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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Alley Cat

So when I met Corinna I didn't even know what an alleycat race was. I hadn't figured out how to use my bike to get to an from work or to and from campsites. I hadn't even ever used my bike to run an errand.

She got right on fixing that. In the hero's journey described by Joseph Campbell, there was my call to action and my refusal, then I met Corinna and she was my mentor. Which I guess means I married Yoda. Dreams really can come true if you let them.

Anyway, the other day she got embroiled in a Facebook fight with a certain local character who runs an alleycat. I won't get into the details here (or probably anywhere, I just want to forget about it), but people on all sides were being jerks. People on all sides were missing very legitimate points made by the other side, invoking things that should not be invoked and generally doing the Facebook equivalent of when chimps throw their shit at zoo visitors.

I can see both sides. On one side, you had someone who organizes an alleycat for zero pay, and no matter what prizes he awards to what riders, people will hassle him about cronyism, sexism, nepotism, and some other made up isms. And they shouldn't because this shit is done for fun, and if you don't like the way some guy runs an alleycat that's just for fun, you can damn well start your own alleycat. Run it your way and let other people bitch at you for not doing it just so.

On the other side, after Corinna came to with her bike on top of her in an alley two and a half years ago, she hasn't been able to do these things. In Star Wars Yoda gets to die of old age still perfectly able to light saber a Sith into mincemeat. Corinna hasn't even been able to work a full week since her crash. She's prone to epic migraines that sometimes come several a day. Her stamina went from 170 miles in a snow storm with a fully loaded touring bike to two to three miles no matter how light the bike is loaded. Sometimes eight or ten miles.

She's been doing vision therapy, which the jury is still out on. She has reason to believe it will help with a lot of her symptoms, but that she has to get worse before she gets better. Right now, we're getting the worse part for sure, with no guarantee of the better. But there's no quit in her, she's an Olympic athlete and you don't get to that dance if you're wanting resolve.

And last winter, before the vision therapy quest started, when she wasn't quite as debilitated as she is these days, she tried to return to alleycat racing. Participated in an event she'd actually won before. The pics you're seeing here are spoke cards and trophies from various events, both alleycats and events like Critical Mass she was a part of for years. She thought of herself as a part of this community, these urban cyclists who use bikes for transportation and get together for fun events like Rim Job where people race bikes with no rubber on the wheels and Street Cred, held over weekends in January when you can usually bank on weather that will keep the average cyclist at home.

And when she fought tooth and nail to just show up to one of these things, not one person asked her where she'd been. Nobody asked her how she was. And she didn't win, big surprise since just getting there kicked her ass, but then a woman who did show up and compete, who did win, got a pair of socks while the male counterpart got a messenger bag. And yes, there were 30 guys and six women, and it's not about the prizes. Plus yes, it was a free event, but as a bystander even I (who is rarely confused with a feminist), cringed a little. There was a definite vibe that the girls who tagged along were just being humored. And I didn't say anything because I wasn't sure how to bring it up to the organizer.

Said organizer is a good guy. I know of genuinely good things he has done, charitable, selfless, admirable things. And he runs a fun, free event. And he was dragged into a Facebook fight by my wife, and in the end had the good sense and class at least to delete the whole thread which in my view made everyone involved look like asses.

At this time I think Corinna is persona non grata at an event she isn't well enough to participate in anyway, and as her husband I'm probably persona non grata there, too, which is even less relevant since I was never competitive in these event anyway. And it's been promised that the event will be even more sexist thanks to anyone daring to call it out, so that should be super fun, and I'm sorry we'll miss it.

Hopefully these pictures (poorly focused some of them, one thing Corinna suffers thanks to her injury is she's light sensitive, so speed lights are not an option when I'm shooting in the same room with her) illustrate what she's lost. One of her alleycat trophies, she remembered F.C. won first in the men's division but she didn't just win best female but had way more points than he did, and F.C. quipped that he was glad they had gender specific prizes so the fastest man would get a trophy, too.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Other Christmas Mass

Lots of folks go to mass on Christmas, but Critical Mass?

Happened to be this year, Christmas was the last Friday of the month. Unfortunately, I wasn't really free to ride, but I drove to the pre-party to be social and take a few pics.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Firefighter Fountain

I ride by this fountain on my commute home all the time. These blue lights were added a while back, and I keep forgetting to throw the tripod in a pannier so I could photograph it on the way home from work. Coming at it straight on, it looks like blue walls that go straight back, but they're actually curved following the edge of the fountain pool.

I fidgeted with it and took a couple dozen exposures, playing with and without speed lights, and fussing with exposure compensation and experimenting with length of exposure. I kinda thought it might make a nice HDR project but I hated everything I got merging the photos for HDR. And the blue lights turned out to be trick, they almost invariably looked splotchy in the shots. Here are the two shots that were least problematic, one the firefighter gets lots in shadow, underexposed. But the lights look the best in this one. With the speed light illuminating him, he looks better but the lights look weird.

I'll have to take another crack at this. I also think I should have moved the tripod a couple of inches to the left to center him better in the lights.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


It's incredible how much more detail you see in where you are when you bike instead of driving. The car really isolates you, whisks you past the people and places you go by. Getting off the bike and walking, there's another boost in detail. You're moving so much slower.

So I wanted caffeine, and for me that means Diet Coke most often. La Chaquita around the corner from my house is too close to drive to. Too close to be an interesting bike ride, too. So it was suggested to me that I walk Sheba while I'm at it, and I set out. Ended up extending the walk a bit, it was too short a distance to be interesting even as a walk otherwise. For whatever reason, I'd never noticed that across the street from Christ's Church of the Jesus Hour there's, well, there's Christ's Church of the Jesus Hour. According to the cornerstone, it's got to be the oldest church in the Dotte.

It's boarded up, I guess they moved across the street some time ago (it's been in what I think was originally a grocery store at 18th & State Avenue since the 80s, I think), and there must have been issues with the building. Or maybe they didn't want to sell it to another church that would then be across the street competing for souls to save?

I think I remember they had a radio broadcast of their service on AM radio back when I was in high school, and they keep up the newer of the two buildings, so it must be a going concern though I can't remember ever seeing a car parked there. Which made the parking signage kinda stand out to me. It's posted not once but twice that the parking spots in front of the building are strictly for the church. Which is fine, but I can't figure out who would be trying to poach parking spots there, it's not as if there's any high traffic businesses adjacent to the parking lot. If they ever sold the old church building from 32 AD across the street to another church, maybe, it didn't look like that property had much in the way of parking.

Sheba and I wandered down State to the Have Guns costume shop, which I'd never been in before, and I had a nice tour of the place and visit with Jerry, the owner. That's going to have to be another post, I didn't have my Nikon with me (I take it with me everywhere, so it's really weird that I didn't), so I'm going to have to go back down there and document the weirdness.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Okay, the picture is a non-sequitur sorta, sorry Julie. I don't know how often she checks in here these days, but my dear friend Julie once asked if the text in my posts could have some relationship to the photos. Here's the tie in: what I'm blogging about is nutrition and perceptions of what's desirable in food. The picture is of my bike with its Christmas finery on, outside a store where I bought food. And on the same day, the encounter I wanted to blog about, I had that in the process of riding my bike home from work. See? It's dripping with relationship.

Being a cardiac patient who goes for a fairly exotic treatment for a blood disorder that causes early onset heart disease, I'm far from oblivious on the diet front. But given how much of my problem seems to stem from non-dietary sources, I sometimes wonder if I really gain anything when I grab 0% cottage cheese or yogurt instead of the full fat version. For that matter, when it comes to the desirable fats, like in fish, the healthiest options are supposedly the fattiest, your salmon, tuna, the 'oily' fish. Which is fine by me, I love some salmon nigiri a lot more than I like full fat cottage cheese, and rare tuna steak beats full fat yoghurt any day.

But anyway, today on my commute home I stopped for a beer at the truck stop. It's really just a convenience store in the West Bottoms, but they have diesel pumps and thus was nicknamed the 'truck stop' by some cyclists I know. It's owned by a Pakistani guy who tries to teach me Pashto and lets me bring my bike in the store since he has almost nothing to lock up to outside. I will grab a bomber of Guinness or a sixer of PBR there sometimes on the way home, every once in a while a snack. Anyway, this evening he showed me a video he was really excited about, of his daughter, who went back to Pakistan for a visit, milking a buffalo. There was some back and forth when I asked what he meant by a buffalo, because I didn't think there were bison in Pakistan, there's barely bison here in North America, where they come from. No, a water buffalo. That's allowed in the house, because it's so docile and charming. And makes such great milk. It doesn't get in the water often, but when it does, it's very enthusiastic.

'Very fatsome,' he told me. 'The milk of buffalo is very rich, full of fat.' They drink it, they let it ferment into yoghurt, and they prize it for it's fat content. 'Much better than cow milk.'

Which I guess is a holdover from that old world/third world way of thinking about food. Before you can worry about your arteries clogging up, you have to get clear of worrying about whether you're going to get enough calories to stay the hell alive. For most of human history, that wasn't an easy bar to clear and there are still probably more people on earth who can't be sure of clearing it than can.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Out With the Bad Stuff...

I once got bounced from the blood bank when I fainted at the finger prick anemia test. If memory serves, they gave me a 'nice try' sticker, something fairly patronizing I think. I'm better with needles these days, I guess I kinda have to be.

After my heart attack, some of the drugs they had me on they wanted a quarterly blood check to make sure the meds weren't killing me even faster than my blood lipids. I went from making them lay me down before the draw to being able to sit up while they did it, with only a hint of light headedness provided I didn't look.

These days, I go fortnightly for apheresis. It takes roughly half a day (sometimes it's 3-1/2 hours, sometimes it's more like 5-1/2 hours), and I have to sit still with 18 gauge needles in both arms while they filter my blood. I know I've blogged about this before, so if I'm boring you, well, sorry. But my veins are tricky, and sometimes the lovely and personable RN who does this to me, she'll have to stab my right arm two or three times before things are flowing. Sometimes she has to go down to a 17 gauge needle, sometimes I come away looking like a skid row junkie.

Keep in mind, I'm already trying to watch what I eat. I already take a couple of drugs that control lipids. I have a condition, high LP(a), most folks have never heard of, that causes early onset heart disease. That aforementioned heart attack? I was 32 years old. I needed a double bypass eleven years later. Everyone's got a gift, I guess, and mine is I build plaque like a champion.

So here's before and after shots of the filters my blood percolated through today. The process looks a lot like donating plasma to yourself or maybe similar to dialysis. They took four liters of my blood out, removed a ton of lipoprotein A and LDL cholesterol (and a few other things that have similar charges/chemical bonds). When I was taking the after pic, Jennifer told me she'd had to slow the machine down today because it 'can only filter so much at a time.'

What a gift.

On the up side, after a year scans of my carotid arteries showed a 10% to 12% improvement in atherosclerosis, so besides costing me a lot of money (my out of pocket on my insurance just keeps going up) and wages (it amounts to a half day furlough every two weeks), it's at least moving the needle the right direction on manifestations of the Grim Reaper in my body. Money is nice, but if you're dead it's hard to spend.