A collection of essays, outdoor adventure stories, ruminations, wordplay, parental angst, and blatant omphaloskepsis, generated in all seasons and for many reasons at 64.8 degrees north latitude

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Farmer's Husband

A father and his son are hurt in a car crash.  While the father’s injuries are being dealt with in the emergency room, the boy is rushed in for surgery. But on entering the operating room, the surgeon says, "I can't operate on this boy. He's my son."  How can this be?

I first heard this riddle when I was about the age my kids are now (riddles are epidemic among second-graders).  I’m pretty sure it took me a minute or two to figure out the answer.

The surgeon was the boy’s mother.

This merited a laugh of surprise.  How tricky! 

I don’t think it occurred to me at the time that this question shouldn’t have been difficult – or even worthy of being a riddle.  “Surgeon,” after all, is not a word that has a gender, in the English language – not, that is, unless we mentally assign it one.

At the age of seven, my brain was already chock-full of preconceptions.  Not only were default-doctors male, but I’d accepted that “the farmer’s wife” was a character who showed up in songs and stories, while “the farmer’s husband” never, ever did.  I was already sexist – and, most likely, ageist, sizeist, and racist, too.  Not explicitly, that is.  Not consciously.  Unconsciously, though, I was a bouncy little bundle of biases. 

But then, we all are.

Yeah, that’s a controversial piss-off-your-friends kind of statement.  What?  Me?  No way!  But, based on my not-terribly-scientific personal observation of our society (The World as Nancy Knows It), it’s nonetheless a true statement.  Yes, we’ve made some splendid progress between my generation and my kids’.  We’ve gotten past much of the most egregious and overt “but can she type?” discrimination that my mother had to suffer, and we’re capable, as a nation, of electing people with appreciable melanin.  But even in the radically modern world of 2013, I’m both fascinated and horrified by the degree of differential treatment – “profiling,” if you will – dished out to both children and adults by people who are NOT nasty racist creeps or slimy sexist pigs. Many of our skewed assumptions are hidden even from ourselves.

If my anecdotal ramblings don’t pass muster, I can offer data to back them up. (Data!  Full of numbers!)  Researchers at Harvard (Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz, 1998) have come up with a whole battery of tests that use paired words, reaction times, and error rates to tease apart that subtlest and trickiest of mental knots: separating what people think they think from what they actually think.   (Those Harvard types are tricksy).  The “Implicit Association Tests” (IATs) measure everything from consumer preferences to self-esteem.  I’ve taken a few of these tests over the years – mostly when my procrastination reaches epic proportions (which is common), and when I remember they exist (less common).

I hadn’t thought of IAT’s for a while – and I hadn’t yet tried out the mom-surgeon conundrum on my kids – when I brought them to the first day of 4H camp a couple of weeks ago.  The camp director was all smiles as she wielded her clipboard and greeted the children.  “Are you a wild man?” she teased the little boy in front of us, who shyly shuffled his feet.  She offered the same riposte to his brother.  “How about you, are you a wild man?” And then she moved on to the next kid in line -- my petite, blonde little girl.

“Oh, you’re so cuuuute!” cooed the 4-H leader.

No, she’s a wild woman, I wanted to snap – but I didn’t, of course.  I couldn’t act all frothy-mad and self-righteous – not only because a middle-aged mom who starts taking out leaders of the 4H in the botanical garden is likely to end up as the most amusing item on the daily police blotter, but also because this woman was so plainly a nice person.  A good, kind, well-meaning person. I would have bet ten bucks on a nickel that she was not consciously trying to “profile” the children in her care.  She was not a malevolent biased cretin.  She was merely… just like the rest of us.  But she did remind me of the existence of the IATs.

Viewing “implicit associations” through the lens of parenthood gives me a whole new rationale for self-examination.  Am I passing on my own biases to my offspring?  Are they picking up biases from other well-meaning adults? 

In this regard, I know I’m a second-generation worry-wart. Years ago, my mother told me that she chose an ophthalmologist solely based on her gender, because she wanted her kids to know that women could be doctors.  In other subtle and not so subtle ways, she tweaked my view of the world with examples: the daddy who did the cooking, the family with a black stepfather, and so forth. There weren’t necessarily a lot of examples – it was barely even the 80s yet – but there were some.  And… maybe it was enough to render me Not A Total Jerk.

Or was it?  Thinking back to IATs of the Past, I recalled being ashamed to find out that I was ageist, a bias that I can regret at leisure as I become increasingly ancient.  I couldn’t recall what other results I’d received.  So I went and found the tests again.

The first set I found were randomly assigned, so I ended up taking three.  I discovered that although (whew) I associated Caucasian and Latino surnames indiscriminately with words representing intelligence vs. brawn, I linked the white-person names more closely with “human” words, and Hispanic names with “animal” words.  Um…ouch. 

My results for black/white race bias… well, I’ll admit I was kind of holding my breath.  I spent more than two years living in Jamaica, being the pale-white fleck in a dark ocean of humanity.  That was many years ago, but during that time, I feel like I at least made progress in quelling any latent idiocy.  Plenty of recent news has made it clear that our nation isn’t even remotely close to surmounting this problem.  I’m not even talking about profiling unarmed teenagers in hoodies; there are also the people who can’t even handle a Cheerios commercial.  Luckily, however, my IAT results were reassuringly balanced.

Moving on, I was particularly curious about how I’d do on a gender-related test.  Was I really any better than the 4H leader I’d felt so snotty about?  After years of noticing how often people praise girls for being pretty, sweet, charming, cute, and well-dressed – and then, barely pausing to draw breath, praise their brothers for being strong, fast, brave, smart, and tough – I somewhat dreaded finding out what was embedded, parasite-like, in my own brain. 

As it turned out, the particular test that I unearthed linked gender-specific first names with words related to either “career” or “family”.  Would my fingers be quicker to find matches when “Julia” was on the same side of the screen as “home” and “Ben” was paired with “office”, or when “Rebecca” was over by “professional” and “Daniel” was with “children”?

Conveniently, the website gave me a rundown on what thousands of other participants have demonstrated regarding the dusty inner recesses of their brains.  And they put it in a nice table, like this:

Test Result
% of Test Takers
Strong association between male and career
Moderate association between male and career
Slight association between male and career
Little or no gender association with career or family
Slight association between female and career
Moderate association between female and career
Strong association between female and career

What did this really mean?  I wasn’t entirely sure.  It certainly showed that my kids are going to have to battle a few assumptions – and so are the boys, because “home” and “family” are not dirty words.  The skew is still steep – but then again, most of the people in that top 55% or so would probably not try to kick women out of the boardroom, or even realize that their own instincts were anything but fair.

So, how did I fit in? What did my results tell me about me own peculiar brain?

“Your data suggest a slight association of Female with CAREER and Male with FAMILY compared to Male with CAREER and Female with FAMILY.”

So, I was one of the renegades, although not wildly so.

Although I was a bit smugly pleased, I was also surprised. Yes, I deeply believe that men and women should be equally matched to “career” and “family.”  The tough choices made in balancing the two should be equal choices.  Among my friends, this is mostly the case.  For me, Jay, and the kids, it’s certainly true.  But in the world at large, and in the formative years of my upbringing… not so much.

Why would my results not reflect this?  Why, in fact, would they reflect a slight opposite bias, a kind of Alice-through-the-looking-glass world full of female CEOs?  What made my fingers do the backward tapdance on the computer keys?  This seemed important, given that I want to figure out how to raise non-biased kids.

I thought a bit more about the test, and realized what might have happened.  I’d been asked to repeatedly pair four female names and four male names with words relating to home or office.  But the names, in order to have genders, had to be real names.  And real names (sometimes) already have associations in my head.  I know several Bens, Daniels, Julias, and Rebeccas.  But I can only think of one Emily.  In my head, she is firmly – and I think she’d be pleased to know this – associated with “Professional” – and not with “Children”.  On the other hand, the “Paul” who springs to mind is pretty clearly linked with “Family.”  And that’s not at all a bad thing, either.

So, the test didn’t work for me.  It was unfairly weighted.  Not valid.

Or… was it?  True, single individuals do not constitute average results.  But, on the other hand, we all experience humanity as a series of single individuals, rather than as a statistical phenomenon. Single interactions.  Role models.  Real human beings.  Sure, we might always imagine a male when the word “surgeon” appears, but confronted with a female in her scrubs, holding a scalpel, we adjust pretty quickly. 

It was in conjuring this image, and recalling the riddle that went with it, and reminiscing about my mother’s earnest ophthalmologist selection, that I remembered an incident from way back when the kids were no more than four.  They’d recently had two sets of checkups, first from our excellent family dentist, Phyllis, and then from the doctor who has been caring for them since they were fetuses, our friend Corrine.  A few days later, out of nowhere, Molly asked me, “Mama, can boys be doctors, too?”

The memory made me smile – and it also made me relax.  I can’t protect my kids from all the subtle differences in treatment that they are already facing – and will face throughout their lives, based on the crap-shoot of their skin color, their hair color, and the genitalia they came equipped with.  Nor can I stop them from developing biases, based on the world they experience and the osmosis of other people’s preconceptions.  At some level it drives me nuts to know that I can’t mathematically balance the stereotypes so that the numbers come out even.  But for every stereotype, I can at least make sure that the kids see occasional counterexamples.  Or even, perhaps, too many counterexamples. 

Out of amused curiosity I wondered -- had my kids’ “backward” gender bias regarding medical professionals changed in the past few years?  The opportunity to test this arose today, when the twins were in the bathtub together, doing more arguing than washing. I decided to distract them.  “Can I ask you a riddle?”  Quickly, I related the car-accident/surgeon old chestnut.

The kids looked puzzled for only a second or two.  Then they both started talking. (I’ve gotten pretty good, over the past few years, at decoding two conversations at once).  Molly reasoned, “Well, the dad was in the car, to the surgeon must have been the boy’s mo…”

But Lizzy was way ahead of her.  Before her sister’s sentence was half done, she’d already demanded, “But why couldn’t she do surgery on her own kid?” 

Lizzy, honey, there’s something you should know.  If boys work very, very hard in school, they can grow up to be doctors, too.  So if you meet a boy doctor, I don’t want you to be biased against him, ok?

Maybe next bath night, we’ll discuss the farmer’s husband.

Friday, July 12, 2013


“Please, Mama, just one more chapter?”

I flipped ahead, glancing at the pages.  Well… it wasn’t such a long chapter, I thought, and we were at such a tense juncture!  Mrs. Frisby had dared to step right into the owl’s hollow tree, so desperate was she to find a way to help little Timothy that she was willing to risk everything.  Everything, that is, that a cinderblock-dwelling mother field-mouse with a sick child has to risk.   

Molly and Lizzy were clutching at my arms, obviously at a point-of-no-return: until we know whether the mouse makes it out of the tree alive, there’s no way you’re gonna get us to sleep, Mama. 

Well… the twins might be having a bit of trouble here with separating reality from fantasy, but at least, for once, they hadn’t deemed the story “too scary” to be tolerated.  For months, I’ve been itching to delve further into Harry Potter with my children, but no such luck. Even supposedly kid-friendly films such as Finding Nemo and The Wizard of Oz were out of the running until quite recently, along with seemingly benign books such as The Borrowers. 

In fact, as a result of the children’s tender sensibilities, we suffered a bit of a summer camp debacle a few weeks ago.  Molly and Lizzy were happily engaged at art camp; it was Clay Sculpture week, and what could be better than that?  But when the temperature rose well into the nineties, the elderly camp director didn’t much feel like chasing kids around outside during their lunch hour, and instead opted to let them watch a movie.  The movie was Star Wars.

Star Wars, as I could easily have guessed, was a disaster.  My kids were ok with R2-D2 and C3PO, but they were not-so-ok with Sand People.  They were decidedly un-psyched about witnessing a teenaged boy have his home obliterated and aunt and uncle slaughtered.  And they were Definitely Not Cool about Darth Vader. Really, nothing at all about Darth Vader was conducive to the kids sleeping that night.  They only saw about 40 minutes of the film -- but it was easily 39 minutes too many.  And they were slated to see more the next day.  Thus, I found myself in the position of being the pathetic, whiny, high-maintenance parent who has to send an email that says something like, “I’m sorry, but my delicate little flower-children are too sensitive for all-American entertainment…” 

Nor did the trouble end with that single, embarrassing, “my kids are wimps” email.  The other kids at camp (almost all of them much older than my shrinking violets) were justifiably annoyed about no more Star Wars.  And the camp director wasn’t savvy enough to keep the names of the scapegoats under wraps.  Thus, the following night, the bedtime not-sleeping woes were all about Peer Pressure.

Isn’t parenting great?  Everything is a “learning moment”!

“Just a few more pages?”

Well… how long was this chapter?  As I flipped ahead in the story, glancing at the long-ago-familiar chapter headings and line drawings, it all came rushing back to me.  Rats in cages.  The terrifying proportions of the feline Dragon from a mouse’s-eye perspective.  A miniature engineering project to relocate the Frisby family home. A utopian dream of sustainability and autonomy, all hinging on tiny, paw-crafted plows. 

It wouldn’t hurt to read just a bit more, would it?  Just to be nice to the kids, of course… I couldn’t possibly be obsessed with the story myself.  Obviously not.  I could not, as a practical, middle-aged sort of person, be heart-poundingly empathizing with a bunch of fictional rodents that I’d last rubbed paws with back in the ‘80s.  Wise, thoughtful Nicodemus.  Sweet, awkward young Brutus.  Justin… oh, Justin…

I remembered, then, the depths of my seven-year-old mourning for a charismatic, heroic, genetically-altered-genius who just happened to be entirely imaginary – and a rat.  Differentiate fantasy from fiction?  At that age, I often disappeared into books to such a degree that I was deaf to parental requests, oblivious to pins-and-needles, and confused by the necessity of mealtimes.  I was lucky if I managed to correctly recall what species I was.

When I was still too young to even walk the mile to town on my own, books transported me out of my living room, out of my safe suburban town, and out of my scrawny, scab-kneed little body.  Their protagonists were my allies, my friends, my heart and soul.  The O’Brien classic was one of my all-time favorites, but my misplaced empathy went far beyond that NIMH-related emotional rollercoaster.  That book represented merely one chapter in my childhood over-attachment to characters who were blatantly and unequivocally… not real.  In many cases, not even possibly real.  I spent hours pondering the philosophical choices of a child offered immortality in Tuck Everlasting.  I learned the religious mythology of a group of rabbits who chose freedom – and danger – in Watership Down.   I protested gender injustice by running off to the Scottish highlands with a fierce girl named Fiona, and sailing a pirate ship named the Amazon in England’s Lake District. 

The downside of my over-connectedness was that I faced fictional losses and fictional terrors as if they were honest-to-goodness calamities.  I cried for Charlotte (yes, the eloquent arachnid).  I sobbed when Terebithia’s bridge proved ephemeral and deadly. I recall being breathless with fear in the face of It, the disembodied and insidiously powerful brain dreamed up by Madeleine L’Engle.  I didn’t just read books, I lived them -- and, as a result, I sometimes had more than a little trouble sleeping.

“Justin, taking the thread with him as a guide-line, went back to search for the other six. He explored shaft after shaft to the end of the spool, calling softly as he went, but it was futile. To this day we don't know what became of those six mice. They may have found their way out eventually, or they may have died in there. We left an opening in the screen for them, just in case.”

All that, of course, was when I was a little kid.  Immature.  Credulous.  Sure, I still enjoy fiction – even children’s fiction, if it’s well-written – but I don’t get all worked up about imaginary rodents any more.  Of course not.  That would be ridiculous.  Now, I assure myself, it’s just my kids who have trouble with the whole “reality” concept.  And if they’re ready to push the envelope a bit with this story, that’s a good thing, right?  It might help them out next time someone pulls a light saber on them.

The thing is, I couldn’t fault Molly and Lizzy for having heart palpitations over the Imperial Army, because I knew (and therein lies the peril of a too-clear and too-long memory) that there’s no way I could have handled an evil Jedi-gone-bad at age seven.  I saw those movies when I was nine or ten, and just barely held myself together. 

Even at that age, I was still keeping myself awake at night with books.  Animal Farm.  Good Night, Mr. Tom.  Brave New World.  The World without Women.  This Star Shall Abide.  I read about space travel, alien encounters, perilous quests, and all manner of psychological torment – none of it real, but all of it real to me.

Thus, when the Star Wars Incident occurred, I tried to quell my embarrassment and impatience, and be as understanding as possible.  The kids and I talked about the power of stories, and about the separation between truth and fiction.  We talked about how just because some kids their age watch this kind of stuff, not wanting to watch it doesn’t make the twins “babies.”  

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Lizzy looked up at me, big-eyed-young but also righteously indignant.  “Mama,” she asserted, “the other kids say we shouldn’t care about the killing. They make it seem like nothing.  But they shouldn’t do that.  Killing isn’t like nothing!”

No.  No, it isn’t, and I told her so.  But it was only now, holding a well-worn copy of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and reacquainting myself with the friends on its pages – small furry friends, fictional friends, but friends nonetheless – that I fully digested Lizzy’s remark.  As adults, we’re used to the abstraction of death.  We even giggle about it: “those Storm Troopers sure don’t know how to aim…”  or “mmmm braaaaaaains…”  or, “whoops, there goes another redshirt…”  But when Lizzy saw the Imperial Death Star destroy an entire planet, it really wasas if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”  Aldebaran was peaceful.  And so are my kids.  

All at once, I felt a bit better about my own tendency – even now, even as a Big Bad Grownup – to take stories to heart.  Really to heart.  Why would we tell stories, if they didn’t have power?  If they didn’t grab us, twist us, teach us, leave us aching and breathless?  If they weren’t, in a purposeful, meaningful, beautiful, terrible way, real?

People have told stories since long before humans picked up pen and paper, or put quill to papyrus, or – in all likelihood – scraped ochre onto a cave wall.  Some of our stories are a week old, and some are thousands of years old.  Some are built around a kernel of truth or a piece of history; others are built around the human imagination and our shared capacity to dream. What they all have in common is the ability to expand our mental world – the joys, the beauty, the tough choices, the heroism, and the heartbreak -- far beyond the bounds of our own experience.

I’ll never wield a light saber, travel inside a mitochondrion, or battle an interplanetary menace from the back of a flying dragon, and I’m unlikely to be the unwilling subject of a genetic experiment conducted by NIMH.  But the fact that I’ve done all those things via a scattering of words across pages is not something I want to cheapen, or emotionally distance myself from.  Not even as a real-life grownup.

"But you should know that the danger is great. It was in the same kitchen yesterday, running from Dragon's bowl, that Mr. Ages got his leg broken. And it was doing the same thing, last year, that your husband died."

“Mama!  Don’t stop!  Keep reading!”

Oh, yes.  I’ll keep reading.  I can’t help myself.  The end of the story will come rushing up at Lizzy and Molly – and at me too -- inevitable in black-on-white.  And when we reach the last few pages, Justin will die.  But, just as inevitably, he will rescue sweet, bumbling, kind-hearted Brutus.  Little Timothy will be safe, and so will the rest of the community, along with their Plan: the utopian rat-dream of those uber-intellectual, philosophical, never human but always humane rats.  Who are, of course, not real – except inasmuch as they are very real indeed.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Exercising my point


A few weeks ago, a friend (I’ll call him Falstaff -- not for his own protection, but because I’m whimsical, and also a jerk) remarked that he’d had a really crazy idea. Maybe next year, he – like me -- would sign up to race in the Sluicebox 100.  A hundred miles of mountain biking!  Over every hill Fairbanks has to offer, including some you didn’t know existed!  Bonus swamps, mosquitoes, ruts, rocks, roots, and forest-fire smoke! 

“But Laura soon brought me back to reality,” Falstaff added. (I’ll refer to his wife as Laura because her name is Laura.)  “She said, ‘But then… you’d have to exercise.’ ”

Ugh.  Exercise. 

I don’t have oodles of willpower. And I hate exercise. That’s why I never do it.

Whoa.  Whoa.  Wait a minute.  You can’t deny it, Nancy.  We’ve seen you at it. Repeatedly, blatantly, apparently shamelessly, and we might add, totally publicly. 

Yeah.  I know, I know.  I’m the one who runs to work when it’s fifty-four degrees below zero.  And yes, I’m the one who owns the only double-tag-along bike in Fairbanks, and pedals around town on this bicycle-built-for three, panniers bulging with library books and kids singing an out-of-tune duet of the Alaska Flag song. Yes, I’m THAT woman.  I also hike rather a lot.  I ski a fair bit.  I even brachiate across the monkey bars whenever the mood strikes me – which is pretty much whenever my parenting duties lure me onto a playground.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.  I do every one of these things.  But I don’t exercise.

Um, Nancy, that’s a ridiculous claim.  You mountain-biked a hundred miles yesterday..

Oh.  Right. I mountain-biked a hundred miles yesterday.  As a result, I’m facing a few challenges today – such as thinking, walking, and typing. (If you don’t understand the typing part, you’ve clearly never spent 17 hours and 54 minutes rattling over assorted rocks and tree roots, fingers locked desperately around the handlebars, clutching at the brakes.) 

I admit all this.  But I do not, I repeat, exercise.

The word “exercise” is freighted with meanings and connotations.  Merrian-Webster has a lot to say about “exercise”.  The definition that most people seem to have in mind when they sigh that they “ought to get more exercise” is 2(b): bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.  Then again, 3: something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill and even 4: a performance or activity having a strongly marked secondary or ulterior aspect resonate, too.  None of these definitions is really something I want to take up in my free time.  None of them sound like something it would be easy to stick with, via self-discipline alone.  None of them, in short, sound like much fun.

Out of curiosity, I typed “exercise…” into Google, and let Autocomplete do its magic.  The first item on the dropdown list was “exercise in futility”. Well then.

I tried “exercise is…” I found that “exercise is medicine.”  I also learned that “exercise is good for you” – and, immediately below that, “exercise is bad for you”.  Finally, for those who like their Google responses wordy and directly cribbed from Public Health Reports, “exercise is a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive.”

Planned, structured, and repetitive?  Oh, heavens, Google.  Indubitably, I enjoy activities that drive my heart rate way up.  I can have fun doing things that make me sweat.  I frequently thrill to the challenge of hobbies that require enthusiastic muscular activity, balance, control, or interesting bodily positions.  (If you can think of activities that combine the best of all of the above attribute, especially if your name is Falstaff, please exercise decorum in the comments section). However, my enthusiasm for all these endeavors notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure I don’t like anything that is “planned, structured, and repetitive.”  Nor do I want to undertake “bodily exertion” solely for the sake of physical fitness.  Or, if I did, I wouldn’t have the strength of mind necessary to persuade myself to do so.

I do, however, want to “undertake bodily exertion” for plenty of other reasons.  I want to get places, using simple forms of transportation that don’t burn any gas, don’t break down, and don’t prevent me from seeing and smelling the details of the world along the way: commuting as exercise, shopping as exercise, and errands as exercise.  I want to roam and explore, feel the wind in my face, and find solace in solitude and wonder in wilderness: hiking and skiing and canoeing as exercise.  I want to use my body as a tool, to lug our water, build an outhouse, and haul the wood pellets that heat our house: life as exercise.  I want to challenge myself, pushing the limits of how far, how fast, how long I can go, and finding the space inside myself that comes from movement and exhaustion: racing as exercise.  Last but most certainly not least, I want to play, chasing my kids and lurching them skyward, rolling and tumbling, laughing with movement and blatant bodily fun: joy as exercise.  I want these things.  I revel in them.  No willpower required.

So, yes – you’ve seen me out there.  Much as I’d like to think some sort of penumbra of invisibility protects me from the embarrassment of public recognition (even as I chandelier myself in blinking LEDs all through the 17-month-long Fairbanks winters), friends, acquaintances, and amused-at-my-expense strangers are fond of telling me that I’m a local landmark. I can only hope that I’m a familiar character in the manner of the charismatic produce guy at Fred Meyer West, and not in the manner of the woman with the paranoid persecution complex who keeps running for public office.  However, whatever you think of my idiosyncrasies, and whatever you think it is I’m doing on Alaska’s roadsides, trails, and trackless yonder, I’m certainly not exercising.  Not even when I’ve been rattling along from seven a.m. until well past midnight.  Did I mention that my legs aren’t obeying me terribly well, and my hands are a bit unwieldy today?

The Sluicebox was conceived, organized, and mapped via hours of toil, paperwork, and painful logistics by some of my more selfless, over-committed, and insane friends -- such as, for example, my husband.  The work of putting it together is so Herculean that it may not occur again in its current form.  Moreover, not everyone’s dreams of challenge and adventure require an event long enough to listen to an entire George R.R. Martin audiobook (although some people’s dreams are long enough for the whole series, and then some).   However, I have confidence that other opportunities will rise up, Phoenix-like, from the smoke of a hot, dry Fairbanks summer. 

Like its winter equivalent -- the White Mountains 100 -- the Sluicebox is an over-the-top endeavor.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s numbing.  It’s astonishing.  And it does not, I still maintain, require exercise. 

As such, Falstaff should shake up his terminology, reclaim “exercise”, and get out his bike.