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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crazy Train(ing)

The cool weather and an absolutely free afternoon, I figured I should try to push myself again. Not necessarily distance-wise, but maybe tackle some of the stuff I've been afraid of.

I started with some stuff I've done before, parked at Rosehill & Pflumn and went south on Pflumn to Midland, took the right at 67th and climbed to Lackman. That beast of a downhill from there to Blackfish Parkway, I hit 36.6 mph. Timed out the light, too, but because there were cars waiting at the light, I had to sacrifice this amazing momentum to pass them safely. Kept on Lackman to 90th and ended up on 95th, decided to take Prairie Star Parkway to Mize like the Panzon's group does. But I never saw Mize Rd. I saw lots of other roads and then all of a sudden I was at a dead end. On the backtrack, I looked again and still never saw a turn labeled 'Mize Rd.' or anything like it. And I couldn't tell what might or might not be through-streets since everything out here is stuff that was started right before the real estate bubble burst and there are a lot of developments on hold.

Ended up back at Woodland and took it to 47th, which turns into Holiday Drive, and that's a hairy stretch so I got on the Mill Creek trail down there and took that to Johnson Drive.

Which is where I learned that my fears are well founded. I handled Woodland okay, but those hills between K7 and I-435 on Johnson Drive are special. Normally, these days, I'm in good enough shape I can just get my granny gear on and grind it out. Just don't look at how far you have to go and sooner or later, you end up at the top. I even found myself gaining speed on gentle uphills on Woodland. Four times in the span of two climbs on this stretch of Johnson Drive I had to stop and gasp for breath, taking time to weep for the choices I'd made.

32.1 miles, average speed 11.0 mph (which was closer to 11.9 until I got to that nasty section of Johnson Drive).

I was glad for our freakishly cool weather: I started out in 77ºF weather and three hours later it had dropped to 66ºF. Might have thrown it in sooner if it'd also been hot out.

Amy LaVere

Went to Knuckleheads last night and heard Amy LaVere.

Hadn't realized it was an open air venue, and I don't think Amy quite realized what that meant until a passing train blew its horn as she was finishing a song and obviously startled her. See also the departing motorcycles that periodically drowned everything out.

Great show, though. She's adorable, could be Liv Tyler's kid sister and has a breathy, sexy voice that makes you picture her on the nose of a bomber. I wanted to put her in my pocket and take her with me, but I decided my ego couldn't take another rejected marriage proposal by a smokin' hot singing bassist...

Also hadn't realized I could wish I had a jacket in freakin' August. I love cool weather, don't get me wrong, but I was literally shivering by the end of the show. I shouldn't complain, what I'm saving on air conditioning probably came close to paying for my ticket.

I think I'd like to see Todd Snider at Knuckleheads if he ever came through, I could tell him to play a Train Song when those passing diesels start honking.

I also think I've got to learn some Nashville Blues. Amy's guitarist was very much in that country blues milieu, and I didn't think I liked that before I heard him do it. Now I wanna play like that (at least sometimes).

Not Quite Band Practice

Our drummer cancelled a few minutes after I departed for band practice, so when I got there, me and Jamie worked on the parts to Streetcar (it has two semi-tricky guitar parts, so we both have to play, and it has two vocal parts, so we'll both have to play these things confidently enough to sing while playing).

Jamie has been busy upgrading his basement studio, trying to fix the feedback issues and get a monitoring system fully operational. That, and he wants to record us, dubious notion that might be.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


There's a woman, and I won't diagnose her exact impairment because I don't know for sure (I've suspected MR and schizophrenia, but what do I know?), who comes in my work from time to time. Most of the time, she has something she wants laminated or copied, or occasionally she wants something from the internet printed off when her home computer isn't fully functioning. No big.

Sometimes she's combative, which isn't so much fun. She also has a tendency to assume the things she's saying are perfectly clear when they are definitely not, and when she's cranky a lack of instant comprehension on the listener's part will really set her off.

Today she was in rare form. And I was intensely busy with several extra-tight deadlines. Phones were ringing, other customers were coming in, and this woman I'll call Alice wanted help writing an 'index.' This is not something we normally do in the printing business. Index whatever you want, we'll make copies, bind stuff, whatever. We'll fax stuff for you, print your index lovingly in thermography, whatever. But we're not really a copy writing service.

As near as I can figure, this 'index' was to a set of correspondence she's hoping will get her readmitted (on a second appeal) to a community college she was apparently kicked out of. Given how disruptive I've known Alice to be in my limited experience, I can't fathom what crime a teacher could commit that would warrant that teacher having to put up with Alice for a whole semester.

So here's the rub. I really wanted to tell Alice, "Look, I don't have time for your delusional bullshit, and I really don't know what you'd 'call' a letter from your grade school teacher abut what a model student you can be...' But besides being totally unprofessional, I can't allow myself to be mean to Alice. I don't know how independently Mo will ever live, her autism is pretty severe. But, say, she's living with me and her mother as an adult, or in a group home, if I find out the guy down at the print shop was an asshole to her, I'll break his legs. Alice has a different set of impairments, and not nearly as sweet a disposition, but still.

Alice was just the last thing I needed today. As I say, if it wasn't for rush jobs, I wouldn't have no jobs at all. And with the economy like it's been, I don't want anyone to think their rush job wasn't rushed. Whatever their expectations are, I want to exceed them, even if those expectations are unrealistic. That'd even be true for Alice if she wasn't one for picking a fight if you try to charge her anything for your trouble.

Don't get me wrong, Alice wasn't my big problem today. My big problem was me. Maybe rushing too fast to try and exceed those deadline expectations, or maybe I just had some flakey moments, but three times this week jobs have had to be redone because of stupid mistakes made by yours truly. What's worse, all three jobs were expensive jobs, sold by my boss. You only get paid once for a job, that's true no matter the economy, but fuck the dog on three big orders? If I was the boss, I'd say that's unacceptable, so I can't expect my boss to accept it.

And I can't entirely explain it, though the thought crossed my mind, that maybe, just maybe, if Alice wasn't in my cubicle trying to rewrite her goddamn index right now, I might not be making the next big careless error.

So the gravy on this big plate of shit? On the way home from work, I had a blowout. Gotta hit the Stuff-Mart automotive when it opens in a few hours and buy a new tire. I have big, exciting plans for tomorrow, hopefully they all work out and provide me with a delightful contrast to today...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nobel Prize For Food

If they had a Nobel for food, the award would go to whoever came up with these taco shells.

A coworker apparently didn't like them and put a couple boxes on the break room counter with a note saying 'take me.'

Mmmkay, I'll give 'em a try.

They are flat on the bottom so they stand up while you fill them and stay standing until you're eating them. Notice my smiling children, these taco shells are so cool they even cut through Em's teenage attitude.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recovery Ride

I'm so tickled at my progress, though BikeMS is only 33 days off, and that's downright terrifying. Sponsor me, dude! I'm trainin' my ass off to ride 170 miles in two days, pony up some dough! I'm still short of the minimum even though I'm my own biggest pledge.

Hearing a woman who's a serious rider say she's sure I've slimmed down (even though I know for a provable fact I've lost zero weight), that's an ego boost I can use. And being able to catch up to the lead pack when I missed a stoplight, that feels alright, too. I'm still a slow fat guy, but I'm not as slow, and maybe some of that fat has turned muscular on me.

We rode a Tour de Shawnee (slightly modified) route.

At one point, Julie (who brought her beaux Todd along at last) said, 'You didn't say this was a hill ride!' But she was doing fine, what with having air in her tires and all. Plfumn can be a bitch, but at least it's not Lackman... I was grateful we didn't try to attack Lackman, and also grateful that my self-inflicted hill rides have already put me on Pflumn a few times. Didn't know about that delicious downhill on Maurer to Midland, though.

But really, 'recovery' ride or not, my thighs are Human Jerky at this point. Having my kids two nights during the week, I might actually get to recover before my next ride.`

There was even a recumbent guy on this ride. He said his bike sucked on hills, but then he passed me going up a couple of them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The weather was so nice, I decided to make another run at the Ethnic Engorgement Festival. No seizures this time, the worst I had to deal with was Em's terrible teenage attitude about being there at all.

Seems like the portions were generally larger and prices commensurately higher than what I remember in years past. $3 doesn't seem like a lot more than $2, and $5 doesn't seem like a lot more than $3, but my money went away with astonishing alacrity.

'I'm bored, I don't want to be here,' Em said.

Well, I replied, you're in luck because I'm broke and there's no ATM out here.

'But I wanted to try a Brazilian cheese ball!'

When I offered to get in that line you said no.

'I wanted to wait for the line to get shorter.'

Ah, well. I got Mo to take some timid samples of Kenyan fried potatoes (with a thin batter coating that had cilantro in it, delicious). No luck getting her to try the Kenyan beef skewer (I forget what it was called, but it was awesome). Who knew meat and potatoes were 'ethnic?'

Had a Turkish version of the gyro, a Döner sandwich. And a kabob from Morocco. And a delicious smoothie.

I could tell the girls were both hungry, but every time I tried to get them to try a bite of something they looked at me with suspicion and distrust. No really, I'd say. It's just meat.

Watched some Malaysian dancers. Said 'hi' to my friend who was getting ready to perform with Axé Capoeira, a Brazilian dance/martial arts thing. I really wanted to stay and watch their performance, but the girls were both impossible by this point.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Long Ride

Before we went out to not be ethnically engorged much, the girls hung with my Mom while I did a training ride. Figured it was high time I stretched my limits a bit again. I didn't do 40 miles, but I hit it pretty hard.

Starting out at Gum Springs park on 67th, I wandered north and east, by the Trek Store, up to 55th, then West to Rosehill, wound around to Pflumn to Midland to Renner.

Saw an awesome recumbent tandem waiting across the intersection at Pflumn and Shawnee Mission Park way and sort of got a picture of it.

I almost took the loop of Shawnee Mission Park but decided to go south on Renner instead, going to 95th and taking that loop I like on Legler around to Santa Fe Trail Dr. Along there I saw a group coming the other way and recognized some of the riders, and we smiled and waved and said our hellos as we passed. Makes me feel more like a 'real cyclist,' recognizing and being recognized by people I know only from having ridden with them.

Not a very real cyclist, mind you. I averaged 11.3 mph on this journey, woefully slow.

Took Pflumn back north, went east on Blackfish to that side-street climb I remember from some of the Trek routes. You end up crossing Quivira south of 79th, which is nice because the intersection at 79th is practically impossible to cross: the bike won't trigger a straight ahead green and hardly any cars are in the lane to go straight at that intersection. You can go over and push the pedestrian cross button, but then a whole bunch of right-turning traffic comes barreling around the corner and by the time you could have gone the light you triggered is already yellow. I can't remember what street it is that this little climb puts you on, but it's infinitely easier to cross there.

Anyway, wound my way through the office parks to Switzer to 67th. I was going to cut back up 67th to my car but I wanted to get more distance in, see what I can do. So I went down that delicious hill to the little road by Aristocrat that hooks up to Merriam Lane. That way, having ridden over twenty miles, I could take 55th from the bottom, something I wouldn't have attempted with fresh legs two months ago.

Made it all the way back up to Rosehill, to Long and finally back to 67th Street. 28.1 miles, and I could have kept going (though I don't know how much longer, and my average speed had been dropping for awhile: 11.9 in the first third or so of the ride, down to 11.3 by the end).

I am diggin' my cycling computer. Answers those questions I always wonder: How far did I go? How fast did I really go on that one downhill? What speed did I average? And I think seeing a speed when I glance down maybe pushes me to crank a tad harder on the uphills and flats. Seeing a number less than the 'average,' I know means I'm not raising the average. So it seems to matter whether I get up that hill at 4 mph or 6 mph....

So I did about a third of what a day on BikeMS is going to be. In barely over a month. Yikes, what have I gotten myself into?

Not Much More Enriched

At least we showed up on the right weekend for the Ethnic Engorgement Festival this time.

We went in, made a beeline for Ecuador because Em was excited to try an Empanada. Something from one of her DIsney sit-coms had her saying it 'empanaaahda' over and over.

Then we got in the Brazil line, and I ordered these cute little cheese balls, a fruit punch for Em and a Guaraná soda for me. I got a pic snapped of the cheese balls before Em noticed Mo was turning her head, chewing and drooling.

Seizure. In the process of guiding Mo to a hay bail to ride it out (not a severe seizure, lasted two minutes tops, but still), I dropped the cheese balls so I guess I'll have to wait until next year to find out what they taste like.

Em made the comment that my six bucks (to get us in) was wasted. And I understood what she was saying, this isn't the first time a seizure has hijacked one of our outings barely out of the gate. Happened once at the Zoo between the front gate and Australia, for instance. But, as I pointed out to Em, if we didn't go do stuff just because every once in awhile a seizure is going to spoil it, we'd miss out on everything for sure instead of some things sometimes.

Mo slept in the car and some when we got home, and she's fine now. And the trip wasn't a total loss, that Brazilian Guaraná pop is pretty good, and we found out Em doesn't like empanaaahdas.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to School

Last year I humiliated Em by following her 7th grade schedule in plain site of her peers and their parents. This time, it was Mo's turn but she wasn't embarrassed. She led me to the Communications room, of course, but also to Science, Social Studies, PE, etc.

Ran into a high school classmate who just moved to town, and we reminded each other we were both too young to have seventh grade kids. Even if we do know people our age and younger with grandchildren.

I was going to miss this. When the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster reminded me of it, my knee-jerk response was, 'I can't.' Because I'd be at band practice. But then when we got off the phone, it took me about 30 seconds to say to myself, Self, if you skip back to school night so you can go sing atonally and play guitars loudly, you suck as a Daddy.

Then I went and had fun.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mother of All Tomatoes

Julie & Todd gave me a couple of tomatoes while I was over last night I took them to work with my lunch. I was going to slice off a bit of the Australian to put on my sandwich and maybe have a slice or two more.

Oh. My. God.

I have never had a tomato this good in my life. Absolutely gonzo, like a great tomato with the volume turned up.

I ended up finishing this monster tomato and then, I couldn't help it, I devoured the other one, which wasn't an Australian, but was awfully good. Gonna have to plant me some heirlooms next year.


Rode 8.9 miles according to my handy-dandy cycling computer (I gotta quit even looking at shit in the Trek Store). I left my gloves and helmet at the store last night when we were figuring out why the cycle computer told me everything except anything about how fast, how far, etc. (the magnet on the spoke was faced the wrong way).

I normally wouldn't ride without a helmet, but when I found out where my helmet was, I was already in the ridiculous shorts, had my bottles in the cages, my butt-bag lashed to the handlebars, I was ready to roll.

So I stuck to quiet side streets near my house, figured that would be reasonably safe. Then, rounding a corner at a pretty good clip, I wondered if the tires might slip and drop me on the pavement. It's never happened to me, but I figured if it would, it'd be with me out there nekkid-headed. And then I'd probably land just so and my head would snap against the pavement and I'd have to figure out how to blog in monosyllables.

I'd have ridden much farther, actually, but I ran into a former coworker and talked to him for way too long. So long I finished riding home in the dark (fortunately with flashy lights front and back).

It was good for me to ride here in Gardner, I think, because I've been so focused on hilly rides that I haven't been spending enough time just cranking out on the flats. According to the 'puter, I averaged 13.4 mph (apparently it knew to stop averaging while I was running my mouth or the average would have fallen to more like 1.4 mph. My top speed was a mere 20.9 but no hills.

A crazy cycle chick from my chiropractor's office almost talked me into doing this. I gotta quit letting women talk to me about cycling, it led me to signing up for BikeMS in the first place.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rain or Shine?

I had decided if it kept raining, I would find the Mill Creek Trail and put some miles in, no matter how nasty. Because it could rain on the MS ride, and I might benefit from the experience of how my brakes handle and whatnot.

But weather is the worst thing for a bike from what I can tell. A neighbor of mine, who I think of as the hillbilly with everything (he has all the cool toys in those paid-for spreads in men's magazines but 25 years old and bought at auction), has a bike in his yard being reclaimed by the elements. And now that I actually own this bike, I worried about putting it on the rack and having the bike ride through the rain all the way to work, sit in the rain all day.

I could put the bike in the back seat, but then why did I buy this rack???

Jennifer said the main thing was the chain, and that makes sense. So I took her advice and taped a couple trash bags in place. They didn't keep all the water out, but they did do the job. They also dragged the ass half of the bike to the far back of the rack by the time I got to work.

The weather cleared and the Trek group made its usual Monday run. I can still feel myself getting stronger, but I still struggle to keep up with the front group. Julie did great, what with having air in her tires and all.

Great group, very supportive. When I mentioned starting out at 87th and Lackman a couple times for a hill ride, and a lovely rider mentioned she leads the Panzon's ride, a map of which can be seen here. She was egging me on to try it, but when she mentioned some of these stretches, I realized, 'She doesn't realize I just rode as hard as I could on this so-called recovery ride.' I could probably finish this circuit, but if I leave at 6:30 in the evening, I'll finish this sucker in the dark. At midnight. I'm not exaggerating.

Gives me something to work for past the MS ride. Maybe by next summer I'll be able to at least bring up the rear on such a ride. Or maybe not, my brother, who works his ass off training and has been on a bike pretty much since birth, finished the Wednesday hill ride with the Trek group in the second pack...

But anyway, a good workout, lots of fun, and great conversation, beer and heirloom tomatoes at Julie's after.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Freak Flags Flyin'

I passed a bin on the way into Price Chopper: white, yellow and green cotton t-shirts, a buck apiece. And it hit me, like a flash from all the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock bullshit that has been permeating the news, I've never done a tie-dye.

So I bought a bunch of shirts, some RIT, looked at a few videos online to get some pointers, and we jumped right in. Me and Em both got some birthmarks despite trying to be careful with gloves. And I think I stained my kitchen counter some.

'Maybe next time we should do this outside,' Em said. Check out the big brains on my daughter!

I grabbed an old white t-shirt with a YMCA logo on it that was pretty dingy and did it while we were at it. Bought a couple of dark green shirts I'm tie-bleaching, we'll see how that turns out.

Em was so into it. She didn't want to let me do the rinsing, she wanted to be the first to open things up and find out what we'd made.

There was a store at the Adequate Mall that you could go to, buy a shirt and dye it there for, I think, $10-$15 a shirt. These ended up being like a tenth of that, so I guess it was a pretty faulty business model, assuming there is a huge population of affluent hippies who don't know how to do this.

I tried to get Mo into it but she wouldn't have it except to say she liked red and yellow.