They’re Crazy – No Offense

Somewhere, Julia learned how to end a semi-rude statement with "no offense." (I suspect she acquired this "skill" at school, along with lattice math, information about current pop music, and the ability to do the monkey bars.)

Since she’s a good-hearted person, she mostly uses this to comedic effect, but it is still a little weird to hear her – and now Genevieve, who has of course picked it up – use such an adult-seeming phrase.
+ "Daddy, your hair is messy. No offense."
+ "Kurt Vile is a terrible singer. No offense."
+ "Your fatbike is pretty odd. No offense."
+ "That shirt looks bad. No offense."

I’m waiting for one of them to use the phrase in an undeniably rude way. In the meantime, it’s fun to throw it back at them. "Judging by how long it takes you to clear the table, I’m starting to think you’re lazy. No offense!"

Sleigh Bells Ring

When I’m out in "bad" weather, I think a lot about how much time my grandfathers – a farmer on my dad’s side, a trucker and logger on my mom’s – must have spent outside in horrible conditions, doing their jobs. I’m lucky that I can choose to go outside and enjoy (not just endure) the experience of being outside, no matter temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

Of course, both grandpas knew how to enjoy winter, too. Here – at a Christmas in the late 1990s – is Grandpa Jauquet at the reins of his sleigh, pulled by his two Belgian workhorses and laden with grandkids, including me, Shannon, my sister, and a bunch of my cousins.

Sleigh Bells Ring

Kold Konditions Kit

27 Below

The brilliant sunshine and cold temperatures pulled me outside this afternoon for a short ride in a nearby park, then a trip across town to finally get a donut. The temperature was five below zero F, with a windchill of negative 27, so I bundled up, and wound up being pretty much a-okay – or even a tiny bit too warm. My kit:

  • boots
  • wool inner socks
  • wool outer socks
  • longjohns
  • briefs
  • wicking shirt
  • thermal tights
  • thermal top
  • fleece vest
  • wind jacket
  • balaclava
  • cycling cap
  • helmet
  • liner gloves
  • mittens
  • goggles

Donut Tragedies

On Thursday morning, as I faced my first day of work since December 20, I was overcome by a very strong craving for a donut – specifically, the excellent sugared cake donuts sold at the campus snack bar. I had to run an errand in that direction anyhow, so I stopped in, only to discover that the snack bar was closed due to some stupid holiday or something. My craving only intensified, but the day didn’t allow me to get away long enough to find a donut downtown.

Friday afternoon, I did head downtown to escape the spectre of spending the entirety of a second consecutive day at my desk. I visited the coffeeshop that usually has some good donuts for sale, but no – they were sold out! I was so disappointed, I went next door to the bagel shop to feed my sorrows some hot coffee and a face-sized cinnamon roll.

After a fun ride around town with a couple guys Saturday morning, we stopped back at the same coffeeshop. Since it was fairly early in the day, I hoped they’d have a donut, but again, no! The barista told me they’d just sold the last one. Downing a croissant and an americano a few minutes later, I saw the woman who might have been the purchaser sitting nearby. The donut sat, one bite missing, on a plate in front of her, utterly ignored. Before I could either steal it from her or leave, I watched her clear her table and throw the donut in the trash.

1994 Cold

The impending "blast" of super-cold temperatures has everyone in Minnesota in a tizzy. The governor has even preemptively canceled school on Monday, when the high temps are expected to be negative 30 or 900 or something.

We will see exactly how far the temperatures fall; certainly, record lows (and record-low highs) are possible. The chatter among amateur and professional weather geeks is that these temperatures haven’t been seen since 1994.

As it happens, I think I remember that cold snap! I’m pretty sure (but am too lazy to confirm) that it fell on MLK Day weekend. Shannon and I had started dating the previous fall, and we were spending a lot of time in her apartment a few blocks down Grand Avenue from Macalester College in St. Paul. You know how it is.

Anyhow, the night that meteorologists were braying (on Shannon’s tiny red black and white TV) about minus 100 windchills, we needed to go to the local grocery store, a block away. I forget if we both ventured out or if only I did, but I do remember feeling like my teeth were frozen by the time I got back to the apartment. They weren’t, and I don’t expect to lose any body parts this Monday, either.

A Few Words on Being Cold

I went for a ride this afternoon, at warmest point of the day. The temperature was just below zero, but a northerly breeze drove the windchill down in the negative teens. I found the conditions eminently manageable, and in fact had to adjust my clothing to keep from overheating. Part of the purpose of the ride, in fact, was to get my clothing “dialed in” for the Arrowhead 135 race at the end of the month.

As I made my way through the barren cornfields, I thought about why I like being outside in the winter – a frequent topic of contemplation when I’m outside in the winter – and specifically about being cold. I don’t think I like being cold, any more than other people do, but I do enjoy the challenge of overcoming the feeling of being cold. I like figuring out which clothes will work best in various conditions, for instance. And I really like looking forward to the post-outing warm-up process: fireplace, hot cocoa, a shower. Perhaps a little snort of whiskey later, when it’s not completely necessary.

But I also enjoy, maybe more than I should, the psychological aspects of being cold, the perversity of learning to enjoy the discomfort. I like feeling my fingers tingling and my cheeks getting frosted and telling myself, “It’s just cold. It’ll pass.” Everything about those sensations is designed to send a person back to warmth, and they’re amplified by a little hint of panic – a prickling sense that something is going wrong, that pedaling a ridiculous bike further from home is not just kinda dumb, but dangerous.

But none of that is true. The sensations aren’t really problems, and despite what the shiny talking heads on the TV say, the conditions aren’t really dangerous. Keep going, and (unless something is really and truly wrong) the body will find ways to get everything back to equilibrium, just like it’s designed to do. And that might be my favorite part of being cold: feeling my body will do what it’s supposed to do.

Resolutions for 2014

2013 was a year of stasis in good, neutral, and bad ways. For whatever it’s worth, I’m aiming a little higher for the next arbitrarily-delimited trip around a minor star halfway out from the center of the Milky Way.

  1. Create more undistracted time with the girls by stowing my iPhone when I get home each day.

  2. Ride my bikes at least 2,019 miles (the shortest distance across Antarctica via the South Pole).
    Bonus goal: ride one century each month.

  3. Make three things every day: a good photograph (probably of the random stuff I see going to and from work or riding my bike), a blog post (probably on quotidian topics, but occasionally on something more significant), and a decent drawing (inspired when needed by this list of prompts).

  4. Write that longish essay that I’ve had in my head for a while now, partly to find out if it’s any good, and partly to push myself to do some "real" writing.
    Bonus goal: publish this essay somehow, whether in a magazine or online.

  5. Finish all the books that are sitting, incompletely read, in The Stack.

The Stack