2 diabetes. 

Reminds me of my favorite line from the spy cartoon Archer, when he is assigned to assassinate Spirodon Skorpio.

Malory: Locate a stolen shipment of Red Eye missiles and kill the arms dealer trying to sell them, Spirodon Skorpio.

Archer: Whoa! What, is diabetes busy? 

After law school, I decided to change my life.  I was starting a new job, so I figured that it would be a good time to incorporate new habits, like exercise.  So, I started going to the gym and using the elliptical machine or stationary bike.  Some weightlifting too.  It was hard going at first, but I saw good results.  Couple years later, I was down to 245.

Better, but the cardio equipment was getting easy, and I had plateaued on weight loss.  Plus, I hated the gym.  It was a hassle.  Pack, drive, exercise, shower, change, drive.  Really inefficient - like two hours for 45 minutes of cardio.  Plus, it was a crowded, hot, gross box.  But I didn't know any different.

Then, eight years ago, for Christmas, my wife asked for a bike.  She worked only a couple miles from home and she thought it would be simpler and more enjoyable to ride a bike to work some days.  I bought her a used steel mountain bike from the 1990s, a Scott Arapaho, that I put road tires on.

My wife never pressured me to ride with her.  But she set the example, and she told me how much she enjoyed it every time.  It was making a positive change in her life - not weight loss, but just general happiness.  It was good for her to get the fresh air and the little bit of peaceful ride.

So, one day, I decided to try riding it to work myself.  Why not?  It was a nice day, and I was tired of the gym.

That ride changed my life.  True, I had to stop twice to rest on the 7.5 mile ride.  And true I was slow, wobbly, and sweaty.  I rode on the sidewalk instead of the road.  I must have looked like a hot mess.

But it was fun!  It brought back all of the joy of riding a bike as a child.  The freedom, the fun, and, even better, I wasn't sitting in a car for the short, but frustrating drive to work.

I was hooked.  I bought my own crappy 1990s steel mountain bike (a Trek 760) and started riding it everywhere.  The path to freedom cost me the princely sum of $65.

Reflectors for everyone!
When it got cold, I didn't stop riding, I just dressed warmer.  I learned how to dress for rain.  And when the snow started to fall, I could have packed it up, but why?

Eventually I could ride to work without stopping.  I wanted to go further.  My brother, nine years my senior, is quite an athlete.  And, at this time, he was regularly racing in triathlons and was training for a marathon.

Hi Jon
I bought my first road bike - a crappy Univega from the 90s, complete with downtube shifters and platform pedals.  My brother started taking me on weekend road rides.  In retrospect, this must have sucked for him.  He was used to 45-60 mile Saturday rides at a 20 MPH pace.  For me, he had to slow down to 13-15 MPH and 20-30 miles.  But he never complained.  And he was always available.  It was due to him that I learned to love long road rides, with sun baked and wind chapped skin, and that muscle heat that comes from sustained exercise.  We still ride together, although I keep up now.

And my body started changing again.  Biking is a gateway drug.  Road riding led to running, which led to swimming and triathlons.  And, to keep in shape in winter, I started mountain biking - a pursuit that has become a full-blown obsession for me.

The result?  An adult low weight for me of 193 pounds.

Of course, it wasn't just exercise.  I had to obsess about eating right too.  It was hard.

A couple years ago, I ran a marathon.  I also raced in an Olympic triathlon, and a half dozen other triathlons, duathlons, runs, and bike races.

But I quit all of that to focus on mountain biking.  Also, because running and swimming are boring.  And I have taken my eyes off my diet again.  Guess what happened?

Yeah, so I have 20 pounds to lose to get back there.  That's 10% of my body weight.  Shit.  But I will lose it.  I am resolved.  Just don't call it a resolution. 

What about you?  Be brave.  Or at least be resolute.