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!