Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winter games, Munich style

This was a game that we saw at the bier hall in Munich over new years. It was a while back, but I'm finally getting around to posting about our adventures. It's been a hell of a month but first things first: winter is still here and nobody does winter quite as well as the Germans.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Behold, the Erfurt Slammer

In honor of my far away family, both over seas and in the middle of the prairies, I have created the Erfurt Slammer. It consists of equal parts bourbon and gin, half a part simple syrup, a twist of grapefruit and two dashes of bitters.
It is like a sweet pinecone smoking a corn cob pipe. Delicious.

Just sitting in my fainting chair

Jennifer has been huge into The National for the past two weeks or so. We've listened to all the albums, with a particular emphasis on Trouble Will Find Me. There is a song about three quarters through the album called "Pink Rabbits" in which the narrator describes a scene where he is "just sitting in my fainting chair, drinking pink rabbits."   Epicureans that we are, we endeavored to make this poetic drink. The internet lore has it that the drink is made with strawberry Nesquick, Kahlua, and tequila. I fancied it up with some frozen strawberries blended up with sugar and milk rather than the fake drink, and I went for name brand booze.

Then we gave it a shot.

Pink, with a bite from the tequila, and an oddly comforting coffee wang, they are not nearly as bad as you might think.  Jennifer prefers hers with rum, not tequila, however. We'll let her get away with a small deviation, it's her favorite band after all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas orangeaments

Merry Christmas little house.

Guess what? Bike share!!

Bike share has been the question and answer to about six and a half out of seven days a week for me for the last, well, for the last year at least.  A few weeks back, the good folks at B-cycle were in town to do a test with their first run of the new stations.  This was a big deal for my office, and for me particularly, since I was responsible for helping them plan the demo.  They had two small stations brought from Colorado on the back of a truck, and then installed piece-by-piece in a set of locations about 2 miles south of our house, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  I was down there on a daily basis, running tours and showing off the equipment to City employees as well as friends and onlookers from our partner agencies.  The weather varied from about 60 degrees on the first day, to about 25 degrees overnight over the two weeks that they were in town.  Rain, snow, sleet and the buckets of winter crap that we expect each year greeted us and the stations.  Fortunately, bike share don't give a damn.  Thankfully, though not really surprisingly, everything went just fine.  No malfunctions, minor tweaks to be made before production, and hopefully smooth sailing.

The fun part was going over the details with the head of my department.  Rina is a bold woman, though not honestly so bold on a bicycle.  She's pledged to be ready to roll for next spring, and also pledged that I'd be fired if I took any pictures of her on a bicycle.  She rode like a champ though.  A rusty champ.

Let's see if she reads my blog.  

The Bike Share Family

Sunday, December 21, 2014

See, a good one

With enough practice, I may actually get some good photos of Jennifer out of the deal.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


As usual, it was good to be home for Thanksgiving. Ian and Natalie, Kelly and Nate, the parents and the pets. We learned a valuable lesson in traveling through Chicago Midway, pack a lunch. Not a health or tasty option to be had, though to be fair, we didn't give King Wah Chinese much of a chance. Jennifer packed a bento of rice and greens on the way out, and my mom provided us with some of her awesome enchiladas on the return trip.
The founder of the feast

Aside from the standard of beers, overeating and bb guns, we had a new kitten to play with, and fat bikes to ride. Howie the cat was about as lively and rambunctious as one could possibly hope for. Though he shredded everything in sight, it kind of made me (and to a lesser extent Jennifer) want a kitten.

Since it had snowed abut 4 inches Wednesday morning, my dad had the prescience to bring home two fat tire Charge Cooker bikes from the shop. Nothing quite as awesome as monster trucks mating with mountain bikes and making babies for us to ride on.
Natalie crushing it through the back yard
I also some time time breaking in the new camera.  We got an Olympus EM-1 last month in anticipation of our Christmas trip to Germany.  As Jennifer put it, it's the first camera we've had since our Canon F-1 where it's actually fun to take photos.  It's got great depth-of-field or 'bokeh' control. This involves a LOT of photos of my feet while sitting on the bed, but also a good number while roaming around Iowa.  There's nothing quite like the sunset over the prairies, and nothing quite like taking a gazillion pictures of it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anyone want a cute little row house?

Jennifer and I aren't done with the new place yet, but we are hoping that the prospect of selling the mole hole out from under ourselves will get the productive juices flowing.

There are probably a thousand things to do before we move in, but at the basic level we need a working bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. First things first.

Yesterday night saw us plan the completion of the sewer stack and the insulation and the plumbing and the paint in all the necessary rooms and a couple of the unnecessary ones. Planning for progress is a good precursor to progress.

Now we just have to sell the little house. Everyone needs a deadline right?

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Jennifer and I are babysitting for our friends Peter and Eleanor who are busy manning (and womaning) their both at the Philly Bike Expo. It's been a while since either of us has been in charge of caring for an infant. In some ways they are easy, they do about 4 things that you have to deal with; poop, pee, get hungry and cry, and the rest of the time they just sleep.

Hazel went from furious to feasting to fast asleep in 3 minutes. This behavior would raise calls of alarm in adults, but is apparently normal for children.

Friday, November 07, 2014

It's not you, it's me

Famous breakup sessions often begin with those words.  "It's not you, it's me.   I mean, it's not that I don't like, LIKE you, but you know, I don't like, want to be around know?"

Work, I'm kind of talking about you.

In one view, I'm kind of in love with the work I'm doing.  I'm planning a bike share system for my city, Philadelphia, and I'm doing a great job at it.  From the specifics of where each station will go, to the graphics on the bikes, to the cost of the rides, to the way that we present the program to the public, I'm in it.  That's awesome.  So awesome in fact that I end up putting a lot of myself into the work (it's bikes plus city planning, how could I NOT).  I care a whole lot about the project and I want it to succeed.  I want to do my absolute best every day, because I think that what I'm doing is going to change the face of the city, and to do so for the better.  Again, that's awesome.

Well actually, I want to do better than my best, I want to do the best that anyone has ever done.  I don't want to make a mistake, I don't want to forget anything, I don't want to leave anyone unconvinced or unsatisfied or unanswered.  And there's your problem, folks.

And that's why it's not you, it's me.

Best is a superlative, and based on my recollection of middle school english class, it is impossible to more best, more perfect, or more invincible.  My brain has known that since I was 14, but for some reason my heart and guts are still not quite on board.  For whatever reason, the seemingly disorganized, lackadaisical Ritz clan has got quite a bit of drive in it.  Something or other is flogging me pretty hard from inside to make sure that I keep up, that I don't let the other kids get ahead of me. It doesn't really kick in around the house (who cares who the best dishwasher is) and it doesn't really make much of a difference to me in my wallet (so what if I make a lot of money, you can't take it with you) but it REALLY makes a difference to me when we're talking about that core concept of Aaron = awesome bike guy.

So this has been a learning year for me.  Thankfully, most years have been learning years.  I don't think I've gotten any dumber over each of the last 35 orbits of our planet around its star, but 2014 will stand out for a while as the time when I figured out how to work on something to my utmost.  With the possible exception of March, every month for the past 12, I have worked harder than the last.  I have spent more time, and psychic energy on the program, and I've survived it all.  I can't honestly say that I have enjoyed it, but given my natural propensity to screw off, procrastinate and winge, it's kind of a jolt to look at the amount of things we've accomplished in the past year.  Last November, I'd just put the finishing touches on the RFP that set us down this road.  I'm now in it to my eyeballs, and working my ass off, and wondering where the year went.

It certainly didn't end up in blog posts.  Most of them would have been something like, "So fucking busy, can't write much" and so they just haven't existed.  But Jennifer forwarded me something that she dug up from the japan years that reminded me how valuable the blog has been for me in recording some key points in my life.  I will make amends with the blog, I will post more, and more often.  Hopefully it will be more thoughtful than the weenie posts that have dominated this forum of late.  It's crazy to think that an online journal, readily accessible to everyone, would feel somewhat private, but there you have it.  This blog is my diary, as it exists.  I'll try to make it worth reading.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Awesome idea

For some reason my posts seem to center on wieners. This is my latest awesome idea for cooking hot dogs and okra. Dinner for a champ.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Burnt Weenie Sandwich

Work has been super busy recently, but I'm able to keep my energy levels up with proper nutrition. Tonight, from the sausage food group, burnt weenie sandwich.
Available at Chez Ritz and at Saint Alfonso's Pancake Breakfast.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gotta say, I was sorely tempted

I was definitely tempted to head to Washington DC to ride in the US Brompton championships.  It would have been sweltering hot, but I was thinking that it would be awesome to help Greg Biche from Trophy Bikes take the win.  He was second by about 10 seconds, a decent gap, but one that we probably could have worked together to close down.  A folding bikes, what silly things.  How I enjoy thee.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Over the past year, I've had increasingly frequent bouts of insomnia.  Here I am at 5:01 in the morning, 3 drinks in, waiting to feel the slightest bit sleepy.  I'm not sure if it's related to getting older, the stress of advancing in my career or what, but I do not care for it.  Specifically, I don't care to feel groggy and dumb the next day, and the apprehension that such a feeling provides me while I wile the hours away in bed is probably one of the things keeping me awake.

The standard symptoms of a poor night's sleep are a busy day at work, followed by a day off of bike training, followed by an aimless evening in which I attempt to get all of my million daily ideas accomplished, processed, or otherwise catalogued away for future reference.  Over the course of this interminable night (soon to be over, as the chirping sparrows indicate) I have contrived 3 different options for hoisting the sliding glass door of our new house to the top floor where it will be installed, some new plumbing theories about how best to install a half-shitter on the first floor of our house and about 5 different ways to construct carbon fiber cycling shoes for myself.   I have likewise replayed the 5 interviews for a new temporary bike share promoter position that we're offering in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.  So many good people, only a finite number of jobs!

Not a bad day's worth of thinking, but I wish like hell that it would occur during daylight hours and leave me in peace at night.  I've always said that I would prefer not to sleep if I didn't have to, well, in this case I may have been wrong.  Sleep would be just the thing right about now.  Perhaps the saving grace is that I finally took some time to read through one of my recent Economist magazines.  So smart, those guys.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Subtle hints

I found this on my desk this morning, perhaps my co-workers are trying to day something about my physique.

Also, pretty awesome that muscle milk contains no milk.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

First recipe down

My colleague Cara and I were taking about how much we both liked Jamie Oliver, and then, as a complete surprise, she got me this awesome cook book. I guess I'll have to order up some black pudding, or maybe as Jennifer suggested, "Go bleed a cow," and make my own.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pollen count

My brake hoods prove what my eyes and nose had been telling me; pollen count is pretty high in Philly about now.
I'm lucky not to suffer any real allergies, but even so, there is something in the spring air here that makes it feel like I'm snorkeling in a sand box.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Squiggly Legs

After several years of working with a power meter on my bike, I still only have a loose understanding of what all these numbers mean.  I guess I’m just not that much of a numbers guy, I’m really simply a bike guy.  What those squiggles up above mean is that I pedaled my bike far, and I pedaled it hard.   My legs have been working well, like, REALLY well over the past two weeks.  Not only was I able to race without problem on a tight and technical criterium course, but I very nearly made the winning break at this past weekend’s Philly Phlyer.  Very nearly making the break is not as good as making the break, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well things went.  It didn't hurt that the weather was 63 degrees and sunny, but it would have been nice if I didn't drop my power-gel on lap 2.  Always bring  extra snacks is my new rule.

I guess that my legs just had good memories of the Phlyer,—I ended up winning the Brompton National Championships in 2010 and 2011 at the very same race.  It was also on that weekend that I got an email from my current boss asking me if I wanted to come work for MOTU.  Good memories on that park loop indeed.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Back in the saddle again

I'm pleased, though somewhat apprehensive, to announce that I'll be doing my first criterium in over 2 years. The season is upon us, and though I'm still feeling a bit slow and a bit sore, I am really looking forward to the experience.  More notes when I return with all my skin and bones intact.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


I came home from a lovely evening out with some neighbor friends to see my Aventinus clone exploding all over the fermentation vessel. Go yeast, go! Just don't go all over my floor.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From the Himalayas, with Love

My sister Claire got Jennifer and me this giant block of salt from the Himalayas to cook with.  At first, I thought that maybe you should just shave off little bits of it as seasonings, but then I read the instructions.  YOU JUST COOK WITH THE WHOLE DAMN THING!

Shrimp, meet giant slab of 500 degree salt!

Delicious, unless you let it cook too long, in which case, salty-licious.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Motorvational speaker

So, perhaps I have given my cho co- workers too much info on Jennifer's dissertation status over the past few months. Earlier this week she made brownies in an attempt to stave off working on her dreaded paper. My colleague Kristin had some choice words for jennifer when I offered her some of the spoils. The post-it note was a nice pep talk to encourage her onward. What she really said was something like, "These are delicious, but why dissent she knock it off and do the fucking dissertation?"

The brownies were a hit with everyone but Jennifer who found them inadequate, too cake-like and far from the idealized brownie in her head.  I reminded her that the best is often the enemy of the good. Advice that applies to baked goods and scholarly writing alike.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

What kind of "athlon" would this be?

Took myself out for a snow ride and ski this morning. The ride to FDR park was chilly, starting temps were around 11 degrees, but by the time I had stashed my bike and gotten going, the sun had warmed things up considerably.  I broke trail for about an hour and them doubled back on my steps and did the same course in 30 minutes.

I have so few chances to ski in philly that I have to pounce every chance I get.