I Want The Data

A short one today. The local hardware store in our little town just reimplemented a mask mandate to shop there. The city council is contemplating reinstating the city-wide mask mandate. I’m sure cities across the country are evaluating the same thing with the new delta (sshhh, don’t mention the country) variant of the virus which shall not be named.

For roughly a year every city, county, state, and federal public health office has been collecting extensive data on Covid cases. We know exactly how many new cases we had for every single day in every corner of the country (and world). Every single person in the country has seen multiple instances of the bell-shaped curve graphs showing the current state of Covid case counts.

So here’s my question – with all that data it should be very simple to show a strong correlation between the implementation of a mask mandate and the reduction of case counts, right? The entire point of the mask (as we’ve heard ad nauseum) is that they protect you and others from transmission of the virus. So, across the country the data should easily show the date of a mask mandate and shortly afterwards case counts dropping. Seems like simple science, no?

I have yet to see any data that shows a mask mandate having any impact whatsoever on case counts in any part of the country. Have you? Don’t you think the powers that be would be hammering the news talking heads every night with these charts to prove how effective their mask mandates were? Instead, the CDC’s strongest case for masks seems to be a report on two hairstylists who were positive and saw a bunch of clients. They all wore masks and nobody else was infected. So there you go – based upon two hairstylists, we all have to wear a mask.

We’ve had a real world, year long experiment with extensive amounts of data. Before you force me to wear the damn mouth diaper again, I want to see the data. Not theory, not anecdotes from hairstylists or isolated lab experiments attempting to measure droplet velocities. We know the date we started wearing the damn masks. Can you correlate a drop in case counts afterwards? It doesn’t seem like a hard question, does it?

It’s All In Your Head

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I ride a motorcycle. I have some experience riding on the street but very little in the dirt. I may also have mentioned once or many times that I’ve recently purchased a new ginormous motorcycle that’s in the “adventure bike” category. That means it’s perfectly capable of going both on and off road. I’m somewhat intimidated by it which makes me a very timid rider in the dirt, unsure of my abilities to stay upright. Many of my little stories are about conquering my fears and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This story is about the power of the mind.

The new ginormous motorcycle has more electronics than the space shuttle and enough buttons to rival a modern airliner. So many buttons in fact, they had to make an on-line simulator to practice with. I’ve only figured out about half of them so far since it takes the majority of my limited brain cells just to stay upright. I don’t need to make things more complicated by fiddling with buttons and switches. Anyway, I was reading some on-line forums about the bike and stumbled upon a thread about something called the “G-switch”. Folks were raving about what a difference it made in the dirt for traction.

If you haven’t ridden a motorcycle in the dirt, traction is where my fear comes from. Riding around a corner and feeling your rear (or front) wheel start sliding is a very unnatural feeling and causes my stomach to pucker up. So naturally anything that improves traction is going to make my life better. I quickly opened up the manual and then the on-line simulator and figured out how to turn the G-switch on and off. Time to jump on the bike and go find some dirt!

I rode up to a high mountain lake on slippery, loose gravel and dirt roads. With the G-switch engaged it was like I was riding on rails. My tires were glued to the dirt and I rode at 2x my normal speed. What an amazing difference! With the G-switch on it was like I was a different rider. Why hadn’t I discovered this earlier?

Once at home, enjoying an adult beverage after my ride, the engineer in me decided to figure what what the G-switch actually does. What engineering marvel did those designers create when they crafted that magic switch? It took quite a bit of research to find the actual specs. And it turns out… it has nothing to do with traction really. It changes how the clutch works.

*crickets*

How in the world did I ride so well then? It’s amazing what the brain is capable of. I know there’s plenty of cute fables out there describing the power of belief, but I never thought I’d experience it. I was sure the G-switch was doing something to help me and therefore I relaxed, trusted the bike, and rode better than I thought I could. I have to laugh at myself. It will be interesting to see what happens on my next ride. Will I revert to being cautious since I know there’s no magic G-switch helping me? At the same time I now know I’m capable of riding more confidently than I have been. My guess is somewhere in the middle. Regardless, the lesson learned is that we’re all far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

A Health Crisis

  • I’ve noticed a pattern lately that is puzzling and slightly embarrassing. The overwhelming majority of readers and followers of this blog are health and fitness accounts. I find that odd since I rarely post anything about exercise, food, or health. It’s curious that the WordPress algorithm decided to push my content to the health and fitness space. I’d honestly like to know – if you came across my ramblings were you searching for something specific or was it randomly recommended for you? So here’s the embarrassing part. While I may talk about various activities from time to time, golf, running, mountain biking, etc…, the truth is that I’m horribly unfit and my weight has reached a crisis level. I don’t know how that happened. Well, I know how it happened, I just don’t understand how mentally I let it happen. On April 12th of last year I hit 168.4 pounds. The lightest I’d been in over a decade. I felt fit, was crazy active and was contemplating some crazy running ideas. I’d been super strict with a keto diet for a year and a half at that point. I decided to take a diet break and I’m now north of 200 lbs and can’t see my toes when I look down. I’ve gone on a few runs (that were mostly walking) and it’s clear that I’m essentially starting from scratch. It’s terribly depressing. I’ve been “starting the diet/exercise routine tomorrow” for about a month now. I’ve always had terrific willpower once I cross a threshold. It’s getting to that point that’s the struggle. As soon as I start losing some weight and make fitness gains my motivation and willpower skyrocket and we’re off to the races. I just have to figure out how to mentally get to that point. Sigh… I guess that’s why the health and fitness industry is a gazillion dollar racket. We’re all trying to figure out that magic formula to get and maintain results. The irony of posting this is that I’ve probably permanently flagged this site as a “health and fitness” blog as far as WordPress is concerned. LOL.
  • Let’s see if I’ve got this straight – masks weren’t effective, then they were. Then double masking was even better. Then you didn’t need a mask if you were vaccinated, but you still did even if you’d previously had covid. Kids no longer needed masks at school. Now kids must wear masks and even if vaccinated, adults will needs to start wearing masks again. Vaccines weren’t trustworthy because they came from the Trump administration, then they were the holy grail of everything. You’re an evil SOB who is practically killing people by just walking down the street if you aren’t vaccinated. The carrot to help persuade people to vaccinate is that you won’t need to wear a mask. Except now you’ll have to regardless. I thought the messaging around covid during the Trump administration was terrible and was a political gift to the dems. The Biden administration clearly looked at Trump’s bad covid messaging and said, “here, hold my beer and watch this”. It’s been a master class in how to inspire massive distrust.
  • The United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, India. Those are the locations of the various variants of covid that have developed. We no longer refer to them that way, as has always been done. In May the WHO announced Greek-letter names for important strains so they could be easily referred to in a simple, easy to say, and non-stigmatizing fashion. Which is why the news is all a-buzz about the “delta variant”. Thank god we’ve spared India the shame of having a variant named after them.
  • For the first time my annual season ski pass now includes lift-served mountain biking. I’ve never experienced the joy of going downhill without first riding uphill. I was always firmly entrenched in the “you have to earn your downhill” camp. Screw that! I may never ride uphill again! Of course this doesn’t help my weight and fitness problem. On the other hand my increased weight has improved my downhill speed. That whole momentum = mass times velocity thing. See, I can find a silver lining in anything.

Song of the day: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

Who’s Afraid Of The Passport?

The current discussions around mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports is interesting. I use the term “discussion” loosely. It’s more like two baboons in a cage screaming at each other and throwing feces. I generally don’t like when someone tells me that a thing is mandatory. Dammit, we’re supposed to be a free people. Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do. If I want to sit in my recliner and drink beer and eat donuts all day, that’s my god given right. Except there are plenty of things that are mandatory. A drivers license to drive. Education through high school is compulsory. You must be licensed to cut hair, open a business, be a gym instructor or chiropractor. As a society we’ve made all sorts of things mandatory. In theory, we’ve made those choices collectively through our elected representatives. They weren’t edicts handed down by the king of the seven realms. We voluntarily put those restrictions on ourselves.

Ok, but requiring vaccines are different. That’s my personal health information. Maybe. But we already mandate vaccines. There are a whole host of required vaccines various states require to attend public school. I chose to work in health care. I was mandated to get whole bunch of additional vaccines if wanted to be employed. There’s nothing new about requiring a vaccine.

Except this one does feel different. It’s brand new. It did not have the full edge-case testing over a long period of time that other well established vaccines had. As a broad statement, I think it’s pretty safe. I was one of the first folks to get it when it was made available to health care workers. I’m older and was going to be regularly exposed to folks with the virus that shall not be named. I made a risk assessment and decided it was worth it. But I have a number of coworkers who are young and are thinking about starting a family. They haven’t gotten the shot because of the unknown factor when it comes to pregnancy. I think that’s very understandable and a reasonable risk assessment for someone who’s young and healthy. Except our hospital just announced that they are making the vaccine mandatory to continue employment. That bothers me. Mandating a vaccine that does not yet have full FDA approval to healthy young people doesn’t seem right. Maybe health care is a slightly different scenario, but making the shot mandatory is being talked about in all walks of life. Healthy college kids, people who’ve already had Covid, and many non-essential businesses. Making something like the flu shot mandatory to work as an accountant or a Starbucks barista never would have been accepted in this country. Jenny Mccarthy made sure of that. Why is this any different?

And then there’s the vaccine passports. I generally don’t pay much attention to that discussion. In the back of my mind I just didn’t think proving health status was something that this country would seriously consider. Other countries may do it and that’s fine, I just won’t go there. France is attempting to require a vaccine passport to go to bar or restaurant. Our news will never show it, but tens of thousands of people are in the streets of France, day after day, protesting this. It’ll never be seriously considered in this country, will it?

And then this morning I read something on Twitter that made me realize we’re closer to a passport than I thought. Geraldo Rivera made the following statement: “All Americans need to be Vaccinated. With #VaccinePassports. I have right to know if you’re contagious”. Not that I think Geraldo is the authority on anything… but for some reason that bugged me. I have the right to know if you’re contagious. Think about that statement. I’m starting to think more people that I ever thought would be willing to submit to carrying proof of vaccination status around with them. I find that frightening. I can stomach certain types of jobs requiring a vaccination as a condition of employment. I don’t have to work in that field if I don’t want to be vaccinated. But requiring a shot and proof to be out and about in society doesn’t fly for me.

There is a massive list of communicable diseases that people are walking around with every day. You’re encountering them all the time without knowing it (how do you think you get the common cold?). Could you imagine the outcry if we required people to carry proof that you don’t have HIV? Yes, I know that’s not an airborne/droplet transmission vector. It’s an extreme example of forcing people to share private health information. There’s plenty of airborne diseases – measles, TB, influenza, chickenpox, RSV, pertussis, etc… The CDC estimates that a third of the population is colonized with MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a staph bacteria. It’s very easily spread and was probably our biggest infection control issue in the hospital pre-Covid. Should I have to show my status on any of those if I’d like to drop into my local bar for a drink?

We’re potentially heading down a slippery slope. I don’t know what the right answer is. My fear is that humans are frightened herd animals. We tend to make panic decisions that may have unexpected consequences we haven’t fully thought about yet. Mandates of anything are very hard to roll back once enacted. A vaccine passport is a genie we won’t be able to put back in the bottle.

An Upside Down Dystopia

If you haven’t seen it, the Handmaid’s Tale is a fabulous series. It describes a dystopian world in which an ultra-right religious group has seized control of portions of the former United States following a civil war and subjugated women to be nothing more than breeders and servants. It’s probably an accurate picture of what many left-leaning thinkers feel the conservative right would enact given the chance. Mrs Troutdog and I started re-watching season 3 in preparation for the newly dropped season 4. Naturally since our phones are always listening to us in the background (cue foreshadowing) I logged on to YouTube and had a bunch of Handmaid’s Tale video suggestions.

One of those video suggestions was a discussion of a map of the former United States and the territories that Gilead (the new country) occupied. This map was created by a fan of the series, pieced together by vague references in the series and the original book by Margarat Atwood. My first thought was who has enough time (or interest) to create an elaborate map on a work of fiction? But then again I don’t get people who cosplay and I didn’t play dungeons and dragons in high school. But what got me thinking is a comment the video creator made. In the TV series, most of the regions of the country seized by Gilead are the Northeast, East and West coast. The Midwest is controlled by the former United States. Here’s the rub. Gilead is a far-right religious group. The East and West coasts are dominated by left leaning progressive folks. How is it the far-right took over the liberal centers and, presumably, the left occupied the middle of the country? It doesn’t make sense.

Which leads me to where we are today. Our world has been flipped upside down. What used to be conventional wisdom, isn’t any more. For years articles, news stories, and movies have been made that declared the threat of the right wing. The right wanted to suppress speech. The right was intolerant. They were potentially violent, spawning shadowy right-wing militia groups. The left were the creative thinkers, lovers of free speech, and defenders of individual rights. Today it feels like we’re in opposite world. The right are the new counter culture. The woke left have spawned a cancel culture that strives to shut down any independent thinking. When the pandemic which shall not be named arrived, the left seized the opportunity to exert control over every aspect of your life. Power hungry governors and mayors quickly shut down business, restricted free movement and gatherings, and all but mandated martial law in some cities.

Censorship and restricting free speech are now a thing. From killing the Hunter Biden laptop story, banning a sitting president from speaking, to the intentional shutdown of Parlor, the left has done everything possible to control what information you see. Just in the last few days they actually started brazenly saying it out loud. The Whitehouse press secretary said that they are working with Facebook and other social media entities to “flag” problematic posts that spread disinformation. This should scare the hell out of you. Twitter, Facebook, and Google were already banning, suspending, or flagging accounts by the thousands that mentioned anything they deemed harmful information. Now they’re coordinating directly with the deep state to suppress any non-conforming thoughts? Scary stuff.

Of course all of this is done for your own good. We locked down to protect you. Unfortunate that you lost your business, but it was for the greater good. We’re not going to allow you to see data refuting the effectiveness of masks because that might spawn disharmony. You will not be allowed to question a mandatory vaccine, government lockdowns, election audit results, who killed Ashley Babbitt, Hunter Biden’s business dealings, or border policies. You silly little citizen, not to worry, the adults are in charge now. Go back to your fun Facebook password phishing memes, the state is here to protect you. The bad orange fascist is gone now. And if any of your family members or friends seem to be, you know – “extremists”, you can always report them to the FBI.

“The beatings will continue until moral improves”

Captain Bligh, HMS Bounty

Not Enough Electronics

Sitting here at my desk, I’m surrounded by an array of cords, chargers, batteries, and electronic devices. I don’t think I realized how dependent upon devices we’ve become until I did my last trip on the ginormous motorcycle. Here is the complete list of electronic things that had to be managed at the end of each day:

  • Helmet communications system. Due to a weird system requirement of Android Auto, the motorcycle’s GPS/mapping won’t work without the helmet communication. This got charged first each night.
  • Phone. Duh.
  • A giant bag of GoPro batteries. GoPro batteries last approximately 27 seconds so you need quite a few of them for all-day filming. I probably shouldn’t bother because anytime I came upon something interesting, the GoPro battery would be dead and I wouldn’t be in a spot where I could pull over and change them.
  • DSLR batteries. They last slightly longer than GoPro batteries. Unless it’s cold. Cut cold weather battery time in half. Then to be safe, assume it’s half of that.
  • InReach satellite device. I use it so folks can track my location/progress in real time. Plus it has the handy “Oh Shit” SOS button that I pray I never have to use.
  • Backup GPS device. Because I’m positive that the one time I really need to figure out my location my phone will die, I carry a handheld GPS. Just in case. Doesn’t mean I know how to use it, but at least I have it.
  • Kindle. I like to read. Unfortunately my Kindle is at least a decade old and the battery lasts less than a day.

Each of those devices has it’s own cord and charger. At the end of each day’s ride, my motel room would have cords and devices plugged into every outlet in the room. It looked like an FBI sting operation preparing to eavesdrop on some Jan 6 Boogaloo Bois. How have we gotten to the point that it takes this many electronics just to go for a ride?

Here’s where I do the standard old man, “when I was a kid”… Seriously, when I was a kid you got a paper map. If you were serious you had a fancy road atlas. You had to drive with the map spread out on the passenger seat, stealing glances at it from time to time to make sure you were on the right road. See an interesting sight? Pull out your trusty instamatic camera (no battery) and snap a pic. When the roll was done you’d drop it off at the drug store and come back a week later to see if any of the pictures came out.

The closest to a GPS device was the wonderous AAA Triptik. We’d go to the local office and describe the trip and route we were taking. Come back a few days later and they’d have a narrow spiral bound map book printed for you showing the route. You’d follow along bottom to top, then flip the page. As a kid I’d spend hours before the trip going through the book, looking at the route and all the cities and sights on the map.

Here’s something that will blow the younger readers minds. Imagine this scenario. You need to find a part for something. There’s no computers, internet, or cell phones. You’d pull out the trusty yellow pages and try to find stores that might have what you’re looking for. You’d have to call each of the stores to see if they had what you need. If it was a store someplace on the other side of town where you’d never been before, you’d pull out the map and figure out where it was. It wasn’t uncommon to have to call the store back and figure out the closest large cross-streets so you could locate it on the map. My strategy was to write down all the street names and turns on piece of paper so I wouldn’t have to look at the map while driving (safety first!). It seems so strange to think about, now that we have instant look-up and same-day Amazon delivery.

We’ve certainly come a long way. Progress is a good thing. Although I’m questioning if I really need that many electronics to go on a trip? Of course the answer is yes. Oh, and I’m contemplating adding another motorcycle-specific GPS to the bike. And then come winter I’ll need the heated vest that will have to be recharged each night. And when I go off-grid, that requires battery power blocks and solar panels to keep everything charged. I’ll soon need a chase vehicle to follow me with all my electronics and gear.

What’s the point of all of this? There really isn’t a point other than I was thinking about it while I was watching some money management, minimalist lifestyle advocate last night on YouTube. He was describing the three things that are worth spending money on. Number one? Experiences. Buying meaningless stuff in an attempt to keep up with the Jones won’t bring you happiness. But spending money on a trip or an activity that provides lasting memories or experiences does give long term happiness. You’re only here once, go make the most of it.

Scammed By A Headline

  • Brace yourselves – I’ve discovered some shocking information… the news is dishonest. I know, hard to believe right? While I’m certainly not the sharpest crayon in the box, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what’s garbage and what’s not when it comes to the news. Unless it’s something you’re predisposed to believe is true because you’ve seen it day in and out. Confirmation bias. If it’s what you expect to hear, then it’s easy to blindly believe the words in front of you.
  • Here’s the backstory. I have been a longtime cycling fan. Starting in high school I dabbled in a few races and briefly thought I was a “real” cyclist. Reality set in pretty quickly and I evolved to a weekend rider and TV race fan. I watched the grand tours religiously year after year. There were days I’d be late to work because I got up early to watch the Tour de France in real time. I was, and continued to be, a big fan of Lance Armstrong through every tour and even after his fall from grace. A few years ago he started a podcast on YouTube with George Hincapie that gave the best race analysis you could find. Lots of “inside the tour” details and great tactical discussions. Every day of the tour I’d watch the recorded replay of the stage and then Lance’s podcast. As the big names all started retiring, I began slowing down on following cycling. Lance’s podcast revived my interest again. And then last year we had all the BLM protests. Sure enough, what pops up in the news headlines?
    • “Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong goes “woke,” cancels bike shop’s contract with Austin police”.
    • “Lance Armstrong’s Bike Shop Cancels Police Contract – Still Wants Cops To Protect Them From Threats”.
    • “Lance Armstrong’s Texas bike shop cuts ties with Austin police”.
  • God Damnit! Why can’t these celebrities just stay in their lane? I watch/follow them for their athletic ability or acting, not their politics. Why do they have to ruin things with their woke opinions? That was it, I was done with watching the tour and Lance’s podcast. I did not follow a minute of cycling last year or this year. I didn’t even realize the Tour de France had started this year until I saw the headline about the idiot spectator that caused that huge crash.
  • I was telling someone why I no longer followed the tour and was looking for one of the articles about Lance. Suddenly an article I hadn’t seen before appeared. Turns out Lance found out about the bike shops decision while he was on vacation and didn’t agree with it. He contacted the Austin police chief and brokered a thirty minute meeting with the chief and the bike shop to try and work something out.
    • Armstrong said ” the shop’s decision to cancel the contract is “not a situation that I support.” He also said he was “sick and tired of everybody screaming” at each other over the issue, which pitted the business against the police and some members of the public in a war of words”
  • Turns out Armstrong is a sworn sheriff’s deputy in Colorado. So… I got suckered into some sensationalist news headlines and made a snap judgement about something without making much of an effort to research further. What’s that old saying about assuming something? I lost a few Contrarian street cred points over this one. So what’s the lesson learned? The news lies. Media will always go for the sensationalist headline without bothering to do much, you know, actual journalism. Don’t let yourself be so easily swayed by “popular” opinion. Oh, and this year’s Tour de France is shaping up to be a really good one!

Song of the day: The Clash-Police And Thieves 1977

I Got Yelled At

  • People in the hospital are rarely happy (ok, maybe in the maternity ward). I’m generally not seeing people when they’re at their best. I accept that and knew it going in. I understand if someone gets a little snippy, or forgets to say thank you if you go above and beyond to do something for them when they’re in significant pain. This week however, was a special low point when it comes to patient and family behavior. It started with a schizoaffective patient constantly screaming at me to stop playing mind tricks on them, and then having to be brought back by security after running amuck through the hospital hallways. That’s a mental illness, so I don’t take it personally. Then there was a family member accusing me and anyone who came in the room of not caring about the patient and ignoring them and their needs. Constant very passive aggressive loud muttering about everyone having their heads up their asses and waiting 30 minutes after pressing the call light (it was 5, our system shows us exactly how long it’s been). Sigh… deep breath, their family member doesn’t look to have a good outcome. I’ll cut them some slack.
  • But then there was the real humdinger. A patient and family member who were both serious meth-heads, combined with a rainbow of other illicit substances, with no money, resources, or insurance, who were there for a trauma. For two days straight the patient yelled, screamed, cried, manipulated, and generally behaved like a flaming asshole to anyone unlucky enough to go in the room. The patient was getting enough pain medication to tranquilize a horse, yet screamed and cried that we were inflicting intentional torture. The family member would show up, hear this, and begin the litany of demands to see everyone from the charge nurse, floor supervisor, hospital president, and city mayor. The family member would then announce they couldn’t take their level of anger and had to leave before ripping someone’s head off. They’d return an hour or so later and it would begin again. This pattern repeated all day long. Any attempts to engage, refute, or otherwise point out they were being unreasonable only resulted in additional yelling, just at a louder volume.
  • Twelve hours a day, for two days is a lot to take of that sort of behavior. I was pretty angry and frustrated each night when I got home. Upon reflecting on those days, I think I’m most angry at myself for putting up with it. At the time it seemed easier to mostly ignore it. All three scenarios were verbal battles that I wouldn’t win. These were not people who’s minds were going to be changed. It’s often less stressful to simply nod and say mmm-hmm and get out of the room as fast as possible so you can get on with the thousand other tasks you have to get done. But I didn’t realize how much the cumulative impact of continually taking the verbal abuse would affect me. On the drive home after day two I briefly thought what the hell am I doing? At my age I don’t need to put up with this crap. But I still like the job. It’s rewarding in many ways that working as an engineer for mega-corp never was. But it seems like the hospital population is more and more the mentally ill, the indigent, and drug users who are not capable of dealing with life in general. The bad behavior has become so common that when receiving report on the rare, “nice”, patient a nurse will make a point of letting you know, “you’re lucky, he/she looks like a normal person”.
  • I’m not sure what the answer is. I could move to a clinic of some sort, but just taking blood pressures all day would be like watching paint dry. Besides, I’m in a spot where I have the perfect schedule. It would be hard to replicate it working on a different floor. I think I’m going to try an experiment. For the next few weeks I’m going to be a semi-jerk. There will be no shit taken from anyone. You want to be an asshole? I’m going to be one right back. Of course, in a professional manner. This may make my day more difficult (and certainly the charge nurses – people LOVE to escalate any perceived wrong at the drop of a hat), but I’ll be curious if my mental health will improve? Will I have an overall better outlook if I go home knowing that I didn’t accept any crap from people? Nursing is such a hard balance. How do you continually be compassionate for people in a bad situation, yet not let yourself become a doormat? If you know the secret, please let me know!

Song of the day: Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take it (Extended Version)

What’s Your Risk Tolerance?

  • I just got back from a four day road trip on the ginormous motorcycle. It was a fantastic trip with a couple of “bucket list” rides. I mentioned in my last post that I almost cancelled due to a threat of inclement weather. Sure enough, day one I got caught in a pretty severe rain and hailstorm. Let’s just say that large hail at 60 mph on a motorcycle hurts! The important part is that I survived and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d built it up to be in my head. I rode a few other sections that were high speed highway (70 and 80 mph speed limits) with plenty of large semi’s and some high winds. Serious white knuckle time in the beginning, but I wasn’t thinking about it much towards the end of the day. The point is that the unknown is scary and it’s easy to let that fear get the better of you when try to visualize what it’s going to be like. I guarantee that most of the time reality will prove to be nothing like the horrible scenarios you let run away in your imagination.
  • Which leads me to my question on risk tolerance. Pushing through fear is all well and good, but you still need to do a reasonable risk assessment of the situation. A brand new motorcycle rider attempting a busy freeway on his first day is stupid. The lack of skill makes the risk factor way too high. So how do you evaluate risk? When it comes to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, I have a reasonable amount of life experience. I’m an RN, was a member of a search and rescue team for years, comfortable with navigation, and feel pretty comfortable with knowing my physical limits. My risk tolerance for hiking in the backcountry is pretty high. Barring serious injury, I’m not terribly worried about surviving a few days if something went wrong. I’m reasonably confident I could put myself in a position to be found or self-rescue. More importantly, I feel like I’m less likely to put myself in a bad position in the first place. Most of our rescues on the SAR team were for people who had no idea they were even putting themselves at risk until it was too late.
  • Which brings me back to the ginormous motorcycle. I have many years of riding experience. Unfortunately most of it was simply commuting back and forth to work. The long road trips are new to me, but I feel like I still have enough overall street experience in those scenarios to make good risk assessments. But what I really want to do is spend more time riding in the backcountry. I have no dirt experience. At what point, when riding by myself, am I being stupid? Most of my fears revolve around being stranded. A crash or other mechanical issue that disables the bike. Dropping the bike and not being able to pick it up. A navigation error and running out of fuel or getting into a scenario I’m not capable of riding. Now what? With the motorcycle it’s easy to go distances beyond a simple hike out.
  • So, do I not go out by myself? Do I simply start slowly and go a little further each time? Do I spend days beforehand making a battle plan with every possible scenario for each ride? At some point that’s no longer fun. On one hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Again, assuming no serious injury, the bike breaks down and I’m stuck. A few days of hiking or until someone finds me. While it would suck, very survivable. It’s extremely rare that someone goes missing and perishes before being found. But that’s not a fair burden to put on loved ones waiting at home, thinking the worst.
  • At what point are you being so cautious you’re limiting activities due to fear of the unknown? At what point are you placing yourself needlessly at risk because you failed to adequately prepare and didn’t recognize that you were in over your head? For me I think the answer will be to go slow and over-prepare initially. Of course I’ll seek out more experienced riding partners… but I don’t want to sit at home waiting for that to happen. The other option is to sign up for one of the various riding schools and learn/improve my dirt skills. I suppose I should do that regardless. How do you evaluate risk? Pro’s/con’s on a spreadsheet? Avoid it at all costs? Just do it and whatever happens, happens? I’m honestly curious how others evaluate risk?

Song of the day: Lily Allen | The Fear

I Feel Kinda Guilty

  • Our hospital is in the midst of a horrible staffing shortage. Every day I receive texts from unit supervisors pleading for folks to come in because the floor is short staffed. They offer overtime, premium pay, Covid pay, any combination of hours you want. I delete the texts immediately. Yesterday, while at work, the floor unit coordinator came to me and asked if there was any way I could work tomorrow? I actually would have said yes, but I’m leaving on a trip today on the ginormous motorcycle. I felt a little bad telling her no, but I did have a legitimate reason. Later that night I got an SOS text message from the hospital. They were so short staffed, patients were being treated in ambulances parked in the emergency room bays because there were no beds or staff available to bring them into the hospital. Supervisors were pleading for anyone available to come into work. I felt pretty guilty after reading that. My coworkers are going to have a horrible shitshow of a day today and I’ll be off playing. I don’t feel bad for the hospital, but I don’t like feeling as if I’ve let my coworkers down.
  • In my previous life as an engineer for mega-corp software company, I fully embraced the do or die for the company attitude. I never took time off. There was always some project that, if we just worked really hard for another few months, we’d deliver to the customer and then everyone can relax and take time off. And then we’d miss that deadline. And another. I had hundreds of hours of accumulated vacation time, never used. It was so bad Mrs Troutdog and I actually bought a time-share in Mexico thinking that at least that will force us to take a vacation once a year. We went quite a few years with that warped sense of priorities. Slowly it began to dawn on me that the corporation doesn’t care about you. Oh sure, they pay lip service to “our employees are our strongest link” and other such happy horseshit. Eventually you realize that you’re just a cog in the wheel. I don’t care how important you think you are to the company, if you leave you’ll be forgotten within the week and someone else will take your place. Work hard, do a good job, but realize that any company exists to make a profit and it’s their job to extract every last ounce of work and time from the employees. You can be replaced at any moment. Take all of your vacation time. Stay at a company only as long as it’s benefiting you. If another opportunity comes up, take it. Life is too short to waste it thinking the corporation actually cares about you. I know that sounds terribly negative. Yes, there are companies out there that treat their employees fantastically. Just don’t lose sight of that fact that you are still just an employee and your life is not work.
  • Today I leave for another multi-day trip on the ginormous motorcycle. And sure enough, all of a sudden the forecast is now calling for strong winds and a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. My brain immediately thought, oh I should probably cancel and go another time. I have to continually remind myself not to be that guy anymore. Don’t let fears get in the way of experiences. If it rains, then I’ll get a little wet. So what? Am I really going to postpone a trip because conditions may not be perfect? I always thought I was a semi-adventurous person. Looking back, my “adventures” were only well within my comfort zone and with activities and places I knew well. On my own I’d rarely try something new or go someplace completely unknown. The “new” things and adventures I’d do were with friends who were experienced and able to lead and plan the activity. It’s amazing how ingrained worry about the unknown can be if you you’ve spent a lifetime being cautious. So, I’m going to hop on the bike and go. Maybe I’ll get wet and the ride might be miserable. Maybe I won’t find much sightseeing and this will end up being days spent being bored in crappy motels. Maybe the bike will break down and I’ll get stuck on the side of the road with no cell service. All of that may happen. But I’ll never know if I don’t try.
  • The interesting balance that I need to learn to strike is at what point is a “just do it” mentality crossing the line into a stupid risk scenario? This weeks adventure is just a road trip to a handful of smaller towns. Probably a few areas with limited cell coverage. Very little risk, other than being on a motorcycle. The other type of riding I really enjoy is dirt and getting into the backcountry. I did a ride a few days ago where I ventured a ways into the forest. Nothing dramatic, but far enough away from civilization that a breakdown or a crash starts having more potential for bad outcomes. On this ride I still saw a few vehicles and if I had to I could have hiked out pretty easily. But the trips I really want to do are much further in the backcountry. At what point is doing a ride like that by myself becoming too risky? At the moment, those fears of the unknown are overcoming the “just do it” attitude. I suppose time and more experience on the bike will dictate how far I’ll push my risk scenarios.
  • My last trip (which was also my first one) on the ginormous motorcycle went mostly undocumented. Just a few pics from my phone. I didn’t want to deal with cameras, video, or more electronics than necessary. I wanted to concentrate on riding and just absorbing the experience. This time I think I’ll try to make a video. I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. I’m no Ken Burns. Most of my video footage ends up being two hours of nothing but a view of the gas tank because I didn’t realize the camera moved. We’ll see how this goes.

Song of the day: The Big Push – These boots are made for walking’ / Satisfaction / Everybody