Sunday, March 22, 2020

Spring break

We had some medium-sized plans for spring break.  First a few days in the Shawnee National Forest with my parents.  Then a trip up to Chicago on our way to Jackson, MI to visit the cousins.  The virus scrapped the latter plan first and eventually the former plan.  So, we stayed in Urbana, literally.

It's amazing how little one can do when one sets one's mind to it.  I spent many moments on my couch watching the rain fall.  Today was totally different; I sat on my couch watching the snow fall.

Janny and I found our previously stashed bag of bird seed.  We've been putting some in a cup hanging from a small tree.  Initially, only the cardinals were aware of it.  Now the squirrels have figured us out.  Janny chased them away periodically, but they always came back.  So we wise humans planned a trick for them.  I put a 'Hot Flavored' chip in the cup, ready to laugh uproariously as the squirrel ate it coughed up the burn [they are rather hot].  The first squirrel to the cup dropped in on the ground.  Hmmm...  Then, another squirrel picked it up.  I was already laughing so hard.  He patiently ate it up.  He walked away.  

I'm practicing bonzai with the shrubs around the house.  My goal is to have elegant cloud patterns instead of the current blocky shapes.  For now, yes, practicing.  I hope the plants will approve of the plan.

I cleaned out my cubby and parts of the garage.  My never ending minor bathroom project looks slightly better.

I managed to get some decent bike riding this week.  One of the days was actually pleasant.  2 were quite wet and miserable, and the rest were cloudy and cold.  

I watched a few recent Tour of Flanders races.  I watched the 1984 game 7 finals between Larry and Magic.  They were great, but didn't have their best games here [Dennis Johnson really carried the Celtics.  Kareem was still quite athletic!].  Perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on current stars when the games start again.  And maybe not hard on myself either.

I'll be working from home and the kids will be off school for at least the next 2 weeks.  So far we are getting along just fine.  Jill has upped the kids chores level.  I cooked dinner tonight (chili!). 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Modern bike

Some posts ago I mentioned that I bought a new bike last year and that I was going to write about it.  Here is that post.

I bought a NEW bike.  It was so new that it was from the future:  a 2020 model that was already available in 2019.

I had fun buying the bike.  I went to my favorite local bike shop, Champaign Cycle, one day last fall to check out the selection of new Trek bikes.  I took 3 test rides:  2 on a slightly too small Domane and one on a slightly too small Emonda.  The Domane felt interesting, but odd.  Neutral handling with big tires but sort of fast feeling.  The Emonda felt like any/all of my previous road race bikes (e.g. my departed Look KG 381).  I ordered a red Domane in my size, and picked it up a week later (after a business trip to Denver).

Here is how you know that you're buying a fancy bike:  it doesn't come with pedals.  I had the shop install my trusty, 15 year old Ultegra road pedals.  At home, I replace the saddle with the racier saddle that was on my old Trek previously.  Tires were changed from the stock 32 mm to my super duper fancy Compass (now Rene Herse) 35 mm tires.  A few weeks later, I replaced the -6 degree 11 cm stem with a -17 degree 13 cm stem (I still need to cut the steerer tube).  The rest was left alone.

This is my first bike with:
  • disk brakes (hydraulic!)
  • through axles
  •  integrated bb spindle cranks
  • 11 speed cassette ( I did have 10 speed at one point before dropping back to 8)
  • tubeless compatible rims (I'm using tubes)
  • aero shaped frame (frame tubes are HUGE compared to 531 steel tubes)
My Wild Card friends didn't recognize me on the first group ride with this (granted, I don't ride enough with them in recent years).  Instead of being on my 1982 skinny tubed steel classic, I was on a super modern looking brand new bike.  People congratulated me.  I was special, the guy with the new bike.

Mercifully, we have had a few nice weekend days this winter.  Off in the horizon you can see the forbidding Mt Block, possibly the biggest climb within 50 miles of my house.  Also observe that I moved my fat thumb away from the lens!
 This is what I see when I look down.  Clean!
Very modern, no?  The frame has some micro-suspension elements at the seat tube and headset area.  I'm not sure that I can tell how much difference they make.  I like that carbon fiber enables engineers to design features like this.  The frame is lively in a sort of stiff feeling way.  Why?  How?  I don't know, but it rides so, so well.  5 stars!  Both thumbs up.
I picked up the bike a few days before the IL Kanza gravel race last fall.  It had rained a few days before, and I wasn't ready to sully the brand new bike.  So I rode the old Trek.  Guess what?  That bike is still really great.

I placed okay in the race.  Perhaps I could have done better if I had taken off my windbreaker before the race (pretty chilly morning that warmed up quickly).  Below you can see that I got it half-way off.  I roasted very quickly and dropped off the lead group (below photo taken by Der Kaiser).
Should you buy a bike like this? 
  • Yes, if you ride lots and have a good job.
  • No, if you don't ride much or would rather spend your money on vacations or medical bills.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Downstream from the decision

Good and wise friend Jarrod asked me how much I have processed our decision to leave our church of 14 years.  Well, a lot, in my head.  It's still rolling around my mind now and again though.  So I haven't finished.  Writing thoughts out sometimes helps, so here goes with that.  And maybe this will help when friends ask us what happened.

At the time of our decision, the biggest driving force was our weariness of the feeling of frustration.  We saw obvious problems. We saw nothing being done.  Why?  Why? Why? Frustration developed.  And stayed.  And stayed.

2 months after our decision, the feelings have diminished.  The befuddlement remains.

Several good friends from the old church have asked me why I left.  I don't think my story for them was clarifying.  This is partly because I want to avoid speaking badly of friends and partly because I haven't/ hadn't assembled the pieces into a story.  Here is another try:  a story I wanted to experience but didn't.  I wanted a redemption story.  It could have gone like this:

After messing up relationships with staff and some congregation members, our pastor would lead us through his process of confession, forgiveness, and restoration of what could be restored.  [Instead he left.]

My friend who was under church discipline due to conflict with leaders would get together with them and fix the relationship.  [Instead leaders banned him from the church.]

Church members would talk about tough issues, why they matter, and what the church should do to ensure unity in spite of them.  [Instead discussion was actively discouraged.]

Perhaps like the pastor I left too soon?  I hope that is true.

The second reason for continuing to process is that the decision cracked a story about myself:  that I'm a stayer.  I finish things for better (marriage, raising kids, projects for customers, bike races) or worse (grad school, bike races).   But I left this, happily.

- - - - - - - - -
I've taken some pictures with my phone lately.  Someday I might learn to move my fat fingers or gloves out of the way.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

a lot can happen in a decade

Today is super bowl Sunday.  Many years ago when the 49ers were regularly great, the 2 weeks between conf champs and the final passed slowly.  Whereas today, I say already?!  I also used to care a good deal if they won.

Yesterday, Wild Card Cycling teammate Ryan emailed that I was the last person to pick up this year's jersey.  So I met him and the rest of the crew at Quality.  The bigger event (which I had forgotten because I'm so detached and clueless) was a celebration of captain Karl's retirement.  Which brought out a good chunk of the crew that I rode with before Clara was born.  Dave, Luke, Greg, Martin, Karl, Art, John, and more!  

Greg recalled Jill being pregnant when we first met.  Now Clara is 10 years old and would read all day every day if we let her [today's book is Peter and the Starcatchers book 2.  Janny still lives at home also.  Yesterday we bought her birthday pinata; she needs to get to know and love it for a month before bashing it to pieces].  Dave said he hasn't ridden in the last 3 months!?!  In the old days, you were at least mediocre if you could stay on his wheel during his surges.  I'm positive that's still true today.  Larry is now 69, and he's still faster than me.  John S didn't recognize me at first due to my bald head and scraggly beard.  Luke reminisced about how we would have ridden 60+ miles in current weather (35 and cloudy), whereas it seemed like no one road yesterday.

John B's younger sister passed away from a brain tumor this week. 

So did friend Tom from [old] church.  So 2020 is off to a bittersweet start.  I'm so grateful that I had one last chance to see Tom in the fall.  A few years ago, Tom and his son joined me on a day like today to ride in the arboretum.  I took them through the woods near Windsor road, which was a really terrible idea.  Mud, mud, and overgrown trails.  They didn't ride again with me there.  Probably a wise choice by them.  Tom wanted to pass along their smallest bike that younger son had recently outgrown before he passed.  It's now cleaned and tuned up in our garage waiting for Janny to grow a few inches.

- - - - - - - - - - -
The recent event that did make time pass slowly was our church's 21 day fast.  Our choice for what that meant. Jill practiced an eating plan close to Daniel's (of lion's den fame) consisting of fruits and veggies.  I went with more of a vegetarian diet plus no desserts [and I took some breaks while I was in St Louis; didn't want to be a pain to coworker]. 

I continue to realize how much of my life and mindset is driven by my body.  I hate feeling hungry.  I quickly grow tired of eating sweet potatoes.  On the bright side, my soul is slowly emerging from some intertwined layers of apathy and frustration.  May this decade be more fulfilling than the last.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

stacking the community building blocks

I received a paycheck for my new job, so it's official now.  I've been working at co-working offices for 3 weeks now (5 days in St Louis and 10 days in Champaign), so I'm an expert.  Some factoids for those not in the know:

* In Champaign, the ratio of women to men feels like 3 : 1.  In St Louis it feels closer to 1:1.  Median age in both places is probably 30.
* If you don't have a Mac laptop, why are you even there?
* The St Louis office space has touch screen driven hot drinks and loose tea freely available, including the best tea in the known world:  green dragon well.  In Champaign, I have to boil water in the provided kettle and bring my own tea from home [update:  Maghan emailed me to say that the cafe now has loose tea.  So things are looking up!].
* Meeting people in shared work spaces still feels awkward.  With so many different employers and customers, I have no sense of who is stressed and who has some time to chat.  In Champaign, I've been trying to meet one person per day.  So progress is slow, but there is progress.
* In St Louis, I took a mug from the shelf and drank cold water from the cold water dispenser.  I didn't immediately see where dirty mugs are placed, so I put it on a wire rack next to a lot of upside down mugs.  That was wrong.  I'm sorry.

- - - -

During our weekly dinners with the neighbors, a tradition is to go around the table asking each person 'what was the best part of your day?'.  We have had to ammend that question for Clara to include 'besides reading, ...'.

Janny has aced multiplication tables.  Every day at school the students take a 60 second, 25 question quiz on the times table.  Starting with 1*1 and moving towards 12s.  She and I worked hard on this, practicing written quizzes a few times per day.  Good work, Janny!

We dusted off our PS1 video game console this winter [have I mentioned the rough weather this season?  Ugh.  So many wet days with temps near 30.  Sometimes snow, sometimes rain.  Always wet. ]  We've been playing Need for Speed a driving game.  Clara and I are pretty even, albeit different styles.  I don't like to crash exotic cars so I take some turns slowly.  Clara is full-gas full-time.  I'd like to think that in the real world my strategy is better.

- - - -

I was filling up my rental car's gas tank after business trip to St Louis yesterday.  Young woman at pump next to me is talking on her phone.  Conversation [sorry for eavesdropping; she was talking pretty loudly]

    yw:  Did you hear that I got in an accident yesterday?

    other person:  ______

     yw:  Yeah, I got distracted by a text and I rear-ended this f*****g old lady.

Midwest community is pretty great, as expected.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Illegal arms dealer

[Writer's note [Jill is my official unpaid editor FYI]:  as a typical human being, I am feeling a bit nostalgic during this season of dramatic changes.  So I will write about the distant past.]

As I wrote last week, we started attending a different church last month.  This church has a very charismatic lead pastor.  His style of charisma is so reminiscent of my youth pastor.  This link gives me very mixed feelings.  I might write more about that later.  First, the story of my short-lived illegal arms dealership.

During my teenage years, I was very, very involved in my church's youth group.  We had a charismatic youth pastor that took an interest in me, and I followed many of his ways.  For example, at the time he drove the speed limit in his red 1981 T-top Corvette.  So I drove the speed limit.  You might say to this:  no big deal for you and you probably didn't drive much anyway.  To that I say:  I didn't ride bikes as a misguided teenager [nobody that I knew did except for Mark Keeler who had 2 bikes in his apartment, but I never saw him ride them.  In college, cru leader Loc Ta also had 2 road bikes, which astounded me].  To get to church and soccer and baseball games I had to drive on 880 and 680 which had speed limits of 55 mph at the time.  Only me and youth pastor (and perhaps my sister?) drove 55, which is why the speed limit is now 65 or 70 mph.  Teammates did not like following me or riding with me.  [One time I rode with a teammate in his Rambler through which one could see the road below.  That was really scary]. 

Another example, youth pastor memorized a lot of the Bible and had a system for doing so.  I copied that system and memorized a lot.  [Much of them and the system is now forgotten].

Every summer the youth group took a missions trip to Ensenada Mexico where we stayed at an orphanage and built homes/churches/etc [Gene Red always drove us in a bus that generally broke down en route].  On the way back home we went to Disneyland or Magic Mountain.  And one day we went to town (Tijuana or Ensenada) to shop.  The boys bought chiclet and fireworks (M1000s if you dared) and knives.  Youth pastor confiscated the M1000s if he found them and then used them as time to wake up alarm.  One time he blew a small hole in someone's tent. 

During elementary school, I had a friend named Matt who like me collected baseball cards.  His goal was to get every Rickey Henderson card ever made.  There were a lot!  Unlike me, he collected weapons as well.  He had Chinese stars, Rambo-style knives, butterfly knives, switchblades, and so on.  We watched some ninja movies together.  Points to you if you call tell me which movie this line is from:
    Dad (ninja) to young son: Remember, you no samurai!
IIRC the son had to become a ninja to save the town.
Anyway, Matt was very cool and his knife collection was a source of awe and fear.

I came to own a butterfly knife on a Mexico missions trip.  It's funny how the brain forgets important details such as this:  I literally can't recall how I got it.  As a terribly shy person (and quite law abiding), I'm pretty sure that I didn't buy from a shop.  So I must have bought it from a church friend.   I won't even speculate so as to not falsely accuse anyone.  In any case, the knife came from Mexico, and I had it in my room in Fremont.

After some short amount of time, I started to feel guilty about owning this 'illegal' item [we didn't have google back then, so I didn't know the law first-hand].  So I wanted to get rid of it.  A friend from youth group, Dan, bought it from me [again the details of the transaction are buried too deep to recall.  His family visited our home from time to time so I think he bought it from my house]. 

A very short while later, Dan brought the knife to school and was caught.  The principal asked how he got it.  He told me that he protected me and that his answer was 'from a kid in Mexico.'  That answer has a lot of truth to it if you think about it.  

'Whoa', I thought to myself.  My conscience (the Holy Spirit?) convinced me to get rid of the knife.  But doing so made me break the law even worse.  What???!!! [I had not yet read Catch-22].  At the time, I thought to myself, 'of course you didn't rat me out, Dan.  I obeyed my conscience.'  I was rarely a good friend in my youth. 

Recently, I've been wishing that I still had that knife.  Maybe I'll buy one some day.  Google says they are legal in IL with some caveats.  Anyone have one they want to sell me?

- - - - - - - - - - - -
I started writing this post with the intention of writing about the 2 Jeremys from youth group.  This is getting too long, so that'll have to wait

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020 is the future

Sometimes lots of time passes and nothing big happens.  2107 and 2018 feel like that in my memory.  If I could remember those years better, maybe I would tell some tall tales from them.  Or not.

2019 was a year of a different sort.  Jill's dad's health had been in a slow decline for several years and then fell off a cliff.  He passed away early in the year.  Our first Christmas without him just passed, and he was greatly missed.  No one took more joy in giving random items (sticky notes, toothpaste, lube, peg board hooks, windshield washer fluid, ...) as stocking gifts than Rick.

We made a couple of big decisions at the end of the year.  Maybe we are simply getting older and tired of dealing with nonsense?  Or maybe we were just tired and sad due to Rick's end of life struggles?  The upshot is that I have a new job that begins on Jan 6, and we attend a new church.

We're still serving in the youth group at our long-time church for now, but have started attending Stone Creek Church.

My job has been pretty good for several years.  I really enjoyed working for my customers, but getting new customers was a struggle.  During the summer a friend called me up to ask if I would be interested in joining his company.  I started to think about the things I didn't love about my job.  Voila, a new job for me.

Once those very big changes happened, a series of small changes have cascaded down on us.  We have a new car (thanks Mom and Dad!  We sold our trusty 2000 Mazda Protege for a stack of $20s).  I bought a new bike (more on that in a later post; this is still a bike blog, right?  I still have my 1982 Trek 610, but might pass it along to the right person.  Interested?).  I own a smart phone (I love texting.  Look up my # in the phone book and send me a text).  I bought a new laptop (our Toshiba died years ago.  Jill bought a chromebook to sort of replace it.  I missed having folders and files).  I grew a beard (I have a small amount of hair on the rest of my head).

My head continues to spin as a look at all these changes.  Am I no longer a luddite?  Am I in a mid-life crisis?  How much nonsense should I try to pare from my life?  So, I'm going to give blogging another shot (I hope).  Maybe I can sort thru these ideas and find some foundation in my life again.

I'm still a rebel!  Shortly after taking the above photo, I saw a sign that forbade photos.  Too late, 'the man'!  Also, Dad, note the magnolia trees growing right next to the wall, using tree supports to pin the branches.
Another tender Tennessee Christmas.  Here's to 2020, where we're now for real living in the future.