Sunday, November 18, 2012

Soldier of the Day

  I ran across these "name tags" in a folder of old school papers, report cards, etc., and they are from my first year in kindergarten. 

Their idea of "Soldier of the Day"

   Early in the school year the teacher announced a program called "Soldier of the Day." Each day one student would be chosen and designated as the Soldier of the Day. This would be the student who kept his/her workspace neat, sat quietly after finishing a task, did not disturb others and obeyed the teacher. The title came with privileges such as being first in line, erasing the chalkboard, emptying the trash and other distractions from the routine day. 
   Each time it came to announce the Soldier of the Day I would shove everything into my desk, sit up straight, and put on my most charming smile. Of course, the concept that you had to do all of these things prior to the announcement never occurred to me. However, once I realized that the "honor" did not come complete with a rifle and a uniform I quickly lost interest. 
   Based on the name tags I found it looks like I must have been chosen at least three times and I'm sure that each time I was secretly hoping they'd hand over a bazooka, or at least a really cool knife - but, no such luck. And, yes, those are staples in the name tags. It seems that in 1970 it was perfectly okay for a teacher to staple things to your child's shirt. I sincerely doubt they could get away with that today. 

What I thought it was going to be like

Photo Credit

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Ghosts of Cycling Past

  It's 10am, I'm done riding and I am soaking wet. My shoes are full of water. I had no intention of riding today. No intention to the extent that I dumped all of my cycling clothes into the washer and turned the knob. After all, it is supposed to rain today - all day. And, I had forgotten The Rules.

  For whatever reason I woke up earlier than usual today and flicked on the morning news. According to weatherlady it was going to start raining at any moment so I put on a pot of coffee and made breakfast. About an hour later I'm on my second cup of coffee and have yet to see any signs of precipitation. The weather radar showed a perfect little gap in the green directly over my neighborhood. 

"Shit. I could've gone for a quick ride if I had known the rain was going to hold out," I grumbled to myself.
"It's still not raining, and so what if it does? So what if you get wet?" Rule #9 chimed in, "it's 73 degrees, technically it's still summer. You used to ride in the rain all the time."
"Yeah, but my clothes are in the washer and I had bacon and fried eggs for breakfast. Do you know how well bacon and eggs are going to sit after 20+ miles?" I asked.
"Oh my God! HTFU!" Rule #5 interjected, "go get your old shorts out of the closet, yes, the ones with the hole in them and grab that jersey you never wear because you think it makes you look fat and go for an effing ride!"

  Then I remembered running into a former Texas French Bread rider yesterday. I haven't seen the guy in years, but he is still wicked-fast on a mountain bike.
"Wow! You must have put on fifteen pounds or so since I've last seen you," he said, poking me in side. 
"It's more like thirty," I confessed.
"Well, you must be riding fairly often because you're able to keep up with me," he said. 
"Yeah, but not as much as I used to," I replied and began listing all of the excuses: injury, working out of town, record heat wave, etc. And, for every excuse he had a solution: more stretching, weight room at hotel, ride at night.
We rode on for a bit discussing bikes, politics, exercising and chicks with cute butts before he had to peel off and head for home. I put in another fifteen miles before stopping for the day.

  So, I grabbed the thread-bare shorts, pulled on the jersey that gathers too much at the bottom, and ran out the door with my bike. I didn't even bother to turn off the TV or set the alarm. I just went. Of course it started raining almost immediately, but I didn't care. I rode fifteen miles in the pouring rain and loved every minute of it. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Photo Credit: Wendy Harman

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smashed and Grabbed

   Ok, it wasn't exactly the middle of the night, instead it was just a little after 10 p.m. and I had just dozed off to sleep when I got the call. I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. They hung up instead of leaving a message so I blew it off. Then they called back so I hit the voicemail button again and this time they left the message you hear in the video. I called them back with the case number and they told me what was happening. Since I was out of town when it happened there was basically nothing I could do about it until the next day. I've told a couple of people what happened since then and here are a lot of the questions they had...

Q: How did the cops get your cell number?
A: I'm not really sure. I think there is a city-wide disaster type of database that you can submit your emergency contact info to, or I could just be totally making that up. More realistically I think one of the police officers noticed I had a stack of bills on the kitchen table that I had just paid and flipped through them until he found my phone bill and got the number off of it. I say that because the bills had been turned over and the Sprint bill was pulled out of the stack.

Q: Who called the cops - how did they know?
A: My neighbor. She went to get something out of her car and noticed my front door was wide open, that and she could hear the alarm going off.

Q: How did the burglars get in?
A: Through the front door - they just kicked the sucker in. The front door wasn't in all that good of condition to begin with and has obviously been forced open at some point in the past before I ever bought the house.

Q: Did they dust for finger prints?
A: I suspected it when I noticed some tissues with a black powdery residue on them in the trash, but whatever they dusted they wiped off (cleaned up) so I'm not sure just what exactly it was. Plus, they mentioned it the next day when they read me the incident report.

Q: Did the cops just leave your door open?
A: The cops secured it as best as they could and then locked the door behind them and gave my neighbor the key. She said they were inside for a while with hammers and nails and pieces of scrap wood and they finally got it to stay shut and to lock.

Q: Where did the police get a key to your door?
A: I had a spare key sitting on an end table where I normally empty my pockets at the end of the day. Apparently they put two and two together..

Q: When did it happen?
A: It was during the afternoon in late May.

Q: Do you think they knew you were out of town?
A: I don't think so. I'm pretty sure they assumed I was at work though, just as most people are during the day.

Q: What makes you think this was a random thing?
A: Because such minor, little things were taken - and let's face it, you and I are not that important and our stuff is not that valuable. If we owned houses in Beverly Hills with priceless paintings or jewels then I could see someone "casing the joint" but I can assure you that no one is going to go through that much trouble for a flat screen TV.

Q: Are you afraid the burglars will come back?
A: Nope, not at all. These guys (I'm assuming there was more that one) were after small electronic gadgets like iPods, gaming systems, cameras and stuff like that - generally things without registered serial numbers. Guns and bikes are too risky to try and pawn. Also, I'd imagine that after they hit a house they realize the owner will "beef up" any security system, windows, locks and doors.

Q: Were you afraid to stay in the house when you got back?
A: Nope, although I did hesitate the next morning when I picked up my toothbrush to brush my teeth. But then I quickly got over it. I guess the reason I wasn't too squeamish about a stranger rummaging through my stuff was that someone had broken into my truck over a year ago at the supermarket. After something like that happens once you get over imagining cooties everywhere.

Q: What all was taken?
A: They got a laptop, iPod, camcorder and TV - none of which had any real value.

Q: What did the insurance company say?
A: They were very easy to work with. We estimated the total loss, including replacing the front door, at about $1,600. After subtracting out the deductible they sent me a check within a few days.

Q: What could you do since you were out of town at the time?
A: I think that was the hardest part of all. Not knowing what was taken or how much damage/vandalism was done made for a long, sleepless night. The dispatcher did make a random comment though, she said "The officers told me to tell you that your bikes are still there." Then she put me through to my neighbor who said that she and her husband were keeping an eye on the place. She also said the cops sat out in front of the house for several hours as well.

Q: How did the officers know about your bikes?
A: My neighbor could see my road bike from the front door and a lot of times it's easier for the police to make of list of things that aren't missing instead of trying to guess what is.

Q: Have you heard anything? Do you think they ever catch them?
A: No, and no. However the police did say that burglars are often caught later on when they try to pawn the stolen items. I thought about poking around on Craig's List or canvassing the neighborhood to see if I could spot anything, but honestly I really haven't had the time.

Q: Will this change the way you post things on Twitter/Facebook?
A: No. I'll still post pictures and updates when I'm on the road. It's like I said, my stuff isn't valuable enough for anyone to go through the trouble of planning some kind of "heist".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Do You Jam (When You Jam)?

   I ran over someone's iPod on the Veloway last year. It was one of those "old skool" iPod Shuffles - the kind without any moving parts/display screen so it was in relatively good shape. I posted a note near the entrance, but no one ever responded so I bought an adapter and discovered the iPod had been dead to begin with.  Perhaps that's why the owner never bothered to claim it?
   Anyway... that got me to wondering just how many people listen to portable media players while riding. I see lots of people with "earbuds" in so I assume they are listening to something. I tried it once but didn't like it for two reasons. I got a cheap sports radio so I could listen to things like Eklektikos and Car Talk while riding and kayaking, but I found that wasn't any good for kayaking since a big part of being on the water is the sound of nature. As far as biking goes I realized that being aware of the passing of time (in three minute song increments) made the miles seem much longer than if I just rode along letting my mind wander.  The other big reason is that I sweat. A lot. There is no way I could keep any kind of electronic device safe and dry.
   So, as I sit here waiting for Broder Daniel to finish downloading from Amazon I was curious what devices people use, how do they keep them dry, and more importantly what do they (this means you) listen to during a workout?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The New Paradigm is Listing to the Port Side

   Something has happened recently, although I'm not quite sure just what. I seem to be in the middle of one of those fundamental shifts in physiology, and to a lesser extent, psychology. A mid-life Polar Shift, if you will. Everyone says that as you get older your metabolism changes, your eyesight fails, and a whole host of other events occur. I figured that these things would happened gradually, like a ice cube melting. But instead I've noticed they tend to evolve rather quickly - as in two weeks, or even overnight. One day I could read the directions on an aspirin bottle and (literally) the next day I could not.
   This past week I've lost any desire for spicy foods, and just the thought of belching all day quickly reinforces that. The other night I was craving refried beans and tortillas so I bought some Amy's Organic Refried Beans, opened the can, took a whiff, and dropped the whole thing into the trash - too spicy. And by too spicy I don't mean onions, jalapeno's or salsa, I'm talking about salt, pepper and paprika. Another development has been a loss of interest in meat. Yesterday I went through the refrigerator and tossed out all of the chicken, ribs and steak that resided therein. I kept the fish though.
   Of course, nature has its way of balancing out losses with gains and I've noticed a sudden interest in sugary drinks, which I've never really had before unless beer counts as a sugary drink. Sadly though, I've lost most interest beer, which really sucks since I've got a batch of home brew recently bottled and quietly maturing in a cool, dark place. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd feel compelled to swing by the convenience store and buy a Mexican Coke on the way home instead of a Shiner Bock... What is the world coming to?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Riding and Pain

   I want to ride today.  I need to ride today.  I probably could ride today, but what if riding today meant that I might not be able to walk tomorrow?  When you consider that I work outside, and on my feet, being able to walk tends to be a priority.  I've experienced intermittent foot pain over the past decade and it randomly flares up in either foot, but thankfully never both at the same time.  After trying to manage what seemed like quarterly gout flare ups on my own, I finally began taking Allopurinol and had thought I'd put any kind of foot pain behind me.  However, I keep experiencing inflammation along the side and top of my foot that tends to travel upwards towards my ankle and Achilles tendon.  
   The best way to describe the pain is that it feels like someone took a ball peen hammer and whacked the crap out of my foot.  I've been to the podiatrist several times and have had my feet x-rayed at different times.  The foot doctor diagnosed the issue as Peroneal Tendonitis caused by an overly tight Plantar Fascia.  He recommended I get new work boots, arch/ankle supports and prescribed a round of Meloxicam which is an anti-inflammatory drug.  I even bought new pedals/shoes/cleats for the bike - ones which have a wider platform and provide more support.  I was able go for about a month and a half without any new flare ups, but last week the pain returned.  I blame it on lugging equipment across rugged terrain for eight hours, but to be honest I was already feeling the "twinge" before the day even started.
   So, here I sit on a beautiful sunny Sunday in mid-February with an expected high of 65 totally jonesing for a ride.  Past experience has taught me that if I choose to ride today, then tomorrow is a total crap-shoot.  I could make things worse or I could wake up feeling perfectly normal.  I think the most frustrating part of all of this is the lack of consistency.  There really doesn't seem to be any pattern of "cause and effect" here.  It's also depressing.  So, do I sit inside and hope I don't do anything to anger the little man that lives inside of my foot, or do I suck it up and go ride?  Hmmm... choices, choices.

Photo Credit: Eric Fischer

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter Riding Gear

   I hate being cold. You'll never hear me complain about a 100+ degree summer day. I might remark upon it, such as "Man, it was HOT outside today," but I'll never complain about it. I will, however, complain bitterly about being bitterly cold. And by bitterly cold I mean anything under 85 degrees. In fact I make no distinction between 30, 40 or 50 degrees - they are all lumped into the same category: cold. It's kinda like my microwave, which only has an "on" button, it's either on or off with nothing in between.

   My definition of cold means I dress the same whether the conditions outside are considered mild or snowing. I made the little man below out of clothes to illustrate what my winter riding gear entails. I start with a base layer such as a long sleeved shirt and tall socks. Then I pull on a pair of tights, or leg warmers (it's much easier to put on the socks first since tights have an elastic band around the bottom.)  Next comes the bib shorts over the tights and a pair of low cut socks. Then I usually put on a short sleeved jersey followed by a long sleeved one. Cap it off with a helmet liner (beanie) and a pair of full fingered gloves and I'm ready to head out the door.

   While the layers above may seem like over kill, they are just that: layers.  This means I can easily lose sections of clothing as the ride progresses and temperatures warm, but I usually end the ride dressed the same as when I started. I don't mind being (almost) uncomfortably hot when the alternative means numb fingers or toes. Comment below and let me know what's your "go to" layering system when the weather turns colder?