October 31, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote


1.  As if you could "forget" to vote.

2.  Now that I've voted, can we cancel the rest of the inane political coverage?  (and move on to the inane coverage of election day?) 

October 29, 2008

My Week Off: Lessons Learned

The only thing worse than going back to work after a week off is working two weeks straight after a week off.  I was actually off for a total of 10 days, which is the longest period I haven't worked for nearly two years.  And it was probably the longest "vacation" I've had in the last 5 years where I wasn't tasked with a do-it-yourself inter state move or other similar project.  So staying at home with nothing really to do was a welcome proposition.

Of course, after Veep left mid week I did have to do the cooking and cleaning and get the kids places, but it was kind of a fun novelty for me since I'm usually out the door just as everyone else is waking up.  Plus I got to keep my eyes on the landscaping crew and watch their progress.

In lieu of a cohesive narrative, here is a partial list of the things I did--and what I learned:

On Monday I rode to Mt. Spokane.  I learned several things.  

1.  It was in the upper 50s in town, so I didn't bring gloves.  At the top of Mt. Spokane it was much colder.  And windy.  Next time I will wear gloves.  

2.  I also brought 4 power bars, calculating that one power bar for every 20 miles would be plenty.  It wasn't.  When I finally crawled back downtown, to Riverfront Park, I bought a baker's dozen from "Bartlett's Mini Doughnuts."  

3.  As I patiently waited for my fried and sugar-coated calories, I was educated on what a baker's dozen is and isn't (it isn't 13).  I'll let you get the story from the fine gentleman who works at "Bartlett's" as he really explains it much more eloquently than I ever could.


On Tuesday night, I took Schmoopie and Boofis to see The Phantom of the Opera.  Shout out to emptynest on this one.  Actually, earlier this summer the girls watched the movie of the musical that was released a few years ago.  I got the impression they enjoyed it.  So when tickets went on sale for the traveling company here in Spokane, I snagged some good seats.  The girls were excited to go.  It seemed like a sort of family tradition that I could continue since my Mom made us go see the thing with her like three times.  I learned some things from seeing it again.

1.  I actually paid attention to the story--unlike the times we went when I was a kid.  Watching as a teenager, once the brief pyrotechnic bits were over, I was counting the minutes until the thing ended.  I've concluded that the Phantom, despite being some sort of deformed circus genius or something you're supposed to feel sorry for, was a jerk.  What's up with the notes, the ransom/salary he demands, and the weird control thing with Christine?  Teach someone to sing and you own them?  Whatever.  

2.  Judging by their reaction, I think the most memorable part for the girls will be the explosions.  Some things are just universal.

3.   Overall it was still fun and a good show.  Though I think I liked Les Miserables better.  It had the music emptynest would play air drums to in the car (I think that is how I'll remember her 20 years from now--playing air drums in the Pontiac 6000 while picking up CJ3 and Sijbrich from school).


I cooked three meals a day most of the days Veep was gone.  Through this hands on experience, I figured some things out.

1.  Boofis, who normally shuns traditional breakfast food for microwave burritos, will actually eat hashbrowns.  Lots of hashbrowns.

2.  Crockpot roast with onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup is as good as I remember.

3.  I find bean with bacon soup disgusting but, for some unknown reason, the kids love it.  Ok, so this is something I already knew.  But I did figure out just how easy it is to make.  However, I still don't understand how you can naturally add smoke flavor.

4.  I've known for some time that I hate packing a lunch for myself in the morning.  I learned that I also hate packing lunches for other people in the morning.  I know, this sounds irrational and possibly petty, but it is true none the less.  I especially hate packing a lunch for someone when they only ate half of their yogurt the day before and decided to save the leftovers in their lunch bag and this eventuality is only discovered the next morning when the lunch bag is opened in a rush to get the current day's lunch packed and the food can only get put in the lunch bag after about 10 minutes of wiping it out.

Food photos, after the manner of Sijbrich.

Wednesday night I took the kids to our Radiology group "Family Movie Night" at the Garland theater.  I've established a tradition of taking the kids to movies and gorging on buttered popcorn and soda.  This experience, however, had a few twists.

1.  We got coupons for free snacks and had enough for the obligatory popcorn, plus some extra for candy.  We don't normally get candy at the movie theater because it is ridiculously expensive and you don't get free refills (the popcorn is ridiculously expensive, but at least with one adult and three kids, we put enough away in refills to make it somewhat cost effective).  I learned that junior mints are the perfect complement to buttered popcorn and Diet Coke.

2.  We watched the WALL E movie a second time.  When surrounded by people you work with and their families, hearing a huge gaggle of kids giggling and talking and asking questions, a family movie like this is ten times better.

3.  What is up with the seats at the Garland?  I hadn't been there in a while, but I don't remember the super reclining seats with the low backs that feel like you're going to fall into the aisle behind you when you sit down.  I was sure the seat was going to break with Sal on my lap, holding the popcorn, squirming to pass it to his sisters on either side and get a drink of soda for himself.

4.  For the first time ever, on the way home, Schmoopie declared that she ate too much popcorn.

Friday was my birthday. 

1.  While Sal was at school I went for a bike ride on the trails near home.  It was a beautiful, crisp Fall morning.  Two hours of riding went by in a moment.  I realized that if I didn't have to work, I would probably just stay at home and ride every day while the kids were at school.

2.  Sal and I burned a few hours downtown after he got out of preschool, waiting to pick the girls up.  We ate at his "favorite mall"--he went for his usual white rice and I enjoyed an aptly named D'lish's double cheeseburger with grilled onions (in my book it is the Spokane equivalent of In-n-Out, though it doesn't get the attention I think it deserves).  Because of this burger alone, I think it may be my favorite mall too.

3.  Sal and I also hung out at the toy store where I picked up some paper and balsa gliders for us to build and fly together.  The building proved to be more involved than anticipated, but we've had fun flying it off the back deck together.  I think we will have some real adventures together as he gets a little older.


6.  On Monday, Veep came home.

A.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my time running the house and interacting with the kids more, I was really happy when she arrived.  I learned that no matter how well I watch the kids, there is a really big piece missing from our family when she's gone.

B.  However, in December, when I have some more time off, I may send her some place just to do it all again (unless it's snowing).

October 20, 2008

Big Dummy Fender Odyssey

Fall is here.

A few weeks ago, anticipating some wet weather, I decided to slap some fenders on my Big Dummy. It seemed simple enough. I've mounted fenders before--but not on a Big Dummy. Little did I know this would turn into a three week project.

First, many bike shops don't stock the wider fenders that the 2.35" wide Big Apples I'm running demand. So I had my LBS order some silver SKS P65 full mount fenders. I don't exactly understand why, but after I was told they would arrive in two days, they didn't show up for nearly two weeks. However, LBS karma was with me and I only faced a few light drizzles over the interval.

After I finally picked up the fenders and brought them home, I started looking at the Big Dummy to figure out just how I was going to mount them. The Big Dummy frame and fork have literally about 50 braze-ons for all kinds of brakes and racks--and fenders. Rather than just making something up I decided to take some time and look around online to find out how other BD owners had opted to mount fenders. This took a few days since I hit a run of evening work meetings. Vic did this and Dylster did this. Both used Planet Bike fenders. I had PB fenders on my old commuter but figured I'd try something different since they wouldn't transfer onto the BD.

So the first free night I had, I mounted the front fender.



The front fork has eyelets for fenders at the ends of the drops as well as braze ons mid way up the fork. While tempting, the lower eyelets aren't compatible with disc brakes--the caliper gets in the way of the fender support. So I attached the supports to the upper braze on. I like this option because the supports ended up shorter and, I think, tighter and more stable.

The SKS fenders come with these little plastic mounts for some sort of quick release of the front fender supports. The piece below gets bolted onto the eyelet or braze on at the tapered end, and then the support clicks into the opposite flat end.


I tried using them, but with the tension the supports are under when the fender was properly aligned, the supports kept popping out. So I kept it simple and just screwed the supports directly onto the fork.


There is also a bracket that attaches to the fork crown. With the monster tire clearance of the fork, the fender sits off the tire more than I'd like, even when adjusted to its lowest level (best appreciated on the top photo). I could have figured out some way to extend this down, but decided to worry about that another time.

The second free night I had, I mounted the rear fender.


This one was a little tricky. I struggled with whether to run the fender supports along the inside or along the outside of the rounded part of the rear frame extension. I've seen it done both ways (see linked photos above). I ultimately decided that it didn't really matter and the bottom line was simply to make sure to apply tape to the frame so that where the support abuts the frame it won't get scratched up. Also, the eyelets for the rear fender supports were a few inches behind the dropouts, which was somewhat counter intuitive. I finally opted to run the fender supports outside of the frame, as you can see, since it subjectively required less bending of the support.


Securing the front part of the rear fender to the bridge behind the bottom bracket was fairly simple, requiring only a small bracket that sits flush with the fender and a single bolt.


What I didn't show was trimming the supports that extended beyond the outer edges of the fenders. The supports extended quite a bit beyond the fenders as a result of using the upper braze ons on the fork and the more posterior position of the eyelets for the rear fender. I probably dulled them badly, but just cranked on some cable cutters to do cut them. The fenders did come with these little plastic covers that fit in the brackets for the fender supports, covering the end of the support.


I didn't use these but could put them on later. After getting the curve of the fender just so, the last thing I wanted to do was loosen everything back up and have the supports pop out of the brackets.

Overall I'm pleased with how the fenders look and how solid they feel. I don't hear them rattle around like the Planet Bike fenders did on my old commuter. I like how tight the rear fender is along the tire and will have to come up with a way to lengthen the bracket along the front fender to get it to look the same.

There you have it. In the end, fenders are quite easy to mount on a BD, and they really look nice and natural. So now that they are on, I'm wondering how long it will stay dry. Maybe until later today?

Next up--setting up the indoor trainer (NOT for the BD).

October 19, 2008

Brief "Blogables"

It's funny how having a blog, even a lame blog like this one, makes you more keenly aware of your surroundings, searching for something "blogable". While I've lived here for over 7 years now, and feel like I've seen a good portion of the town and its evirons, this heightened "blog awareness" (and new cameraphone) has allowed me to notice and consider things I would have simply walked by in the past. Here are a few examples.

First, I've been riding trails around the south side of town lately and noticed something.





Dan Henries of the Inland Empire are usually old car parts.


We thought we were lost in the maze of trails on the bluff on a recent Saturday ride. Fortunately we passed a piece of metal ductwork and got our bearings. Given the number of classic car shows in the area during the summer months, I think dblbttd will have plenty of car parts to mark the 100 mile MTB race trail. If that fails, I know where there is a big stash at the top of Beacon Hill. I'm wondering if collecting these parts and selling them off to the armies of car enthusiasts would be profitable?

I always love finding unique little niches in town. Saturday afternoon I ran some errands with my 8 year old daughter. We stopped by a local hobby shop for some tools to build the paper/balsa planes I recently acquired. I was surprised to find out there is a hobby shop in town entirely dedicated to model railroads. And I was even more surprised by how busy it was. There were more than 20 people in the store when we walked in.


While I'm on the subject of trains, I saw this commercial the other night while watching "Iditarod: toughest race on Earth" on the Discovery channel. Sweet cargo bikes in action.

While I can't tell how much weight they are really pulling, it looks like these bikes are at least really hitched to the trailers. Makes me wonder just how much weight a bike could realistically carry in an urban environment.

Later, we swung by Hastings to get a book for my daughter. I've always liked how Mountain Gear is a dog friendly store and often there are some nice dogs that sidle up while you're checking out a new pair of skiis or shoes. However, I've never noticed any sign on Hastings' doors that says it is bird friendly. I don't think I'd enjoy a bird landing on my head while browsing books or movies.


Interesting stain there. All I could think of was "hypersensitivity pneumonitis" (bird fancier's lung) with high resolution CT findings including scattered ground glass opacities, centrilobular nodules, and mosaic areas of air trapping and perfusion. Cough, cough. Yuck.

Well, that's all I've got for now. Consider this my small contribution to filling the void left by MetroSpokane's untimely and all-too-premature absence.

Nightfall Notion

Saturday afternoon, after a solid morning ride up and down the bluffs, I was lying on the couch staring out the window at the setting sun (pondering how I was going to get that mylar balloon down from vaulted ceiling) when I heard a large bug thump against the living room window.


Two things immediately came to mind: First, those are some clean windows if I do say so myself--I've got a second career I can always fall back on (how about it CJ3?). Second, I remembered earlier this summer one afternoon when I was working in the garage and heard a similar, though larger, thump. At first I thought it was just some weird house noise in the heat of the day, but then it came again, and again, almost in time. I looked up from what I was doing and saw a hummingbird banging against the window again and again, trying to escape the garage and fly into the blue sky it could see beyond. I guess hummingbirds, or any birds for that matter, don't understand the concept of glass. And they don't seem to learn too quickly either because he just kept banging against the window. I quickly opened the window and cupped my hand around the bird to direct him out before he injured himself. He flew off and I can only assume was fine.

As I laid on the couch, looking out the window, and at the bug that had fallen on the window sill, I noticed a wasp on a window higher up. He was just sitting there on the glass, seemingly longing for the sky beyond. I don't know how they get in, but we've had a few wasps in the house this past month, mostly dead. I think they must be escaping the cold to delay their inevitable end. As I stared at the wasp for a while, he didn't move. It occured to me that the other dead wasps I have found probably did the same thing he was doing. Sitting, defeated, on the glass, unable to escape, slowly starving to death.

As I stared back at the mylar balloon along the ceiling, I thought for sure there was some analogy here about life, existence, struggle, and truth. Are we the hummingbird? The wasp? The dead bug?

Then, true to the aversion I have for analogies (and affection for alliteration), I got up, grabbed the vacuum hose, and sucked them up.

October 18, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Believe it or not, it's that time of year again.


No, not Christmas. But believe it or not, due to economic hard times, Christmas is being extended this year, just to put a few extra points into the retail sales index. These trees were first spotted at Shopko on September 29th.


And as you can see here, road construction season is officially over. I discovered the road up Mt. Spokane is finished and open for riding this past Monday.

So what season am I talking about? Well, for me it is birthday season.

Time to lament another year lived and gone and once again confront my mortality. Last year, as I hit the midway point to 70 years on this earth, I keenly noticed that not all 35 year olds were created equal. Or rather, not all 35 year olds looked 35. Some looked older and fatter. I figure it's around age 30 when the metabolism hits its first big slowdown and the little flat tire and love handles appear. For many this flat 700cc road tire can quickly grow into a steel belted radial snow truck tire. Fortunately for me, it only grew into a modest 26" 2.35 knobby MTB tire. Not terrible, but I knew I'd be taking another hit to the basal metabolic rate by age 40.

35 was officially the age of reckoning. My thousand years of medical training behind me (where, ironically, I learned about physiology and health yet badly abused my body with hours of studying and working instead of exercising), it was clearly time to start living healthy, getting regular exercise, and shedding a few pounds.

I'm happy to report that I've lost about 15 pounds since last year and am convinced I've lost more fat and gained back some weight as muscle. I think I'm in better shape overall and, while I didn't simply power through the ride, I did successfully ride an 80 mile loop from home to the top of Mt. Spokane on Monday.

Despite this, I still wasn't in the mood to celebrate my 36th year. Fortunately Veep has been out of town so there was no formal celebration and there was no pressure to do anything special. I've been off all week and just spending time at home watching the kids has been celebration enough.


So how did I celebrate? Well, after getting the kids off to school I took a little ride on the trails near our house.


This was my first attempt at a riding cameraphone self-portrait, as suggested by photo-genius Dean. Not too bad. I'll have to try it some more to perfect the technique.

Later I picked up Sal and we headed downtown to what he affectionately calls his "favorite mall" for lunch.


Afterward we browsed the toy store, where I picked up a couple paper/balsa wood glider kits, and then headed over to the playground. Sal made his first steps to swinging on his own. I'll miss those hours of pushing kids on the swings.

Cameraphone videocamera comes through again.

Then we vacuumed my car out, picked up Schmoopie from school, went home, and Sal helped me wash some windows on the back of the house. Later we picked up Boofis from a playdate and headed to Round Table for a heavy pizza dinner. The girls both gave me birthday cards. I thought for sure they had forgotten. Schmoopie's card contained the following jokes with the answers carefully hidden behind little paper flaps:

What did one snowman say to the other snowman?

It smells like carrots.

What gets bigger the more people take out of it?

A hole.

Then we ate one of those huge Costco pumpkin pies and watched Discovery Channel. A really decent day.

October 11, 2008

Tractors, Fire, and Trampolines: Landscape Philosophy

Work on the landscaping started two weeks ago. There has been a lot of dramatic progress with rock work being put in.

There is still a tractor here for moving rocks (the big one on the right).


Which do you think a 4.5 year old boy would rather play with?


This evening before dinner we had an inaugural fire in the fire pit in the paver patio that was just completed on Thursday. The kids stayed in their bare feet and roasted marshmallows as we eeked a little more deluded summertime out of this October.



The kids quickly learned how to stoke up a flash of big flames with handfuls of dry pine needles.


In the background you can find me bringing two more big logs from the haphazard wood pile. Actually, there is no real 'wood pile', just downed wood that I've been meaning to cut up with the still-in-the-box chainsaw Veep got me for Christmas.

Part of the philosophy Veep and I have had with this house, and now with the yard, was to create a place that our kids will want to be as they reach their teenage years. We'd love to have them home hanging out with friends instead of out somewhere else where we have no idea what they're up to. At this point we have the opposite problem--the kids don't ever seem to want to go anywhere. And regardless, they are very good kids. I just hope that doesn't change as their teen years loom.


Speaking of kids, this week I'm on vacation and will be staying at home playing Mr. Mom. Veep will only be gone for 4 days, so I shouldn't be able to do too much damage. I'm thinking of it as an adventure that may just end up blogworthy.

October 5, 2008

Moose Blog

I take seeing a moose as a sign of good luck. So this morning when we saw a family of moose in front of our house and one looked at me, I figured it was time to buy a lottery ticket.



Yesterday, after truing up my front wheel from last week's exploits, I rode the bluffs. I always ride up Hatch to the new odd Disneyland-like Mediterranean-themed (in the Northwest? C'mon) development that has only one over priced spec home and access the trail. On the way home I explored the trail off Tomaker and, to my excitement, discovered that the trail brought me to my doorstep. I feel like a fool for not having listened to the many times Veep told me there was a trail there. I didn't explore the trail from our end because I didn't want to cross our neighbor's property on the gas line easement road and thought she was talking about some short trail that just paralleled Hatch. But this trail heads east into some nice open space and goes along the hill side for about 2 miles. On google maps it looks like there is a segment of singletrack below the road that I will explore soon. So maybe the moose stare is retroactive good luck, though I did see at least three large deer while riding down yesterday, which may also merit a little good fortune.

The bluff trail.


The view from the top.


Friday, after a hearty bowl of grape nuts, I rode up Hatch. I learned a few things. First, don't eat grape nuts before riding up Hatch hill.

Second, local election season is in full swing as evidenced by the beautiful boquet of rogue yard signs at the intersection of Hangman Valley and Hatch (and any other intersection where those running or supporting feel that the property owners wouldn't mind another lovely sign being planted).


I was fortunate enough to witness this yahoo planting another. Is there really no other way to run a local election? I think I'll vote for the one that says 'control noxious weeds.'


And just think, in a few months these signs will join the other's I pass on my morning commute, alongside the train tracks on Inland Empire Way.


Third, the "World Peace" concrete divider wall midway up the hill has been renovated and carefully mulched.


I wonder who maintains this and what they hope the addition of organic matter will do for the concrete. Maybe it is a magic mulch that will, in fact, grow world peace.

At the top of the hill, there is now nice smooth asphalt on the stretch of Hatch between the Rocket and 57th.


Felt oh so nice to ride on. Could road construction season really be ending?

And finally, I learned that a blog is nothing without a cameraphone (see above).


October 2, 2008

Shameless Plug?

If you have never clicked on the CJ3 link to the left, here is what you are missing. Download for free and then go buy more from awarestore.com or itunes.

Cary Judd TrueAnthem Music

October 1, 2008

The Last Vestige of Summer

At this latitude Summer tends to end on time. We've been lucky this past week to have an early "Indian Summer" before Fall or Winter has even begun. We were fortunate enough to have a chance to spend time with friends up in Sandpoint this last weekend at their lake place. The days were a bit crisp but I think we got all we could out of these last few days of sunshine.

On Saturday Harwood and I missed Joal as we explored the trail up Gold Mountain for the first time. I'm learning that I like climbing more and more.


It was a nice view of Sandpoint 2/3 of the way up. If only I could find a job there, it would be the perfect place to live.


Bombing down the tight turns on the way down was fun. The score was 2 falls for me and 6 for HJ. Granted, he was going faster and leading the way. All I had to do was look for his skid marks and I'd know when to squeeze the brakes. The real beauty was laying the bike down on literally the last turn before the parking lot, where the wives and kids could witness the bloodshed (I'm promised forthcoming photos on Veep's next post).


They did put down the cards for a minute to see if I was ok. We spent the rest of the morning in town and then headed back to the house to give the women time to take in a road ride. The kids, pretending it was still summer, swam and waded. Rocks were skipped and the kayak took a few laps. Later in the evening, rather than bothering with individual warm showers, the adults also denied the presence of Fall and jumped in the lake for a quick rinse.

Sunday morning I took advantage of the opportunity for a solo road ride from Bottle Bay, through town, and up to Schweitzer. As I rediscovered some good music by The Slip (see left hand column), I played "mountain stage" on the 7 mile climb. I don't think I won the stage, but did make it to the top. Everyone met at the base of the ski hill where I traded my road bike for my 29er and followed Harwood down yet another first run trail to the north side of the road. Even tighter turns with tighter trees, more rocks, and bigger roots. I took the only dive of the ride when I hit my handlebars on a tree and twisted around onto the ground. I bent my rim and felt a little spooked the rest of the ride.

On the way down we came upon a "sweet jump."


I couldn't decide whether to pull a backflip or a triple tailwhip. So instead I rode around the side. Here HJ is checking the takeoff angle and calculating the required velocity to reach the proper trajectory. He couldn't get the math to work right, so he rode around the side as well. Joal would have gone. Where is he when you need him?


The rest of the afternoon we took it easy. I think the jump haunted HJ because at around 4 pm a hammer could be heard in the back of the house as he was building the world's smallest launch ramp with the only scraps of wood on the property. The ramp was placed ever so carefully, and not so securely, on the edge of the dock. The press, kids, and dog then lined up in the viewing gallery. After a short wait, they witnessed this:

The power of the cell phone movie camera. It soon turned into an all out free-for-all mother-picture-taking of kids-doing-cute-things fest.


Eventually things died down. We all pitched in to pack up the cars and clean the place up and then headed down the road for home. The drive was just long enough to allow me to start appreciating my heavy eyelids and sore muscles. It has been a long time since I've squeezed quite so much out of one weekend. And since the weather promises to turn tomorrow, it was well timed.

Fortunately for me I had Monday off to eat some ibuprofen and recover. This is what I saw from my perch on the living room couch.


I have no idea how I'm going to get that balloon down. I guess I'll worry about that next weekend.