September 6, 2005

Responding to the bike shop rant and other randomness

So, I have to be honest and say that it has been one doozy of a week.
I am infuriated with the response our government has had to the hurricane; I am angered at Barbra Bush’s announcement that for many of these persons, living in the Astrodome was a step up (thus losing their homes is probably not that big of a deal). “Let them eat cake indeed.” My sister lives in Mississippi, in one of the most affected spots and I feel just horrible for her. She spent the week not knowing if she still had a home, not knowing if her friends or the parents of her friends were okay, losing her job, and not knowing if she would be able to attend college this semester. Sadly, she was lucky as compared to the thousands dead, stranded, attempting to find clean food and water. I cannot help imagining what would have happened if this hurricane had been heading to Jeb Bush’s state of Florida, if the federal response would have vaguely resembled something adequate.

My mother and sister and sister’s boyfriend drove down to MS this past weekend and took gasoline, food, water, and other items. They co-ordinate this with a local sheriff and had a lot of help from police officers and members of the National Guard down there. Even though the FEMA and federal government response has been ridiculous, my mother reported that the highways were filled with people like her who had organized with their businesses and communities to bring donations to New Orleans and Mississippi. I was very very proud of my family and am pretty actively encouraging people to donate any amount you can to people down there.

And not to be a horribly callous debater about it, but if the democrats can not use this in the 2008 election to condemn the Republicans for sending more and more to Iraq while people were suffering here, utilizing some of the more conservative values of nativism and a slight isolationism to their advantage, then they are dumb. We sent more and more person-power and money to fight a fruitless war, while allowing the poorest Americans to suffer. For the love of all things good and holy, Democrats please get your persuasive act together.

I have been sick all weekend and was really looking forward to getting some riding in, since the boy had been sick for a week. To make up for being sick, I bought a CO2 cartridge to carry on my road bike, since I can not really get the tires up high enough with the hand pump (and yes, that makes me feel wimpy, but I don’t have much of that upper body strength going on) and have been looking at the engagement photos of the boy and me that includes our bikes (yes, we are that couple, I know).

Eric asks what bike he should buy. I am a big fan of the Trek 7000 series. I like Trek’s a lot; there is a lifetime warranty on the frames, I think the hybrid bikes are designed to be incredibly comfortable, while not being complete tanks. I would start looking on . This month’s Bicycling magazine offers the Kona Smoke, the Specialized Hardrock Sport Disk, and the Bianchi Rollo. I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about Konas; I have never ridden one and know very few people who ride them. I know they tend to be more popular out west, so maybe they are more popular in AZ. I don’t ride Specialized, but the boy had an old rigid fork Specialized bike that was from 1995. He rode it up through this year commuting in the winter and taking it on some fairly rough terrain. In June, he took it too Lebannon Hill’s XX loop and cracked the frame. Specialized replaced the frame for free, which I think is pretty awesome. This does not however stop it from occassionally being called the Special-Ed bike. I have a Bianchi that I have been working on, but I am guessing that they have changed a few things in the past 30 years. The magazine does point out that the Bianchi has a horn, which I guess is good.

Thinking of other comments from the past post, I agree that bike shop employees should say what a product is or includes, so as to avoid the “this has a shiny shifter set” problem, but should not just leave it at that. If people know why Dura-Ace is better than Ultegra in terms that explain how the rider will feel or recognize a difference in bike feel or speed or weight or whatever, they will be able to make a choice concerning their needs and preferences. I also want to emphasize that I know for many consumers, the drop through bar for women’s bikes are important; my frustration is more on the “this is silly” front.

On WSD design bikes, I have some general agreements with Jim and disagreements. First, I agree with him that WSD bikes work for some guys and do not for some women. At 5ft 10, this is something that I am pretty sure of. The WSD geometry doesn’t work well for me; even the 56 cm ones still feel too small (though if someone wanted to throw me a 56 cm WSD Trek 5000, I think I could make an exception). However, there are frustrations on the guy designed bikes. The first is the saddle. Oh the pain of not riding on a WSD saddle. THE AGONY!! (I will stop here before I start going into a way TMI zone). Suffice to say, after riding for less than 30 minutes on one of these, I have the feeling that I would prefer to spend the rest of my life celibate. Now, many here will respond that saddles tend to be very individual and that it is common for people to have to try many seats. (Which reminds me, NGS, I hope the saddle I brought over is working well). However, the WSD bikes start out from a better place (with a WSD saddle). The other issue for me is on the shifters. I have already whined extensively about the saga of the shifters (the WSD bikes include the adjustable Ultegra shifters, my non WSD had the regular Ultegra ones, and the replacement cost was about $250). I am going to say that this one is pretty universal simply because I know very few women who have longer and larger hands than I do, and I have obviously met all of the women in the world and compared hands. Perhaps, what I think would be the best response is to allow more original customization from the start. Many bike shops are pretty good with this, fiddling around with stems, allowing people to return saddles, etc. However, a lot of time this seems to be pushed on the expensive bikes and less on the cheaper bikes.

A lot of this applies to guys who might better fit on a WSD bike. However, I never had much luck getting many guys to ride a “girl’s bike.” This leads to the question of whether or not these bikes should be labeled “WSD” or if different frame geometries should be introduced. I am pretty pro the directed advertising that “WSD” does to women in a lot of ways actually. I like that they are doing research into what women are looking for in bikes and changing designs specifically for that. I will be honest here and say I also like having a butterfly on my saddle, but the fact that the saddle doesn’t make me run screaming in pain is even better.

For MaxieB, yes, please feel free to rant. Obviously, you are supposed to put the Camelbak on your handlebars! (though if you are carrying 3 liters of water and doing that, I really strongly urge you to not just apply the front brake… though I guess it could work like a water balloon/airbag… this sounds like something one of the boy’s friends would do…). The only other thing I have to add is on the joy of women’s bike shorts. Yes, I realize almost all of this post is about things that either hurt or help my crotch, and I am sorry. I do love good bike shorts though.

Finally, I went and bought the boy’s birthday present’s today and would post them, but he reads this. Also, I was very very excited to be reading a blog I have liked for awhile, First and Last and Always and recognized my blog linked off of it. It pretty much made my day. Also, if you are an iTunes user, they now have bicycling related free podcasts. Bike Talk out of California is really good, though I have been incessantly listening to the one about biking related songs while I have been paying bills. I also bought the ugliest pair of shoes on sale at R.E.I. and wore them to school today just so I would laugh everytime I looked down. They are ankle-boot Ugg style boots with the wonderful shearling inside. They are also pink. Ridiculously, bizzarely pink. In my defense, they were 75% off and very soft and comfortable. I almost feel like putting rhinestones or something on them though…

Posted by woodw032 at 9:18 PM · Biking

August 31, 2005

Bike Shop Rants

I went to the bike shop today with a friend who is looking to get a bike after not having had one for awhile. He fits the demographic of people who come into bike shops around here quite well; he isn't a racer or Mt. biker, but is looking for a comfort/hybrid bike to ride a bit and have some fun on. After the bike shop gig this Spring and my own fanatacism, I offered to go along and help suggest stuff and because, I generally like going to bike shops.

Caveat #1: The bike shop I am discussing has several employees who have made really great suggestions, are really helpful to work with, and are great in general.

However, I am coming to be really frustrated with the way a lot of people are being treated in bike shops now and frustrated with the way bike shop employees are trained to respond to customers (I myself went through the training).

Rant #1: The treatment of girls at bike shops is often horrifying. Salesguys have talked to me about what color of bike to buy, I have seen hardcore male bikers go in with their girlfriends who want to ride a bike and the girlfriend is never talked to by the salesperson attempting to sell her a bike, and preferences that are expressed are often deemed to be "silly," while certain products designed for women are pushed. Trek's WSD bikes are a great idea, the difference in geometry and componentry are noticable and they are better bikes. The different Men's and Women's (i.e. drop headtube) comfort bikes are ridiculous. I understand from Trek (and the bike stores’) perspective – a lot of people are convinced that a bike for women should be reminiscent of the girl’s bike they started out on. However, I don’t believe there is any useful benefit of this on an adult bike, unless you are wearing skirts while riding. Women are also not assumed to be serious riders, or our riding is deemed “cute” or it is assumed that by riding, it really means we go along with the group and hold them back and try to pick up biker guys. It is also generally assumed that women bike because their partner bikes. In my case, that started out truthfully and I never would have started riding if it wasn’t for the boy. However, that doesn’t mean that I was stop riding now that I am hooked if I was no longer with the boy (not that I really see that happening). So, girl’s get teased for using bike related slang (and I don’t mean words like “endo,” but rather words like “componentry”), we are told about group rides that are easy, and there is shock and disbelief that I own the mountain bike I do (all of these happened today). It is also assumed that I don’t know what I am talking about, that I have not researched different bike options, that I do not know general bike maintenance, that I pick gear based on its general cuteness (true in sock and jersey selection, not true in pretty much everything else). None of these assumptions are true.

Part of these fall within the cultures of some bike shops which definitely seem to be boys clubs with no teacher supervision. However, I think a lot of that is also the training. Doing the traning material that several of vendors provide, I learned a few key points.
-Men buy mountain bikes and road bikes; women buy comfort
bikes with big seats.
-Women will buy a cruiser bike as an impulse purchase if it is
cute enough (because really, who doesn’t want bike-shaped art?).
-If a couple rides a bike and are looking for a tandem, it is because the guy is a hard core rider and the woman has little riding experience. The suggested protocol when a couple are purchasing a tandem is to let the guy do the test ride, then take the woman out without the guy and help her to not be scared, and then take the guy out on the stoker seat so he can “know what it feels like for the woman.”

Rant #2: We need to think about who we are trying to get into biking. My friend fits the demographic of people we are trying to lure into biking; he thinks that biking is fun and wants to do it, might use it to go some places, is willing to spend some money on it, and is looking to do it safely and responsibly. When a person like that, who goes into this not knowing tons about biking or bikes, who might not care about SRAM versus Shimano or whether or not to use SPDs or Eggbeaters (Eggbeaters are phenomenal). The phrase “this bike has a Shimano Sora derailler” means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The salesguy today was overly aggressive, used tons of lingo, and didn’t listen to what my friend said he was looking for and seemed to be pushing for bikes that were obviously not good choices. When my friend test rode a bike, the salesguy put the seat at the proper position for a road bike, but it was so high that my friend was uncomfortable and said so. The guy told him that it was fine. I know the seat needs to be at a proper height to ensure that one’s knees are hurt. But, the reason given was for the maximization of muscle power. This is ridiculous; someone tooling around on bike paths is not looking for the maximization of gluteal power. I was tempted to engage in gluteal kicking. This is why more people aren’t biking or going to bike shops. The get intimidated by people acting like used car sales agents, upset by people talking down to them, and annoyed when people talk over their head.

Posted by woodw032 at 10:02 PM · Biking

August 29, 2005

And so, it begins

Tomorrow classes start and I am rather nervous. Part of me finds this funny because I have been teaching this area for a long time and co-taught these classes last year, so the only real change this year is teaching them by myself. However, the "by myself" part is the problem -- the failures are ALL MINE! However, I have the courses pretty well planned out, went and bought supplies tonight for the classroom, and have all of my handouts for tomorrow copied and filed and ready to go. I don't believe there is anything else I can do.

The last few days have been a continued exercise in domestic boredom. The boy and I went to COSTCO on Saturday and got a wide assortment of groceries and random stuff. He got a pair of CK jeans and a few button down shirts. I got a full spectrum UV lamp. I got a sunburn last night from it and am taking it to work. Yesterday, we went over and grilled out with Dave and Amy. On Friday night, we went to a Saints game and that was really fun. We went with a friend of the boy (FOB) and fiance of FOB (FOFOB). I have determined that I really like the fake sumo suits at the Saints game because the way adults run in them looks like kids when they are first learning how to walk and it is hilarious.

The boy set up his old flat screen monitor for me so I now have dual display which is pretty awesome. To celebrate, I downloaded a lot of widgets and now have the Calvin and Hobbes one, the Dilbert one, Foxtrot, the Mac Apple, a chia pet, ical, itunes, itunes lyrics, LiteBrite, a CareBear, a Yoda quote generator, a Family guy quote generator, and Simpsons quote generator, Wikipedia, a clock, StickBrain, and the dancing GIR. Sadly, I have more space left (though fitting them in is like playing an uneven game of Tetris).

Before I head to bed, happy birthday extravaganza to Katie. Now that you are joining the ranks of the old, the CareBears are more important than ever.

Posted by woodw032 at 11:05 PM · Holy Hell I am a teacher

August 22, 2005

Holy hell I am a teacher

So nothing in the world can remind one of the feelings of being an errant high school kid much like attending an all-school faculty meeting. For a little over 2 hours today I sat in a huge auditorium with many other teachers

Hold on, the boy has lost his wallet...

Wallet has not yet been located, hopefully it is in or around the car, where the boy is looking now.

Anyway, the faculty meeting went on forever and we had a nice breakfast with it but I had my horrible, I am uncomfortable and feel painfully shy feeling and ended up only saying really inane things.

And the wallet was, for some reason, in the 5 minutes between coming in the door and determining it was lost, placed in the panniers on the commuter bike (to distinguish it from the 3 other bikes in the upstairs of the apartment). Was the bike the chosen mode of transportation (i.e. was their any reason for the panniers to be utilized? No. Is the boy still cute. Yes.

Anyway, the faculty meeting was long and boring and tomorrow there is an even longer one that is just with the faculty in my division. I am doing some curriculum work and shoping one of the new coaches around Blake and discussing this year. Wow, this is ridiculously boring....

I had a great bike ride yesterday. After feeling like a big slug since I couldn't ride out at the debate camp, I had one ride where I was plodding along and lacked endurance. Yesterday was still a getting my legs back sort of ride, but we did about 14 miles and averaged between 14-18mph in the flats. I am also learning how to draft off the boy. When we would draft off each other we were going about 20 mph and that was very exciting. However, a paceline of two people is pretty sad. I want to get back to riding more then 14 miles in one ride without significant crotch-al agony (though I am appreciating the really nice shorts I got even more now).

Other random news:
The Apple Mighty Mouse that just came out is great; it fits nicely in smaller hands, is programmable, and (as with all Mac products), is adorable. T

Katie has a new blog, it is (Often) Pedantic Musings. I am a fan of the Blogspt format I have to say, though the colors are surprisingly muted for the Katie-bear.

Posted by woodw032 at 9:46 PM · Bad teacher

August 20, 2005

Adult-Style life is vaguely terrifying

Yesterday was the new faculty orientation and I was confronted with way too many decisions concerning things I know very little about. First, I had to pick my annuity fund. That wasn't terribly difficult since I had sone some research and generally knew what percentages of different types of funds I wanted. Then I had to set a designee for my life insurance. Thus, if I die in the near future in some sort of weird accident, come looking for the boy. Next began the health insurance excitement. First, picking between two different types of insurance and then choosing the network within each type. And while everyone else was looking through to see where their general practioner was included, the booklet with the "Shrinks included in each network" was not passed out so I have not yet chosen one, especially since it seemed like a bad idea to start off my job by raising my hand an saying "Umm, excuse me, I don't see my analyst in any of these." This reminds me that I like the word "analyst" and will start to use it.

Today we went to Costco and grocery shopping and cleaned a lot. Each Saturday night is our night to make a good dinner and eat in. I made a rich saffron broth and spooned orzo in it and that was very good. We also bought scallops and that is where the night turned into one of those bad phonecalls I can imagine between 1950s women and their mothers. I.E. I had absolutely no idea how to cook scallops, and after dutifully consulting Mark Bittman, I had an idea, but that failed since the scallops were still frozen in the middle. Needless to say, after what seemed like an hour of cooking, they were tender in the middle and tough on the outside.

We went over to Dave and Amy's tonight and they just got a firepit and we made smores in the backyard which was phenomenal and it was nice sitting in the cool outdoors with the fire burning, eating gooey marshmallows.

We went to the library this week and I have been reading a Suze Orman book on personal finance for the "young, fabulous, and broke," a Mark Bittman book where he compares recipies with other chefs who do wilder, more radical versions of traditional dishes, a Laurel Hamilton book in her Anita Blake series (it is like 1/3 romance, 1/3 mystery, and 1/3 horror). Any book where the sexual interests include werewolves, vampires, and such, is my trashy pick de jour. FInally, I picked up "Bush's Brain," a book on Karl Rove that I am excited about. Finally, I have found the world's greatest software. Sticky Brain. It have only been playing with it for a day but am impressed and am using ity for all of my info (along with iCal).

Posted by woodw032 at 11:48 PM · Being Old

August 17, 2005

Things feel disjointed today and my stomach has ached since the middle of last night when I woke up in thought. Today has just been an ongoing movement of things feeling not quite right.

Posted by woodw032 at 12:30 AM

August 15, 2005

My cat is a freak

I think that the boy secretly slipped the catnip form of LSD into Dae's bowl last night, because today has just been a bonanza of bizzarre cat behaviors. I was woken up numerous times by her coming into the bedroom (a verboten place for her) and the boy kicking her off the bed. Later at a still unforgivable time of 9:30 am, she became bolder and began stalking my head. She would get as close to my sleeping face as possible and then meow as loudly as her little cat lungs would let her. Since then, she has followed me around incessantly, howling like she is attempting to go in heat, stealing my seat whenever I get up, and constantly looking at me. All of this was topped off by finding her, five minutes ago, hanging out in the kitchen sink on top of the dirty dishes. The boy asked if she was trying to get water and she was not, she was just standing there, as if to say "Yeah, I'm hanging out in the sink."

Today I attempted to do all of my back-to-school clothes shopping trip at JCrew and was sorely disappointed. Jcrew hasn't sent some of the cutest items to the stores, and I am getting increasingly frustrated with going in to see the new, cute styles and them having aproximately 1 of them in my size. Then, I went to go get a bunch of the vintage style tee shirts that they have (oh so soft and wonderful) and could only find aproximately 2 in a size medium, but a zillion in Large and X-Large. The moral of this story is that if you are a size 6 with a huge chest, shopping at the JCRew in Edina might be a good plan for you. Tomorrow I will venture out again in search of more of the precious tee shirts. All was not lost in shopping land today though, as I went to Banana Republic and bought a plethora of grey, cream, and black clothing, and since my pink pants (and wow they are ridiculously pepto pink) came today. I believe that I am well set for clothes to wear to work now, which was good because I was mainly wearing jeans and I don't think I can get away with that for teaching a lot.

I cleaned a lot tonight and F.O.B. is graciously coming over to help carry things downstairs since I packed them too heavily and the boy has an injured shoulder. F.O.B. was bribed with alcohol, reminding me of being a college kid, albiet with a nicer apartment and better clothes, and a hopefully more mature stance on life. I am not sure of the last one however.

Today I also went on my first bike ride in over 3 weeks and determined that the chamois on my bike shorts felt non-existent, I have lost some degree of power, and that I have an unnatural but complete loathing for walkers, joggers, etc who WALK ON THE BIKE PATH WHEN THE WALKING PATH IS 3 FEET OVER. Especially those of you who are walking 2 abreast, you will particularly burn in a hell so that you will spend an eternity either pushing a Surly Pugsley up a hill only to have it roll back down or having the world's biggest Clydesdale bike over your genitalia. Neither of these punishments seem unreasonable to me right now.

I really do not want to do these Australia cards and am not quite sure how to do them before Friday and still spend the last week of my summe rvacation enjoying myself.

Finally, I have been using the word "ricockulous" and find it 6th grader funny but am also embarassed by it.

Posted by woodw032 at 9:49 PM

August 14, 2005

2 more random observations

The cat and I are suprisingly similar -- both of us like to sleep around people who are awake. Dae will come up to where I am working and fall asleep a few feet away. If I get up to move, she wakes up, looks downtrodded, and follows me.

Secondly, I like getting good mail. I think I will have to start sending more mail out.

Posted by woodw032 at 4:48 PM

1 beautiful free week

I got home Friday night and everything since then has had the wonderful feeling of being slightly drunk and perfectly okay with the world, or involving way too much adulthood. Yesterday as soon as I awoke from jetlagged stupor, we went to the bank and the boy is now added to my checking and savings account, causing a brief moment of "oh hell this is real" for the zillionth time. To compund that further, we went to COSTCO and got a membership and proceeded to buy a few (okay a lot) of items. So, if you are in need of a 3 lb tub of pretzels, 96 oz of Neutragena Rainbath (ocean scent), 6lbs of strawberries, more cheese then you could shake a stick at, or a case of Summit Pale Ale, let me know. Then we came home and I unpacked for awhile cursing at the amount of stuff I have. This was increased by my new obsessions with Getting Things Done and its correllary, The Hipster PDA. On a side note, my hipster PDA is in one of the really cute notecard containers from the Target in Midway. I bought a container in every color they had which I didn't feel bad about since they are $1.49 each.

Nevertheless, I have at least organized my desk and study area and created a Tickler file and set up the iPrecious with the keyboard the boy got me that I always forget to use. Last night we then went to see "The Aristocrats." I loved it and think that Sarah Silverman is phenomenally funny in it (but not in the opening preview), that Bob Saget might be a comic genious, and that I would pay money to watch Katie's face as she was watching it, particularly George Carlin's telling of the joke.

Today, I got up late, ate from our double size box of Cheerios (see COSTCO above) and whined while unpacking more. I walked to Freewheel with the boy and F.O.B. (friend of the boy) and was very excited that they had the youth sized Livestrong bands so I could finally get one. Then I unpacked some more and made a frozen fruit and yogurt smoothie, while determining that we probably should register for another blender. I created my planner (both the index card one and the central Excel based one) and determined several next actions. I cleanerd out my email and created new file categories for it.

Then I felt like a big dork, and that leaves me here. Tonight the boy is taking me on a nice date not in Minneapolis, so I don't know what we are going to go do. F.O.B. suggested Wildfire Grill in the Eden Prairie Center, but...eww suburbs. So, we will see but I plan on eating well tonight. For tomorrow: we are going to the boy's bank to get me added to his account, going bike riding, and more unpacking will be done. I might start on meal planning and feel like an even bigger dorkus.

Posted by woodw032 at 4:35 PM

August 10, 2005

I hate FireFox

I just wrote a long post about my mother's new book that I am reading, which explicitly details my grandmother's suicide. I had written a long, involved, fairly well written post on the nature of the other and distance, but it is forever gone and I do not have the energy to get it back.

Instead I will just post thins link, which I am enamoured of. It is how to use the geek organizational system "Getting things done" on a Mac.
43 Folders.

I will also announce that Wikis are really cool.

Posted by woodw032 at 2:00 AM