Wednesday, June 29, 2011


My wife says I've been cranky recently. I haven't noticed it, but I'm notoriously poor at noticing this stuff. It may be because I'm leaving for the Anchor House ride in ten days, and I'm worried about... oh, pretty much everything:
  • Have I trained enough?
  • Have I overtrained, and I'll burn out before the end of it?
  • Will I piss off, or creep out, the other participants, especially my roommates?*
  • Will it rain the whole time?
*When I first started back riding, I was calling out every car and hazard on group rides; even the ones that everybody else had just called, and I made a bit of an officious ass of myself offering to fix the items on every bike that didn't meet my exacting standards. Despite that, I was not universally shunned... but I now know what a jerk I must have appeared. I also know that, at my advanced age of pushin'-60, some of the behavior that's endearing, or at least forgiveable, among younger folks is odd, off-putting, or worse from a guy my age.

I packed up my suitcase, and it doesn't look like I'll be able to get all my clothes, my bike supplies, and my technology into one bag; I'll probably have a suitcase, another bag with bike supplies (tubes, CO2, extra chain, extra tire, short pens that fit in my seat bag...), and a disposable bag I'll carry on the bus. It will be a pain to carry so many bags.

One of the days of the ride is a "uniform" ride, where riders all wear the Anchor House jersey. I didn't buy one; they're twice the price of the solid-color jerseys I get, and nobody told me about "uniform day" when the jerseys were being ordered. I'm sure I won't be the only rider without the uniform jersey that day... but it's 2:17 am as I write this, and this is the kind of thing that keeps me up. (Common conversational exchange at my house: Jim says, "Do you think it's easy to be this crazy?", and excellent wife says, "You make it look easy.")

Another pet fear: I"m planning to do four group rides between now and the bike loading... and I'm SURE that something expensive-and-difficult-to-fix is going to happen on one of those rides.

Am I cranky? Maybe.

Of course, she's got her own trip that she's excited about, and maybe she's projecting her own agitation onto me. Or maybe we're both a bit off.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

what is life?

Back in March, I pointed out the Surviving the World comic (it's also linked on the right). Yesterday's was the last reader-submitted question, which resulted in this bit of excellence:

As a guide, it will do. I wonder if there's a good word for "asshole" in Latin?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ezra Jennings on individuals and corporations

Jennings said, "So now people are saying that the two sides aren't left and right, or rich and poor, but the people who like corporations and the people who like individuals.

Well, an individual is a real thing, but a corporation is just a legal fiction, so I stand with the individuals. I don't like corporations... although, to be sure, there aren't many individuals I like very much, either."

Jennings continued, "While it's not true that all corporations are evil, that's the way they trend, especially as they get larger or go public. And large, public corporations? Presume evil until proven otherwise -- CPB and Google notwithstanding."

another project?

I had an idea for another project: I though of doing a blog for charity cycling events. Each post would be an event, and riders could use the comments to get together with other riders to make teams, train together, and whatnot. I was thinking of asking the Princeton Freewheelers* for permission to use their logo, but now I'm thinking I would just set it up, and ask the Freewheelers for an ad; I could also print out flyers and get them around to local bike shops (and maybe email some clubs).

*Did you open that link? Now there is a website that could use some help. Ahem.

I'm thinking of keeping this charity ride blog limited to stuff local to Central Jersey (i.e., events that I would be willing to drive to myself). There are a number of sources for local rides, although many of them are events and not charity rides -- the point for me is to make it easy (and, lord save us, perhaps fun) to support local charity rides.

Because of the way posts can be listed on the side, I think a Wordpress blog might be more useful than anything I've seen here on Blogger. But I could be wrong. The troubled is, once it's set up, it's hard to move.

There's also the fact that there may be nobody interested in it but me. But I'm good at keeping up projects where nobody shows any interest. I'm usually the last one to leave the moribund club.

In any case, I have been collecting links to charity rides, and I may set something like this up after I do the Anchor House ride.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

short cue sheets for anchor house ride

Edit 6/23: These sheets have been updated. If you downloaded before 9:00 pm (21:00) EDT June 23 2011, please download the new ones.

I'm directionally-challenged when I'm on my bicycle. I don't lead rides for the Princeton Freewheelers, with whom I do most of my group riding, and I've spread around the slogan that "it's always safe to presume that Jim doesn't know where he is." I've done four rides with cue sheets this spring, and on all of them, I got off the route (once when it was my second time doing the same route in two weeks). I got back on quickly enough, but I know that I need extra help other than just being able to read a cue sheet. When I'm tired, I get my rights and lefts mixed up, and if there are too many lines on the sheet, I get confused about that, too.

With that in mind, I asked for, and got, an early release of the route sheet for this year's Anchor House ride. From that, I've made special cue sheets for myself. The key points:
  • Each sheet only shows the directions for one day, from one stop to the next - e.g., from the hotel to the first SAG is on one sheet, the first SAG to the second is on another sheet, and so on;
  • The text is bigger than the regular cue sheets, and bold;
  • Next to the directional markers (R, L, S) are arrows pointing in the correct direction;
  • Information extraneous to the directions is not included. Since all riders will also have the official cue sheets, these do not have, e.g., the phone numbers to the hotels.
If any riders have the least interest in them, I'm hosting/posting then for download. Each sheet is a separate .pdf file, and they are in zipfiles which should be readable on any Windows, Mac, or Linux/Unix computer (I made the files on a Linux box). The first is a 1.1MB file with all of the sheets; the others are separated by day of the ride, and are less than 200KB each:

Feel free to look at them, and to download them if you would like. I will make every effort to keep them current, but, of course, the only official sheets are the ones distributed directly by Anchor House.

above all, remember this: that magic belongs...

ABOVE ALL REMEMBER this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.

Oh, for heaven's sake, go read Susanna Clarke. She writes about the history of English magic as if there were a history of English magic, and provides scholarly quotations, forking histories, and evidence of folklore to back it up, all of which she made up out of whole cloth, to support an excellent novel (my mother complains it's too long, but she's wrong) and a nifty collection of short stories (you can start with these, if you like; they are informed by, but are not dependent on, the novel).

Go read them! Then go nag Ms. Clarke to write more stuff, so you have something else to read next February.

(..."from love or joy or righteous anger." Isn't that just YUMMY!?)

Monday, June 20, 2011

salvaging the selle an-atomica

In an earlier post, I wrote about my disappointment with my new Selle An-Atomica saddle. (By the way, they've updated their site. Maybe there's hope for 'em.)

I think I've salvaged it.

I wrote in the earlier post about the wide saddle and the sharp pain that accompanied it. I've made a modification to fix that:

You can see that I've drilled holes in the saddle, and run a few narrow cable ties through toi pull in the sides of the saddle. No more sharp pains in the thighs. You can see in the picture below where I put two other holes that I wound up not needing:

It turns out that I probably could have left those other ties in (and I may put 'em back, if only for symmetry), but I was having the devil's own time with an annoying squeak that developed in the saddle. The leather is loose (it's meant to be), and the saddle squeaked after a while of riding it. I knew it was the saddle, and not, for example, the pedals (because the noise stopped when I stood up) or the handlebars (because the noise continued when I had no hands on the bars). A websearch determined that this was a not-unprecedented, but not common problem, and the suggested solutions were:
  • Live with it (oh, dear...);
  • Pack powdered graphite between the leather of the saddle and the metal nosepiece where the stretcher bolt is;
  • Cut out a piece of plastic drink bottle and work it between the nosepiece and the saddle (you'll see what I'm talking about in the picture below);
  • Cut out a piece of inner tube, and pack it in the same place.
The graphite worked for a short time. The plastic worked not at all. I cut out a piece of inner tube (you can see it in the picture below stuffed in between the metal nosepiece and the leather of the saddle) and packed in some graphite... and while I had the saddle open, I noted where the paint was wearing away (you can see it in the picture). It turns out that that metal nosepiece rides on top of a rounded metal structure over the stretcher bolt (it's not clear in the picture), and I think the squeak was from the pieces grinding together. You can see the dollop of yellow grease I put over the rounded metal piece (you can also see the grease on the end of the stretcher bolt; that's not where I'm talking about):

I think that's done it. The squeak is, apparently, gone (I did 60+ miles this weekend on some wicked hills in some wicked heat, and my knees were creaking more than the saddle was). I'll just need to keep an eye on the grease-under-the-saddle situation, and see how things go. If you hear no more complaints about this, it'll be a sign that it's still working.

(I've had to adjust my frame and my saddle, shim my stem, get fussy about my chain... do you suppose I'll ever get to the point where I just RIDE this bike? ... Naaah, I didn't think so, either.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

just not my thing

I don't post much about my job (except when I go crazy over it). I work in substance-abuse treatment, and my company is, in general, good about providing training opportunities: we have trainings at all of our quarterly state meetings, and others as the needs for them arise.

We had a state meeting on Friday, and the training was on Laughter Yoga. It turns out that the physical act of laughing has beneficial effects. First, there is the release of beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters. Second, if the act of laughing is maintained long enough, there are effects similar to aerobic exercise. And caustic humor doesn't do it, apparently; there are detrimental effects associated with that.

This Laughter Yoga, though, is based on laughing even when there is no cause to laugh; one laughs, going through the motions without a real stimulus, like a joke or the presence of people you like. It felt fake. I participated as well as I could, but it's just not my thing. The Laughter Yoga folks say that if you jjust do the exercises, the laughter will become more real (and that it doesn't need to be real to get the benefits, anyway). And I know that laughter is infectious. But it felt forced, fake, and uncomfortable on Friday morning. I was actually glad when case review started in the afternoon.

out of the habit

I see it's been a while since I posted. Little new has been happening, but I'm planning to put some text up to get back in the habit. The next few may be busywork, but I'll get some posts up here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

sarah palin is nuts

"It appears that the former prime minister has no intention of meeting the darling of the Tea Party movement. Andy McSmith reported in the Independent this morning that Palin is likely to be "thwarted" on the grounds that Thatcher, 86, rarely makes public appearances.

It would appear that the reasons go deeper than Thatcher's frail health. Her allies believe that Palin is a frivolous figure who is unworthy of an audience with the Iron Lady. This is what one ally tells me:

Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts."

It was in the Guardian, so it must be true.

on destroying marriage

This totally rocks:

From We Know Awesome.

Friday, June 10, 2011

the most basic job skill

I work in a welfare office doing substance-abuse assessments. The purpose of our program is to get people off welfare and back to work.

My clients have a number of problems that interfere with their ability to find and maintain jobs: substance problems, mental health issues, criminal justice histories, homelessness. These are real problems, and they interfere with people who are otherwise ready to work.

Some lack basic job skills, and for these, there are some services to help them learn these skills. There is some question about the effectiveness of these services (there are, actually, a large number of deep questions about their effectiveness, to the point that the services might need to be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch... but they are there, nonetheless).

I just got a call back from a client, for whom I left a message a week ago. This brings up what I think is The. Most. Basic. Job. Skill:

Ya gotta show up.

If you can't do that, you can't do anything else. And some of my substance-abuse treatment is just about that: setting a schedule for the client to which he or she is expected to adhere, and then making strategies and plans so that he or she can adhere to it, and imposing consequences for failure to adhere to it.

(In other news, both my excellent wife and I work in welfare offices. When we're at our most cynical, sharing client stories, we have a saying: "There's a reason they're on welfare.")

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

quo debeo agere satis sum

The three regular readers of this blog may remember that I was having anxiety problems in the fall. I went to see a therapist, and it definitely worked for me. One of the things he did was have me develop an affirmation. The affirmation that came up after reflection was, "What I am is enough for what I have to do."

It's over six months later, and the affirmation still works, and is still useful (and probably necessary). I went back to my college Latin books and translated it into Latin; as I see it, it comes out, "quo debeo agere satis sum."

I like it. I like it enough that if I were the kind of guy who got a tattoo, I'd have that written on my right arm.

(On my left arm would be a different tattoo. It would say, "Screw my family's squeamishness. If I'm brain dead, harvest my damn organs for donation.")

Addendum September 29, 2011: Accusative case, dammit. quod debeo...
Later: Nope, ablative was correct. quo debeo...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ride-baited & ride-switched

Regular readers of this blog... HAH! There are no regular readers of this blog, and there are only about a half-dozen IRregular readers, so I'll explain anyway: On both of the 62-mile Anchor House training rides I did in May, the route included Federal Twist Road, a nasty hill. I've now done it twice this season, and, though I'm generally good with hills, I've decided I can knock that one off my life list and not do it again. So when I was looking for a ride for today, I saw a ride in the Princeton Freewheelers list with this language in the description: "We search for hills on this social ride with a “steady B pace.”... Call or email if not sure." I emailed saying that I like most of the hills in the county described, but I wanted to avoid the Twist, and the leader-fellow emailed back that he was intending to do just that road. OK, time to look for another ride. Hmm:
MINI COVERED BRIDGES RIDE: Scenic and hilly ride starting just north of Sourlands. We will go through NJ’s remaining covered bridge and cross into Pennsylvania hit some more. Strong B ride. Meet in parking lot of East Amwell Elementary School (Wertsville Road near NJ 31), Ringoes, NJ.
Well, the only covered bridge in NJ is in Sergeantsville, and Federal Twist is not between that and the starting point, or the crossing to Pennsylvania. It's advertised as a hilly ride, but I bet I can do that. 30% chance of rain was predicted, so I emailed one of the leaders and he said they were going anyway.

But when I got to the ride, the folks who were on the regular email list for this leader said that instead of the Covered Bridge ride (moved to next week), we were going to do this ride:
RIDGE TO RIDGE: Hilly route from just north of Sourlands ridge to the hills of the Musconetcong ridge. Strong B ride. Meet in parking lot of East Amwell Elementary School (Wertsville Road near Route 31), Ringoes, NJ.
Oy. Ridge-to-ridge meant that we were riding fro the top of one mountain, through the valley, to the top of another mountain. And then back. And I did 75 miles yesterday.

Although I'm glad it wasn't any worse, it wasn't as bad as I feared (or maybe I was the one who wasn't as bad as I feared). There were some wicked hills (I don't think any were as bad as the Twist, but they were bad enough), but I was able to downshift, hit a cadence, and pedal through 'em. I didn't embarrass myself; I kept up with the group (and I was able to do a little sweep-up so we didn't lose some of our number, so I had a chance to feel useful). By the end, we had ridden a smidge over 61 miles, with 4200 feet of ascent (WHAT?); the leader decided to leave out two hills when he was told that we'd have at least 3500 feet of ascent during the ride (deo gratias, alleluia). I didn't eat enough or carry a snack, and came dangerously close to bonking on the way back (a bonk is a serious loss of energy; it's always unpleasant, and, because it can affect judgment, it can be dangerous), so I'll be better prepared for next time. And, while I've been stumbling through my Sunday-night chores, I've been able to generate a little sympathy from my excellent wife. Not enough that I got her to do any of my chores, but some.

I'm thinking of going back for the Covered Bridges ride next week, but I'm afraid they'll switch it for this one:
BILLY GOAT RIDE: No Flat-landers. And no whiners. Only real polka-dot wearing, billy goat wannabees welcome. VERY hilly and beautiful ride. Approximately 7,000 ft of descending. Do not ride hard on Saturday and don’t plan much for Sunday’ll be SO happy when this ride is over.
Hrmph! 7,000 feet of descending means 7,000 feet of AScending. I may not need it to be over to be happy; I think I'll just avoid that one.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

long ride today

I was on the fence about whether to go on Cory's Ride, a memorial for a young rider killed on the Anchor House Ride years ago, or to go out with Laura and the Hill Slugs (I think of 'em as analogous to Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, or Blondie: the female front person and the guys backin' her up), so when I saw the post this week that the Hill Slugs were going to do Cory's Ride, I figured it was fate or Fortuna steppin' in to align my stars for me. Or something.

(There's a certain amount of pressure on Anchor House riders to do the Cory's Ride, especially us newbies. It's understandable; many of the people who would have known Cory, who was 16 when he died in 1998, no longer do the ride, and the scholarship fund requires new cash. Still, the pressure to come out and meet the veteran riders is palpable.)

Four of us, Laura, Ron, Joe, and I, met at Mercer Park to ride in about 12.5 miles to the ride, then did the 50 mile ride, then 12.5 miles back to the park; Laura and Ron rode in to the park from their homes, so their rides were longer (I think Laura was talkin' about an 87-mile day). For me, I'm tired, but not dead.

Since this was a ride on a route none of us knew, we were dependent on a cue sheet. Now, there are two things about the cue sheet: first, I don't lead rides, as I'm sure I've posted (although I can't easily find where), because I never know where I am... so when I'm counting on a cue sheet, I'm likely to confuse my rights and lefts, or miscount a distance, or get off the route for some other reason. I've done this all of the last four times I've had to follow a cue sheet, although I've always been able to get back on track quickly; still, I'm usually good for at least an extra 5% over the distance marked on the sheet... (One of my bywords: "It's always safe to presume that Jim doesn't know where he is.")

The other thing I noticed about following a cue sheet is that conversation enters the difficult-to-impossible range when everybody's keeping an eye on the cue sheet for the next turn. This is unusual for the B-rated Princeton Freewheeler rides, which are usually quite chatty affairs (and, frankly, one of the things I like about the B rides is the conversation). By about halfway through the ride we'd gotten used to it, I think, partly because Joe, who knew the area best of us (if not the route) was keeping an eye on the turns, allowing the rest of us (especially me) to gab away and crank along waiting for his directions. By the time I woke up and took over some of the navigatin', we'd done most of the ride already and were heading back.

Good rest stop at a church (we were probably the last ones in; we got a late start), and good lunch, dimmed only by the obligatory distribution-of-the-scholarships ceremony; we beat a retreat before it was quite over and headed back to the park were the cars were. On the way back, we ran into just enough headwind so that we wouldn't forget Laura's eponym (and if you don't know, go back the the Hill Slugs blog and read the subhead).

I was especially grateful Joe came out; I don't know him well, but it was good getting to talk some to him, and I hope to do so more. Although I haven't ridden with Ron frequently recently, I've seen a lot of him since I got back to riding a bit over a year ago, and he's comfortable to hang out with; he's always a welcome sight at a ride, as well.

Plan for tomorrow is a 60-65-mile covered bridge ride in Hunterdon County & Penna. We'll see if I can get my butt out of bed in time to do it!