Monday, September 22, 2014

Fatbike: My Maiden Voyage

I can't pretend I took a ride on sand or snow.


I rode a specialized fat boy fat bike today and I can officially say I just don't get it.  Heavier tires?  To this degree?  Maybe in fringe conditions, the grip and flotation make this heaviness feel worth it.  I can't say.  But to me it felt the way my bike feels on 3 inches of pine needles.  Slow, with lots of resistance.

For disclosure's sake, I started out on freestyle bikes with hard tires, then road bikes with rock hard tires.

And I've had enough pinch flats to last me a good long time.

So I'm used to decently hard tires,

They say traction is the big deal with these bikes, and I sure felt that, but I didn't want it.  Traction so good it makes the bike resist turning.  Not impressed.

I like to steer my bike, and I've never found myself looking for more traction.  So this concept, at least in this brief ride, was totally opposite to my desires.  Maybe if you're looking to steamroll the trail, this is a good idea?

But if it would float on the top of deep sand and/or snow, it would all be worth it.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I see that I've had thirty pageviews today.

Are you all expecting something.

Cause I don't know about it if you are.

Do I have something published somewhere unbeknownst to me?

Well, here's a short update for you.

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary, so happy anniversary and thank you to my wife, and congratulations to us both. 

I also got a big ol' back tooth pulled yesterday, that was causing me much grief in the jaw region.  You can check out my xrays on Instagram if you'd like, but leave it  thiat this:  I was driven to distraction, laying on the floor holding my head and moaning.  Infection.  Nerves.

So now I'm one tooth lighter, which is okay, because I had the tooth below it pulled a few years back, and I guess they only work well in pairs.  But this is where I draw the line.  No more tooth loss!
So, floss and brush out there, folks (I do both, but I guess not enough.)

Been reading The Road.  If you haven't you should..

And now how about some pictures, ok?  Ok.

This photo is owned by Walnut Studiolo, who make all the leather stuff you
see here.  Check them out on Etsy & Google and buy their stuff.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To All The Girls I've "Loved", Before...

I hear that you're married now.  The 'perfect Christian wife' is, I think, how you were described- with some degree of amazement, from the person doing the describing.  I wouldn't know.  You're one of the few people I can't find on social media.  Can't see how you've changed like the rest of us.  How time has taken its toll on you.  Your young self is, therefore, immortal.  Like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, or Kurt Cobain, you haven't had to suffer the indignity of growing old.  (In my mind, of course.  I certainly hope that you have, and will continue to, grow older in real life).

All I can remember is couples' skating with you when my own date for the night "had to be home early".    Or the relationship defining chat where I understood you as asking me to wait for you and you understood something very different if you heard what I said at all.  Or canoeing in the lake chasing soccer balls because it was a way to spend time with you.  Or making a fool of myself in front of you fighting with my own friends,  because you represented something that I wished I could be and I had so much confused feeling for you that I took it out on the people I wanted to escape from.  That's okay, they all left me in the end, so I guess I got what I had coming to me.

But mostly when I hear things like that I think of you the first week of school, the first time we met.  My mind was spinning then with the possibilities and freedom and plain limitlessness of it all.  It felt like all the limitations that I'd understood for myself weren't true anymore.  Like I'd been living in the neck of a bottle and the cork had been pulled and suddenly I was out of the bottle, outdoors, on a sunny day. When the President of the school made that corny speech, where he said, 'these may be the friends you will have the rest of your life', 'these might be the people you marry', we were sitting near each other, and my innocent young heart was still soft, trusting, and romantic enough that I believed with at least half of it that it was true.  Fate.  Destiny.  And do you know, even when we lived together years later, I don't think I ever told you about that.  Well, I'm telling you now.  (Also, when I had that "contest" to name my Aloe plant, and you won the prize to go out to lunch with me?  That was rigged.  Still, "Spike" was a pretty fitting name.)

So into that I remember you walking, a part of some Freshstart 'getting to know you' group.  Under the pine tree next to Old Main.  You wore some crazy purple one-piece shortsandblouse, that to my cycling mind looked like a racing skinsuit combined with lingerie.  It's the only time I remember you wearing anything like that in all the years we knew each other- maybe I was hallucinating.  But that day I just remember thinking, 'Well, this is... different'. I was realizing that I'd entered a different social strata.   I would have to recalibrate myself.  I wasn't in cow-town anymore.  But it's funny to think of you as that girl- which is what you undoubtedly were at that time.  Eighteen is a child and we certainly know that now.  But in that moment, you were perhaps the most beautiful and sophisticated woman  I'd ever met.  Truly.

I remember one more thing, and it is a cherished memory from that time of my life.  They'd gotten a soft-serve ice cream machine in the cafeteria.  And on the spur of the moment, standing next to the Cap'n Crunch and that meager salad bar, I said, "hey, I think something's wrong with this ice cream.  It smells funny.  Here, smell..." and gave you the old ice-cream-poke-on-the-nose trick.  Me.  With you, of all people.  I look back on that  moment in amazement.

I'm amazed because I'm just not that person anymore..  Not really.  And I guess you probably aren't either.

And, of course, we can't be.  It would be sad and twisted and ultimately wrong to stay those people, as so many teen movies taught us all.

"Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd always wanna be there"

sang Bryan Adams, but you know what?  I just can't agree with the next line.  Those were not the best days of my life.  They were life changing, wonderful years.  But would I rather be there, or be watching Spirit, Stallion of the Cinammon with my daughter?**

I'd want to be with her.  What I have now was only a seed and a potential then.  It felt exciting to be at the start of something.  But now I live in its fruition.

**  I know that isn't its name.  But it is at our house. As the reader may not know, Adams does all of the music for this animated classic.

Logs & Specks: A lost draft I'd meant to publish but forgot

To the person who didn't like her crown of thorns You know who else didn't like HIS crown of thorns?  Jesus.  The least you could do (and I mean it, the very least), is to not try to use his suffering as some sort of misguided household decoration.

To the person who screamed at my co-worker, then told her to "be blessed":  Your love of your pastor in no way makes it okay to let out your frustration on people who you may see as anonymous robots, but who are in fact very human and very real.  This is the fish-on-the-car problem again- when you're a jerk then try to wrap it in Christianity, the mixture really doesn't sit well.  Maybe what she should have imprinted on that Bible is "For my pastor, from a whited sepulcher".  PS: getting upset with someone over a Bible (that YOU made a mistake on, but let's not get into that) is pretty obvious.  Can you really not see the irony there?  Take the plank out of your own eye, etc.

To the person who grilled me about Bible citation etiquette:  I'm sorry, I should have come right out and told you what I know about the publishing world- that your manuscript (possibly handwritten) is going to end up in someone's garbage.  If you call a 1-800 number to find out whether you need to "say where a verse is from", then sigh when I tell you that yes, you need to cite, not only is it not going to happen unless you publish it yourself, but many of the "Bible verses" are likely not in the Bible at all.  'A penny saved is a penny earned', for example?  Not in the text.  Also, 'Revenge is a dish best served cold'.  Secondly, if you sigh and say "Really?!" when I tell you that yes, you'll probably need to reread what you wrote- unless you are a stone-cold genius of the highest caliber (possible), there is a far greater chance of Queen Elizabeth calling you on the telephone and asking you to be a James Bond style super spy, than there is of this book being published.

To the woman who wants to get a psychology book so she can tell her family "What's wrong with 'em":  We should probably have refused to sell you a book.  I hope your family will accept my apology.  If they still speak to you and you can tell them.  Also, please refer to the end of my note to the "Be Blessed" person above.  I'd cite the Bible verse, but I can't be bothered to reread what I've written.

To the multiple people who have corrected my Happy Easter greeting, to let me know they refer to it as Resurrection Sunday:  You know what?  I'm not impressed by what you're trying to do here.  Do you really believe you're starting some sort of subtle grassroots revolution?  You've heard- probably from a blurb in a conservative magazine- that Easter is a word that referred to a pagan ceremony that celebrated rebirth.  And now you're calling the Bible Bookstore (which you think is Family Christian Bookstore) and want to share your newfound insight into 'the truth of things' with the unenlightened phone operator who you assume (wrongly, in most cases) is some sort of brainless troglodyte.  You should check out some of Jesus' stories about religious folks who thought they were better than... oh, let's say tax collectors.  Or women caught in adultery.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Love Letter To Paul

  Sticking it to the man.  While this might have meant something deeper than the surface to ERA protesters, or those athletes who gave the Black Power salute at the Olympics in the 1970's, these days we- especially in our little sometimes-pseudo-urban cycling culture- generally use it these days in ironic jest.  But occasionally, just occasionally, someone still does manage to 'stick it to the man'.

How do we do that, though?  How, precisely, does one 'stick it' to this man?  In myth and legend, the  Luddites did it in England.  Literally stuck a wrench in the cogs of the machine.  We all know how that turned out.

It seemed like it was going to turn out that way for Paul Price, too.  He had the gall- nay, the hubris!-to try to compete with the Shimano Corporation.  Now, if you've ever read any of the history of Shimano, you may know that they were born before during and after the time of world wars.  Hard times for Japan.  Maybe because of this, they don't suffer competitors lightly.

So when Paul came along with his CNC'ed derailleurs in the early nineties, I imagine Shimano was at first bemused then grew a little irritated that this young American thought he could just come along and start shifting gears.  Hadn't they invented indexing and countless other shift "technologies"?  Now some colored parts (with rasta themes that likely confused them greatly) were taking away their sales?

The story goes that they then proceeded to release XTR- their prime mountain bike component group- and destroy an entire cottage industry.  And just in case generation 1 XTR didn't get the point across, the second generation came in precisely ONE color:  dull gray.

Most people would give up at that point.  I'm sure Paul had some long nights, maybe even made some whozeewhatsits for random machine-shop contracts.  I don't really know.

But just like wildlife under the snow is busy even if the snow looks peaceful, just like still rivers harbor deep currents, and just how the most peaceful ocean scene can hide both coral and creatures just beneath the surface, Paul knew something that Shimano didn't.  I believe two products made Paul Components the beloved company they are today, but you'd have to ask them for the full history.

The gospel of John in the Bible begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  Now, with no sacrilege intended, the gospel of Paul begins the same way.  When Bianchi (the venerable Italian bicycle maker) chose to release to the world the BOSS single speed in 1998 it included a special rear hub that was not a converted freehub (as most mountain bikes used then and now), and was not a track or BMX hub (they're much narrower).  It was also most certainly not made by Campagnolo, the almost-worshipped Italian component maker, who had tried a few runs of mountain bike parts, then given up, long before this. 

No, that hub was a bright orange Paul WORD.  You threaded on a BMX freewheel, and it bolted on.  Plain, simple, and for some of those fed up with component complication that ratcheted up a little more every year (Our derailleurs only work with 7 speeds!  Now it's 8 speeds!  Guess what?!  We made 9 speed for you!  Oh, and you'll have to replace your derailleurs, shifters, rear wheel, and all the sprockets.  You know, cause we made it work PERFECT for you) it was like that feeling when you take off ski boots or roller skates, and put your shoes back on.  I forgot it could FEEL like this!  For a few years, these bikes were the darlings of the industry, the must-have bike, until the next trend came along.  And Paul was seemingly all-of-a-sudden right back in the game.  Leading the race, as it were.  I can't imagine the conversations at Shimano that year.  Apoplexy comes to mind. 'But...  we... they... but...'

The second beloved product that (in my opinion) gave birth to the modern Paul Components is like the fraternal twin to the single-speed hub.  Identical in its breath-of-fresh-air simplicity, but diametrically opposed, because it enabled gear shifting again.  You see, along with the gear-of-the-year frustration I described in the last pair of parentheses, came ever more complex mechanisms to shift gears with.  Almost every one was from Shimano (though SRAM did make quite a splash with Gripshift, a throttle like shifter that launched their own empire, but that's a story for another time) and they were the black box of the modern bicycle.  Don't try to fix them, don't try to understand them, the parts are too small to even replace, put together by robots with fingers smaller than human fingers.  And they worked pretty well.    But the thing was, some people- darn them- just don't enjoy being told to ignore things.  Especially things they loved as much as their bikes.

So when Paul came out with Thumbies, a large chunk of people again slapped their foreheads and said "Of Course!"  You see, all along there had been a secret passage- an old way of shifting.  On the first mountain bikes, it had been done by thumbshifters- simple levers.  And a process called friction shifting.  

Friction shifting is the difference between telling your stereo to scan the channels for perfect signals, and tuning with a dial.  The presets work perfectly- until they don't.  And you have no way to get to the station you actually want.  Now imagine that missing that one station throws off your entire radio dial. 

And though those long-ago thumbshifters had become VERY hard to find, by some miracle, manufacturers were still making a product called bar-end shifters, and they still came with a friction shifting option.  Even Shimano still made them!

Thumbies are handlebar mounts that enabled you to take the touring/triathlon/road bike bar end shifters, and mount them right next to your fingers, in friction mode, just like super-deluxe thumbshifters.  They felt like the film-advance lever on an expensive camera.  And a certain kind of cyclist had to have them.  They were such an obviously perfect idea, for the right person, that it felt like they were suddenly everywhere, all at once.

And now Paul Components is humming along, selling out as quickly as they can produce each new product, and last year, made a color-of-the-month anodizing program (this is the process that seemingly "dyes" aluminum colors, rather than simply painting- very popular when Paul first started making parts).  What comes around goes around.  Or something like that.

Why do I tell you all this?  Who cares about some machinist from Chico, CA?

Well, to me personally, it speaks of renewal, rebirth, and hope.  Don't know about you, but hitting my early forties and not necessarily living the dream financially or physically can get to me sometimes.  We all resort to thinking about the good old days, don't we?  'Man, when I was 17....'  I always mocked people that talked like that but whether  it's high school football or halfpipe skateboarding, the feeling is the same:  I've spent all my life on a bike for THIS?   I can't even do a stupid wheelie. I weigh 100 pounds more than I did in high school.  Why don't I just grow up, give up, and be a fat and happy American like so many other people my age?  Make a TV watching schedule and let other people do the sports for me?  Sell the stupid bikes and get a second car...

But then I remind myself of the feeling of bouncing over roots, and I see the elegant simplicity of an idea like a singlespeed, or the renewing, untangling idea that the Thumbie represents, and I feel a breath of hope.  Paul the company came around again.  Anodizing came around again (which represents so much more than the simple color, to many of us).  

And maybe you and I can, too.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yes, I am the Grammar Police!

"I'd rather be a comma, than a full stop"- Coldplay

I know I'm a little neurotic about this.  I was an English major, after all.  But when my daughter's school starts putting up signs with blatant grammar errors and not even changing them in the course of a day, I think it moves from being the geek who annoyingly points out improper use of a semicolon, to something else.

The first thing everyone wants to blame is cell phones.  Txt msgng.  Those darn kids and their 'adorbs' and their 'TTYL' and 'LOL'!  They've corrupted our culture!  But those are acronyms.  Abbreviations.  Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message, and to a degree, he's right.  It's a short message on a telephone.  It's not meant to be Anna Karenina.

But that's no excuse and shouldn't really be an explanation.  It's a pretty big jump from abbreviating to ignoring mistakes.  It's the ignorance and the toleration of error that is disturbing.  In a text message or an email you need to get out quickly?  Okay.  In twitter, with limited characters to use?  Sure.  But on a sign you are displaying for the public to see?  In some cases, a permanent sign?  For one day, maybe.  But to leave such a thing displayed after awhile just says "I don't care that it's wrong".

And now, since this is my blog and you're here for free, I will indulge myself for a paragraph.  The word 'You're' is a contraction.  It is a shorter way of writing the words "You are".  When someone other than you has possession of something, we say it is 'Your' whatever it is.  Is that really so hard?  Because some things in grammar are hard to remember.  'It's' is the contraction, and without the apostrophe is the possessive.  Sure.  That's splitting hairs and harder to remember.  But You're coat?  Your going to the store?  That's just lack of language skill.

You may say, 'well everyone doesn't have to be a doctor of linguistics'.  Sure.  Nor does everyone need to be a surgeon and whittle sticks with a scalpel.  But wouldn't you admit that a knife works better than a hammer?  Or a club?  A certain amount of linguistic competence (sharpness) is necessary, or we might as well just grunt and point.

Do not take me as using this as some sort of xenophobic crack at ESL.  Can you imagine if English were your second language?  And you came from a language that made sense?  Those people have a reason to struggle with English, and in fact often are more correct in their English than some others, who I am thinking of.

Ironically, many of these same people would never tolerate baseball playing as sloppy as the English they use, even from their children.  'If you're going to play, play right!' I can hear them yelling.  And that's a game.  How much more should we care about 'playing right' when it's our written language we're talking about?  Again, ending a sentence with a preposition or writing a run-on sentence is not what I'm thinking of. (see what I did, there?)

Follow this link and then come back to this post and read it again.  You'll see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Dentist Post, v.2

 A few weeks ago, I went to tut he dentist.  I'm not scared of the place, but I don't enjoy at all the feeling of loss of control I seem to always get at the dentist's office.  X rays, insurance, all of it seems to run itself without anyone asking what I want.  So after a less-than-stellar visit, I was pretty much overflowing with 'See, just like I said', and thoughts along those lines.  And then I checked my email and got a 'customer experience survey'.  Here's what I wrote to them.

I called and made an appointment a few days ago because I had one of my back teeth causing quite a bit of pain every time I eat.  I got an appointment and was happy to know something would be done.

I arrived for my appointment and was shown to the chair.  Never did the woman introduce herself.  I thought maybe since I'd called for a specific issue rather than a checkup, maybe she was the dentist who would help.  No, she just did X rays.  Doctor Hjorth stopped by and said he needed more Xrays.  The whole mouth.  Okay, I guess.  while I'm here.  He came back, told me how many cavities I had, and said the desk would check with my insurance to see how much they'd cover.  Uh, ok- but what about my tooth.  He did mention in passing that it had a cavity, but had said nothing about what would be done about it.  It's causing pain- the reason I called, remember.

So I thought (since he hadn't so much as said goodbye) that we were just going to wait to hear from the insurance and then he'd do something. I sat there a moment and the woman said "You're all set, you can go to the desk now".  When I had stood there for awhile, the desk person said I was all set and hadn't needed to wait for her.  She explained that they would contact me when they heard from the insurance about 'how much I would be responsible for'.  Now, it's not her fault, she hadn't seen the exam, but I hadn't even been told what was going on, other than a mention of a number of cavities, and a quick mention from Dr. Hjorth that I should get a tooth pulled and have a root canal on another.  These are teeth that ARE NOT CURRENTLY BOTHERING ME AT ALL.  So now insurance is being checked for procedures I didn't OK and am only vaguely aware of, to see how much I'll 'be responsible for', and you still didn't fix the tooth I came in about, didn't make any mention of how it would be fixed, and didn't say one thing about what I should do in the meantime to lessen the pain that led me to call your practice in the first place.  I am not a stupid person, but my visit to Dr. Hjorth sure did make me feel stupid.  I suppose for thinking that when you call a dentist saying you have an aching in your tooth and jaw, he will do something about that pain. 

I guess he'll just do a full dental exam and start adding up the bill.  It's like going to a bike shop to get a flat tire fixed, and instead getting back a list of everything the bike needs to race the Tour De France, and a bike with a flat tire.