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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Garden of Entropy

We were supposed to go touring this past weekend, my bachelor weekend, but among other things we went the agrarian route and tended to our badly neglected crops.

Corinna had been out of town on business, I was trapped near the Inner Circle of Fault and meanwhile...

Our corn sort of took off, our cucumbers became vines but haven't produced any real fruit, and meanwhile the rest of the garden staged a prison riot. Tomatoes blew over, herbs grew into bushes, mutations happened.

I rigged the fallen tomatoes and the leaning ones, creating sort of tomato tipis. The corn that's threatening to put on ears was spared but some other corn was given over to what we hope will be cabbage.

I've so far got less fruit from a greater number of plants on the tomato front, but maybe some of that was the late start caused by the Great Tomatocide.

Mainly I think the weather has sucked balls and dividing my nights between two addresses mean that I'm neglecting my tomatoes at one address as badly as I neglect my Facebook account and blog (my computer being at the other address). The difference being nothing from Facebook or my blog is edible or even, probably, useful at all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bonito Bakery

Our favorite restaurant and grocery store has expanded across the street to a new bakery.  Legal or otherwise, anytime you hear people complaining about Mexicans coming to America to skim benefits or whatever, I see these Mexicans at all hours of the day and night.  Conservatively, I'd say the owners put in 14 hour days on average.

To top it off, they're doing it in retail space born-here Americans gave up on a decade or three ago, and they are making big-league improvements to the property.  Don't kid yourself, this country was built on immigration, legal and not so legal (I doubt my Irish ancestors asked permission to jump from Canada, where they were probably shipped).  If anyone is going to build the wealth to make the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam better than a Dumb and Dumber IOU it's probably someone with a Mexican accent.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

No, I'm not trying to compete in a bad writing contest. It was exactly what the headline says it was. Right when I was about to go to sleep, the storm knocked the power out.

I sleep with a CPAP. To give you some idea how bad my sleep apnea is, when my pump went out last fall, the week or so it took to get a new one approved by insurance and delivered by Apria was sufficient time for me to develop hallucinations from a lack of REM sleep.

Nothing trippy, but I'd see cars pulling up in my blind spot that weren't there when I turned my head, or people coming around the corner who weren't there when I looked up. As the line from Fight Club says, everything was a copy of a copy of a copy. Except I didn't have insomnia, I was just borderline on suffocating in the sleep I did get.

Anyway, I thought the power would be restored presently but I was wrong. Corinna's idea was I should get on the bike and ride through the storm to my office and plug in there. But as far as I could see, there was no power, so for all I knew, Waldo was blacked out, too.

It was 4:20 a.m. when the lights came back on, by which time I was faking sleep or trying my best to snore in a sweat on top of the sheets (no juice also meant the fan didn't work), propped up to minimize the collapse of my airway. When my alarm went off a half hour later, I knew there was no way I was making it to work on time.

I probably shouldn't have gone in at all: I never take sick days. It's a hard thing to explain, it's not that I didn't hear my alarm, it's that I couldn't sleep in any meaningful way in the first place. I only missed a week of work when I had a heart attack, so calling in for a day is generally summed up in the five words "explosive diarrhea, I saw blood."

But if I couldn't sleep, at least I could play with my camera. I got a couple of decent shots out the window with long exposures and using the window sill as a tripod.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


We were dropping Sissy off for a thing at the high school and I'd picked up some chicken tenders with the groceries.

Mo wasn't having it. Which is weird, I've often said she'll eat anything as long as it's chicken. But when I asked her what she wanted, she said she wanted the bread.

They had these baguettes on the day-old rack at Wal-Mart, and I guess her body was telling her to carbo-load.

Butter is for amateurs, she just wanted the crusty loaf.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I was so late, no way they were going to wait long enough for me.

I was trying to make the Trek Store in 45 minutes from work, A-list work under the best of circumstances.

I got caught behind a train. I had time to get a good shot of the train, so I guess I could have snuck past the locomotive instead.

The train was just getting started, too, and had a full load of coal. I think it took about ten minutes. To my delight and astonishment, the group was still in the Trek lot when I got there almost fifteen minutes late: two of the riders had flats one right after the other.

After, I didn't have time to hang for margaritas, but I did pick up some brake pads. Going touring next weekend and I knew my brakes weren't quite right. They were too booked up to do the repair work on my schedule, but it's high time I learned to do this shit myself.

The brake pads I've worn to the warning track were new as of Memorial Day, my last touring adventure. So I guess there's miles and then there's miles, because I got a year and a half out of the last pair.

I think, actually, given how different it felt when I had the new pads this spring, the old brakes weren't worn out but the rubber was old and hard. Probably didn't do my rims any favors (might explain, in part, why I've had to replace both wheels—broken spokes are symptomatic of worn rims), and I guess I got used to grabbing hard because when I stopped for the first time with the new brakes I about went ass over.

While I was in the neighborhood, I borrowed my brother's Magic Shine light to help get through the weekend. We never set out to finish in the dark, but I can't remember ever pitching a tent in daylight. And riding on country roads at night with crappy headlights is for the birds.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Foolish Client

If you're more mechanical than me this might not be true for you, but the person who uses himself as a bicycle mechanic truly has an idiot for a customer.

I'd have paid the Trek Store (or whatever store I'd been in) to replace my brake pads. Gladly. But as of Monday they were signing in bikes for Thursday repairs and I can't go that long sans bike. I couldn't have left it with them anyway because it would have meant walking from Shawnee to Waldo just to get in my fiance's car (my stolen car still hasn't been recovered) to drive home.

So I bought the pads and after scouring the internet for instructional videos I couldn't find one that really showed how to do my brakes. I found videos on cantilever brakes, sure, but they all came on/off with one Allen wrench to the back of the skewer the pad sits on.

Mine, the Allen goes perpendicular to the male part of the brake pad, and meets up with a nut that turns out to be pretty easy to strip. After cussing, blacking my fingers and cutting myself inexplicably, I managed to get one of these nuts so stripped I wondered if I could ever get it off again.

At which point I realized that the back brakes were at least lined up with the rim, more or less, didn't rub when released and did clamp down when I grabbed the lever. So I called it good even though I'm sure it's the most half-ass brake pad job in bicycle repairman history.

[The 'Bicycle Repairman' video, by the way, is pretty much reality for me. I'm lucky I can change a flat, but I have friends who can replace spokes, one can do it without even taking the tire/tube off. Wow.]

I was going to do the front as well, but besides the fact that it took me an hour to fuck up the back brakes, my worn front brakes were at least installed by a professional. So if the back just quits working, the front will keep me out from under dump trucks. If and when I get the rear figured out, I'll do the fronts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unintentional Angel

I was just trying to get a long shutter shot of downtown from the Scout. Corinna walked into the frame, realized, stepped right back out.

As the last Bob Ross put it, we don't make mistakes, we just have happy accidents. Click on the photo to embiggen if you want to see more details, but it's like the Ghost of Transportation Future looking down on the city.

Here's the shot I was trying to get. Cool, but not as cool.

Both shots have quite a bit of blowout, I should probably have shortened the shutter a bit. Still learning this new-to-me camera. It's a few years old, and the price was right, but a bit higher end model than what I've bought new in the past. Bigger sensor*, which means less noise on long shutter/low light shots, but I think it blows out easier, too. Maybe for the same reason.

It's been a fun camera to get to know so far, I may be cured of ever buying a brand new camera again; I paid less than 10% of retail and the previous owner hadn't even worn the new off it—the thing spent most of four years in a drawer until he got a new camera for Christmas and decided to get rid of the old one.

* I bought a new PowerShot in February that I loved. I got it wet, first with sweat, and then after thinking I had dried it out to functionality I got caught in a massive downpour and got it really wet. I think it's an ex-camera, bereft of life it rests in peace. It is no more. It has shuffled off this mortal coil and gone on to take snapshots of the bleeding choir invisible. The new-to-me PowerShot I got off Craigslist has a 50% larger sensor.  I probably shouldn't have bought even this one

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It sounds shocking on the face of it. But there are areas in public policy where more money actually yields worse results.

When there's an expensive option that doesn't work, but is being funded, and a cheap option that does work but isn't, what is there to say except 'Cut Our Budget?'

Monday, August 22, 2011


After the parade, we went to Moon Marble.

I see something new every time I go, or see something in a different way, it seems. Bruce showed the video, I've seen it a few times, that shows them making machine-made marbles at a now-defunct American factory.

Wages may be higher here, but shipping glass over great distances is expensive (one reason why prior to Ripple Glass, nobody was recycling the stuff around here).

But melting the old irregular marbles, the raw glass and whatnot takes twelve hours in an astonishingly hot kiln. That's a lot of energy.

So I guess marbles get made wherever they still consider smokestacks to be 'progress.'

Not that it's necessarily all that terrible: I have my doubts about global warming anyway, and at least a marble is a highly durable good. A lot of the things we use colossal amounts of energy to make don't last the day.

And I'll bet if you're only counting energy efficiency that the factory made marble is still less intensive than a handmade.

I know it's not a lens I used to see anything through, what those who have drunk the Climate Change Kool-Aid refer to as the 'carbon footprint' of things, people, or lifestyles.

But you don't need global warming for an awareness of resource consumption to matter. Some of the jams we get ourselves in politically come from insulating ourselves from such knowledge.

People who, for instance, want rooftop solar panels are often people who find nuclear, coal and hydro power all impossibly dirty and dangerous. Yet without two of those three, there probably isn't enough juice available to make the solar panels to begin with.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


We've finally gotten a few tomatoes from the garden. That three week delay from losing the first batch of plants really hosed us for late July.

And weather, I guess, must not have done us any favors, since even with the three week delay I should have eaten at least one meal of BLTs or BELTs by now (gawd but I'm hungry for a good BELT!), and I'd have thought we'd be struggling to figure out what to do with all the tomatoes coming in by now.

But we have crossed a couple of important (to me) lines: first ripe Berkeley Tie Dye (delicious, I might have to plant a dozen of this kind next year), and some of my plants are finally taller than me.

The Most of Something

You see a lot of sex in liquor ads, but am I the only one that sees this ad trying to suggest Tanqueray as an excellent date rape drug? The glassy-eyed chick is about to spill her martini, and the guy looks like he's telling his buddy, just out of frame, that she won't even know what hit her.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I was supposed to take Daisy over to Pastor Kurt's and ride with his entourage in the parade for the JoCo Fair.

A variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others, talked me out of it and in any case we slept too late to have made it. Daisy doesn't have anything you could properly call brakes, she's only got one gear, and between Mo's unreliable stoking and the tendency for Daisy to drop chains, it could have been a real adventure.

We settled for the sidelines and shooting pics.

When I thought I'd found a parking space, I'd gotten as far as installing the club when I realized this hillbilly was yelling at me from his porch. A belly-button-length nicotine stained beard was telling me to 'go back to Mexico' and quit blocking his 'fucking driveway.'

Go back to Mexico? I've been called lots of things, the Vanilla Gorilla for instance, but never have I been mistaken for Hispanic. I'm about as Latin as Johnny Winter.

The 'fucking driveway' I was blocking couldn't be used much as one or the car parking in it would have killed the grass in a way that a few handfuls of gravel aren't. That gravel might have been thick enough to pave a driveway at one time, but no more recently than Jimmy Carter's administration.

Apparently this guy's entertainment on parade day, instead of walking over a block and seeing the parade, is to sit on his porch, smoke cigarettes, and shout obscenities at people who try to park in front of his derelict yard.

I know, Jesus died for the hillbillies too. I still struggle with that one. And, it is America, so I guess the asshole was right when he said, "I can be this way if I want to!"

After I saw Pastor Kurt with his homemade recumbent bike towing two-stage bicycle float, I realized I was wrong to leave Daisy at home. It's a flat parade route, really, and the weather was ideal.

We ended up passing on the rest of the fair. Normally I take them and do a few rides or, more often, pop for the wristbands that let them ride as many rides as they want to wait in line for. But what those wristbands cost is halfway to a trip to Worlds of Fun, and no traveling carnival can beat that or even get halfway to it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I made a mistake. I bought some expensive-ass tires, Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. I'm sure they're great tires, but still a mistake.

Back in May, when I noticed my tires getting a bit ragged (despite the fact they were brand new in September), I started doing some homework. Times past, when I needed tires, I felt like I was at the mercy of what a given bike store kept in inventory. The first pair I bought weren't really what I wanted.

When these crumbled in a short period (I suspect very old inventory), I got new ones as a warranty claim. The tires I got on that deal were more like what I'd wanted in the first place.

I went through a period last winter when I seemed to constantly be getting flats, especially after riding on gravel roads and levies. Inevitably I'd fish shards of flint out of the tire that worked through to the tube. This with Hardcase anti-flat tires.

The chain of thoughts that followed is probably something befitting Stuff White People Like. It's important to know there's more expensive things out there and to covet them.

Asking other riders who toured and commuted, reading blogs and Urban Velo reviews, I came to the conclusion that instead of another pair of Hardcase Race Lite Bontragers, I should either get Vittoria Randonneurs, Continental Touring Plus or Schwalbe Marathons.

I guess I must be white since I special-ordered the most expensive of these. This was before my car was stolen, before I broke both my and my daughter's cameras in the span of a week, and realized my front wheel was breaking spokes at a rate that indicated it needed replacement.

On the plus side, they're foldable. Meaning I had one with me in my panniers when my Hardcase Race Lite in the back gave out. I thought maybe I could boot it, but it had seven or eight large gashes in it including one that would accommodate a quarter. Time to retire that tire.

But checking my cycling log, since I put these Hardcases on in September, I've gotten 3,361 miles. Not flat-free miles (the promise of these Schwalbes according to some reviewers), but still. Given that the new tire cost almost exactly double what it's replacing, I'd have to get over 6,500 miles on it to break even.

No, I don't believe for a second that there is any six thousand mile bike tire out there. Maybe I'll have fewer flats, I hope so. And since my old tire wasn't a foldable bead, I might not do it again since I commute and tour: it's important to have a spare in your panniers.

Anyway, if I discover somehow these tires seem to be worth every penny, I'll be sure to tell you here. But I'm pretty sure there are plenty of $40 and $50 tires out there that will do everything an $80 tire will.

I do plan to move the new tire to the front and rotate the old Bontrager to the back, since I hear it's more dangerous to have a blowout up front.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dusting Off Daisy

It had been far too long since Daisy had been out for a spin. When I met Corinna, I was so excited to show her Daisy I took pictures with me on our second date. Somehow it took me nine months to get the two of them together in a meaningful way.

I was going to ride Daisy in the parade for the Johnson County Fair with Mo or maybe chase on my bike (which is decorated sufficiently to qualify as a float itself) while Em and Mo rode. I got cold feet thinking about how many seizures Mo's had lately, how long a morning it could be and how hot it might be. Plus, Daisy has only one speed and no breaks.

In 20/20 hindsight, the parade route was flat enough and the procession slow enough this wouldn't have been an issue. And Pastor Kurt had already done the hard part, getting the slot and all that.