Thursday, September 29, 2011

on biting off more than I can chew. maybe

Sunday is the Pumpkin Patch Pedal of the Staten Island Bicycling Association, and Our Lady of Perpetual Headwinds is leading a group of us on the 100-mile ride. Another leader I like is doing her last ride of the year, a hilly ride, the day before. I made clear my plans to do both, and I heard from both of them warning me off. I was going to send them an email with my thoughts, but it got too long and rambling... so it wound up here as a post, and I sent them links. Below, the text of my unsent email:

Laura & Cheryl -

Hmm. Ok, if the two of you are going to take this much time, energy, and concern so that you're BOTH warning me off riding on Saturday before the PPP, I've got to take that into consideration. You've got much more experience than I do. Further, I'm gratified by the attention you're paying to me!

On one side, Cheryl, I like your rides, and I like hills (and I don't find you hard to hang around with, either). First, I've missed a few of your rides, either due to the inclemency of the weather or due to other commitments, and I didn't want to miss the last one of the year. Second, I like hills, and I suspect there won't be many on the Pumpkin Patch Pedal century (100 miles is a good distance, but the route starts and ends in Jamesburg...).

I don't want to be sagging or bonking on Sunday. I'm expecting a 14.5-15.5 average speed, with the riders we have coming along. That's about seven hours of riding, plus breaks, plus the odd tire or mechanical repair. It's a high demand for a long day.

On the other side, I'm pretty strong; I did Anchor House this summer (with a week of 75-mile-average days); I've been turning out 120-mile weekends (back-to-back 60-mile days); my daily workouts have been good (although my weight's up a couple of pounds - remind me to tell youse-all about the wacko, obsessive-compulsive spreadsheet on which I keep track of my weight trend; there is no END to my craziness). And there's one more thing: I love to ride. I LOVE to ride. I squeeze rides in whenever I can, and, on too many weekends, my plans with my excellent wife include discussions of whether I can do a group ride, or just a solo. Winter coming on means I think about the last ride of the year, which (given my depressive, anxiety-ridden personality) gets me thinking about the time when I'll have to give up the bike permanently, due to age & infirmity.

That said, overextending myself could have just the consequence I dread - that I'd have to stop riding, maybe permanently.

OK. I won't do Cheryl's hilly ride on Saturday. I probably won't stay off the bike entirely, either, though; I'll need to do some workout that day, anyway. Two possibilities present:
  • I could go on a less-demanding group ride on Saturday, probably Ira's ride out of Cranbury;
  • I could do my own ride, like the 20-mile loop including Coppermine Road I usually do when I'm alone.
Experience shows that I'll push less on Ira's ride (I'm intensely competitive with myself, and I like to see how high a gear I can take Coppermine, and how fast an average I can maintain when I ride myself.) I could do my own ride, and push myself less, but I probably wouldn't actually do that (I leave with the best of intentions, and come back exhausted anyway). I don't know what I will do, However, given your concern, what I won't do is over-exert myself by doing Cheryl's ride on Saturday AND the century on Sunday.

Thank you both. I really am honored that you care enough to be concerned, and to take the time and energy to write. I hope someday to be numbered among your friends.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

newest hot chick

When you're pushin' 60, like I am, it's a little creepy to be hangin' around with sweet young things, so I've had to change my definition of what a hot chick is. The latest gal to get my attention is Elizabeth Warren, who was not confirmed as head of the new bureau overseeing banks. She's running for Senate in Massachusetts, and here's a sample:

I hear all this, 'well, this is class warfare, this is whatever'. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear:

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did

Original, god help us, from Al Jazeera, of all places.

(In other news, I never met a regulation I didn't like - even the one that kept me from getting an additional license; it was the right thing to do, even though it cost me money. And I'm willing to pay more taxes to get more services. Take that, Teabaggers.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

retro motorcycles and bicycles

When I rode a motorcycle, I rode cruisers rather than racing-style bikes, and I remember that there was an ongoing dispute between the Harley riders, who said, "I wanna ride my bike, not race it," and the riders of what were called rice rockets, the speedy HondaYamaKawaZukis, with all the latest technology and speed. Those of us on Japanese cruisers didn't really fit either side. But the Harley riders still seem to me to be trying to put on an image that doesn't really fit in the second decade of the twenty-first century: the cycles those Harleys are emulating were cheap transportation after World War II and were ridden by some hard cases for whom they were the best option... but the modern person who buys a Harley has YONKS of disposable income (or a deep disagreement with me about financial priorities).

There's some similar retro-grouchiness in the bicycle world. Rivendell Bikes and Velo Orange both sell bikes and parts reminiscent of an earlier era of riding that may never have really existed. The romance is that cycling was about a slower pace, a more comfortable lifestyle. But the truth, I think, is that what really drove cycling forward in the late 19th & early 20th centuries was racing, and many of the "old" technologies were once new technologies that were about speed, to be replaced by newer technologies that were about more speed. Other stuff these guys sell, like fenders and upright cycling position, does indeed make you more comfortable on the bike... but people whose sole transportation is the bicycle generally get off the bike and into the car as soon as they can. Maintaining the cycle-only lifestyle is largely a luxury of those of us who have choices.

My road bike has some of the latest technology on it, and some that's not so late, because given the choice between responsiveness (or lightness) and longevity for parts, my interest in the former over the latter diminishes as cost increases. So, for example, I have a steel fork, because the carbon forks tend to break sooner than the steel ones do.

I've got a hybrid that I'm turning into a city bike. It will probably sprout fenders (and maybe even a rack) because they will make it more comfortable and versatile... but it will never give me the speed, response, and hill-climbing ability of the road bike (though I can CERTAINLY climb hills on it; it has a low gear that a semi would envy, but that city bike will never be quick up a hill). There's a tiny market for nostalgia-riders on bicycles, as there is a larger one for those on motorcycles.

Grant at Rivendell has an article about riding a bike forever. It's nicely romantic, and it sounds great. But if you want to ride fast - and I do - do the stuff that makes you fast. Wear the gear, get in shape, get out of the wind, and buy (or build) the fastest bike that suits you.

i wouldn't want to risk it

I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it here first.

From Ozge Samanci's Ordinary Things.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

a good weekend

Yesterday, I didn't think I was going to be able to ride, but the excellent wife changed plans, so I could. I went out to where the Hill Slugs were leaving from, but nobody was there. I went to ride for myself, and bumped into the two Slugs who made it out - I had been half an hour early (oh, well). So we cranked out about 50 miles total, including some hills (and had a delightful conversation at the break). Then back home, and the excellent wife and I went out to use up some gift certificates at Outback Steakhouse.

Today was the Princeton Freewheelers Picnic, with an all-paces ride beforehand. Our Lady of Perpetual Headwinds, convener of the Hill Slugs, led a group (I sort-of acted as sweep, riding in the back to make sure we didn't drop anybody), and we did about 42 miles. Good group, and some may become more frequent Slugs.

Better yet, the fellow who was in the bike accident on Mother's Day put in an appearance, on his bike, at the all-paces ride. He didn't do a full ride with us, but he may be coming out soon. I'm glad to see him up and about, and on a bike,

The excellent wife took her folks out to a Polish show today. I'm glad we can go our separate ways without suspicion or fear. I'm also glad when we're both back home.

on managing my uncivil tongue

I've developed a reputation as a bit of a gruff old man at work, who stands for little nonsense from fellow professionals (although I have to stand for a lot - maybe too much - from my clients; it's just the nature of working with substance-abusing welfare recipients). A couple weeks ago, we were told about the topic for this statewide meeting: it was presented as a treatment provider who would not let a client go because it was the nature of their program to hold them for a fixed length of stay (e.g., all clients stay for 28 days, or six months, or whatever). My program is founded on the idea that different clients have different needs, and we attempt to fit the treatment provided to the client need. Most managed care is solely based on saving money, but ours is based on client condition; our care-managers are all mental-health and addiction professionals.

As was brought up in the meeting, you don't tell a person with a broken leg that they've gotta wear a cast for twelve weeks because that's what everybody does; you assess how each fracture is progressing, and treat the individual case. You don't put every diabetic on insulin, either.

It's the kind of thing I have a tendency to roll my eyes and say things about that I later regret; my behavior has been known to make my administrators cringe, so I was approached by my immediate supervisor to see if I was going to survive this encounter without bringing down the temple in my rage, like Samson. The Provider in question is politically-connected, so we don't want to upset them too much.

I decided to have something to do with my mouth to remind me to keep it shut. I bought a grocery-store-sized bag of bubble gum and two of Tootsie-Pops, and had them with me in the auditorium ("They let you chew gum?" asked one of my friends when I told her about this strategy. "They let me do what I needed to do," I replied). I offered a few to my co-workers, but I, myself, went through five lollipops and two wraps of gum in the three-hour presentation. (I also sat three seats away from the deputy director, as a further brake on my enthusiasm. Ahem.)

The upside: it worked. Nothing rude rolled out of my mouth.

The downsides:
  1. That's a lot of calories. I I did a 50-mile bike ride, and starved myself yesterday, to manage all that sugar. (On explaining my plan and the outcome to the excellent wife, she said, "Keeping your job is healthy, Jim." She shows a remarkable amount of good sense, which is one of the reasons she is my excellent wife.)
  2. Lollipops are sloppy. I wound up wearing a certain amount of drool on the front of my shirt.
It turned out that the client in question was not being held because of the program's inflexible plan, but because of stupid earlier management and the inability to let go of one of her counselors. Stupid earlier management had gotten this young woman to the point where her next episode of running afoul of the state child protective services office may lead to unrecoverable placement of her kids in a foster family. And the counselor was unable to let go of the client because of this. These are two more of my favorite topics to rant about, so it's a good thing I was prepared.

In any case, I still get to go to my office on Monday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

corporation is a person?

Seen taped to the window of a vehicle, supposedly:

"I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one."

Too good to miss. Original here.

an alaska railroad

A few days ago, I posted a Jennings quote about railroads. NPR had a story this morning about the Alaska Hurricane Turn. I don't know if this railroad pays its own way, but even if it doesn't, I think it's one that's worth saving: it's part of the public good.

color my hair?

My last several posts, and the thoughts of my last several weeks, seem to be focusing on aging and mortality. I've just passed (another) man of about my age who is probably coloring his hair.

Coloring one's hair doesn't change the color or texture of the skin of the face, nor does it remove a single line.

If you're going to color your hair, pick your color carefully. Nobody is fooled by a coat of paint on rotting wood or rusted metal, especially after a while when the rot and rust continue, and cause the paint to bubble and flake.

I'm lucky to be in a field of employment where, to at least some extent, experience is respected: the new is not always the best (although many of my older compatriots become hide-bound, and I run some risk of that myself). I don't need to look younger than I am -- at least not yet.

I'm not persuaded that coloring hair makes a person look younger (although it may be because I only notice the most glaring examples of poor color choice). It's why I don't have any color in my hair in that picture from the wedding a few posts earlier. (But the grey in the hair is part of the reason I think I look so old in that picture.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

tired & unsociable, and mementi mori

I'm not good at keeping friends, so when a woman who is a long-time friend celebrates her 65th birthday, and we've been remiss in going to visit her over the past year or so, you can be we'll put in our appearance. In this case, though, the party was in the Catskills (she and her husband split their time between Manhattan and a country home outside New Paltz), two-and-a-half hours drive away, and my excellent wife had to work her second job the next day (and she is due there at 7:00 am). So it meant we wanted to be sure to leave on time.

I decided not to do a group bike ride on Saturday, to be sure I'd be home in time to leave (on a group ride, the possibility of someone having a flat or mechanical breakdown, which might lead to a late return, is substantially higher). So I went out on my own instead, and did 36 miles, including climbing Coppermine Road, at an average of 18.1 (which is fast for me). I was feeling my legs later in the day, including at the party.

I hate parties; I'm generally no good at them. I don't meet people well unless I'm doing something with them (like pedaling, although choral singing and swinging hammers for Habitat for Humanity have also proven successful). Yesterday's party was an exception: we met some of the husband's old high-school friends (and they must be in or near their 80's) and had a wonderful time with them. I finally remembered some rules of conversation (like, when somebody asks about your kids, ask about theirs), and we were having a nice time before it was time to get in the car and return. (My wife had a suggestion that I come up with a list of conversation topics. It's a good idea, but I also need some kind of algorithm to know when someone is trying to start a conversation with me, and a few steps and suggestions about how to get the talk going; I know of at least twice this summer when I didn't realize people were interested in talking until days later, when it was too late.)

Couldn't sleep, though; woke up about 3am and watched the clock change off and on until my wife's alarm went off. My legs were tired! I wanted to do a group ride, and saw one with a leader who doesn't let the group get too fast. He wasn't at the usual location, and another ride went out of there, which was faster. I kept up, but I'm hurtin' now. I feel every day of my pushin'-60 years.

Also, it was cold today. I had two long-sleeved layers on top, and it wasn't quite enough. Autumn is coming, and, with it, the end of the riding season. More and more, these seasonal endings are reminders to me of mortality: how many more seasons will I have? How many more autumns? How many more rides? How many more parties? How soon before friends' funerals are as frequent as their celebrations?

Short week ahead; one of my Wednesdays off, plus the Hill Slugs have a ride scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday is the Princeton Freewheelers picnic. I blew off the picnic last year, not wanting to have to speak to people with whom I didn't ride much; I'm hoping to do better with meeting them this time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

can no longer lie to myself

The excellent wife and I went to the wedding of a coworker of mine, and another coworker sent me this picture. My wife liked it enough that she put it on her computer as the background wallpaper.

I passed her computer yesterday, and saw that picture, and realized that any hopes I had of passing for middle-aged are gone. That guy on the left is old. (So why's that young chickie on the right hangin' around with him, anyway?)


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ezra Jennings on taxing the rich

Jennings said, "Any sensible system of taxation in this country is based on soaking the richest people. I saw somewhere that 20% of the people in this country own over 80% of the wealth. The next 40% have about 17% of the wealth, and the lowest 40% have about 3% of the wealth. How on earth can you NOT tax those richest folks?"

Jennings continued, "And don't come to me with that b-lls--t about the rich people leaving the country and taking their wealth with them. I'd be glad to see them go. As I understand it, the real engine of economic growth and job creation in the United States is small business. Those insanely rich people are not starting small businesses or creating any jobs, except for chauffeurs and scullery maids. And all of those jobs get filled by illegal aliens."

out of the loop

A long time between posts, partly because not much has been happening except riding, and partly because the little bit that has been happening is not something I'm happy to write about.

I had a fight with the excellent wife about riding to work; I wanted to do it, and she was by the whole prospect. We got to discussing it by email because we couldn't keep sense in person, and in one of the emails she brought up that the bicycle might be affecting our marriage.

That's an argument I take most seriously, partly because this marriage is not my first, and I know what it is for one to fall apart. I immediately withdrew and apologized.

I had been making plans and rebuilding another bike so I could ride to work, and, when those plans were well in progress, to have them yanked out from under me was something to which I reacted like an adolescent, partly because it was the sort of thing that happened a number of times in my adolescence (which continued, more or less, until I was 39; I had a real problem separating from my parents). We're better now, mostly, I think, because I have completely surrendered, based on the "affecting our marriage" salvo. As long as it does not seem frivolous, I've got to concede to that particular demand.

In other news, it was a 160-mile weekend: rode the bike that many miles. I was off Friday 9/9, and rode about 35 miles with the old guys, a group of mostly-retired Freewheelers who ride together three times a week. Some of them are in remarkably good shape (and some are not). And it's one of the few groups I can hang out in these days where I'm the young guy. The next day was the Ride for McBride. The Hill Slugs were scheduled to add 12 miles each way to the 50-mile ride... but partly because of the early call (didja see? 6:45 am?), and partly because of the iffy weather, there were only three of us who rode in all that way... and then, because of some silly disagreements (in which your correspondent played a major supporting role), only two of us rode back. We missed the weather, but it was not the happiest ride of my life. Next day, did about 48 miles in Burlington County, which has the topography of a pancake.

On the McBride Ride, at one point a half-dozen or so of us were rippin' along at 21+-mph (and left some friends in the dust, leading to some more drama). Afterwards, a fellow rider (perhaps I will not be specific as to who it may be) referred to me as a "friendly engine" with whom she enjoys riding. "Friendly engine". It's not an uncomfortable fit. It might go with the "quo debeo agere satis sum" tattoo that I'm not going to get, to balance the "Harvest the damn organs if I'm brain dead" tattoo I'm not going to get on the other side.

Edit 10/25/11: It's only now that I realized that I left out an important part of the day. Part of the reason our time was so good was that we got to chasing some riders who dropped a smaller group of us, and, as a result, we dropped two riders, for one of whom the day probably had special meaning. That sucked. I'm not doing that again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ezra Jennings on railroads

Jennings said, "I saw an article saying that high-speed rail doesn't pay for itself, and therefore we shouldn't build it. That's not the point. The point is that rail, along with other things, like public education, is a public good, and we should pay for them because they are public goods."

Jennings continued, "Do you really want to live in a world where the only things that exist are the things that pay for themselves?"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

biking through the corn

That's me, biking through the corn on the Anchor House Ride this summer. Not very handsome, but don't I look happy? And that was on a tough day, and I can tell by the position of the chain that it was on a fairly tough uphill.

I love to ride.

(The "thumbs up" is an Anchor House Ride thing; riders do that to indicate to the support staff that things are OK and we don't need help. I've appropriated it, and use it all the time. Sometimes it means "Hello". Sometimes, when I do it to drivers, it means, "Thank you for not killing me." If I give a thumbs-up to a driver, and he or she waves back, there's at least a 50% chance that I won't get thoughtlessly run over.)

crankiness in central jersey

Weekdays, or days I have other stuff scheduled and can't either do a long ride or a group ride, have generally been sunny in Central Jersey recently.

Days that have been available for group rides or long rides have generally been rainy, either making it impossible to ride, or leaving only time for abbreviated rides.

I grow increasingly cranky about this. It's causing problems at home,