Thursday, December 20, 2012

Looks like this guy made a little trip to the hammer store...

I have no idea what was up with the 10 oz claw hammer slung into the chain around this guy's seatpost, but I'm just glad he checked it at the door of my building.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stoked for snow!

So, while Philly 'endures' these terrible chills into the 30s, Iowa is going to have snow for Christmas!! Here's the forecast for Ames tonight!
Snow with areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 22. Windy, with a east northeast wind 14 to 19 mph becoming north 24 to 29 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 39 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 7 to 11 inches possible.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bad day at work cured by good sake at home

This bottle was made about 100 kilometers south if our place in Nagano. We got it on the trip to Vancouver last April. It was my little birthday gift to myself.
Totally hitting the spot now after a trying day at work.

Little shout out to Lara-chan and my onsen buddy Shane. Hope you are doing well wherever you are

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Last Friday my coworkers had a small sendoff party for my boss who's going to be away for the next month on an Eisenhower Fellowship.  Lucky guy.  Well, smart guy really.  Anyway, in honor of Halloween as well, they got a cooler full of dry ice for making party tricks and spooky drinks etc.  By the time the sendoff wound down at about 12, there was still 3/4 of a cooler full of solid CO2 left, and I decided that I might need to take some home with me.  I filled a Tupperware with the stuff and then headed back home.  When I got back, I thought, "Won't this stuff stay frozen a lot better if I put it in a thermos?" 

Check out the dented metal cap.  Probably where it destroyed the light fixture.

Getting out my trusty stainless thermos and dropped in the dry ice cubes.  I sealed the cap nice and tight to make sure that the air didn't get in to warm up the cubes and then Jennifer and I headed off to bed.

At about 1:30 in the morning we were awoken by a giant exploding thud followed by some broken glass shattering down stairs.  "What the hell was that?"   We headed down and found exactly what anyone who has half a brain and understands physics just a little bit would have known.  The plastic cap from the thermos had failed (thankfully) and blasted the top of the thermos off, up through the light fixture and through the drywall into the ceiling.  We never found much of it, just a ton of glass and plastic shards as well as the metal cup/cap thing.

3 inch hole in the ceiling.
Soooo, I spent my evening picking glass shards out of the ceiling and did a full kitchen sweep.  Not like I should have been surprised by this, since I spent much of my teen years thinking of ways to make things explode, I should have known better, or at least put the thermos in someone else's house.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

My favorite sport is run by cock smokers

I must say that I've really been enjoying the combined cycling media communitiy's coverage of the UCI defamation suit against Floyd Landis.  It seems that pretty much every story includes the laundry list of things that Floyd Landis can't say about Hein Verbruggen, Pat McQuaid or the UCI.  

For example, this from Velonews
"Piguet’s ruling forbids Landis from “stating that the UCI, McQuaid and/or Verbruggen have concealed cases of doping, received money for doing so, have accepted money from Lance Armstrong to conceal a doping case, have protected certain racing cyclists, concealed cases of doping, have engaged in manipulation, particularly of tests and races, have hesitated and delayed publishing the results of a positive test on Alberto Contador, have accepted bribes, are corrupt, are terrorists, have no regard for the rules, load the dice, are fools, do not have a genuine desire to restore discipline to cycling, are full of shit, are clowns, their words are worthless, are liars, are no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or to make any similar other allegations of that kind.”
Similar stories can be found all over the media sphere, which kind of makes me wonder, isn't the reporting of this case merely magnifying and repeating all the allegations that Landis has made against these dudes?  Well, if so, good.

It reminds me of a story from Alf, my old roommate:  It was a new school year and the principal of Alf's high school called an all school assembly to address what he considered to be a plague of swearing that was sweeping through the student body.  The principal took the podium and after describing how it was disrespectful to use vulgar language,and how stiff penalties would be levied against anyone using swears in the halls or classrooms of the school.  he then proceeded to enumerate all of the words which would not be allowed.
"Students of Shorewood High school will not be allowed to say the following:  fuck, bitch, shit, fag, pussy, whore, cock smoker...."

And all the kids were like, "Cock smoker?  Nobody says cock smoker?"  Guess what the most popular swear was for the following year.  That's right.  

Maybe the UCI is run by a bunch of cock smokers after all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

 Glaciers are cool, literally.  Holding this little chunk was a lifelong dream.  My own pet glacier.
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 Truly one of the finest hikes we've ever done was the Kasugi Ridge hike in Denali State Park which parallels the Alaska Range.  The weather treated us very well, and we got good looks at Denali pretty much every day.  It's a big goddamn mountain.
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Exit Glacier
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 Harding ice field and the top of Exit Glacier
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 Glaciers, they're awesome, and we were there.  This is a picture of two fools hanging out at the edge of the Harding Ice Field.  Some day, probably not all that long from now, this will be a melty puddle.  For now, it's an incredible sight.
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Seward Alaska, just hanging out next to the campsite, enjoying the scenery.   
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Family time

After one night with my mom and sister in town.

Innovations in office wear

Just the thing I needed for a long and dangerous conference call.

Friday, August 03, 2012

What I did with my summer vacation

I'm locally famous as "Director of Abandoned Bicycle Removal Program".  My boss says that if I can get 2 interns to work on the project next year, he'll promote me to "Executive Director"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Harry and Jean are visiting for a few days this week. Fortunately, Jennifer's hell of dissertation proposal madness has mostly passed. She meets her committee on Thursday to go over the details and get the final OK on her proposal. Hopefully that will be a huge load of stress off of her plate. The REAL news though is that we're going to Alaska next week. Crazy to think about, but we're headed to Anchorage and then points beyond on to try our mettle in the Alaskan wilderness. Probably every place in Alaska is going to be more spectacular than any place I've been since Vancouver, so it should be a good trip. I'll be sure to take a heap of pictures of awesome nature.
As I posted earlier, it's been a crap year on (well, mostly off) the bike for me and that's caused me to do a lot of thinking about why I love this sport. I ended up happening to ride along MLK at about 7:15 last night when a fast moving group of skinny people on expensive bikes simultaneously overtook me and damned if I didn't feel the need to hop onto the back of the group. I was 'testing' my latest bamboo creation, and more importantly testing my knee to see if it is indeed back on the mend after 7+ months of mild but debilitating pain. Within seconds of settling into a teammaate's slipstream at the back of the group, I remembered exactly what I'd been missing all this time; the sense of heightened living that comes from going as fast as you can under your own power. The ebb and flow of the pack around you, the extra senses that you seem to develop to tell you exactly how far you need to be, how much gap you need to make up. All of that. It is that 'extra gear' that competition and heavy exertion put onto your consciousness that makes this effort worthwhile. Winning is great, it gives a bit of external validation to what we do, however brief and fleeting. It can't be the sum goal though, because if it is, you're totally missing the point. I don't think I'm missing the point, but I have been missing cycling. Welcome back, little by little.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Favorite sentence of the week: - The plural of 'anectdote' is not 'data', it's anecdotes. -

Saturday, July 07, 2012


For the last 6 years, Jennifer has bemoaned the ugliness of the front of our house. This summer we finally got around to doing something about it. Some fake lintels and some tastefully-chosen paints are all that it took to make an ugly house into a passably unobtrusive one.

The lower half went easily enough but we waited nearly a month to find a ladder on Craigslist that would reach the roofline. A 40' ladder was ours for $75, but we had to help get it off of the seller's roof. This turned out to be an endeavor since getting a ladder off of a roof with someone else's know-it-all father is even worse than getting it off the roof with one's own--at least you can yell back at your own dad.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rekindling and old flame

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My knee is having none of this bike riding crap, so I've decided to spend some time with an old flame; rock climbing is back.  Now I just need to find some places with a bit less broken glass and a bit more serentiy and I'm all set.
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Monday, June 11, 2012

The city, smplified

This is a quick diagram of how the cities'civil service hiring process works.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'm out.

For the first time since 2005, I'll have hairy legs in June.  Today is the 6 month mark on my non-recovery from chronic knee pain.   Since exactly the 31st of December 2011, my right knee has been basically incompatible with riding a bicycle hard.  The doctors and physical therapists call it patella-femoral pain syndrome, which is Latin for "your knee hurts".  I've still been able to commute to work, and have managed a couple of 15 to even 40 milers in the interim, but all at a snails pace and all but a few solo.  Off and on I've felt that my condition has been on the mend and that things are improving, but each time that has evaporated due to random circumstance or something I did or didn't do correctly.  I spent 8 weeks doing physical therapy, and I was actually pretty consistent with the exercises for most of that time.  It helped, at least with my balance and stability, but my knee remains as it has been--f'ed.  For the past while, I've been a bit jaded by the whole process and have fallen off the horse a bit.  I hope and plan to rekindle my mojo and get back with the therapy a bit, if only to give myself something to focus on.

I was feeling good and seemingly on the mend once in March, and once a week and a half ago, I'd completed a couple of decent rides and felt a bit better than I had.  Then last Monday I went in for my most recent consultation with the doctor who, upon my endorsement, injected me with about 5 cc of cortisone.  Turns out, it made things worse. My knee hurts, almost as badly as it ever has and simply rejects the idea that it was ever suited for pedaling a bicycle.  I get a small throbbing pain on the inside of my right knee that reminds me that things aren't right.  When I feel it, my heart sinks and my thoughts turn black. "If only I hadn't... if only I had.... if only."

I'm writing this here for myself to remind me that I've made a decision not to worry about that any more.  The fates are not with me this year and I've decided to formally pull the plug on any hope of racing in 2012.  It would take at least 6 weeks of solid training to even want to bother entering a race, and I simply won't be able to perform as I would want in the time remaining in the racing season.  If my knee is back on track by mid-July, I might consider gearing up for a more full season of cyclocross racing, but that's still well on the back burner at this time.

Needless to say, I'm gutted.  I've dedicated at least 10 hours per week for the past 6 years to riding, training and racing bikes.  My best friends here in Philly are all bike people, and I'm the president of my bike racing club.  It's not been easy to see all that flow away and be isolated from the most important activity in my life here.  It kills me every time I see my teammates out on rides or read race reports about what I wish I were doing.  Last time I was this long away from the sport I loved was in 1999 when achilles tendinitis sidelined me for 9 months and caused me to miss my junior year of cross country at Macalester.  That sucked, probably more than this injury, since the loss of one of my 4 seasons of cross country was so hard to bear.

I'll likely get better, just don't know when.  A friend of mine from the shop has volunteered to hunt down some alternative therapies for me; Active Release Therapy is on schedule for some time in the near future, we'll see if that does the trick.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Elevator Musings

Me: Thanks
Big guy: No problem, I tried to hold it open, but it didn't want to.
Me: Yeah, well the elevators kind of have a mind of their own.
Big Guy: Oh Jeez.  I hope not.  If they have a mind of their own it means that they'd be like the rest of people here, dumb, angry and mean.
Me:  Hah, I like that analogy.
Big Guy:  Analogy, buddy that ain't no analogy, that's the TRUTH.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Holy virgin egg

Left a hard boiled egg in my pickled beet jar (delicious!) and found the holy virgin Mary inside.  Now I'm thinking that maybe with some tiny pinholes and some entrepreneurial spirit, we could make some pretty awesome novelty eggs.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Dad always knows

Dad always knows exactly what type of awesome bike related goodies will trip my fancy. This year he included a couple of choice items: grandma's cinnamon candy and a wool bike seat cover that is probably as old as I am.

Birthday for me

The trip to Vancouver was capped off with some super sake from a store called Nomi. It's one of the few places anywhere on the continent that actually sells a variety of good imported stuff. I honestly don't know a whole lot about sake when it comes down to it, I just know that I like it a lot.  The cheap stuff like Gekkeikan or Shirayuki is kind of like the Miller High Life or Franzia of sake, good when I want a warm slug of something. After being spoiled by some of the good stuff that Vinod has plied me with over the past year, it's been increasingly difficult to go back to my budget sake though. The high test stuff is amazingly different, much smoother and cleaner in flavor. Come on over and have a glass with me some time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Khakis anyone?

Last fall I was approached by an advertising agency representing Life Khakis.  They wanted to make a video of people doing interesting jobs and also wearing khaki pants.  I apparently fit the bill nicely.  We spent one afternoon and then a Sunday morning filming me out riding the bike I built and then got some shots of me in the basement working on a bamboo bike.  The end result looks pretty cool.!/video/drive

Monday, April 16, 2012


God bless junkets. Jennifer had a paper accepted for the American Educational Research Association conference held in Vancouver BC. A more spectacularly situated city I have yet to see.  Downtown is a mass of aqua colored glass sky scrapers set against some remarkably beautiful mountains and the sea. It also seems to have the best network of parks of anyplace I've ever been. Stanley Park is great and there are dozens of cool little squares and the like all around the city. That said, the city also has this totally surreal vibe of a place whose main product seems to be livability, almost all of the construction is new residential high rises that are going up literally wherever you look. Our hotel is right by three different sites where they are building condos. Nobody really seems to work here, at least not like the other really rich cities that I've been to like New York or London. There every one seems to be rushing off some where, but in Vancouver it's like they are all just chilling. I speculate that there is just an enormous amount of second home ownership that occurs here. You make your money doing whatever in Tokyo or China and then you move to Vancouver for the prestige of it or the parks or the nearby mountains or the Marina or the friendly Canadians. Don't get me wrong, it's great, just weird.

Monday, April 09, 2012


Sawzalls on a bamboo rod with some good old fashioned duct tape makes a decent pole saw. This wasn't exactly what Jennifer had in mind when she said, "Let's go to the garden and get it ready for spring planting." But it kept me occupied and out of trouble.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

You put that on your pizza?

Yup, cracked an egg on the pizza right before we threw it in the oven.pretty awesome despite my initial misgivings.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ahh, the internet, how would I find out all the weird stuff without you.  My co-worker forwarded me this list of advice for the 19th century cycling woman.

My favorite is, "Don't cultivate a bicycle face."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicken fingers?

Posted by PicasaFor some reason, our Cambodian neighbors think that we need to be fed every once in a while.  They bring over things like spring rolls, rice porridge, some fruits, and last week, chicken soup.  The broth was excellent, and the greens were crispy and good, but I just can't really get into chicken feet.  It's just kind of a sloppy cartilaginous skin on some bones.  Not exactly "good eats" from my perspective. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

My job ends, all hail my new job

The Centers For Disease Control grant that's funded my job for the past 2 years ended yesterday. It's been a pretty good run. Lots of good experiences, a number of excellent colleagues and I've been able to immerse myself in making the city better for people who walk and ride their bikes. Pretty much the perfect job. Though the grant ended, I'm pleased to say that I won't be leaving MOTU afterall. I've been moved over to the City's general funds and have been assured a place here for the next couple of years. Luckily, most of the awesome people who were hired with me through the Get Healthy Philly initiative are staying on. Here's a note from Giridhar Mallya (GEER-thur)the program director about the awesome stuff we've accomplished. 
 Over the last two years, we have implemented an impressive collection of policies and programs that make it easier for Philadelphians to eat healthfully, be physically active, and live smoke-free. It’s hard to summarize our accomplishments in a brief letter, so please stay tuned for our Get Healthy Philly Annual Report in May 2012. Here, though, are some quick highlights:
  • 200+ smoke-free recreation centers, playgrounds, and pools, affecting over 2 million visits per year 
  • 600+ healthy corner stores, increasing access to healthy foods for hundreds of thousands of low-income Philadelphians 
  • Nearly 2,000 tobacco retailers that have applied for permits from the Department of Public Health, enabling us to monitor and enforce tobacco laws, particularly those preventing sales to thousands of youth smokers 
  • 160 public schools, serving 100,000 Philadelphia children, that have implemented healthy fundraisers, socialized recess, and classroom movement breaks 
  • Tripling of Quitline use among Philadelphians and expansion of smoking cessation coverage for 80,000 adult smokers covered by Medicaid 
  • Two new dedicated bike lanes, large-scale pedestrian and bicyclist safety education and enforcement, and embedding of health impact assessments into the citywide district planning process 
  • Tens of millions of media impressions encouraging Philadelphians to quit smoking and reduce their sugary drink consumption. 
 The changes that we’ve fostered over the past two years will have long-lasting effects. Over the course of the next 6-12 months, we will be completing evaluations and looking to share the impact of our collective work through conferences and publications.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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After a flurry of house cleaning last weekend, we decided it was time to get rid of the cigar that Todd Shirk gave me in high school. It was dominican, and as crispy as burned toast. Cigars stink pretty bad, but I couldn't just throw it away. Plus, it was Jennifer's birthday on Monday, so a celebration was in order.

Though I've got no interest in tobacco products, my glass of scotch was fabulous after puffing on that stinking log.
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Dragon breath

Our trusty backyard guardian, the bamboo dragon, finally returned to ashes. Claire gave it to Jennifer and me a few years ago as a windchime, and after enough time covered in bird poo, rain and sun, it was time to send it off. The chimenea proved to be an excelent crematorium.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

There's a political platform for you


Jennifer and I saw this a while back, and I just stumbled upon the image in my phone. Apparently the guy is talking about the tree of heaven, or ailanthus tree. It really is a weed here, and does do a fair bit of damage to cement, but I think the message is a bit overwrought don't you?
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

new toy

Since my knee flared up again and I can't ride my bike for a few weeks, I've gotten myself a new tool (some might say toy). It's a 9"x16" metalworking lathe from Emco. It's pretty much ideal for the type of stuff I'd do: small to medium sized bike parts and tooling accessories. I can also justify it by making cool stuff for the house, like multi-dimensioned metal bars and uhhh, stuff.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Merry Christmas from Nam and Fam

Nam lives across the street from us, and we often see him out smoking, puttering with his cars and such, going fishing with his kids, talking with crazy Nick etc. He always greets us with a "Hi Jennifer and Eric!" and then tells us something helpful like, "You take care of your car, it take care of you."
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

That's right, I'm from IOWA.