August 31, 2007

More Blogging

Just as a reminder, I also have a blog on real estate and mortgage lending topics here. Although I don't post quite as often, and the entries aren't quite as fun, the topics are certainly important.

A Fond Look Back

Well it has been almost a month here at Views From Two Wheels. I’ve enjoyed posting, and it has helped get me back into the habit of writing. I hope you have enjoyed checking in once in a while, and hopefully you’ve found something worth your time. I really appreciate the comments you have left. Just knowing that have at least a small audience keeps me honest about posting regularly. Thanks for checking in, and have a great Labor Day weekend.

Saving More Water

One of my faithful readers (hey there are a couple) mentioned that after reading one of my posts, she no longer lets the water run while she washes dishes. Awesome! In the spirit of changing habits and making easy changes, we move to the bathroom.

There are some easy changes that can be made to save water and by extension the energy it takes to heat it. A no-brainer is to reduce the amount of water you use in the shower. Cheap fixes include a low-flow shower head or a flow restrictor. A completely cost-free change that has a huge influence is to simply take shorter showers. I timed my showers this week, and I am in and out in 3 minutes or less. I do have the advantage of having short hair, but a shower shouldn’t take longer than about 5 minutes (unless you’ve been doing some serious muddy work).

When turning on the shower to get warm water, turn it to full blast hot until the water heats up. There is no sense in wasting any cold water as you wait for the warm water to arrive. There are also systems that will circulate hot water through your system so there is no waiting (or wasted water).

When we get to remodeling the bathroom, we will install a dual flush toilet. A different amount of water is used depending on which button you push. Until then, I have placed a water bottle in the tank. This displaces a certain amount of water so that each flush uses less. Just be sure the bottle doesn’t interfere with the float mechanism.

As always, don’t leave water running unnecessarily. Don’t leave it running while you’re brushing your teeth or when you’re shaving. And guys, don’t shave in the shower. That is a tremendous waste of water, and your beard is plenty soft two minutes after you get out of the shower. Women – I have no idea if the water is running when you shave your legs. Hopefully the water isn’t running the whole time.

Share any tips you might have!

Good and Bad Influences

My wife and I are approaching 6 years of marriage. Having lived together even longer than that, we have picked up some of each other’s habits. Some good, some bad.

A little while back I heard my voice coming from the wife. She was growing frustrated when she couldn’t find her MP3 player. After tearing her room apart, she said something like “this is why I shouldn’t have nice things”. I said the same thing when I made the mistake of washing some dress slacks that were dry clean only. I don’t accept my own mistakes with grace. This voice of self-frustration is not really something I wanted to pass along.

An example of a better influence happened a week or so later. The wife had come up against something that wasn’t working. Rather than getting frustrated or giving up, she stopped and said to herself, “What would Sean do?” She stepped back for a minute, looked at the problem, and figured out a solution. I am much happier to hear about these kinds of influences. She doesn’t mock me quite so much for sitting down to read instruction booklets.

We’ve both brought good and bad habits into the relationship, and there is always something to learn. But no, I haven’t influenced the wife to fold socks like I do.

August 28, 2007

Handy Running/Biking Website

I may have passed this website along to all who read this blog, but just in case… Here is a mapping site that you can plan out your running routes ahead of time. You don’t need to go out and drive the routes to see how far they are, it adds up the mileage as you draw the route. You can also track your training and search for other people’s routes. There is also one for biking at

Author List

I am often drawn to people’s bookshelves. I find it interesting to see what other people are reading. I don’t know that it is a window into their psyche, but it’s interesting. Here are some of the authors you might find on my bookshelf:

Dean Koontz
Barbara Kingsolver
J.R.R. Tolkien
J.K. Rowling
Henry David Thoreau
John Steinbeck
James Patterson
Stephen King
Ken Follet
Tom Clancy
Phillip Margolin
Patricia Cornwall
Douglas Adams
Lee Child
Bill Bryson
and many more…

I’m always looking for new reads. I’d love to hear your favorites.

Seeing Music

Some songs take me back to a particular point in my life. Some are obvious like the song “For my Wedding”. Plenty more are vague – 80’s hits that will always mean something simply because I was a teenager in that period. There are also songs that make me think of a particular person every time I hear them. “Son of a Preacher Man” = Tami, “Old King” = Buzz, “Just Wait” = Holly, etc.

Some songs have even more concrete images tied to them. Almost every time I hear “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake I see Matt doing the raise the roof motion and Holly playing air trumpet. We were in Santa Barbara for a fast weekend, staying in “tent city” on Sean’s front lawn, meeting several good friends for the first time. Beautiful memory.

Sometimes a song I’ve heard several times hits home suddenly because of the particular moment it starts playing. “My Thanksgiving” started playing while I was walking around Greenlake with the pooch on Christmas morning. Already in a reflective mood walking alone with my dog, the lyric “For every breath, for every day of living, this is my Thanksgiving” connected on an even deeper level. This was my “finish song” when I set up my half marathon playlist, and it still grabs me whenever I hear it.

Only 433 days until election day

Here is a link to a spreadsheet with a quick overview of where the candidates stand on 25 issues.

August 27, 2007

Our new best friend

Borrowed from The Daily Show. "The Great Recall of China".

The best part is the last minute. Erin Burnett on CNBC says "If China is to start making say toys that don't have lead in them, or food that isn't poisoness, their costs of production are going to go up, and that means prices at Walmart here in the United States are going to go up too."


August 26, 2007

Size does matter

When I post a picture onto this blog, 9 times out of 10 I only get the small preview. When you hover over the picture, the little pointing hand appears, but clicking the picture does not lead you to the full size shot. I am not sure why this happens. I have tried digging into the html code (which I know little about), but I can rarely fix the issue.

This is a test. I logged in on Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. We'll see if it makes any difference. This is a shot of us heading into Waterton National Park.


Different levels of crazy

As I was finishing the Summits of Bothell, a rider was heading out to do another lap of the course. The ride had pretty much done me in, and I would be hard pressed to do it again. No matter how far you go, someone is always going farther.

As I was riding today, a couple of friends were out doing a triathlon. One was doing an Olympic distance tri in Chicago (.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). Still another friend was doing the full Ironman distance up in Canada (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I still have a tough time wrapping my head around the Ironman distance. Maybe someday I will achieve that level of crazy.

One S.O.B. of a ride

I rode the Summits of Bothell bike ride this morning, benefiting the Bothell Arts Council. Their tag line is “one S.O.B of a ride” and they do not exaggerate. You climb 8 summits in 38 miles for a total of around 3,300 feet of climbing. They advertise that there are two 14% grades, three 16% grades, and one 18% grade climb in the bunch. There were two hills in particular that made me want to lose my breakfast muffin. I am happy to say I didn’t stop on any hill or get off to walk (but I came pretty close).

There wasn’t a cue sheet, just a map, but ride was well marked with little S.O.B. symbols. I still managed to miss a turn. I didn’t get too far, but of course added a small hill to the route. It unfortunately rained for a little more than an hour, but it wasn’t all that cold. There were three water/snack stops staffed by some friendly volunteers. I am always thankful for the people who come out and support these rides. Plus there were homemade chocolate chip cookies!

There were definitely fewer riders than some of the other rides I have done (STP, RSVP). I’m guessing there were around 100 riders. The interesting thing was that the majority of the riders were around my age or older. This is a pretty demanding ride, and I kind of expected to see some young punks flying past me. I did pretty well, but I think I was passed by more people than I passed.

This was a bit of a test ride for me. I have another event in a month or so that is 114 miles with about 7500’ of climbing. The kicker is there is a time limit, so I need to keep the pace up and the pit stops short. I will need to average about 12 miles an hour with stops to make it by the cutoff. Today I averaged just over 12 with stops, so I will be cutting it close.

August 25, 2007

Running with Music

I just came back from a 7 mile run, which is the longest I have run since the marathon in June. If a run is going to be an hour or less, I don’t normally bring anything to drink or music to listen to. So today I brought both. I have to say I have missed the music. I don’t use it on shorter runs just so I don’t become dependent on it.

When I ran my first half marathon (Seattle, Nov. 05) I ran with music. I had fun setting up a playlist of music to run with. I started with some slower inspirational songs, made sure I had some high energy music for the hills, and ended with a few songs that meant something to me. It was interesting trying to match the songs to the terrain and point in the race. I had a song picked out to finish to, and was actually able to finish a song ahead of target. The music was kept low so I could hear my fellow runners and the supporters along the way. I think it would have been a very different experience without the music.

When it came time to attempt a full marathon, I expanded the playlist. It was an even tougher guess as to when I would finish, so I included some more songs beyond my “finishing” song just in case. The marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon, and I was running it with some friends from California. At some point I found out that headphones were not allowed at the marathon. I e-mailed my friends to let them know, and the silence was deafening. It seemed to say “Yeah Newbie, what were you thinking”. I have found many discussion groups with threads of anger toward people who run with headphones in these events. So now I knew. I am glad I didn’t bring music with me to D.C. as I ended up running with my friend Marci the whole way, and the crowds were about tenfold of what I had at Seattle. It was a beautiful day.

So I have this marathon playlist that will probably never get used at a marathon. I do use it for some training runs, especially the long ones since it is over 5 hours long. But I still need some music marathon morning. I have the habit of listening to a particular song, “Beautiful World” by Colin Hay, on the morning of any event I run or bike. I decided to make a playlist about 45 minutes long that I could play as I ate breakfast and got ready marathon morning. My friend Wendy had a great idea of slipping in snippets of movies and TV shows in between songs. So my playlist has some inspiring/funny quotes from Apollo 13, Forest Gump, The Simpsons, and a few others. These along with some personal/inspirational music get me ready for the miles ahead.

I listened to that mix today on my run. And it was beautiful.

Fit but Fat

Another cool thing my watch/footpod/HR monitor will do is track approximately how many calories you burn. I looked at my watch after my run today, and it says I have burned over 110,000 calories so far this year. You’d think I would have lost some weight by now.

August 24, 2007

The Happy Totals

I’ve tried to keep a good journal of my running and biking. I suppose I just want to have a historical record I can look back on. It also just doesn’t seem to count unless you can quantify it and throw it on a spreadsheet.

I’ve been able to look back at my mileage in the weeks before an injury. I can also keep track of how many miles I have on my shoes so I’m not running on dead soles. I’ve also been able to compare my heart rates during different training periods. I’m hoping to see how my training numbers effect my marathon times. It is also pretty cool to add it all up to see how far you’ve come. So here are the happy totals for 2007 so far:

Swimming – 11 miles

Biking – 1022 miles

Running – 426.5 miles

A Picture of Determination

On the fourth riding day of my Glacier Ride, I broke a spoke. My wheel went out of true immediately so I had to pull over. Fortunately I had a Fiberfix spoke and was able to repair the wheel enough to get to camp. My technical difficulties were not the worst of the day. Paula had her chain jam and it immediately bent her back derailleur. She was done for the day and needed a ride into camp.

A spare rear derailleur is not something you normally carry with you, and there were no bike shops nearby. We still had two more days of riding, including the highlight of the trip riding through Glacier Park the next day. So when we got back to camp, our mechanic took the broken parts off of the bike. The solution to get her back on the road was to make her bike into a one speed. She had to pick the gear she would stay in all day. Tough choice. The day’s ride was a bit over 50 miles with a 12 mile climb to get to the top of Logan Pass. She would need a pretty low gear for the climb, but would then be stuck spinning on the flats. There was also a time limit to make it to mile 40.

Well she made it with a smile on her face. One of the great thing about these rides is you are generally surrounded by people that don’t sweat the small (or big) stuff. I don’t think anyone would have thought less of her if she had hopped in the truck for the ride over the pass. But she picked a gear and just kept spinning. It just wouldn’t have been the same going through the park in a car.

Ah, Sweet Justice

From our justice is not so blind file:

Actress Lindsay Lohan reached a deal with prosecutors Thursday, agreeing to serve a one-day jail sentence after pleading no contest to drunk driving charges while admitting to using cocaine in two separate incidents…seven misdemeanor counts, stemming from two cases, of using cocaine and driving under the influence…Lohan was not required to appear in court for the misdemeanor charges…The Los Angeles County district attorney's office agreed to drop two counts of driving under the influence…Prosecutors decided not to charge Lohan with felony drug charges because the amount of narcotics involved was less than the standard 0.5 grams.

They said Lohan did not receive special treatment."She's getting what everyone else would get," Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers said.

Nicole Richie was released from jail after serving 82 minutes of her 4 day sentence. The 4 day sentence was for driving under the influence of drugs. Richie never actually even reached a cell.

She was released “based on her sentence and federal guidelines”

What the!?

August 22, 2007

What do I know?

I am stuck on the Science Channel.

I am watching a show called “How It’s Made”. So far I’ve learned how to make aluminum foil. Did you know that aluminum foil starts out as an 18” thick block and is continually pressed until it is down to the desired thickness?

I am reminded of the series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In one of the books (can’t remember which) Arthur Dent is stranded on a planet more primitive than Earth. Though he knows all about electricity, gas powered engines, televisions, microwaves and such, he unfortunately has no clue how any of these things work.

His contribution to this new society – he becomes a sandwich maker.

Cool Show on this Week

It is called “Eco-Tech” and is on the Science channel. Tonight’s show was “Building Green”. Really interesting stuff being developed to reduce waste, pollution, and energy use. There is a paint in development that will last 1000 years, is graffiti and mold resistant, and uses the suns energy to convert nitrous oxide produced by cars in to nitrogen and oxygen. The rest of the weeks shows are:

Powering Up – sustainable energy
Extreme Weather – Predicting the future of the planet’s weather and combating weather disasters.
Future Fuels – Powering planes trains and automobiles in unconventional ways
Zero Waste – New innovations in waste and recycling technology.

Set your Tivo!

Hey Everybody, Its National Bowling Week!

I plan to celebrate by wearing someone else’s smelly shoes.

Back in my day, a penny was worth something!

It now costs almost 2 cents to produce a penny. 25 years ago when there was a spike in copper prices, pennies changed to almost all zinc with a copper coating. Now prices of zinc have increased to push the cost of a penny from 1.2 cents to 1.7 cents in just the past year. Since 2003, the price of zinc has increased 450%.

Solutions include using steel or aluminum instead of zinc. There has also been a push to get rid of the penny all together, simply rounding up or down to the nearest nickel. Of course the nickel costs almost 10 cents to make itself.

August 21, 2007

What I'm Reading

My wife has been bugging me (encouraging) me to watch the mini-series "Lonesome Dove" since we met 7 or 8 years ago. I've resisted so far. Its not really fair since she has sat through all three Lord of the Rings movies in a marathon viewing one day with me. I found out that the book was already sitting on our book shelf so I figured I'd read the book first. The book is dragging though. I'm 700 pages into it and I am anxious to see it finish. I am hoping that the story lines intersect in an interesting way.

A group of us have a book club that meets every couple of months and I need to get on to those books soon. There is also a nice stack of books I picked up at Powell’s Books in Portland. I better stop typing and get to reading.

The Day After the Marathon

Stairs are a bitch!

Obligatory Running Note

Went for a 4 mile run tonight. Felt pretty good, if a bit too fat (still haven't lost those pounds to improve my time). Lately I have been running by feel. No real plan for pace when I head out, just go at the pace that feels good. I have one of the cool gadgets that lets me know my pace and heart rate, but I have been trying not to adjust my pace by watching it like a hawk. It does record my splits so I can check things out when I get home. About the only thing I try to do is pick up the pace in the last mile. This is an added bonus since the last mile has the most climbing. My average pace was the best it has been in the last month of training.

I wasn’t sure how today would go after the long bike riding weekend. I’ve wondered if the bike riding would mess with the running. I sometimes have achilles problems when riding my bike, and this can translate into a running issue. I am training for a half marathon and the last couple of weekends when I should be doing my long runs, I have bike rides scheduled. I started training late for this half, and the bike rides limit the training further. I’m debating juggling my training to squeeze in the long runs, but I’m trying to listen to that other voice that says “don’t get hurt”.

August 20, 2007

Is this wrong, or just plain funny?

More YouTube/Scrubs fun.

Two Faves

These are a couple of my favorites together (Colin Hay & Scrubs). And I wanted to try to paste a YouTube video into my blog. We'll see if this works.

Thanks for the tip Matt!

Drunken Promise Explained

I started biking based on a “drunken promise”.

I was sitting out on the patio at the restaurant I worked at, having some drinks with friends. My friend Cherie had recently ridden the Seattle to Portland ride, and talked me into riding the Tour des Lacs. It was an 84 mile route that she and her Dad were going to ride in a little over a month. Of course I hadn’t ridden in years, but I dug my bike out, did a little training and made it to the ride (didn’t finish unfortunately).

I wasn’t really drunk when I made the promise, but the term just seemed to fit the situation. When you’re sitting around with friends, drinking, making big plans – those plans sometimes don’t get mentioned again. What sounded like a good idea at 1 a.m. doesn’t always seem so brilliant the next morning, especially if you’re working on a hangover. The “drunken promise” is all about follow-through.

We have expanded our group and adventures. Some bike, some run, some do both. Four of us recently completed a marathon together with Team Drunken Promise shirts. It has also become easier to talk each other into things. Drinking isn’t required to get us to sign up for the next event, but it is still highly encouraged.

The site of the lastest drunken promise. Note the wine bottles.

Cycle of Angst

There is an interesting article in The Daily News (Longview, WA) about the local reaction to the STP riding through their towns each year. It is a good example of the broad strokes people use to describe people on the other side. All bikers are “selfish arrogant scofflaws”, and locals are “fat, hateful bumpkins”. There are also lots of reader comments at the end reinforcing the opinions held by both sides.

There is a quote from Cowlitz County Sheriff Bill Mahoney that mirrors my thinking "There are always going to be jerks, whether on two wheels, four wheels or on two feet," he said. "We just try to find a balance and not step on toes." I missed this year’s STP, but I have participated in the previous four events. As I mentioned previously, there are simply too many riders. Any problems are magnified at this scale. Though there are jerks on both sides, I have to say that I have seen many more bikers in the wrong than drivers. This can be due to inattention or lack of experience, but some times it seems bikers have a chip on their shoulder and are doing something stupid to make a point.

Cascade does make an effort to educate the riders, but enforcement has been poor or non-existent in the past. They have started using “ride referees” on some of their rides, and they were supposed to be at the STP this year. I think as responsible riders and citizens we need to respect the law and do what we can to promote cycling. Setting a poor example or being a jerk on purpose will certainly not win anyone over to your way of thinking. I think Cascade needs to communicate better with the communities we pass through, continue to expand the referee program, and to require that riders in their events have and use a mirror. The first and most dramatic step should be to reduce the number of riders. 9,000 is simply too much.

RSVP report

I am just back from another new bike ride – well new to me. I rode the RSVP this weekend with a couple of friends. RSVP stands for Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party. The ride has been around for about 26 years and is similar to the STP (Seattle to Portland). Both are organized rides held by Cascade Bicycle Club. The RSVP was actually started the year after the STP. In 1980 the eruption of Mount St. Helens prevented bicyclists from heading south, so the trip to Vancouver Canada was launched.

The RSVP is similar in length to the STP (183 miles vs. 206), but it feels more challenging. It is a much more scenic ride than the STP. You travel through lots of farm country and pass through several small towns with a Main St USA feel. Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham was the highlight of the first day. It is a twisty uphill climb into Bellingham, but it heavily wooded and overlooks the ocean most of the way. The second day into Canada was also beautiful except for a 6 mile stretch on hwy 7.

I would have to say what really drew me to this ride was that there are about 1,300 riders vs. 9,000 in the STP. 9,000 riders are just too many to have on the roads (and to support). The experience level of the RSVP riders seemed better as well. The STP draws many first timers, and lots of mistakes are made. Of course there are plenty of experienced riders who are oblivious or arrogant that make things difficult for others as well.

The one glaring disadvantage to the RSVP is the finish area. There was no real finish line, and the finish area was an underground parking garage at a hotel. There was no parking anywhere nearby, a very frustrating experience for my wife as she was trying to meet us there. The STP finishes in a park in downtown Portland where the riders and their families can meet and relax.

This weekend was another great experience. I rode with a couple of good friends, and also saw friends from my two Big Ride’s on the road. We stayed at a friend’s mother’s house in Bellingham both nights, and her hospitality of three stinky bikers was fantastic. My wife also brought the pooch along this time, and she was well behaved and a hit with all. We ate like kings, drank wine by a lake, and I made another “drunken promise” for a more challenging ride next year.

August 15, 2007

The best show you might not be watching

The show is Psych and it is on the USA network on Friday nights. It follows Monk, another good show. The main character in Psych (Shawn) is an extremely perceptive guy who was doing some crime solving by just watching TV coverage. His skills were developed by his over-bearing father who was a policeman, and wanted Shawn to follow in his footsteps. Shawn and his father (Corbin Bernsen) do not get along, and the last thing Shawn wanted to be was a policeman.

In the pilot episode the police brought Shawn and were planning on jailing him as a suspect. They figured no one would know the information he did without being involved in the crime. On his way to the cell, he blurts out that he is a psychic. He convinces them by “seeing" details on several people in the room, and also helping them nail a suspect he met in the lobby. Though skeptical that he really is psychic, they later hire him out as a consultant.

It is your basic crime show, but funny. The best part is the banter between Sean and his partner and friend Gus. It reminds me of a few people I know…

Who needs carbon fiber?

Well if you’re going to be climbing any hills, this bike might not be for you. Instead of going light, this builder went for unique. The bike is beautiful but weighs in at 114 pounds. The bike was built by a student in Germany. Though at a glance it looks like one beautiful piece of driftwood, it was built by gluing several layers of beech plywood and then lots of woodworking. Truly a one of a kind bike. There are more photos of the bike here.

Right after I bought my bike, I found one I liked even more. Of course if I recall, it cost about 3 times more than mine, and the waiting list was pretty long. But a bamboo bike would have been pretty sweet.

August 14, 2007

Our disposable society

Any ad tagline that ends with “and then just throw it away” makes my skin crawl. Swiffer sweepers – don’t use a broom or vaccuum, wipe the floor with lots of our one time use cloths. Scothbrite toilet bowl scrubbers – Don’t use that brush that will last for years, use our version with one-time use heads and a handle that will probably stop gripping them in a year. The latest irritant is the one-time use toothbrushes (with toothpaste built right in!). One of their testimonials is: “I have a lot of patients ask me, “How am I supposed to brush after every meal when I eat two thirds of my meals out?” That’s when I hand them the SmileSaver brush…we give your brush to all of our patients. I use them myself!” Cindy, Dental Hygienist. Part of their marketing is for people to have one stashed in their briefcase for that “garlic emergency”, but I doubt they will survive without hyping the benefits of not having to carry around that annoying tube of toothpaste.

All this “one-time use” crap has to go somewhere. Seattle already does a decent job of recycling to try to reduce the amount of garbage going to the land fill. Seattle is implementing another recycling program that forces people to recycle food waste in their yard waste can. A great idea and a noble effort, but a loosing battle when consumers keep buying disposable crap. Reducing packaging and our purchase of one-time use products is a much more effective than recycling in shrinking our piles of garbage. It is not just one-time use products that are creating extra waste. Disposable razors have much more plastic than razors that simply change out the head. A lot of these substitutions are easy, if you just keep an eye out for waste.

August 13, 2007

On the run again

I am training again. I haven’t been running regularly since the marathon in June. After the marathon I traded my running shoes for biking shoes to get ready for the Glacier ride. While I have a few bike rides coming up in the next couple months, I am focusing my training on running again. This is the start of the third week of regular running.

I’ve found it takes no time to get out of running shape. My first attempts were kinda ugly. I am trying to ramp up a little slower this time, hopefully avoiding any injuries. I would also like to have a bigger base before the training for my next marathon starts.

The cool thing is that my wife has started running as well. Though we don’t run at the same pace, we try to start out together each time. We’re both running three times a week, and I’m adding a biking day and a swimming day. She is training for a fall 10k, and we'll get to be at the start line together. Pretty cool.

Space debris

The annual Perseids meteor shower peaked last night. The Perseids is caused by flying dirt that hits Earth's atmosphere at high speed leaving streaks as they burn up, and always peaks in mid-August. Growing up we were often on vacation in eastern Washington around this time. I used to sleep out on the grass and watch the show.

I thought about sleeping out in the backyard last night for old time sake. This year’s display should be extra special because there will be little or no moonlight to wash out the display. Unfortunately, there is too much light pollution in our area. I stood outside for 5 minutes or so letting my eyes adjust, but it didn’t get any darker or clearer. So no walk down memory lane for me last night. It would have been a rude awakening anyway when the pooch came out at the crack of dawn.

August 12, 2007

Laundry can be fun

My wife thinks the way I fold socks is funny. She actually laughed out loud when she first saw me doing my laundry. I guess I have an extra flip at the end. I didn’t think I folded socks in any particularly special way - It is just the way I fold socks. We also fold shirts in a different way.

When I was at a Laundromat last month with a friend, she was watching another woman fold laundry. She also noted how the other woman folded laundry in a unique way (there’s not much gong on while you’re waiting for your clothes to dry).

I’ve also found that people tie shoes differently. Some do two loops, some do a wrap around, some push the lace through with a thumb, some pull it through with a finger. It is odd that such mundane tasks still have a bit of variety. I assume when I was taught to tie shoes there wasn’t a debate on which technique was best. I wonder if there is a better way to…?

The Clog

Seattle has entered a 19 day period of traffic chaos. Most lanes of northbound I-5 will be closed in downtown Seattle as workers replace expansion joints and resurface the road. Alternate routes have been published in the paper, people are encouraged to try trains and busses (or even bikesJ), and some people will tele-commute. Monday mornings commute will be the first taste of ugliness. Some dire predictions warn of 14 mile backups.

Unfortunately this is just the beginning. There are 24 bridges and viaducts that are in need of new expansion joints. The Seattle section is rated 49.9 out of a 100, though the repair will only bring it up to a 65. The Seattle Times has set up a webpage with cameras and driver stories at There is also a mobile link, though of course they don't recommend surfing and driving at the same time.

August 11, 2007

My CD player and the magic of the internet

There is a CD jammed in car stereo. It is stuck in the no-mans land between in the player and in my hand. I can’t get it out or even play it for that matter. So, I’ve been listening to a lot more radio these days. I am a serious station hopper and will surf each of my stations when a new song starts. If nothing grabs me, I’ll go to CD.

With the CD option gone, I’ve been getting more random songs I haven’t heard in a while. A song with Peter Gabriel came on that I hadn’t heard in a while. When I made it home in front of a computer, I tried to find out what CD the song was on. I couldn’t find it. Then I went to the radio stations website ( I found out if I typed in the time of day, it would list the 5 songs played around that time. Turns out it was a song by Afro Celt Sound System that Gabriel was the guest singer. Brilliant!

Not ready for the next digital step

There is a tech review article in the Times today on the new Sony Reader. It is the latest attempt to produce an effective portable digital replacement of a book. One of the cool plusses of something like this is you can carry around 80 books in one device that is about the size of a paperback book. Other companies have produced similar devices, but they have yet to catch on. Sony’s version is $300 and is mostly targeted to commuters and frequent travelers. They have 15,000 titles ready for download at their online store. Digital book versions are a few dollars cheaper than their paper counterparts. Sony may have a bit more hope this time around as the Ipod has people more comfortable with downloading digital media.

I for one will not be buying one anytime soon. I am an avid reader, and no digital device will replace the experience of reading a book. I also still get a daily newspaper. Even though I hate wasting resources of any kind, I find it difficult to let paper publications go. Everyone has things they don’t want to sacrifice even though it is wasteful. I try to balance it out by eliminating waste in other parts of my life: Recycling everything possible, short showers, keeping the furnace low, a travel cup instead of paper coffee cups, refilling my Nalgene bottle with tap water, etc. All of us can reduce our environmental impact by being conscious of the hundreds of little choices we make each day. I try to be sure that I am using a resource, rather than wasting it. Washing dishes uses water, letting the water run while washing - waste. I still have lots of room to improve, mostly on the big ticket items like a more efficient car. Until I can afford to attack the big ones, I try to save as much as I can by doing all the little things. I’ll try to save as many trees as I can, so I can continue to curl up with a good book.

August 9, 2007

Marathon morning

This is the first paragraph in 26.2 Marathon Stories by Katherine Switzer and Roger Robinson. I think it is a great description of marathon morning.

THE PRELUDE TO A MARATHON is one of life’s strangest yet most vivid times. It is a time of intensity yet relaxation, apprehension yet resolve; a time of deeply introspective solitude in the midst of the biggest jostling throng most of us will ever join. So many people, intent on a separate inward commitment, but united in one common physical endeavor. Our motive is private, the context public. We are strangers who are instant comrades, competitors bonded by the shared knowledge that we are all about to undertake one of the hardest tasks in our lives. Ahead lie strenuous effort, weariness, and pain, but we will endure it voluntarily, for the sheer enjoyment of trying.

August 8, 2007

The best $10 I ever spent

I heard about the Fiberfix spoke on my ride down the Pacific coast. I didn’t see it in action, but from what I heard it could replace the broken spoke without tearing the wheel apart. I happen to see it in Greggs Bicycle shop a week before I was heading out on my Glacier trip so I picked it up. My next ride I broke a spoke, but unfortunately it was still sitting on the kitchen counter. “Fortunately” I had a chance to test it out a week and a half later.

We were riding into St. Mary after a fantastic 2nd breakfast in Babb, Montana. About 8 miles from camp a spoke in my rear wheel broke. It was on the drive side of the wheel so without the tools to take the cassette off, I would normally be stuck looking for a ride home. Out comes the Fiberfix spoke. I had a couple other riders with me to help me out. The first step in the instructions is “Remain calm and congratulate yourself for carrying Fiberfix in your tool kit.” I like this thing already.

As we are on the side of the road working on the wheel, a bird starts circling (vulture?). One of the guys pretending to be the bird joked “the fat one is mine”. The Fiberfix is basically a Kevlar string that loops from the hub of the wheel to the rim to replace the broken spoke. You can tighten it enough to bring the wheel back into true. We figured it out as a group and were back on the road in 20 minutes or so. Pretty slick.

Once back in camp our mechanic fixed my wheel with the spare spoke I was carrying. I’d recommend putting a Fiberfix spoke in your seat bag. It is only $10, it is pretty small, and it can get you home. If you can’t find it in a bike shop, here is a link to the site online - Fiberfix

New Wheels

So I have changed out the wheels on my bike. The stock wheels that came with my bike made it about 2100 miles without trouble, but then things started to come undone. About a week before my trip to Glacier I broke a spoke in the rear wheel. The wheel went so far out of true that it wouldn’t spin, even with the brakes completely open. It was on the drive side, so even though I had a spare spoke with me, I needed some tools to get the cassette off. So a phone call, a ride home then a scramble to get it fixed. My local bike shop was able to fit me in to their schedule, repair the spoke and get the wheel back to true. They said that a good rule of thumb is that when you break your third spoke it is time to rebuild your wheel.

So I’m off on the Glacier trip, made it through 3 ½ days and about 255 miles, then SPROING – busted spoke. Again it was on the drive side of the rear wheel. Fortunately I had bought a “Fiberfix replacement spoke” (to be discussed later) and I made it back to camp. Second spoke broken on the same side of the same wheel. No further problems before I make it home, but it is clear that the wheel has been weakened.

I was looking for something more durable, yet pretty inexpensive. I was also looking for something with a higher spoke count. The rear wheel on my original wheels had 24 spokes. From what I’ve heard, I should have a higher spoke count for my aforementioned BMI level. With more spokes, the wheels should be a bit less likely to break a spoke, and if one does break the wheel should not go as far out of true. So now I have Mavic Open Pro wheels with Ultegra hubs and 32 spokes. Not quite as sexy, but hopefully I’m less likely to get stuck on the side of the road. I am hoping to learn how to build wheels so I can rebuild my original wheels. Just in case I drop my BMI factor.

Young Frankenstein

The wife and I went to see the premier of Young Frankenstein in Seattle. I won tickets to the show in a radio station giveaway. Young Frankenstein is a musical based on the movie with Gene Wilder, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks - the writer and director of the original. It was very well done, every bit as funny as the movie with some extra gags thrown in. The songs are clever, the sets impressive, and even though this was the world premier it went off with hardly a hitch. The highlight was the “putin’ on the ritz” number. Megan Mullally (Karen from Will & Grace) plays Elizabeth, Young Frankenstein’s fiancée (that's fränken-steen!). She was a big hit with the crowd and has a great voice.

August 7, 2007

The Two Coreys

Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, living together, and a TV show about it on A&E. Not sure if this is the end of civilization, but you might be able to see it from here.

A preview of the show if you dare: Two Coreys

August 6, 2007

Flippin’ Window Company!

We may have new windows on Thursday. “May” is bolded as it has been a pretty crappy experience so far. We signed up with a company and handed them a deposit check on April 28th. ALMOST 15 WEEKS AGO. It took them 18 days and phone calls from me on three different days just to get the installer to come out and take the measurements (should have been 5-7 days). Windows were supposed to be installed 6-8 weeks later.

I called on July 5th (7 weeks after measurement) to see what was up. I was told they would be built in week 8 and delivered week 9. So they set up an appointment for July 26th (week 10). They sent a letter out to have us take down all of our window coverings and move all the furniture a few feet away from all the windows. Then on the morning of installation they call to say that the windows aren’t in. They say they will call and find out what the hold up is. Of course no call back. They have yet to initiate a call except to set up the appointment for which there were no windows. More phone calls from me in the ensuing week and a half only uncovers conflicting stories and more ineptitude. Meanwhile we’ve been living in an 80° fishbowl.

They called today to say the windows will be in on Wednesday and installed Thursday. This is 12 weeks since they measured and almost 15 weeks since I handed them a check. I was mostly worried about the installation when I started this adventure, so I can only hope the installers are much more competent than everyone else involved.

August 4, 2007

I am a runner?

So I’m in Starbucks the other day for an afternoon coffee break. I’m at the counter and have a Runners World magazine to read. The gal at the counter asks “oh, are you a runner?” I say yes, and she says she is as well. Then I start thinking, am I? Yes I run, but I’m not sure if I qualify myself as a runner. She looks like more like a runner, young, tall and slender. I’m 40 and my BMI is pushing obese. Even after running a couple half and a couple full marathons, this is probably the first time I’ve said to anyone that I was a runner.

I read about people who feel out of sorts when they miss a run. I feel guilty, but I don’t feel twitchy or anything. Some have experienced the “runners high” rush of endorphins – nothing for me so far. My pace certainly doesn’t impress anyone, and I am lucky to place somewhere near the middle of my gender or age group. Real lucky.

Running started for me on a “drunken promise”. A friend a couple of years ago said we should run a marathon. We were only riding our bikes at that point, doing the STP and a couple other rides each year. I hadn’t run a step for pleasure or training that I can recall. But we kept our promise, and eventually we worked our way through 5ks, 10ks, a half and then the full marathon. I will continue to run marathons. I really love the challenge of the event. A quote I found sums my motivation up – “mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.” I run these events to both keep fit, and to test my mental strength. The marathons and other events are also the goal I need to keep running. Without the goal/deadline, it is too easy to let training go.

I also really enjoy the community. Our running group is growing, and it is a great excuse to get together. We support each other completely, and it is a joy to see someone break through that next barrier. There is also nothing like standing at the start line of an event. All the nervous energy about what lies ahead, and sharing it with 20,000 other people.

I am training for a fall half marathon, and plan to run a spring marathon. So by the new Penguin/Galloway definition, I guess I am a runner. It just feels a little odd to say it out loud.

The iPhone has gone low-tech

Check out the iPhone tool

I sometimes wish I was a morning person.

I hate getting up in the morning. Ideally I would get 10 hours of sleep each night, and my day would start around 10:00. This does not work with most of the rest of the world. When I was in construction, I was getting up at 6:00 most every morning, and it didn’t get any easier even after 7 years. It just didn’t match my body’s normal rhythm. This said, when I do get up at the crack of dawn, I enjoy being up that early. Seeing the sunrise, feeling the quiet of the world as it wakes – it is a real treat.

On my recent bike trip to Glacier, we were getting up very early to both beat the heat, and to try be off the roads when the traffic was at its worst. There were a few days where I was getting up at 4:00 am to break camp and get breakfast ready. Once on the road, though, the first few hours on the bike each morning were brilliant.

The problem is that I still couldn’t get to sleep before 11:00. I was sleep deprived from the beginning, and still the zzz’s wouldn’t come any earlier as the short nights piled up. It took me a number of days to catch up on sleep once I made it home. I suppose there are trade offs. I don’t pass out shortly after dinner. I don’t fall asleep in front of the TV. I get lots of reading done before I go to sleep. I just wish I could adjust my sleep schedule when life demands it.

Oh, and I kinda wish I could take naps.

My First Post

Rather than put pen to paper, here I am. Back when I was about 25 and had all the answers, I wanted to write. Now my mind is filled with questions rather than answers, and things aren’t as clear as they once were. I have been fortunate to take some long bicycle rides in the past couple of years. The first was a two week trip from Seattle to San Francisco in 2006, and I recently returned from a one week trip in and around Glacier National Park. There is no better way to see the country than on a bicycle.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -Ernest Hemingway
I find that my head is clearer when I am away from home and on my bike. At times it seems even my vision is clearer. I’ve had no significant epiphanies while riding, but they often seem like they are just over the next hill. I am seeking that state of mind that I have on my bike (and when I was 25) back here at home. I am also trying to get back in the habit of writing. So join me if you wish as I ramble on and empty some of the clutter out of my head. I promise no answers, only a little insight into my life and thoughts. My friend recently started his own blog, and I’ve enjoyed hearing his “voice” whenever I check in.