Wednesday, May 26, 2010

big huge weekend

Our weekend was so big that it took 3 days to get everything done and 3 more to write it up. First, I took Friday off from work so that we could meet up with the rest of Jill's family in Indy. Since rain was in the forecast, we scrapped the original plan of going to the zoo and went to the Children's Museum.

We first visited the Bob the builder room, where kids could play with toys and climb on construction looking stuff. Across the hall was a Barbie exhibit. I thought, well, it's sort of fun but I don't see the big deal. But each following room got better and better. I highly recommend a visit.

Ricky and Enoch loved the hand operated backhoe and tanbark shoveling room.
A few exhibits were designed for babies, but Clara mostly played with the family.
Best exhibit: small river with weirs, channel control, crane, boats, locks, and dams. My second favorite: the actual train engine designed to push trains up a 5.9% hill. Hugely huge!
After playing for 5 hours, the gang was just starting to wear down.
The Tour de Champaign took over the streets of C-U this weekend. On Sat, I raced the cat 3-4 criterium race with a few teammates (2 had raced the earlier 4-5 race and 2 others were fresh). I assumed that most riders were cat 4 since there was another 3 race later. The pace felt very fast for the entire race, but I assumed that was due to my limited training. I yo-yo'd between 20th and 10th position throughout the race. Once I got stuck at the front of the peloton chasing a small break. After 5 seconds, I was cooked and decided to hide. As the laps counted down, I successfully moved up a bit and took 6th in the sprint.

Two days later I found out that I was the first cat 4 finisher. Proud!
Sunday's course was supposed to be a figure 8 but due to road construction the second block was converted to a straightaway and 180 turn, as photoed well by Jill below.Very early, I realized that the back of the group was a bad place to be. As the leading riders finished the turn, they sprinted back to speed. Meanwhile, riders near the back were still slowing down. Staying with the group required digging deep into our suitcases of courage. Every lap. 35 laps? It was hot (90 degrees at least).

Eventually, teammate Jason took off on a break and I stayed in second position in the group. No one tried to come around us to pull for about 10 laps. Poor guy in front. Jason won the race, and I came just short in the bunch sprint and got 4th overall. Proud.

Mercy, it's been hot this week.

Clara's latest achievement is going from crawling position to sitting. We're working on teaching her sign-language for 'more' and 'all done', but she prefers to cry or shove the spoon/bottle away from her mouth.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


What with being either rather pregnant or on bedrest, surviving winter, and raising an active baby, Jill had yet to take a ride to Homer Lake since we moved back to town. Saturday's plan was to eat lunch in St Joe on the way to the Lake.

Here we are looking happy and getting hungry at a branch of the Salt Fork River (I think). It's no Rio Grand, but after riding through miles of corn fields, seeing a lazy river is a pleasant diversion.
The baby slept almost the entire ride. This was the longest ride I've done pulling her along (maybe 30 miles?), and I confess to feeling somewhat worn by the end. On short rides in town, the chariot only feels weighty during accelerations. On the long ride, the extra drag adds up.
After some enchiladas (me) and flautas (Jill), we reached Homer Lake, looking ever so green after the many rainy days of late. A retired professor in my ol' department was there on a walk, so we chatted a bit. He is enjoying his retirement by working on a biofuel project funded by the beleaguered BP. How's that for some much needed positive press for BP?

At El Toro East, we met some local bike club members led by the renowned Sue J. Many were dressed just like us and didn't have clip in pedals. What kind of cyclists are they anyway?
This here is product placement. Looking to buy a bike? You won't do better than one of theirs. (Since we buy used bikes for cheap, we don't own one. Maybe someday).
Clara is dominating our lives as much as ever. A one word description of her: relentless. Lately, she plays from 3 to 10:30pm with nary a break except to eat. We're really hoping to push her bedtime up a little, but she is wired between 9 and 10.

Thankfully, she's fun and cute. Here she is eating milled chicken/rice/yogurt curry. She liked it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

two-thirds old

Another month has come and gone like a thunderstorm. Clara still has no teeth and only some hair, but she hasn't been resting on her laurels. She figured out that eating solid foods is a significant step beyond putting toys in her mouth. When hungry at dinner time a few days ago, she snapped at spoons of oatmeal. Previously, eating solids had been merely a diversion.
She's a crawler now, mostly. It's kind of a drag/army crawl with interspersed rolls, but she gets all around the living room, often in pursuit of power cords, loose papers, and vents. The tiled kitchen and hallway are barriers due to a few too many ouchy head bonks. And she's getting louder, complaining when either frustrated or bored with us.
She loves hanging out with our friends. Sadly, Fereshteh is gone for summer, but will be back in the fall as a big-time UIUC student. Go Illini!Clara and Jill sometimes stop by my office to say hello and bring a treat. Clara loves checking out new places. How many other phone cords will she see during her lifetime?
Speaking of oldies but goodies, on my way home today a fraternity was playing Guns n Roses in the front yard. Which got me thinking, that song came out when I was in jr. high. After some math, I conclude that many frat boys weren't born yet.

I'm reading (okay, skimming. Malcolm Gladwell would have done a much nicer job with the topic.) Gregg Easterbrook's The Progress Paradox. The basic question is why Americans are so unhappy despite the amazingly pleasant conditions of our lives. Basically everything is better than it used to be (e.g. the environment, food, health care, leisure time, ...). So enjoy life people!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Local marathon

Most big sporting events in this college town have a spectator to participants of about 1000 to 1. Today's big event had a ratio closer to 1 to 1. Somewhere around 10,000 crazed souls ran the Illinois Marathon around Urbana and Champaign.

We walked the 1 block to the course between miles 4 and 5 just before 8 am, just in time to see the lead runner run past. He was running fast, by himself already.
The parade of runners near our house went on for about at least 45 minutes. What a trip to look down the street at curb-to-curb runners as far as we could see.
We cheered often and hard, and even more so for friends. The list we saw was Mike, Rob, Matt, Chad, Amy, Neil, Rachel. We might have missed a few during the tight groups.
After a quick return home, we got pastries from the Farmers' market and headed to Nina's house near mile 11. We only caught the tail end of the group, so we picked a spot near the finish, the football stadium.

This is where we learned that marathoning is difficult. Large numbers of people stopped, stretched, or walked even though they could see the finish about 1/2 mile away.
My favorite runners (in no particular order): Abe Lincoln costume, pirate costume, barefoot guy, walking cast guy (who carried a spare shoe), and Cal shirt guy.

In conclusion, we were impressed. We had fun. We're not convinced that we need to join the runners next year.