Sunday, December 30, 2007

All Bikes Are Not Created Equal

Thanks to the marvels of the internet (and the tireless efforts of the encyclopedic Sheldon Brown) the wonderful Bridgestone catalogs of yore live on in the virtual world. Following is a link to an excerpt from the 1994 Bridgestone book. It features a fascinating discussion of bike frame materials from the standpoint of production. Have you ever wondered what goes into mining, smelting and eventual recycling, if applicable, of metals? Well, read on. It might just curb that lust you have for a spiffy titanium ride. (No offense to Moots or Seven, and if you were planning on surprising me with a gift of either, I'll still accept it.) Carbon isn't even dealt with in this discussion. As a veteran of the composite canoe industry, I can assure you it's no enviro-friendly alternative. Sadly, most carbon parts are built for weight savings over durability and are basically throw-away items once fatigued. Carbon fiber cannot be recycled as of yet.

Tomorrow, for the hell of it, I'm going to make up a new post. It will be #99 for the year 2007 and that seems like some sort of milestone, I reckon. Maybe I'll post 2 and make is an even 100. We're also hosting a little New Year's shindig. Stop by around 7 or after if you're in town for a potluck grill feast and outdoor fire. Yep, in Minnesota it's never a bad day to grill out.

Tune in, Turn On, Dropouts

Needs fenders, rack, bar tape and extras but it's coming along.

Dropouts. Yep. Speaking of bikes, I mostly finished my new Cross Check. In some fit of stupidity I overlooked an obvious incompatibility issue. The rear wheel that came off my old Malvern is a 120mm track spaced hub. That ain't fitting in my Surly Gnot-Right 132.5mm drops. Oops. For the time being I spaced out a cog on an old road wheel I had laying around. I'd rather it were fixed, but for now it is just a single speed.
Special thanks to Erik Noren, the Liberace of bikes, for facing and chasing the frame in his illustrious shop, the world headquarters of Peacock Groove. Order a frame from him. He builds STEEL -- no carbon; no Ti; no Scandium, Unbendium or Unobtainium crap. Steel is real. That is all. Thanks, Erik for letting my frame into your steely sanctuary, the "Church of CroMo" -- yeah, that's got a ring to it. One day I'll order a frame from you, my friend.

A miscellaneous box outside the PG headquarters. The blocky font and all caps juxtaposed with the imploring message of compassion somehow struck me. These are good words to live by.

More photos to follow after the bike is finished.

Friday, December 28, 2007

If You Can Read This, You're in Good Company

This just in -- Mpls is the most literate city in the US:

Overall, the top 10 most literate (and wired) cities included:
1—Minneapolis, Minn.
2—Seattle, Wash.
3—St. Paul, Minn.
4—Denver, Colo.
5—Washington, D.C.
6—St. Louis, Mo.
7—San Francisco, Calif.
8—Atlanta, Ga.
9—Pittsburgh, Pa.
10—Boston, Mass.

Minneapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Denver and Washington, D.C., have made the top 10 every year since 2003, when the survey first launched.

St Paul coming in 3rd, not bad. BRose will be happy to see that Pittsburgh made the Top 10 list. Hey, Milwaukee may have us for the honor of most liquored-up, but at least we can read the Surgeon General's warning on our beer cans!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Goobye to another friend

It is a sad day when you have to say goodbye to a bike. It's one thing if you sell a trusty steed (see post below), quite another if you break it. It seems I broke my favorite snow bike -- my fixed gear Malvern Star. Sheer simplicity: cross tires, a flat bar, clip on fenders and no brakes. Nothing to jam up, foul up or freeze shut when you're riding through slop and slush. Last night while cleaning the bike I discovered a circumferential crack where the seat tube joins the bottom bracket shell. The lug is cracked all the way through. I guess I'd heard some creaking and noticed my crank was bending in on the down pedal stroke. I elected not to ride it although failure would most likely not be catastrophic since the seat tube is wedged against the BB shell. But it certainly does make for a sloppy ride. The worst part will be telling Timmy G from work. He fished the bike out of the trash many years ago. He sold it to one co-worker who gave it to another. Then I bought it for $25 with a seatpost and headset last fall. I think I got my money out of it, but I am always sad to see a good lugged frame bite the dust. And Tim was always excited to see that Malvern in the bike rack at work.

Here I am a year ago with the bike, Burley attached, on a ride to a New Year's party. The next day I started this blog.

Quite serendipitously I was in the bike shop not only to clean my winter ride but to also clear some space to begin prepping my new Surly Cross Check frame for building. It will be a fixed gear. Looks like it will be the bike that replaces this old departing ride. Now, of course I am excited to be building up a new bike, but still sad to see one go ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Whirlwind of Weather, Gifts and Screaming Toddlers

A Christmas tornado in a trailer park? No. It was simply the Fleck family foray to Iowa for the Holly Day. We departed somewhat reluctantly on Saturday as we all felt crabby and the weather (like our direction of travel) was only supposed to go further south as the day progressed. Like many spur of the moment family decisions, the matter was decided out of mutual desperation for the inability to decide the best course of action -- i.e. "To hell with it! I don't care if we get stuck in a blizzard -- we're leaving anyway!"

BTW What's playing now? (A la Johnny Kohtz) Pink Floyd, "Dark Side of the Moon" (And, yeah, I'm remembering watching The Wizard of Oz many years ago, stoned out of my gourd, while a friend played this album ...)

The drive began uneventfully enough. A stop at a rest area about one hour south of Mpls left us with some doubts as the attendant shared a rumor that I-35 had been closed at Faribault due to glare ice. We pushed on wondering whether our sluggish start would result in a turnaround. Long story short, the coot was lying and everything was fine ... until Iowa.

Iowa, oh Iowa. Iowa most frigid and wintry considering the heat of the Democratic candidates' endless shuffling and hot-forced-air rhetoric. Things quickly got interesting in Iowa. I slid (figuratively, luckily) into the pump at our usual gas stop in Waterloo.
The ground was rapidly collecting a blanket of snow atop a thin layer of ice. It was entertaining actually to watch the cars slipping and sliding while I fueled the Subaru. Further on we spotted so many cars in the ditch I lost count. Traffic was backed up for a bit due to a flipped truck and attending emergency vehicles. Blowing snow blocked vision for occasional stretches of 100m or so. Only an hour behind schedule, we arrived safely and were happy to be out of the car.
The worst was yet to come overnight as the high winds drove snow into beautiful, deep drifts. Temperatures in the low teens made certain the snow would stick around for the day. We took off for some visiting and shopping. It was obvious that downtown Iowa City doesn't often have to deal with such weather carnage. Thankfully, the front wheel drive Subaru plows right through surprisingly deep banks of slush puppy mix. While downtown April and I even helped push one car out of the snow. A good samaritan with nothing better to do could have spent all day doing that.
Graffiti in downtown Iowa City reminding me that I am not far from home.

I had a fun time driving (gasp) since I'm not too afraid of the white stuff and I am well aware of what our car can and cannot do. I also believe in slowing down appropriately when bad weather hits and doing my best to think while I'm driving. I find that lack of knowledge (i.e. ignorance) and its attending deficit of mental awareness are problems of drivers at both ends of the spectrum: snow causes some people to crawl along at 20mph when they could safely be driving the speed limit because they are scared and fear is fed by ignorance; conversely, some drivers pass a line of cars on a snow-clogged road or continue to drive 75mph after the road is coated with ice because they are stupid (ignorant) and/or just aren't paying attention. I relish in the rare occasion when I see them in the ditch up ahead.
Anyhow, this is a merry post, not a rant, right? We'll just get into some snappy photos:

Grandma Alice is a marvel. Because we didn't make it the day before for the scheduled brunch she fed us leftover casseroles. They were amazing and wonderful (and probably not good for my recently discovered high cholesterol, but it's the holidays!) Grandma Alice made a trip to Italy last year and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Here Sylvia endures a forced pose with her great-grandmother.

Coralville Mall -- Dad is dressed in dark colors carrying a bag (both of which seemed to be out of vogue. Oh, will I ever be "in"?) while Sylvia is in a seventh heaven driving her faux car. Why don't they make kids' toys in the shapes of bikes?! (I think I've pondered this rhetorical question before.)

April with her dear friend, Marcus. He lives in Ireland these days and will soon hold a PhD in math. I wish Marcus lived closer. I also wish I had a scanned copy of their senior homecoming portrait together as Merlin and Mordred.

The best (healthiest) meal we ate all weekend was Xmas eve dinner. We prepared side dishes like spaghetti squash salad and sauteed kale to match Brian's grilling of two pork loins.

Brian (aka Dad) in his element -- t-shirt, beer in hand and ready to go. The smoked pork was excellent, in case you were wondering.

Erin is pondering something but it doesn't appear to be the rather curious presence of her buttered bread atop her beer.

This was Sylvia's most gendered Xmas yet. Here she models her new princess outfit. I hope we have a son next so we can pass it down to him. ("Now, son, your sister worked hard for this princess outfit and you're going to wear it with pride.")

Hannah tries to snatch a private moment to read following the gifting festivities.

Chef Sylvia shows off her latest creations. She didn't put down that basting brush the whole way home. She even calls it a basting brush. How many 2 yr olds know what the hell a basting brush is? The mini wooden kitchen she received from her grandparents has seen non-stop use since we go home Tuesday evening.

And that's a wrap! Merry Christmas and all that jazz from Clan Fleck! We still haven't completed our family holiday newsletter ... maybe by Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Iowa Xmas Bound -- 58 hours and counting ...

I can't take credit for this bicycle brilliance. It's an image of a friend of my father-in-law's bike. His name is Curt. He gets definite points for style and initiative. You just don't see things quite so elaboratedly done when it comes to bike decoration in the Twin Cities.

I'm rambling and backtracking again. I never posted photos from Thanksgiving weekend in Iowa City. End of semester got the better of me. I love Iowa. I could see moving to Iowa City someday soon. The pace of life is just a little slower. Geographically it's not so stretched out. There aren't fixed gear cranking hipsters with bulging U-locks on every block. Of course, there's also not the bicycle-friendly infrastructure to the degree of Mpls. And I'd have to guess the "scene" is a little more cozy, too. But the place has a lot of great things going for it -- cool, artsy folks; history and natural beauty; and a friendly co-op that's not chock full o' Wedge fascist types.

We're headed back to IC this Saturday for a fun-filled Fleck family Christmas. It's never a dull time when we get together for family holidays.

Here I am showing my approval of the Thanksgiving feast along with Hannah, Julian and Sylvia.

An angelic (and cherubic) Sylvia surveys her domain.

An attempt at a family potrait for Dad and Sabra.

Sabra and Dad prep the feast. I can't wait to see what surprises await us on our next adventure to Iowa ... just two short days away. Iowa -- the focus of the Democratic candidates' efforts; Iowa -- the land of raptors and endless cornfields (sheltering food for those majestic birds); Iowa -- the mythical "middle" of America.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Well Rounded Weekend

My semester ended last week and it feels good to be done. I am one class, 4 credits, away from graduation. That final class will be completed via internet study. I've actually attempted this class twice before but dropped it because I was taking too many hours. I also have to admit that I'm not such a big fan of internet courses. I like the ritual of attending class. I like taking notes. I enjoy real-time discussions. But this time it is my only class, my last class. And, besides, I have no choice!

Where the magic happens ...

Thursday night was my last big push. I got home at about 4. I wrote until 2am with an hour break for dinner. Geez, though, I was on fire. I have not had such a productive (academic) writing session in about 6 weeks. I wish sometimes I could just crank out good writing whenever I needed to, but I do best when the muse visits and smiles favorably upon the keyboard as I compose. I've been lucky to have several professors who've been flexible in their deadlines!

Friday at work I was tired but I felt like the gravitational pull of the earth had magically weakened without the burden of coursework weighing upon me. It was a fun day. I snapped a photo of my next door cube mate's (that would be Alix K) cool poster with Skiles showing a little love in the background.

Tanner gave me a Xmas cupcake. It made me think of the donut-crazed Surly guys lying in their own private corners twitching from hyperglycemia.

After work we went to Joel and Faith's Xmas fondue party. It is always nice to see old friends (even if it meant I had to eat fondue). Fact of the matter is we just don't get to spend as much time with a lot of them as we'd like to. Sylvia especially enjoyed the mystery gift game and she volunteered to open packages for most everyone!

April models her new "I'm a Bad Girl with Good Intentions" t-shirt. That's gonna look dead sexy stretched over her pregnant belly.

Adrian was there and we share a mutual fondness for good whisky. I broke out the flask and even managed to get a shot of Joel trying a little sip of Ardbeg islay malt.

Just a brief FYI -- if you like good scotch (and who doesn't? Freaks) then you need to try Ardbeg.

Saturday night was Tanner's surprise birthday party at the Triple Rock, organized by his awesome better half, Amber. It also turned out that The Sword was playing. Because of that my classmate, Skip, was there as well. And so were a number of the usual suspects.

Hurl, Zito and Rollin taking a turn before the lens.

I ended up paying the $12 to see the show which was awesome, gruesome live metal. I'm not a huge metal fan but I can dig it. I haven't seen a live show in a while. It rapidly degenerated into a chaotic evening splitting time between friends on the non-music side of the club with my mates who were at the show appreciating the face-melting doom rock action.

The Sword shaking the foundations of the Triple Rock.

Amber's sexy fishnet stockings. I'm thinking these could be team kit for 'cross season 2008.

Becky and Marian smile for the camera.

Emily picks her nose while her friend Chris shows his obvious disgust.

Obaid bought several shots for the birthday boy. I just happened to be caught in the crossfire. Here he is paying one of the many tabs he generated on behalf of his inebriated friends. I was treated to a number of free drinks thanks to my friends. THANKS!

Skip and a friend after the show. Skip was kind enough to pile me and my bike into his Toyota van and give me a ride home. It was better than riding, all things considered.

The next day I was shocked how much money I actually came home with because people bought me drinks. I was not shocked how slow and retarded I felt. April went out with a friend to wrap up some Xmas shopping. Daddy and Sylvia got to do a little shopping for Mommy. It's always a treat to have the day with Sylvia.

Fake eyes never look red in photos. Therein lies the problem.

Sunday night was our designated decorating time. We got out the tree, the lights, the stockings and all of our ornaments. We also took a couple of Xmas photos for a card we will probably not succeed in sending out prior to the arbitrarily labeled date of Jesus' birth. Oh well ... that's why we call it the "Holiday Season"! The fun event is this Saturday -- Solstice. After all, that's when the real magic happens.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ONE of the Top Ten Worst Things I've Ever Done

Dear Sexy Yellow Casati,

I miss you. It seemed so easy to let you go. It's been about 10 months since your tastefully bold Italian paint job and full Superbe Pro track gruppo graced my bike shop. There was another bike in the works, of course. And you knew it. That other bike has yet to materialize, meaning it's actually still in pieces. Sadly, you probably are too.
I should have known better than to do it, if for no other reason than the fact that I have regretted selling every bike I've ever parted with at one time or another (well, except for the Treks). You were one of a kind. The California sun you basked in before I bought and had you shipped to Minnesota treated you well. Not one spot of rust. A nice ride and one truly classy machine.
My biggest regret is not necesarily that I justified selling you. I wanted to build a pretty celeste Bianchi Pista Concept. And if I ever finish it, it's gonna be a nice bike, too. The source of my real remorse is that I sold you to a track bike pimp named Gina in NYC. Her schtick was good. I really thought I was sending you to a good home. She played like the bike was for her and that you'd be ridden at the local velo. I realized what was up after I subsidized the shipping and that ho-bag wouldn't even return my emails to offer to pay the difference. She is the lowest of the low in the bike industry -- surfing Craigslist postings of other cities in search of good deals to turn in her trendy little boutique serving the inflated, track-crazed market of NYC.
By now I wouldn't even recognize you I'm sure. Like meth sweeping through a rural Midwestern town, the damage that can be done with electrical tape, top tube protectors, spoke cards, a sloped seat and a set of chop-n-flops is irreversible. I've learned my lesson, that's all I can say.
I miss you ... and I'm sorry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Anatomy lesson

So, I've been thinking and I am all but convinced that where my wife ought to have a husband she instead has an asshole. Take that how you might but I believe it has been proven empirically sound. It's scientific. If God hadn't been killed by The Golden Compass (see 2 entries ago) He'd have made it a commandment. I won't indulge this further because, even though an ass, I am no idiot.

Here are a couple of photos from April's birthday celebration at Buca downtown. It was an interesting place. I'd never been before this party. The food was good, what I might call "homestyle Italian" -- cheesy, fatty, meaty. That detracts from the real occasion, which was of course April's birthday. She was extremely happy with close friends in attendance and an evening away from Sylvia. After all, poop links with oregano atop a bed of pasta al fresco are fine when you're among friends. (I, of course, found something to gripe about and that is all I have to say about that.)

Smiles all around.

Angela's beautiful birthday cake. Buca has a policy prohibiting non-storebought cakes from being served. Does this bloody cake look less than professionally baked and decorated?! At least the server let us light candles and sing the birthday ditty. (Isn't the coolest thing about singing 'Happy Birthday' in a restaurant the way your group can silence everyone else in the joint?)

Fast forward to date night, Sat, Dec 1. With snow falling we opted to take the bus downtown. Tickets to the symphony at Orchestra Hall. It was a great show, featuring solo performers. Afterward we hit Brit's to rub elbows with the Trendies. Better than any food or drink consumed were two things: the company of April and the steady, incessant snowfall that went on all night. Thank you, on both counts.

My wife might still need a transplant to supplant that asshole presence where her husband ought to be. I think I'm gonna check and see if our new insurance policy at work will cover such a procedure.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beauty when things fall apart

A short poem I was re-reading last night that seemed to be so far from where I was going (and like it might never end up on my blog) seems much more applicable now:


Snow drives in angled bands
indistinguishable streaks
it is possible to follow a single flake
but only at the price of slight nausea from hyper-
focus and concentration

There is the innocence of winter
snow days -- benevolently profound interruptions in the hectic pace
of an adult world --
we all are pressed to some degree
to join the realm of responsibility
yet we still retain a giddiness whenever frozen precipitation
piles up on the roads and walkways
perhaps granting a respite --
one golden day of clarity --
removed from the muddled din of progress
which we all too blindly chase without question.

There is a darker side as well.
The death and stillness and cold nurture in some
a wish for the mind to mirror the starkness of landscape --
devoid of buffers --
a purity of experience unsullied by moral constraints
or considerations of responsibility;
brutal honesty, wind peeling layers of flesh.
Is such a state possible?
It is entirely possible that most would not understand
why one would desire that experience;
then again, I do not get why I should take every conventional medical
precaution currently known to short-sighted western scientists
in an attempt to prolong this
singular iteration of corporeal existence.

But the $125M man says "awareness of health above privacy"
so I submit my fluids,
quite recently tainted,
in the interest of health --
but in reality,
in all actuality,
in the interest solely
of my family's bottom line.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Yeehaw for movies that piss off Christians!

Well, I don't often notice stuff that sparks my interest on the ol' Yahoo home page. But once in a while certain things come along that motivate my attention. When I'd recently heard that The Golden Compass was torquing off Catholics AND it was eliciting strong emotions from movie goers in general, I figured I ought to check it out. I clicked a link on Yahoo expecting a story. Instead I got a list of responses from plain, honest folk with opinions and internet connections. Following is one person's comments in their entirety:

By hensleyswer (movies profile) Dec 7, 2007 84 of 286 people found this review helpful
I would and will never take my kids to see this movie .You all may not know what the True meaning of this movie is..... Well they won't show it for a couple of books and movies but the whole moral of the story is to KILL GOD! Any movie that is made around killing God is is not worth my time seeing. What are we teaching our children by allowing them to watch this. They will be so hooked on the first movie then They will want the books then after they have read all the them then us as parents will say what did we do. The movie looks appealing its suppose too so it gets our kids hooked.

Okay ... where to even begin with this? Is it real? Sadly, probably so. What is also sad is that the author has procreated, multiple times, and is most likely nurturing her/his offspring to be just as paranoid. And another sad thing -- 84 of 286 people found this review helpful! That's 29.4%. Yikes! Nearly one in three people are potential paranoid nut-job sympathizers. But I digress ...

Here are a couple of free pointers/observations if you, like this person, are tempted to unleash your decidedly strong proclamations to the electronic community:

If you're a kook who wants to make a point, whether in print or via audio, it's best to A) not let your emotion run ahead of your typing or speaking and B) have a basic command of English grammar, spelling and mechanics. For example, the rather arbitrary capitalization of "True" might have been better reserved for "they" in the next sentence since our writer obviously believes there is a collective, monolithic (and atheistic) They who are out to "KILL GOD!" Since so many movies are apparently, according to this person, "made around killing God" I think the next time I find myself in a video store I'll ask where the "God Killing" movie section is located. By the way, if your God is omnipotent and omniscient the way Christian folk say he is could he ever be killed by puny, pasty Hollywood movie types? Couldn't he outwit them with his divine knowledge or just smite them for the divine hell of it?

Rarely outside of stream-of-consciousness style (a la Kerouac) do I see quadruple run-on sentences. Nice job. However, this succession of causes and effects left me a bit stymied: is it anti-God movies or movies with an accompanying book series you're lashing out at? Your working thesis seems to be "the role of subversive, anti-Christian movies is to 'get kids hooked.'" That's interesting. Are they produced by the likes of drug dealers and pimps then? Or, more likely are they backed by corporate interests representing junk food, branded toys, computer games, clothing, etc.? Dear Author, I think what you need to realize is that our country's consumer-driven marketing machine is what you really ought to be decrying and consequently seeking to protect your children from.

Let's quickly revisit this notion of the singular, atheistic, God-killing "They." Admitting a vivid belief in a seemingly real, conspiratorial "they" is grounds for most psychiatrists to recommend medication. Apart from that, are you actually implying that our nation is host to such a strong godless movement? Have you checked the national trends in faith-based/moral voting decisions? Have you heard the Christian-laden proclamations of vote-hungry mainstream politicians? Well, in a twisted way you are correct -- the God of your "Christian nation" is under attack, but not by a singular group of men and women. Your foe is America's shining star, our greatest export -- capitalism. Capitalism is killing God. I don't know how best to break it to you, but capitalism is the official religion of America.

Of course, this might suck if you are an American Christian. However, that is another fallacy -- America is not a Christian nation. Apart from the money-grubbing capitalists there are Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pastafarians, Unitarians, agnostics, atheists, etc. Christians, by buying into the "Christian fallacy" are making matters worse. The true national religion of capitalism is propped up by the government who has all you Christians duped into thinking your right-wing, conservative political heroes are fighting to take America to the moral high ground. In reality they are just making more money for themselves and their corporate buddies at the expense of effectively sending our nation to hell in a handbasket (i.e. socially, environmentally, geo-politically). But as long as narrow-minded folks keep voting in terms of single moral issues (e.g. against abortion and gay rights, in support of prayer in schools) then real change will be stalled. That's right -- your "Christian" leaders elect are selling out God in the name of capitalism but you're too blind to notice because compromise might mean backing off from the staunch moral stricture your Christian blinders have forced you to see as the only way. In a rather beautiful way it's poetic justice don't you think? Considering the harmful centuries of Christian hegemony to have God usurped by an economic system seems only fitting. Of course, it still doesn't make matters any easier for non-Christian Americans. We just wish you fundamentalist wackos would quit trying to act like the country should be run based on your misguided, shallow, incestuous by-product of a centuries-old, closeted affair between church and state.

I'll end on a fun note. Over Thanksgiving weekend, my father-in-law, Brian, brought up the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Upon doing a little research I discovered some things that are imminently funny, cohesively intelligent and quite readable. I submit for your pleasure the Flying Spaghetti Monster's commandments, "The Eight 'I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts'". Now here's a doctrine that is current and applicable to our times, easy to read and inclusive of our fellow human sojourners on Planet Earth:

1. I'd really rather you didn't act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou ass when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don't believe in me, that's okay. Really, I'm not that vain. Besides, this isn't about them so don't change the subject.
2. I'd really rather you didn't use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate, and/or, you know, be mean to others. I don't require sacrifices, and purity is for drinking water, not people.
3. I'd really rather you didn't judge people for the way they look, or how they dress, or the way they talk, or, well, just play nice, Okay? Oh, and get this into your thick heads: woman = person. man = person. Samey = Samey. One is not better than the other, unless we're talking about fashion and I'm sorry, but I gave that to women and some guys who know the difference between teal and fuchsia.
4. I'd really rather you didn't indulge in conduct that offends yourself, or your willing, consenting partner of legal age AND mental maturity. As for anyone who might object, I think the expression is go fuck yourself, unless they find that offensive in which case they can turn off the TV for once and go for a walk for a change.
5. I'd really rather you didn't challenge the bigoted, misogynistic, hateful ideas of others on an empty stomach. Eat, then go after the bitches.
6. I'd really rather you didn't build multi million-dollar churches/temples/mosques/shrines to my noodly goodness when the money could be better spent (take your pick):
-- Ending poverty
-- Curing diseases
-- Living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable. I might be a complex-carbohydrate omniscient being, but I enjoy the simple things in life. I ought to know. I AM the creator.
7. I'd really rather you didn't go around telling people I talk to you. You're not that interesting. Get over yourself. And I told you to love your fellow man, can't you take a hint?
8. I'd really rather you didn't do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you are into, um, stuff that uses a lot of leather/lubricant/Las Vegas. If the other person is into it, however (pursuant to #4), then have at it, take pictures, and for the love of Mike, wear a CONDOM! Honestly, it's a piece of rubber. If I didn't want it to feel good when you did it I would have added spikes, or something.

Now, that sounds like a solid foundation for leveling the playing field and getting started on some change in the right direction.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rub a Dub Dub, Two Men and a Pug

Pugsley, courtesy of Surly demo fleet (thanks, Sov!). This has been my commuter this week. The Pug has been an interesting ride. This shot was taken on Monday night. I had fun. The Pug rolls over things I am accustomed to cutting through with a skinny-tire bike. However, depending on tire pressure, the Pug also has a tendency to slot into snow and ice ruts and push one around the lane like a "normal" bike. However, I really enjoy the Pugsley. Am I going to rush out and make plans to build one? April will be happy to hear me say, "No." The Pug is fun, a lot of fun. I think it would be really cool to ride some trails on one. I also think it would be an awesome bike for riding groomed snowmobile trails (which we don't have in the city). However, even on the cheap, it isn't a cheap bike to build. So, here's how it is -- if I owned a Pug I'd probably make it my primary snowy commuter for the fun of it. But I don't own one. I am turning this loaner back in tomorrow, then I have to take my 32c-tire, fixed gear back. Best to brush up on how to ride that thing through the snow and drifts, 'cause that's what's gonna get me through this winter.

And speaking of winter, anyone else in the TC area think it came about 4-6 weeks earlier than last year? I mean, c'mon, there wasn't even a lag in the skeeter (skate-skier) traffic before the real snow flew and those snobs got to claim prime cycling real estate to their elitist "winter" sport. I relish the day a black or hispanic person wins the Birkebiener.

Now, on to the title of this blog post ...

So, we got a big snow on Saturday (more on that later). Sunday was a mess. The Monday morning commute was even a bit of a mess. Then, Tuesday we got snow all day. The ride home would be interesting for sure. Skiles rode in to work on one bike and wanted to borrow a Pugsley to ride home. He lined up the ride. We coordinated times. It seemed like a good plan. By the time we rolled out the door at 6:15 or so things were kooky weird. The parking lot had not been plowed; getting going was hard enough. I had my usual route along the sidewalk north of Old Shakopee to pick up a side street a few blocks away; Andy apparently wanted to take the street. We were immediately separated before our ride ever began. I never saw Andy the rest of the night.

Old Shak (pronounced 'shock') was bumper-to-bumper headed west. The sidewalk I was riding had not been plowed. It was basically 4-5" deep over pre-existing snow ruts. (Now, let me tell you a thing or two about winter cycling ... snow is one thing. Depth matters, fer shur. But when you get a sizeable snowfall on top of an existing and re-frozen snowfall, things get interesting.) I'm sure those frustrated motorheads on the street were getting a kick out of me on a bike trying to ride the snow on the sidewalk -- making it 20-30 feet and almost crashing, walking a few yards, remounting and trying all over again. Thankfully, when I made it to the street, things were easier going, but still not easy. Here is where I have to insert a rant:

Some drivers get it, most don't. Bicycles are legal users of the roadway. And guess what? If you see a biker on the road during or after a snowstorm, they're not crazy -- they choose to, or have to, be there. So, calm yerself the fuck down AND slow down. I don't get why so many people in cars are willing to plunge headlong (at speed) toward their own deaths by passing me close enough to kill me. Slow the fuck down, people. Bikes deserve the road -- get over it, for it's the truth and the law. Well, because plows concentrate on the arteries, after a snowstorm you can expect to see more cyclists on your route. It's okay -- you're amongst friends ... I promise. We all want to get home ASAP, and alive. After a day or so, we'll be gone out of your bourgeois lives.

The ride home was lonely and uneventful except for the part where my cycling "friends" blew by me and cut off my access to the lane on Penn north of 62. Nice move, guys. Jerks is more like it ... wait, Frane was among them, making a rare commuter appearance. I got home after almost two hours of riding (my usual commute is 50 minutes or so). I wasn't just tired, I was soaked through with sweat. Happy to be home, but kinda cranky nonetheless. When does winter begin?

So, back track ... to last Saturday. The snow was fresh and new and we were all excited (and the bike jerk himself was still deciding which gear to screw onto his hub). I didn't hesitate to hook the Burley up to the Malvern Star -- 46x20 fixie, no brakes. Sylvia and I rolled to CRC, then over to Bryant hardware where we picked up a sled.

From there it was on to Lyndale Farmstead Park. I have to be honest, I haven't been sledding since before I moved to MN nearly 6 years ago. I picked a small hill and asked Sylvia if she'd like to sit on my lap for the ride. We immediately got going really fast and the fresh, powdery snow blew straight in to Sylvia's face. One trip down was all for the day. She was pissed; her feet were cold. We loaded back up and I pedaled as fast as I could back for home.

It was an interesting trip without goggles (fogged up) with snow driving in my eyes and a daughter screaming from cold feet. When I emerged on our street (a major street, 38th) I was shocked that a mini van behind did not want to yield behind me as I pulled left while signalling a turn into our alley. With snow blowing from a headwind I watched a "family" car speed by fully in the opposite lane, against driving snow, as the teenaged girl in the passenger seat craned her head to see whether I truly had a child in the bike trailer I was pulling.

Well, yep. Tell your parent to slow the fuck down. Sense a pattern here? Thanks!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Arrived at work to light snow at 8:25am. It has been snowing heavily ever since. At least it's warm with temps in the low 20s. Bike commuters are forged in the crucibles of these times. (These are also the times I wish I hadn't left my camera at home.)

Borrowed a Surly Pugsley for the commute. Field review and status report at 11 ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Winter, anyone?

One of the best things about having a computer with high-speed web at home is instant access to weather. However, information availability is only as effective as the consumer of said information's motivation to log on and access the data. It would have been a great idea to check the current temperature before I hopped on my bike this morning for the commute to work. Last night before bed the trusty digital weather box indicated a forecast low of 17 degrees. A little chillier than lately, but I figured I would be fine with my usual garb.

I set out from the apartment and immediately thought it seemed cold -- colder than 17 degrees in fact. I shrugged it off believing I just haven't acclimated yet. It takes a while to get the winter riding resolve built up. "I'll warm up in a few miles," I told myself.

By mile 4 I was thoroughly convinced my toes were aching toward numbness, not aching back toward warmness. These are the physiological nuances one studies as a winter bike commuter. By mile 6 (about halfway) I knew something was up. The blasts of wind burned my face, threatening to rip my flesh away. My eyes watered. My feet felt as if they were freezing to my SPD cleats through the bottoms of my shoes. I try to smile during my commutes so that drivers will think it's (always) fun to ride a bike. This morning my face was frozen into a painful grimace and tears streamed down my cheeks from the cold. I cursed every traffic light because I didn't want to stop and prolong my growing agony. I lusted after my winter cycling boots which were warm at home. I felt like a fool for not donning my lightweight balaclava and maybe even my ski goggles. I attempted to calm my burning emotions with a cool drink of water -- alas, my bottle was frozen nearly solid. Then it hit me that it was a hell of a lot colder than 17 degrees.

When I got to work I was softly whimpering like an abandoned puppy. My feet hurt to stand on. I peeled off the outer layers at the bike rack and limped to the locker room. The warm water of the shower would be a blessing and a curse. Sure, it would feel good to my un-numbed parts, but the shock for my numb toes would render sensations somewhere between tickling (with an 80 grit belt sander) and stabbing (with cheap, dull, flexible steak knives). Sure enough, I whimpered some more in the shower. I envisioned a mythical hammer smashing my tender red piggies as preferrable to the bizarre pain of rewarming flesh which makes you want to alternately scream and laugh hysterically.

Dressed, fully recovered and somewhat late I settled down to begin my work day. As others trickled into the office I overheard conversations about how unbelievably cold it was this morning: 2, 4, 7 degrees folks were saying. At 10am with the sun shining I checked the current temp -- 9 degrees. That means it was damn cold at 7:30. I felt vindicated, but still thought I was an idiot for not checking the temperature or carrying a few light skin-covering layers with me. It sure does seem like it's going to be a long winter (especially since winter doesn't begin for another 3 weeks) ... Happy cycling!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Have you ever ...

... been unable to sleep because your mind, for some miscellaneous and unforeseen reason, decided to take a trip down memory lane to reminisce all the people you've known, all the girls you've dated, all the crazy shit you've ever done and all the times you probably should have died doing some of that stuff? That's tonight. Be extra careful if you happen to keep your old journals in an easily accessible place.

Like John Woodruff. I used to know a guy named John Woodruff.

Sleep, I hope.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

MN State Championship CX

The gala of the MN cycling season, a veritable "Who's Who" in the MN cycling world takes place every year at Bassett Creek with the MN State CX Championships. I rode the B1 race -- my first race in a month and a half. It was a struggle to even get there since I did not want to get out of bed and ended up sleeping an extra hour. We loaded up as a family and drove on over to Crystal (the forgotten suburb). By the time we got there I had about half an hour. Still, I was late to the line and had to turn around , wait for a break and fall into the pack. I found myself next to ATW Ray. We chatted it up and I went off to jockey up through the pack.

April caught me (on the far left, yellow and black) in a loose section coming out of the dreaded stair climb (which actually isn't so bad). Paul was behind me at this point doing a warm-up for the A race.

Side view, #378. I felt okay for the race, but hadn't warmed up as usual. Remounts were sloppy, almost crashed once passing Hurl and got my bike caught in a tree trailside on one run-up. Nice work, Fleck. True to form, I started to kick in during the second half. With two laps to go I started my aggressive passing campaign. I'm sure others looked at me zoom by and wondered why I didn't started out faster to begin with. On the final straightaway Paul's brother did creep around me at the line, but I had a strong finish.
I have to comment on Matt A's announcing. He was on fire with the "" bit and I appreciated the "We have a call for John Fleck" announcement as I rode by the stand. Other than April and Sylvia it was nice to have a lot of people cheering for me around the course. Dave Cory was there to insult and threaten. Matt and Tony came out to heckle me up the stairs. Afterward Matt told me it was really good to see me out racing again. That was nice. Thanks, Matty! Sorry I missed the after-party, guys. That's another story ... family obligations called. One of these years I'll make it.

The real work over for the day, it was time to settle in with friends at the top of the hill. Nate had the party table set up.

Nick had the tunes.

Tanner helped out with the whiskey hand ups.

Moffitt Sr, aka Chewey, was there for moral support. Always great to see you, Ron.

Zitox in attendance. I'm sorry my camera missed Geno riding through the barrage of firecrackers set off by Mr Zito.

The crowd atop the dirt pile silhouetted by the clearing skies and a little sun for the second half of the A race.

Geno negotiating the triples just past the finish line.

We'll take a short break in the action to examine an exhibit of questionable bike taste. A Brooks saddle with an Aerospoke, flat bars AND a triple crank?? Notice the retro matching oversized quill stem and the blue ano front hub. Some serious time and money went into dorking this ride out.

Meanwhile back up on the hill, some serious money was being laid down for any racer who would stop to pick it up ...

... The crowd was growing ...

... Tanner was making progress with the whiskey hand ups ... (Hey, didn't I see you in a Titec ad?)

Amy C was devising her own strategy for enticing riders to pause long enough to take the dollar prime.

One rider who was too far back to be in the money realized he could make a little money and cleaned the ground of $1 bills. He made about $6 for 20 seconds of his time.

Lots of bunny hopping occurred at the doubles on the hill.

One of the Lalonde brothers clears them in style aboard a single speed.
Geno popping out of the woods wearing his distinctive team kit. Hard to miss.

Geno coming through the crowd at the doubles. Do you need to ask whether or not he took the whiskey hand up?
Hurl and Mark take in the action. Another fine day. Sadly, it was the last CX race and the last bike race for the season in MN. Hope everyone had fun last night at One on One. (I'm sure you all did.) Stay tuned folks for a long, cold winter.