Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rib Crackin' Fun, Ya'll!

I started this entry with thoughts on how the culture of cool has rendered things so cynical and sarcastic that I feel like giving up on anybody older than 10 but younger than 35.  I've since realized that this is due to what I perceive from the media I consume and the relationships that occupy most of my time.  I think part of this stems from the homogeneity of the majority of those with whom I interact.  Everybody is a little into everything and nothing surprises anybody...that sort of thing.  Working at a bicycle shop, one might guess that more variety would be easier to find.  In fact, my colleague and I have discussed this very topic, and there are not many other occupations that put one in touch with so many walks of life.  We see everybody from the homeless guy that barely has enough to get a single flat repaired to those dumping $8k on a carbon tri bike.  Unfortunately, though, we are often so busy that we don't get the chance to see the individuals behind the workorders or purchases.  This situation is a reflection of a larger image.  We are all becoming more removed from what we are seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting in front of us because we are too anxious about what is waiting for us in our screens.  Oh well, it is nice to write it all down and remind myself that what so normally drives me to madness (I deal with the goddamned customers!) is actually a recurring opportunity for me to redeem my own tendency to cast people into the few molds that seem to represent most of those through the door.

So, you've been cruising along at 70-75 mph for 4 hours or so and your vehicle suddenly lunges slightly, loses all engine power, and flashes the message "Stop Safely Now."  What do you do?  What do you do if you are in the left lane, and a giant truck is behind you gaining speed as it approaches and the right lane is full of jackasses passing you on the right...oh, and you've got 2 4-year-old girls in the back seat, there is nowhere to pull over on the left side of the interstate, Roadside Assistance doesn't cover anything other than the most routine of incidents, your vehicle manual offers absolutely no more clarification regarding what the mysterious message means, and it is Sunday at 6pm, so no dealerships are open.  Well, you pull over when you can, turn off the engine, then re-start it and hope for the best.  When you get home, after driving under the speed limit and without A/C (in case it was a hybrid battery temperature was), you submit an e-mail setting up a meeting with the Service Manager at the dealership from which you bought the vehicle.  I expressed my utter dissatisfaction with the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid, and we are probably going to just try like hell to get a trade-in.  We'll see how this develops, but, for now, I would have to say stay away from Ford, or, at least, stay away from their hybrids.  This is third year in a row that we have brought the car in for this problem.  (Update:  After formally complaining with Ford Corporate and the NHTSA, we made a nearly even trade for a 2006 Toyota Sienna at a dealership other than complaints at all after half a year of ownership...Ford did next to nothing to help us...fuck Ford).

We also got termites in the house, again.  As always, the "tech" told us not to worry about the thousands of wings we saw on our roof or the few wriggling individuals here and there that were dropping from our ventilation outlets for a week or so.  We'll take his word for it, regardless of my years studying insects at LSU, since that is why one has a bond in this veritable rainforest climate we have in Charleston.  It's all in their hands if we wind up needing repairs again.

Wow!  It is nearly the holiday season again, and I've entered exactly no comments since shortly after our amazing trip to Colorado.  I feel no differently about the job, and I'm interviewing this Friday for another position with the county parks agency.  I simply cannot tolerate the stress of trying to do everything required in a small bicycle shop any longer.  On any given day, I get shat upon by everybody from the online parts shopper that doesn't understand why our labor rates are "so expensive" to the inevitable old-timers that "don't want anything fancy" and have a hard time understanding why there is a difference between the prices at big box stores and our 1-location, locally-owned shop of exactly 3 (count 'em, 3) employees (2 of which support families on their "honest" wages).  Of course, I not only play psychiatrist to those griping about prices, I also have to listen to tale after tale of how "I use to race BMX," "I used to be Cat 2," "I used to commute all the time in...insert over-rated bicycle-friendly town here...but it's just so dangerous here."  I also act as interpreter of mush-mouthed gin-hounds, deaf customers that refuse to just write down what they need and, instead, insist upon gesturing their entire last week before getting to what they actually need from you, and southern drawls that sound as molten springs of clay found among volcanic regions of the world.  I put together $8-13000 bikes while trying to convince another bewildered belle that she just needs to put air in her tubes every month or so, and she won't get "flats."  While rebuilding a fork or shifters with any number of tiny, easily-lost parts, I'm explaining to the 10th shithead that "HAS to ride this weekend" why his tubular needs to sit for an entire day after being glued to his rim.  All the while, I'm thinking about the order I need to place, the fact that 80 bikes just showed up on a truck out front for which we have nearly no room, and the fact that I haven't had an ACTUAL conversation with my wife on the phone while at this job in the entire time that I've worked here (nearly 10 years) and that I'm projecting way too much of this stress at home.  This industry is awesome, and this shop has been really good to me, but I finally feel like it is just time to move.  I've had my differences with management (or lack thereof), but if I were to point a finger, it would be at those through the door.  Yes, I get that they are why the shop makes the bottom line, but it does JUST that...makes it.  We don't exceed it, we don't rise above it as a kite on a breezy day...we only make it.  Sure, that is partly due to the "above-average" lifestyle of the shop owner, but he makes "respectable" money with his full-time job, so I doubt he is funding anything other than the shop with his proceeds from this enterprise.  He's been fair with me, though I haven't received a raise since my initial raise in the Fall of 2011.

Beauty, breathing, and body.  That is my resolution for the new year.  I am in dire need of attention to these three things.  I need to focus on the incredible beauty of my girls, my wife, and the world around me.  There is so much that I am missing by getting dunked in the sludge of routine retail redundancy.  There is beauty in hearing my daughter tell me of how "it's fun to go tripping with friends" and how my wife is more attractive every day for her commitment to her kids at school, her family, while still finding the motivation to run and make herself better for her.  There is beauty in the design of that with which I work every day, regardless of how much the owners of this beauty do to make it all uglier.  There is beauty in the conversations I have on a daily basis, contrary to those that would make light of such conversations as banter among a mere customer and vendor, though most such exchanges may point me down a much darker path.

Breathing needs attention.  I started today with 10 breaths of as long a duration as I could stand.  I need to focus on making more of the breath I take.  Just as I suspect that the smallest of infractions in traffic and other fora of life lead to greater and greater ones, I suspect that ignoring the significance of the "simple" act of breathing leads to a reduced appreciation for the redemption to be found in all other forms of existence.

Finally, my body is done.  It is done with the exposure to destructive toxins that are a daily part of working in a bike shop.  I am not just talking about the exposure to alcoholic gifts from the occasional decent customer and other such voluntary toxins.  I am talking about exposure to all the PVC, lubricants, solvents, preservatives, and other carcinogenic crap that creeps into those that pursue this career.  I'm reading "The Upcycle" by McDonough and Braungart, right now, and I'm sure that is influencing my perspective on this, but I also know that I have only felt worse and worse since starting this job full-time a few years ago, regardless of reaching what is probably the second-highest activity level my body has ever seen.

The girls have one more Spring of pre-K schooling, then they start full-time, balls-out school.  I couldn't be happier about this.  They are ready to kick school's ass.  If they don't, their parents are right there to help make sure they get up and get kicking again.

Andree passed her National Board certification, proving that she is truly a leader among her peers, whether she would admit it or not.  She is a role model for her girls and, indeed, for her husband.  I cannot even compare this to something in my current career (I'm not sure something so significant even exists for bicycle mechanics, aside from securing a teaching position at one of the 2 or 3 schools for bicycle mechanics).

I am listening to Karp and you should, too.  It just happened to come on my "randomizer", but they definitely stand out as one of those bands that will never sound dull to me, no matter how many times I listen to them.  On the same tip, I'm really into garage rock, lately, since Jeff at the shop has been plugging Black Lips into Pandora.  King Khan is a current favorite.  It reminds me of a much better Make Up from days gone by, but the Nerves and others have stood out, too.  He's also gotten me into lots of Pentagon spin-offs like Witch, The Sword, and Early Man.  Lots of that stuff sounds like stuff Nemeth and I would be spinning if he were here (I got the holiday card, by the way and I'll send something, eventually...thanks for keeping us in touch...things just get busy with two know it doesn't mean that we don't miss you guys...hope Gov. Walker isn't docking your pay or enforcing your sexual positions, yet).

I still haven't heard from Charleston County, yet, on the Land Resources Manager Technician job, but I'm hoping something will come through in the next week or so.  Let's just go ahead and say that I will end this blog if it doesn't happen.  I have been a real slouch with this thing, but if such a seismic turn-of-events occurs, I promise to the handful of people that still look at this, that I will turn things around.  If it doesn't, I will copy all of this to a document, print it, and file it away for the girls to read when they turn 18.  I have a really good feeling about this job, and I feel like it will rejuvenate my creative tendencies that used to flow like so much blood.

Well, contrary to my feelings just listed, I did not get the job, but I am not ending this blog.  I am rejuvenating it!  I need to get my mind into more creative pursuits than those found in repairing bicycles.  Though the profession offers many opportunities, they are not the same as those involved in playing music and writing, and I just noticed that another "follower" has been "following" this (thanks D.M....I'll give that Superchunk a shot even though I stopped listening to them after that second album so long ago).  Any kind of feedback is good enough feedback for me.  I need to do something in response to not getting that job, and this seems like a good reward.  If I had gotten it, then I probably wouldn't have had the extra time to get this running again.

Besides, I'm laid up with 2 broken ribs, currently, from riding the shit out of the Markham Park trail in oh-so-southern Florida.  This trail is like riding through a landfill.  While challenging, it is not very much fun without the right bike (big travel or, at least, full-suspension) and became way less fun when I fell 6' off a slope and onto my arm, cracking ribs that are also, now, being assaulted by some kind of cough-heavy chest cold I picked up.  It feels like I'm being repeatedly punched in the mid-section a few times every hour.  I suddenly have an appreciation for boxers that win contests without smashing the other guy's face in.

Markham Park

Anyway, I'm glad I came back to this to see my reminder about body, breath, and beauty.  I'm going to go ahead and add a fourth B to that list and say that Jeff and I are going to start playing music.  I'm not sure if we'll actually get a band together and get any gigs, but this town is ripe for the picking if we do (plenty of venues).

With that, I leave you with a recently re-discovered song lyric (we've been doing a bunch of cleaning around the house, lately):

Drive-thru frozen drinks, rivers of mud,
Follow veins of pavement, white boots of rubber,
In a passing pick-up truck, is a story you should hear,
You take me in, and you give me a smile.

And you don't even charge me,
The happiness of feeling Houma
The happiness of feeling Houma.

Sugar cane commands my eye, gas flares aglow,
Food of human and machine, sight of pride and trouble,
Bridge across the mighty one, roll me into welcome arms,
That pull me close, with every mile.


Heavy air, lead me there,
Where the river used to make her bed,
Cradle me in your crooked limbs,
It floods again,
And still she grins.

That song is about what it means to love my wife and southern Louisiana.  If you've never been, it won't make sense.

Now, for some entertainment:

Maps and Atlases

Baba Brooks

Sub Oslo

Oh, and read Dirty Wars, by Jeremy Scahill.  He and Greenwald are THE journalists of our generation.    Apparently, they just got together on a media project, too.  Check it out, Brule...

The Intercept

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Snow Blind

So this is Wolf Creek ...

We endured the agony of flight once more (girls' first) to make it to Colorado for the biennial Dugal Christmas in Pagosa Springs, and I got to ski for the first time since I was, maybe, 12 years old?  Don't get me wrong, I got to try snowboarding 4 years before in Wisconsin, and I rode a skateboard for probably 10 years as a "young adult," but skiing was something missing from my resume of cool, so it was fun to finally apply what I have learned aboard the various craft I have piloted (bikes and boards...just to be would be easy, in this town, to assume I had also actually flown an airplane or ultra-light, captained a sail boat or seal-skin and whale-bone kayak, kite-related-person-moving-thing, or some other such apparatus of the affluent, but I guess I haven't hit that sweet spot of $450, 000.

The holiday was grueling.  I am not joking when I say that I actually shat 12 times a couple of days before we left.  The girls and I had come down with an ear infection for which I was prescribed a massive course of amoxicillin (I had just finished by the time we came home from our 9-day adventure), and that stuff will absolutely destroy your gut flora and fauna.  Of course, I abstained from alcohol and ate as much yogurt as I could stand (about half-a-cup a day), but it didn't seem to change much.  I also loaded up on high-protein meals in the hopes that I could "solidify things," so to speak...even downing an entire block of tempeh on bread with spinach and mustard one vain.

The stay out there was tough.  It was very, very cold (average was probably 15 degrees), and there was about 2' of snow on the ground for the duration.  Of course, this provided excellent skiing conditions, and allowed the girls their first encounter with sledding and snow-angels, but it didn't permit much out-time, and the air indoor and out was so fucking dry that I was worried I would spontaneously combust half the time I was there.

The family is awesome, and Andree's brother brought a tree with lights, which absolutely crowned things as far as the girls were concerned.  The town of Pagosa Springs is not much of anything, but it had what was necessary.

Wow...I really have let this thing go.  Since the above material was written, I've been to Washington, D.C. for a Park Tool Tech Summit.  As always, FOX had the best class, though SRAM improved this year.  As for Calvin and friend...I could've just gone and signed up for another stint in the armed services if I wanted yelling.  Though he showed us a really cool graphic representation of spoke tension we can draw up for customers, I didn't take home much extra knowledge, and he just seemed ready to be done talking to anybody younger than 60 years old.  In his defense, his blow-hard buddy with the sweaty disposition just couldn't wait to let loose on all the "uninitiated," tubular-aversive students.  "It's the ride of the gods!", he continued to yelp at any who seemed less than totally convinced of gluey magnificence.  I'll grant him that he got me just interested enough to give it a shot for a while, but if I get a flat within the first few months, I'm out.  Besides, I think the Icon Elite is a good complement to such an arrangement.  Weirdest image from trip up I-95...Philip Morris building in Richmond:

I'm just saying (IJS) my opinion, it looks like something out of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" or like a facility used for "extra-judicial renditions."  You'd think they would opt for a more soothing (yeah, that's it...soothing, like menthol!) design or more subtle location than right next to the interstate, right?

The shop is coming along, though we seem headed down a path of corporate efficiency that is confused by the sudden appearance of so many meetings I can barely get anything other than my TPS reports done.  It is the classic situation of a person that knows money and likes bicycling thinking they can model a shop after any other retail establishment.  I grow more convinced, each passing year, that bicycle shops are just a different animal and are nothing like the others.  Unfortunately, bicycles are still considered toys by even those coming in and dropping$8000 on a Cervelo P5, since such a machine is, basically, a way for the rider to ride a little faster than the others in whatever race.  After the race, it will only serve as a means of training for the next race.  It will almost certainly never serve as a means of transportation.  Racing is not necessary...getting to work is.

I also worry that the current owners have aspirations of a bottom line that only goes up, but, since I've worked there for the last 10 years or so, the bottom line has been all over the place, through no fault of who happens to be at the helm.  The housing market thing is when things really got booted down the stairs, but people make weird decisions all the time, and it just isn't worth getting worked up about how this month is different from the same month last year.  There are a million things influencing that number, most important of which is who and how many are employed and what product levels and brands are on the floor.  If those two parameters are not the same from year to year, there is very little value in comparing the two.  I know, I know...take it to the boss.  Maybe one day I'll catch him in a situation that doesn't lead me to think he's got 15 other things that he's planning or would rather be doing.

Media matters include the following:
-finished Suttree by McCarthy (just can't read enough by that guy)
-finally reading Tao of Physics
-enjoying reading the free Progressive Populist that I got in the mail a month ago or so; might subscribe
-might go see They Might Be Giants in April (here in town, again)
-watched "Moonrise Kingdom" (terrific...really liked Bruce Willis' and Ed Norton's characters)
-watched "Jesus Camp" and felt like it was something from another dimension; horrifying
-watched "Parking Lot Movie" and wished I was back in Baton Rouge; I miss that time of my life
-watched "Rush" documentary and couldn't listen to anything but for a few days after...which leads me to the following sub-list:
    -Parts and Labor (really good that Husker Du vocal stuff, but more interesting)
    -Unsane (holy hell, how did I not ever pay attention to this band?!  I've only scratched the surface
    but the stuff I've listened to just blows me away;  really dark, brutal stuff)
    -David Axelrod thing from the online music place we all know (so chilled it's unbelievable)
    -Polvo (just about anything...again, how did I miss out on this?!)
    -Deerhoof "Offend Maggie" (another great one)
    -Budos Band (can't stop listening to this stuff...goes well with anything you're doing)

Matt (shop owner) and I are scheduled to do the 12 Hours of Tsali in May.  May the beatings begin.

Oh, and call your "representatives" and tell them assault rifles and handguns make great paperweights.

Lastly, can somebody please tell me why most of my "views" for this thing are from India?  I just looked at the "stats" for this blog for the first time and noticed this odd situation.  I have the sneaking suspicion that it has to do with data mining, but it could just be that a rarely published blog about a father of twins that likes to ride bicycles and commune with the natural world is just more important in other parts of the world...who knows?

Love and kisses,

Never gets old


Saturday, November 10, 2012

You Know What's Weird?

Answer:  daily blog updates.  It just occurred to me that it isn't weird at all that I've not updated this thing since the beginning of the "off" season for us (otherwise known as Summer, but we have two 3 1/2 year olds, know).  Yes, I have plenty about which to complain every day, but whether that would be a good thing is a different matter.

I have a friend that looks at BikeSnob's blog at least a few days a week.  I'm a fan of the same blog, so don't misunderstand, but I think too much attention to such ramblings can exacerbate existing feelings about our clientele that are less than positive.  As I've come to relate to a few customers of late, our business is one that rarely suffers from a lack of people through the door.  This might sound like a good scenario;  it a world in which one is afforded an abundance of uninterrupted minutes with which to engage every person we encounter.  However, we, like many, are overworked.  We are not overworked in a normal way.  We are not expected to get 15 tune-ups done each day or anything like that.  Our workload is engorged by the overwhelming urge so many have to continue to vocally excrete themselves.  I suppose some of this has to do with justifying the fact that they just got in a car and drove a few miles to dump a better form of transportation on us that they will barely use even after we work our magic and make a pile of rubbish into something useful.  It's kind of like how I feel about why people are on their phones and in their screens so much.  They think they need to use them to justify spending the $100 a month.

Anyway, the point is that too much negativity just spawns more of the same, and, while I appreciate the BikeSnob's contributions (I really do), I also appreciate that reading that stuff at work just elevates my already above-average anger level at the communication skills of the average person in this country.  You honestly cannot appreciate the level of condescension and interruption that occurs in such an environment, but just knowing that we have several islands full of American Taliban in our midst that think $1500 in property tax on a $300K home is grounds for physical violence (of the "hurt you from a distance with my weapon sort") might help get you closer.

It is now a couple of months since I began this post, but I see an intrepid friend has made a comment, and that makes me happy to saddle up, since I'm regaining a little of my time, lately.  I'm on a 4 x 10 schedule, now, at the shop, so things are looking up.

Election, huh?  I don't even know where to start.  Neither of these clowns has my actual (as opposed to my symbolic) support, but I'm sure I'll be voting for Obama.  I enjoyed the recent comparison I heard about electing a president or a boss (I think it was a columnist/author for the New Yorker, but I could be mistaken) after one of the debates.  Though there is nearly nothing as banal as post-debate commentary, I was just too lazy to change the channel, I suppose.  The really sad part of all of this crap is that no matter how poor the next administration is at getting real things done, we've officially entered the era of blaming it on the last/other guy.  The last four years has turned obstructionism and finger-pointing into an art, so there is no reason to expect anything different in the next four.  No wonder Romney started the debates by promising the world!  He can just point to the congress and say, "Take it up with them."  If Obama STILL doesn't make anything universally beneficial happen, he can say the same.  What a golden age for those that say they want a reduction of the very system that is their livelihood...fucking idiots.  How many times must a Kucinich present himself to you morons before you all get that there are still REAL people in this world that actually want what is best for the most?!?

Speaking of what is best for others, I feel I must comment on something I heard at the gym, today.  The lady that does the kid fitness thing asked if it would be okay if the girls had a donut.  Let alone the fact that somebody at a gym is offering a donut to a 4 year old (not a typical gesture), but focus on the comment a bystander made..."Oh, just let 'em have one."  This was offered after I said I guess it'd be fine if they split one.  Does this person think the girls are mistreated if they don't get to eat such garbage?  Doesn't the comment imply that I am stingy about rewards with my children?  It just seems indicative of how other people can't resist implanting themselves in the lives/cultures of other people, and I guess I'm still surprised by such things.

Which reminds me of a funny story...I'm at the bank the other day, and some lady is having trouble with an ATM withdrawal at the bank, which is not where she has an account, mind you.  She's acting as she's been affronted and put out.  The prelude to this exhibit was the Romney/Ryan sticker on the car in the parking lot I rode by on the way to the front door...yeah, the same one with the Tibetan flag on the front license plate.  So, the red dwarf is pulsing with heat energy when her bratwurst of a beau hits the front door, asking of the problem.  He notes that he watched them "count it three times," whatever "it" was and that HE knows how everything should be going down.  If only he ran that bank, right?  In fact, if only Romney/Ryan ran this country...which is why I noted on my ride out of the parking lot that once those guys are in charge, there will be no such worries, because they'll take care of everything and life will be free of such frustrations.  I just got a confused look that almost certainly morphed into rage once I was a few hundred meters away.

Enjoy the latest Neely amusement (latest for me, anyway...I don't have the time to drop in on this stuff all the time...I just pull something up every now and then):

Professor Brothers-Date

Went to see Maps and Atlases in Asheville the other night.  Absolutely one of the best bands I've ever had the good fortune to run across.  Please, all, let us take up our hymn books and sing the praise of
Israeli Caves
Solid Ground
Living Decoration

White Denim are a bunch of really talented guys, but, unfortunately for them, the world doesn't even need one Widespread Panic or Dave Matthews.  These two tunes don't, however, fit into that slime mold and rock pretty freaking solidly
Shake Shake Shake
I Start to Run

Oh, and Suttree by McCarthy...yet another indication that he is not Faulkner, but that the latter was a time traveler that took what little he learned of this giant and brought it back to his era for the purposes of getting laid and seeming confusing, hence talented, to masses of wealthy rednecks.  Thanks for the reference on that one, Adam, and thanks for the McCarthy line, in general, Bobby Fin.

Love you feast your eyes on what is, officially, on the way...


...carbon be damned.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Ride is a Ride

So, the plan was to drive to Ocala, get a hotel, and get to the race by 8am to confirm our registration. None of that happened. The girls were sick this week, with Tillie getting to a 102.5 fever one day and Delia coughing and waking me up for the past 4 or 5 nights in a row. Matt, my teammate, and the shop owner, was running late on Friday, so I knew we wouldn't make it to ride the course before the race, but I thought we might just pull it off in the last minute. We did not, but we did run up to FATS for a 4 hour run this morning, so I don't feel as worthless as I would have, otherwise.

As always, I wrote that first paragraph months ago.  Between work and my family, I just don't find the time to update this thing very frequently.  I've come to accept this, however, and I've lost the guilt that I used to feel when I didn't stay up with it.  It comes down to my aversion to "connectedness," I suspect.  Ironically, I feel like the more I see the majority of the population trying to minimize the awkward pauses in their life conversations, the more I want to run away from it.

I did just that and finally went to see Adam in Costa Rica.  He lives up the mountains from San Jose, so we were close enough to walk up into some nicely forested areas and even get lost one night while wandering around listening for goatsuckers and owls.  The location also put us comfortably distant from the terrible air quality of that whole San Jose metro area.  Thankfully, Adam is still into our "thing" (meandering...silently, for the most part...usually getting lost in the process), and we had some really good centering times among the flora and fauna of the wet mountain forests of the central mountains and the Caribbean coast at Cahuita.  Here are some photographs from the trip:

There were so many things that were new to me down there that it isn't even worth trying to post more than this.  I wouldn't do it justice, even with the 100 or so pics I snapped on Adam's camera.  Life is everywhere there (bromeliads commonly seen growing upon power/telephone lines), which makes it all the more depressing to witness the black runoff in the streets and the palpable smog that seems perpetual in the skies above most of that area.  I did see more bicycles than one would think, especially considering the total lack of street names and the Tron-like traffic buzzing about the horribly-maintained roads.  Almost all of them were MTB's, but I did spy a few "off" roadies.  There was even one Blue, which seemed a sore thumb among all the Trek-bikes and Specialized rigs.

Which reminds me of a recent oddity from the shop...Nearly every Trek-bike owner lets us know that they have just that in the car and would like us to take a look or repair.  It makes me wonder if Trek is known for toasters in Thailand or recliners in Russia.  To all Trek owners that may stumble here...I have nothing against your brand, but drop the "bike" part in your shop...they know you're not bringing them a television for service.

So, I also just completed my first triathlon and nabbed 4th in my age class.  I must say that if I'd prepared for it a little more, I'm sure I could've won, but that wasn't my intention.  The shop owner sponsored the series, so we got free slots for each one.  He wanted us to participate, and I'm glad I did.  I had a good time with it, chatting up the people I was passing (making jokes, commending those on less-than-feather-weight rigs, etc.), and it was a nice change from my comfort zone of commute and group ride regularity.  I think it did a little to help me understand those peculiar critters that are triathletes, too.  I can see how one would get hung on such a sport.  It really is kind of fun, but I just don't have the inclination to trade what little free time I have for even more physical exertion.  I already feel dead by the time 10pm rolls around each night.  Besides, I've seen what happens with the children of competitive triathletes, and they don't seem very happy or normal.

This last item brings to mind Grant Petersen's new book, "Just Ride."  He makes some really great points in it, and it is completely worth your time to read what he's gleaned after all these years.  My only gripe is the dualistic racer vs. non-racer thing he presents, since I fall squarely in the middle of it most of the time.  In fact, I went back to toe cages and straps for the sprint partly because of his influence (though, it just seemed dumb to me to change shoes twice in such a short event).  Full disclosure:  I put the clipless back on for last night's ride and felt way better...placebo or not.

The girls are in a pretty big rut, lately.  There's way too much whining, possessiveness, and associated aggravating behavior, but I have to blame that on their classmates (they are, after all, carrying the burden of being December babies, so their "peers" are younger).  I also get the impression that many of their cohorts have parents that communicate "at" them, rather than communicating "with" them (with consequent backsliding and compromising on disciplinary positions from the looks of it).  On the other hand, the girls are making pretty big strides in vocabulary and speech, in general.  They're also riding their balance bikes with great skill, at this point, so it's nearly time for some helmets and pedals.  We're taking this activity slowly, since I really don't want to force my perspective on them.  I'd rather let them ease into it and be riding with me well into my old age.

We also "caught" (picked up might be another way of putting this) a black swallowtail a couple of weeks ago, so there's a chrysalis on the kitchen counter, right now, that'll soon be a beautiful butterfly that they can then release in the backyard.  Between insect pets and the many citrus seedlings for which they are responsible, we're hoping the puppy thing can wait.

I haven't seen much on the video front, lately, but there are a couple of things that are worth putting on here:

My time evaporates.  It is now nearly July, and I feel like I wrote the rest of what is above months ago...oh, that's because I did.  

Lots to say, but think I should probably get this post up and think about starting a new one, since things are going to be changing for the next few months with Andree home.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Three Years Old

The girls' third birthday has come and gone. I'm so proud of my wife and myself for getting to this point, but there is credit due the little ladies, too. I'm amazed that I haven't bitten off my arm or something, but I'm even more amazed at just how wonderful they have turned out. They've made it through three years with two very different adults and have adjusted really well to two days a week in a creative arts school. I'm just really happy that I'm surrounded by these three wonderful women, even if it does feel like a bit of a hen house around here every now and then.

Work is feeling better every day. We just got back from the Park Tool Summit, which was really cool, except for the trip there and back (man, there's just something about being in a car for 8 hours at a time that makes me want to get naked and jump in an icy pool).

The Shimano and Fox workshops were the best/most valuable, though there were some cool points to nearly all of them. For example, did you know that Campagnolo tested their new electronic shifting system completely submerged? Yes, it's waterproof to 1m. As I told our new part-timer today, I'm less concerned with people riding this stuff in pouring rain than I am with how it will resist the caustic, sweaty onslaught of those riders that don't drink enough and never clean their machines (full Guy would say...I used to be one of those riders). On the same note, the Shimano stuff seemed really cool, but I couldn't help think of Robot Chicken or Frankenstein when the instructor was covering how one can remotely operate the individual derailleurs via a computer and an interface; the severed hand continuing to crawl forward.

Speaking of severing, I'm reading a book titled "Seasick," right now, and am reminded of something interesting presented in the book. It has to do with how an organism will isolate and shut down all but the most necessary of systems/functions when faced with diminishing environmental requirements per apoptosis. She borrows the analogy to apply it to the sea as a form of superorganism, but I have been playing with how it applies to our political health. Much of the rhetoric flying around seems to indicate a category of people espousing an ideology that reminds me of cancer cells.

As for video stuff, I would be a jerk if I didn't share this with those that have not seen it.

Garrett sent this little gem, too. The commentary, alone, is worth the view.

Photographs are as follows:
A Giant Spine-Headed Bug, Acanthacephalus declivis on the screened door. This would be an example of a "true" bug (as opposed to all things exoskeleton that most lump into a big pot of "spray it, stomp it, or swat it"). This guy is relatively harmless unless handled, in which case you may receive a pretty serious bite (they do, after all, have piercing/sucking mouthparts for the plants they nourish upon). The most interesting thing I can say about it is that is very aromatic, when need be, and it can scare the piss out of 3 year olds when you trap it in a holding jar for their observation and it attempts to fly.
Next, is the other member of Hexapoda that I stumbled into, recently. This is from one of my favorite families of beetles; Buprestidae. Having studied forest insects in graduate school, I ran into my share of these bejeweled beasties. Many (if not most) of them have such reflective sculpturing to their elytra (first pair of wings) that creates intense colors. It is physical iridescence and not pigment, which is why I find this family so enchanting. All those colors are out there, bouncing around our world, making things more beautiful. We forget that there is a nearly infinite range of shades between red and violet, and it is refreshing that there are such organisms that concentrate these things and shoot them into our retinae...if only we care to notice them. I happened upon this fellow or female when breaking off a couple of old shoots from my struggling, but still alive, fig tree (thanks, Adam), though they can live in the dead and dying tissues of many species, I read. Wow, that was probably too many commas for one paragraph.

Then, we have what results from a complete lack of bicycle rider attention. This is an axle from a bicycle that had a front wheel that was ridden without any bearing ball support for far too long. This is not why the bicycle was dropped off, by the way. It was kind of a shame that they didn't quite get to the point of breaking it into three pieces, though, I must admit. Maybe that would've been enough to make them think something was wrong?

Finally, we have the girls at a water wheel at Oconee State Park. It is depressing that, though the water still runs, this wonderfully simple and powerful tool is not operational. After all, our cabin DID have electricity and running water. Surely something could be run by the enormous spill of water from the pond above this wheel (at least the night lighting for the parking lot and roads, right?). I'd love to suggest the idea to them, but I suspect they've considered it more than once. Unfortunately, though, it comes down to what the citizenry will bear to share, and most politicians in this state can't plan for the weekend, let alone the next generation. Of course, I could get into how annoying it is that the base for those politicians just couldn't stay their hands from defacing a harmless fence around such a point of interest, but the scribbles are just no match for those faces.

Lastly, I thought I'd throw in a couple of sauce recipes, since it's something I'm not sure I've mentioned in any entries previous. Coming from a vegan/vegetarian background, I can recommend the following for improving just about any tofu or meat-substitute-based meal that also involves some rice or noodles.

Moosewood Restaurant's "Spicy Broccoli Soba Saute" Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 t sugar
2 t dark sesame oil
1 T cornstarch
1 T lemon juice

I use this one with baked tofu and sauteed carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli, mostly, but it works on lots of stuff. Just mix the stuff up and add it to whatever you're making. It's kind of like a teriyaki sauce, I think. You can add 1/2 cup sake when you're steaming/sauteeing the carrots, broccoli, etc., but don't cook it for too long. Use water to get things mostly done.

The second sauce is from the New Farm cookbook of old. It is what I use for my gluten roast, but it works equally well with other meat substitutes that you want to assume a savory aspect.

1/2 cup oil
3 T soy sauce
1 t salt
1/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter or tahini)
1 cup water (warmed for 1 1/2 min in microwave)
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/4 t black pepper

Hope you enjoy those, and I'll be back after the big race in's 12 Hours of Santos time.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inane Frown Posse

I am the inane, and I wear the frown. I have been mired in a state that has included only anger and apathy for a long time, now, and there are only a few things slowly pulling me from the muck. Knowing that holidays are imminent, and, hence, so is real vacation time with Andree and the girls is the big one.

I've never felt so overwhelmed by a job before in my life, and I attempted to explain why, last night, over some beer and tempeh, to my "supervisors." I don't think they got it. It wheeled around my thought that this job (any job requiring daily interaction with the general public, for that matter) should mean more. I consider myself a devout, albeit camouflaged, optimist, and I never let a day pass that I don't expect reason or higher thought of some kind from those that enter the shop. I was met with a comment about projecting negativity and, therefore, readily finding it in others, but I don't buy that. My job is to fix bicycles, sell bicycles, answer questions, and promote the industry and lifestyle. It is not to be nice, and, honestly, I am almost always immediately distrustful of and annoyed by those at other businesses that paint the sugar on too thick. My ideal shopping experience, anywhere, is successful if two things happen. First, the product I'm looking for is in stock or I am informed that it can be obtained for me within x number of days and I am called when it arrives. Second, if I need help, somebody with appropriate knowledge is available to provide that help. I don't give two shits if the person is smiling or pissed when they help. I realize that we are all humans, and we all have bad days/weeks/months sometimes. Saying nicely that you have no idea or that you cannot help is worthless.

Yes, that's pretty negative stuff, but I find the little moments every day that chip away at that monolith. Right now, for example, the girls are singing themselves to sleep, Andree and I have bellies full of channa masala, malai kofta, and naan, and I don't have to be to work until 12pm tomorrow. Oh, and there's this:

and this:

and this:

The final one is the bike that I'll be ordering next week. It took a long time to make this decision, since I have a pretty functional mountain rig, but I know it will make me ride more, and I know I will enjoy riding it more than the old 26. Besides, I feel good that I didn't flake out and buy a new, carbon featherweight for the road. I persisted with the old 1987 Schwinn Circuit and here is the result:

It is Campagnolo Centaur, which I have grown very fond of in only 5 or 6 rides, mated with some classic complements and a workhorse wheelset (240's and Open Pros). I'll probably still tweak a few things, but it rides very smoothly, even if it does have a little flex and spring to it (which is really more of a benefit than a detriment).

As usual with this blog, almost everything above was written at least a few weeks ago, and only a few things have changed. I still don't feel like Andree and I have much of a relationship as a couple, these days, though I think that is more largely due to the girls of late than the job, as it was for most of this's now been almost 7 months of continuous full-time employment with a 3-day break around the end of July and a 2-day break, just now, for T-Giving. The job is shaping up, nicely, of late, since we're finally getting the time to cull all the crap that 8 years and 2 bike shops can accumulate. I still think we're overworked, but at least we're not underpaid for our efforts.

The job is my only creative outlet, I've realized, which is kind of cool and kind of sad. I used to play lots of guitar, build lots of things, and even paint and draw lots of things. Perhaps the new year will avail more time for some of that. My co-worker, after all, is a really accomplished musician, and he is somebody with whom I share many interests. I'm glad he and I are getting the chance to attend a Park Tool Summit in Atlanta at the end of January. It'll be a nice break with somebody that appreciates at what volume Sleep should be listened to while traveling. If such excursions do not provide more creative output, I take heart, since I think the girls might be headed for full-time school next Fall.

As for the bikes mentioned above...the Dragon is trouncing my old 631 Dakota from the same company. I feel way more stable on corners, just as able to throw the whole thing around when needed, more confident with creek crossings and related obstacles, and my ass and back haven't given me any protests, even with our root-laden (but still awesome), local trail.

The Schwinn is nearly perfect. I need only replace my stem with one that I can get up slightly higher than the one I have, and I'll be happy. It has served me well on many rides, so far, and the 130mm wheel in the 126mm frame is not an issue at all. I'm happy with the Campagnolo I chose, but it is Powertorque Centaur, so I'll have to buy a cheap gear-puller for when I yank the crank and grease the spline (something I think is already necessary, since I've got an annoying little creak that I can't pin may be the BB cups, since I chased them after the powder-coating, but they come coated with some kind of locking compound already on them, so I doubt it).

Politically, I kind of feel like we're living in an alternate universe, lately, with what the Republicans are putting out there. I'm staying centered by reading a biography about Nader that is surprisingly inspiring (not because he wasn't inspiring, but because I forgot what that felt like). More on this realm, later, since I don't see any point in making more of a spectacle out of what are already annoyingly ignorant humanoids.

Keep your ears on, and I'll get some more photographs up here, soon. We've been solid on Tuesday night MTB rides for the past 5 or 6 weeks, so maybe something on that note, though the weather is producing some pretty things, lately, too, and we've already reserved a cabin for a post-x-mas trip to the hills.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Big Lull

It's been a long, long time. I raced in Florida, the girls are much bigger, precocious, and adorable, and we've just been through a whirlwind of bicycle advocacy. The job scene is still very dismal, with little hope on the Interpretation front, and a shop that may or may not be realizing the mistakes of the past and what needs to happen for future success.

The 12 Hours of Santos was a blast...or should I say a wash? I flatted twice within five minutes on my third lap and seized my quadriceps on the sixth. I had never experienced muscle failure in my legs, before, and I don't plan on it happening again. I had to use my bicycle as a crutch to push myself off the trail and out of the way of other riders. It was quite pathetic. Anyway, I just quit. I didn't see any reason to wait out the regeneration of overly stressed muscles that needed more than a few minutes rest and a little food. The fact is that I just didn't train at all for it, this year. It didn't help that we rode some of the other trails in the area for a couple of hours the day before. I thought that this would help me get warmed up, but it just produced a dramatic and slightly painful front flip over the handlebars and some slightly sore legs on race day. Here's a glimpse of what southern FL has to'd be surprised...enjoy the soundtrack these guys rocked. I especially like that somebody commented that the videographer "made it look easy," with all the deadbeats on the side of the trail and crashing in front of him.

In the hopes of conquering this demon, I spent the first few months after the race riding downtown and running 9 flights of stairs 20 or more times, with push-ups at the top. I'm really committed to nailing this next year. Ever since, I've been hitting most Tuesdays and Thursdays with the local group rides, with some Sunday mornings thrown in for good measure, though the work-outs are still just barely getting ramped back up. I've had a really bum last month or so, mostly because I'm not riding anything capable of keeping me with everybody on the road, and I've got a couple of puds for riding partners that are forever canceling on plans to hit the trails. The next plan is to start running with Mark from the shop, since he's dependable and does the kind of distance in which I need to involve myself (his trail runs are 15-20 miles). I've done more than a few 13 milers on the greenway, and I'm sure having a change of scenery and not having to do out-and-backs will motivate.

So, all of the above was written fairly long ago, and the shop is now closing. We will, most likely, wind up with a new, well-funded, and surprisingly young owner, which is neither here nor there. At this point, I could give two poops, since the girls need a daddy with a solid job, and we've signed them up for two days of daycare each week for Fall (partly for their own benefit, partly for ours). I'm one of two former employees with a paying job, and I couldn't care less about the future of the shop, as long as it is about providing real bikes for real people. I am truly at the end of my wits with those that think gluing tubular tires or flushing disc brakes should be same-day services in a shop that truly (and obviously) services every kind of rider out there, not just those with overpriced wagons and fat wallets...fucking idiots.

I've been lightly engaged on the road, recently, and I've been doing it on an old, lugged, steel, Taiwanese, DiamondBack. I finally got the Schwinn Circuit powdercoated (for $100), but I've yet to get a new group for it (I'm probably going to go with Ultegra, even though Athena was attractive...I've just not become a fan of practically removing my hand from the bar to shift the other direction on the Camp stuff). Yes, I know, the price is right with an employee deal and the Italian stuff is rebuildable, but Shimano is just so much more intuitive.

Fuck knows where things are going, but it was good to see you still creeping on the blog, Christopher. It's more than I can say for some of my other old friends that I anticipated would've commented by now and jostled me out of my "literary" funk. Things have been overwhelming the past 6 months or so, and I appreciate any of you that are even still occasionally checking this thing to see where the Jaynes' are headed. I could get in to the fact that we've had two termite swarms in the house, and how funny/absolutely infuriating it is to deal with pest control employees that don't know that you went to graduate school to study forest insects ("Are you sure they're termites, sir?") and to get a contractor to assess the damage done. I could also get in to how much fun it is to forget your insurance card for a doctor's visit and have to receive 5 pieces of mail as a result to finally get the visit paid, or how cool it is to show up on a bicycle with two car wheels for tire replacements and then get four tires replaced when you bring the car in for a free alignment check (yes...I paid for the alignment on top of the free alignment check). Lots of cool stuff, lately, but the upshot is that I think I'll be full-time bike shop guy from here on out, unless some real dick rolls in the door with a bag of cash...not an impossible scenario, given the tiddely-winks and shenanigans the current owner got himself into over the eight years he was at the helm.

Anyway, I hope to get this thing up and running, again. I've been in a really low place for too long, now, and it helps to share with the few of you that still look in on me. Here are a couple recent photographs to visually update. We absolutely massacred the blueberry farm this year and hit the strawberries at least twice. The giant swallowtail larva is on the grapefruits I grew from seed earlier this year. Can't wait to imprison the chrysalis just long enough that the girls can watch the newly emerged adult float away.

Stay tuned...and rent Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the Banksy movie. Those movies are really good. Oh, and don't read Derrick Jensen (it'll just depress or upset you in a do-nothing kind of way), but read Freefall by Stiglitz. Also, last month's Mother Jones is really good, albeit a little on the downer side.

Thanks for hanging in there. Things are getting better.