Team Infinities

Welcome to the post-race wrap-up for the 37th annual Longmont Kinetics Race! I’m the team captain of team Infinities, but to keep things simple you can call me Infini-tease. I’m the one with the pink hair and the fishnet stockings. The other members of my team include Infini Tea, Infini T, and Infini Tee. The differences, being obvious to everyone, will not be elaborated upon.

Here is the junior team member examining the competitor “We Like Turtles.”

The race starts out with a confusion-inducing loop around the wood sculpture close to the beach.

The water portion of the race really separates the [INSERT DOMINANT NOUN OF CHOICE] from the [INSERT CORRESPONDING SUBMISSIVE NOUN HERE].  Here I am during one of the longer water portions of the race.

With the help of my support team I crossed the finish line in 6th place (out of the 14 teams which started the race). For this accomplishment I ranked first place for a solo team.

On the trip back home I realized I was feeling the burn. In addition to my support for Bernie Sanders, I also forgot to apply sunscreen over my fishnet stockings.

Lego My Eggo

It was a good year for team Lego My Eggo. We finished 6th out of 14 teams which means we even exceed our goal of getting the “median award.”

To the best of my knowledge, this was the first year that someone recorded our presentation and posted it on youtube. I still think our Doctor Who Covered Wagon Rap Song was our best all time skit.

From a design perspective the craft did quite well. It had good balance in the water and held together with the exception of the rear bicycle wheel. Next year I’m going to replace the wood frame that connects the frame to the wheel with a metal structure.  Live and learn.

So now our team is spending the next 10 months trying to think of a new theme for the 2015 race. Until then check out the website for information on the next race.

Prime Contenders

Here is the transcript of our parade skit:

You may address me as number 2– the number one prime number.  Behind me is number 3, the number 2 prime, and also with me is numbers 5 and 7, the third and fourth primes.

We represent the prime numbers– positive integers evenly divisible by only ourselves and one.  We are tired of being treated as freaks and second hand citizens on the number line.

Welcome to prime time– when all numbers are treated equally.  To make this dream a reality, we will now present our organizations prime directive:

We the primes, an infinite subset of the positive integers, are demanding equal rights to composite numbers.  The time has come to elect one of our own to the position of prime minister.

Don’t forget that we prime numbers hold the keys to your most important encryption programs.  And who do you think controls the prime rate?  Remember this the next time your are in your house built on prime real estate while eating a wonderfully cooked piece of prime rib.

If our demands for equality are not met, we will not hesitate to call on one of our strongest military allies, optimus prime.

That is all.

Doctor Who Kinetics Song

Here is a picture of Katherine and I in front of our 2007 Kinetics craft.  Why a covered wagon?  Well, the rap song we sung at the parade explained it all.  Katherine sang the first part and I sang the second part.

It started all out with my old man
An old school player doing all he can
Not much for progress, hard work was the key
But he never even heard of Manifest Destiny

But thing got ugly real quick one day
When pa came home early from bailing hay
He walked around the barn on the way to the can
Just to see us playing a little “Jack and Diane”

So he loaded up the wagon with a months supplies
Not even time for some quick goodbyes
It came to me as we walked across this land
Kids, take it from me, parents just don’t understand

So I was cruising down the prairie just me and my doll
When along came an English man six feet tall
With a long knit scarf and some curly hair
He jumped into a box that wasn’t quite there

I don’t have time to explain it all
But come with me and you will have a ball
I’ll take you to a place that’s fun and new
Cause I’m the original Doctor Who

So he brought us down to the here and now
And before we knew it he was saying chow
I’d love to stay and watch you complete the race
But I have to bounce around through time and space

So we plan to run the race in its entirety
In our 1806 S.U.V.

Virgin Kinetics Guidebook

My name is Omar Lutfey, and I recently lost my Kinetics virginity. Don’t bother looking for it under the sofa cushions or behind the mint Oreo ice cream in the freezer. I don’t know exactly what happened, but after May 5, 2006, it disappeared forever. Countless readers have been asking, no, demanding, that I document, in excessive and possibly accurate detail, what exactly happened at my virgin Kinetics experience. I spent months preparing for the event. I wanted every little detail to be perfect. Sure, I didn’t really know what I was doing—watching other people do it from a distance just isn’t the same. When the moment of truth came I took a deep breath, lunged in, and just did whatever felt natural. Ten seconds later I was finished—exhilarated, soaking wet, and surrounded by broken PVC pipe and camouflage painted Styrofoam blocks. Welcome to Kinetics.

On the rare moments when I’m not repressing my virgin experience, I ponder what kind of advice I would give to future Kinetics virgins. First of all, remember that old phrase about planning and failing. As a kid I never had time to remember it all the way through, but the point is this: if you enter the Kinetics race and your craft falls apart after 10 feet in the water, you immediately win the respect of the possibly psychologically irregular man on the beach dressed up in a wizard outfit and twenty other people you’ve never met before wearing matching lederhosen and pointy ears. That’s just one of those things money can’t buy. However, it did get my team the “What Were They Thinking” award AND one hundred dollars of food at Illegal Pete’s. Handing out football sized burritos to my teammates was a small, yet symbolic, gesture of thanks for their time, hard work, and loss of all personal dignity. (More on the parade sketch later)

OK, so maybe building a Kinetics craft isn’t so easy after all. Maybe I just didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe three-quarter inch PVC pipe is not designed to function as a structural element of the craft. All I know is that I’m not some kind of wizard. And just because the real wizard told me all of this a week before the race doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t, however, know my secret plan to come back next year with my REAL craft, finish the race in record time, win every possible award, and take advantage of the situation to enslave humanity– unless, of course, he is reading this.

So what am I doing here? Living out my glory days? Taking cheap shots at the wizard because my craft fell apart? Well, yes and yes, but I also live in a world full of Kinetics virgins. I relate my situation to one of the characters of a relatively unknown low budget science fiction movie:

Trinity: I know why you’re here, INSERT YOUR NAME HERE. I know what you’ve been doing… why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.

Neo: What is the KBCO Boulder Kinetics Race?

Trinity: The answer is out there, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.

So, for all the virgins out there who don’t know what they are missing, I have completed Version 1.0 of “The Virgin Kinetics Handbook: Are you too normal?” So read through it, and decide if you are ready for the experience that will change your life. As one large, bald, black man wearing broken sunglasses told me while I was sitting on my couch the other night, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

Parade Skit

I never thought I would say this, but it turns out our Kinetics theme was too liberal for Boulder. After considering a handful of options, we decided to be “Official Government Surveillance Mascots” since the whole unauthorized wiretapping is such a hot topic these days. So we decorated the craft and constructed some appropriate costumes. We also had to come up with a three minute skit to perform during the parade. I thought it was really funny and would have played well in Boulder, but we got booed off the stage after getting about one quarter of the way through.

Omar: Hello, I’m TAPPY!

Katherine: And I’m TIPPY!

Omar: And we may or may not have been created as marketing tool from an unnamed government surveillance organization.

Katherine: It seems that a lot of people are upset because the government is trying to find all the terrorists. We are here to set the record straight about stuff like this. Are there any concerned citizens here that have any questions for us? How about you? (points to Cindy)

Cindy: My friends tell me that government surveillance is bad.

Omar: Your friends are just plain wrong. We just want to make sure everyone stays away from danger.

Katherine: Is it wrong for a mother to limit the amount of lead based paint her children drink every day?

Cindy: Umm, I guess not, but didn’t President Bush violate the 1978 FISA bill when he authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on US citizens without a warrant?

Katherine: Of course he didn’t do anything wrong. If the president did something wrong he would tell us—that’s how great of a guy he is.

Omar: He just decided that when Congress passed the Patriot Act it gave him the right to do whatever he wants—including not telling congress what he has been up to.

Cindy: So is the government watching me? I’m not doing anything illegal.

Omar: Of course we are watching you. Since we can’t separate the good guys and the bad guys, we have to listen to everything so we can sort things out. It is just like dredging an entire lake to find all the dead hookers at the bottom. What’s wrong with that?

Cindy: Nothing, I suppose, but doesn’t that mean we are losing our civil liberties?

Katherine: Only the people who are breaking the law should be worried. We just want to find the bad guys—like Osama Bin Laden’s social planner or that old lady with cancer who grows her own marijuana plants instead.

Cindy: She is a terrorist? I thought she was doing that to ease the constant pain that prescription drugs couldn’t help.

Omar: Just because someone had a perfectly good reason to break the law doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be locked up in jail.

Cindy: So can you give me an example of some terrorist that have been caught through this program?

Katherine: Of course not. That would just assist the terrorists.

Cindy: What about these secret government operations recently disclosed at AT&T switching rooms across the country? What are those for?

Omar: We have a trouble maker in section 5. Roger that.

Then Scott, wearing a trench coat and sunglasses comes over and carries Cindy off the stage.

Kinetics: In The Beginning

My neighbors waved pleasantly at me as they drove past my garage today. I expected a few odd looks considering the fact that I spent the better part of the afternoon physically assaulting an old thrift store bicycle with a hacksaw, power drill, and various other hand-held tools. Also worth noting: nobody bothered to stop and ask me what I was doing. Maybe they didn’t see the mass of tools, partially dismantled bicycle components, and various building supplies that has engulfed more than half my garage. Or they really had to pee and didn’t have time to inquire about my situation. Perhaps they are robots. I may never know the truth. But I do know this—my name is Omar and I’m building a craft for this year’s Kinetics Race.

If you have gotten this far and are asking, “What is a Kinetics Race?” you are not alone. Despite the enormous popularity of the event in the Boulder, Colorado area, the contest is not widely understood on a national level as it has yet to be broadcast, to the best of my knowledge, on any of the 17 current ESPN channels. If you have gotten this far and are asking, “What kind of robots are your neighbors? Are they like Commander Data from Star Trek, or cute but kind of creepy like the robot girl in the 80’s situation comedy Small Wonder?” Well, I hate to disappoint, but the rest of this story is not about my robot neighbors. Maybe later in the year I’ll address that issue in more detail.

So where was I? Oh, yeah, the Kinetics Race—what exactly is it, anyways? In its simplest form, its most convenient definition, the race requires teams to build a human powered vehicle than can traverse a course of land, water, and mud in the immediate vicinity of the Boulder Reservoir. Staying on top of the water—that a good start. Not getting bogged down in the mud—even better. Finishing the course as fast as possible—well, that’s half the race. Completing the race dressed up as, say, a medieval wizard riding on a purple, fire breathing dragon, now that’s doing it in STYLE.

So what’s the best way of acquiring a Kinetics vehicle? Walmart doesn’t have any in stock, and you can’t purchase a used one on EBay. The best approach is to actually go to the race as a spectator and see what everyone else is racing. The vehicles can be a small single person craft or a massive eight person monstrosity. Some start with a bicycle and make it buoyant. Others are boats modified to go over the land. And every year the Army reserve comes by with 8 soldiers and a raft—when they get to the land they each grab a handle and run with it. Not very elegant from a design standpoint, but it seems to impress the female natives.

After several years of being a spectator for the great race, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge (hopefully not literally) and move into the ranks of the competitors. I decided I was going to start with a bicycle frame and make it float. I looked around at several thrift stores for used bicycles. While I found several that were in fair shape for around $30, I decided to splurge and buy a new mountain bike at Walmart for $54. After realizing I was going to need a extra chain and a few gears, I bought another bike in far-from-new condition at the local thrift store for $16. So the running total for parts is $70, and I have the land and mud section completely resolved.

Now I just have to make the bike float. That, and actually move across the water. This shouldn’t be too difficult considering I have a limited supply of and the fact that my last nautical experience involved getting my sailing merit badge at Boy Scout camp when I was fourteen. But hey, a lot of people have done it in the past, so I believe it to be within the realm of possibility. Sure, a lot of people have gone into outer space, but that is something totally different.

To keep from getting overwhelmed on this project, I’ve split it up into three sub-projects. The first part, which should be the easiest, involves keeping the front end from sinking and also provides steering in the water. The second part involves keeping the back end from sinking and also provides propulsion. The last part is coming up with a good theme, which I’m putting on the back burner until I’ve finished the first two parts. I really believe I’m off to a good start. So until next time– when the topic will be, as you have probably guessed by now, “Tape and Other Adhesives: How They Can Be Used in Kinetics.”

More Kinetics

Despite my recent move to Loveland, Colorado, last weekend I drove down to Boulder for my favorite annual event in town. And, no, I am not talking about the release of new slanderous allegations revolving around the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation. It would not be May in Boulder, Colorado without thousands of people converging on the reservoir for the yearly rite of passage known as Kinetics.

For those not familiar with the event, it involves me spending several hours in the sun looking at women prancing around in skimpy bikinis. Oh yeah, and there is also some sort of race.

While I try not to sound like a broken record, I have to readdress a serious concern about the Kinetics race. For the second year in a row I saw not a single article of women’s clothing constructed from fruit. Despite my detailed explanation of how to construct a watermelon bra on my web site last year, no one seems to have taken on the challenge of reviving this noble tradition. While I do not claim to be an expert in this matter, this could be taken as a sign that the end of the world is near.

Despite the watermelon bra drought, there was a flurry of activity the whole day which kept my eyes stimulated. Usually I get nervous when men I don’t know approach me wearing nothing but shiny boots, a blonde wig, and a tight gold thong which leaves very little to the imagination. (When it is someone I know I get down right uncomfortable.) At the Kinetics race, however, it just means that he is part of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” craft. Or at least I hope that is the case.

After checking out the rest of the Kinetic vehicles, Kristin and I sat down on the beach to watch the rest of the day’s entertainment as they walked around, applied suntan lotion to each other, and whipped their hair around in slow motion. Adding to the excitement of the event were several oversized beach balls that were constantly bouncing around in the more densely populated areas of the beach. The center of each inflatable sphere contained a small computer processor which coordinated data from real time global positioning satellites and miniature self-contained digital cameras. This information was processed in real time to develop trajectories that maximized smacking inattentive beer drinking people in the back of the head while they were starting the process of digesting their cool, tasty beverage.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a pillar of society, but as we were enjoying the afternoon, some of the people around us asked if we could watch their stuff for a while. Not that I’m against it, but the whole concept of asking someone you don’t know to guard belongings seems kind of odd. It bothers me for several reasons. First of all there is the possibility the person you ask is really some freaky kleptomaniac who has been mentally drooling over the half empty bottle of sun block and cut-off jeans—just waiting for the right moment to club you over the head before he steals your possessions. (I suppose the upside in this situation is that you are less likely to get clubbed in the head.)

The other problem is that you are announcing to the entire area that you are going to be away from your belongings for a fair amount of time with only a total stranger keeping an eye on the situation. Anyone can just walk up and take stuff under the pretense of, “Oh, they asked me to come get their stuff.” And unless the dealings with the original stranger involved a hologram of authenticity of some sort, you have no way of knowing who is telling the truth and who has a sick fetish for other people’s cut-off jeans.

Given that most people at the Kinetics race didn’t come to the event with the intention of theft, neither of these situations arose. However, a half an hour after we agreed to watch over our neighbors’ belongings, we wanted to leave. While I didn’t want any specific harm to come to the belongings, I had to accept the possibility they would never be coming back. Perhaps they walked over to the beer tent and became yet another victim of the “inflatable beach ball of death” on their way back. In the end we did decide to take off and leave their stuff unattended, but as we were leaving I made an announcement to the general area. “We are leaving now, so feel free to pillage and plunder these here belongings!”


I’ve been spending a lot of time lately documenting some of my strange activities and interests, so I thought I would change perspectives a little bit and shed light on odd habits of other people. And, no, this is not a story about my ex-girlfriend. Or my high school algebra teacher. While they are both unique in their own special ways, today I decided to focus on the entire town of Boulder. Ever since the situation comedy, “Mork and Mindy” became an international success, this city has developed a reputation as being a little less normal than all the neighboring cities. If you visit Boulder on the first Saturday in May you will see why.

No matter how you look at it, witnessing a group of people rowing across Boulder reservoir is just not normal. Especially when the craft is designed to look like an eight-foot tall jar of mayonnaise.

But really, what else would your craft look like when you are on team “Cinqo de Mayo”?

Welcome to the world of Kinetics. For the past twenty-one years, various teams have built human powered vehicles that can navigate over land and water to compete in the race. Being the first team to cross the finish line doesn’t guarantee an overall victory. In addition to completing the course as fast as possible, each team is judged on their theme. This requires a coordinated decoration of the craft and participants. The more entertaining the theme, the higher the overall score.

Just for the sake of comparison, building a craft and competing in the race requires roughly three to four orders of magnitudes more effort than, say, writing a song about Taco Bell.

When I see any of my neighbors leaving his or her apartment wearing little more than fishnet stockings and a football jersey I would usually be concerned. Even in the somewhat liberal town of Boulder, Colorado, this type of dress would be considered to be in bad taste. When it occurs on the day of the Kinetics race, however, the socially acceptable boundaries for behavior and appearance are suspended to accommodate the day’s activities.

Honestly, how else should one dress as part of the team “XXXFL”?

During the week my neighbor Kathleen is a quiet, predictable, twenty-nine year old woman who works a steady 8 to 5 job as a cubical drone. The kinetics race transformed her into something totally different. I’m not saying she grew an extra arm out of her stomach or was suddenly able to use her appendix to digest tree bark. The change was more emotional and psychological than physical. She became part of something bigger than her own accomplishments. Something that allows us to temporarily break the molds of acceptable behavior. Something that really isn’t very productive. And I have to respect that on many different levels.

So how did team XXXFL (motto: “WE will be back next year”) fare against Cinqo De Mayo (motto: “gone bad by lunch”)? I really have no idea. The entire judging process is complex and is largely built around bribing the judges. In a contest so strange, it is quite difficult to say who is the best.

I can’t write a story about Kinetics without a, “What is the world coming to?” tangent. The first time I attended Kinetics four years ago, I saw a large number of women who had constructed bathing suit tops out of small watermelons. The general idea is to find an appropriate sized piece of fruit (the produce manager at your local grocery store will be happy to help you measure the melons), cut it in half, scoop out the insides, and take some scrap cloth and make a bra out of it. This design is biodegradable, has considerable cooling properties (the water in the fruit removes excess body heat), and is generally quite pleasing to the eye.

So why am I complaining? From my causal observations, this tradition has been dying over the years. At this year’s race I didn’t see a single watermelon bra. The race officials have spent considerable time and effort protecting local wild life while doing absolutely nothing about the watermelon bra issue. I suggest that everyone write a strongly worded letter to your congressman (or woman) so we can make sure this piece of local tradition isn’t lost forever.

Maybe I’m an idealist, but I think everyone in the entire world should be at the Kinetics race. Entire cities don’t go crazy all that often, so it is best not to pass up a chance to see it with your own eyes. It’s funny how a couple of adolescent boys role playing fantasy games in their parent’s basement are considered nerds while thousands of people doing pretty much the same thing at the reservoir is the basis for the entire town to celebrate. But who ever said life is fair? While Kinetics is never going to become part of our President’s revised energy program, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And of course don’t forget to bring your watermelon bra– especially if you are a woman.