Posted by: dolan | December 18, 2008

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom of Night

… shall keep us from riding in.

Spent a few minutes equipping my MTB this weekend with an extra rack and deflating the tires to 40 PSI.

My history with this week’s weather:

Monday: More snow than ice, until Ladd’s Addition’s east roundabout.  That place is an ice rink.  Go down twice on the way in at that spot, and once on the way home (in slo-mo no less).  Luckily nothing injured but my ego.  No hat, just the helmet. No booties(!)  Ears and toes thaw around noon.  On the way home a couple in an SUV roll down the window at the intersection of Lincoln and 39th and tell me I’m a hero.  LOL.

Tuesday: A mixture of ice and dryish pavement.  Much faster this time, but much more traffic.  Ladd’s is still very slippery, and I head home later meaning it’s darker.  Stay upright despite a few close calls.  Figured out my thin Ibex hat fits under my helmet and break open a new set of booties (a xmas gift from my dad).  Ears and toes much happier now.  Only my fingertips are slightly cold.

Wednesday: I think I have this thing figured out.  Studded tires arrived yesterday (it was a struggle to get them on), along with a Planet Bike Blaze to go with the Superflash.  Set it on flash this morning, and hit the pavement.  Well, actually, hit the ice.  Deliberately.   I’m hoping it will make the studs last longer.  Very weird feeling riding on ice — you can feel the tire squirming about and the studs catching and keeping you upright.  Came in at about 80% speed, as opposed to Monday which was more like 50%.  Amazingly, the studs work as advertised.  Stayed upright and never felt like I was going to lose it.  Made a funny metallic hum over the metal section of the Hawthorne bridge.  Toasty when I arrive; perhaps a bit too much so.  We’ll see how the ride home goes.

Thursday: Ride home went fine, but damn those studded tires are heavy.  Felt them coming up Lincoln.  The streets were largely clear last night and this morning, so this morning pulled out the touring bike and hung the MTB up on the hook.  Very little ice on the roads and not that much slush made for a quick, painless ride in.  Only point of interest was the heavy snow falling from the sky.  Given that it’s in the mid to upper thirties all day, the ride home should be fine, just wet.

Posted by: dolan | November 5, 2008

A Bloodbath, In a Good Way

Last night was a blowout.  Maybe not in popular vote (though that was decisive enough), but in the electoral college (which I still despise).  As of right now, 349 – 147.  That kind of sums it up.

The relief people here feel, including myself, is palpable.  Progressives are so used to seeing their hopes dashed at this point, that we might as well be Cubs fans.  Last night we heard fireworks, which people have probably been hoarding since the fourth of July, going off late into the night.  There was joy and laughter in the houses as we took our nighttime walk around the block, coming more often than not from the houses with the prominient Obama/Biden signs out front, which is to say almost all of them.  More than anything, there was relief that this race is over, and that America can start to present a new face to the world, one that half of us — nay, more than half of us — won’t be ashamed to show.

Lucas is too young to appreciate yesterday for any more than a day when his parents are preoccupied but contented, but one day maybe he’ll read this and understand.  I can only be happy in the knowledge that things will hopefully be changing for the better for us as a people, and ultimately, for him and his children.

One final note: Prop 8 passing in California is shameful, but that it won’t last.

Posted by: dolan | November 3, 2008

Eurothrash

As I was listening to NPR today (Neil Conan, election coverage) there was a discussion with a convservative commentator.  Overall she was pretty balanced, but one thing she really feared was that an Obama victory would send us in the direction of Europe.  I’ve seen similar comments from many out there — that somehow a more socialist bent to our country would undermine what it means to be American.

First of all, all things aside, would it really be that bad to be more like Western Europe?  Has anyone really gone (or lived for a while) in a European country and thought, man, this is awful!  Would it kill us to have lower crime rates, better education, universal healthcare, less stigma of intellectualism, and more morally sound, more egalitarian long-term thinking?  Because those sure sound like horrible, anti-American goals to me…

Having lived in several European countries, and being a second-generation Dutchman, my experience has been that the quality of life is, on average, probably a bit better in most of Europe than it is here for your average person.  I mean, aren’t the Danes supposed to be the happiest people on earth?  Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the old country.

Most of the arguments I against “eurofication” are pretty throwaway, at least as I’ve heard them.  There is a “red fear” stemming back to the “socialism” (in name only) that was the former eastern bloc.  The reality is that modern Europe is hardly that.  I also hear the Horatio Alger arguments, which I find quickly undermined by the fact that studies show far more social mobility in Canada (a far more socialist country) than here.  Does anyone have a good, solid reason why we should fear following in the footsteps (not necessarily lockstep, but in the same general direction as) Western Europe?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Posted by: dolan | September 11, 2008

The Big Geek Theory

Every once in a while there is really nothing on TV.  During these interludes (which, now that we have Netflix, are quite rare), Renee and I take the time to check out a new show that our Tivo just happened to save.  It thought we might like “The Big Bang Theory“.
After watching an episode or two, I’d have to give it a strong “OK”.  It’s no HIMYM, but it has its moments.  Nonetheless, there is always the superlative comment from someone.  I found this on the IMDB site:

“This is the first TV show to really showcase nerds with pretty much dead on accuracy.”

Now, first of all, I don’t believe this is true in the sense that it’s the first show, but second of all I don’t think it’s true because of how the show presents its characters.  Being a quasi-nerd myself, there is definitely some truth to the portrayal, but they often miss something in one area which non-nerds tend to overlook.  The ultimate nerd in the show, Sheldon, fails to understand social conventions, and this is the cause of much awkwardness and the basis for the majority of the show’s humor.

True enough, nerds tend not to follow social convention.  But nerds also tend to be very observant people, meaning they are, more often than not, perfectly aware of social convention and yet deliberately decide not to follow it.  This is the piece that non-nerds don’t seem to understand.  Non-nerds think that social convention is law, and that it is powerful enough that anyone who doesn’t follow it must just not be paying attention.  In fact, for many people I know (including myself), social conventions can be offputting enough (air kisses, anyone?) that we would rather be seen as “odd” and awkward — nerdy, if you will — than play along.

I’m hoping for a scene where Sheldon acknowledges that he thinks a given social convention is stupid instead of not understanding it, but I’m not holding my breath.  Besides, Fringe is on the Tivo now, and there’s plenty of Lost to catch up on.

Posted by: dolan | July 21, 2008

A Dearth of Gearhub Mixtes

I’ve been researching a new bike for Renee — a city bike.  Her desired list of features is quite short.  It should be a step through or mixte (women’s) frame, it should be simple to shift, it shoudn’t be too expensive, and if at all possible, it should be a shade of blue.  Seems simple enough, right?

Well, as it turns out, the market is only starting to address this kind of bike.  The have the frame right, the cost right, and the color right, but the “simple to shift” hasn’t quite gotten there.  To me, that means an internal hub, which pretty much means some variety of Shimano Nexus.  There really are only a few bikes  that I’ve found which fit the bill completely, and I’ve been looking a little while.  Aside from building up one of the new Soma Mixtes (which apparently have more male-oriented geometry anways, and won’t come cheap), or waiting for the Masi mixte (which looks gorgeous, but where to find?), here’s the list:

1) Jamis Commuter 3.0 — $550.  A lot to like for the price, but can’t find any in stock. My first pick as of right now.  Swap the suspension seatpost for a nice sprung Brooks, add a rack and some lights, and you’re done.

2) Bianchi Milano — Alfine (so i’m willing to spend a little more), but just seems to be more style than function.  For example, the riding position seems way too aggressive, probably due to the lack of an adjustable quill stem.  Ahead has it’s purposes, but city bikes ain’t one of them.

3) Gary Fisher Simple City 8 – Saw one in a shop.  Gorgeous bike, but is it really worth $300 more than the Jamis (or that’s one hell of an expensive front rack) ?

4) Giant Trans Send EX – Hits all the checkboxes I want (Alfine, frame) and some I don’t (cheapo suspension forks, weight?)

5) Breezer Uptown 8 – Must give this more thought.  Definitely a true city bike and will probably outlast them all, plus a dynohub, but about twice the price of the Jamis.

So, there you have it.  Anyone else have suggestions of bikes I may have missed?  Seems to me the simplicity of a gearhub combined with the ease of riding of a step-through should be a no brainer.  Maybe the market will figure that out next year.  As of now, I’ll keep waiting for the Jamis to be in stock.

Posted by: dolan | May 29, 2008

Appliance Search Over (for now)

After waay too long researching appliances, we finally took advantage of the memorial day 10% off sales to buy a few.  One thing I quickly found out is that I’d much rather deal with Lowe’s than Home Depot.  Unfortunately, due to our decisions, I had to shop at both.

At Lowe’s I got a Bosch Nexxt 500 Plus washer/(gas) dryer.  They seem nice, not too frilly, and well made.  Guess we’ll find out about that last point.  Reviews seem largely positive, and it will be wonderful to finally have a washer and dryer that doesn’t either wake the dead or take forever.  The Lowe’s store was understaffed so I had to wait a while for service, but when I got it it was very very good.

Home Depot was more painful.  First of all, the store is far less organized than Lowe’s, so it’s much more difficult to find anything.  Service, however, was easy, but very very slow and chatty.  Not that I usually mind too much, but I just wanted to get home and get some lunch.  We bought an LG 30″ french door fridge with a bottom freezer.  I’m a bit hesitant on LG as a brand, but they were the only company to make this style fridge in that size (the only size our kitchen could take without a major remodel).  We’ll see how it goes, but i’m looking forward to the fridge as well.

Next up: A new oven, and some cabinet and plumbing work for a built-in dishwasher (yes!).  Also, install our gas cooktop.

Posted by: dolan | April 26, 2008

The Move

What can I say? It’s been a week and I’m still exhausted.  We all are.  Admittedly, we didn’t prepare as much as we could have. Or maybe we did.  It’s hard to tell these days.  Either way we’re here.  All of our stuff is here.  None of our stuff (that we wanted) is at the old rental.  Mission accomplished.

The new house was ready in time, but just barely.  We had a tightly coordinated duct cleaning (for any residual toxics in the air vents), and a general house cleaning (for everything else that the contractor didn’t do (which turned out to be quite a lot, at least in the cleaning department).  Despite those things, the new house was hardly Lucas ready and we haven’t had much time since to make it more so.

The move itself was pretty quick.  I took two days off (Thursday and Friday of last week) to help pack, then on Friday afternoon two guys and a truck came.  We feverishly packed up the truck, drove north 2 miles, and then feverishly unpacked.  That part was done in about four hours — the company we hired was quick and did a solid job.  Saturday and Sunday were all about moving whatever was left and cleaning up the rental.  Sunday afternoon I assembled a new sofa, loveseat, and a chair in record time.  Sunday evening we had our friends over and dined on Hoda’s feast (Lebanese), and drank a few beers.  The three toddlers tore around the place, exploring.

This past week has gone fairly well.  Lucas has mostly adjusted to being here.  He derives great joy from running laps around the main level, or riding the same on his four wheeled scooter.  It scoots so much better now on smooth wood floors.

We’re getting used to the creakiness (again) of living in an older place.  And enjoying the newly redone parts, and the parts that have simply been painted over.  And noticing all the things still left to be done.

Our new neighborhood is really really nice.  It reminds me of West Portal, but with house prices that are more  achievable by the common mortal (at least if you’re lucky enough to come into a more economical economy).  People here keep very good care of their houses, say hi on the streets, and drive german vehicles, or at least nice japanese ones.  I can’t say we feel like we really fit in quite yet, but walking around the block is certainly a treat for the senses and for ones sense of calm.  The spanish-immersion elementary is four blocks away (for when Lucas is a bit older), and one of Portland’s best parks is five.  Last night we walked up there and saw trees blooming with pink blossoms and the sun setting over downtown. And a big digger (which was very exciting to the smallest of us).

We probably have two hundred boxes in our garage still.  The front yard is a mess.  The backyard is a mess.  There are things to haul to the dump.  We have almost no curtains.  The kitchen faucet leaks.  There are other things that need dealing with that I just can’t think of now.  That said, we’re finally home.

I would be remiss if I wrote this post without thanking Devin, Ben, Monica, and Carrie for greatly helping us out during this move.  Concrete lions and whiskey barrel planters don’t move themselves.  And Devin’s Toyota van, I thank you too.  You were a lifesaver.

This morning I saw a guy on an old Raleigh fixed-gear conversion blow through an intersection, and immediately thought WTF!, as did the driver of the car in front of me. I felt like giving this boy wonder a piece of my mind, such as “Ever wonder why so many drivers hate cyclists?”, but I let it be not wanting to cause a stir.

While coming into Ladd’s Addition from Division, the idiot tries to sneak through the turn while a Tri-Met bus is making the same turn, and has to back off lest he gets squashed by the bus. I wait to pull out to pass him, since he’s struggling to get going in some way too high gear, and then he grumbles something to me. I slow down to get the gist of it, and he threatens that “I shouldn’t ride his ass”. At this point I think either A) he doesn’t have much experience on a fixie or B) he’s never ridden in a pack. Luckily he’s at least smart enough to have a front brake on that cut-down excuse for handlebars, but it’s more than canceled out by the fact that the moron is riding with clips and straps.

At this point I lose my calm and give him a piece of my mind about blowing the intersection at Clinton and 26th. He says something like “If he wanted to talk to me he would have asked… etc”, so I leave him for gone and ride on.

Shame that such a pretty bike (Honjos, porteur rack, nice old Brooks) should be ridden by such an idiot. I hope it survives him and his death wish and someone has the sense to add a freewheel and forsake the macho.

Posted by: dolan | February 9, 2008

A New Ride

kona zootra, originally uploaded by dolanh.

So far, it’s been a fun ride. The goal was absolute reliability in any weather, as it tends to rain a lot here in Portland and I don’t have time to be adjusting things these days. The Sutra frameset, with it’s faults, ended up being about the best non-custom fit I could find. If I had my choice I probably would have used a Rocky Mountain Sherpa, but that would mean parting out the rest of the bike, paying $1000 or so more up front, and not having adjustable dropouts which help so much with the speedhub. The Cotic Roadrat was another interesting idea, but I’m not sure how well it would handle loaded touring. Routing the fender stays was interesting — I had to bend them by hand around the disc brakes and even so they just barely work. Cable routing was a challenge as well, as you can see in some of the other pictures. But for the most part, things came together pretty well.

As for riding impressions, well, it’s solid, fairly heavy (I’m guessing ~30 lbs), and very very stable. The brakes are just incredible in the wet: strong, silent, and fade-free. The dynohub/light combo is fantastic as well, with the auto-light-sensor doing its thing behind the scenes with no thought from me and putting out plenty of light. Many of the parts (seat, cranks, skewers, rack, etc) I’ve had for a while now so they just feel normal. The speedhub is taking some getting used to. I love the range, and the simplicity, but I don’t love the 7-8 shift, and I really dislike the grinding in the lower range. I’m told this will get better, and I hope it will, but at the end up the day there’s really no competition.

Let me know if you have any questions. For now, this will be my “daily rider” to and from work, and maybe some day (when Lucas is a bit older) I’ll get to test out its loaded touring capabilities.

Finally, thanks goes out to Dean at Clever Cycles for sourcing many of the parts, including the big red thing on the rear.

Just a quick parts list for those interested in such things:

* 2006 (NOS) 54cm Kona Sutra frameset
* Rohloff disc QR Speedhub (OEM2) with Monkey Bone
* Schmidt disc Dynohub and shifter
* Mavic A719 rims (32h) with brass nipples, DT 14/16/14 spokes
* Pitlock skewers
* Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 700x32cm tires
* Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes
* Chris King 1 1/8″ NoThreadSet
* Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers
* Salsa short & shallow 44cm bars
* (temporary stem from my wife’s bike — plan on Thomson)
* Brooks B-17 ti saddle, handlebar tape
* Thomson Elite seatpost
* Tubus Cargo rear rack
* SKS fenders (hand to bend the stays)
* B&M Lumotec IQ Fly Senso Plus (whew!) front light, D Toplight XS plus rear light
* (old Shimano bottom bracket — plan on Phil Wood)
* Shimano XTR M900 (1st generation) cranks
* SRAM PC68 chain
* el cheapo (and dying) Victor SPD/flat pedals

Posted by: dolan | February 8, 2008

Bakery Trifecta

In the past month or two we’ve been looking for an Arizmendi’s substitute. Nothing is quite the same, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t some very good choices in the area:

  1. Bob’s Red Mill Cafe – In the big red mill in Milwaukie, you might meet Bob (yup, he really exists and he’s happy to tell you all about his mill) Very yummy, hearty breakfasts, but get there early as it’s popular.
  2. Petite Provence – A nice little local patisserie, sufficiently kid-friendy, with the expected baked concoctions, but also with sit-down breakfast and lunch. A few blocks from our new house, so we’ll likely be going there a lot 🙂
  3. Sweetness Bakey and Cafe – Don’t judge a book by its cover. Not a wonderful outside, but quite a wonderful inside. Fantastic service, and even better pastries. I liked their savory pastries even more than their sweet ones, and I liked their sweet ones a LOT.

More to come as we explore PDX. There seem to be no lack of hidden gems up here.

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