Archive | February, 2011

Navy Nurse Hum and Other Considerations

27 Feb

While it’s been snowing for a good part of last week, and as SurlyLady has mentioned, we’ve been bikeless lately – save for the spinning classes. Today it was yoga, and I feel all glow-y and peaceful-ly as I sit here, reflecting on all the stuff happening lately. Namely:

What *is* that humming noise at the beginning of the Fiery Furnace’s Navy Nurse, and that repeats with each massive bass and geetar twin riffing sequence? A Leslie speaker indirectly, the whir of the motor, or machine hum?

Holy crap: Wisconsin, and the Middle East? If a Poli Sci professor or grad student studying the liturgical surgical histories of revolutionary people, movements and means had gone into a coma in December and woke up today to read the NY Times they’d look around and ask the first person they saw, “WTF? Am I in some alternate universe?” In Wisconsin Republican Tea Partiers continue pulling propaganda wool over Fox News eyes but real people, with cheese on their heads, are actually rallying and civil disobediencing? As in like the 70s? And of course much deadlier, sadder and foundational, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya. I almost can’t believe my own eyes and I’ve been watching the increments each day. At work, a very smart co-worker who is only a larger stock portfolio and a few parenting years away from truly turning conservative (as it stands there are still a few whiffs of his younger liberal days drifting through now and then) is completely freaked out. Oil prices will disrupt our economic recovery! What if whackos get in charge! What if this, what if that! And I respond: if you want Democracy, it has to be self determining. And Democracy, and self determination, are messy things. This isn’t a plutocratic corporate oligarchic board meeting type of dealio, this is about people who are hungry, angry at bread prices rising (seen the crop failures in Russia, China and even stocks razor thin in US?)(remember panem et circenses?) who, if trained to be a teacher, are unemployed taxi drivers. And besides, wasn’t there a whole lot of noise just a few years ago, when the NeoCons were the au courant under a Republican administration and Congress, about how the whole Iraq war thingie was about bringing Democracy to the region, and that it and Afghanistan were just the start of this wave of populist uprisings etc? It wasn’t so freaky back then was… Oh, right. They never really meant it, did they?

Dinner tonight: SurlyLady is making Saag Paneer. Yum!

Biking isn’t the central biggest thing in my life: There, I said it. I’m diversifying. So while this crappy weather makes me frustrated I can’t get out on the roads, and while I still am spoke tension aimed at RAPsody and High Pass Challenge, I find myself just suddenly okay with not putting in 6000 miles a year. I’ll still ride, but it’ll maybe be more of the fun stuff, with the commensurate base miles even more fun than previously, less obligatory in other words. The last two winters I would bike commute in weather in the 20s, even down to 16 degrees one day. Back then I was obsessed with losing more weight and getting in shape, and I still needed it. Today my efforts are more at the refinement side. I even find myself not daydreaming as much about the longer Randonneur rides; the idea of riding two days straight sounds like a noble goal but it also just sounds like a lot of time commitment. My goals are less number driven and more quality driven, i.e. I want to be Fit, Strong, Healthy and… have fun doing it. Ultimately, for numbers, the more I can lose this winter and spring the better hill climbing I’ll do in summer. And for me, summer hill climbing will be the dessert on all this winter veggie base.

This isn’t to say I’m quitting. When nicer days roll around I’m going to be fairly twitching to get out on the Salsa Vaya or the Poprad – every time I go to do a load of laundry in the bike/utility room I look over at the bike stable and promise them that soon we’ll be out on the road seeing beautiful vistas. And this year, going even faster and further than before.

New job at work: I’ve been at the same company for over 13 years. The department I’ve been in has presented lots of challenges and learning opportunities (that’s the polite way of putting it). But the good news is I’m officially moving to a new department this week. I’m over-the-top excited about it! It’ll give me a chance to work on larger projects, with bigger budgets and teams, on matters that are more squarely on the heartbeat of the company (less back-of-the-house). Even better, our first major cap project will intentionally be run with Lean/Agile, which I have a great interest in, and fondness, for those few times I’ve been able to adapt pale pieces of it in my old department (they weren’t Lean/Agile, were more in fact Heavy/Inflexible). Best of all, I feel like I earned it. For the past 6 months I’ve become a serious student of how an IT org hires, plans for high potential/leadership tracks, how the process of growth and selection works, the science of that (and there is one, along with a lot of soft-skills art). I’ve gone out on a limb and scheduled chat meetings with a series of folks in leadership positions, higher and lower, for advice. I was surprised at the diversity of opinions and advice, but also took notes, particularly those things that every single manager was telling me: get into a different department, one where you’ll be recognized, and reach out for mentoring opportunities as much as you can. Circulate, in other words, get to know lots of people. All stuff I tended to dismiss previously, thinking more along the lines of “keep your nose down and work hard and rewards will come” and while the second part is still true, acting like an ostrich wasn’t getting me anywhere. All of this prepped the way for the interviews I had for this new job. I hadn’t had a real interview since 2005, and was awfully rusty. I started to consider those responses and qualities I would like to hear if I was hiring a project manager type; I exercised some of those general muscles that were out of use: meeting new people; talking about self, but not too much; looking engaged, informed, happy, passionate and centered all at the same time… and I nailed the interviews! They offered me the job at any rate. Starting immediately I believe I’ll see quite a difference in my daily stress count and, where there is stress, it won’t be wasted on repeated, remedial measures but instead spent on higher band quality issues. I’m super stoked.

All in all, even with the snow and freezing rain, life is full of Beatles mornings and Wings afternoons lately, and I can’t complain. But I will admit a good part of me is thinking ahead to these kinds of days:

Mountains, your Majesty


snow, vacay & spin.

26 Feb

It snowed all day, but that’s okay — in a couple of weeks, me and this sun hat are going places:

The vacation countdown is on—and just in time, too. Not much outside cycling lately, but the lad and I have been going to spin class, which is something. Today it was something else—we went to a new instructor who had a really disconcerting form of aggro/encouragement tourettes. She didn’t actually tell us what to do at any point, but randomly barked out things like “Take it to the top!” which, if you are familiar with spin class, usually means turning the resistance all the way up. But I think she meant something else, because a couple of minutes later she’d yell “Turn it up!” Maybe her bike was the Spinal Tap version that went up to eleven? But then she’d say “All the way!” and I had no idea what the heck to do. Also: the soundtrack. I have a friend who teaches spin and she puts a ton of time into picking the music, so I hate to poopoo other people’s choices. But…The Cure?? for spin class??? I just have no idea how anyone could think that’s a good idea. So, poopoo.

The other instructors at our gym have been fantastic, though. Two of them are clearly cyclists themselves, and their routines revolve around rolling hills, long climbs and things that actually happen on a bike, which is nice. Not as nice as actually being outside, but nice enough until the snow melts.


13 Feb


SurlyLady and I trucked up to the Centennial Trail today. We had intended to just head out from home and go to MaryTylerMoor Park in Redmond but instead decided at the last minute to light out northward.

The good news is that, from a physics perspective, the old saying “just like riding a bike” is gratefully true on your first real ride of the new year. At first I was achey and cranky and sore and old feeling, with hammering hamstrings, sore top, sore bottom and sore middle, due to gym work and spin class and did I mention, growing old?

It’s an interesting experience this year, having to get back into the saddle. The last several years I’ve commuted through winter, so that it never felt like I took a ‘break’. This is something I believe most cyclists do, take time off over the winter and then slowly limber up again in spring. Well now I know how that feels!

Today was scattershot for the weather; when we started it looked like cats and dogs but it wound up being more like hamsters and butterflies, with the sun occasionally breaking through a speeding, spreading field of clouds.

As we spun along today I found myself feeling particularly proud of the build job I’d done on the Vaya. For the most part I spec’d parts very similar to the lines on the stock Vaya, figuring it was a known combination, and so there wasn’t so much mystery about everything working together. But even with that, overall there seems to be a nice harmony to the lines of everything, the brake and gear cables, the disc brakes that work flawlessly (never have been able to dial in the Poprad BB-7 brakes as well), the comfy Nitto Noodle bars… I put this thing together! Mr. Klutz! It’s a ‘nitto’ feeling.

The magic of the Centennial Trail as a great ‘first ride of the year’ route is that, just when your legs are telling you, Please Sir, No More, you get to that last five miles or so of the trail where it mostly heads down hill. The wind whistling in your ears, that unexpected thrill of getting in the big ring, the sheer fun of going fast, it all comes together. Memories of all those fun rides from the previous summer, the long base miles in the spring and winter before, flash past you. Then boom, you hit the turnaround spot, have some trail mix, stretch a bit and then take a deep breath for you must now face the bummer side of the elevation equation.

Spin class hasn’t helped a whit for biking in the flats, but it seems to have improved my climbing as the two of us drove a really tough pace back up the hill. I was barely breathing, it seemed, hardly much worse than the pain of the earlier miles. I felt the Vaya responding very well on the climbing, too, and that seemed to feed on my happy energy. It seemed more pliant than I had remembered from earlier rides. This fun climb energized me and the two of us spun all the way back to the truck in very high spirits. We were back! RAPsody and High Pass Challenge, here we come.

By way of a gear review, SurlyLady tried out a new saddlebag today, from Banjo Brothers. It’s got about the same capacity as a Carradice zip roll.

Banjo Brothers saddlebag

Nice design elements include the reflective stripes, an interior stiff plastic shape retainer piece, a bungee cord type of deal that ties around the seat post to keep things from swaying. There’s a loop on the outside for a blinkie if you feel persuaded to do such a thing and, in a nice touch, the attachment straps work great on a Brooks saddle, through the tabs, but look like they would work on the rails of a regular saddle too. The only bad is the closure part, a single buckle. On the Carradice zip roll there’s a horizontal zipper and two snaps. Very British of them. On the Banjo saddlebag it’s a bit hard to cinch down the buckle strap enough to feel like your contents won’t spill out. But, once you get it cinched down it feels snug. Overall this is a good addition to our stable, perfect for those days when we both want a smaller saddle bag, something bigger than under the saddle pouches, but not as big as something like my Carradice Pendle – now we don’t have to fight over the one zip roll that we have.

And that is going to be the story of this year – long, fun rides, with just enough of a bag to carry a spare jacket, tube, pump and a few necessaries.

Training ride #1 done and done!

truckin, like the do-dah man

4 Feb

On the downside, my commutes lately have been pretty exclusively on the freeway instead of on the bike. On the upside, this has given me the opportunity to observe the latest trends in tanker trucks, and let me tell you, they are on fire. Not literally, luckily. But it seems like lately (i.e., since I started noticing it) 18-wheelers employ the coolest color palette. I totally want to start a new blog devoted to photos of my favorite color combos, but the Lad keeps ignoring my requests to speed up/slow down/change lanes NOW so I can take a picture. Sheesh.

There was a time in my youth when I thought long-distance trucking was the most exciting career option imaginable. Of course, I also thought it would be super-cool to be a waitress/detective/detective-going-undercover-as-waitress! Those careers did not pan out and I ended up where I am now, and the nice thing is it’s a great place to be. Also great? 1) The fact that it’s now light out when I get off work, 2) it’s my birthday month, and 3) I’m just a few weeks away from getting sand in my shorts during a yoga retreat in Mexico. And when I get back, spring bike training starts! RAPSody is on my list this year, and possibly the High Pass Challenge, even though 65% of me still thinks it’s crazy. The lad keeps saying it’s possible, and also awesome, and his positive attitude is pretty infectious. But so is herpes, so…