Wednesday, December 29, 2010

back pain

I'm 55 years old, which means that all my parts are 55 years old. Which is why, after moving about 2 tons of snow on Monday (say a shovelful every 15 seconds, at an average weight of, say, 16 lbs., over the course of so much time...), my back has been giving me pain.

It was actually worse Tuesday night into this morning than it was before; I could barely get out of bed in the middle of the night. Luckily, I have today off, and I've been sitting on the heating pad and sucking down Naprosyn (couldn't find a refill in the stores today, so I've got ibuprofen for a backup). My wife will tell you I hate taking pills (I had a bit of a problem with drugs and alcohol between the mid-70's & mid-80's, and I don't want to risk a relapse, even after 27 years of recovery), but this has been enough to make me take 'em regularly.

It's worst first thing in the morning after not moving all night. I may take to leaving a water bottle and some pills at my bedside... although the med's take a long time (like, dozens of minutes) to kick in. And I may get that picturesque cane out of storage.

I've gained a couple of pounds since the beginning of the month. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

Monday, December 27, 2010

HOW much snow??

Snow. Gevalt. About twenty inches, according to the newscasts.

I got the robocall last night that my company would be closed today. Wife's county social service office was open, but nobody was there in her unit (and I checked my county social service office - they were closed, too).

I began shoveling last night before the snow stopped; I got wife's car partly shoveled out, but when I got out this morning at about 9:00 am, you couldn't even see where I'd been (not only that, but the plow had been through and left hard-pack across the bottom of the driveway). I shoveled a path to her car, then shoveled out her car from the driveway, then shoveled out MY car which was street-parked (I know I'm going to lose that spot tomorrow), then helped one neighbor get her minivan out from the middle of the street, and helped another neighbor get her car shoveled out. That took about 90 minutes (and I'm counting it for an exercise credit).

Went out again about noon for half an hour; the snow is the cold, dry loose flakes, and the wind had kept up and blown snow over much of the shoveling out. Wife had suggested that we may want to park both cars in the driveway, so I shoveled out enough to get both cars in, and cleaned up what snow had blown around the cars; I also shoveled out a path to the back door. The contractor fellow can do the rest of it (we live in a condo, and have a contractor who charges the association usurious rates to clear the paths and roadways; he's supposed to do the driveways, but not the cars... but you wouldn't want to have to wait for the contractor to get to your driveway).

No post today, unless the blowing show covered the footprints of the mail delivery fellow. Whatever happened to, "Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat..."? (Oh - it's apocryphal (although note the source...).

Spent much of the day with the heating pad nursing my lower back, and I'm not looking forward to my return to work tomorrow. After all, the coworker is out for the week, it's already a short week for me, and I'm gonna hafta reschedule the folks I didn't see today - including two (a father/daughter pair) who are waiting on standby for the next available appointment. (And I bought a pair of sandals to replace the ones that gave up the ghost in Hawaii. I decided to do something to make it feel like spring might come; it's been too long since I got a decent bike ride in, and I feel like winter's gonna last forever.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

so this is christmas

My Polish in-laws grew up celebrating Wigilia (the Polish name for Christmas Eve), and, when they moved to this country, were surrounded by locals, for whom the big holiday was Christmas Day. So, in a generous (and, for them, a rare un-American) display of intercultural outreach, the family does both the big, traditional Christmas Eve celebration (with the traditional dinner with many meatless dishes, and the breaking of the opłatek, and the singing of koledy [while the kids grow ever more impatient waiting for the opening of the presents]), AND the big American no-holds-barred eat-anything-you-can feast of Christmas Day. The Wigilia is the territory of my 80-something-year-old mother in law (and sacrosanct territory it is), but my wife has hooked the Christmas Day feed as her donation to the annual family celebrations. So yesterday, we were up by 7:00 to get the turkey in the oven, and did all the setup and serving (that is, the stuff that hadn't been done in the weeks of preparation), and didn't get to stop until the last guest had called for directions when she missed her exit on the way home. That was about 6:00 pm.

(I made gravy. Did I tell you I make dangerous, kickass gravy? I do. I probably contributed to two heart attacks yesterday.)

Now, the family is rolling chaos (as what family is not?), and we heard that some of the folks were going to be late. We had already decided to make this dinner a more-or-less buffet ("We'll have dinner on by 2:00, but you can eat whenever you get here"), and after a bit of rage about their callous lack of attention to our efforts, we remembered that this was precisely the reason we had chosen to do the buffet. We have a friend who makes this kind of entertaining look effortless (my wife says, "She gets it that it's really about getting people together"), so the watchword of the day became, "What would Taylor do?".

Today is recovery day, and I'm shot. I haven't exercised, I'm not quite out of my pajamas (at 11:14 am, when I've been up since about 5:00; people who know me will tell you how unlike me that is), and I'm barely getting around to writing this post.

However, looking over the loot under the Christmas tree, it's time to reflect how good life is. My latest hobby is the bicycles, and there's a bit of bicycle loot (including the Sprintech bar-end mirror, Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance, and Tom Hammel's NJ Bike Ride Book). Also, the obligatory winter clothing (scarves, gloves), and some fripperies that we love, but won't buy for ourselves (and, of course, some useless stuff from clueless, but well-meaning donors).

Wife has just gotten back from part-time job; snow is falling (looks like I may get some exercise today anyway), and I'm trying to stay away from the stacks of yummy leftovers in the other room. In an effort to maintain my junk food abstinence, there may be a nap in my near future. (And with some luck, there will be snow enough that the office will close tomorrow!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

am i lazy or stupid?

We've got a Food Bank in town, and one of the drop-off points is at the library.

I volunteer at the library once a week.

My wife bought some cans of food for the food bank. We left them near my briefcase so I'd remember to take them out to the car on Monday, when I was planning to go to the library afte work. To volunteer. Like I do every week.

I remembered to put the cans in the car.

I went to the library to volunteer on Monday.

This is Wednesday morning, and the cans are still on the passenger seat of my car, where I'll be sure to see them when I go to the library. The day before yesterday.


I want to make a special trip to the library to get the cans to the food bank... but my wife says that's a waste of both time and resources. And I really don't want to make a special trip.

Stupid, or lazy?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ezra Jennings on Republicans

Jennings said, “Every time I hear a Republican speak, it always boils down to the same message. It's not even as if there are variations on the message; it's always the same. Whether it's health care, gay marriage, access to college loans, gays in the military, school lunches, unemployment insurance, they're always saying the same thing: 'I got mine, Jack, f--- you.' “

Sunday, December 19, 2010

all in all...

After the plumbing got fixed, we had two holes in the wall: one where the plumber fellow had looked inside the closet to see if the leak was there (no such luck), and one in the living room where he actually accessed the leak and fixed it.

WE did NOT need this a week or so before Christmas, with a dozen people to be served dinner.

So, a little bit of leftover sheetrock from an earlier repair, a bit of fiddling with some scrap lumber and screws to make some nailing surfaces, a bit of slathering in the joint compound to cover the joints (now there's a skill I've lost over the years, for the not-usin' of it), and then out comes the paint. I have paint left over from ten years ago when we first moved in, and the color matched reasonably well. The can, however, didn't survive as well as the paint did; it was rusted, and the top of the can broke up where I was using the screwdriver to pry off the top. Oh well... time to call the township or the county to see about the disposal of paint.

Then it's time for Industrial Strength Vacuuming, and sponging up the carpet where I dropped some of the (thank heaven, water-soluble) joint compound, and putting away all the tools, and putting way-too-many scarves and hats and gloves and coats back into the closet (and just what is all that stuff?).

In other news, I also found two FULL gallons of the wall color we used ten years ago. Overestimated a bit on the need, didn't I? Maybe I can use it to do the insides of closets (yeah, like that's gonna happen...)

Friday, December 17, 2010

more plumbing

A week ago, I wrote about the unplanned installation of our new furnace. Today, I had the planned repair of an exterior faucet, which may have been out for over a year. Some time (last summer? The summer before? It was summer, because I was wearing sandals), I walked into the living room to discover that a considerable portion of the rug was saturated, as was the carpet of the neighbor on the other side of the common wall. It turned out there was a leak somewhere in the line to our outdoor faucet (there are two emerging from the wall between our units; the controls are inside our separate units). My wife and I put off the repair, thinking that it would be in the territory of $1,000. We finally called Roto-Rooter of New Brunswick about a month ago for a quote, and the engaging technician said he thought he could bring it in for under $450. I was off today, and so we scheduled it.

It turned out he brought it in under $350, despite having to chisel out part of two studs and the firewall (he did not break all the way through). Instead of running the copper line through holes in the studs, the builders had run the line tight between the studs and the firewall; it appears that electrolysis and friction (of the expansion/contraction of the seasons? Of turning the faucet on and off?) had worn a pinhole in the copper pipe where it contacted a (probably aluminum) H-channel between two sections of firewall. After chopping out enough material so he could move the pipe enough to turn the tubing cutter, the tech made short work of soldering in a new section... then was dissatisfied enough with his work to re-solder one of the joints. It didn't leak, and the tech fellow hung around long enough to make sure the outdoor faucet worked (in this twenty-something-degree weather), and made sure I knew how to protect the system from freezing, before he left.

Plumbing is never an inexpensive proposition, and both the furnace and the faucet line were fixes, rather than planned upgrades. That said, I've had good experiences with both of the plumbers I've used, and we had the money to do both repairs. Life could be worse


Dad's birthday was yesterday, and we forgot to call.

Oh, doodies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

two random thoughts

Two random thoughts after the events of the past few days:

First, even though we keep the thermostat low, it is much more pleasant to come into a house at 66º than one at 56º, especially when the expectation is 66º.

Second, some time in October or November, I decided I wanted to ride the bike at least once in every month, even in the cold weather (meaning a ride where I get suited up and spend at least thirty minutes riding). The temps got up into the high 40's today, and I did my basic twenty miles -- so I've ridden at least once in every month since April, and I've completed that goal for this year. (Have I mentioned how much I like that new drive train on my bike, the SRAM Rival setup? Oh, boy...)

Friday, December 10, 2010

expense and trouble i didn't need

I came home from work yesterday to a condo at 56º, and I shortly developed the clear knowledge that I wasn't going to be able to get the furnace going. I found a plumber who looked at the furnace and said he could get it to start again for about $700 when he got the parts, or he could put in another for $2200. Now, we've already replaced the water heater, the stove, and the fridge, and the dishwasher is on its last legs... so as I type this, two not-unpleasantly-grubby young guys are walking back and forth to a truck in the driveway, swearing under their breath, and installing a new furnace.

I've learned a few things in the last day or so:

  1. A notation in the yellow pages or on a website about "24-hour service" just means the phone might get picked up by a human (or it might not; you might have to wait for a human to check the messages and call you back).
  2. When the phone clerk tells you, "They'll be out tonight," there's a chance they might be out tonight. There's also a chance you'll get a call in forty-five minutes advising you that no, they won't be out tonight.
  3. It's marvelously helpful to have your wife tell you she thinks you're doing a good job, when you haven't got a clue what you're doing about this stuff.
  4. It's incredibly reassuring when you wife tells you that there's money set aside for this sort of thing, and that if there's a discount for cash, she can probably manage that.
  5. A ceramic heater can heat a fairly big bedroom, with a cathedral ceiling, from 55º to too-hot-to-sleep in about four hours. Holy bananas!
  6. The day the heat is out is a good day to set the oven to do its self-cleaning-at-600º-for-four-hours thing.
  7. There's Standard Time, Daylight Savings Time, Geologic Time, Quaker Time, Howdy Doody Time. Then there's contractor time, meaning when they show up. It's a mystery to which I've not found a solution.
  8. Despite all your swearing about the inadequate insulation in the house, when you come home from work and the house is 56º, and when you wake up at 4:00 am and the house is 53º when it's been on the low twenties outside, the insulation in the house is pretty good. Even considering we ran the oven and three electric heaters for a while.
  9. Exercising in a house at 53º is a mixed blessing. You do warm up, but you sweat, and the sweat is remarkably chilly when you stop. And let's not talk about getting out of a warm shower into a cold bathroom, shall we not?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"a vast right-wing conspiracy..."

Do you know why I now believe in that whole "vast right-wing conspiracy" jazz?

How else can you explain Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars"?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Every now and then, I get to speak to a group about substance abuse. I used to do it two or three times a year for the Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Mercer County, until they changed their program. Today was the second time I've gone in as a guest lecturer for the graduate Occupational Therapy program at NYU.

It's marvelous fun. The students are young and hopeful. Most of them just go along for the ride, and a few are IMMENSELY bored (though I suspect they'd be bored with anything), and a few get engaged in the presentation, ask good questions, and make the time pass quickly.

My evaluations indicate that I'm a good lecturer for this kind of group: they find me entertaining and informative. I get paid a little money, but mostly I do it because I like to (and because I like the guy who runs the class and asks me to come it).

Today, I lost my cell phone on the way in; later, I had to go replace it. On the way back, the trains were delayed a few hours, so I took the bus back, and had to walk about a mile in the rain to get back to my car. And it was still a good day.

Anybody need a lecturer on substance abuse for a class of motivated neophytes?

anchor house ride - commitment & conflict

Anchor House is a home for runaways in Trenton. Each year, they have a bike ride (the "Ride for Runaways") as a fundraiser. I'm thinking of doing it this year, because of a unique opportunity that we need not go into here.

The dates of the mandatory training rides (use the dropdown under "Training", then click "Training Rides") are given as April 24th, May 8, and May 23. April 24 is a Sunday, as is May 8. But May 8 is Mother's Day. And May 23 is a Monday.

I've emailed the chairs of the ride committee to see if these dates are correct, and if the requirement is cast in stone. If they are correct, and inescapable, I may not be able to do the ride.

That's disappointing. It may also be disappointing to the few people I've gotten to agree to support me.

Addendum: It turns out those were last year's dates. D'OH!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

odd ride today

I did a ride with the Princeton Freewheelers today. There were two rides scheduled to leave from this Cranbury park we use: a "B"-rated ride (my usual speed) and a "B+" ride that has a reputation for getting faster than its rated speed. Neither of the advertised leaders led: one came to say it was too cold for him, and the other didn't show at all (although I'm not surprised; a month ago he was saying it was too cold for him to lead morning rides).

The eleven of us (mostly, but not all, younger guys) that were left went on our own ride at a pace that was between B and B+; too slow for some, and too fast for others - I could have kept up, but there was another guy (older, like me) who was having trouble keeping up, and who admitted that the pace was past his "pay grade". I stayed back with him to make sure he knew how to get home; it was way too cold to get lost today.

Maybe because of the weather, maybe because of the holiday weekend, but none of the guys I look for were out today. This ride wasn't as much fun as I'm used to. If I ride tomorrow, it will be on my own; my wife and I have an afternoon commitment, and the scheduled ride may interfere with our timely start.

(And don't get me wrong about the old guys - one of the older riders today does randonneur trips, and he was keeping up with the best of 'em.)

out for the holiday; now back

Back from a week in Asheville, visiting the parents. Despite the fact they're old enough to be my parents, they're in pretty good shape (they're still able to live on their own, which is good, although dad's got a tremor, and mom's getting more and more forgetful [although her memory was probably made worse by the stress over having us all visit - me, my wife, and my sister and her husband - mom wants everything to be perfect, which, of course, none of us needs it to be]).

Parents and I have had some stress in the past (the usual parental stuff, and then some other stuff a few years ago when they didn't think I visited them frequently enough), but recently we've been getting along well. Dad gets all fussy about us knowing where the money and other valuables are in the house - but it's my hope that they'll be able to use that for their own care when they're no longer able to live on their own. They've made it clear that they want to stay in Asheville if they can; all their friends, their church, and their lives for the past 25 years or so, are there, so they should stay if they want to.

We do Christmas at Thanksgiving (my sister Sue, or her husband, came up with the coinage of "Chranksgiving", which is an awful-sounding thing, but it is what we do... presents in the morning, and dinner in the afternoon). Got a TV from the parents that they had won in some raffle (our first flat-screen, and the best in the house; we can attach it to the PC for streaming Netflix movies), and Sue and I gave 'em a sculpture that Sue had commissioned for their 80th birthdays. (She did the whole thing on the sculpture from top to bottom; I just paid for my half, though I'm happy to take the credit - but it's more than I deserve).

My wife Regina and I do the drive each way in a single day. It's gruesome, but it saves us both an overnight in a motel, and a couple days of vacation time, which she can ill afford (although I have more than I know what to do with - well, that's not really true, but I hate taking time off, because 1) no day off goes unpunished, and 2) I have such an anxiety problem about work, being away for several days makes me lose sleep and get sour stomach; I'm looking forward to retirement for that reason, among others). The drive down was OK, but I was exhausted on the drive back, and Regina did most of the driving. Makes me feel like a lazy slug, but it's better than driving off the road because I fell asleep at the wheel.

And now we're back, sleeping in our own bed and drinking our usual coffee. Tomorrow, not to show favoritism, we're off to Regina's parents for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ridin' up them hills

A fellow Freewheeler has a blog called Hill Slug Chronicles.

What's the opposite of a hill slug? I've gotten pretty good at getting up the hill quickly; I like the passin' people and bein' out front - I think I like it even better than the flirting with 40mph on the subsequent downhills.

I still get schooled; there are plenty of stronger riders than I am - not least because I choose rides rated for speeds I know I can handle (and maybe I could move up a grade in ride designation, but my experience in September suggests I may be asking for trouble - just because I'm fast in my class doesn't mean I'm ready to move up to the next one). But I'm holdin' my own. And I pass a number of folks on the uphills. It's gotten so that I don't like being stuck behind a slower rider on the uphills, I want to move, already.

In other news, it was an 80-mile weekend; 253 miles on this drivetrain (including this chain).

seeing the guy about being crazy, part 3

So I finished the sessions with the therapy guy. My company buys a benefit that allows five sessions before either a referral or paying the therapist directly; we did four, and my progress was such that we decided to hold one for "if I need it". The stuff that worked:
  • Maintaining the exercise & diet disciplines;
  • Changing my "self-talk" about the meaning of the experiences related to the worst anxieties;
  • Developing and using an affirmation (and I didn't think this one was going to work);
  • Journaling;
  • Returning to meditation (although I haven't done if often, or frequently, enough).

Meditation, for me, works to reduce anxiety, given two factors: first, I have to be doing it regularly, and second, I can't start a course of meditation while I'm undergoing an ongoing problem with anxiety - I can't maintain the discipline of returning to the focus again and again; instead, the focus of the anxiety takes over. So, now that I'm at comparative peace, it's time to discipline myself to develop the strength to get over the next tough spot.

Therapy works, if you find the right person, and do what you're told.

I've noticed that, instead of being terrified by the situations that caused the anxiety, I've become angry at the injustices I see in them (perhaps unreasonably so). I also see that, over the past year, I've been less willing to continue in situations in which I feel criticized; I left the choral group, for example, over criticism that, it's pretty clear now, was not directed at me, although I didn't know that at the time. I need to be careful of this in future, (and perhaps return to the choral group); I find I have no close friends now except the ones I have through my wife.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

good ride, good movie, good time

The Princeton Freewheelers Sourlands ride today was about 38 miles. I had a great time, and have turned into quite a hill climber (and how come I couldn't keep up on the flats six weeks ago, but I'm crankin' up the hills these days?). I don't mind saying that I always have a good time with this ride leader. I never know where I am when I go on these rides, but I never know where I am when I go on any Freewheeler ride.

I'm also thinking seriously about doing the Anchor House ride next summer; vacation planning suggests the schedule will work out well, although there may be some logistical weirdness - but that may work out. The hardest part may be finding sponsors... but for all that, even if I had to pay the whole sponsorship myself, it would still be a cheap date.

In the afternoon, went out with my wife and the nephews to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. I in IMax. Good enough, although I don't rave about it the way Regina does. And, of course, I'm glad I knew the story (I hate going to a move and not knowing what's going to happen - I know that ruins the movie for many people, but I hate suspense. Life is anxiety-producing enough, without adding to it). ( And I'm not smitten with Imax: if the content is good, the quality can be pretty bad, and I'll still watch, but good quality doesn't make up for dull content.)

Regina loves being out with the boys; I'll probably hear about how great they are, and how grateful she is that they want to spend time with us, for days.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

seeing the guy about being crazy, part 2

I posted last month about seeing the counselor about the anxiety at work, and have posted a few things about my journal and work experiences since. Last night was my last session with him (at least for now; we decided to hold one paid session in reserve).

At his suggestion, I came up with an affirmation (a thing I say to myself, à la Stewart Smalley), and I've started meditating again. Both of these are working, although I'm not doing either regularly enough. I don't need the therapist to make 'em regular, though; I just need to do 'em.

The "journal you don't see", referenced in some of these posts, was his idea, too. I'm still keeping it up.

So this post is an announcement to youse-all, and reminder to me: therapy can work. It helps if you do everything you're told, without judging it first.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

memorial ride, and showing off.

Today I rode a memorial ride for a recently deceased member of the Princeton Freewheelers. Brought a (small) check for the American Diabetes Association (could this turn into an annual ride?), and turned in a very respectable fifty miles around Sergeantsville and the Delaware River in Hunterdon County (with a short hop over to Pennsylvania for coffee).

On the way back, I got into a paceline, and pulled for several miles at a pace over 20mph. Never done that before. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the new bike setup - or maybe I'm in better shape than I thought I was.

Later: In an effort to track mileage (like, when to replace chains, for example), I'm going to try to start remembering to post total mileage, or other mileage. So the mileage from the setup with the SRAM drivetrain is now 173.

Friday, November 12, 2010

back from cooperstown

OK, so we went to Cooperstown yesterday & today instead of over the weekend. The Sargent show was small, but ROCKED, and the rest of the Fenimore museum was very cool. The Baseball Hall of Fame is... well, big (and not my cup of tea). Downtown Cooperstown is as cutesy-baseball-y as all getout (and would probably have dried up and blown away, as did the rest of the region, when local manufacturing dried up were it not for the baseball connection).

Stayed at the Tunnicliff Inn, a past-its-prime-but-once-stately hotel built in 1802. Steam heated - and how; we were down to our underwear and sweating until we finally took the risk of turning off the heat entirely, and our room was still hot enough to melt candles. Neat old building, though, with vestiges of all its former incarnations, and not a level floor or a right angle in the place. Breakfast was OK, and the price was right. (But they could really back off on the heat.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This weekend, we're going to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, to see the Sargent exhibition. WOO-HOO! Happy Birthday to my excellent wife, Regina!

Then, since we're in Cooperstown, we'll stop in at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Anybody who has ever known me for more than an hour will see the humor in that last sentence.

Monday, November 8, 2010

criticism & egotism

From my other journal (the one you don't see):

I take supervisory feedback as criticism, I don't know if that's because that's the way it's intended, or because I always take feedback as criticism. But I'll never get better until I can take criticism as feedback, and learn from the stuff that doesn't work, rather than letting it crush me.

The other side of the ego coin is fear. Actually, it's more like the other pole of the magnet: you could conceivably grind off the other side of a coin, but when you chop off the pole of a magnet, you get two magnets, both with north & south poles.

I'm also sure that how I'm treated changes with the persona I project. If I'm ready to receive suggestions, I'll get them; if any questioning of my activities is an attack, I'll get attacked.

As I've said before (although maybe not here): how did I get to be 55 years old and I'm just learning this?

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Cold bike ride today; had to scrape the frost off the glass before putting the bike in the car this morning. The leader says he doesn't go if it's under 38º F, and it wasn't at 9:00 when we left... but we went anyway. My bike shoes have ventilation for the toes, which is sensible in the hot weather, but it was not very comfy today. I broke down and bought toe covers today; they ought to come before next weekend. I may need to use regular gloves (which are klutzy on the shift controls).

Twice, we stopped just before a steep uphill that I just didn't have it in me to get started; I had to walk the bike to a flatter spot (once, I went over and skinned a knee - but didn't tear my tights; how did that happen?). I don't know if that was due to the cold, or not knowing how to ride on this new kit yet, or what.

Tomorrow's ride starts on the other side of Route 1, supposedly the flatter side of our local riding territory. Let's hope, because it's certainly not going to be much warmer (although Daylight Savings changes tonight, so maybe, with an additional hour of sunshine...)

Friday, November 5, 2010

ungreatest generation

This friend, as the Quakers say, speaks my mind:

From us you've not gotten, and won't get, sweeping new ideas, institutions, or initiatives that can live in perpetuity and inspire future generations. We still don't have a clue how to get beyond the Cold War (much less how to extricate ourselves from the Iraq debacle with the country's dignity intact), or how to achieve comprehensive health care, reform education, or rid politics of the corrupting influence of money. Surely you don't expect us then to live up to the rhetoric of our youth and eliminate poverty, injustice, or war, craft an enduring post-millennial ideology, or create futuristic global institutions. What's in it for us?

Read the whole article here.

financial whoa's

I've overspent, between the Hawaii trip, the bike, and Christmas (we do the family Christmas when we get together at Thanksgiving, so my buying is loaded a bit early). Now, when I say I've overspent, what that means is I don't have as much of a cushion as I like:
  • I still have $250/paycheck put in a 403b;
  • I still save $222.22/month for my Roth IRA ($6000 annual cap for my age, divided by 27 paychecks this year);
  • I still put $600/month into savings;
  • And Regina saves part of the common money in various pigeonholes for things like vacations, insurance, and home repairs;
  • And all my credit cards are paid off, not just every month, but usually every time I make a charge (although I batch all my weekend charges and pay them all on Sunday night or Monday).
What "overspending" means, in this case, is that I'm down to about a $100 balance in my checking account, instead of the $800-1000 I usually like to have there. I expect it will take another month or six weeks to get back to that. In the meantime, I've got to be a bit circumspect... but, for example, Regina & I will still go out to McCormick & Schmicks for her birthday tomorrow (oh, yeah, in addition to Christmas, Regina keeps her birthday in mid-November, as well).

I am lucky to have this kind of financial problem.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New drivetrain; new speed

Since the Hawaii trip, I've finished buying the components to build up the bicycle with the SRAM Rival drivetrain. Over the past few days, I've installed everything.

Here's what didn't work: I bought a cassette for the rear wheel with a large gear with 32 teeth. It was too big for the rear derailleur to handle; I tried to make it fit, but with less than a mile of riding, it was clear that it wasn't happening. There's no visible damage to the cassette, so I'll sell it on Ebay after Thanksgiving; I bet I can recoup $50 of the $65 cost.

Here's what did work: Bought a (Shimano) 11x28 cassette; that popped onto the wheel like it was made for it (well, in a sense it was; SRAM is being real careful about making sure that its components are Shimano-compatible, probably in an effort to encourage us to "make the leap").

Tightened up the B-screw a couple turns, and rode it 20 miles today. Maybe it's the cold weather, but I turned in an average speed of 19.05; best pace yet. I like these components. The cranks (the levers to which the pedals are attached) are, at 172.5mm, a little less than 1/8" longer than the standard 170mm cranks they replaced - but I'm having a hard time thinking that that was the reason for the better time, almost .5mph faster than my recent times on that course. I've gotta get used to shifting the SRAM components (it's a slightly different action from the Shimano's I replaced), but if this is any indication of future results, I'm going to like this setup. (And it's a double chainring on the front, not a triple: lighter, and less likelihood of "wussy triple rider" comments ... both of which are equally important to me, if I'm honest.)

Weekend rides

Weekend rides: Saturday, good ride (but cold) to a local “orchard” (really a big store where apple- and other-tree-fruit-related products are sold); beautiful ride, but cold. As is common at this time of year, I'm cold at the beginning of the ride, but as the day (and I) warm up, I'm shedding layers by the end. One good idea I got at this ride was to get cheap glove liners to wear under my half-finger gloves (the half-finger gloves are to provide padding to reduce numbness in the palms; on a road bike, there's almost always some weight on a rider's hands on the handlebars). Got to Sears, and the mechanics gloves I thought were $14, were $19... but cotton glove liners were 99¢.

Sunday, went on a ride around the Sourlands with the Princeton Freewheelers. About halfway out, the leader blew a tire, and we went through four or five tubes (including both of my spares) before we found the hole in his tire, on which a tire patch (called a “boot”) was placed – and then we blew out THAT tube. By that time, we were going to be late getting back; the leader called for a ride, and another fellow led us back (knew the way, which I, as usual, did not). No stop for a break until the parking lot, where I made a beeline to examine the plumbing, IF you know what I mean. In a later response to my email, the leader-fellow said he did get back home, so I felt better about that.

Now, all my parts are in for the upgrade to the SRAM Rival set on my road bike. Wrenchin' time!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

humble pie

I've gotten into trouble at work because I haven't done what I was directed to do (although I wasn't always sure what the direction was).

I probably messed up a bike at the Bike Exchange because I didn't know what to do and I didn't ask.

I'm not as smart - or as helpful or thoughtful - as I've been telling myself I am.

From my other journal that youse don't see:

As I write this, I see I have a lot invested in people thinking I'm smart and competent. I have wound up shooting myself in the foot, looking stupid by NOT asking for help. (How did I get to be over fifty, and I'm just learning this?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I was directed yesterday to call the Division of Youth & Family Services to investigate a client.

I hate it.

My detractors will say it's only because I want to be a nice guy to my clients. While that last part is true (it's easier to deal with clients who aren't enraged at you), that's not really why I hate to call DYFS. It's because I think that DYFS involvement is often worse for a family than the problem we may be trying to address.

I did a quick web search to get the link in the first paragraph. While that link was the first Google result, six of the results on the first page are about how DYFS has failed, caused other problems, or overstepped its bounds.

We have to open nuts, but the only tool we have is a sledgehammer. We destroy and lose the meat we're trying to save.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cold ride!

There's a Princeton Freewheelers ride on Monday and Wednesday mornings out of Etra Park in Hightstown (mostly the same group, of mostly retired guys, goes out of Byron Johnson Park in Allentown on Wednesdays). I was off yesterday (had to move my every-other-Wednesday off when it conflicted with a work regional meeting), and rode with 'em.

We left in about 50º F (c-c-c-cold) and a healthy wind (there were eight of us, including one woman, on this ride that has had almost twenty riders in the warmer weather). The ride was short; the leader had to add a few miles to his planned route to make sure we got up over 30 for the day.

One key to staying warm seems to be layers. Another is covering up; my fingertips were cold in my fingerless gloves, and most of the riders had thin, but full-finger gloves (and I do have tights for this weather). I need to decide if I'm gonna pop for the under-the-helmet headwarmer and booties to keep the cold wind off my toes - the shoes are ventilated, which makes sense at 95º, but less sense at 45º.

Friday, October 22, 2010

See a guy about being crazy...

I've posted before about anxiety problems. I started with the EAP (employee assistance professional; a kind of counselor paid for by the job) this week, and the guy I saw gave me homework to write every day about what brought me to him; my notes for the assignment are as follows:

Just saw (Name) for the first time, and he told me to start a journal, to include:
  • Daily writing abut anxiety and work
  • What I tried to do to make it better
  • Successes & “non-successes” (a way to avoid the word “failure”, I guess)
  • Sleep & Exercise
I've only written three times (once, just prior to this post, about this insomnia - it's 3:22, and I've been awake over an hour), but it's really helping. My first notes helped me see some of the strategies that have not been useful, and just seeing him and talking about it made me realize that a memory that recently came up - that I wasn't even sure was a real memory (I have at least one other "memory" of an event that I'm sure did not, in fact, happen) - was of a real event, and knowing that gave me some control over it.

He's talked about referral to either a psychiatrist for medication, or someone for behavioral interventions, but I'm not sure I'm going to need it. (Of course, I'm not now in the depths of the anxiety; I don't know if the tools I have now will dig my way out of that cave when I fall in it again. Or maybe I'll have different tools, so I won't get into the cave in the first place.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back from Hawaii

Went to Hawaii this past week; just got back (and no, I wasn't going to post it in advance here; the burglars might be reading this!) Below is an edited version of the daily notes I took; I'd be happy to bore you with hundreds of pictures if you ask!


  • traffic incredible on way to airport; could not go to in-laws for breakfast; had to park in long-term (stop 39, sections 17, 34)

  • Bags checked; check info in inside pocket of Jim's carry-on.

  • Boarding pass in flap pocket of carry-on.

  • Coffee at Starbuck's

  • Got on the plane and left on time at 1:10 NJ time. It's now 9:56 NJ time, but, at 500+ mph ground speed, we're traveling at a considerable portion of the speed of daylight. Through the whole flight, the sun has been pouring in the cabin windows; it's mid- to late-afternoon local time (over some nameless spot in the Pacific right now). We'll get into Hawaii at about 11:30 pm NJ time, but it will be 5:30 where we land. Gonna be a long day!

  • Been re-reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I remember liking it (I still do), but I also remember leaving it unfinished about 80 pages from the end (of this almost 800 page book). Why did I do that?

  • Also brought umpteen hours of audiobooks and “This American Life” podcasts for flight and exercise listening. I've only listened to one hour of TAL so far; the rest has been the inflight movie (Burton's Alice in Wonderland), Strange & Norrell, and an unspecified amount of napping and staring either out the window or into space generally.


  • Got checked in last night; 6:00 pm or so Hawaii time (midnight NJ time); slept miserably. Still all messed up about the time & sleep this am, but went for a walk and shop; got some pictures and gifts for everybody (nobody's forgotten; now I can improve if I need to). Only real plan for today is to board the ship, though Reg found a couple of walking trips we can do if we want.

  • Oy. Heard back from one of my supervisors on a case I had written her about who was suicidal (or not); and the family & psych sections of the assessment instrument had not saved. Anxiety up; I quick filled 'em in while I had internet access, and emailed her that I had corrected it. THAT certainly messed up my day.

  • On the dock by 11:30 (cab came straight here). Supposedly couldn't board until noon, but we were group 4, and on the ship by 11:50. They had the buffet open (smart decision) so we ate, and walked around & got bearings, and sat, and the room was available. Bags are in the hall; they'll probably be delivered soon. Room is small, but trim.


  • Got in and settled well. Overnight, sailed to Maui, and did out first day driving about. On the way to pick up the rental car there was some rain, and the most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. From there, went to a park where there were a number of surfers; saw some surfing and much beach-y wonderfulness. Then to Paui, with artsy shops and hippie-ish people (and how do they afford these incredible real-estate prices?). Then to Grandma's coffee, a shop near the center of the island with excellent coffee and a local duo on ukes (is that a cliché?), and then to the County Fair, where we walked too far in the too-hot, but I got a hat. When we dropped off the car, Reg left her sweatshirt, and we had to go get it (grumble...). Slept, and now to dinner soon.

  • Back from dinner. Regina is not a fan of diners (she doesn't get the mystique), but she's agreed to a trip to the on-ship diner for some-meal-or-other. The two ship's restaurants are good, but I don't think they're serious about desserts – they CERTAINLY aren't serious about chocolate!


  • Second day in Maui; loved the “Ride down the Volcano” event – well, I did; Regina was too nervous about the speeds (which were, admittedly, pretty high – 27mph in places – this was not the sluggish trip down a wooded path she had envisioned). I thought it was great. The bikes were heavy, lowly-geared single-speeds, with drum brakes front and back. They were great for the pure gravity downhill, but awful for any pedaling, especially for trying to catch up; I couldn't get the cranks spinning fast enough to engage until the bike was moving very slowly indeed.

  • Late lunch at the diner. The brownie sundae was good. And onion rings!

  • Later, to try to stay awake, did another walk, and discovered another crypto-restaurant; there's a bar on 12-Forward facing the pool that has food at some times. The Lanai on 11-Aft also had food out, including the excellent pretzel-rolls that are one of my secrets on this trip. Many folks appear to be in it for the eating (and the drinking). Many also just lying in the sun, listening to the Jimmy Buffet cover-band by the pool on 11-Midships. (There's also a completely netted-in basketball court on 14, and two private decks on 13 where the crew is allowed to hang out on their time off.) Also saw the shops when they were open (finally)... noting impressive to me.

  • Did the Easy-Fly registration (airport boarding passes and bags check-in) today, so we can trot around in Honolulu on our last day without dragging the bags around.

  • Finished Tristram Shandy. Finally.

Oct 5.

  • Started Vanity Fair.

  • Long excursion today. Started with trip to Kilauea Volcano Crater on the big island. Predicted partly cloudy, but rain much of the day, and as a result we couldn't see some things and pictures are iffy. Walked up to a lookout point, and it was so wet, we decided not to go to see the edge of the big crater; nonetheless, we saw another crater, stopped by steam vents, walked across a big lava field (with both pahoehoe lava – flat – and a-a lava, the crackly type). Went through an underground lava tube. Saw a place where lava had backed up around a tree and then the tree burned away.

  • After the volcano stuff, Chad (out guide, about whom more later) was feeling like he owed us something, so he took us to an orchid nursery. Pictures of pretty flowers!

  • Then to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory, where we took care of most of the required gift buying.

  • Stopped by a pretty bay that Chad knew (and used to go when he cut school).

  • Finally to the Akaka falls, and back to the ship.

  • Chad was a hoot. The more he warmed up, the more he told us about his misspent life, his dissolute friends, and some of the seamier customs of island residents, including the special arrangements offered to persons over 50% Hawaiian, the problems with Micronesians moving in (they tend to become gang members), and the fact that there are so many people with various heritages on the islands – Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, “Caucasian”, Filipino – and so few full Hawaiians.

  • And during the ride, we saw a wild pig by the side of the road (the largest animals on the islands are pigs, sheep, and cattle that have escaped and gone feral). One of the tourists was from Georgia, and had some pig-catching experience... and the driver stopped the van, the fellow jumped out, and caught the pig by the hind feet and under the stomach. It was a young pig (where was the mother?), and it was either confused or outraged when it was let go, because it stopped and stared at us for a moment as we drove away.

  • There will be a volcano show tonight of some sort, but I don't know if I'll stay up for it... (Later) It turns out I mostly missed it; I was napping, but trying to be awake when we passed the volcano. I woke when Regina came back to the stateroom (I had not made my intention clear to her, and she let me sleep – she had also forgotten the camera). I ran to the open deck, and saw two glowing areas that looked like huge forest fires disappearing astern. And now it's about two hours later, and I can't get back to sleep.

Oct 6

  • Kona. We don't dock here; instead, we're anchored at some distance (I have no way to estimate) offshore, and the ship uses tenders to ferry passengers to the island. It turns out that the tenders are the ship's lifeboats. Our excursion today meets at the theater, and from there I presume we will be led together to the tender. There appears to be some rush and chaos about getting to the tenders; the daily newsletter has notes about how to get a tender and what order and procedure will be used.

  • The excursion today is a kayak/snorkel day; I went to breakfast in my swimsuit. I don't have dry pockets or a belt to hang the camera bag, so I'm using the laptop bag, first impressed into service as my airline carry-on bag, as my day bag.

  • The kayak excursion turned out to be a lot of fun, but a lot of work; much paddling (Reg and I got to be a good team; with some practice, we might compete! Naaah...), and some snorkeling, which was less than successful; had to swim (could not really figure out why; possibly because of the choppy water). We flipped the kayak. Twice. Nonetheless, we saved everything except a pair of Reg's cheap sunglasses. We left most of our gear – including our camera and my glasses – back at the office, so very few pictures today.

  • This evening, Reg wanted to go to a class about Hawaiian history, so we arranged dinner around that; dinner in the Skylight at five-ish, then the class, and now we're thinking about the buffet for vegetables. (But I'm so full, because I also dropped in at one of the bars this afternoon for a bratwurst and some excellent steak fries...)

Oct 7

  • Asleep by 8:00 last night, and up a bit before 5:00 to exercise.

  • Today's excursion is another kayaking day, plus some hiking, This one tuned out to be up a lazy river (so lazy that it took some time to figure out which way it was flowing; it turned out we were paddling upstream, not that it made a difference). We were remarking, to each other and to some of the (many) other participants, that today's excursion and yesterday's had the same difficulty rating, and should not have in any fair system of grading (yesterday's was far more demanding). Yesterday, we had about twelve or fourteen people; today we had over forty (with some age and corpulence among them!). The hike was along some fairly steep paths to a couple of nifty waterfalls (swimming at one, which we did not do), then lunch, supervised by a couple of feral roosters.

  • Back early. Read some on the deck outside the stateroom (and napped some). Views are especially nice today; got some pictures off the deck. Clothes and shoes are drying out there, which is completely against the rules, but we're keeping them low and out of sight.

Oct 8

  • Easy day today. After exercise, light breakfast (can you believe it?). Ship leaves at 1:30, so we've got to be back for that; we've got a bus tour to Waimea Canyon, billed as Hawaii's “Grand Canyon”. It was fairly grand, all right. Bus-driver from Missouri who gave us a history and geography lesson, along with info about the local flora and fauna. We stopped a few times; first at a local store to gawk at shell jewelry (not much spending, although Regina now has a new favorite coffee from Kawai); then to the canyon (wow...). Then we went to a place where a lava tube causes a geyser-like water action when the breakers come in. That was interesting, but what was more interesting were the feral chickens and roosters (too tough to eat and no predators; they've got it good!)

  • Then back to lunch and to begin packing. We've got the boarding passes and the luggage tags for check-in; as long as the bags are packed, tagged, and outside the door by midnight, we should see them next in Newark.

  • Our side of the ship is due to pass the Na Pali cliffs sometime before 6:00 pm. I keep running out and getting pictures, just in case; I don't want a repeat of the sleeping-through-passing-the-volcano experience!

Oct 9

  • Disembark today. Got the bill; no unexplained charges (although we had a bit of a discussion about the luggage-to-the-airport EasyFly service). Off the ship by 9:00 or so...

  • then to a quick visit to the statue of Kamehameha I, and the royal palace, where we found out where to catch the bus to the airport, and saw a stand selling the World Famous Hawaii Hot Dogs!

  • Then on to the Honolulu Art Museum, which was a little gem of a place (but no pictures there, because you can't do photos at an art museum).

  • Then to a Starbucks, where I had a devil of a time getting the wifi on the netbook to work. Reg checked her email, and didn't get the one about her new employee. I checked mine and Luci says “we'll talk when you get back.” Great. Also tried to change my state email password, but the server is so slow I'm afraid I'l get cut off halfway through the process; I'll do it from the wired computer at home.

  • Walked to the bus stop, and got the bus to the airport; about 2:30 for a 7:50 flight. So far, so good.

  • Got on the flight, no problem. We'll be back in Jersey about noon, their time, tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ups (literal & figurative) & downs

Did two rides this weekend. The Princeton Freewheelers "Honey Do" ride is advertised as a B+ ride (avg 17-18), but has a reputation for going faster (the reputation includes fast and flat); nonetheless, my ride partner suggested it and said he'd lead me back if I got dropped and lost. Well, I didn't get dropped, but that was only due to the kindness of the leader, because I was definitely bringing up the rear. I could see my partner far ahead - he was that vaguely blue spot on the horizon - so I didn't get lost... but I won't be doing that ride again.

After the ride, he said he didn't want to be doing morning rides anymore. I don't think this partnership is going to continue.

Sunday, did a ride in Morris County. This was the first time the leader had done this ride, and we discovered some gravel roads, some scary downhills, a gravel road with a scary downhill, and we couldn't find some of our intended roads at all. Sounds disorganized and crazy-making, no? But it was a great ride: just five of us, coolish-but-good weather, some good hills, great eye-candy. There are worse things to do than ride around Morris County of an early-autumn Sunday morning.

And I was crankin' on the hills; I later heard we did 4300 feet of climb. How come I can do hills, but not speed on the flats?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

week of 9/13

Busy week. Monday did library thing, Tuesday bike shop thing (for both, see supra), Wednesday was my first meeting of the condo board, to which I am newly elected. Thursday I was home, but my wife went back to Polish lessons... so it was Friday night before we got to hang out much together. We had a "date" looking for jeans at Target; she is disappointed in the quality and cut of the stuff on offer there (and, apparently, pretty much everywhere else). I on the other hand, am now the possessor of two pair of regular-fit (read: not wide-cut-for-old-guys-flabby-thighs) jeans in the nominal size I used to wear in college, 33 years ago. WOO-HOO!

Regional meeting this week - which means group supervision, which means I get all anxious about my fellow staff members, but especially administration, scrutinizing my work. It's getting bad; I'm going away on vacation soon,but I plan to go for counseling or something to reduce the anxiety on my return. (One of the symptoms of the problem is the anxiety over going on vacation: I hate to go because I feel like they're gonna look at all my stuff while I'm away, and decide to fire me half an hour after I come back. Do you think it's easy to be this crazy? My wife says, "You make it look easy.")

Ride partner is claiming sick (I think he's really just sick of riding with me), so I went out on a ride with the Princeton Freewheelers around the Sourlands; about 35 miles. Not a great average speed, but a huge range for me, from as low as 8.5mph on one of the long uphills to 35+mph on one of the downhills. The ride leader said her computer showed it was a 2900-plus calorie ride. It was her first ride as leader, and it was a good route, with tough uphills, flying downhills, and enough flats to get some crankin' in, and she was properly careful of keeping the group together.

Tomorrow is the Freewheelers picnic, with an all-paces ride. I'll probably do an easy pace; I did 30 miles yesterday at a fairly fast clip, and this today. I deserve a cruise!

In other bike news, those Velo Orange derailleur cables needed adjustment again this week. They're cheap, and I think now I know why. I'm goin' back to Jagwires.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Some people hear voices that seem to come from somewhere other than their own consciousnesses. Sometimes, these voices say the most awful things to, and about, them.

I don't have voices. Instead, I have my own thoughts. And sometimes, I think the most awful things about myself. Sometimes it feels like the only difference between me, and the people with the voices, is that I don't think the words are coming from somewhere else; I know I'm saying this stuff to myself.

I have a panic disorder that kicks in, sometimes, and these words may be worse when the panic disorder is accelerating. It's been bad today. It's Sunday, I'm going back to work tomorrow, and I have some unpleasant things I need to do, including making up for a mistake I made on Friday.

I understand that exercise is supposed to mitigate these experiences. I can only imagine how crazy I would be if I were not exercising.

$39 Tablet computer maybe not vaporware?

I just bumped into an article on Tom's Hardware saying that the $35 laptop is scheduled to be available in January.

This is a great idea, not least because of the open-source system. It's not surprising to me that a usable tablet can be made inexpensively (although I suspect that there is some cost subsidy to bring it out at this price). What is surprising to me is that corporate software companies haven't been successful at stopping the open-source part of the project - the spread of the Android operating system that this will probably cause has got to be a threat to commercial OS'es.

I'll keep an eye out. If it's a reasonable price, I may even get one.

To the beach and back

Did just shy of 70 miles yesterday with my riding partner: mid-Mercer-county to Belmar and back. He's miserable in the cold (and mornings are getting cool here), so we left at 10am (he wanted to leave later, but that would have gotten us back too late). I think it was more than either of us were ready to do - my legs are still tired. Still, I'm obviously in better shape than I thought I was.

The Tiagra triple crankset still makes noise in many of the gear combinations. I have not been able to adjust for the noise, and still make the shifting work. Hrrmph.

Nonetheless, good ride. We sat for about fifteen minutes in Belmar, and looked at the post-Labor-Day crowd. Lots of people getting the last flings in before the weather turns; lots of swimsuits; a few people who should never wear swimsuits in public. It's not just about fat (although, trust me, there was a lot of that; this is, after all, America). With some people, ugly attitudes seem to color the very air around them. That said, though, the traffic on the waterfront road was very polite: there are many pedestrians and bicycles, and the drivers just go slowly and watch (at least, that's what we saw). Once you get back inland a few blocks, and join the non-beach traffic, the regular ride-like-they-hate-you-because-many-of-them-do traffic rules apply. One of the things I didn't count on, but which makes sense in retrospect, is that the last few miles to the shore will have, in general, a downhill-to-the-water direction - which means uphill on the way back. Ooof.

Back home, we're finalizing the Hawaii trip. My wife seems to be more relaxed now that many of the details are being tied down, but I'm still treading tenderly.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Trouble over Paradise

My wife and I are going to Hawaii this fall. She has spent the past several months researching and planning the trip, and remarks over and over again about how two people can afford to go to Hawaii on social-service salaries (we both work in Welfare offices).

I’ve pointed out how she seems to be enjoying the process of planning the trip, but each time I did, she was in the middle of setting up some arrangements which were anxiety-producing for her, and she pointed out how difficult this was and how wrong I am about how much she’s enjoying these plans. We’ve argued about it, and I don’t know how to talk about it with her anymore.

I don’t bring it up, and I’m just going to have to be quiet when she does, because I don’t know what kind of response is not going to bring on another conflict.

Oh, well. A few more weeks, and we’ll be back, and I won’t have to worry about it. I’ll let her tell everybody how wonderful it was, or wasn’t… because I don’t know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

keepin' up

Rode with a group of the Princeton Freewheelers yesterday, a Wednesday (I have every other Wednesday off). Some of these guys ride together three times each week, which means most of them are retired (and are ten, twenty, or more years older than I). I'm thinkin' I can smoke these guys, so I'll have no problem keepin' up.

Well, I had no problem keeping up, but one of the guys -- an artist, who sets his own hours - smoked me, instead. Taught me some humility.

Another thing that taught me some humility was that two of the men on the ride had heart conditions, and a third had lung cancer. And they're riding anyway.

Great day.

After that, a gazillion chores, and full schedule for the next couple of days. Let's check in with the ride partner to see what he wants to do this weekend.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

church protest excellence and long fast ride.

First, this pleases me no end:

After 4 years of harassment, Strippers fight back – Protest church

(Opens,of course, in new tab.)

Now, fed up with the tactics of Dunfee and his flock, Foxhole employees are ready to accept the invitation to come to church… Dressed in their Sunday best skimpiness, the Foxhole dancers have started showing up every Sunday to do a little protesting themselves.

I love it. (It seems to me that if the churchgoers really want to get more people in the churches, they should do it by making churchgoing more attractive, not by closing down the competition.)


Tough ride today. 43+ miles at an average speed of 17.62; that's a "B+" ride for the Princeton Freeheelers, It was just about my limit; I kept up (well, actually, I was one of the first ones back), but today was surely enough for a while. It was a windy day, and it seemed that the wind was in our faces about 75% of the time (although I still had a top speed over 34mph). At the stop, I ran into a guy with whom I rode a "B" ride yesterday; he was humorously making the case (persuasive at the time!) that the fast pace was gonna tear me down instead of building me up. I'm taking his advice; at the Labor Day All Paces ride tomorrow, I'm sticking to a "B" pace ride (but yes, I do plan to ride with the Freewheelers three days in a row this holiday weekend).

(And the bike is still shifting unreliably, and the chain rattles on the front derailleur on all but the straightest alignments. Grr.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

new cables

I put new cables in the bike in an effort to fix the shifting problems. These were from Velo Orange, and they sell cables in colors for not a lot of cash. The housings shrink, though (the cables have been on less than six hours, and I've already had to tighten the derailleur cables a lot). I don't know yet if I'll buy these cables again. Jagwire cables are 70%-200% more expensive, but the housings don't shrink like these did.

(You'll hear of cables stretching. As I understand it, that's not really what happens; instead, the housings shrink under the continuous pressure of the derailleur spring tension.)

Replacing the cables has not fixed the shifting, though. So new front derailleur, new chainring, new chain, new cables... and the front gears still don't shift properly. I need an engraved invitation and permission from the INS before I can get the chain to go from the large to the middle chainring.

Sigh. That SRAM Rival group is looking better and better.

Tried the Deda bar tape (link goes to Excel Sports Boulder, who has all the colors for a decent price). I like the tape, but I should have gone with Jaguar green instead of Kelly green. (...oy...) If I get the SRAM Rival shifters, they come with SRAM cable, usually in black - so I'll likely have a somber color in the bike's next incarnation.

effin' nutball

So I woke up at 2:30 this morning worrying about the writeup from the previous post. I had a good two-hour panic session, until a bit before 5:00 am, when I usually get up. And suddenly I knew what I was going to do.

What is it with late-night panic & anxiety? And why can I never think of that useful stuff until it's time I would have been getting up anyway? And why is this damn thing so important to me, anyway; why can't I let it go?

I have a coworker who's a good friend, who used to get bent outta shape when I referred to certain of our clients as "nutballs". Well, believe me: there's only a few seconds of degree arc between them and me; I'm pretty much a screamin' yellow nutball myself.

(Does anybody but me remember Screaming Yellow Zonkers?)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

did it

I did the side job I was complaining about in my last post. It meant almost 200 miles of driving there and back (and h-ll, NJ isn't that big). But the far southwest of Jersey might as well be a different country - or a different planet - from the dense metropolitan northeast. I did an assessment on an adolescent in a county so sparsely populated that it shares a juvenile detention facility with a neighboring county. The assessment went fine, but now I gotta do the writeup. I sent a preliminary report without the narrative to the court, and I'm having a hard time writing the narrative. The clinical director of this program has, in the past, been difficult (although I hear the leopard has changed his spots), so I'm trying to get the language right. It doesn't help that I don't have access to all the forms (I was sent on this case by the backup to the backup to the regular dispatcher; everybody else is on vacation).

I'll send it in tomorrow or over the weekend. It's supposed to be in within five days, but we got this Labor Day weekend coming up. Too bad!

Supposedly a light day tomorrow, and coworker comes back Tuesday after the holiday. deo gratias, alleluia.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

cranky whining

My coworker at my location is out for vacation again. I'm busy; I had over a dozen calls yesterday on top of my other responsibilities. I'm feeling stretched thin.

Added to this is a side job doing an assessment on a juvenile in custody. I've offered to be backup on this additional grant my agency was awarded. It turns out that everybody else is on vacation... so I'll be driving two hours to the location in south Jersey, doing the assessment, driving two hours back, and doing the writeup and sending it in. The clinical director for this grant is a sourpuss who would find fault with an assessment by a team of Freud, Jesus, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, so I'm sure I'll get complaints about mine. The money's not that great, but I want to do it to help out the agency I work for. I took the orientation training two years ago, and haven't done one since. I'm not worried about doing the assessment or making the recommendation -- I do that stuff all the time -- but I'm sure I'm going to mess up on the procedures, or not filling in the right blanks, or something.

I set the appointment for Wednesday late afternoon, because last night I volunteered at the library, and tonight I volunteer at the bike shop. It turns out the kid's court date is Thursday morning, so there's some pressure to get the report in on Thursday. We'll see.

In the last post, I was whining about not being able to get the adjustment right on the front derailleur/crankset. I'm generally feeling stupid, overwhelmed, and incompetent.

Aren't you glad you're not hanging around with me today?

Monday, August 30, 2010

What, again?! What, STILL??!!!

There's more truth than poetry in this. (Go check it out; opens in a new tab.)

I've been working on the road bike. I found the source of the clicks (the non-drive side of the bottom bracket needed a touch with a wrench - aren't you glad you asked?). Now I'm having trouble with the front derailleur. It's fine between the small chainring and the middle, but it doesn't shift reliably between the middle and large chainrings; it sometimes hangs in either direction. A change of middle chainring (which I use the lion's share of the time), a new front derailleur, and a new chain have not solved the problem (although the new chain seems to have done the most - and I'm surprised at the amount of wear on the old chain in about 1200 miles). It certainly wasn't the set of the limit screw on the front derailleur; I loosened it until it fell out, and the setup still wouldn't shift reliably onto the big ring. I'll try a new set of cables, but if that doesn't get it, I'm gonna look at a dual instead of a triple front ring setup.

We're going to Hawaii in a few months; maybe that will be my post-trip purchase and winter project.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trip to Washington

Very cool weekend. We drove down to DC to see the Norman Rockwell show at the American Art Museum, then to McCormick & Schmick's for dinner, then to a walking tour around DC sponsored by Ford's Theater (yes, that Ford's Theater). The guide and leader of the tour plays Elizabeth Keckley, a freed slave who became dressmaker to the high-and-mighty in Washington before and during the Civil War (and who made dresses for the wives of some famous names on both sides of that conflict). She became a confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, and wrote a book about her experiences (apparently in an effort to help Mrs. Lincoln at a troubling time).

It was a good tour. We liked the other tour (also sponsored by Ford's Theater) better, but it's not a fair comparison.

Came back today, and we were both beat.

There was a Teabagger's Rally on Saturday, which we (of course) did not attend. We didn't notice any increased traffic driving into the DC area; the only thing we did notice was heavy usage at two Metro stops (Metro Center & Gallery Place) at midday, and some t-shirts and other impedimenta ported by some (older, Caucasian) folks on the tour, and the next day at the hotel. I've seen estimates of attendance between 87,000 and 500,000 for the event; based on our limited experience, we lean towards the lower number.

It was a delightful trip. We wind up having to do something in DC about every year or so; my wife goes through withdrawals if she doesn't get her fix. Anyplace to which we retire will have to be within easy travel distance of the District of Columbia.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Updates for August

It's been about a week since I last posted. There hasn't been much news.

I used to sing with the Philomusica choir (I've sung with choral groups, off and on [mostly on], since my teen years). This past May, I decided to stop after the concert. It was about 80% due to the fact that I couldn't learn the music (and singing is no fun for me if I feel like I haven't learned my part, or I'm not pulling my weight) and about 20% taking on too much responsibility... no, that's not true. Some unknown quantity of it is that I felt like I was putting a lot of effort into the group, and no matter what I did, it wasn't enough; I was still getting browbeaten for the music I couldn't learn and the stuff I couldn't do. It wasn't any fun any more - it hadn't been for over a month - so I stopped after the May concert.

I got a call from the conductor asking me to come back, and an email from a fellow singer asking the same (I'm starting to believe in conspiracy theories!) And, while I'm gratified, I'm sure that I would get the same feelings of being overwhelmed and underappreciated in a few months, or a year. Part of the problem is the rehearsal time; I'm an early-morning kind of guy (on this weekend day, I was up at 5:00 am) and the group rehearsals go until 10:00 pm, later than I usually go to bed. Part of it is my own undeniable hunger for acceptance, even adulation (I'm a sucker when people ask me to do stuff... "You're the best one for the job" and "You're the only one who can help me" are phrases I find hard to resist). I'll get asked to do something, and offer to do something else, and the next thing you know, I have fifty responsibilities, I'm dropping some of them, and not feeling appreciated for the ones I'm carrying on.

Besides, on Mondays I do my library thing, now.

Update 8/22/10: I got another email, from another member, asking me back. WTF?


I'm re-thinking the SRAM Rival group I wrote about in the last post. I found a lower-quality derailleur that should do the job of the one I messed up; it's a $30 fix, and it's worth a try before I dump a lot of money into a whole new groupset. I can save about $80 by not buying the whole set (I don't need the brakes), but even so, if I can get the system working for another few years for a $30 investment, it's worth it - and it's even worth $30 to find out that it won't work (IF it won't work).


My excellent wife (she really is the best thing in my life) is out working today and tomorrow at her weekend job, and she spent part of yesterday (normally a day off; she works a four-day-per-week schedule) cleaning up stuff at her main job in return for compensatory time (a poorer return, at 1:1, than overtime pay, at time-and-a-half). I feel guilty being such a lazy slug - but not guilty enough to actually do anything about it.


Ride this morning around the Sourlands of NJ; many hills (including some tough uphills and some frightening downhills) and finished in about 3 hours after about 35 miles. We started early to beat the heat, and were done early. I felt like I needed some more miles, so I got on the hybrid and rode up to Kim's, my local bike shop, to buy a replacement chain, which will be a good idea when I install the derailleur (see supra; SRAM chains have a re-usable link to reinstall them, but I'm getting on towards 2000 miles on this chain, and I had to buy a new cassette after I didn't change the last one soon enough).


One of my best work pals is taking a supervisory position in another county. She's young enough to be my daughter, and I feel all avuncular (go look it up, if you don't know what it means) towards her. She came to our last regional meeting this week, and I got a big hug before she left. And allergies... yeah, it was allergies that caused that tear in my eye; nothing else. She's getting married soon, and I'm wishing that all her apparent good luck continues as good luck.

I wish you the same. And I'll try to post a bit more regularly. (Not that anybody is actually reading this stuff...)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

100 miles

Rode a century, a 100-mile ride, with the Princeton Freewheelers yesterday. The leader had made it clear that he was going to maintain a pace of no more than 15 mph, and he went better than that; my final pace was about 14.4. This leader has a reputation for losing the people who ride ahead, so I kept him either in front or in my mirror the entire time (as my riding partner did not, and a group of four - of whom he was one - got separated, but with the help of smartphones and online mapping, we got back together again). Thirteen people started the ride; one who knew the route went ahead and met us on the way; two who had ridden to the start location peeled off and rode home as we got close to their places. The rest all made it back to our cars.

With that pace (much slower than my usual), I made a joke about going out dancing last night, but I almost could have done; I was not as beat at the end of that has I have been on 60-65 mile rides at a faster pace. I went out this morning and cranked out 20 miles. With no breakfast or coffee on board, my speed was way down (in the 17.5 mph range, rather than the almost-a-mile-per-hour faster I can usually manage), but the fact that I could turn in another 20 miles today shows how sensible the slower pace yesterday was.

A number of issues: one rider had a flat; one had trouble with headwinds. A rider let his attention wander, and ran into another while we were waiting for a light. They both went down, and while one was not hurt, the rider who ran into him showed some pain (we had to take his shoe off to get him out of the clip-in pedal), and a third rider got a wheel way out of true after the incident; he was able to ride home, but seemed distressed either about the incident, of the damage to his bike (of which he obviously takes great care), or both.

Now, there's that. I've been thinking back on some other rides: there was one in Monmouth County where the leader bonked in the heat, and another where we were attacked by an enraged driver. First, bicycling is not as innocuous a pastime as one might think; while nowhere near as dangerous as motorcycling, it is not without its threats. Second, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm a jinx. (But I'm probably not unique or important enough to qualify!)

A bit of trouble shifting now: it's hard to get the chain onto the big gear, and the chain drops from the middle chainring to the smaller when it's on the biggest cog in the back. The front derailleur has gotten hard to adjust, partly because I've used the limit screws so much (what with switching the parts from one frame to the other and back, and back again) that the screws are looking like shrapnel. And I can't find a replacement triple front derailleur for a nine-gear cogset online; they've all gone to ten-gear. I've been looking with the eye of avarice at the SRAM Rival group, and this may be my excuse to upgrade. My fantasy is that with ten gears in the back, and two gears up front, I'll be in a better position if I need to buy parts in the future... but, of course, recent events with my NINE-gear setup may suggest otherwise.

I've gotten to love the bike, the way I once did my motorcycle. And, of course, part of loving the motorcycle was the online community of which I was a part (I may have liked this more than actually riding the bike!). I'm sure that part of loving the bicycle is the people I'm getting to know, as well. More about them, I'm also sure, in future posts.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"right to click" Firefox add-on restores function

This is a good idea.

Especially on my netbook, with its minimal screen resolution, I frequently right-click on images to get image info or alternate text. More and more frequently, especially on artist sites, the right-click functionality has been disabled, and frequently replaced with either rude or fawning text about the hard work of the artist and how it's wrong to steal.

(If I want to steal the image, there are easy ways to do it that don't involve right-click; usually a simple page save will do it.)

Now there's a Firefox extension called RightToClick that will restore the right-click functionality. It's a good idea. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In which Jim is an idiot

I went along on a group ride out of Allentown today, and had a rub on the bike I couldn't find; it wasn't either brake, and I couldn't find it in the drivetrain. I adjusted the seatpost and saddle, I checked the spokes, I looked at the water bottles and cages, I played with the (wired) computer. Can't figure it out. By the end of the ride, the rear wheel tracking is getting squirrelly, and the cog on it is spontaneously shifting gears (it's gotta be a busted spoke... but no). It was (luckily) a short ride.

As I'm putting the bike on the car rack to check the spokes one last time, I see the quick release is so loose that the wheel is about to fall off. Well, duh.

I keep a bell on my bike, and a fellow rider complained that it sounded like parts were falling off when I rang it. Perhaps she was being prophetic. (And perhaps you don't want to ride too near me for the time being! Although I can assure you, I won't make that mistake again soon.)

In other news, I rode into a bug of some sort, which I thought I wiped away. It turned out that it got down my jersey, and it turned out to be a wasp. It got me once before I dispatched it to wasp heaven. I'm trying to derive some deeper meaning from this event, but all that happened was that a spot under my left arm hurt for a while.

(In other other news, my coworker is back from vacation. Although she's not delighted with being back at work, I sure am glad to have her there!)