Friday, September 30, 2005

I Hate Spellcheck

I won't even go into the mechanics associated with spellcheck, but rather how lazy it makes me. As I occasionally re-read old entries, I often notice little typos that contain actual words. For example, I'll use the word is rather that its. Or the rather than then or even then rather than than.

Part of the problem is that Firefox appears to have an aversion to the blogger pre-built spell checker, and I have an aversion to IE. I usually cut and paste my entries using Word. Spellcheck makes me lazy. I rely on it too much. MS was not designed around the dysfunctions of my brain that works far faster then I can type- or rather than I can type. My brain transposes the correct words when I proof-read my entires... or rather entries. You get the idea. To make matters works, or rather worse, I think I sent off a cover letter than (that) ended a sentence mid-stream. No spelling errors, but rather an abrupt end.

This entry was not checked for any errors in spelling, grammar, or content. I know it is a bit late for this caveat, but please read at your won (own) risk!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Windy Ride Home

It is funny that since I try to keep this on topic about biking, our impending move to Norway is merely part of the back story- the subplot. Reality, of course, is quite the opposite. The move infiltrates nooks and crannies of every aspect of our mundane daily realities. Yesterday, for example, since I was training my replacement, I was unable to slip away from work early. I left at 4:01, per my Polar HRM.

It was extremely windy. I normally cannot track stand on a geared bike, but yesterday was a day where I could simply lean into the wind and it would hold me up. I normally don't mind the wind, but I had class at 6:15. I needed to ride home, quickly shower, change clothes, eat, and ride to class. It simply wouldn't work to drive- both out of principle and because I really couldn't arrive at class any faster in a car this time of day. My rides home from work have been running about 1:20 to 1:30- on days when the wind wasn't so strong.

I decided to ride up Grand and take Summit to the river. This usually is faster, and I thought the more urban route would be less windy. I flew home, calculating my ETA at every stop light. A few blocks from home, a very concerned motorist pointed out that "stop signs are for bikes, too." Backing up, I should mention that at every light, at least one car ran the red trying to sneak through. It happens all the time. I didn't see a single car come to a complete stop. I was riding west on 54th street, signaling to change lanes so I could make a left turn at the stop sign. This woman honked at me, presumably to let me know she was there. Of course I already knew, but I let her squeeze by me. She didn't have the decency to move one inch out of her way while passing me. I cut in behind her. She stopped half-way into the intersection from her efforts to squeeze ahead of me, leaving me the opportunity to stop at the sign, then turn left at a time when there was no traffic in any other direction. I should mention she completely rolled through the intersection herself. As she drove off she offered her riding suggestions. I cannot imagine the joy this woman must bring to the lives of others. Normally I find comfort in such thoughts, that an equitable sense of karma keeps things in check, but this woman was so skewed toward unpleasantness that I almost felt sorry for her. I still don't understand what her problem was. I didn't run the stop sign any more than she did, and I did not impeded anyone else's more important progress in their drive home from work. I offered to discuss the matter with her further, in the most annoyingly pedantic voice I could muster, but she had more important things to attend to.

When I finally arrived home at 5:17, I noticed that it took about 1:16 for the ride, which isn't extraordinary. However, my average heart rate was 140 and it burned about 935 calories. That is the wind. Normally my average heart rate is around 120 for a more relaxing ride home- and maybe a 700 calorie ride- not that I count such things, but with the Polar, data is data. I quickly showered, ate, and headed off to class. I tried out my new Specialized mountain bike shoes that look like normal shoes. I arrived at class and noticed Wayne’s bike wasn’t there. Wayne eventually arrived late. After class we rode to the Black Forest. It never ceases to amaze me that we often arrive before some of the classmates who drive. The Black Forest was very busy for some inexplicable reason, but we eventually received our beer.

After class I rode home. I encountered a crazy lone biker riding the Greenway with no lights. It was very cold and still windy. I felt a pang of depression that winter was arriving soon. I was also unsettled by how nobody else was biking tonight- it made my own choice seem even more deviant. The desolation made me feel like I was living on the edge of the universe, even though I was in a city, surrounded by people. It was very quiet and there were almost no other vehicles. It really wasn’t that cold. And frankly, regarding the temperature, there is something nice about biking and arriving somewhere when I’m not all sweaty. Last week, as I recall, it was in the 90s, and I was soaked by the time I rode to class. Tonight was more comfortable. But still, there will be fewer and fewer bikes on the road, until only the most hardcore winter riders remain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What's a Little Rain?

I was up at 5:30 and checked the weather. Rain appeared inevitable, despite the 50% chance at the time. I checked the window. No rain outside. I opened the door. One of our cats snuck outside. This is not his normal behavior. I chased him back inside wearing my underwear. We were both lucky he wasn’t playing too many games with me this morning.

Anyway, I debated a long time- wasted time. I finally decided to go for it. I have class tonight, so I can’t ride later, and we canceled our health club memberships since we rarely go in the summer (and we are moving). I knew I’d be jumping out of my skin if I didn’t get some sort of exercise.

I left at about 6:20. About a mile from home I felt tiny raindrops when I adjusted my clothing (I was quite overdressed). I contemplated heading back, but thought it would just sprinkle. By the time I reached the river it was coming down quite steadily. I stopped by Highway 55 and put on my raincoat. In Fort Snelling I decided to try the rain pants. Soon I was pedaling along Shepard Road, in a dark, dreary rain. I decided it really wasn’t so bad.

By the time I made it to downtown Saint Paul, my feet were soaked. At this point I was more concerned about my ride home. I made it to work with plenty of time. Everything is wet- and will hopefully dry out by this afternoon. If it does, it truly will have been worth it.

Moustache Bars Everywhere

I don't know how I'll ever be able to bike all winter. I was cold this morning. Actually, I overdressed, and disrobed above the Highway 5 Bridge near Fort Snelling. It was still a bit brisk. At least it was dry.

When I arrived at work, I noticed the rack support had come loose, that the disc that fits within the drop-out was AWOL. I knew I'd need to stop by the shop to pick up another.

Work was nothing but meetings- nonstop from 9am until 4pm. I was completely hypoglycemic by the time I could choke down lunch during the midday meeting. Oddly, I'm still contributing as much as ever- if not more. I'm sort of clinging to what remains of this job.

I couldn't wait to hit the road after work. I didn't get anything done, except attend all those meetings. I rode to downtown Saint Paul, and then headed up Grand to take Summit to the river. Near the Lake Street Bridge I decided to explore a strange road/path that appeared to descend toward the river. I had never been down there, so I followed the road, which turned into a path, then a series of catwalks over the Mississippi. It came out by the U of M Hospital, or what we in the business call the FU Medical Center (for Fairview-University). I rode up to Washington and headed to Freewheel Bike.

While at Freewheel, three other bikes with moustache bars arrived, and one even had a single chaining. One of the employees commented that one of her bikes had the same setup as mine. I headed to the commuter trail and encountered two more moustached bikes, then yet another on the Greenway. I don't know if I am just noticing them because I have one, or whether there is a sudden surge in their popularity. Tonight they were everywhere.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I Are the Invisible Man

Regarding today's entry, MS Word spellcheck became a bit iffy- recommending "I are the invisible man." I knew MS was on a mission to erradicate passive voice, but this?

Nice Day

Today started with the uncomfortable sensation of my having to share an office with my replacement. Granted, it was her first day, and I was training her, but no blogging from work- probably from now on. It's just as well. I'm not paid to blog.

I attended a work meeting at the County- one of our larger contracts. The CEO accompanied me, since she'll need to pick up the ball in my absence. Most folks there don't really know her or who she is. It was really nice that several people from the County went out of their way to mention that they'll miss me, what a great job I've done, etc.- especially in front of my supervisor. I rarely hear the good stuff, and I work in a rather thankless industry. This was the silver lining to the mass email that went out the other day.

After leaving work early, I went on a bit of a ride. I rode to The Hub- which is hands down, the coolest shop in the area. I purchased a cheapo freewheel remover so I can swap cogs on the frankenbike. That bike is like walking a puppy- it received two cool compliments. I was hideously dressed in baggies, mountain bike shoes, a Puma shirt, helmet, and the geeky mirror. Only at the hub can that elicit not one, but two comments. Anywhere else and I'm the invisible man.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bad Air

Last night I added strips of reflective tape that I purchased at They seem to have the best deal on 3M Scotchlite tape. Despite their check-out info, shipping was only $2. I've been a little uncomfortable with riding a stealthy black bike with a bunch of blinkies.

It was cold this morning- the coldest morning so far. Summer truly is over. I think the temp was in the 40s. I wore glove liners under my regular gloves, knee warmers, arm warmers, a vest, and the usual. What was different was that I didn't need to stop to disrobe. I don't know how I'll be able to handle the real cold. I reviewed my bike log, and was surprised how much winter riding I did last year. I'll need to dig deep for cold motivation.

I've been riding so much lately that all the commutes are starting to blur together. To mix it up a bit, I rode through Fort Snelling and took the Highway 5 bridge, rather than the Ford Bridge. I smelled much more exhaust fumes today. I don't know what it is about cold weather, but it seems that it amplifies the smell. Today it was bad all the way to work. I guess I could purchase one of those particle masks for commuters that they sell at Performance, but I'd also need to line my helmet with aluminum foil to get the full effect.

I look forward to moving to where the air is clean- blowing off the ocean. I would still like to know what air pollution smells worse in colder temperatures.

Spoke Too Soon

So today I arrive at work with an email from the county contract manager- a mass emailing (that obviously included me) where he announced my "resignation." I don't work for him! Is this his idea of doing me a favor?

I told him yesterday that I would be sending letters out to everyone. This is ridiculous and inappropriate. Why can't I announce my own fate? Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. I'd have rather just disappeared. I still have a month. I'm still in charge, goddamnit!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dodged a Bullet

Damn it was hot again today- temperature in the 90s this late in the season? Isn't today the end of summer? Anyway, I rode home from work- in a bit of a hurry, since I had class, quickly showered and scarfed down a sandwich, then headed off to class. Owning two helmets is a must in this heat- leaving me with my sweat-free Limar, which is a bit extravagant to commute with. I wore cotton civilian clothing, forgetting quickly how hot it was, and pedaled away to my Norwegian class. I should mention that this semester is free for me, since I'll be moving before term ends, and I get bonus points for actually moving to Norway.

Speaking of Norway, we are contemplating an apartment- a specific leilighet (or is that leiligheten)- which is actually an entire house that we can likely afford to rent, despite having no foreseeable income. Whether we end up with this or not, it matters not, because it gives me something to look forward to- to visualize- rather than to focus on what I am leaving behind. And speaking of leaving behind, tomorrow I train in my replacement. My days truly are numbered. Ironically, we were just notified today that we are being awarded another huge contract- that the new program I developed for the county has been so successful that they are pulling the contract from the competition, and giving us the entire pie. It is a wonderful high note to end on- considering how much sweat and blood I've poured into the existing contract conversion over the years.

Also, I notified the contract manager at the county that I'd been dealing with over the last few years, to let him know I was leaving. For years I thought he hated me. OK, perhaps that is too strong a word, but it felt like every interaction with him was an argument. He actually said many kind words of appreciation for how I had run things over the past several years. He also mentioned he was traveling to Norway next year. I suddenly took a genuine liking to the guy. Anyway, the bottom line is that I'll be working my ass off until the day I leave- but that is fine with me. Oddly, I feel like I'm squeezing this job harder than ever, for fear of letting go. The company has been very good to me, and I've brought them millions of dollars in new business- new contracts that self-renew each year. What more could I ask for? Maybe an international job in Norway? I've already covered that base, and we have discussed my development of new training materials by email until I get settled in. Things are looking up. I have a safety net.

So I rode to class after my commute home. I was a mile from home when I realized I forgot my yellow sunglass lenses that I use for night riding. I generally like some eye protection, and I've become addicted to using my mirror. I was drenched in sweat when I arrived, and chose to sit next to Wayne, still wearing a subdued Pearl Izumi jersey and his mountain bike shoes. Us stinky bike commuters could stick together... until Jim, the pediatrician arrived late and sat between us. Little did he know we kept our distance for a reason. Class went quickly. Everyone seemed interested as I attempted to explain my work details in Norwegian- although it appeared only Wayne and the teacher actually understood what I was saying, since they laughed at my subtle jokes.

During break, I noticed it was raining. Perhaps rain was an understatement, given this account, but what did I know? Wayne and I agreed we'd go to the bar after class no matter what- come hell or high water. I IMed my wife after class that we were hitting the bar- which is the main reason I even go to class. For some reason, despite speaking little Norwegian at home, I seem to have absorbed a huge amount, and the class picked up on that during our conversational episode. Then again, Wayne and I are the reluctant students- both of us actually married to Norwegians, rather than being typical midwesterners trying to feel their roots. I doubt I have any ethnic Scandinavian ancestry or any type- not that there is anything wrong with that. But I seem to be a rare individual in class that lacks a specific fetish for the nationality.

After class, we reassembled our lights, having stripped them to lock them up in a questionable neighborhood. We rode to the Black Forest. It was too dark to wear sunglasses at night, so I went lens-less, using the frames to support the mirror. It was the epitome of geekdom- since they are Rudy Project Kerosenes, which are basically half-frames. As we rode, I kept forgetting I had no lenses, and was amazed at the clarity of my vision. I kept following Wayne too closely, and being fenderless, I received a rooster tail of water in my face as he blew through puddles. When we arrived, I noticed a fixed conversion already locked up. Wayne was on his fixed, and I on my frankenbike (it had the lights). Just three of us showed up tonight. I ordered my usual Hacker-Schorr Hefeweizen. It truly is the nectar of the gods. There is no beer like it on the planet. I could drink it infinitely.

We had a few, and then took off. I have never seen such lightening in my life. We were literally surrounded by a light show. I knew a storm was approaching, as I smelled the rain- not that the ground wasn't thoroughly saturated already. I think I set a new night land speed record on my ride home. The closer to home, the larger the rain drops. For the most part, I stealthily avoided the rain. It truly could have been worse. All in all, it was a fun ride. Driving should be half as enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why Does Budweiser Sucketh So?

Caveat: I realize Bud is easy to pick on, so forgive me. The other day I saw a car with a huge Budweiser graphic that took up the entire rear window. Who has that much pride in any beer they drink?

We went out to eat at a Thai restaurant Friday night. It has become something of a weekly routine for us. We always order the same thing, and for beer I always drink a Singha. I'm sure Singha is the Budweiser of Thailand, but it blows Bud out of the water in terms of its taste. Lately we've had Corona and Carlsberg beers in our fridge, both the Budweiser of their respective Mexico and Denmark. Even the lowly Norwegian Tou beer puts Budweiser to shame. So what is the problem?

Thinking about my own experience with Budweiser, it occurred to me that the only times I have ever consumed it was when the choice was already made for me- like it was stadium beer at a game or concert- or outdoor event. I don't think I've ever willfully ordered it when I've had any alternatives. Now, according to the Budweiser website, nearly one out of every two beers sold in the US is an Anheuser-Busch product. This led me to think that maybe they sold other beers of a higher caliber, so I checked out the Anheuser-Busch product family. They sell Busch and Michelob as well- neither of which I'd pay money for. O' Doul's may very well be their finest beer product, in my estimation.

Now, lest you think I'm just picking on the "King of Beers" because they are an easy target, or that you think I'm so far left of center that I belong at a WTO protest, I will disclose that when it comes to colas, it is either Coke or Pepsi. There really is no such thing as a "microbrew cola" or import cola that even comes close. So what is the problem with Bud?

My research into Budweiser suckage took me to this site. You simply must check out the last THREE YEARS of comments regarding Bud, Including such gems as

"This "beer" is the main cause of spousal abuse,"

"The people who have stated that they like this beer are not to be trusted with any type of important medical decisions,"

"It's not beer, it's detergent!",

"Beer is beer, it's just a matter of taste and preference. To me, Bud will always be #1. NASCAR rules!",

"Budweiser, in my professional opinion, taste much like a cross between ostrich urine and St.Bernard saliva. Bud lite taste like liquefied house flies with a hint of basil. I don’t mean to be derogatory, but the people I know who drink either, cannot be trusted around children, and play a lot of badmitten. Oh, they are also quite unsightly and smell like they haven’t wiped in many day's. Thank you.",

"Priced higher than Schlitz only because of the Clydesdales (who drink Bud, by the way) and because it is the ORIGINAL bug spray flavored beer, so there is historical value. After all, it isn't the "BEER" that you pay for when you buy this rotgut brew.
Decent beer sells without such a hideous degree of advertising. Have you ever met any of the people who own Budweiser merchandise franchises? Double Yuck!",

"I've had over 200 different beers and Budweiser is the best-tasting beer of them all. If you don't like it you are 1) a woman 2) a cheap un-American communist. This the one and original one and only King of Beers

-- it just goes on and on, but this one stood out as the best:

"Its drinkable, but barely. It's flavorless swill for the masses. Both bashing it and praising it are trendy, so no one really has anything original to say about it. Better than Coors at least, but it's basically just seltzer with a little alcohol in it. Busch, Coors, and Pabst have given American beers an undeserved bad name though. In any case, buy a real beer. This is ok for getting drunk but nothing else.".

Granted, arguing about beers is akin to discussing religion and politics, but still, I have a difficult time understanding how anyone can actually love Budweiser (a real nugget from archives of the National Review). Then again, maybe beer is politics.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

That'll Be the Day That I Die

And now for a moment of jocularity brought to us by your maker: nothing will brighten your Tuesday like taking a little trip to the Death Clock. Don't waste too much time there... your days are numbered.

I should die on Monday, May 26, 2053. That only gives me 1,504,567,234 seconds to live. That is probably a conservative estimate, as it seems my family is cursed with old age genes.

Donut Man Part Three

Creatures of habit- I was riding along the Parkway east of Cedar when an SUV tried giving me the right hook. I saw it coming this time, with my mirror. Imagine my chagrin when I noted the plates and make/model of the vehicle. Donut Man returneth! There was a bus parked in front of the bakery. He took the corner wide as I crossed the intersection and stopped. He parked as I watched. I wanted to take a good look at him. I'd seen him as he as sitting in his vehicle, but never out in the open. Lets just say that his affinity for donuts was apparent. Oddly, he was oblivious to my presence. I didn't yell at him, didn't shout out his name, never confronted him- I completely let it go. Best of all, as I continued my commute, I wasn't pestered with intrusive thoughts about what I should have done. It was barely a speed bump in an otherwise beautiful morning.

Student Driver

I was enjoying a beautiful, if not windy, ride home after work. My thoughts were obsessing over how to handle the bike/move situation. Do I ride fixed gear with a back pack again while shipping the frankenbike early, so it is waiting for me? Or do I assume my commute will be shorter/easier in Norway, and ship the fixed gear ahead of time? Anyway, I was zipping along Mississippi Boulevard near the curvy section by the Ford plant. I caught the visage of a white car with some huge yellow sign on its hood out of the corner of my eye, in my mirror. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it read "student driver." This shortly became a problem, because this driver simply wouldn't (or wasn't allowed to) pass me. There was plenty of room. Soon there was a long line of vehicles blocked by the student. I could smell trouble. As the road finally straightened out near the Ford Bridge, I hear the cacophony of an engine revving as someone ended up passing several of the vehicles, and of course me. He was screaming at me to ride on the path, waving a finger at me, and acting the part of a complete jack-ass. It wasn't my fault that traffic slowed for mister student. There was plenty of room to pass. Then again, it is always easiest to blame the bike.

Tonight we were stood up by yet another craig's list bike buyer. I am at the point where I simply will not rearrange my schedule to accommodate a tire kicker who likely will be a no-call/no-show. Same thing happened with a potential car buyer over the weekend. I'm ready to charge a $50 missed appointment fee. All it takes is a phone call.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rainy Monday Morning

I woke up at 4:30am- realizing it was thunder, not my alarm that interrupted my sleep. I looked out the window to see that it was raining. I went back to sleep as the next hour disappeared in an instant. This time my alarm was going off. It was still raining.

I wanted to ride to work, but it is such a production in the rain. It is one thing to ride home, but to ride to work? I'd probably still have wet shoes in the afternoon. I decided to drive. But I still wanted to ride. I perseverated for maybe twenty minutes. I ate breakfast and was ready to shower when Lise started readying for work. It was 6:15. If I left now, I could still be at my desk by 8:00. I quickly dressed for the ride, wearing my new rain jacket and pants.

I had purchased a Gill rain jacket a few weeks ago. This was my first ride. I was quite impressed with it. The rain pants, on the other hand, left much to be desired. I couldn't tell if rain was leaking in, or if was my own sweat condensing inside. As I approached the river, I knew I was overheating. I stopped in a park along the river and removed the jacket, pants, and helmet liner. The rain was almost nonexistent at this point. I found that I was actually warmer without the rain gear than I was a moment ago. I resumed my ride in comfort.

Along Mississippi Boulevard I encountered a commuter riding the other direction with the brightest headlight I'd ever seen on a bike. I don't know what it was, but I wanted one. The rest of my ride was a bit slower and uneventful. I've been working on slowing down a bit during my ride. I'm not training for anything. I've noticed that I've been losing weight lately- probably because my heart rate is a bit lower than when I train during the racing season. Not that I need it, but I wouldn't have minded hauling a few less pounds up some of the hills during the racing season.

I felt like I accomplished something this morning. It is one thing to ride home in the rain when I'm literally forced to ride- but to choose to a wet ride when I have my car in the garage is another matter altogether. This will be a typical day in Stavanger, I'm afraid. Probably not- in reality, but I like to set my expectations very low. That way I'm rarely disappointed.

The sun is already out. I should have a beautiful ride home. I would have regretted driving.

Anatomy of a Frankenbike

I believe it is finally finished. Generic Nitto wannabe moustaches from Ben's Bike in Milwaukee, a Nitto stem, lugged steel mystery frameset, clamp-on Shimano 600 downtube friction shifters (only used for the rear), single 42 FSA chainring up front, square taper BB and crankset of unknown origin, Shimano 105 front brake, Tektro rear, front wheel is a Campy hub laced to an Ambrosio rim, rear is a 105 7-speed hub with a Wolber rim, Gary Fisher rack from a swap meet holding half of the Trans-It panniers, Selle Italia XO saddle, assorted lights, Topeak Road Morph pump, Crank Borthers Eggbeater pedals.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

16 Hours on My Bike This Week

The cool thing about my Polar heartrate monitor is that it tracks all sorts of cycling stats. I don't use the speed sensor when commuting, but I might start. There is something wonderful about NOT having speed/distance stats. It does, however, track total time on the bike. This week has been 15:55. How many hours do some people spend in their cars?

Vintage Velos

I came across these at the Minnesota Historical Society Website regarding bicycles. There are hundreds of old photos from the area.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dumb Lights

Last night was like Christmas. I worked late at the County and Lise went out with a group of coworkers. I arrived home to find three packages. We ordered a rack, stem adaptor, and woman's saddle from Nashbar. A stem and set of panniers arrived from an ebay purchase. Lise hasn't been comfortable with the single speed I built for her. I had used an extra Cinelli stem that was just lying around- without any regard to how it might actually fit for her. It was a standard stem with a slight drop. The bars ended up lower than on her road bike. There really is no such thing as a rising quill stem, so I purchased an adaptor so I could use a regular threadless stem. Lacking a protractor, I needed to do a bit of trigonometry to determine the stem angle of her Specialized, which she wished to replicate. I measured all triangular dimensions, plugged it into the formula, an determined she needed a 17 degree rise in 110mm. There was an exact match on ebay in a "buy-it-now" auction. It wasn't the most elegant solution, but it would work.

The stem was an exact match to the geometry of the Specialized. I unwrapped the bars, removed the old stem, and began setting up her bike. I easily arranged the bars and brakes to the same point as on her road bike. I also tossed on her new saddle, a woman's Terry Liberator. I have yet to install a rack on her bike. I picked up this heavy duty number for only $16.99.

I clipped on one of the ebay panniers onto my frankenbike. Performance Bike was sold out of these, but some ebayer had a ton of Performance stuff and was selling it below their regular retail prices. They are quite well-made- especially for the money. I think we will each use just one. The previous night I picked up a couple of NiteRider tail lights that I ordered from REI. They were about $7 each. I had an old bar plug blinkie that was too large for the moustache bars, so I whittled the fins down with a knife so it would fit in the left bar end. I mounted one of the tail lights, strapped a light to the bag, and readjusted the other tail light. I ended up with four tail light sources and reflective piping on the bags. That should be good enough. Off to bed.

This morning I woke up well before the alarm, around 5-ish. I really don't know when I started becoming more of a morning person, but then again, I was awake until almost midnight, so I guess I'm burning the candle at both ends. I blamed it on the 12-hour Sudafed. Anyway, I thought I would leave early for work. This was my first ride with the pannier. I had been using a grocery bag inside a garbage bag, strapped to the rack with a shock cord net- truly ghetto. The pannier fit nicely, and I had plenty of heel clearance. It was much easier keeping things organized. I was ready to leave home- it was close to 6 am. I turned on all the blinkies- lighting my bike up like a Christmas tree.

I was a few blocks from home and noticed the headlight seemed rather dim. It became darker and darker as I approached the parkway. By the time I crossed under Nicollet, I had almost no light. I hadn't recharged it for a few days. I have a bad habit of overcharging the light- I think. It has a NiMH rechargeable battery pack- and a trickle charger. It is not an intelligent charger by any stretch, and overcharging can shorten the lifespan of the battery. It truly is a dumb charger. It will simply let you destroy the battery. Normally when I charge it, I use the charger on a timer, but still- it is all guesswork. I had never run out of juice before. The past few mornings I'd only needed maybe fifteen minutes of light. Today I would need it all the way to the river.

I hopped onto the path, rather than the road. For some reason, it seemed safer than the road for riding without a headlight. The trouble was, there were all sorts of other bikes without headlights on the path- and dog walkers. I was hoping for the best regarding storm debris on the trail. Eventually I made it to the river, slightly behind my normal schedule.

As I headed along the river there was more pre-dawn sunlight, and I could see we would have an amazing sunrise. After I crossed 35 E, I passed within a few feet of a young deer and its mother (I presume). At the last second, they ran into the brush. East of downtown, the sun started peeking out above the bluff. I snapped a few photos, and resumed my commute riding at a relaxed pace, passing by a homeless man sleeping on top of one of the picnic tables near the Lafayette Bridge. I could see a ribbon of headlights as Warner Road wound around the cement plant. The temperature was perfect. The sky looked like something from a Maxfield Parish painting. Best of all, it is Friday. It took an extra fifteen minutes to arrive at work, but it was worth it.

Cycling for Suits

In addition to my shower room, my company has a wellness program to encourage employees to remain/become healthy. If someone were to workout five times per week, their full club membership would be paid. We have in-house yoga, pilates, massage- none of which are my kind of scene. I worked it so that I turn in my Polar heartrate monitor calendars, and receive points- tons of points that ended up worth hundreds of dollars in gift certificates. Since I'm relocating, I thought it was time for a few new suits.

Earlier this week, Lise and I went shopping at the Men's Wearhouse. Say what you will, but they probably offer the best deal in town on wearable suits. I went in wearing my post-bike shower casual jeans and T-shirt. A salesperson appeared quite disinterested in helping us, despite my attempts to convey that I was completely ignorant of the suit buying process. Truthfully, I'd been through this before, but that really doesn't mean that I know anything. Lise insisted that we find suits that leaned more toward european styling, rather than the typical two-button American style. We explored a few options, and I was quick to discover that the Italian suit fit like a glove. It was simply amazing. It would also blow the entire budget. Lise commented that we could purchase two regular suits for the price of one Italian marvel. The salesperson mentioned how important it was to have a different suit for the second interview. Suddenly we were looking at buying two suits- neither of which would be Italian.

In the fitting process, I was presented with an excellent pair of shoes. These felt completely at home on my feet and immediately were added to our stash. Then they rolled out the ties- and the best two hopped on board. I put up quite a fight, despite Lise's urging, and resisted any $50 shirt purchases. I don't care if they didn't require ironing, my budget was already blown to bits. The shirts could wait. So, OK, the suits didn't end up being free, but they were certainly cheaper than what I would be able to find in Norway. And living so close to Italy- as we will, relatively speaking- we decided we would buy Italian when we happened to be in the neighborhood.

I'll be more than happy to be able to maintain my sub-business casual wardrobe with my future job (whatever that ends up being). It will be nice to have more suits when we move. Men in Norway wear suits for major holidays, family events, etc. I've never visited when there was not some occasion requiring me to dress up. While I'm not a huge fan of formal decorum, a little bit is nice to dress up once in awhile.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Get On the Path, Dumb-Ass"

This morning's commute was a bit brisk. I had arm warmers, knee warmers, and a vest. I was chilled all the way to Cedar Avenue. East of Cedar, I encountered a Chevy SUV that passed me with some slackjawed yokel hanging out the window yelling, “Get on the path, dumb-ass!” This was 6:30 in the morning. We were the only things on the road. I don’t know what it is about this stretch of road. For the locals, it is the stretch between the lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis. The pavement is bad. The speed limit is 25 mph. There is no shoulder. The road is a bit on the narrow side. This is the same spot that the donut man buzzed me twice. Also, two years ago while heading west on this same stretch of road, a woman in a minivan passed me, and then slammed on her brakes as she tried to pinch me into the curb as she yelled profanities. She did this twice. I caught her at the Cedar light. This was in the evening, well after rush hour. There was little traffic, and heading west toward Cedar I can easily hit 30 on the slight downhill. I had her plates and reported her, but of course nothing was done.

I really wish the city would do something about that stretch of road, like widen it. The rest of the parkway is wide enough to keep most motorists’ tempers in check. The area is popular with bikes. The funny thing is that during my evening ride home, I’ll actually use the bike path because it is faster than the road. Cars are often backed up for blocks because the road is narrow, and someone is waiting to make a left turn. But 6:30 in the morning is no time for Cletus to get his panties in a knot. Anyway, it wasn’t enough to ruin my morning.

I made good time. As the sun started to rise, so did the temperature. There was a surreal vertical mist rising off the Mississippi. The water was so still that it appeared as though it were solid. I thought how downstream, the river wound through a zone of destruction called New Orleans, and how that was about as attached to that tragedy as I’ll ever be.

The usual morning crew was out and about along downtown Saint Paul. After I crossed 61, I encountered another day of exceptionally heavy traffic on Burns. It left me wondering if this was an alternate route for motorists while 94 was under construction. The residential area has been transformed into a steady stream of traffic feeding into 61 and Warner Road- maybe even 94 for I all know. I found the hill to be less offensive than it normally is. All the school children- most of them Asian- were out waiting for their buses. I felt as though I must appear completely alien to them in my bike gear. I wondered what sort of assumptions they must make about me. They see me every day at the same time as they wait by the street. This is not a heavily biked zone. I had a long wait to turn left onto White Bear Avenue. The foul odor of the Krispy Crème filled the air. After my little run in with Cletus and his cousin, I took the lane all the way across 94. No one was going to try to squeeze by me today. Besides, I was riding the speed of traffic. They can wait a few seconds for the single bike they will encounter during their harried drive to work.

What Was I Thinking?

It was 3:55. I was in a neighboring office when I heard my cell phone ring. I thought I'd heard my office phone ring a few times, but all the phones sound the same. Expecting a crisis, I hurried to answer the phone. It was a riding buddy of mine that I hadn't ridden with in months. We had ridden thousands of miles over the years, and raced together a few times. I've been in my hum-drum anti-social commuting mode lately. I am on a quest to bike 9 out of 10 days per two work weeks- saving my car day for when I work late at the County. Anyway, he and a riding buddy were heading out for a fixed gear ride and they wanted to hook up with me. I suggested that we meet on Summit. He suggested that neither of us ride past Snelling without calling the other, so we didn't miss each other after the boulevard split up.

I left at 4ish on my frankenbike. My ride was into the wind, leading me to wonder where we might actually meet. I cut up Grand to Dale to Summit. As I approached Snelling, I saw him pulled over, digging out his cell phone. I did a U-turn and met up with them. Snelling was a good call. I had never met his friend before. He was riding an odd fixie with track drop outs, cable guides, and bottle braze-ons. It turned out it was an old Schwinn roadie that had track ends welded on by Bob Brown from St. Paul. It was a cool bike with wishbone stays and a rattle can finish. I lamented that I was a fish out of water on my geared bike. Randall, my friend, suggested we ride to my house and I could switch to my fixed gear. It was a plan.

We took the parkway home. I quickly swapped bikes. Having just ridden twenty-plus miles, in addition to the morning commute, it was freaky riding fixed again. We took off around Harriet to Calhoun to the Cedar Lake trail toward downtown. I was without lights on this bike, and dinner was waiting, so I headed back solo as they continued along the river. My legs were thoroughly cooked after this hammerhead postscript to an otherwise typical day of commuting. I was lamenting the fact that I had no motivation to clean all the sand off my bike from this morning's wet commute. I am not looking forward to tomorrow, and I am thankful that I have gears. I am beginning to wonder if I was a complete masochist for all the fixed gear commuting that I've managed over the past two years. From a general perspective, riding fixed tears up the body much more than riding geared. It really is less about the gears and more about being able to coast. Fixed riding really chews up my ass. There is almost constant motion and pressure. I am in heaven of the frankenbike. It is nice to have options.

I returned home to a wonderful dinner- homemade chicken soup. I rehydrated with a few Blue Moons and a Carlsberg. I've been on a real beer kick lately. I'll need to switch over to hard liquor soon, as we have more than we can import to Norway. I'm all about that, these days, except for the rum. What to do with the rum? I don't even like rum. How did we end up with so much? And the Courvoisier? VSOP- no less- for all the foreign relatives. I guess we could take that back with us, sort of as a tribute. I don't drink that stuff. We should probably host a party. And I should probably stick with the beer. Actually, we won't be able to afford any of this stuff after the move! I'll take it while I can.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Economics 101

Back in my roadie purist days I used CO2 exclusively. After a ride with two flats, when I fortunately had two cartridges, I started carrying a Crank Brothers Power Pump- an ironically named product if there ever was one. (BTW- that is NOT my hand).

After a commute catching four flat tires (turned out it was bad rim tape), I decided I needed heavy artillery. CO2 cartridges aren't free, and the Crank Bros pump takes something like 800 strokes to add maybe 45 lbs or pressure.

I chose the Topeak Road Morph. I purchased it prior to traveling to Norway last year, mainly because it had a gauge. It didn't hurt that it "morphed" into a floor pump.

I later wanted to share the Topeak between two bikes, so I emailed the company and inquired about buying another frame mount. They asked for my address and sent one free of charge.

I thought it would be great to share my NiteRider headlight between two bikes, so I looked into obtaining another handlebar mount. They wanted $15.99 plus postage. It isn't worth it, considering how rarely I use the other bike at night.

Rudy Project is on the fence. Their sunglasses cost a small fortune. Over the years, little parts have fallen off, like the nose pads. In the good old days, they would send a bunch free of charge. I ended up losing a temple piece, and the nose bridge broke when I tried to adjust it. These are now parts that cost money to replace. They still have their excellent scratched lens replacement program.

I still don't understand how American Classic can charge about half the cost of a new post for their clamp repair kit. I should also note the new bolt was just as short as the old bolt. If they designed it with a longer bolt, it would engage more threads, reducing the chance of it stripping out again. Than again, I'm no engineer.

The bottom line is that I swear these companies try to burn the candle at both ends. They want to maintain some semblance of providing service and support- that they can be maintained. They also seem to charge a penalty to those who don't buy a second light, or a new pair of sun glasses, or a new seat post. Topeak, on the other hand, rocks my flat tire world. Aside from making an engineering marvel, they know how to treat their customers.

American Classic

The seatpost parts were waiting for me when I arrived home from work. They were maybe a bit expensive, but I can't argue with their service.

Somehow I stayed relatively dry today. 80% chance of rain? They weren't kidding.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cars For Sale

We posted both cars last night on carsoup and craig's list. In looking at the book value of my car, it probably makes sense to sell it now anyway- it has a $10,000 trade-in value (and it is paid off). My mind wandered to thoughts that I could really upgrade if I traded it in right now- without an increase in car payments. Of course, that would merely be a status symbol. We could really upgrade if we consolidated our payments and only owned one car. But of course, we are selling both. I have had a car since 1988. While on one hand, the idea of being without a car is liberating, it works against years of car ownership ingrained into my life. It seems that everyone in the Twin Cities owns a car. Then again, selling it is literally money in the bank.

I rode to work this morning, knowing full well that it will storm on my way home. I am paying penance for unknown transgressions today. It was a beautiful sunrise this morning, and more bikes than usual out and about. We might as well enjoy this unseasonably warm weather- even if it is a bit wet. Yesterday, Lise and I went on an hour and a half ride, and using my Flight Deck lap counter, I encountered 185 other cyclists. These days are numbered.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I always like reading my stat counter logs to see where people come from- meaning how they find this site. I have encountered a bunch of strange google or MSN search strings, such as "writing my own obituary," or "centurion elite RS." There are also those who randomly surf by clicking through th "next blog" link in the upper right hand bar.

It seems blogs have replaced the old vanity websites of the mid-90s. It also seems that there is an emerging industry to flood search engine rankings through creating artificial links to other sites. These are the worthless blogs that have all sorts of text strings and links, but provide nothing in the way of organized info. Porn is also in on the act. I will no longer click on the "next blog" button while at work.

There is also a weird phenomenon called "blogshares"- a virtual stockmarket based on blogs. I haven't figured out what it is all about, other than I think it is designed to be an incentive to have "volunteers" provide "free labor" in indexing new blogs. It is really quite strange. In addition, people can earn virtual money by completing missions, such as leaving comments or providing links to other blogs. For instance the Bastiat Free University is so hard up for traffic that they are offering a billion dollars for linking to them through an article, such as this. Being shameless as I am, I thought I'd see if he'd make good on his word. He seems to think his headline entry is somewhat controversial, per his mission at blogshares. Frankly, it seems like it is poorly constructed satire, unlike The Onion. Now I'm probably blowing this mission, but I've explored the blog and its parent site, Silent Partner Consulting and frankly, I just don't get it. There is a tremendous amount of information, but its purpose is fully vague. Then again, a "free" university that charges $75? I guess it sort of makes sense after all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hazy Commute

Another nice ride in. For some inexplicable reason, I chose to ride up the hill in Highland Park and take Montréal to Shepard Road. I swear it shaves off five to ten minutes. Near 35E, I was greeted by the usual group of gold finches that appear to summer there. There must be some unique plant that they like. It is seriously a gold finch ghetto along the chain-link fence.

As I rode on, I realized that I had watered the cats, but didn't refill my bottle. I stopped at a drinking fountain and noticed a presumably homeless person of indeterminate gender stirring in a sleeping bag along the fence. I am always intrigued by what sort of life circumstances lead up to this lifestyle. I felt oddly and inappropriately voyeuristic at this point, so I quickly resumed my commute.

Downtown Saint Paul looked like a vision from a Dickens novel in the morning haze. I contemplated grabbing my camera, but it was buried in my bag strapped to the rack. I really need to get some proper panniers. If I buy a set, Lise and I could each use one. I doubt I need both. As I continued east of downtown, I had usual flashback to Norway. There is something about the aroma of diesel exhaust from the barges that always reminds of taking the ferry from Stavanger to Kvitsøy. To my immediate left I encountered the diesel exhaust of the trucks and the freight trains heading to the switch yard. For some reason, it smells different over water- even over the Mississippi. It also occurred to me that it has been just over a year since I've been in Norway. That will soon change- we finalized our reservations last night. All we need to do now is sell our cars... and find jobs!

Kvitsøy- where we usually stay in Norway. We are moving to Stavanger, a nearby city.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

DIY panniers

DIY panniers- I haven't lowered my budget quite this far.


OK, I was riding along Shepard Road enjoying the sun. I was feeling a bit cramped on my bike. This morning I had adjusted the seat a bit- slid it forward. I have an American Classic seatpost- an engineering marvel. My Look's single bolt design was done by Rube Goldberg himself- impossible to adjust without predicting its angle when fully tightened. I've never felt an emotional attachment to a seatpost, but if I did, my amorous affections would solely belong to the AC.

So this afternoon, I stopped by the entrance to Crosby Farms and the Marina to set things right. As I tightened the seat clamp, I kept tightening and tightening. At that point I realized the clamp was stripped. I backed the bolt out, and noticed the threads backing out with it. I was so absorbed in my mad science, that I failed to notice there were a bunch of men sitting in the parked cars along the road. Something was up. I kept fiddling with the seatpost, trying to at least somewhat secure the saddle. A very strange man approached me and asked what was wrong. He reminded me of Maynard from Pulp Fiction. I made polite conversation. After realizing that I'd have no seat to ride on (that it simply would not stay attached to the post), I finally mentioned that I was calling my wife to rescue me. He went back to his Jeep SUV and waited. As I waited, he drove back and forth twice along the frontage road before leaving. Another guy in a pickup truck asked if I needed a lift, which I declined. A Somalian taxi driver walked into a thicket of weeds, disappeared for several minutes, reappeared, then drove away.

My rescurer arrived in short order- especially considering that it was rush hour. I don't know what goes on down there, but it isn't the first time I've noticed this phenomenon during my commute.

When I arrived home, I found another 27.0 seatpost that will get me through until I figure out my next move. AC sells the entire clamp kit for $15. I emailed them to see if it is possible to only purchase the top clamp. I don't want to sound cheap, but I don't need the rest of the parts, and I will soon be unemployed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thank God for the Sun!

I had a nice ride in today on the frankenbike. The downtube friction shifters work much better than I'd imagined. With all the fixed riding I've been doing, I only really shift when I need to- rarely. I had a slight issue with the bars sliding around. You'd think a 0.4mm mismatch between clamp and bar would be a non-issue, but I managed to tighten everything up. My back thanks me for not wearing the backpack. I'm also finally getting into the moustache bars. Next I'll be subscribing to the Rivendell Reader. I'm contemplating a club ride tomorrow- just to freak everyone out.

I mostly escaped the rain this morning. Hopefully the sun will dry everything out for my ride home. Three cheers for coasting for a change!

Frankenbike Lives

Last night we returned from a trip to see my parents and a bunch of my fun, crazy cousins. We actually camped - reminding me how much I really hate camping, or perhaps, camping in a crowded campground on Labor Day weekend. I'd rather be camping primitive style, in the middle of nowhere, with a minimum of gear. Anyway, that explains my absence.

Today at work I interviewed five candidates for my replacement. I guess I'm a class act for helping to nail my coffin shut. Actually, it was good practice, considering I'll be on the other side of the desk soon enough. I'm having a little trouble letting go of my job. My position was next to nothing when I took it, and under my tenure I redesigned all four of the existing programs, and began twelve new ones in an industry that had been stable, if not contracting, for a number of years. At least I left my mark, and made my space a better place than when I found it. Of course I rarely think about my job like that. I generally take everything for granted. Of course, when I look at it that way, I think about all the bigger and better things I could be doing.

My cousin talked to me about importing US-made luxury vehicles to Norway. It would be grey-market-- but he apparently had worked with a guy from Iceland and found it to be ridiculously lucrative. The crazy thing is that I'm actually considering it, if even as just a side job. While we are on that topic, I applied for a job with Conoco Philips on Friday. Today I heard back- and it wasn't an outright rejection letter. If that is all it takes to make my day, you can see how low that bar is already. With my expectations this low, there is no way I'll be disappointed. Actually, with their glacially slow hiring process, I'll probably be in Norway in time for an interview. And with today's interviews, it is quite possible we'll hire the outside candidate. Scandalous as that may be, it means good karma for me. I'll truly be the outsider in a few months.

I drove to work this morning. The CEO asked me to stop by her house to pick up a bunch of knock-off designer bags for a silent auction to raise money for the flood victims- or so I was told. Somehow that seems appropriate, considering the FBI apparently was distributing counterfeit fashions to flood victims that they had confiscated. I've never really understood the fake bag scene. It left me wondering if I've ever actually seen a genuine bag. Unfortunately, there were no exotic Italian man purses for me to bid on. I did bid on a cool piece of artwork- that was not a knock-off.

After work I finished the Frankenbike. Last night I realized I was missing a rear brake cable, which halted my progress. Tonight I ran the cable and took it out for its inaugural ride. The friction shifting worked better than expected. I left the 9-speed Ultegra rear derailleur alone, and since I'm only running a seven speed freewheel, I can drop the chain if I over shift. I also discovered that the bargain wheel from craigslist has a slightly bent axel. It gives the bike character.

As I was out riding, I noticed my heart rate was quite elevated. I was a bit concerned that I'd fallen out of shape, until I surmised that all the mega-Sudafed probably was taking its toll. I was still recovering from camping. By the way, if you haven't purchased a Sudafed-like product recently, you are really in for a treat. I felt like I was enrolled in a drug treatment program. They treat everyone like a meth head. To completely add an air of absurdity, the pharmacist - since you now need to actually ask for it- actually asked me if I only wanted one. Then my name, and probably every publicly available detail from my driver's license was added to a ledger of containing the names of other Sudafed users.

Anyway, the bike worked great. It is a tank with the rear rack. I'd like to someday replace the Tektro rear brake. It is really inadequate-- but free, so I can't complain too much. When I arrived home, I noticed that for some inexplicable reason, I'd reversed the brakes- leaving the right lever controlling the front brake. These events make me wonder where my mind goes. Anyway, I reversed the brakes and made a few other adjustments. Tomorrow I'll take it to work. Next step is to grab some panniers.

Lest you laugh, this bike is designed to be as geeky as possible. I'm running a single 42 tooth ring up front and a 7-speed 13-25 rear on a 105 hub. It is almost as silent as my fixed gear. I have a 105 front brake, so my life doesn't hang in the balance with the Tektro rear. I'm charging my Niterider tonight so I can leave early. This darkness is already getting old. Anyway, I'm looking forward to mixing up my commute tomorrow morning- and hoping I don't have any mechanicals to iron out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fly Bike

To think I've been doing it all backwards: Pasqualini Bike