Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bicycle versus SUV

The Santa Fe New Mexican printed my letter to the editor apologizing, once again, to the owner of the black SUV that I clipped with my bicycle basket.  I further offered to stop by with some black touch up paint.  That's all that I'm able to do.  I worry, though, that I might end up touching up half the bumpers of black SUVs in the city, or else I'll get a call from him saying that he had to pay $1800 to replace his bumper because of a possible scratch.

The letter to the editor format did not give me enough room to tell the whole story, and I think it is a story that raises some interesting observations and interesting questions.

The city built the St. Francis Trail along the side of St. Francis Drive, a busy, eight lane road that runs through the middle of the city.  It connects to the trail system on my side of St. Francis by a new tunnel, and it's very nice having a tunnel to go under the road rather than having to wait at the light to cross with traffic.  The St. Francis Trail is set off from the road quite a ways, so it isn't exactly that most dreaded of bicycle facilities, the sidepath.  In general, I like it well enough, though I have other friends who are bicycle advocates who feel it is useless at best.

Its main problem is that it crosses Siringo Road at an intersection.  Mid-block crossings are much safer for bike trails.  There is also a high school located just up Siringo, so the traffic is very busy, and most drivers don't exactly follow the law.  I've almost gotten myself hit several times, because I've been checking to make sure the right turning traffic is going to yield to me when I cross when the light turns green, (are they supposed to?  it's really not clear), and I've pulled out because I think they're waiting for me, and I want to get out of their way as quickly as possible, when actually the oncoming traffic that is turning left has not stopped for their red light.

The crosswalk that serves as a trail crossing passes through a median that runs down the middle of the road.  Frequently, drivers pull over the crosswalk, which is illegal, but no one seems to be aware of where they are in the road anyway.  The other day, I was waiting for the light to change, and a black SUV pulled all the way over the crosswalk.  To me, it looked like a overtly aggressive act.  I was waiting right there!  In hindsight, he probably didn't even notice.  The way he was parked left me a tiny two foot wide strip of pavement between the median and his vehicle, and I then had to cut back straight so I didn't drift out into the cross-traffic.

"It's tight," I thought, "but I think I can make it."

I had forgotten, temporarily, about my folding WALD bike basket, which I had my backpack in.  I felt it bump against the SUV when I went pass.

"Whew, I'm still upright," I thought.

The driver laid on his horn.

Somehow he caught up to me in the intersection where the trail ends.  I was going straight on Galisteo, and he was next to me in the left turn lane.

"Hey, are you the asshole that damaged my car!"  He shouted.

"I apologize for bumping into your car, but you were all the way over the crosswalk.  I went around you as safely as I could."  I said.

"Is that all you have to say?  Is that all you have to say?!"  he shouted.

"Yes," I repeated.  "I apologize."

"It's not like we bumped into each other in the store.  You caused monetary damage to my car!  You caused monetary damage to my car!"

I was amazed at the level of stress I caused him.  He had to do some fancy driving to catch up to me.  He was heading in the complete opposite direction when I bumped him.  Now, here he was shouting at me about monetary damage.  I was going to offer him the $5 I had in my wallet, but the light turned green.  I'm really not sure what he wanted or why he was so angry, (and I was disappointed that he did not apologize for illegally pulling over the crosswalk, though not surprised).

I sent a letter to the editor of the newspaper as soon as I got to work offering to come by with some touchup paint.  Partly, it is a sincere offer to take responsibility for whatever scratch might have occurred.  Partly, it was to counter any stories he might be telling about reckless, dangerous, asshole bicyclists.  I was very polite and calm during our exchange, and it was an accident.

Here's my takeaway.  I realize that I expect drivers to be assholes, (just like drivers expect bicyclists to be assholes).  If I had proceeded calmly toward him and pointed out that he was in the crosswalk, he may very well have backed up out of the way.  I often have drivers notice me and back up of their own accord.  Most drivers are very decent people who don't have an axe to grind against people riding their bicycles.  I had pre-judged this person as an aggressive jerk who pulled over the crosswalk without a second thought as to who might be using it.  I didn't give him a chance to do the right thing.  I could have been much calmer at the outset.  If I had to wait for another cycle of the light, it wouldn't have killed me.  People often act exactly as we expect them to act.  We should work harder at expecting people to be kind, magnanimous, and beautiful.

My coworker was not as sympathetic toward my side.  She pointed out that people often scratch car doors with their car doors in the parking lot, and it would be nice if people took responsibility.  I've thought about that.  It's kind of irritating when you come out of the store and your car door is scratched, but if someone were to open their door and scratch my car when I was in it, I would expect an apology, but I would feel somewhat embarrassed if they offered me money for touchup paint.  A scratched car door is such a petty thing, it's not worth making a fiscal issue of it.  Cars get scratched.  Who makes a big deal out of a scratched car, unless it was scratched maliciously?

If I had been parked over a crosswalk, (and I have noticed myself doing that occasionally, especially if I am anticipating making a right turn on red), and a bicyclist had bumped into my car trying to get around me, I would have been embarrassed and would have checked to make sure the bicyclist was OK, and would have apologized for being in the crosswalk.  I would worry about my paint being scratched, but not very much.

So, basically, I'm not sure what was going on with that driver.  An apology in return would have been nice.  I'm not sure if I scratched his car.  It's possible with the wire of a WALD basket, and I am truly sorry if I damaged his car because I tried to squeeze past him on the assumption that he was inconsiderate to begin with and probably wouldn't back up out of the way.  I'm happy to buy some black nail polish or touchup paint for him if he calls me based on my letter to the editor. The best I can do in the wake of the incident is work harder not to prejudge drivers and to try to remember I have a basket on the back of my bicycle.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Parenting, Culture, Sugar, Teenagers

I have to say that lately, I have no idea what I want to eat.  I am not, by nature, a fanatic about anything.  I lean strongly toward vegetarianism, though I don't mind eating meat occasionally.  I do feel strongly the ugliness and suffering of factory farming.  I pick up a package of meat in my local grocery store, and it feels like I'm lifting a couple of pounds of blood, loneliness and misery of the cattle coupled with the psychic scars experienced by the people who work as knockers, and the misery of the assembly line butchers.  I'd like to go buy good local meat from the farmer's market - the misery is on nowhere the same scale - but after a few visits, I have to come to terms with the frugal side of my life.  I once bought a chicken at the farmer's market, and it cost $25.  That's not sustainable for most family's budgets.

I have to submerge myself in other writers' fanaticisms if I have any hope of maintaining something like the Paleo diet.  For the past few months, I just have not had the time or the interest or the patience to keep up with Mark's Daily Apple, and Grant is sporadic enough with posting on Eat Bacon Don't Jog that I forget to check over there.  I'm not a great blog reader, (or blog writer as you can tell), to keep up.

I am, however, trying to maintain two things: severely limit the amount of processed sugar I eat, and I'm still fermenting vegetables, kombucha, and yogurt.

My weight has gone up a little bit from its low of 178 after my summer backpacking trip, though that low was largely a result of a deficit of calories in my diet for the week.  I was using backpacking recipes for a home dehydrator.  I was eating a breakfast, some snacks, and a dinner each day.  The writer of the book also added in a hot lunch and a desert.  (Desert? Dessert?  which one do you eat?)  I was eating rice, polenta, and other non-paleo type things, like putting white sugar in my tea, during that trip, and I still lost ten pounds over the course of a week.  That makes me think that it's not strictly elimination of grains and limitation of carbs, and I loosened up quite a bit afterward.

I haven't been weighing myself - I think I'm probably back up to around 190 - but I have been checking my blood pressure.  At last check, it was 103/72.  That's still quite a bit better than the 150/85 average I was running before I started this blog.

I was really thinking about my children when I sat down to write.  They both celebrated birthdays last month.  That involved birthday cake.  Actual birthday cake, from the Chocolate Maven here in town.  It also involved a lot of pizza and Chinese food, because that is what they wanted.  Our daughter is now 16, and our son is 14.

I'm not particularly happy with the day to day eating habits of either of them.  I'm not good at absolutes.  Yes, I put 4 teaspoons of brown sugar in the Pad Thai that I make each week.  Occasionally, I'll eat a sandwich on, gasp, bread.  But if I could magically make any given idea blossom in their minds, it would be to severely limit the amount of processed carbs they eat.  My family has a history of type 2 diabetes and obesity.  Sugar is clearly addictive.

My son, who is one of the most wonderful people I know, can put away more sugar than I would think possible.  I keep white sugar in the house for making kombucha.  I've seen him put 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee.  If I hide the sugar, which I do, he runs through the honey at about the same pace.  We sat on the couch the other day to binge watch the "Back to the Future" movies, and he ate a package of sour patch candies, (not the tiny bag from the front of the store, but a big bag), and an entire bag of flamin' hot potato chips.  At one point he said, "I don't understand it dad, I've been eating all day, and I'm still hungry."  I pointed out what he had been eating, and he rolled his eyes at me.

Watching your children make mistakes is the thing that sucks the most when it comes to parenting.  I love my children soooo much.  Why did I think they would hang on my every word when it came to dietary, (and other life), advice?  I sure as hell didn't listen to my parents when I was growing up.  (I tried to get my son to watch the documentary, "That Sugar Film", that we had rented on Amazon.  He will not have any of it - no Dr. Lustig YouTube videos, no documentary movies on food, no blogs or books on the Paleo diet.  I know he would feel so much better both emotionally and physically if he ate better.  But he refuses, and it's painful to watch what he is doing to himself.

And I don't mean to pick on my son's diet.  My daughter is very fond of baked goods.  She would do much better without them.  I just don't see her on as big of a sugar-fueled emotional and physical roller coaster as I see my son on.  He drags himself around the house like a Zombie until he has a sugar-infused cup of coffee, a box of jelly beans, or a handful of cookies, and then he bounces around smiling for a while, and then I see him collapse.  Yesterday he left the house with a quart of Cranberry Apple juice in a water bottle.  One serving is 8 ounces, so that's four servings, 30 grams of sugar a serving, so he had 120 grams of sugar - that's a little over a half cup of sugar.  A half cup!  He hates it when I point out these calculations.  I doubt that juice lasted very far into the morning. (N.B. I try not to have juice in the house, but we bought some for a party my daughter was having on Halloween.)

What makes it especially difficult, of course, is that trying to eat well is to push against the prevailing culture, and teenagers need to be a part of their culture.  The outcast kid who had to eat tahini and sprout sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread prepared by his or her hippy dippy parents has even become something of an archetype.  My daughter tells the story of a health class in middle school where the teacher asked whose parents made their own yogurt and only she and one other student raised their hands.

My children love to bake.  That's a nice thing.  But I'm always there in the background going "no, no, no! I am not buying more white flour, white sugar, and chocolate chips."  And then I think, "I loved to make cookies with my Mom.  I must sound like a mad man."  But neither my wife nor I eat cookies.  At best, I'll eat one or two, in an attempt to model restraint, but that leaves the rest of the cookies for my children to tear through.

My son will ask me to buy him some Jelly Beans when I go to the store.  "No!" I scream like a lunatic.  "I'm not buying you that poison."  Then I think, "you know, I sound like a crazy person, buy your son some jelly beans.  One package every now and then isn't going to kill him."  The only thing we have been consistent about is no soda in the house, with the exception, of course, of when they won a 2 liter bottle of soda in some contest in their elementary school.  That's the kind of cultural influences we're up against.

I wish I could say that parenting and diet is a balancing act that we feel centered in.  Unfortunately, it feels more like we're constantly teetering over an abyss, and I fear my children are going to find themselves overweight and diabetic by the time they are in their mid-forties.  Then I remind myself that I pretty much ate the way they are eating when I was a child, and my fondness for cookies, ice cream, and danishes, continued well into my thirties and early forties.  Truth be told, I could still get carried away with a box of Trader Joe's Jo Jo's if I happen to break down and buy a box, which I have done once or twice a year for the past few years.  Lately, I've developed a revulsion to them when I see them in the store.

I can only hope that my children are resilient, and they'll prove to be intelligent in their food choices as they grow older, and that the culture will continue it's march toward less processed carbohydrates.  The idea is certainly in the air these days, though it has not yet hit the streets of the Southwest.

Has anyone out there actually influenced their kids' diets?  "Processed carbohydrates are not good for you little Sally!"  "Oh Papa, you're so right!  Let's have a bowl of sauerkraut instead of that ice cream!"  If so, I'd sure love to hear how you did it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Desk

Here is my desk in the living room. I still haven't figured out how to hook the Scan Snap up to the Olivetti.

Actually, I still use the Olivetti for letter writing, and I've been writing my daughter while she's away at Camp Rising Sun in New York State. She has to sing for her mail.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Parental Internet Control - pcWRT as an alternative to Skydog

I'm writing this post basically as a shout out to pcWRT.  This router seems to be a very new product with very little information out there regarding it.  I ordered one as a replacement for our Skydog router, and it works well, but I was hesitant to order it because there was so little information available.  Their website is basic, and the forum section is, as yet, unpopulated by users.  Was it a scam?  No it's not. 

Here's our history of trying to keep our kids "safe" on the internet.  My preference was to keep our kids off the computer for as long as possible.  The school system was not very helpful in that regard.  Why do elementary schools feel they need to teach children "computer skills"?  That is patently ridiculous and ultimately, I believe it's damaging.  Little children should be out collecting leaves, watching snails, drawing with crayons, playing with mud.  You do not need to learn how to use a mouse when you are eight years old.  Elementary schools should not have computer labs.  That is my number one complaint about public education, (and it probably applies to private as well).  My other big complaint is the amount of sugar floating around elementary schools.  My little tiny kids would bring home 2 liter bottles of soda as prizes for things, and there were always cupcakes and candy around because it was always someone or other's birthday.

So our kids quickly became more screen-centric.  My internet-free summers did not last for very many years, and eventually, the kids needed to be on the internet for homework, and so on.  Every parent knows the story.  They had iPods, laptops, Chromebooks, eventually phones.  The old wisdom was to have one computer in a central location in the home where you could see what your children were doing.  However, with everyone watching conflicting shows on Netflix, or streaming music videos on Youtube, etc., that just wasn't going to work.  I'd much prefer having my children in their rooms reading Salinger and listening to the radio, but the digital world really rules the day, particularly if they are immersed in the culture of their peers.

We gave the kids all the standard warnings about cyber-stalkers and assorted creeps - never give your personal information out online.  We were not too worried about their internet use though.

When our daughter was 11 or 12, a friend offered to give her a copy of a book on sexuality that she had sitting around.  I can't find it on Amazon at the moment - I thought it was called "A Grrl's Guide to Her Body."  We thought that was fine.  Our friend didn't really look through it.  We didn't look through it.  It may have been a sloppy parenting moment.  The book went a little beyond the average things you would like your young child to know, moving more into Dan Savage territory.

Shortly thereafter, I was looking at my daughter's iPod Touch's internet history, (the time-honored parenting technique of snooping), and found that she had been watching hard core pornography on her iPod.  I deleted her browser, had a chat with her - discovering that she was researching some of the content covered in the book, and I installed OpenDNS and another software-based parental control program.

I kept an eye on what was being blocked by OpenDNS.  With two teenage children, I expected a certain amount of unsavory internet content to be blocked, but as my son got older, there was a surge in various disturbing websites.  I have a feeling that some of them came from clicking on Google Image search results, which cannot be blocked by OpenDNS or by Skydog.

I had another chat with both of them, and I ordered a Skydog router.  To some extent, at that point, it had more to do with conveying to them that I cared about what they were exposing themselves to by making some effort to curate what they could see.  I also really liked the fact the Skydog router could turn off their internet access at night.  I know from my own experience as an adult that it is easy to keep watching Netflix or YouTube or whatever.  We generally go to sleep before our kids - that was one of the biggest surprises of parenting.  Knowing that the internet will be turned off is reassuring.

I won't go too far into Skydog.  The product has been discontinued, though they are honoring the three year service contracts for those who bought the router before the parent company was sold.  Having a router-based system of parental control is essential with all the various devices most people have.  The software we had installed on their laptops, for example, would not work on their Chromebooks, nor on the iPod Touches, nor the eventual cell phones. Skydog is, or was, cloud based.  You set up your schedules for each user on a web interface, and it was pushed to the modem.  Skydog was acquired by Comcast a year or so ago, and they stopped selling their routers.

Other than Skydog's slide toward probable obsolescence at the end of the contract period, we were also having trouble with the connection being dropped.  My son also seems to have discovered that he can disable Skydog by plugging the Ethernet cable from the modem/router into one of the outgoing ports on  the Skydog router.  For some reason, that would maintain the wireless signal the kids tapped into, but it disabled ours, and bypassed the router rules.  I don't know if there are instructions online, or if he discovered it by happenstance, or if he is even aware of what he did, (though I strongly suspect he does).  I filled in the outbound Ethernet slots with silicone, an that stopped that.

I found the pcWRT router while searching for a Skydog replacement.  I've replaced the modem/router (from our ISP) combined with Skydog with a standalone aDSL modem and the pcWRT router.

You configure the pcWRT router directly.  I actually like that better than having a cloud based solution, and you can configure it over wifi, but you have to be on its network.  It does basically the same things, but as an additional bonus, it can enforce Google Safe Search.  If you have young children, get this router and get them used to using safe search on their own devices.  I haven't experimented very much, but I think it will block a lot of the objectionable Google Image searches.

Unfortunately, it also blocked most of the music videos on YouTube my 13 year old son likes to watch.  He was very unhappy, and very snarky, about the curated results he was getting.  (He's very fond of "Carry On My Wayward Son" right now.  With Safe Search, all he could get on YouTube were people learning to play it on the guitar).  I agreed that it was a bit extreme and turned it off for him.  But I wish I had started using Safe Search when they were 5, and that was all they knew.

pcWRT also blocks the use of proxy servers, so they can't do an end run around OpenDNS.

The calendar works backwards from what I expected.  You block off the times things are allowed, not the time things should be blocked.  I had set time for them to sleep by making a calendar with no sites listed, and then blocked off the night, but that banned all sites during the daytime.  I had to go back and change the selected parts of the calendar to the daytime.  pcWRT allows you to do that textually, and I found that easier than dragging the slider.

Another good thing, at the moment, is that the pcWRT router has no identifying marks on it.  So far, I have refused to tell my son what the router is.  There's no way to know it is a pcWRT router, and so you cannot search for a way to bypass it.  (My son may find out on this blog, but that's OK).  It is also so new, that searching "pcWRT bypass" does not bring anything up. 

I know this is not a thorough review.  The router's controls are not as fine-grained as Skydog's, nor does it have a reporting function or a bandwidth limitation function, but it does the basics very well.  We have not had any dropped connections with our new setup, and I'm very happy with the product.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Backpacking with a Giant Jensen

I'm getting ready to leave on my nine day backpacking trip tomorrow  with my new Giant Jensen from Rivendell Mountain Works. I took it out for a three day trial last weekend, and I have to say it is easily as comfortable as the Danas and Ospreys I've owned. Not bad for a design from the late sixties. Hating the term retro, (I know you probably would apply that to my phone Kent),  I would not call it by that name. With its lack of a network of cinches and straps, I would call it simple and effective. I'm glad Eric Hardee is keeping the pack design alive. Nine days worth of food fits easily in the twin tubes of the pack body. I may need more room when I start to pack everything, but I can always lash a stuff sack to the top. I'll try to report at some point after my return.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Random Shoes

It doesn't mean anything. I just took my shoes off while I was talking to my wife on the phone who is off vacationing with the kids and her family on the outer banks. I looked over from the kitchen and liked the composition of the shoes.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sewing Ridgepulls on a Silnylon Tarp

Here I am sewing webbing onto the ridge line of my silnylon tarp. This project has been easier than I thought, but it is taking more time than I imagined.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sewing a Ray Jardine Style Backpacking Quilt

On Saturday morning, I pulled all my supplies out from Ripstop by the Roll and set to work putting together my backpacking quilt.  There are other sites carrying both ripstop, silnylon, and insulation.  Ripstop by the Roll was an arbitrary decision - I was most likely won over by the alliteration - and it seems to be a fine company to deal with.

Ray Jardine also sells his own kits on his website.  The new version of his book, (my edition is called Beyond Backpacking, and the new edition is called Trail Life), is available there too.  Curiously enough, Mr. Jardine inveighs against corporations and consumerism, yet his Ray Way brand seems to be quite extensive.  I intend that as a friendly jibe.  I know he is just one guy and not the Dupont corporation, but most of the big backpacking brands started out small, and maybe many of them still are small.  My Osprey Silhouette backpack has a label that says "Made in Dolores Colorado."  Are they still made there?  My Jansport Supersack was made in the U.S.A.  I'm certain the makers of backpacking gear should not be lumped in with the likes of Monsanto.

I have to say that I prefer building things from scratch without a kit.  If I mess up on a kit, I feel like I've really done something wrong.  When I'm starting from scratch, any result that holds together seems like it's a step up from the raw materials I started with.

I'm working on my living room floor most of the time.  The material picks up a lot of cat and dog hair, in spite of my attempts to sweep.  That's OK too.

I ended up pulling out my framing square to try to get an approximately straight cut across the bottom of the bag.  I don't think you can see my chalk marks in the photo, but I sketched in two or three until I arrived at a line that looked square to me.  Once again, I found that scissors were easier to work with than the rotary cutter, not to mention that I didn't want to score up our Pergo flooring.  I did end up, in making this particular cut, cutting only the upper sheet of fabric.  After that, I worked more carefully.  I had ordered three yards of fabric.  Ray recommends 80" for length.  I believe I measured to 81" to allow for half inch seams.

A finished solo backpacking quilt, according to Beyond Backpacking, should be 45" wide.  I found some other folks on listservs, (Backpacking Light seemed to come up the most on searches for questions I had, but there are also some hammock forums), who make their quilts wider, but I thought I would go by the book.

I was worried about what I would use for a pattern, but it turns out that a sheet of newspaper is 24" wide.  Originally, I made a pattern that was 23" wide to allow for a half inch seam, but then I thought, since I have the fabric, I might as well use the full width of the newspaper and end up with a wider quilt.  That ended up being a good idea, because after struggling with the insulation, I ended up far enough away from a half inch seam allowance as to end up with a 45" wide quilt.

I folded the two layers of fabric in half, traced the pattern, and cut it out.  Sewing the two layers together went fairly easily.

I next put the two layers of fabric on the insulation and cut off the excess.

5.0 oz Climashield is rated to 20 degrees fahrenheit.  I'm not sure I trust that.  It's not very thick.  I didn't measure it, but I think it's around an inch, inch and a half.  I wanted to build a quilt because my old 20 degree down bag, which is around 30 years old, is becoming a little chilly on below freezing nights.  I hope the Climashield lives up to its rating, but if I had known how thin it was, I would have ordered enought to add two layers.

One layer is probably fine to start with though because sewing the Climashield to the fabric was one of the most difficult things I've attempted so far.  You are supposed to use the line of stitching on the bag as a guide to sew the Climashield on.  I found that the Climashield wanted to push itself down while it was compressed under the sewing foot, so when I started, I ended up with a loop of insulation underneath the fabric between one place where I had pinned it on and the next.  I took it off and added more pins, but it didn't seem to help, so I just sewed on in the blind faith that it would pretty much work.  It pretty much did.  I sewed any gaps flat, and it didn't look like I had a mess when I was done.

Because I was using the original line of sewing as a guide, I couldn't sew down one side, bartack the stitching, turn it over and sew down the other.  I tried that, only to find, obviously, that suddenly the insulation was on top instead of the fabric.   I had to try to bunch all the quilt in between the foot and the body of the sewing machine.  I had my doubts that I was sewing things correctly, but when I finished sewing, everything was OK.  Is there some other way to do this people?  It was very awkward.

Remember to separate the fabric at the head and sew the insulation to only one layer so you can turn the whole thing rightside out.

I sewed an extra line of stitching across the head because it didn't seem to me that the insulation was held very firmly by the first.  After sewing the head of the bag together, I sewed a robe zipper to the foot section.  That did not go easily, but it worked.  See my previous post for the photograph.  I have no advice for making the sewing on of the zipper easier.  If I build another one, I might contemplate sewing the zipper on before adding the insulation, but that might cause unforeseen trouble during the insulation phase.  I also have seen references to a drawstring foot box.  I'm also not clear why I should not have sewn the foot box together rather than adding a zipper.  It's just a little pocket at the bottom of the sleeping bag.  If my feet get too hot, I can just slip them out of the pocket.  I really don't foresee unzipping it, unless the bag is soaking wet, and I want to flatten it out for better drying.

Here is the length of the quilt photographed from my napping perspective.  It's light blue on top, theoretically to reflect heat back, and forest green on bottom, for faster drying in the sun.

The makers of Climashield claim you do not have to quilt the material to keep it from shifting, so I didn't.  My backpacking quilt has not quilting.

I did sleep on the back porch one night.  It seemed to offer adequate coverage, but I think I'll use it with my old bivy sack to help hold the sides down in the wind, since I will be using it with a tarp.  I was a little too warm, which seemed a good sign for colder nights, but I've also been battling a flu/cold, and I think I was running a fever.  I'm going to sleep out again this week, now that I'm feeling better.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sleeping Quilt Zippered Foot Box

I managed to sew a zipper in place, in spite of the fact the zipper foot I ordered did not fit, and I had to use the general purpose foot. Again - not pretty but functional.

Ray Jardine's book said to use a 26" zipper. That would not have been long enough to create a pocket. I used a 46" robe zipper.

Bacpacking Sleeping Quilt Under Construction

I kept thinking there has to be a better way. It turned out OK though. I still have to add a zipper to the foot. Ray Jardine says to make a single quilt 45" wide. I planned to make it 47", but after wrestling the fabric and insulation through the machine it's 45".  I'll do a more thorough writeup later.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Honeybees Galore!

Some friends of mine who are on the faculty at St. John's, have had two swarms, in the same spot of their apple tree, a week apart.  This first one may have been a larger swarm with a second, smaller swarm next to it.  I placed the hive on an outdoor table beneath them and tried to shake both groups in.  They ended up mostly landing on top of the bars I left in place:

They did, however, all go in, (though if that was a second swarm, they may have flown off elsewhere.  Here is a photo of them signaling the other bees to come on down.  I left this hive in their yard:

The second swarm, a week later, was there in the morning.  They were very quiet and still, so I believe they had been there overnight.  I brought a half-hive over, hoisted it on my shoulder, climbed to the top of a stepladder and shook them straight in.  They gathered themselves more quickly and are now happily buzzing about in my backyard:

I now have ten hives under my care - more than I have had in a few years.  I think all the rain we have been having has been good for the honeybees in Santa Fe.  This might be the year I get back to selling honey at the Farmer's Market.

All photos were taken by Susan, who has a wonderful sense of excitement and wonder at the arrival of all these bees in her backyard.

Rain Shed RS280 Cagoule - Final Thoughts

Here are a few final thoughts and stories about sewing the cagoule.

1) My biggest piece of advice for any inexperienced sewer, like myself, would be to get some scrap fabric and practice cutting out the hole for the hood.  If I ever make another one, I will not try to cut the entire thing out with a rotary cutter.  I believe the best course would be to trace it, begin the cut with the rotary cutter, and then cut the rest out with scissors.  I don't know if this advice is obvious from an experienced perspective.  Maybe practice with the rotary cutter, (is that the right name for it?), would be best.  Next time though, I'm trying the scissors.  It would not be too much to cut out a practice hood and practice sewing that to the practice hole.  Would I actually have the patience for doing that?  I don't know.  My hood sewing job is serviceable, but it's not pretty.  I wish I could do it over and over again until I got it just right.  However, I don't have a need for that many cagoules.

2)  One of the most disturbing things that happened was I checked the bobbin after sewing the hood on, and the bobbin was empty.  I went all the way around the hood and did not see any stitching that was not matched by the stitching on the bottom.  It's a mystery.  Maybe I ran out just as I was finishing.  At least I know there are two lines of stitching.

3)  I ran out of thread at the very end, mere inches from finishing the last sleeve.  I would not have run out of thread, I believe, except that I bought metal replacement bobbins at the beginning of the project, but they did not work, and I ended up with big nests of thread on my practice run, so I was down one bobbin's worth of thread from the beginning.  The bobbin problem happened to me twice.  I bought some replacement bobbins a few years ago, thinking all bobbins were probably the same, and I bought the wrong bobbin altogether.  The thread nested up under my stitching, and I struggled with the machine for a few days before concluding that it had just gone kaput on me.  I eventually found that the bobbin was the problem.  This time, I bought the correct bobbin, (a #66), but the metal didn't work.  When I bought more thread, I bought some plastic replacement bobbins, and those finally worked.  Inexperienced sewers beware - buy the right bobbin.

4) On the subject of thread - Ray Jardine says to use long filament polyester thread.  At my local Jo Anne's, they have some Coats & Clark "Outdoor" thread that they say is long filament polyester.  I think the thread itself is too heavy for clothing, silnylon tarps, and so on.  The little booklet on the thread display lists things like awnings as being a good use for the thread.  I bought the Coats & Clark dual duty all purpose thread.  It's 100% polyester.  I don't know if it's long filament.  My best guess is that it is better to have a thread that is the correct weight for your project than to worry about whether it is long filament or not.  I could be wrong.  If anyone reads this and knows differently, please let me know.  I still have two projects to go.

5)  If I didn't know it already, I've learned that I have a hard time just letting things be.  I really, really intended to take a long time on the project.  I did not mean to finish it in one weekend.  Even now, I'm having trouble not poking around at the seams while the seam sealer dries.  I found I had an unaccountable urge to pull hard at the seams to see if they would hold.  The whole sewing thing seems too much like a miracle.  You mean I can just step on a little pedal and join two pieces of fabric?  I took out my urge to tug at seams on a piece of scrap material.  Those seams are pretty strong.

I'll leave you with a photo of the seam sealer drying - the internet couldn't possibly get more exciting.  I'll have to report on the performance of the cagoule itself after my backpacking trip in July.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sewing My Own - The Rain Shed RS280 Cagoule In Progress

For years, I have carried a silnylon poncho with me for rain gear when I hike or backpack.  Most of the time, it has been more than enough, particularly given that I live in the Southwest, and we have been having a drought lately.

Last year, my son and I headed into the Pecos Wilderness for what was supposed to be a three or four day trip.  The day was already clouding up in the morning, and lightning was ricocheting around when we reached the place we were going to camp.  We set up the tent and also rigged up the 6' by 8' tarp I had.  Almost as soon as we were set up, around noon I believe, it began to hail.  It hailed and hailed and hailed.  A small river began to run beneath us where we were huddled underneath the tarp with our puppy Jess.  The wind kept whipping the poncho around, and the great wings of cloth kept getting in my way as I tried to shift things around and get the stove going.  We soon had to abandon the tarp and huddle in the tent.  Being a little claustrophobic, I'm not a big fan of tents.  It rained for about four hours that afternoon.  We had a two hour break, which we used for making dinner and wandering about the area, and then it rained all night.  We had hoped to get up Santa Fe Baldy the next day, but it looked like the rain was going to keep up, my son was woefully unprepared for rain, and I had reached the limits of my patience with the poncho, so we headed back out of the wilderness.  That week ended up being the stormiest week of the whole summer.

I'm planning an eight day backpacking trip this July.  July is typically the rainy season.  I've been overhauling my gear this spring.  Most of what I use is left over from my time managing the Wilderness Exchange, a wonderful backpacking shop in Santa Fe that was open from the late eighties to the mid-nineties.  I finally ordered a Giant Jensen from Rivendell Mountain Works.  I became familiar with Rivendell Mountain Works when they were mentioned by Rivendell Bicycle Works, probably in a Rivendell reader.  The Jensen is a soft pack designed by Don Jensen in the late sixties.  Some people really love them.  Some people don't.  I've always wanted to try one, and my wife usually uses my Osprey when we backpack together.  My frame pack is having some problems right now.  May 21st was my birthday.  I thought it was about time to give the Jensen a shot.

While on their page, I noticed that they have also finally put their cagoules into production.  I thought that would be just the right thing for a week long mountain storm.  (I did another two-week trip in the early nineties with nothing but a Sierra Designs Microlight jacket.  I was soaked to the skin the entire time).  I've never tried a cagoule.  They look like they might be too hot, but I have my 60/40 parka for hiking in.  I would just use the cagoule if it was really, persistently rainy.

However, there are a lot of things I want to buy this spring, and I'm on a limited budget.  I've been rereading my copy of Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking, and he has a chapter on making your own gear.  I have a sewing machine, and occasionally, I get excited about using it.  I ordered some materials to make a larger silnylon rainfly, a sleeping quilt (I have a 20 year old down bag that is beginning to lose some of its loft), and finally, a pattern for a cagoule from the Rain Shed.  I also ordered some Xalt waterproof breathable fabric from them along with all the other bits of things I would need.

I decided to go ahead and do it because the idea of making my own cagoule frightened me a little.  I tend to be a perfectionist, and I get irritated when I have to struggle with things.  Sewing is just the kind of challenge I need.  Before I go any further, I have to say that this project is not so much to save money - at just under $100, it's almost a third the cost of the Rivendell cagoule, but I could have picked some waterproof breathable jacket up from Sierra Trading Post or Campmor for less.  I really wanted to meet the challenge and make some of my own gear.  And I also was fixated on the idea of a cagoule.  There aren't many choices out there.

The thing is, I am not an experienced sewer.  I can sew, but it's a little like the first time you drive a car.  I step on the little pedal, and it's like "Whoa, hey, hey, hey!"  I end up with stitching that careens all over the place.

The cagoule pattern, thankfully, is pretty simple.  I'm most of the way done.  It's basically like a poncho with the extra fabric beneath the arms cut out and sewn together, an extension, and a pocket sewn on the front.  The pocket took a lot of time, and I think I did a pretty damn good job on the pocket.  I was using one of those little wheel cutters to cut out the fabric.  I found it difficult to cut the pattern out exactly.  In the same way my stitching generally resembles a little syne wave, my cutting with the rotary cutter also tended to weave in and out.  I am not sure the rotary cutter is best.

With the hood, particularly cutting the hole for the hood, I believe I would have been better off tracing the pattern with chalk and cutting it out with scissors.  The hood has been the most difficult part of the project so far.  It takes three layers of facing, and it was a struggle getting all those edges matched up.  I managed fairly well, but I have some wonky stitching it there.  I made two button holes for the drawcord.  I've never made button holes before, and I enjoyed learning how, but I cut through the stitching of one with my seam ripper when I was trying to cut out the middle of the hole.  I fixed that with a little extra bar tacking.  I noticed that the other buttonhole is missing some of its boundary, and all of the facing is together now, so I can't fix it, at least not properly.  I think I may have nicked that thread too, and it's losing some of its stitching.  In general, though, I think it will hold up.

Cutting out the hole for the hood was a mess.  I tried to run the rotary cutter around the pattern, and at one point, it slipped off to the side about a quarter of an inch.  Also, my first time around, I did not cut all the way through the fabric all the way around, so I had to try to connect my incisions.  Instead of a smooth oval-like shape, I ended up with a slightly raggedy looking oval-like shape.  If I ever do this again, I will use scissors.

I did the staystitching and made the clips dictated by the pattern, but I'm still not sure why I did those things or if I did them right.  The instructions say the staystitch is inside the seam allowance, but I was not sure how far inside, so sometimes it's almost at the edge and sometimes it's further away.

I pinned the hood and the body of the cagoule together as well as I could and tried to stitch around the seam.  Twice I ended up sewing  a fold of fabric into the seam and had to get out the seam ripper and start over.  I'm going to have to do a lot of seam sealing in there.

I believe some sewing machines have an arm that you can place things like sleeves and hoods over, but my sewing machine just has a flat surface, and it's very nerve wracking trying to go around like that, paying attention to the seam allowance and to the bunching of the fabric around the area you are sewing.  I'm sure it's the type of thing that gets easier with practice, but when do you practice sewing hoods onto raincoats?

In the end, my edges didn't really meet up all that well.  The hood has a little tongue of fabric left over that juts out past the seam.  I did one seam, with everything pinned in place, and then I did another zigzag stitch which was supposed to be near the first stitch, but it ended up meandering all over the place.  With the zigzag stitch, and all the stitching I had to rip out with the seam ripper and start again on to of where it left off, the seam for the hood looks like it was sewn by a spider on LSD.

Luckily, when you turn it rightside out, it looks fine.  I'm also pretty certain that once I have seam sealed the area, it will be watertight.  The perfectionist in me wants it to be pretty.  Maybe I should do a little trimming -- or maybe I should leave well enough alone.

At this point, I realized that I was really tired, and even though the remaining steps seem pretty simple and straightforward, I've put it aside until I am a little better rested.  I have a bad tendency to want to finish whatever I start without taking a break.  I had planned to do a little on this project at a time, aiming to finish in two or three weeks.  Instead, I got caught up in the magic of having a three dimensional object arise out of two dimensional cloth and kept going far past the point I should have stopped.

When I finish, I will post a nice, right-side out photo.

Sewing My Own Gear

Occasionally, I am inspired by Ray Jardine's encouragement to sew my own gear in Beyond Backpacking. More to follow.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ready, Take Aim, Oooo Look, Butterflies

I'm still around, but I've been busy and subsequently veering a little bit off course in terms of everything I'm trying to stay on track with.  (Including writing regularly, all kinds).

A few weeks ago, I got carried away at the library with Paleo/Primal books.  I checked out Loren Cordain's The Paleo Answer, Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution, and Taube's Good Calories, Bad Calories.

I cannot look at the cover of the last without wanting to eat a piece of toast.

I was trying to read all three, but couldn't get into them.  I like books with stories.  I want to hear what people did and how it affected them.  I get very resistant, pissy, and critical when it feels like someone is pushing an agenda, and The Paleo Answer felt very much that way to me.  The initial chapters include lengthy discussions of what's wrong with vegetarianism, what's wrong with dairy, and so on.  Reading it, rather than feeling inspired, I found myself defending vegetarians and defending dairy.  Cheese is good?  What about Weston Price?  So I stopped about a third of the way through.

Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution is the book my doctor prescribed to me.  It felt a little flat to me this time around.  The most exciting thing is that he claims to have patients who reversed their cardiovascular troubles.  That's worth trying.  He also pushes away from the consumption of meat and moves toward more of a raw food diet, while keeping some animal products in there.  Nonetheless, I also abandoned this book about a third of the way through.  It reads like an infomercial.

I like Gary Taube's work, and I've kept plugging away at Good Calories, Bad Calories, albeit with a growing craving for toast.  My mind is just on other things.  I'm much more interested, right now, in reading Lawrence Durrell's Avignon Quintet.  I'm also reading along through a big pile of Xanth novels my oldest sister sent my way, ostensibly for my kids, but I had never allowed myself to read fantasy, being a serious scholarly kind of person, and I'm enjoying them.

I've been slipping a little in my eating habits, and I think my weight is going back up.  I had a little bit of Pad Thai the other night.  I made some spaghetti for the kids and ate a little bit too.  Yesterday, I ordered a sandwich at work and just couldn't bring myself to tell them to hold the bread.  I ate an entire bag of Wasabi Wow trail mix from Trader Joe's in two days.

I'm convinced that cutting way back on carbs leads to better health, and I'm going to try to steer back in that direction, but I'm faced with a basic conflict that I don't think is addressed at all in any of the books on Paleo - I want to be healthy.  Do I want to be ripped?  No.  Hell no.  That's not really my self image.  But do I want to be leaner?  Hell yes.  (Should I stop spooning down almond butter?  Yes.  Definitely.)  However, I also don't want to be prissy about what I eat.  Sometimes I just want a hamburger with the bun, and I don't want to be quizzing waiters about whether sugar is in the salad dressing.  I like brown rice.  I like the idea of vegetarianism.  I like burritos.  I like legumes, including peanuts.

It's hard to strike the right balance that will keep pushing you in the right direction in terms of weight and health.  I'm going to keep trying to strike that balance, and I'll keep writing about it, but I think I'll write about other things as well here.

I'll leave you with a picture of our chickens.  They're getting bigger, and they're eating a lot, and they're very affectionate.  Well - you'll just have to trust me.  Blogger doesn't want to upload the photo right now.  I'll add it later, so I won't be late for work.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hauling by Bicycle

Getting ready to work on a better, more raccoon proof, chicken run and garden fence.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Back from Vacation

We're back from spending spring break in Canyonlands. The kids backpacked in 3 miles barefoot -- being unintentionally primal. They did complain of sore feet at the end of the day.

I wanted to camp in Hovenweep on the way back. The kids wanted to camp at Sand Island near Bluff. "There may be drunk river rafters on a Friday night," I warned them. Sure enough, a group arrived a little drunk, continued to drink, and dissolved into fist fights around 11:30 p.m.  It was better than Netflix. Seriously though, they were making a bad name for river runners. How can a group of people be so oblivious that they are in a public campground?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Santa Fe Bike Swap Bike

Here is the bike we picked up for $16 at our local bike swap today. Yes, we have enough bikes, but the bike we have the studded snow tires on is a little small, and my wife wanted this one. The shifters are shot, but we'll get the $17 replacements from Rivendell's Clem collection. In the meantime it is stuck in a good gear.

Health Update

According to the blood pressure machine in the pharmacy department of my local grocery store, my blood pressure has come down quite a bit, at least the systolic has.  (My doctor told me that those machines are more or less accurate.)  For as long as I can remember, my blood pressure has been around 135/85.  Usually it measures a little bit higher in the doctor's office.  As usual, that concerned me more than it concerned my doctor, but he had me wear a machine that checked my blood pressure every 15 minutes for 24 hours.  During the night it falls very low - down to something like 99/50. My doctor said that variation over the course of the day tells him there's nothing particularly worrisome about it seeming high when I get a checkup - white coat syndrome.

Still, I don't like the fact that I hover in between prehypertension and hypertension on the little chart on the machine there in the grocery store.  Today when I checked it, it was 117/83.  That 117 puts me in the normal range for systolic.

Is it all due to eating a Primal/Paleo type diet?  Who knows.  Still, the blood pressure combined with the absence of seasonal allergies and asthma is encouraging me to keep with it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grain Brain

I have just about finished reading David Perlmutter's Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers.  It covers the ground you would expect it to - grains, carbs, and sugars causes inflammation; cholesterol is good; cutting out grains and carbs, (and of course sugar) will drastically, dramatically alter your life.

I'm at the point where I don't read books like Grain Brain for radically new information.  I read them to keep on track.  It also represents a type of self-reinforcement that has become common in the age of the internet.  I believe that is both good and bad.  I remember when the internet was heralded as the place people of differing views could get together and discuss, in true democratic fashion, differences of philosophy and opinion, and we would all be better citizens because of it.  I found that I immediately gravitated toward the car-free crowd, which also tends to be the car-critical crowd.  Daily I read posts on Twitter and on the internet about the great strides bicycle infrastructure is taking, the steady, dramatic decline in car ownership, both in the United States and around the world, and references to the few whackos out there who continue to champion internal combustion engines.  I get Bill McKibben's tweets about the groundswell of opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and I read tweets from the primal community.  The fact that all these messages pour into my devices does not make it feel like I'm part of an insular community, but paints a picture for me of a global culture of bicycle riding, carbon scorning, grain refusing people.  The world looks that way to me, and it gives me optimism, which is a good thing, but if I spend time doing something like visiting my family in the Southeast, I realize that there are a lot of grain-eating, car-driving, global climate change denying people out there.

Parenting becomes an even more difficult thing when you are trying to change your own culture.  We stopped eating spaghetti a couple of years ago because my wife felt it was making her feel terrible.  Our kids now long for pasta night.  Is there anything wrong with pasta?  In the larger cultural climate, of course not.  But we, as the parents in the family, are now circling about like sharks in the waters of sugar is poison, pasta is poison, bread is poison.  How much allowance to you give the larger culture in raising children?

I'm particularly worried about my son's eating habits and my responses to him, particularly in light of reading Grain Brain.  He loves to bake.  For years I've fought him on that.  That feels like a really shitty thing to do.  "Hey Dad," he'll say, "will you get the stuff to make cookies?  I've really been wanting to make cookies."  "I really don't want you eating sugar," I'll say.  "Plus, it's hard to have cookies around when I'm trying not to eat them.  I like cookies too your know."  I almost always capitulate in the end, though sometimes he gives up.  To a large extent, I would much rather have him in the kitchen baking than sitting in his room submerged in the realm of Minecraft.  He also likes for me to buy him some jelly beans on the weekend when I do the weekly grocery shopping.  I used to buy him a box of Jelly Bellies from Trader Joe's, but he would down them in a second.  Now, I do a short burst of Jelly Beans from a bulk bin, but he's irritated when I return home with a smattering of Jelly Beans for him.  But here's the thing - his eating habits tend toward the terrible.  To my eye, it looks like he's addicted to sugar.  Whatever I get him for a week - a big bag of trail mix with M&Ms, jelly beans, lemonade, (when he requests it), etc. - disappears within two days.  He does eat what I make for dinner, but neither he nor his sister are that big on breakfast.  They also will not take anything for lunch.  I will send them off with carrots, which I find later rotting in their backpacks.  Zeb, particularly, won't eat sandwiches.  He's not fond of fruit.  The trail mix is the only thing he requests, and, as I said, he polishes that off in a day or two.  I think I would have to buy forty dollars worth of trail mix a week for him to max out on it.  He won't eat just nuts - the candy is what does it for him.

He also seems to be in the dark tunnel of adolescence.  He rarely smiles. He seldom laughs.  He stays in his room all the time playing Minecraft.  On reading Grain Brain, I started thinking, "you know, if I could just get him to eat a low-carb diet and eliminate sugar, his mood might improve significantly."  It might also be equally true that if I just got off his fucking case and bought him supplies to make cookies and snacks he wants to eat, his mood would equally improve.  It's a hard call, and I never know which way to go with it.

In my own adolescence, I stayed in my room and locked my door, (which drove my mother crazy, though I wasn't doing anything naughtier than what teenage boys normally do in their rooms).  I could eat an entire sleeve of Oreos at a sitting.  I lived mainly on Lucky Charms, frozen chicken pot pies, applesauce, sprees, skittles, grilled cheeses, Campbell's tomato soup, and whatever my mom made for dinner.  I probably consumed much more sugar than my son is consuming.  Should I just let him be a teenager?  No matter what your view of healthy is, how do you try to inculcate that in your children without creating conflict?

The main thing I notice in myself at this point in time is I do not have a big problem with allergies.  People are being felled by the juniper pollen all around me.  I'm not willing to attribute that solely to my sticking strictly to a no grains, low carb diet, but it's certainly possible that's helping.  This time of year, that's reason enough to stick to the diet.  My allergies can really be debilitating.  (I remember one year when my eyes almost swelled shut).  I'm also still free from any difficulties with my asthma.  I wonder if my mother had known cutting out sugar and going low carb could help with asthma, I would have embraced it as a teenager, or if I would have been pissed off all the time that I couldn't eat oreos and ice cream?  The world is never simple.  Perhaps there is a time for ramen and ice cream.  We take care of ourselves and each other as best we can.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beekeeping time

I'm cleaning out some empty hives to get ready to split my full ones. Honey is Paleo -- in moderation

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Santa Fe County Spur Trail and Rail Trail

Maybe it was all the espresso in the Paleo espresso from Tathagata Coffee, but I decided to take the Spur Trail and the Rail Trail back home.  The trail from the coffee place dumps out onto Richard's Avenue right across from the entrance to the Spur Trail.

I have not been on either the Spur Trail nor the dirt section of the Rail Trail in years.  They have been working to make improvements to the Rail Trail, and I wanted to see how those were coming along.

What I remembered about the Spur Trail is that it feels longer than it seems it should be.  According to this link,  the trail is three miles long.  Maybe it feels longer to me because it is largely uphill when you are heading from the Community College, which is the direction I usually take on the rare occasions I ride on the trail.  It is also fine gravel, and the gravel pools here and there making a it a little bit slippy for a road bike.  Nevertheless, I would say it is eminently road bikable.  At least it works fine with my 23 mm tires.  I'm not sure I would want to do it on super skinny, super high pressure tires.  When the trail was opened, I thought "Great, we can ride out the Arroyo Chamisa Trail from our house, hop on the Rail Trail, and then coast on down to the Community College!"  And the trail was spoken of as a connection to the Community College from the Rail Trail.  However, it seems like such a long way to get to the Community College, and it's dirt and base course, so it's not the most pleasant commuting surface.  The rail trail, back in the day, was also full of erosion damage and sandy washes.  There is also no clear signage pointing to the Spur Trail from the Rail Trail.  I rode right by it the one time I tried to go to the Community College that way.  I'm really not clear why the Spur Trail was built.  It's nice that it's there, and a lot of people seem to walk and bicycle on it, but it does not seem like a useful connection for commuters.  If I'm going to bicycle out that way, I usually find it easier just to head out Richard's Avenue.

The Rail Trail runs along the Santa Fe Southern tracks to Eldorado.  Occasionally, I try to advocate for paving it, so the folks who commute in from Eldorado don't have to a) head a long way east to get out of Eldorado and then b) turn back west and head into Santa Fe on the interstate.  Unfortunately, the trail itself is not conducive to being made into a commuter bicycle superhighway from that particular bedroom community.  It dips up and down, twists and turns, and crosses over washes.  I still think it would be nicer paved, but there are plenty of mountain bikers and trail runners who like it just the way it is.  I don't commute in from Eldorado ever or bicycle out to Eldorado often, so it's not really my call.

There was a trail closed sign in the Eldorado direction.  I've heard from some people that they are really making a mess out there, tearing up trees, and making duplicate routes for the trail that seem unnecessary.  I decided not to violate the warning sign to investigate, but I am very curious as to what is going on.  I may forward this post to Tim Rogers, who is the trail program coordinator for the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.  He most likely would know.

The trail does seem to be in much better shape than it used to be.  They've built some retaining walls and have smoothed out some of the erosion.  There are some steep sections, and I walked up one.  My single speed's frame is from 1978, so it's 37 years old.  I have this wacky long steel stem, (the diameter of the stem for the Schwinn Super Le Tour is not 1"), and I'm not sure that yanking up on the handlebars to hump it up a steep climb is a good idea.  I'd like the frame to make it another 37 years.

I would say it is much easier to ride a road bike on this particular section of the Rail Trail.  I'm not sure what's going on where the trail is under construction. I personally would like to see some bridges over the sandy washes, but it doesn't kill me to get off my bike and push if I bog down.

The trail still is not the best commuter route into the city, and, while I had fun getting out there and exploring again, I'm not sure I would regularly choose that route to get out to the coffee shop.

I believe Tim mentioned on one Community Cruise ride that there are some long-term plans to extend the trail system in Rancho Viejo out to the near-Santa Fe side of Eldorado.  If they do that, it will really improve the commuting in to town.

Tathagata Coffee

Here is the trusty steed in front of Tathagata Coffee in Rancho Viejo. It's a short jaunt into the county, but a bike trail dumps out close to it, and it is well worth the ride. They serve a great Paleo Espresso.

Designing for Bicycle Riders: Is There a Best Practice?

I'm going to diverge into bicycling for a post.  There seems to be a division occurring in the bicycling community that I've been giving a lot of thought to.  Mr. Mayor recently appointed me to the city's Bicycling and Trails Advisory Committee.  I heard through the grapevine that a city councilor was looking for me to fill a spot on the committee, and I believe that was in response to a letter I wrote to the newspaper criticizing the mayor's sudden announcement of a green bike lane initiative.  We had just wrapped up a Santa Fe County Bicycle Master Plan a couple of years ago.  The master plan is well thought out and fairly comprehensive.  According to the news article I read, the mayor had spoken with a bike shop owner downtown who had recommended green bike lanes.  At first glance, the idea sounded horrible and not thought out at all.  If things unfolded as they typically do, I could see some disjointed, strips of green flaking paint on the side of the road in remote areas that did not really go anywhere or connect to anything.  Santa Fe recently received a silver designation from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle friendly city, and we're hoping to reach a gold designation soon.  We don't need more plans.  We need to stick with the plan we've come up with.

We seem to be slipping into two distinct design philosophies in this country based on my loose observation of my Twitter feed.  I'm a League Cycling Instructor, albeit a fairly inactive one, and my background is in Vehicular Cycling.  When the Bicycling and Trails Advisory Committee was formed, I quickly became part of the on-street subcommittee because I reacted to another news story that the money in the bond cycle was "money for trails."  It was not money for trails, it was money for bike facilities.  Among other things, our subcommittee was responsible for getting sharrows on narrow roads in the city, and we also pushed through traffic signal triggering symbols showing bicyclists where to park to trigger the traffic signals.

Lately, on Twitter, I've been seeing these very sharrows, that I believe are effective reminders that bicycles belong on the roads, even if the exact import of the symbols is misunderstood by almost everyone, mocked and attacked.  These attacks come from some people I do admire, and I followed on purpose, like Mikail Colville-Andersen, but there's a few people/magazines I've started following haphazardly - Momentum Mag and Chris Bruntlett are a couple - that retweet a lot of vehicular cycling critical tweets.  The entire Green Lane Project seems to be coming from a group called People for Bikes.

Now here's the thing - I am sympathetic to the concept, but I just do not see protected bike lanes as safe in most instances.  In a city, where there are few curb cuts, and bicyclists are largely trying to get from one side of the city to another, or from the terminus of one urban trail to the beginning of another, maybe.  Otherwise, how is a protected bike lane unlike a sidepath, or even riding on a sidewalk, and it's clear that riding on the sidewalk is one of the leading causes of getting hit by turning traffic.  Santa Fe is an old city with narrow streets and low speed limits.  We have lots of curb cuts, so there aren't many places where a protected bike lane would make sense to me personally.  In some discussions, I have mentioned that, well, maybe we could put a protected bike lane down the length of St. Francis, which is actually a state highway running through the city - 6-8 lanes, 45 mph speed limit, few curb cuts.  When I bring that up, everyone says "who would ride down St. Francis?"  It's a valid question.  The rail trail parallels it.  There's not a really good reason for using it.

I often ride in the bike lane on Cerrillos Rd., another high speed arterial cutting from the outskirts of the city to downtown.  The part of it near where I live was redone a few years ago.  Now we have the traffic lanes, a bicycle lane, a bus lane, and the sidewalk.  The bike lane puts you out there next to the traffic so that both the traffic sees you, and the people pulling out of the driveways and side roads see you.  It's a very safe place to be on a bicycle.

I do understand that many people are not ready to jump right in to being a full vehicular cyclist.  In an ideal world, I would love it if the number of roads/lanes cars could use were drastically reduced and some version of a workable protected bike area could be implemented that would still allow for bicycle riders to move into a left turn lane safely, etc.  Six lane major road?  Give the cars one lane in each direction, slow the speed to 20 mph, and use the other two lanes for linear parks with ample bike paths.  That would be ideal.  But in the meantime, I do not understand this attack on vehicular cycling, nor - as someone who doesn't think of himself as a "bicyclist" per se - this portrayal of people who ride in traffic as lycra-clad daredevils who don't really care about the common man.  I believe bike lanes, in almost all cases, belong next to travel lanes, not on the passenger side of the parked cars.  Side paths need to remain labeled a bad practice.  Educating people on how to bicycle should remain a priority.  Sharrows send an important message.

What's up People for Bikes?

The mayor's green bike lanes are going through as a test, but they're being used exclusively to guide bicyclists through busy intersections.  In that context, I think it sounds great.  Anything that both guides bicyclists out of the right turn lanes and alerts motorists that bicycles are supposed to be out there sounds good to me.  I'm looking forward to the test intersections.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from people in locations that have implemented Green Lane Project ideas, and who have protected bike lanes, how they are working out.  Are they mostly in areas that don't have a lot of curb cuts?  I don't see how they would work otherwise.  Is there guidance for bicycles moving into left turn lanes to turn left?  How is that working out?  I would love to better understand how pursuing an ideal of protected bike lanes while denigrating vehicular cycling helps everyone who wants to cycle get from their home to their destination.

I love to be out on the bike paths, because I don't like the noise and congestion of cars, but there comes a time on every trip when you have to become part of traffic.  We need to stop this silly attack on vehicular cycling.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Varying the Routine

It doesn't have much to do with diet, but I thought I would vary my routine and not head straight to work this morning. I rode the single speed down the Rail Trail to Downtown Subscription. That's it parked in front of Garcia Street Books. I haven't had much time to write, but I had a little. Now for the long haul up Garcia Street to work.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What's Going Right

I've started this blog largely to start writing regularly again, with an audience in mind.  Somehow, even though a blog is journal-like, writing one is not quite like writing a journal.  Heretofore, I had not been aware that anyone had found or had been reading this blog, but now I know Kent is out there.  "Hello Kent!"  It's nice to have a long term, online bicycling community.

Here's some things that are going great:

That's me on Picacho Peak.  We had a friend in from out of town last week, and we were able to convince both kids to go hike up the mountain with us.  It's a small mountain at the edge of town but a beautiful hike nonetheless.

Here's my kids up there too.  Note the dead tree.  We've had a terrible time with the bark beetles and the pinon pines.  There are some climate scientists who think the Southwest will one day be treeless.  Where is the Lorax when you need him?

As far as changing my diet goes.  I may have gone through a few days of intense cravings, but there have been a few good things to come out of it.

1.  I have a lot more energy during the day.  Normally, I get so sleepy in the afternoons, that I almost feel narcoleptic.  I'll be working on something at my desk, and suddenly, my mind will start to wander, my head will drop, and my eyes will start to close.  I have to get up and walk around for a minute.  That hasn't been happening.

2.  My weight has dropped about ten pounds and stalled, but it hasn't gone back up.  My clothes are fitting the way they were supposed to again.

3.  My blood pressure, as measured by one of those little do-it-yourself booths at the grocery store, has been coming down.  It's always been higher than you would think it would be for someone who bicycles quite a bit and generally eats healthy food, (overlooking the Nutella and the occasional pop tart).

One of the reasons I'm experimenting with a paleo diet is my father had a heart attack in his mid-fifties.  I'll be fifty in a little less than a year and a half.  I'd like to avoid any problems with my heart if possible, and I certainly don't want to be having open heart surgery in five or six years.

My sister reassures me that given I move a lot, and my father hardly moved at all, I should be safe.  I ran across some medical papers when I was going through things after my mother's death that had noted my father's blood pressure was 200 something over 100 something.  I didn't even think that was possible.  My sister told me that my father would start walking two days before a doctor's appointment so that he could tell the doctor he had been walking.  He did play a lot of golf, but he reportedly used a golf cart for much of that.  I remember walking with him around the golf course, but my sister remembers the golf cart being his default way to get around.

An acquaintance of mine, who I see frequently, recently went to the doctor because his arms were hurting during his workouts.  After a long series of tests, they found one of his arteries was 95% blocked.  They cleared it out, but now he's on blood thinners and statins.  His blood pressure has always been low, his numbers all looked good.  He thinks it's just genetic.  I hope my father's difficulties with his heart were more diet and activity related than genetic.  I think that medical emergency happening in my peer group also may have helped contribute to my dark mood of late.

I plan to go in for my yearly physical around my birthday and see if my blood work looks better this year than in 2013, (when I last saw my doctor).  If it is, I'll consider sticking with a paleo-style of eating.  Though, if I can also get my weight down, I may occasionally have a bowl of steel cut oats.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steady On!

I've been feeling down lately, though I have no real cause to point to.  (My journal entries going back for decades rant about feeling trapped by pet ownership - I like to take off on weekends to explore, but I haven't been pet-free since 1997 - my struggles to become a famous author of essays and fiction - still very much only in the works - and my desire to own very few things in a Zen-like atmosphere of calm, space, and dust-free-ness - I grew up with asthma, and I have a sheer horror of house dust and pet hair.  Lately I have added the presence of the internet, computers, and smart phones in my home, family space to those rants.  I'm afraid my children are going to be bored and horrified by my journals.  I seldom write when I am happy.)  Those are all examples of the outward targets of my depressions, and when I feel depressed I feel VERY depressed, though when I take depression surveys online, I don't rate as depressed.  My sex drive is good to very strong, thank you very much, and I sleep well, and I have hope for the future, though my wait to be once again a pet-free explorer of the wild places of the earth seems to go on and on.  As that is my biggest passion, that is always a frustration.  Maybe I'm not really depressed.  Maybe I'm just frustrated, and I don't know how to get on with the things that mean the most to me.  I spend a lot of time waiting, and I'm at the point where I am aware that I am growing older, and I am losing time in which to wait.  Though this is not really a blog about my personal psychology, I think a lot about it.  There are two things I think about.  One, as a young boy, I had two older brothers who were simply out of control, and my mother spent a lot of tear-filled, shouting-filled hours trying to get them to shape up.  My oldest brother was more or less out of the house before I was very old, so I don't remember much of the difficulties with him, but the brother who was six years older than I - he passed away from ALS in 2004 - at one point dropped out of middle school and was dealing pot out of the house, along with drinking, and various other escapades.  I took it upon myself to protect/take care of my mother.  As I got older, that became a matter of feeling like I could not really be myself.  I couldn't drink.  I couldn't screw up.  And I did end up going to parties and drinking, but I was probably a little better at hiding it.  I was embarrassed to be a human being at home.  I had to be perfect.  My father worked nights and slept during the day.  In some ways, it felt like he was out of the picture.  I have often wondered, throughout my life, how similar I am to him.  He died when he was 59 when the truck he was driving was hit by a teenager who ran a stop sign.  He always seemed to be waiting to me as well, in some ways.  His role did not involve the family to a great extent.  He never suggested things to do as a family, though he did take me fishing often and did his best to teach me how to golf.  Aside from vacations, he and my mother never did anything together besides go out to eat, though they were affectionate and never seemed to argue, though my Mom complained that he was always off hunting, fishing, or playing golf.  I never heard him stand up for himself.  He quietly went his own way.  This is a long, roundabout way to comment on one of the odd aspects of my character.  When the family is home, I feel like I am in care-for-the-family mode.  That, by and large, involves a) waiting and b) cooking.  I get so sick of waiting and cooking.  I want to go climb Lake Peak!  I want to bicycle up into the mountains for the night!  But I never suggest things like that because a) I would feel selfish doing those things alone, and I really want to be outside with my family b) I have no role models for the non-introverted, let's all go camping, hiking, bicycling mode.  I don't know, maybe there's no explanation.  Perhaps it's not just as simple as my father was quiet and passive, so I'm quiet and passive.  But I wait.  I wait for suggestions of camping trips.  I wait for excited teenagers to wake up on Saturday morning and say "Let's go hike the Rio En Medio today!"  I wait for affection.  I wait for conversation.  I don't know, sometimes I just feel like a great big blob of waiting, and that's depressing, because as I get older there is less time.  My kids are 13 and 15.  They don't really want to do much together anymore.  What's odd is how distinct my waiting state is.  During the weekend, to some extent, I spend most of the time waiting to see what everyone else wants to do.  I don't even like to do chores.  I need to paint the roof for example.  I'm not likely to do that on the weekend.  The weekend is family time.  I'll probably do that on my Tuesday off.  Actually, I spend a lot of time standing in the kitchen wondering when someone will suggest something: "Is it time to make love?  Is it time to go have a latte?  Is it time to go for a hike?  Is it time for a backpacking trip?  Is it time to sit in the backyard and read a book? Is it time for me to go try to write a story?  What if someone needs something? (which, when I was an at-home-dad seemed to happen every time I picked up a pen or turned on the computer). Is it time to listen to the Rolling Stones "Some Girls" album real loud and dance around the living room?"  OK, I have limited interests in a typical order.  When I'm home alone, I go about being myself.  There's no one here I have to wait for.  Waiting is exhausting.  It seemed to be the mode my father modeled.  How do you break out of that?

As far as being Paleo goes, I have been angry all week.  My weight is not really coming down.  I don't like eggs.  I'm not all that fond of eating meat.  I'm getting sick of cheese.  I believe I come from a family of emotional eaters.  There was always snacking going on.  Gallons of ice cream were consumed.  Boxes of Oreos.  Lots of white bread sandwiches.  With this depression, I've been struggling with the drive to eat.  I tend to snack on nuts, but nuts have carbs, not many, granted, but they're there, and I would like to keep my carbs under 40 grams a day.  I know there's also other concerns about peanuts.  I love peanuts, and I love peanut butter.  I could easily eat half a jar of peanut butter a day.  I'm trying to limit it to one small spoon in the afternoon.  With my mood so black.  I've been eating three or four.  It doesn't help that my default position is to stand in the kitchen.  All week, I've been having cravings for things I should not eat under this regimen, and that has only added to the frustration.  I want my oatmeal in the morning dammit!  I want to eat fruit, not just a little bowl of berries and yogurt in the evening, but bananas, oranges, apples, dates!

But I am keeping on keeping on.  I'm doing 20 situps, 20 squats, and 15 pushups in the morning.  I am trying to write more when everyone has gone in the morning.  In spite of the "don't jog" advice, I'm trying to start a habit of going for a short run when I get home from work, before I do anything else, that anything else usually being snacking.  Hopefully, I'll break out of this mood, my weight will continue down, and somehow, I'll eventually completely change my character and stop waiting so much.

In the meantime, I have to go to work, but I think I'll play the beginning of "Some Girls" real loud and dance around a bit first.