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Saturday, June 30, 2012

West Bottoms Photography

I see a lot of photographers riding home through the West Bottoms. One wanted to shoot me and Corinna, and evem though he's a Cannon guy and I'm a Nikonian, I convinced him to cross over to the dark side and shoot a couple with my camera.
It's kind of like having an IRA boss shake hands with the queen. Or maybe more like a BMW snob trading rides with a Benz-head.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Eight Pies

For Father's Day I made eight pizzas. We were going to go out to eat, but I had the new KitchenAid and I was on a mission...
Plus, at least me and Corinna vastly prefer entertaining at home to going out to a restaurant. I don't hate restaurants, but bang for the buck, home cooking is where it's at.
It gives me a chance to do my bacon-fig-gorgonzola missionary work, too.
I didn't get much photography done during the cooking phase, actually. Though my camera took a pretty good dusting of flour from what I could tell later.
I just had to hope that the dust on the outside didn't translate to dust inside the camera.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


My girl is wicked tough. She went to the Olympics in Judo, a sport I don't really even understand myself except it involves grappling and she's good at that. She gets itchy for a rumble sometimes, so she went to a community center thing that was doing Sambo. Which is like Russian Judo, slightly different spelling and quite the shift in visual references. She told me after that grappling sports are perfect for people who want to test who is better without danger of hurting anyone. One of the guys she introduced me to had noticeable, fresh black eyes. Yeah, she said. Some people bruise easily. I thought of the movie 'Hunt for Red October,' the protagonist muttering 'A lot of things around here don't react too well to bullets. Like ME!' Of course, in the world of combat sports, black eyes and cauliflower ear aren't really injuries, they're just the price of admission.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tomatosaurus Rex 2012

Of course I'm growing tomatoes again this year. And peppers, basil (three types), and then there's Corinna's contributions (which is the majority of the garden, actually).

This one runty tomato plant is actually the source of the one ripe fruit we've had so far. A sickly thing I didn't think was going to pull through, especially after I pruned its diseased limbs (they were a clear majority). I hope it grows up and goes to college because it was a great bicolored fruit. I don't know what variety, the chaos of our nuptials meant that the things got transplanted in what amounted to an emergency operation by my bride, and my standard anal-retentive mapping system was abandoned at the triage desk.

We also put in some asparagus, though half of it didn't make it. We think we want at least one of the back beds to be dedicated to that delectable crop.

We also grew peas, which were planted in a similarly haphazard fashion by me. I didn't really weed or dig up the crabgrass I should have. We had a few peas, and they were a delight. Maybe next year I'll get out properly early and really get that stuff going. Maybe some spinach and so forth as well.

We put in some blueberry beds this year, and there's a few raspberries eking out an existence on the perimeter of our front beds. Oh, and some grapes, too.

We have blackberries in abundance, so with a little luck in a year or two we'll have an equally embarrassing bumper crop of blueberries, grapes and raspberries.

We argue a bit about watering. The fist year I grew heirloom tomatoes, I think I watered three times. If you make the plants set down some deep roots, they need far less watering than you'd think. Then after last year's disastrous first plantings and semi-disastrous replanting, I realized that maybe I need to give these suckers just a little more attention than I did that first year.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Airshow Barbie

I took Mo to the vintage aircraft show because it was right around the corner from her sister's play practice.

The old planes are interesting, and I enjoy trying to shoot them creatively. It's tricky trying to capture the motion, the colors, the sense of perspective.

One of the planes appeared to be a gocart for the sky, barely big enough for a man to sit in or on. It had a 'half VW engine.' Two of the four cylinders you'd find in a 60s bug.

Even some of the more substantial looking machines have less horsepower than my Scion xB.

The most interesting thing, though, wasn't really the planes. And it was only sort of this model.

She's not my type at all, but what was interesting was her working with this photographer who was out there, Booker T. Brown. I don't know if she's an aspiring model who hired him to take some portfolio shots or if he hired her to take shots he could sell or what. I just know I couldn't resist poaching a few shots off whatever they were doing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I settled my lawsuit over this a couple months back. I can't complain, really, despite permanent disfigurement and disability in one of my fingers, and some recurring pain. I met my soul mate the day I ate the grate, and my settlement was sufficient to pay off my medical bills, replace my broken bike frame, and take care of a few other things to boot.

I'm not saying I'd go have that crash again for another check the same size. You'd have to put a zero or two onto the end of it. Especially when you factor in how easily I could have broken by neck landing cheek-first like I did.

My initial complaint, trying to solve the problem on my own, was met with a response to the effect that I had a duty to look where I was going. It turned out I wasn't even complaining to the right government agency, but neither they nor I knew it. Their response was so callous and dismissive, it basically said, "so sue me." After weeks of agonizing over it, I did.

I was never a fan of personal injury law. Coffee is hot, ice is slippery, these things are just true — nobody's fault. Eating that grate, I learned that for one thing, it feels a lot different when the personal injuries are to your person. I also learned that whatever its faults, litigation is a legitimate tool for getting necessary things done.
There's at least one other piece of litigation in the works, that I know of, relating to this exact same grate. My own lawsuit and the settlement of it, wasn't apparently enough to really get things moving. That second lawsuit seems to have been a trigger. I was trying to tell them before I ever hired a lawyer: this was a hazard to navigation and that it could be easily, cheaply fixed. Far more cheaply fixed than broken fingers and broken jaws. If my suit didn't make the point, the woman with the broken jaw may have.
The first fix was the rebar you see in the first pictures here. What does it cost for three pieces of re-bar and a crew with a torch to waffle a grate like this? Welders don't work for free, but they're cheaper than lawyers. Still didn't make this grate a peach to ride over, but it wasn't going to swallow a bike up to the axle. This simple fix transformed the grate from mortally dangerous to annoyingly so.

Then when I rode by tonight, I noticed they'd gone one step further. They replaced the whole grate with one that is altogether less hazardous to cyclists. If I read the markings right, they installed it backwards as far as how the manufacturer meant it to relate to 'flow' but it's at least something you can ride a bike over safely. As far as the flow, if they mean water, I'm pretty sure it always obeys the law of gravity, so Delware shouldn't get flooded out anytime soon.

Wouldn't it be nice if people could just fix shit because it needs fixing without having to unleash hellhounds and lawyers on them first? I know where there are a dozen or more grates just like this one used to be scattered around the city.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Window Pane

How you can tell when you've done enough dough kneading: window pane it.

You take a pinch of dough and make a miniature pizza crust out of it; when you can get it thin enough to see through without tearing, you've developed your gluten.

I've been remiss in my blogging duties lately. The June 8 date on the last post I published isn't even the truth: I scheduled that post in advance (when I do multiple posts at one go, I generally time them to publish at least a day apart, maybe more).

One mission that took an evening I might have blogged was getting the KitchenAid stand mixer I kneaded the above-pictured dough in. My antique KitchenAid, a model discontinued in 1962, had finally gotten to sounding pitiful enough I looked seriously for a replacement.

I found one on Craigslist, an 'Artisan' model used twice, still with its box and all. I emailed and said I'd come out that Friday night. By bike. In fact, I said, by 'bicycle.' Because I knew people don't generally realize you can run an errand like this by pedal power.

I work in Waldo, live in KCK. The mixer was in DeSoto. That's roughly between 83rd and 95th streets, way out West, about half way to Lawrence. I forgot those numbered streets though, so when Google Maps showed me a bicycle route that went down to 127th on the Indian Creek trail, I didn't grok that it was way, way out of the way.

At 127th & Parker in Olathe, I called the guy. I'd told him I'd be, probably, between eight and nine, leaving Waldo at six-ish. 6:15 actually. Anyway, I said I was still coming, told him where I was and he said that was cool, he'd take the dog for a walk.

An hour later, as I ground out some gravel (Moonlight north of 115th and something, if I recall), he called back to see if I was still coming. I told him where I was and he said, "What, about ten minutes?"

I reminded him I was on a bike, and that it was hard to make good time on gravel. I might be off gravel in ten minutes.

He repeated a line about the second exit off K-10, and I repeated that I wasn't on K-10.

K-10, so you know, is a state highway that resembles an Interstate. Meaning I could probably get away with it on the shoulder, but that wasn't how I was coming.

Then the guy got worried I wouldn't find his house and decided to wait for me at a gas station parking lot on Lexington in DeSoto, it's main drag. This third call, he got that I wasn't on K-10, and he told me he was pretty sure 95th went through from Kill Creek to Lexington (it does).

I was going to try and talk the guy down on price, maybe twenty bucks. But when I got there, I didn't have the heart. He'd been waiting a long time (in my opinion because he didn't really believe I was coming by bike). He even admitted that he pictured a motorcycle when I said it.

I moved my saddlebags to the front racks and strapped the 25-ish pound box to the back rack, ate some wretched food that seemed delicious at McDonald's, drank a bunch of Gatorade and whatnot and headed for home.

Because I'd been running late, I hadn't paid enough attention to hydration, and I knew it. Trying to make up for it on the back end was a lost cause to a great extent. And DeSoto is in the midst of some epic hills. Taking K-32 out made the most sense, as it's relatively flat going in to KCK. Once you get past Bonner Springs that is. Bonner springs and a few farm dogs who like to chase bicycles.

It was in Bonner Springs, as I topped the last long hill of the evening, that my hamstrings cramped up and I had to get off the bike, drink some more fluids, stretch, etc.

I took the opportunity to shoot some pics. I wanted to shoot the moon, a huge harvest half-moon had been looming on the horizon out in the country, but by the time I was where I could set up a tripod, it was much higher in the sky, whiter and smaller.
When I finally returned home, I had just under 74 miles in for the day, a day that started with me riding out at 6:00 a.m. to go to work and ended at 3:00 the following morning with me coming into our driveway with a big-ass mixer on my rack.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Comedy City

I never knew this joint was open, but it appears to be closed. For a while now.

I'll just come out and say it, the 'schtick together' part is probably what killed it. Not funny, and if you're going to have a tag line on a comedy club, it better actually be funny.

If you don't make your tag line funny, your comedy club becomes just a place to put a tag.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

12th Street Blues

I would build a gulag for the jerks who decided to close the ground level of 12th Street over the tracks. But the middle deck of the 12th Street Bridge has finally reopened to legit traffic.

Don't get me wrong, we cyclists have been using it all along; it's freshly repaved and the road blocks at either end must only be meant to deter cars, they were so easily ridden around.

One night I saw headlights coming the other way as I went down the bridge. The two lights became three. It was a cop car, and I knew the signs said the bridge was closed. I figured I was in for a hassle, maybe even a ticket. But as I passed the squad car, the cop just said, 'Good evening.'

Anyway, the road blocks have finally come down, and they've painted a double yellow line down the middle of the bridge. I had stopped to shoot some tags when I realized I was standing out in the lane and a van was coming at me. I'm not used to having to watch out for cars in this venue. I think I liked it better when the bridge was pseudo-closed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Legend of Victor

I've been hearing stories about this Victor character for a year and a half.

In one story, he blew a rim in a bike race, borrowed a bike to finish, and only after not only finishing the race but also closing a bar, realized his leg wasn't quite right. It had pieces of spoke from the shattered wheel embedded in it.

In another legend, he passed some roadies in full racing garb on their high-dollar carbon fiber mounts going up a hill. Once a serious racer himself, he rode his steel frame to the summit, rolled a cigarette and waited. One of them told him he shouldn't smoke if he's a cyclist.

According to the legend, he said something to the effect of, "You have to be faster than me before you can lecture me about smoking."

I met up with the Three O'Clock Ride last weekend a little late. This ride attracts colorful characters, pretty much to the exclusion of all other types, so it wasn't until we were eating at an Italian joint in the river market this guy wanted to go to that I realized this wasn't just a guy named Victor, this was the Victor. Hand rolled cigarettes and all.

I saw and heard nothing that day to make me doubt the stories I've heard.