Archive | October, 2010

the logic is air-tight

28 Oct

Did you know you can buy a 100-acre farm in North Dakota for like $50? Do you know how many pump tracks you could build on a $50, 100-acre farm in North Dakota, after you set aside some space for your goats? At least 250. It doesn’t make sense not to do it.

Just plug that puppy in…

27 Oct

This morning SurlyLady and I were entertained by the AM migration of blackbirds and Kenmore Air planes heading south along Lake Washington (there’s a float plan in the middle of the pink cloud in the pic below). One of the crows was beating his wings with youth and vigor. The other blackbirds took exception, one of them saying, “Hey youse, whatcha tryin’ do, make us all look bad up in here?” Another chimed in, “Yeah, working fast like that you might wind up gettin’ hoyt, know what I’m sayin’, like as in an industrial akskident?” Thus they resumed their dawdling, Union-esque pacing, barely better than our own. All of this was against a changing backdrop (updrop?) of scary skies, gray masses of variegated clouds roiling across the field of vision like nervous groups of hussars, dragoons and lancers on a misty morning somewhere in Europe in someplace like Wagram in sometime like 1809. Then, a rift in the drift, a pinking in the synching:

Look mummy, there's a little airplane up in the sky... right there... I'm pointing at it... are you daft?

As for the ride home, it was dark. And I would like to take… munch… this opportunity… unwrap/crinkle… to make a yearly point… munch. Just let me finish some of this Halloween candy:

1. To the bikers who don’t wear lights. WTF? It’s dark, damnably dark. As in, you can’t see shit dark. It’s 6:45pm. In late October. On a cloudy day. On a path with no lighting. Do the math, yo. And do some sudoku because really you’re pretty stoopid.

2. To the benighted yet unlighted bikers who nearly caused us nasty crashes due to your ‘stealth mode’: go crash yourself.

3. To the car drivers who like to indulge in California stops: go back to California.

Will My Insurance Cover Today?

22 Oct

Today’s post is one of those that would have been much better served with a series of photographs. No… wait, don’t surf to some other site because of the slow start! That’s right, put the mouse down.

I’ll try it with words instead. No… wait! Damn. Just lost the 18 – 29 year old demographic.

Well all you old fogeys listen up. Here’s how it was in the A.M.: You know Air’s video for ‘Kelly Watch the Stars?’ No not this one. I’m talking this one. Well, the ride this morning for me was all about an insistent beat, old school video games, a vicious forehand smash at the end and stars in the rain-dark sky. I had a 9am meeting, and the prospect of another long ass day full of meetings. Meetings where you start off asking a clarifying question, “Skipping some of the details for now, we wanted to make sure we only need seven servers for the Test environment?” followed five minutes later by asking another clarifying question, “To be clear, we’re all in agreement that we do need failover config in the Test environment, and so the butcher’s bill stands at 14 servers?” followed by a further clarifying question another five minutes later, “Right, so we’re at 14 Windows boxes and 4 Linux, and we’re not sure which segment they’re going on but we can in fact go ahead and place the order?” followed in a few minutes by a final clarifying question, “Okay, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, we can’t make any kind of security or segment decisions until after scoping studies, which we won’t know until after we’ve built the boxes and played with both smart and dummy data from the other systems, hardware which in fact we can’t rack if we don’t know where to spec them in the network, and we won’t know which network until we’ve scoped, which can only happen after the hardware, which can happen only after the network, which can happen only after I blow my brains out. This is great progress, people, thanks for your time.”

Sure, there was a rain-dark sky but it was also dark-dark, the old fashioned, autumnal morning kind… Luckily it only sprinkled a pinch on the pups when they went to do their business, enough so that the SurlyLady and I were able with a show of great reluctance forgo the morning walk… hey pups, it’s just like baseball! At which point they like to poop on our home plate, or china ware. And that was the last rain we saw for the morning! Stage whisper, hey Midwesterners and Eastern seaboarders, it rains here ALL the time.

On the ride itself we were under folded, gauzy skies with little hints of pink breaking through over Lake Washington. It wasn’t even all that cold. I was so happy we’d ridden.

Then came the work day. Pretty much as described above. You know how taking things to the absurd extreme can sometimes make the situation funnier? S’true. This afternoon at a hastily-called dept meeting we learned that our leader, the one whom I am super loyal to and the main if not only reason I remain in my current area is herself moving to a different area. It was stunning. Like someone dropping an F-bomb in the middle of a Southern Baptist chicken dinner. After a few minutes of complete shock my mind started working. This is actually liberating! I can actually in good conscience start looking around! Let’s see… tap tap tap… Craigslist… tap tap tap… ugh. What the? Oh right there’s a freaking recession.

This news, together with a going away party at a downtown watering hole for another long timer who’s leaving the company just brought it all, and most of our colleagues, together over Japanese beer and Thai appetizers. Everyone was gathered and everything just had that darkened, boozy, elegiac ‘end of an era’ feel to it… so many of the principals are leaving our department, and all in the last week, it felt almost like a play where all the important people have exited stage left, leaving behind a motley group of second stringers looking around with a dazed WTF look on our faces.

Anyway, on the ride home, I enjoyed this feeling of liberation. This, I thought, this is what it felt like to be a woman in the early 70s!

Maybe I can get a new job in a different place where I can use my happy skillz (don’t have any mad ones) and not feel like a two-bit second stringer? Liberation feels good. My mind was racing, my legs were racing, the air was bracing, the clouds were tracing patterns over the evening pink Lake Washington which, as often it does, reminded me strongly of Lake Geneva, one of my favorite urban lakes in the world. Rather than humming something from Air I was humming one of my own songs, one that I haven’t recorded yet. I started picturing things I could do with the Long Haul Trucker. Such as put on the monster 42c tires and the Salsa Woodchipper bars.

All really good signs, man.

Well If It Ain’t the Fuzz(y Math)!

21 Oct

Having a new bike is not as easy and carefree as you might think. It’s rather like having a new love. Sure there’s a rush every time you see them, but then there’s also the reality of braces sticking from both parties and getting caught making out in the car in front of the house by the dad in the house robe. And other clichĂ© first love stories that I never got to experience myself directly, only indirectly through Sunday School brochures and overheard descriptions of pop culture movies, because I was sent away to a Christian Military school, where I was instructed to love my fellow man while also learning how to kill him in 99 different ways using just my left thumb.

The new bike is all shiny. When you walk into the bike room (i.e. the bedroom, garage or, well, bike room) there’s a flash of chrome and silver, sort of fuzzy like in a 70s movie featuring an aging starlet wearing lots of diamonds. The cogs and chainrings aren’t smeared in years-old grease. There’s no slug and bug sludge inside the front fork. The bar tape is all squeaky new, the electrical tape still shiny. The ’57’ sizing sticker and the reflectors and the pie plate… wait, heh, none of that with a custom build!

So, we’ve established it’s cool. What ain’t so cool is getting the thing sized. Especially with a whackadoodle seatpost angle (well relatively whackadoodle) and tall headtube. Sure, those are all reasons, partially, why I went for the Vaya, along with that sexy root beer brown color, and all this in spite of the pictures on the Salsa site that made it seem almost Frankensteinien. The point is, I saw the potential. The potent potentate potential. Just like with that girl back in high school with the braces and the dad who had a house robe in those movies I saw. That thing is scrappy, I thought, talking about the bike again, as I obsessively scanned the Salsa site and various boards as early opinions rolled in… it’s original, it’s adventurous, it’s Russian Constructivisticly Atavistic and ruggedly handsome! Just like I used to be back in high school when I saw myself in those movies I mentioned.

After the maiden voyage along the Sammamish River Trail a few weeks back, I’ve done nothing but commute on Fred Vaya. Clad with the clodhopper panniers I have hit it with my best shot, like Pat Benatar’s always telling me to do. What had originally seemed a near-perfect fit on that first ride, based on intuition, raw luck, an eye for symmetry and laziness, wasn’t working so well anymore. My back hurt. My hams hurt. My gams and gums and bums hurt.

At first I proceeded with a scientific bent, which means while hunchbacked over I created a control group and sought academic sponsors. Secondly I figured that saddle height is the primo parameter to get right, and so I began fiddling with that. Initially I guessed up. Way up. I figured, ‘make that sucker as tall, in relative measure, as the Poprad’s’… not a bad methodology. Mixed results: it gave me some super-sore back pain. Back to square one. Then I got out the plumb bob (that I got from Bob the Plumber) and went the old KOPS (Knee Over Pedal Spindle) route. Way, way too short. Seriously, it felt like I was riding a kid’s bike. I gamely stuck with it for one full day of commuting, but that night my knees and quads were as sore as some of the very first bike rides I tried three years ago, so sore I had a hard time sleeping.

That was Monday. On the painful ride home, hunkered down and spinning like a brooding little kid, which is how I usually commute it must be admitted, I vowed to fix things. And no half measures this time! I was gonna throw all the dogs in the ring. (Or is that all the hot dogs on the grill?) I used to support computers for a living (and still do, I think they deserve to live) and the desperate changes Tuesday night were the equivalent of wiping the hard drive and reinstalling everything save for that dodgy screen saver from Christmas 2002. I moved the saddle as far back on the already setback post as it would go. I moved the saddle way up – no measuring, just relying on the old intuition and a Russian Constructivist’s eye for asymmetry. Then I took out a headset spacer (1 cm) and also rolled the shifters/bar forward a good inch.

From the side it looked a whole lot more like a normal bike. And looks are half the battle, right? At least that’s what Thucydides said in his guest appearance on America’s Next Top General.

The next day’s commute was… well, it was actually not too bad! I think I’m off slightly here and there. But no leg or back pain. I think the saddle is maybe a pinch too high, and I wonder if I could drop the bars another centimeter or possibly half a one.

So, lesson learned. Do whatever you want and nobody will mess with you, including your fictitious girlfriend’s fictitious dad.

P.S. regarding the issue with the drive-side crank coming loose… I put in a new bottom bracket Sunday. Everything went back on, I snugged up the crank bolt which, as I understand it, snugs up the crank, ‘pressing’ it in properly. And yet I still detected a wobble. No, the crank bolt isn’t loose. Hmmm. Why the wobble? (As seen in the chainring). I took the bike into the LBS and he put some medium Loctite on there (‘tho he said that’s way overkill for a road bike) and snugged everything up and still, the slight wobble in the crankset. “It must just be a manufacturing defect,” he said. Small enough of a wobble not to affect performance, but still… I’ll keep a wobbly eye on it.

a sincere-as-possible apology

20 Oct

To the meathead who yelled at me as I pushed my luck at the intersection by U Village: I’m sorry. You were right, I should have stopped. I do in fact know what the traffic signals mean, but I unwisely chose to ignore that one. This was wrong. Meathead, I wish I could go back in time and make it right. Of course, if I hadn’t been there to stop you, you probably would’ve plowed into that other car you were cutting off in  your zeal to make the left-hand turn…but you know what, I’m just being defensive now. I was wrong, and I hope someday you can find it in your meaty heart to forgive me.

some of these days

19 Oct

I learned several weird things today, all totally useless, and all likely to stay lodged in the brain forever like the lyrics to this song, which was one of my first favorites and is still stuck in my head way more often than I’d like. One of the weird things was an old rumor that Leon Redbone and Andy Kaufman were the same person, which would have been awesome. I’ve been listening to a lot of Leon Redbone lately. His 50/50 blend of jaunty and worn out is really suited to my mood. This one gets it exactly right:

Work has been weird, we’re in the middle of a major re-org and I have no idea how things are going to shake out. The discomfort of it makes me think I should be looking elsewhere, but then a coworker will walk up and innocently say something like “I’m about to put something hard in your box”, and everyone will die laughing because we’re all twelve years old, and I know it would be really hard to leave that team. It’s a connundrum that calls for a little more Leon.

Nice Ride in the Countryside

16 Oct

Today started with my iPhone waking me up with an insistent personal assistant tone of voice.

(I recently downloaded a WWII British Navy klaxon blare as the ‘ring a ling’ tone. It’s quite effective. Before you know it I’ve got my life preserver and tin hat on and I’m reporting for duty, which primarily consists of peeing, letting the pups out to do the same, then feeding the pups, before doing the same for myself. But back to the alarm.)

The all-knowing iPhone was alerting me to something. I brought it to life through the four-digit imprecation (I mean supplication) and then it spoke unto me thusly: “Call _____ (JamisLad) as soon as you’re awake! Also your AT&T bill is overdue. Would you like to donate your unused texting minutes — you have 5000 — to a teenager in need? And don’t forget, tonight on NBC it’s blah blah blah starring blah blah, sponsored by blah blah and Starburst, who puts a burst of flavor in your mouth with each blah blah.”

Dial, ring, speaker phone, “Good morning Monsewer SurlyLad. Let’s go for a ride!” (the actual transcript was shortened for television and television’s censors).

Within scant hours, and after I’d cleaned and lubed the ‘Lady’s chain, taken off her old bar ends and put on new locked-down slightly contoured grips and repositioned the brake levers and also brought home the fake bacon and cooked it up in the fake bacon pan, JamisLad, myself and the SurlyLady were at the parking lot at the start of the Iron Horse John Wayne trail and soon enough we were kicking it railroad-grade style! What a freeking freezing good time it was! We were all chilled to the bone by the end of the 41 mile out-and-back. Lovely bits of sun everywhere except on the trail or us. However, in thawed-out retrospec’ I love that ride. It’s such a grand grind. We arrived at the tunnel (washout has been fixed BTW) in splendid time and did even better on the way down, save for the necessary pit stops when we had to pull over to restore the circulation to our chill-bitten extremities.

It was just the loveliest October day you could imagine, and it was even lovelier to be spending it on mountain bikes riding up and down an actual mountain.

Even better: stopping at XXX Root Beer in Issaquah and getting choco shakes… hell’s yes:

 

wakey wakey mr. shakey