Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back to the HOMELAND

I have finished my semester of school. And it is good. We head home this evening to lovely and frosty Ames, Iowa. I mentioned that I was from Iowa this morning to a co-worker at my internship, to which she responded, "Are there a lot of strip malls? That's what I think of when I think Iowa. I mean, who the hell is from Iowa."


I love the East Coast.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Instead of doing my take home test for my Real Estate Finance class, the class that has repeatedly kicked my ass, I have decided to post some pictures of my increasingly beautiful road bike. Over thanksgiving I wasted about 20 odd hours sanding, prepping cutting stencils and applying decals to my 2007 Cannondale CAAD9. I think it looks pretty damn sharp, and with the upcoming addition of pink brake hoods and saddle, I think that it will soon be complete!!

I get a lot of comments on it while riding, mostly ones like, "You fighting breast cancer?" To which I answer, "Hell Yes!" I love breasts, and therefore hate breast cancer, so yeah, this for all of that, but more importantly, it makes me look cool.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tim’s parents are heroes

And well heeled ones at that. It does my heart good to see land preserved. Though the twin cities is one of the few places in the country with an actual metropolitan government, it's also the third most sprawled metro. Land gobbled up like so much popcorn.

Hemmingway had it right.

Since writing papers is such a god-awful task these days, I've decided to follow the Earnest Hemmingway School of writing. Namely, drink scotch and sit in an overheated room and sweat at a keyboard. Sure, he was on Key West and busy fishing and drinking and leering at local dames, but I've got he Internet, what more do I need for the same sorts of distractions? Apparently Papa Hemmingway's favorite drink was a Teacher's Scotch and Soda, and so just now I had myself a glass of Glensalen Pure Malt Scotch Whiskey and some seltzer. Not exactly the same but guess what, I can write like CRAZY!!!

I think that the slight buzz helps me ignore the boring ignominy of what I'm writing (Form-based zoning codes in Peoria Illinois anyone?) and just spit out the verbiage. Not only that, but I feel smarter and sexier! It's like beer goggles in reverse!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

While digging through a box of crap on my bedside table, I found this old business card from the earlier days of my dad's career as a preeminent bicycle nerd. This card dates from probably the mid 70s when the bike shop was at the corner of Fifth and Kellogg in Ames. This location predates all of my memory at the bike shop, I can still remember the second spot, at Fifth and Main street, which must be some 24 or so years ago ( I have an amazing memory for bikes).

The second location, at Main and Kellogg had the creepiest basement with its requisite dank spaces and centipedes, but the coolest second story, full of bike parts and a pinball machine and a giant stuffed soldier doll, not to mention the samurai sword that Michael had in his office. There was also my dad's co-worker Charles, who would make elephant noises and lend me Spiderman comics. It was good times.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We are on our way to eco-responsibility. As odd as it is for me to think of buying worms, Jennifer ordered a compost culture full of red wrigglers this past week from some hippie outlet in Michigan. After a short trip to the hardware store and a long bout with the hand drill and box knife, we have our very own indoor urban composter. The worms eat all manner of things, from newspaper and cardboard to fruits and veggies. We finished their new home last night and Jennifer has it stashed in the basement, awaiting our detritus.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bloggin’ aint easy…except when you’re procrastinating

I am currently being 'bent over a barstool' by classes, as they say in the parlance of our times. I have most recently enjoyed a weekend of debauchery, if in fact, Real Estate Finance is debauchery. I will likely post more interesting stuff once I've got some free time, probably around next May or June.

The following are what's up with me:

  • I now have a new mouse for the computer. It is called the Quill Mouse and it is absolutely amazing. My wrist went from being ridiculously sore to just somewhat uncomfortable after my most recent 10 hour computer session. I heartily recommend it to anyone with wrist problems.
  • I recently drank beers at a strip club for the first time. It was modestly traumatic, but I got over it. The best part about the place was that they had a Wall of Fame; girls from 1962 until the present were memorialized on the walls.
  • I am now the official unofficial vice president of my bicycle club. The office is totally amazing, and I can't wait to go on Air Force 19 (which is another name for my red Raleigh with the brooks saddle)
  • I have made extensive use of 911. I've had enough of the goddam drug dealers on my street, I'm calling the cops until they get fed up enough to do something.
  • Jennifer and I could likely double our house price if we sold today, according to Jim down the street who has made his business the gentrification (or more humorously Jim-trification) of the neighborhood. I say bring on the rich folks.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crunching the numbers, that's me. I knew before I signed up that I wouldn't like the Real Estate Finance class, and by god, I was right. While I find it interesting to learn a bit more about how businesses make the decisions that really shape the built environment in this city, (who are we kidding, city planners don't build cities, MONEY does) I am not exactly smitten with the whole world of MS Excel that I have found myself thrust into. I've been smacking my head against the concepts of asset valuation, discounted cash flows and expense reimbursements all weekend, and I am still foundering in the quagmire that is my first assignment.

I'm taking some comfort at least in the adage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." which I am currently interpreting to mean that I don't actually have to ace this class to still get a job.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When English is not a first language, creative license takes on a whole new dimension. Check out the picture from my friend Stacey, who is currently working on a planning project near Seoul in Korea.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I rode my bike so hard that my ass fell off.

At least, that's what it felt like yesterday after I finished my 40K Time Trial near Harrisburg. In contrast with previous races, a lot of things went right: I got there on time, got ready on time and didn't even miss my start. The course totally suited me, it was a series of rolling hills that eventually trended upward over the course of 20K and then returned along the same route, giving me the psychological boost to fly down at what seemed like an amazing pace on my way back in . I finished the course in 57:30, which works out to something like 26 miles per hour for nearly an hour. That was pretty fast, though had I had the experience of doing one beforehand, I would likely have gone a little faster. The winner's time was 56:30, and according to my handy online pace calculator, I would have had to go only .5 miles per hour faster over the course to make up the difference. Jennifer continues to make fun of my newfound obsession with aerodynamics, however, despite the OBVIOUS advantages in both speed and geekiness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thank god for forest first aid. I am happily free of poison ivy despite smashing into it with my face. Amazing.

In other news, school is just around the corner and that means that I'm going to be up to my neck in coursework in the next few weeks. While I generally like the stimulation and the more relaxed schedule of class as opposed to work, I'm usually not crazy about the homework. One thing that can be said for the life of the working stiff, is that when you're done with work, you can go home and do something entirely different, no need to stress about upcoming papers and tests. I'll just have to keep the end goal in mind during classes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I've got my fingers crossed. While mountain biking today at the Belmont Plateau area of Fairmount Park here in Philly, I somehow managed to smash my face into a branch hanging down from a tree above the trail. While this is usually a painful but tolerable part of mountain biking on the tight single track of the park, this particular branch gave me pause. Just after I was thwapped on the right side of my forehead, something about the hairyness and shape of the offending shrub gave me pause. Yes folks, it was indeed a large-ish branch of poison ivy that I had splintered with my noggin. Uttering some choice words, I headed back home at top speed, stopping only long enough to smear some touch-me-not stem juice on my face and spray myself down with water.

We will just have to wait and see if my face turns into a pussing boil or not. I'll post pictures if it's really nasty.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ok, so today has not been a very productive work day. I will readily admit that this was one wasted. But, I found some interesting racer diaries, specifically this one from Ben Kersten, an Australian who is learning the ropes in the Japanese keirin circuit. While my experience there was quite different, I can empathize with him on sooo many levels. It is one of my few regrets about my time in Japan that I never got to watch a keirin event. Next time for sure.

I had never heard of this particular sport, but I think I've just discovered a new favorite!! With an introductory paragraph like this, there is no way that I'm not going to engage in some Mangold Hurling this fall:

Thank you for your interest in ballistic root vegetables. This is the official site of the Mangold Hurling Association, whose goals are to make the traditional Somerset sport of Mangold Hurling known to a wider public and to encourage others to join this happy band of Hurlers.

What is Mangold Hurling?
Put simply, Mangold Hurling is the sport of throwing – or more accurately pitching – the mangold-wurzel. It requires skill, strength and cunning. Mangold Hurling is usually performed during October each year. The mangold-wurzel (or mangel-wurzel) is a vegetable of the beet family, grown mainly as a fodder crop.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I found myself lacking the quarter necessary to procure a cup of the lovely "Flavia" coffee from the machine that sits like some kind of hyper-caffeinated robot on the table in the lunch room yesterday. Not to be put off the chase of a warm, sugary beverage I turned the proverbial lemons into lemonade and created a drink all my own. Noticing a container of Coffee Mate Non-Fat French Vanilla Creamer sitting on top of the Flavia, I poured a hefty amount into my mug, squirted in some hot water and created the ALL CREAMER HOT DRINK! It was pretty good, much like a white chocolate chocolate milk. While the drink contained a tragic number of chemically altered lipids and semi-solids along with an equally disturbing number of artificial ingredients, at least I had the necessary sugar rush to carry on for the next 45 minutes. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

See, office life can be fun. Just lower your expectations a little and the fun rolls in!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

DVRPC Social Club is hosting a Miniature Golf Tournament !
Greetings Staff:
What's more fun than mini-golf? Hmmm. I can only think of one thing... that's right, competitive single-elimination match-play mini-golf with your cheerful co-workers in lovely Franklin Square! Are you getting excited yet? DVRPC Social Club and Wells Fargo are sponsoring the first annual William Penn Open. It works like this: all those interested in participating will be entered into one of four Mini-Golf Madness brackets: Bacon, McCarg, Furness and Jacobs. Competitors will be randomly paired (no seedings, Karen C. and Rich) with a co-worker, and then it will be time to go for the green. It works like a standard single-elimination tournament -- winners move on, losers go home. Kapeesh?
Eventually, the winner of each bracket will go head-to-head in no-holds barred combat for the coveted Franklin Cup. The semi-finals and finals will be televised on ESPN 8, "The Ocho." A champion will be crowned, a parade will be held, and one lucky competitor will hoist the Franklin Cup. In addition to the Franklin Cup, the winner and runner-up will receive handsome cash (or cash-equivalent) prizes (seriously), an endorsement deal with Spalding, a one year tour exemption, and a truck-load of dredge spoils.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Though I have long professed to hate soap operas, my favorite sport is nothing short of that. Not only do we have intrigue and mayhem on the international stage, the Tour de France was littered with the stuff that smutty paperbacks are made of, but even among the mediocre talent of the Philadelphia bicycling community, there are tales of intrigue galore.

So and so said this...

He doesn't know how to ride, he's a goddam menace...

He said that he'd work for me in the race, but he just sat on and then sprinted for the line...

Just last week, a couple of folks that I train with were out on our standard morning ride around a loop in Fairmount park. There is often a group of 30 something women led by a guy who used to be on my club. They ride at a casual pace, and much to our dissatisfaction, often 4 abreast. We've had incidents before in which some of our group has nearly been taken out by some of their group, and last Tuesday we decided to discuss this particular point, as we had on the previous week.

As it turns out, Kevin (the guy who used to be on my club) isn't really fond of criticism of his ride and blew up in spectacular, purple, cursing form at the suggestion that he wasn't leading his ride with respect to us. This somehow led to a threat to one of my teammates, James.

"James, you sonofabitch, you don't have the balls to ride against me! Come out Tuesday if you're any kind of man! I'm not stupid, I've got a triple-digit IQ! Come near me again and I'll ride you into a ditch!"

While James is sometimes obnoxious, and has an uncanny ability to push buttons, there was no real call for this personal threat, particularly coming from a psychologist (no, I'm not kidding).

In the end, I stepped in as the mediator and calmed down the blustering Kevin. Fortunately, my 3rd Grade Junior Resolvers training took over and by carefully avoiding "you statements" I was able to save the day.

Sometimes I miss running. At least there, the competition is primarily with the clock. Those who are better than you go faster, those worse, slower. Plus, it's harder to run your mouth when running a 6:45 mile than when sitting 5th wheel back.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Casual Friday is totally sweet. I never thought that I'd be into office parties or things of that nature, but there is something to be said for them. I think that with the desk job, there is little unstructured interaction, and the office get-together is really the ideal situation to put that back into the work day. Friday we had our end of fiscal year party, which included an all staff meeting, and a lunch cruise on the Delaware River. Now, the Delaware near Philadelphia and Camden is not what I'd call a "scenic river", unless you consider oil refineries and dockyards to be scenic. We take what we can get in Philly.

It was good to socialize with some of the other interns and folks who work at DVRPC, there are actually a number of cool folks, unfortunately they're cool folks that I never get to talk to in my daily affairs. I think that in the future I'll look for a somewhat smaller office where people are a bit more collaborative...yeah that's the ticket!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Well, bike racing is a mixed bag. Yesterday I lined up for the Faulkner Honda Criterium in lovely Hummelsville PA. The course was super sweet; very technical with 8 corners and 2 chicanes in each lap of a little less than a mile. Not being the absolute best of cornerers, I was a little bit apprehensive as I started the first race of the day, the Category Pro-1-2-3 race which included a couple of elite level riders from Massachusetts and a number of other local strong men. I had lined up with a couple of teammates and our basic plan was just to stick like glue to the fast guys and see how the rest of it went. I was doing all right, but the pace through the corners was fast enough that I got gapped at pretty much every turn, meaning that I had to accelerate eight times per lap and then try to make up for lost ground on the two straight sections. It was challenging to say the least, though I was able to handle myself pretty well despite it all. After about 10 or 15 laps ( it was a 41 lap race) I started pedaling too soon while coming out of a corner and hit the edge of my pedal on the asphalt, bouncing my rear wheel up and sideways. When it came down I must have dislodged the tire from the rim because I felt a "whump whump whump BANG" as my tire blew. Since I had not brought a spare set of wheels, I was kind of out of luck, no chance for me to get back in with the group. Fortunately for me, Art Miller of the International Christian Cycling Club had also found himself out of the race and gave me a tube and loaned me a spoke wrench to get my wheel back in order. I guess he didn't notice the Flying Spaghetti Monster logo on the back of my jersey.

Fortunately enough, I had registered for both the Category 3-4 race as well, and lined up about an hour later with a larger, but hopefully less intimidating group of riders. The pace was very much the same as the first race, attacks out of each corner, with accelerations and crazy bike handling through the sharp turns and the chicanes. I knew with a group as large as this that I'd have to stay in the front if I wanted a chance at a good result. With three laps to go, things started to get a little crazy as everyone tried to jockey for position among the final 20 or so guys who managed to stay on the main group out of the initial 60. Coming through the last lap I knew that I had to make a move to the front or be doomed in the single-file turns and corners of the rest of the course, so I sprinted quickly up to third place as one of the riders from the hometown team hammered it home, thinking that I was one of his teammates. This worked out PERFECTLY for me as I was able to keep a constant 3rd wheel throughout the final lap. I heard crashes behind me, always an ugly sound, but fortunately I was able to maintain my ideal position through the whole lap, until the final corner when my "lead out guy" peeled off and I gunned it for home. Somehow, due to the complexity of the course and the result of my frustrating and abbreviated first race, I was able to sprint in for the win. This is by far the best win I've had in cycling, I played it smart and I beat a large field on a challenging course, which went a long way to erasing the doubts about shelling out $30 per race every weekend.
Blogging takes a back seat when you're working hard to be the best tour guide in South Philly. My parents spent an enjoyable stint here from the 23rd to the 30th of June, and in the course of the week, ate cheese steaks, hoagies and real steaks; saw the Liberty Bell, the Empire State Building, Chinatown, lots of street garbage and crazy people and went on a brewery tour. Oh yeah, they also painted and fixed our house, and spent a whole day slaving away in 95 degree heat while I sat in air conditioned comfort at my office. It was good.

My parents were even able to watch one of my bike races in scenic suburban New Jersey. I attempted to be entertaining, but it was a tall order on a flat race with 45 other guys who had the same idea. I ended up finishing about 15th but might have done better had I not been slapped in the face by a tree branch on the last lap. That was a little distracting.

My dad and I also did a fabulous "father-son bike ride" through some of the nicer roads in the wealthy Philly suburbs. It worked out well as we were able to stop by and climb the famous Manyunk Wall, a 1 kilometer long 17% grade climb that is featured every year in the professional bike race that runs through town. It's a gut buster, but we persevered and finally did once what the pros do 14 times in the race, twice as fast. Oh well. I guess we need to start doping.

For their anniversary, we cooked up a beef tenderloin that Jennifer scored at the local supermarket. $6 a pound for delicious super tasty beef was a hell of a deal. Dad decided that he would add some of his personal flair to the salt crust that we baked it in.

Sadly, I don't think I've got any pictures of Mom, she was always behind the camera and if I did get a shot of her, it would probably have been of her painting the back bedroom, or the bathroom, or cleaning, or potting some plants or other housework that I told her not to do, but dammit, she did anyway. That was sure TERRIBLE.


In other news, the prayers to Saint Felicula must have worked, either that or the Philly Water Department actually did their job. Due to the fact that our house is on a private (read old and decrepit) sewer, they were reluctant to fix the problem as it is "not part of the Philly water system" and was created before the official lines were installed. At any rate they came out just before my parents arrived and were able to fix the "choke" in the line that was flooding our basement with sewage. The upshot: no more water leaking into the basement!! It's fabulous. I no longer have to wear galoshes to go to the washing machine, the mold has stopped proliferating and life is good.

Also good, Jennifer recently was promoted to the post of Assistant Research Associate from the lowly rank of Research Assistant. This means that she is now the highest ranking person on her staff without an advanced degree and has received a hefty pay raise to boot. She's my sugar-mama for sure!

Getting back to the working world was rough last week, thank god for the Fourth of July which nicely broke up my grueling schedule of 9-5 with half hour lunch break. Such a life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This is a shout out to all you Catholics out there:

Help save our basement from flooding with your prayers!!! Our basement is unlikely to weather the thunderstorms that have been sweeping through Philly this week without some serious "sewer reflux syndrome".

Please give up a prayer to Saint Felicula, the patron saint of sewers!

A little more about her...

St. Felicula
Her feast day is June 13. She died a virgin martyr, the foster sister of St. Petronilla. Flaccus, a powerful Roman official, pro­posed to Petronilla and was refused. He then had her arrested. After Petronilla’s martyrdom, Felicula went without food or water in the prison. She was then thrown into a sewer, where she died. St. Nicomedes recovered her remains.

I'm not sure if other people know her as the patron of sewers, but I think that her particular death would probably make her count as one. Anyway, Philly Water Department hasn't been doing their job, so I thought I would call in a higher power.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I picked up a copy of ESRI News, which is the main publication of ESRI the company that makes ArcView, the dominant geographic information software on the market today, to find a lengthy and interesting article on the overall degradation of geographic knowledge in the general public. This article was written as a matter of "Geographer pride" by a professor at Kansas State University, one of the few institutions in the country that offers an advanced degree in my undergraduate field of study. Apparently, while geography is one of the 9 critical subjects involved in the No Child Left Behind act, there have been $0 allocated to teach it in our schools. None of the ivy leagues offer graduate programs in Geography and only Dartmouth even offers it as an undergraduate option. While almost all of the "great" presidents of the past had official geographers, there has not been one since the Roosevelt administration.

What is geography? It is more than knowing the state capitals. Geography is to time what history is to space. It is the study of spatial relationships between places, things and people. It is cool. I have a degree in it. GO MAC!

Friday, May 25, 2007

If ever you are in WV, check out Nelson's Rocks preserve, it is a private climbing/hiking preserve on some spectacular sandstone fins rising some 200 feet above the forest floor. We didn't cross this bridge, as we didn't have the appropriate via-ferrata equipment, but it would have been super sweet. Jennifer wasn't so keen, but I was jonesing for a trip across the cable bridge.

The goal destination was Seneca Rock in eastern West Virginia. It is a truly wicked rock feature.

When there are rocks, I like to climb them. Unfortunately, I'm waaay out of practice. My huge cyclist ass weighed me down.

I hate to say it, but I REALLY appreciate casual Friday. We received an email marked Urgent! yesterday with a reminder that we could wear jeans AND sneakers in to work today. I honestly heard three, “Woo-Hoos” from various parts of the cubicle-ville behind my shelf/desk. I realize that my job isn’t that bad, and I am actually doing valuable work, but isn’t it more fun to hear someone complaining in a funny way than simply enthusing on some piece of BS? So onward I bitch. My biggest problems are twofold. Problem number one is that I have been suffering from the earliest stages of carpal tunnel syndrome. The marathon computer lab sessions at the end of the semester a few weeks ago put some hitch in my getalong that typing and mouse-using really aggravates. Nothing else really bothered it too much, though I suppose drywall mudding last weekend didn’t do me any favors. My desk here at DVRPC is waaaay to small. It is just a built in shelf about 2 feet deep, hanging off of the wall in the hallway. We had to fight for chairs with cushions on them, and there is no space for the keyboard on the desk. I type with the keyboard in my lap. Problem number two may be more serious. It seems that I don’t actually like working. The 9-5 is sucking my will to live. I don’t really mind the work, but it just seems like I should be able to do it on my own time frame and from the comfort of my house. I’m just typing up a report, I don’t see that it should require that I sit at this shitty desk for hours at a time. Plus, I don’t like tucking in my shirt.

On the good news front, I’m actually getting paid for this, which is quite the novelty after so many months in school. My dad also just shipped out a bike for me to “demo”. It’s a totally sweet Cannondale, and it will be even sweeter when I get it fitting right. It seems that bike manufacturers seem to think that guys over six feet tall would have actual shoulders. Not so I say! I think that my shoulders are somewhat narrower than the average 12 year old girl’s. I’m cool with this though, it makes me more aerodynamic!

I may even get around to bottling the beer that I started brewing many months ago. It is high time for some tasty home-made beverages to come out of my basement. I’ve just been too damn busy to get-er-done. Tonight is the night, nothing shall stand in my way, except maybe my goddamn wrist.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I will soon post some spectacular pictures of our most recent mini-vacation, but as I'm at work right now, killing time until I actually have to do something, I'll be brief.

Jennifer and I drove down to Shenandoah National Park last Wednesday and hiked about 5 miles of the Appalachian trail, camped and then headed to Seneca Rock in West Virginia for some hiking and a wee bit of rock climbing. All in all, I thought that West Virginia was one of the more scenic places I've been out East, but I can hardly imagine how anyone could live there. If you're not a logger or a farmer, there isn't a whole lot to do. Pretty country though, verdant meadows, clear streams, no bugs (yet) and rolling mountains with some really wicked outcroppings of various rocks sticking like dinosaur fins up into the air. Sweet.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I was just looking through the old archives of my blog, and whammo, nostalgia-ville. It is cool to have a readily accessible, searchable diary at my finger tips. It's even better when I don't want to be doing school stuff!!

Along those lines, last week was undoubtedly my hardest week of school EVER. Who ever told me that grad school was easier than college was full of shit. Thanks to some of the factors mentioned in my previous post, I spent about 80 hours in the computer lab last week. When you log that many hours in one place a number of things happen. First, you lose track of time. Things that seem like they should take a few minutes end up being hours and hours of work. Ludicrous. Second, you make friends with all of the other people who are in the same boat. Bitching is the common lingua franca. You complain about anything and everything, but primarily the amount of work that you have to do and the shitheads who finked out on you and are making you do all of their work. By the end of the week I wasn't even really interested in bitching about people, I had exhausted that avenue of vengeful pleasure. Third, you learn to enjoy late late late night commutes. It is absolutely blissful to ride one's bicycle through an otherwise crowded and obnoxious city free of interference by motorists or pedestrians. I didn't touch the brakes all of the way home. Bliss after a fashion. Finally, you eat whatever you can get. When you're up for seemingly days on end, you digest food as if you were a marathoner. It just fuels the fire, brain fire that is.

This week is my last of tests, and then, merciful heavens, I'm done. Jennifer has promised me that when I get done with school I get to do lots of fun repairs on the house. Yippee! Though honestly, I don't think I'll mind them as much as I did school these past few weeks. Maybe my carpal-tunnel will heal itself to a degree by the time I go to work this summer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

News Flash: By common consensus of my peers, my Planning Workshop group is tied for first place in the rankings of dysfunction. The other is that of my friend Johnny, who's teammates include a girl who doesn't really speak English and one who habitually lies about being shipped to Iraq at any minute. I think that mine trumps, however because our group never once met as a whole outside of class time. This in comparison with most other groups that have been meeting once or twice a week for the entire semester. I'd rather not get into the details of why my group sucks so badly at this point, but I'll just say that of the five of us, one was gone for a month, another is a man who yesterday drank 6 cups of coffee and 12 Diet Cokes and smoked a pack of cigarettes and the third is from Texas, enough said.

On a happier note, I was voted to be the "Best Aaron" of the three in my program. The people have spoken.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This past weekend, Trophy Bikes (my home away from home here in Philly) hosted what was dubbed, "Lighten Up--An examination of the Lightweight Bicycle" which was basically a plug for some of the nice, custom bikes that we sell there. Matt Bracken, president of Independent Fabrications was there with his super-fly bicycles and just as cool, Harry Havnoonian of HH Racing was on hand with his first bicycle ever. It was a wonderful evening for bike nerds of all stripes. I happened to have my camera on hand and took some pictures. The first photo is of the Havnoonian chainring. The holes are in fact "speed holes" and were impeccably drilled to save weight. The second shot is of the seat cluster of the I.F. The bike is made of titanium, with the center sections of all of the main tubes in carbon fibre. The cool thing about this particular frame is its aesthetics; the titanium bits were coated in the gold nitride coating normally reserved for drill bits and the paint on the carbon bits changed color with the angle of the light. Wicked.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My sump pump is nearly keeping pace with the water oozing in through the various cracks and crevices of our house. We realized that basement leakage would be a problem when on New Year's Day Jennifer and I bailed about 400 gallons out of the subterranean portion of our house. The next day I decided to buy and install a sump pump. Unfortunately, due to the clay-like subsoil, water seems to pool around the foundation and seeps its way in through the wall, rather than through the subsoil into my little sump-pit. The sump vomits forth a full 40 gallons every five minutes or so, and I just pray that it doesn't decide to freak out, or we'll probably be really screwed tomorrow. OUr basement is a little water course, and in a different setting, like a cave, it would be really pretty cool. No such luck here. Just a pond.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ok, here are two jokes that I invented myself. I don't know exactly how funny they are, but they seemed good inside of my head, usually a bad sign.

Bad joke number 1:

Person 1: My dad's sister was is totally crazy. She's always ranting and raving about the Elders of Zion and other conspiracies.

Person 2: What is her name?

Person 1: Honestly, I don't know. We just call her Auntie Semite.

Bad joke number 2:

Q: What is the most forbidden oldies song that Radio Free America would broadcast into Afghanistan to break the will of the Taliban?
A: "Haram-alama-ding-dong."

Someone should probably kick me in the head for those, but it's amazing what seems to be funny when you're up to your eyeballs in school.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

So, school sucks. Not that it's a revelation to anyone who is currently studying anything, but it's just particularly sucky when you are easily distracted and it's been super nice outside. I have spent a preposterous amount of time looking at bike crap recently. Its something that I totally love, and more importantly, it's not Growth Management, Land Use Law, Planning Workshop, Regional Economics or Analytical Planning Methods.

Five classes is about three classes too many if you want to do the best possible job in each. As with the rest of life, it's an exercise in triage. Things that should have been number one priority, in a perfect world, suddenly get bumped down the list when due dates roll in. At least I've got my summer employment figured out. I'll be working for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), yet another high minded, good intentioned, toothless planning organization. I will be working on putting together Environmental Impact Assessments for some cities in southern New Jersey. It will undoubtedly be a good experience and it will hopefully allow me enough time to ride my bike a lot. It will also pay me somewhat better than the bikeshop did, which I may be able to parlay into a new bike frame.

I had originally hoped to be wildly successful in the early season bike races, but I am not sure how often I'll really be able to get out and race. I did one last Sunday, a flat 50 miler in New Jersey, and fared modestly well. I really don't know how to handle flat races, the smart slackers can just hang out in the pack, and skinny guys like me don't really have much luck. I guess I've just got to choose my battles a little better.

For now though, back to homework, I've got about 1 million things to do in the next three and a half weeks, let's see how I fare.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Yet another awesome forward from Paul Singh. The Incomparable Bar on Wheels. I cannot tell you how awesome this would be in Philadelphia! Think of the ruckus!

On another note, I'm totally vegging out this weekend after a brain-murdering last week. All I can say is that you should never try to write an economics paper all in one night. The funny thing is, I tried to do it over the course of a week, but it just didn't work out. Another thing not to do: read economics after bedtime, because no matter how hard you try, the knowledge will not go in.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's time to kick the ol' time management skills into high gear. I fear that this will be a long month, as I have seemingly hundreds of things pulling at my attention, and only a few weeks to get them done. To make matters worse, the weather is getting really nice and I just want to go outside and ride my bike. Dammit, it's going to be hard to get my stuff done when my brains are out the window. I have a paper to write in what has been an excruciatingly boring economics class. It's taught by a doctoral student from Columbia (university, not country or district of) who has 2 separate masters degrees from the Sorbonne, a brain the size of a small planet and an extremely limited ability to communicate with mere mortals. Goddam ivy league bullshit. I just hope that Penn hooks me up with some sweet jobs once I graduate, because the education I'm getting is starting to piss me off. I'm soooo glad that I went to someplace like Macalester, where the professors are A: all PhDs and B: are almost without exception, decent teachers. Colleges are places where the profs are educators, not just educated.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At long last, the best post ever, because it's true.

I was climbing at the Penn rock wall and ended up talking to the guy on duty, Travis. Travis relayed this story:

I was shopping in Home Depot when I met up with a former co-worker of mine, Alex. Alex is about 28 and runs a crew of 15 guys, they build houses and do roofs. Alex was built like a brick shit house, not too tall, but just muscular as hell, and he was a real take charge kind of guy, super intense. I asked him how he was doing and he said, 'Not too bad, I've more or less recovered from my accident. Almost 100%'
I had noticed that he looked a little skinnier than before, and his chin was differently shaped, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Now I was curious though. "What happened to you?"
"You know I'm into skydiving right?" Alex said. "Yeah, it was a skydiving accident."
I was like, "NO WAY" and just couldn't believe it, how often do you hear of a skydiving accident in which someone survives?

The Story

Six months ago, Alex decided that he was finally going to take a skydiving lesson, but his wife was totally opposed, she said that there was no way that she would let him skydive with their two kids and another one on the way depending on his salary. Alex signed up for a lesson anyway, but kept it secret from his wife, and while pretending to do something else, snuck out and did one of the buddy jumps.
One jump and he knew that he was hooked. He went back home and watched the footage from the helmet cam over and over again. He signed up for a set of lessons the next day. As his wife didn't want him skydiving, he decided to do it without her knowledge; he snuck out at every chance he could get, an hour and a half was all the time necessary to get to the flight school do a jump and then get back home.

After about 4 months of this, Alex was still going strong, he had completed his 6 mandatory buddy jumps and was doing solo jumps from various altitudes. It so happened that on the day in question, the cloud cover had been too low for the plane to go up for most of the day, but by the time Alex arrived at about 3 in the afternoon, there was a small window of opportunity, time enough for just one jump. He hurried to get his chute and get to the plane before they took off, grabbing the nearest one and heading for the plane. Soon they were off and as he attempted to get the harness buckles around his chest, he noticed that the parachute that he'd grabbed was actually a small, wheras he normally wore a large. The buckles reached around his chest and legs and though they were pretty tight, he thought to himself, "What's the worst that could happen?"

After a 15 minute ascent, they reached jumping altitude and was out the door. The free fall portion went as expected but once the chute opened up at about 2500 feet Alex immediately noticed a problem. The tightness of the straps was quickly cutting off the blood circulation to his extremities, which in turn caused the blood flow to his head to decrease rapidly. by 1500 feet he was out cold and due to the small size of his parachute harness, his body was tilted forward into a nose dive position. Normally parachutists fall to earth at a speed of about 25 mph, but Alex, due to his head-down position and his inability to control for wind and such was estimated to have been heading tangentially in to land at about 50 miles per hour. The landing target had been an open field near a subdivision in South Jersey, and he was somewhat off target, blasting downward towards a neighborhing house with a 6 foot privacy fence and above ground pool.

The residents of the house were having drinks in their back patio as they noticed a parachutist hurtling downward towards their backyard at the speed of a highway vehicle. Alex came in about 5 feet off the ground and smashed head-first through the wooden privacy fence, and because of the position of his arms, he snapped his left forearm in two on one of the six by six support posts. His chin was smashed by either this impact or his next one with the side of the aboveground pool of the type with vinyl sides. As he hit the pool, he sent out a huge shower of water that sprayed water on the incredulous homeowners and he then skipped off the surface of the pool and over the top of their two story house where he came to rest on the edge of the driveway in front.

When the homeowners ran out front to see what the hell had just happened they found the parachutist in a state of shock, he had woken up, but had no idea what had happened to him and though his arm and chin were both shattered he attempted to get up and attack his rescuers screaming, "Who the hell just hit me? Why did you assholes just hit me? I'll Kill you!!" out of his broken face.

About an hour later his pregnant wife received a phone call from Ground Zero Dive School, "Ma'am, Alex had a bad landing, you might want to come down to the hospital." As he had kept his skydiving secret from her, she didn't know what to think and drove to the hospital. The first thing she saw as she was walking towards the ER was her husband with his jaw smashed open and his limp arm bandaged up, tubes running in and out of his body. She promptly freaked out and went into labor.

So three months after the impact, when this story was told, Alex was almost back to his former self. He was still waiting on a couple of surgeries to reshape his chin which had an odd point to it, and to repair one small piece of tendon in his arm. He assured Travis that he'd learned his lesson, "Never put on a parachute that is too small."
His wife had absolutely forbidden him from going anywhere near an airfield, but he had already signed up for the next session of dives in the spring.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ok, despite my "best" efforts to be productive and get stuff done ahead of schedule, school has entered brain crusher mode again and I'm feeling the pinch. I've got ten pages to write by wednesday and I just don't have the will to go on. It's like senior-itis but I still have a year to go. Here's the deal, I love learning this stuff but I just can't be bothered to actually write stuff or turn things in. I've not missed a deadline yet, nor have I asked for an extension yet in my academic career, but this semester could see the first of those if I'm not careful. The funny thing is that I know a couple of people who have turned in numerous papers and projects late. I just don't get how you do that consistently. For me, I tend to focus on getting stuff onto the paper, even if it's crap, and then take my lumps as they come. I guess that as long as they think that your work is good, professors have no real interest in flunking someone, but I don't want to press my luck.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Well, I may be feeling a bit out of shape, but the good news is that it seems like the other cyclists in the area are feeling worse. I did my first two bike races of the season this past weekend, Saturday was the circuit race, a short-ish one of about 25 miles under perfectly fabulous sunny skies in which I came second, and this morning in the team time trial my squad from the Quaker City Wheelmen finished second to a group of uber-equipped guys who rolled up to the course in their own custom painted Cadence Cycles van, complete with larger than life picture of one of them on the side. Yuck.
Cadence is the shop in town that everybody loves to hate. They are owned and financed by one of the grand high muckety-mucks at Comcast and have currently 1.3 times as much money as God. That said, no one from their store has been an ass to me personally, but their lawyers threatened to sue one of my club members for plagiarism a couple of months ago when he sent out a mock version of their email newsletter. I guess nobody had figured on a shop having its own team of lawyers.
Anyway, the races both went well and went a long way to bringing back my self confidence in the races. I'm looking forward to the season a bit more, wheras I had been a little bit worried after upgrading to a Category 3 at the end of last year. As per usual, I was kind of freaking out at the starting line, looking around at all the guys with newer and faster bikes, with shaved legs and calf tatoos and all that jazz. Fortunately, the bicycles don't ride themselves, and I actually kept my head in the game during the race, not pulling the field around in the wind like I usually do. Hopefully the rest of the season will continue in similar fashion.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Revelation of revelation: babies are cute. Our friends Dan and Meghan just had a wicked cute little baby, Owen Henry. Jennifer and I went over to visit and drop off the obligatory post-partum lasagne last night. I always marvel at the fact that all of the parts of adult humans are present in such tiny proportions. Who would have thought that fingernails come in sizes that small. I think that both Jennifer and I did a kind of double take on our "no babies" policy. That lasted all of about an hour or so until we watched An Inconvenient Truth when we remembered that the earth is screwed, and so I think we're still going to hold off on the kids front.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I gotta get myself to post more frequently. My family is depending on it!! Well, not really. My brother is off reporting for a some sort of realestate rag in Costa Rica. His mind is definitely not in the realestate, it's more in the Cosa Rica and probably the Costariquenas ( I think that's the spelling for girl Costarican). My parents, on the other hand are trapped in the inhospitable midwest- home to maddening heat, blistering cold and the wickedest ice-storms that you can imagine. The storm that left countless people stranded from Denver to Chicago barely spat at Philly. I'm waiting for something really fierce to knock our socks off, but it seems like things are unlikely to turn that way this year as it's already March.

I'm psyched not to have school next week. Spring break is always sweet, and even though I'll (hopefully) be doing homework all break, I'm looking forward to no class. My super plans for the break include, but are not limited to: Riding my bicycle, finishing the countertops in the kitchen, digging an anti-irrigation ditch in the basement, researching and writing some papers and finishing my super blog post that I started the other week, and due to the length and awesomeness of the story, have not yet completed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A fabulous new revelation in bicycle transportation! THE SIDEWAYS BIKE!! Paul Singh sent me this link, and boy oh boy, is it kooky! This is perhaps even more ridiculous than the steam bike that I posted earlier, you be the judge!

Monday, February 12, 2007

You can take the Japanese out of Japan, but you can't take Japan out of the Japanese. Jennifer and I made an excursion up to Mitsu-Wa, the biggest Japanese supermarket outside of Asia this past weekend to satisfy a long burning desire to get some cool Japanese stuff again. The place is in Edgewater NJ, right across the Hudson from NY city. It is the most gorgeously situated supermarket I've ever been to, with picturesque views of the Upper West Side and bazillion dollar condos. We restrained ourselves pretty well, but I have to say, it was hard. I had to constantly remind myself that I didn't really like all Japanese foods, but the excitement at seeing things that I only remember from Nippon was sometimes too much. I ended up caving in and buying natto, something that I didn't really like in Japan, but that I wanted to eat again for some reason. Natto is the fermented, snotty soybeans that japanese people love to love and love that foreigners don't like. It's kind of like eating compost-flavored boogers with soy sauce on top. I don't know how it ever passed for food initially, but apparently it's very healthy.
I also scored some good sake for cheap and accidentally bought about 10 shiitake mushrooms for about $10. I was looking at the wrong price tag on the shelf, but once they scanned, I wasn't going to take them off the bill. They'd better be good, that's all I can say. We also got some fish broth, so I can imagine myself whipping up some of my favorite tako-yaki sometime soon. Nothing satisfies a guy after a hard, cold winter's day like battered octopus balls.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ok, so the super awesome post is still coming, I was stupid-busy this weekend, but that's ok because I just got some great news! I'm going to be a STAR!!!

According to various studies, I'm a shoe-in for greatness for two key reasons: I'm tall, and I drink!
It's long been known that tall people earn more, on average than their shorter competitors, but get this, according to two Princeton economists, it's because I'm just smarter than you stumps. Another recent STATISTICAL study showed that those people who self-identified as drinkers could expect to earn ten to 14% more than those tee-totaling weirdos that I see hanging out in the library on Friday when I'm drinking my free (or at least, I've already paid for it) beer during Penn Design's Happy Hour. Plus, since I go to bars at least once a month, I can chalk up an additional seven percent on top of that earlier bonous.

What it totals up to is this, I'm gonna be RICH and I don't even have to try, just stand around in my tall-shoes and drink!

Friday, February 02, 2007


Those weather forecasting bastards totally got it wrong! THe weather here is fabulous, and I couldn't be more disappointed. I was looking forward to being the only one moving as the city suffered its icy gridlock.

I will wait, and then on the appointed day, I will have my fun.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ooooh Yeah, the "Wintry Mix" is coming to get us!! I can't wait to ride around on my super-sweet studded snow tires!! They totally rock and with them, so do I!!!

In other news, economics is bullshit. It's like philosophy, but worse, because it pretends applicability. Take that, Soren Anderson!! Take that Adam Smith!! All I've got to say is that I'd rather read an internal memo from the National Toenail Fungus Council than another page on the Allocative Efficiency of Interregional Trade.

Also, forthcoming this weekend will be a super post about the most amazing story I've heard this year, and no, I don't mean 2007, I mean the past YEAR, so at least the best story I've heard since February 1st 2006!

Monday, January 29, 2007

It's been a while since I've actually blogged ( what an interesting new verb, blog). I'm working my way into the thick of classes, I've got a paper due next week and the reading list is growing fast and furious. The big project for me this semester is the "Workshop" class where a group of classmates and I are unleashed upon some unsuspecting community so that we can plan the hell out of it. Our target is going to be the neighboring suburb of Conshohocken, just north of the city along the Schuylkill (skoo-kill) River. I've ridden my bicycle through there numerous times while on rides through the surrounding countrysides. It will be pretty sweet if I can actually see some of my planning efforts pay off in the future, but realistically the borough government thinks that we're just a bunch of junior chimps, they've set the bar pretty low. I'm just hoping to get through the semester with my sanity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I had the interesting experience of being chased by a dog the other day.

While riding my bike up a rather steep hill in Fairmount park, I passed a guy with three dogs walking off lead, a big one, a medium sized one and then a chihuahua puppy. As I rode by I heard the guy say something to one of the dogs, didn't think anything of it and I continued on my way. The guy kept yelling things at his dog and I heard a tiny jingle behind me. Yep, you guessed it, a dog no bigger than a squirrel was trying to run me down. I ended up stopping to wait so that the guy could catch up with his little rodent-pooch. It's always weird for me when animals that look so much like rats behave just like dogs. Its as if a white 5 year old came up to me speaking Japanese. It just doesn't set well in the mind.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

We finally finished the refinishing of our floors last weekend. They look grand, let me tell you . The rather amateurish efforts to refinish the floors by the previous owners just didn't cut the mustard, as they were lumpy gouged and uneven. We rented one of the big professional units before Christmas and Jennifer and I had a stellar time riding that thing around, but it didn't really do everything because the floor was so lumpy to begin with, so I ended up spending my week of holiday on my knees, pleading with the floor gods for a smooth and beautiful surface. It turned out pretty well, let me tell you. I'll post pictures of the actual surface in a bit, they seem not to be on the computer yet.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Holidays, they're good.

I have to say that while it's good to be back in Philly, I didn't really miss the home repair or the litter on the street. We spent Newyears Day bailing out our basement. The second snowstorm that blanketed Colorado and the Midwest with snow and ice arrived here as a warm pissing rain that poured about 200 gallons of water into our basement. Fortunately, nothing terrible happened to any of our stuff, this being the third time it's happened, we managed to keep things off the floor pretty well. Nothing quite like the joys of homeownership! I'm enjoying my week off for the most part, though I've still got quite a bit of sanding to do on the floor before we can stain and finish it. I borrowed a belt sander from a friend and have been grinding away the divits left when the previous owners refinished the floor. They must have used a chainsaw or something to pare down the floor by the way it looks. Such is life. The floor will look good once it's finished, but that is still multiple hours of sanding and staining away. I'd best get to it.