Archive for the ‘Drivel’ Category

Spring is here!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Kyle Banerjee skiing on Marys Peak
One of the best kept secrets in skiing is that the real fun begins right about the time everyone quits for the season. Don’t get me wrong. I love deep powder, snow camping, and the like.

But this has been one of the wettest springs on record so I’ve spent a lot of time frozen and soaked. So having a chance to be warm while having some outdoor fun was really nice. Naturally, I’m also looking forward to some serious cycling and kayaking as well.

The only thing that sucks is that too many people in my crazy profession seem to think that Friday nights and Saturday mornings are a great time for business meetings. While this doesn’t happen *that* often, it’s still guaranteed to occur in both May and June which means less time with friends or doing something fun outside. Argh…  But it’s my own dang fault for purposely going into a nerdy discipline.

Another crazy idea I can’t shake

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Even though I’ve never actually owned a motorcycle, I’ve had a license to ride one since the mid 80’s. I wanted to buy a bike after having an absolute blast at the safety course I took to prepare. But, I couldn’t afford the new bikes, and the used ones I could find cheap required mechanical skills I didn’t have.

For the past 10 years, money hasn’t been an issue and my commute is almost ideally suited for a motorcycle. However, I like to ride my bicycle for that, and there’s no way I’d be in the condition I am in now if I started using motorized transport. I like cycling way too much to give that up.

Recently, I’ve been thinking more about how I could make it work. Monmouth is near many roads which are ideally suited for motorcycles. There is practically no traffic but there is great scenery, hills, and curves everywhere you look.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to make a motorcycle work for commuting (taking only back roads — I think heavily trafficked highways would be suicidal). Despite the fact I ride my bicycle in anything, regular long distance commuting on a motorcycle is not a good idea.

I still can’t get this bike out of my mind as it would be perfect for the roads that meander through rolling farmland. I frequently encounter motorcycle clubs when I ride my bicycles in these areas.

Shirley is not a fan of my idea. She believes my plan is pointless and more importantly, that I could manage to get myself maimed. That’s a serious issue because if that happened, that would mess up things for her as well as me.

My view is that the things we like the most often have no point. I love dogs and would get more if I could. But as a practical matter, owning them is a responsibility, they take lots of time and money, and they mess up your house. Likewise, the skiing/snowboarding that I like also brings no real benefit (since I’m already in shape) while increasing the possibility of significant injury.

There is risk in everything, and in the end, it’s all about understanding what you value, your limitations, and managing the risk. I regularly ski and snowboard in terrain that would have practically guaranteed serious injury a few years ago, but I still don’t go where I don’t belong. I ride my bicycles in situations which would be unwise for more than 99% of the population. However, it’s safe enough for me because I have the experience and skills to know what I should and should not do.

I know motorcycling is among the riskier activities, but I’m totally convinced it’s not crazy so long as you keep your head on your shoulders and maintain adequate respect for what you face. It’s not hard to find senior citizens that have been enjoying riding for decades. I just can’t get it out of my head that it would be a great match for me and that I could do it smart.

Homage to a light bulb

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

When I flipped the switch this morning so I could see to make breakfast, I found myself in darkness. Normally, one would assume the bulb had burnt out, but we’ve been through a bit too much with this one to make such an assumption without testing the circuit. But our worst fears were confirmed.

This was no ordinary bulb. I originally bought it with a fixture for Shirley’s birthday in 1996. It’s a decorative bulb, and I remember thinking what a ripoff it was to charge $3.95 for it. But I misjudged it terribly.

Throughout that entire time, it has been the most used light in the house. It’s one of the first lights on in the morning, and one of the last ones off at night.

So when it finally died, it just didn’t seem right to just throw it away. The compact florescent replacement provides more light and draws significantly less energy, but all the same, a great light has gone out.

A year of kicking back

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Now that Xmas season is approaching, I was thinking about sending a holiday letter to friends and family. I know a lot of people hate those, but I like receiving them. Despite the fact that we all can be in constant touch via email, skype, IM, text, Facebook and video chat for free, I still find it interesting to hear what people are up to aside from what they ate for breakfast today.

But if you haven’t done anything, it’s kind of weird to send people a letter detailing what you didn’t do. Customarily, people yak about their kids, jobs, projects, travel, and hobbies since those things collectively absorb all our time, energy, and cash. Since we don’t have kids, I stick with the latter four.

Shirley’s done some neat things this year, but it’s been an uneventful one for me. I haven’t managed to do anything noteworthy at work, there have been no house projects, nor have we traveled anyplace special. This has even been an extraordinarily tame year cycling wise — fewest miles since 2001, fewest centuries since 2001, lowest average speeds since early 2002, no double centuries, and only one ride with over 10,000 feet of climbing. We did get a puppy, so I’m at least on even footing with many six year olds.

I’m was trying to figure out why not having anything to report bothered me since failure doesn’t bother me — the fact that I never win anything has never discouraged my competitive side, I don’t have any lofty career aspirations, and I think it’s important not to get distracted by the rat race.

In the end, I decided it was because I didn’t feel any different aside having aged one year. Taking it easy is not a bad thing, but just marking time is because we don’t have enough of it to squander. So the question is what to do next year — the normal midlife crisis things people do to kid themselves aren’t really any better. When you get right down to it, things are what you make of them, and I’m sure I have everything I actually need. I’ll see if I can make some hay out of that.

Homecoming

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

On Sunday night, Shirley returns from Boston. She’s been working on a project there since August, and it’s been a little surreal — this is the longest time I can remember spending entirely on my own. I always had roommates in college as well as almost all of the time afterwards up until the time we got hitched.

Adjusting wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. My work hours were helpful in this regard. On a normal day, I return home roughly 12 hours after I leave. As a result, by the time I’ve walked the dog(s), eaten, and whatnot, I usually wind up just vegging out just as I would if Shirley were here.

Nonetheless, I go nuts when I’m just rattling about by myself — stewing in your own juices is a recipe for insanity. To make me feel like there’s life in the house and someone’s happy to have me around, I’ve basically been running a kennel. I don’t know how many days I’ve had only one dog in the house over the past three months, but not very many. I’ve had as many as six, though the most I had for a significant time (week or more) is four.

The time has gone by fast, but I’m ready for Shirley to come back and for whatever follows.

Anniversary day weekend

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Every year, we try to do something fun for our anniversary. Since we like to ski and hadn’t been out this season yet, we decided to head out to the Cascades where we stayed in the Five Pines Lodge. I can definitely recommend the place.

And what about our puppy? Well, finding someone to take care of her was as hard as giving diamonds away. Terry obliged, so she spent last weekend with two little boys, a golden retriever, and a cat.

Everyone had a great time. We skied more than 10 miles in one day, and Powder was totally zonked after playing with Goldie, Tiger, Kenny and Nathan. We all slept well that night. Next weekend, we return to the beach. Living in an area where you can cycle year ’round in proximity to sand and snow just never gets old.

Romantic Valentine’s day weekend

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

One of the questions Shirley and I perpetually face is how to make the magic happen year after year. Truth, be told, there never was any secret to it — simply find something to look forward to every day.

At the risk of sounding trite, I learn from my dog. No matter how crummy the day is, she always finds something fun and a reason to believe tomorrow will be even better. In the picture below, Powder and Bo help Shirley eat pizza after a long day of work. May we all learn from their example.
powders first game of fetch

New photos and broken resolutions

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I’ve finally uploaded a large number of photos from the India trip. To see them, just go click on the photos link above and type “India 2008” in the search box. There’s still a bunch more to do, but you can browse at least 2/3 of the pictures that we have. I’ll also try to update the India page for my travel section sometime soon, but that might take awhile if I don’t get that done this coming weekend.

On a completely unrelated matter, I wound up dumping my New Year’s resolution before the New Year even started. Originally, I planned to not work nearly as hard on cycling next year — the idea was to do the same rides, but just have more fun.

However, being off the bike for a month has left me in pitiful shape. I lost 6 lbs during our trip (most of it muscle from my legs as far as I can tell), I’ve been hopelessly weak on my commute, and there’s no way I have a chance of completing the more challenging rides that I like.

I’ve kept my goal of having more fun, but the rides are only enjoyable if you’re in good enough condition to do them. I’ll spend the next couple months getting back in shape. Hopefully, I’ll be ready once the real rides start in the spring.

America at her best

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

American politics is rarely something to be proud of. Cynicism, divisiveness, and appeals to our worst qualities dominate.  In recent years, we have increasingly used flimsy pretexts to justify morally bankrupt behavior. As a result, our expectations of ourselves and our image abroad have suffered greatly.

Yesterday, we reminded the world of who we can be if we set our minds to it. Whenever there is an election, winners always celebrate, and the losers have long faces. But this last one was very different from the others.

I can’t remember ever sensing so much pride and joy in so many people — especially on the part of members of the defeated party. McCain’s very classy concession speech recognized that something special was achieved.

The best part about the election is that it wasn’t just about breaking the race barrier. Obama inspired millions by appealing to people with a message of hope and an image of who we can become — and who we are becoming.

What a difference 3 weeks makes…

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Three weeks ago, I posted a picture of Shirley and me enjoying some skiing on Mary’s Peak. Well, today it was over 100 degrees, so I rode my bike up there to test my new climbing wheels and alpine gearing. I’m happy to report that the wheels and gears work great.
The cyclist is another matter. Despite having better equipment, I clocked the worst time I have in years going up and down the mountain twice. I would love to blame the heat, but I have good heat tolerance and today was no exception.I drank 8 large bottles of water (I hid water along the route so I could restock), and I felt good after the ride.

Although my speed was pitiful, my legs felt just fine afterwards so there is reason for to believe I’ll be able to get ready for the tough rides at the end of summer.

Incidentally, it was a gorgeous day and the view was exactly like this picture — minus the snow.

When the heck will summer arrive?

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Oregon is known for its cool and wet weather, but this year has been nuts. Almost every time I get on my bike, the temperature drops and the sky spits on me to remind me of my role in the universe. Despite a 20% chance of rain forecast yesterday, I spent almost 4 hrs getting misted on. The day before, I enjoyed rain and temps in the 40’s as I rode into work. It’s literally been weeks since I’ve ridden without getting soaked.

This picture was taken today at my favorite place to train for climbing rides such as the Shasta Super Century and the Everest Challenge. It is within biking distance of our house and it’s short enough that I always climb it multiple times.

As you can see, conditions aren’t exactly prime for cycling. However, we did have a lot of fun skiing. I can’t believe this is how we’re spending June weekends…

How they really see us

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I try to keep some contact with the real world, but every now and then something happens which makes me realize how insulated my environment is. Last night was one of those times.

Shirley and I went to an authentic Russian restaurant where we decided to do everything Russian style. At the next table, 4 business travelers watched flabbergasted as we washed down an excellent meal with 10 shots of vodka. This may sound like a lot, but it is very tame by Russian standards.

The travelers asked what we did for work, and when we mentioned that we were librarians, they were in shock. They made it clear that we looked like no librarians they’d ever seen, and it never occured to them that a librarian would know anything about vodka, let alone drink the stuff. They decided that they liked us and had a new opinion of the profession on that basis alone. They invited us to knock down a few shots after dinner. We accepted and had a great night with them.

I’m glad we helped our new friends see librarians in a more positive light, but I find it disconcerning that this change of heart was based on our sense of fun and an ability to put away more high octane hooch than they could. While I find it amusing that they assumed I was trying to improve the Dewey Decimal system when I mentioned that I worked with library systems, that is also a dead giveaway that they didn’t realize we actually provide a useful service.

As a profession, we celebrate the fact that we are viewed as meek, socially inept dorks by the rest of the world. We cultivate the image of the spinster with a bun in her hair. If we want to show how hip we are, we shave off a few pounds and a few years. Then we add a bit of makeup, an updated hairstyle, and a higher energy level. It’s the same idea with a little sex appeal.

Why do we play to such stereotypes? I suppose it makes people feel warm and fuzzy, but so does the image of the milkman who lost his job a long time ago. The internet has changed the way people interact with information, and we must make it clear we’ve adapted our services accordingly unless we want to relegate ourselves to irrelevance.

We can get you any book or article held by just about any library regardless of where you live whether or not it’s in digital form. We can get you electronic articles from well respected journals that would cost you a fortune to download (assuming you could find them at all). No other outfit, including Google and Amazon, can do this. I can’t help but think that if we want long term success and continued funding, we’re much better off encouraging people to focus on what we do rather than on anachronistic images.

Some arts are a lost science

Monday, April 28th, 2008

This is particularly true of weather forecasting. Satellite imagery has been around for some time, but it’s only been in the past few decades that increasingly sophisticated radar and mathematical models have given us predictions that are worth listening to.

For some reason, we turn to experts who have proved incompetent at their trade. Take Punxsutawney Phil for example. He’s been predicting the weather for a long time, we wait with baited breath for what he has to say, and our faith isn’t shaken in the least when he consistently gets it totally wrong.

This year, he predicted 6 more weeks of winter. That means that spring should have kicked in somewhere about the third week of March. Normally, I’d like to be biking on weekends at this time of year. However, the snow keeps coming down — even in Monmouth where the stuff is rare in January and February. When I rode into work, it snowed on me. Last week, here is what I looked like.
March 19 ski trip Don’t be fooled by my attire. It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit out there. We got pelted with ice and snow, and today it snowed more this past week. That buried structure behind me is a shelter for skiers.

What makes us listen to nonsense like that while ignoring useful information? From the time I learned to read, there has been a constant barrage of magazines claiming you can lose weight quickly while eating anything you want. Politicians say they can bring all kinds of great services without raising taxes. People know it’s nonsense, yet if you want to go broke the best way would be to sell books explaining that if people exercise and eat sensibly for the rest of their lives they will slowly become more healthy If you don’t want to get elected, tell people that if they need to pay for what they want.

We love to believe that the outcome we’ll see is the one that seems the most improbable. That’s why we vote for the underdog, why people buy lottery tickets, and insist that the insignificant things that we like to do make a big difference, while the things we don’t like don’t matter. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s OK. Perception is probably a better indicator of reality than facts would lead you to believe.

Here’s to razor thin margins

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Normally, I incorporate a little wiggle room into my plans, but sometimes it’s just fun to operate at the margins. Today has been one of those days. I had to be up by 2:00am so I could leave for an early flight to San Francisco to deliver a presentation.

If everything had happened according to schedule, I would have arrived just as things were beginning. However, BART was much slower than planned so I was still waiting for a bus miles away from my destination when festivities started. Realizing I was going to miss my presentation, I flagged down a cab and made it into the room just before it was time for me to speak.

Still energized by nearly not making it on time, I delivered the presentation which went over well. Afterwards, I washed down a very decent lunch with some nice beer and returned to the airport for the trip home. On an aside note, the buses in San Francisco suck. You wait forever, they’re jam packed, and they crawl. I really missed my bike today. I might check to see if there’s a folding bike that can be taken in the cabin of an aircraft.

Once the plane landed, I had to drive a natural gas powered car a little over 60 miles. That would not be significant except the needle was buried on Empty within 20 miles and the low fuel light came on. It was after 11:00pm, there were no natural gas stations, so I was holding my speed around 50mph, drafting off trucks when I could, and shifting to neutral in some places to save gas for the remaining 41 miles. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I coasted into the parking lot on fumes.

The trip from the motor pool was not without excitement. 3 blocks from home, I got pulled over by 2 cop cars (bad tail light). It’s after midnight now, and I’ve been up for more than 22 hrs straight, but strangely I’m not tired.

Today’s been a good day and having that many close calls all break my way is worth a drink. Nothing less than Auchentoshan Three Wood will do to wrap things up.

A bit slow on the draw

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

For those of you who are fans of cloud computing, Google announced their new App Engine service last night. It looks pretty cool — you just develop your app, upload it to their servers, and they host it. Plus, the first 10,000 developers get to use it for free. Unfortunately, by the time I found out about it, the free accounts were gone so I was put on a wait list. It’s still worth a look.