The 2nd Noble Truth

Since moving out of the home at 18 until moving to Topeka in 2015, my life had been a roller coaster ride on repeat.  The long slow climb to the top of acquiring more and more material goods, before plunging down the track with arms up purging much that had been acquired.  Then the process would start over again.

Then, with help from Erin and the book Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, I was able to put a name to an innate philosophy of mine, and put a stop to the roller coaster.

It takes work, however, and I constantly have to assess and review where both of us are in our lives, and if we are living up to the tenets we have adopted.

In reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse recently, I encountered something that made me dive deeper and think more on this 2nd Noble Truth of Buddhism.

Desire and ignorance is at the root of all suffering.

That’s not to say that all desire and ignorance leads to suffering. A desire for health, happiness, and general comfort is probably a good thing. Also, I’m fine with being ignorant (in this sense of the word, not knowing) about a neighbor’s fetish of stepping barefoot into ground beef. To each their own, but I’m perfectly happy remaining blissfully ignorant of something like this.

To keep it in a Buddhist context, the desire they are referring to here is that of material goods, pleasure, and immortality.  While on many levels, I agree that the desire of material goods does lead to suffering, I wanted to dissect this desire in terms of happiness and freedom.


When a desire for a material good awakens, and we have the resources to acquire that material good, many of us would not balk at obtaining such a good. Those of us that are disciplined take the time to ask questions like

  • How much joy will owning such a material good bring me?
  • How much grief will it bring me in maintaining this material good?
  • Where am I going to put this material good?
  • Can I purge 1 or 2 material goods from my house with the entrance of this new material good?
  • Can I do without this material good and be just as happy?

That last question can be a tough one. We sometimes have the false belief that simply eliminating the desire to have something will make us happy, when in fact, that desire is quickly replaced with a desire for the next thing. Indeed, you continue into never ending desire (suffering).

If you read much about happiness, you will find that it does not grow linearly with income (which is directly related to the amount of stuff that you can acquire), and that instead, it plateaus.

Accumulating more stuff, or bigger and better stuff, doesn’t seem to rid us of desire. We simply desire more bigger and better material goods.  At some point beyond the plateau, others begin to covet and desire your stuff. Your bank account is more likely to get hacked. You are more likely to be robbed. You need more protection, have to pay more bills, and have to worry about other things you didn’t have to before. Your suffering increases, and as a direct consequence, your happiness begins to decline.

Combat your desire in more fruitful ways, since we’ve learned that satisfying your desire is not a way to defeat it.


How free is a person who can fit all of their possessions into a single bag?

How free is the person who can fit all of their possessions into a single vehicle?

How free is the person whose possessions fill an apartment or house? Is there a difference if they are renting or owning?

True freedom includes your freedom of mobility; freedom to go anywhere you want on this earth. That freedom comes when you can free yourself from desire.

Erin and I own our home, which is filled with our possessions, so we’re nowhere near the freedom that we both have our eye on some day.  We both think it would be neat if we could simplify our lives down to living out of a tiny home or tiny RV.

Whether you agree with the 2nd Noble Law or not, it is definitely worth pondering. The exercise is worthwhile, and can potentially lead to a little more happiness.

Dried Apricots

The Fall 2018 semester is less than 2 weeks away, and so what better time to talk to you about drying some Apricots. This is a very basic problem that I hope many of you can solve on your own. For those of you that cannot, I believe you will be able to understand the solution without too much difficulty.

The 133rd Riddle put out by The Riddler included the following Eternal question about percentages:

You loaded a drying shed containing 1,000 kilograms of apricots. They were 99 percent water. After a day in the shed, they are now 98 percent water. How much do the apricots weigh now?

First of all, you should try this problem on your own.  I think you can get it.  Before you do, however, at least get a guess.  That is the point of the problem, since even I was a little surprised by the answer.

The Solution

I’ll talk you through it first, so that you can perhaps follow how a mathematician would do it afterwards.

If 99% of 1000 kilograms is water, than 990 kilograms of the apricots is water, leaving 10 kilograms (1%) of what will eventually be the purely dried-out apricots. These are all the initial values prior to the apricots going in the shed.

Now, they are left in the shed for a day, and some of the water has evaporated out of the apricots. We need to understand that the total weight of the apricots and the weight of the water has both decreased by some amount (the water that evaporated).  We also need to understand that the 10 kilograms of dried apricots to-be has not changed.

If we are given that the apricots are now 98% water we want to deduce that the 10 kilograms of dried apricots to-be now represents 2% of the entire weight, rather than the original 1%.

So, 2% of what is equal to 10?  That can be quickly found by dividing 10 by .02, which gives you 500. The answer is 500 kg.

Wait, what? The weight decreased by half?  Did I do this right?

Indeed, we have, as you can check the answer seeing that both 500-10=490 and 0.98*500 = 490.

A mathematician would have given the unknown and desired quantity of the weight of apricots after a day some variable name, like w. Then, she would have set up the equation .02w=10, and solved for w by dividing both sides by .02.

Pushing the Limit: Day 7 of RAGBRAI

Pushing the eye mask off my eyes, I sat up in my sleeping bag to find myself in an unfamiliar tent. Whose tent was this? I found my head lamp and checked my watch. It was 3:26 AM.  Close enough, I thought, and began packing stuff up.

As my head cleared, I remembered it was Andrew and Janet’s tent, which was much easier to put up and take down than my tent. Juan and I had arranged this the day before since we would be making an early exit from our Iowa City camp at City Park.

Juan’s 3:30 AM alarm went off, and he sat up and began packing things up as well.

“This is what elite athletes do all the time,” Juan said.

“You’re right,” I said, and thought how there was a minuscule probability I was going to make a habit out of this.

I was already in my bike clothes for the day as I had put them on after my shower the night before. All we had to do was get everything packed up in the tent, and our Ducktail Lounge Cycling Club teammate Niles (with the help of a few others, I assume), would take charge of getting our stuff loaded and the tent taken down.

At 4:01 AM, we snapped this picture and took off from camp.

“That flash was bright”

Once out of Iowa City, we cycled into darkness for over an hour. West Liberty was the next pass through town, which was 20 miles away.  It was very cold. Juan’s headlight threw my shadow up on the fog in front of me. There was no easy way of anticipating a hill until you were going up or down it.

At around 5:30 AM, we arrived in West Liberty.  Dusk was approaching, and the town was busy with volunteers getting ready for the riders (featured photo of this post). I had some coffee, some chocolate milk, and a banana. We left West Liberty around 5:50 AM.

Biking again for another 14 miles, we arrived in the meeting town of Wilton around 6:35 AM. Each day of RAGBRAI has an official meeting town that is usually around the halfway point of the ride. On this day, it was almost exactly the halfway point.

In Wilton, we locked our bikes up next to the Wilton Candy Kitchen and prepped for the ride to Davenport in order to run the Bix7. Jessica Johnstone, a good friend of Juan’s, picked us up in Wilton and drove us to her office at Balanced Chiropractic in Davenport, which was only a few blocks from the race start.  Jessica was a key element to this crazy endeavor.  Not having to deal with huge lines for kybos, we leisurely stretched and used the bathroom at her office.

On our walk to the start, we passed a few people who had started even earlier and had ridden all the way to Davenport! They knew our bus driver, Al, who had told them a few Ducktails would be running Bix7.

In the crowd of 15000 other runners

Setting my phone to run mode, I stood waiting for the start. Wow, I thought, I’ve actually made it to the Bix7 and am going to run 7 miles in my five finger Vibrams, biking shorts, and jersey. This is crazy in the making.

Off we went. For the first mile, the pace was set for me in the massive crowd. I crossed mile 1 at around 11 minutes and thought to myself, “I can do this 6 more times…. easy.”

Around 2.5 miles I looked to my left to see the elite runners passing under the 5 mile mark. Yeah, yeah, I thought, they didn’t bike 35 miles before the race start. A little ways beyond the 3 mile marker, jello shots were being handed out. Since I was on a RAGBRAI experience, too, I thought it pertinent to down one of those. It was also fitting that I down another on the return trip when I saw them again.

At mile 5, I remember thinking about how I had thought 4 miles ago that I could do this 6 more times pretty easily, and how foolish that was. Yes, I was going to get those last 2 miles in, but they weren’t going to be easy.

Battling knee aches and pains beginning at mile 5 and then hip pains around mile 6, I struggled through. A little after passing mile 6, Juan was finishing the race with a 1:05:30 time. Going back down the hill and around the corner, I went through the finish line as they called my name at 1:13:56.

Stage 2 of this crazy adventure was complete!

Enjoying some post race snacks and beer, we walked slowly back to Balanced Chiropractic to chill out and come down from the race high. We left a little after 10 AM and arrived back in Wilton around 11 AM.

Finished with BIX7 and stage 2 of our day.

Iowa Craft Beer has been a popular vendor of RAGBRAI over the last several years. It finds two places to set up along the route each day with the exception of Wednesday’s three places, and the last day’s one stop.  Given 14 opportunities to stop and enjoy an Iowa Craft Beer, if you stop at 10 of them, buy a beer and have a wristband scanned, you are given a T-Shirt that can only be received by doing it this way. They are NOT sold to people. One must earn it!

Juan and I had earned our shirt, but we had a little hiccup. We had passed the Iowa Craft Beer stop at around 6:15 AM that morning on the way to Wilton, and they were far from open yet.  So, we hopped on our bikes and rode the 7 mile round trip to have a beer and get our T-shirt.

We met up with some Ducktails at the Junction Bar & Grill in Wilton, before walking our bikes over with beers in hand to the team bus in order to regroup and have drinks.  The team was divided on whether to focus on finishing the ride and getting done, or taking it nice and easy to have fun along the way. I was in the former camp, ready to be done and at the bus.

Nevertheless, we all took off together.

Stopped by a Trooper!

Eventually, we made it the rest of the 35 miles to the dip site in Davenport after a few breaks between. Juan found a spot down the trail from the official dip site that we had all to ourselves (it is good to be with someone who knows the Quad Cities area). Deanna took a selfie of Shane, myself, Amelia, and Juan sitting on the Mississippi.

Put RAGBRAI 2018 in the books

The ride to the bus was not a short and easy ride. We tacked on another monster hill climb and 6 miles of riding before reaching the bus at NorthPark Mall.  Stage 3, instead of 35 miles, turned into nearly 50 miles of riding before we got off the saddle for good.

With the additional miles we put in traveling to the border and back and the gravel loop on the first day, adding the century loop on Thursday’s ride, and not cutting corners in between, Juan and I finished the week at around 550 miles.

New bonds were formed. Old bonds were strengthened. By pushing each other, we find out there are no limits. They can be pushed even further.

Faster Reading

Whenever you read, do you find it hard to focus on what you are reading? Does the mind wander after a few sentences? Sometimes I find myself about to turn the page of a book only to realize I stopped paying attention a few sentences in on the previous page!

It is because we are not reading fast enough.

After listening to a simple tip given on a podcast, I’ve been able to add a significant efficiency within my reading. I’m reading faster and retaining more by using the simple trick of point to point reading.

In every speed reading instructional that I’ve come across, using your finger(s) to glide under the words is universal. Without something to direct your focus, it is difficult to speed things up.

Using a finger or a pointer if I’m on a smart device, I don’t slide it across the text. Depending on the width of the text, I pick 2-3 points along the line that I will point to and then focus on. Each time you point, your eyes and mind can digest the 3-6 words to the left and right of your finger almost immediately.

Since trying this, I have noticed faster reading with more retention! My night time reading used to entail a page or two before getting really sleepy. Now, I have to make myself stop at a specific stopping point as my mind is more engaged and awake with this type of reading.

For a little more information and direction, watch this 9 minute video created by Tim Ferriss, which was who I got the tip from in a recent podcast.  These 9 minutes may end up saving hundreds or thousands of minutes depending on how voracious a reader you are.

Biking and Kayaking in Lanesboro, MN

We had a trip to Decorah, IA in late December of 2016. During that trip, out AirBnB hosts Norma Jean and Daryl invited us to join them for some wine and hors d’oeuvres. They told us their story of moving to Decorah, and how they originally wanted to move to Lanesboro, MN.

So, we kept this town in the back of our minds to possibly visit someday.

Since it was only 35 miles from Decorah, and it had both bike trails and a river running through it, we thought we would check it out on a day during our vacation up there June 29-July 4. Because of weather, we pushed it to Tuesday, July 3, our last full day up there.

We started our bicycle ride here

Our first stop in Lanesboro was at the Pedal Pushers Cafe for some lunch. They had a great menu and excellent craft beer options. We will most likely return and recommend this place for any meal.

Since we had options of biking from Lanesboro to either Peterson, Preston, or Fountain, we asked our server what he recommended. His first choice was Fountain, but he admitted that was the one in which there was a long climb uphill. The trail was an old railroad route, so we knew the climb would be gradual.


Although our server at Pedal Pushers Cafe warned us that Fountain would not have much to offer when we got there, he probably did not realize that the Beaver Bottoms Saloon was brand new and had not even had their grand opening yet. We checked the place out and they had just what the doctor had prescribed us: Bloody Marys, Surly Furious, fried cheese curds, and some french fries.


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We barely had to pedal for 4-5 miles going back to Lanesboro from Fountain, and clocked a 22 mile ride for the day. Or so we thought!

Upon our return to Lanesboro, we found ourselves in quite the dilemma. It was not yet 5pm, and we were not hungry for dinner yet. We had brought the kayaks up and they had not been used (let’s be honest here, though, as we were not about to go through the process of taking them off in Decorah just to put them back on when we got back down there).

I came up with this wonderful 5 step plan:

  1. Drive over to Mill Pond (where there was a scenic spillway on the Root River) and drop off our kayaks.
  2. Drive 4-5 miles to Whalen and park near an access to the Root River and Root River State Trail.
  3. Bike along the Root River State Trail back to our kayaks in Lanesboro and lock up the bikes.
  4. Kayak down the Root River to our vehicle in Whalen.  Secure kayaks to vehicle.
  5. Drive back to Lanesboro to retrieve bikes and have dinner.
The waterfall that flows into Mill Pond.

This was an awesome adventure! We traveled by road, trail, and river between the beautiful river towns of Lanesboro and Whalen, MN. I calculated that we would be finished a little after 8. There were only a few hiccups that made that time to be a little before 9, instead.

First, it took us a little longer to finally commit to the plan than I anticipated. Next, it took us a little while to figure out how to drive to the spillway where we would eventually set in the kayaks. Although we had biked right by it, we had not seen it from the road.  Finally, when we arrived in Whalen, we did not know the location of an access point to the Root River, and so we eventually found someone walking about and asked them. We finally found access down Deep River Road beyond the Cedar Valley Resort.

The Root River access point wasn’t obvious, as it was up the Root River State Trail a little ways and not directly off the parking lot. That took time figuring out as well.

Everything else went wonderfully! Erin would beg to differ about the kayak experience. She thought it was much too fast and rough for her tastes. There were a few points at which we could not avoid water coming into the kayak.

Erin is checking out the bluffs in this gorgeous Driftless region of the country near sunset.

Anyone else wanting to take this adventure would probably not encounter the faster and rougher Root River. We were encountering it only 3 days after the Decorah Storm of June 30, 2018, and that storm hit Lanesboro even harder.

Since it was right at 9pm when we had everything loaded on our vehicle, we missed dinner at Riverside on the Root, which we will want to return to someday. We found the High Court Pub another block north on Parkway Ave which was still open and serving pub grub which was good enough for us! The High Court Pub has Two Hearted Ale on tap (at that time, and at the time of this post), which is an immediate sign that a place knows what it is doing.

Flatbread pizzas were on the menu and we asked if we should order two of them. The server told us how big they were and we probably would not need two. So, we ordered the Hawaiian. As soon as he placed it on the bar and we got a look, we ordered another immediately. This time, a Chicken Bacon Ranch.

Both of them were delicious, and after finishing both off, we considered a third one for a moment (because we could have easily smashed it), but were able to defeat our gluttony and call it a night. Update: 27 miles of biking, and 4.5 miles of kayaking.