KingMidget's Ramblings

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Tag Archives: Bicycling

A Peek Inside (with a Poll, too!)

My initial reaction to the report that the U.S. Government has access to all sorts of data from Verizon and that it may have some level of ridiculous access to the servers of all sorts of internet behemoths was outrage.  Things have changed since then and it’s this post from Andrew Sullivan that has convinced me of the error of my outrage.  Buried in the post is this nugget:

But are we actually going to prevent government from using Big Data, while Google plumbs its depths even further and Buzzfeed even schedules its content by chasing algorithms? At least there is some minimal check on the government, a judicial court.

I’m no fan of the Patriot Act or FISA or any other law that provides for ridiculous surveillance of American citizens.  I never bought into the “war on terror” and all of the measures that were passed to “protect” us from the enemy.  Virtually one of those measures was an over-reach by a government that was over-eager to assert power in a way that was and probably still is unimaginable.  I am a firm believer that the best way to combat the enemy, whoever it is — terrorists, communists, the boogeyman, is to stay truer to our ideals than we ever have.  Instead, ever since 9/11, this country seems set on a path of eliminating those rights in the name of security.

I get it.  To an extent.  I, too, want our government to be able to stop every terrorist plot it can.  I want no more shoe bombers, Boston Marathon bombers (by the way, if you can get a hole of the July Runner’s World Magazine, read it.  If you struggle with what the marathon bombing means, read it.  You’ll have a renewed faith in humanity).  I don’t want this country to descend into chaos, where a terrorist could strike at any moment, where a suicide bomber can blow himself up at the Starbucks down the street.  But I don’t want to lose my right to privacy, my right to be free from intrusion into my thoughts, my communications, my life … without probable cause.  Many of the latest reports of government action certainly point to an intrusion on those rights.

But, here’s the deal.  Andrew Sullivan has it exactly right.  As he so frequently does.  Google.  And Yahoo.  And Microsoft.  And Amazon.  And Facebook.  They and their internet brethren know more about you and your personal habits than the government ever will.  Where’s the outrage about that?  Why is that OK — for companies in their search for ever-increasing profits to know about every internet move you make — but in the name of security, the government can’t have access to the same data.  If it is acting legally, the only way the government can access the data is with court approval.  Generally speaking, of course.  But these companies, in their search for profits, have unlimited access.  So, the question is … is the outrage properly placed?  Invading your privacy is OK when it’s in search of the almighty dollar, but it’s not OK when it’s about securing you and your family?  Just seems somewhat odd to me.

***

A while ago, I posted about the American River Bike Trail.  It’s this wonderful oasis in the midst of Sacramento’s urban sprawl.  As long as I’ve ridden on it — which likely means something close to 40 years — there have been stenciled, painted words on the trail reminding users of the trail that there is a 15 miles per hour speed limit.  Problem is a lot of bicyclists would be stifled at 15 MPH.  Problem is it’s not just a bike trail.  It’s multi-use.  Joggers.  Walkers.  Families with children peddling their little bikes furiously and zig-zagging all over the place as they do.  Dog walkers.  It isn’t just about the bicyclist.  While I generally peddle along at a pedestrian 15-17 miles per hour, there are plenty of cyclists who hit 20, 25 and 30 miles per hour.  Plus, there are the group cyclists.  Packs of them, drafting off each other and zipping along at speeds that far exceed the posted speed limit.  The trail is a great place for bicyclists to train away from the danger of street traffic.  What happens?  There are accidents occasionally.  I have no idea how many.

Last week there was an article in the local paper that the rangers who patrol the trail will now be equipped with a radar gun and they will start ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit.  This at a time when budget cuts have reduced the ranger presence on the trail, potentially leading to an increase in criminal activity.  And, of course, cyclists are in an uproar.  I’m not necessarily on their side since I generally stay pretty close to the limit and there have certainly been times when their zipping along has left me feeling less than safe.  There were a few times, years ago, when I took my oldest to the trail.  We’d peddle along slowly at his speed and, as he zigged and zagged as little kids do on a bike, I could only pray that a speeding cyclist didn’t come from behind and smack into him he he zigged when he should have zagged.  So, I get it.

But, why single out the cyclists.  What about the runners who run on the wrong side of the trail?  Or worse, rather than running on the crushed gravel shoulder, insist on running on the paved trail?  What about the walkers with their dogs who let the leash stretch across the trail?  What about the walkers with there dogs that aren’t on a leash?  What about the walkers who walk three wide?

There’s plenty of blame to go around for accidents that happen on the bike trail.  Ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit seems to be right.  But at the same time so incredibly wrong.

***

In the last 10-12 years, I’ve tried the following:

To learn how to play the harmonica.

To teach myself how to play classical guitar.

Took violin lessons (for about a month).

And then switched to the saxophone.

Considered the bongo drums.  Enough to buy a book to help learn them, but not enough to get very far.

This after a lifetime of being pretty much non-musically-inclined.  Yes, when I was a kid, my sisters took piano lessons and through them I learned how to play the piano.  Nothing more than Christmas Carols and pop songs.  If I really wanted to, maybe piano would be the best option for me, but it doesn’t hold the same allure as other instruments.

I haven’t done much with any of these instruments the last couple of years as a result of the crush of other obligations and interests.  I’ve decided it’s time to change that.  So, you, my loyal readers, get to play a role.

What instrument should I focus on at this point (thank you for your assistance):

 

A Moment

Without a picture.

I went for my Saturday morning bike ride.  22.5 miles.  About five miles into it, along a lonely two-lane country road, I came upon an older gentlemen peddling along.  As I passed, I wished him a good morning.  He responded in kind and added, “I could do that thirty years ago,” in reference to my pace compared to his.

I yelled over my shoulder, “It’s not so easy for me now.”   I peddled on for a few more seconds and then slowed down.  As he caught up to me, I commended him, “It’s great that you’re out here.”

His reply, “Not bad for 75.”

We exchanged a few more words and he asked me where I was headed.  “Just a loop.  About 20 miles.”

“I’m going 12,” he commented.

We wished each other well and that we should ride safe.  I peddled on and reflected on why I ride.

It’s my dad’s fault.  And my brother’s.

As far back as I can remember, my dad rode his bike.  Which means he started somewhere in the late ’60’s.  To work when weather permitted, along the bike trail and in the foothills on weekends.  He rode centuries and took Bicycle Adventures throughout the Northwest.  He took solo bicycling trips to the Southwest.  For something close to 40 years, my dad bicycled.  Age and physical ailments finally stopped him a few years ago.  But, he set an example.

My brother was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was eighteen.  From that point forward he became a physical fitness nut.  He’ll turn 54 this summer.  I’m willing to put him up against any other 54-year-old diabetic.  I’m pretty certain there isn’t another one as fit and healthy as my brother.  Actually, I’m willing to put him up against just about any other 54-year-old, diabetic or not.  Working out, bicycling, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing.  He works to exercise.  He set an example, as well.

I see these two men in my family and recognize the need for health and fitness.  My father, at an age when most people are sitting in a recliner watching television and griping about the weather, was getting off his butt and exercising as long and as far as his body would take him.  Just like the man on the country road this morning.  My brother, faced with an illness that would cut his life short if he didn’t take care of himself, chose to challenge it and beat it.

I’ve struggled with making the commitment they both have.  For years, I hated running and didn’t even try it.  I went back and forth with bicycling.  Then, a few years ago, I got seriously into running.  For the first time in about twenty years, I was exercising regularly, running hundreds of miles a year for several years in a row.  Completing four half marathons and being in better physical shape than I had been in years.  Then I tried to play soccer.  I can’t run anymore.

It’s back to the bicycle.  It’s something I must do.  I have to do.  I have no choice.  I want to be like my dad, still bicycling into his 70’s.  I want to be that man on the country road … happy to be on his bike on a cool Saturday morning, going 12 miles, even if he couldn’t do what he did 30 years ago.  I don’t want to be the old guy griping about the weather and needing help to get out of a chair.

There’s another reason.  It’s not just about physical health and physical fitness.  It’s about mental health.  My long-lost twin sister, Olivia, separated not just at birth but by twenty years in age, is a huge fan of yoga.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve engaged in a dialogue about what yoga really could be.  It’s not just the physical practice of yoga itself.  What it really can be is those times when you are doing for yourself.  Where you want to be doing the thing you want to be.  That thing where you pull inside and be.  Where you are most at peace.  Where you are content.  (Hopefully, I got that right, sister o’ mine.)

Bicycling is that for me as well.  It is my yoga.

An interesting happened as I pulled away from the gentleman this morning.  This song came on my IPhone.  Yes, I have no doubt the songwriter had a different meaning, but as I peddled on and thought about these things, I thought it was perfect.

 

 

An Explanation

My last post was this picture:

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It was another bicycling moment.

As I’ve written over the months, after a long, loooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnngggggg year of struggling with the effects of a groin injury, I’ve finally given up on physical therapy and the hope that running is just around the corner for me.  Bicycling is not affected by the injury.  It also doesn’t aggravate it.  And, based on the last few weeks, may actually provide some assistance to the healing process.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been bicycling near the home base.  Setting out on heavily traveled roads near my home for 45-75 minute rides.  I’ve shared pictures of pastures and sloughs, cows and clouds.  I’ve spared you the pictures of the cars whizzing past mere inches from my fragile frame.  I’ve spared you descriptions of the noise of traffic and odor of gas fumes.

Today, I re-familiarized myself with the American River Bike Trail.  It’s something that many people refer to as a jewel in the midst of Sacramento.  Stretching from downtown Sacramento to Folsom Lake, it’s 32 miles long.  If you look at an elevation map of the trail, it’s a long, gradual uphill heading out from Sacramento towards the lake, with a jump in elevation at the very end.  And, on most days, going in that direction you get a tail wind.  Turn around and, no matter how slight, there’s a headwind.

One day, many years ago, I set out from the seven mile marker and rode to the trail’s end.  About twenty five miles.  I felt stronger than I ever had on a bike.  Then I turned around and spent the next twenty five miles pushing inexorably into that dreaded head wind.  At the time, I drove a car with a manual transmission.  When I got in the car at the end of the ride, I couldn’t lift my leg to operate the clutch without great effort.

Unfortunately, I live far enough away from the bike trail that I can’t just hop on my bike and ride the trail.  Hence, the rides on local roads, coughing in the fumes and hoping a distracted driver doesn’t knock me into the next century.

I put my bike in my car today with plans on riding on the bike trail tonight after work.  A little over an hour and nineteen miles later I’m glad I did.  The picture is taken from a bridge where the trail crosses the American River.  Along the trail, I saw three turkeys, a crane, two coyotes, a few teenage punks, and a lot of people running and riding.

It’s one of those things somebody had the foresight to create decades ago.  A gift that keeps on giving.  The kind of thing I don’t believe we’re capable of anymore.  Glad it’s there.  There will be many more rides on that trail for me in the year ahead.

I’m ready to do it again.  I’m ready to try that fifty mile round tripper again.  OK.  Not quite yet.  But, it’s there.  Soon.

 

Maybe It’s the Unanticipated Things

I got my quiet morning hours in.  Wrote 500 words on a new short story that I realized may just blossom into a very long short or maybe a novella.  It’s turning into something I’m enjoying writing because it doesn’t have the weight of my works in progress.  It’s a bit of a lark instead of a serious tale.  I may decide to post the first two thousand words below.  Or maybe not.

But, as the title says … the unanticipated things of this first day of my weekend far outshine the anticipated.

The youngest Princely Midget is going to Winter Homecoming with his girlfriend tonight.  Last night, he asked me what I was making for dinner tonight.  I told him I didn’t know.  See, I thought he and his girl were going out to dinner with some other friends.   With the older Princely Midget out tonight as well, I expected a quiet night at home or maybe a dinner out. Apparently, plans can change.  She came over for dinner and it was just the two of them.  Cue the violinist etching out a romantic tune in the corner.

“I’ll make whatever you want,” I told him.

“Can you make brown butter and mizithra?” he asked.

He loves this dish at Spaghetti Factory, which is another story for another time.  I detest the place as it represents the worst example of the Americanization of an ethnic food.  He’s my buddy, though, my bumble bee (another story for another day), and sometimes I gotta do what I gotta do.  After I sighed, I said, “Of course,” and I began planning the meal — a dish I had never made before.

In the meantime, as mentioned above, I got in some of my Saturday morning anticipateds, and a few unanticipateds.

My brother, who will turn 54 this year, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 18.  He is now, very possibly, the healthiest 53-year-old diabetic there is in the world.  When he received his diagnosis he changed his life, becoming a fitness nut, devoted to exercise and outdoor adventures.  He backpacks and snowshoes and does crazy things like bicycle double centuries.  That’s 200 miles in a day, folks.  And for a few years, he made efforts to complete the Furnace Creek 508 — a September “race” in Death Valley that requires its competitors to bicycle 508 miles in 48 hours.  Here’s his story of those efforts.

He has decided to do the thing again.  As a result, he needs to train for it, and he needs a back-up bicycle, which is where I come in.  At the end of this month, he’s going to spend five days bicycling somewhere, putting some miles in and starting the long slog towards a September weekend when he will once again try to conquer 508 miles.  I have a bike that he loves and I hardly ride it at all because … insert whine here … it’s just not as convenient as running.

As I’ve struggled with my groin injury and my inability to run, I’ve known for a year now that bicycling would not be a problem.  I’ve tried and failed to get back into it.  Since the first of the year, weather willing, I have told myself ever week to get out there on the weekend and just start with a short ride.  In other words, to get back up on the horse.  I’ve always found reasons not to do it.

This morning my brother came over to check out my bike to make sure it was still in good condition and worthy of his efforts.  As we talked, I discussed my need to get back on the thing and get some riding in and then I gave him all the reasons I felt I couldn’t.  I need to spend time writing, my carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and how I’m not sure how holding the handle bars over a long bike ride will impact that.  Whine, whine, whine.

He left and I went back in the house.  I started putting together the grocery list, planning lunch and the ensuing nap, and thinking about how I would fit writing and blogging into an afternoon of cooking for my kid.  And then I realized something.  I had time for a bike ride.  No, not the two hour ride I wish I could do( but, in all honesty, really shouldn’t be doing at this point), but a 45-minute jaunt around the neighborhood.  Eleven miles later I was done.  And I realized something — I can treat bicycling as I did running.  When I was running, as long as I wasn’t training for a half marathon, I was happy with 3-5 miles, 30-45 minutes, several times a week.  I need to set my cycling sights the same.  Several 45-60 minute rides each week, with a weekend two-hour ride on the bike trail or along country roads, will get me back into some kind of reasonable physical condition.

And here’s where Eeyore steps in.  Ever since I got off the bike I’ve been barely able to walk.  My right knee has stiffened up massively and I have no absolutely idea why.  I’ve actually seen the doctor about my knee and the response was “don’t know, there’s nothing wrong, it’s just one of those things.”  There are times like this when I feel like my body has failed me and is in an irreversible decline.  Groin injury.  Check.  Plantar fascitis.  Check.  Carpal tunnel syndrome.  Check.  Tennis elbow.  Check.  Problem in the c-4 or c-5 vertebrae that sends pain signals to my shoulders and chest.  Check.  What’s next?  Yeah, the knee from a simple, unchallenging 45 minute bike ride.  Is there any body part left for me to injure?

I remain undaunted, however.  I now need to figure how to fit a couple of these rides into my week day schedule when the sun is dropping just a bit too early.

Bike ride over, I shopped, I ate lunch, I retired to my room for my nap.  The one that didn’t happen because I picked up my Kindle to read a little more of the novel I was reading.  Charlie and Pearl by Tammy Robinson.  I will write more about this later and post a link to her blog, but my nap went unslept because of this story.  It was one of those truly remarkable pieces of fiction that I needed to read to its end and when I got there, the idea of closing my eyes and sleeping seemed impossible.

So, I got up, did a few things on-line.  Did you know that people apparently don’t buy as many books on Saturdays as they do during the week?  My sales are down dramatically today from yesterday, but my rankings haven’t slipped that much.

Around 3:00 I started making dinner.  On one working leg.  Three hours and a few beers later dinner was served.

It began with making the dough for Parker House Rolls.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit a few months ago and they have quickly become the favored bread in Midget land.  Maybe it’s the Crisco in the dough, the cup or so of melted butter that finds its way brushed onto the rolls at various stages, or the sea salt sprinkled on top before baking.  Here the rolls are before going in the fridge to be chilled before baking.

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And here’s the finished product.

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In between, I needed to make the pasta.  No store bought spaghetti for the Princely Midget and his girl.

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A few eggs, some olive oil, a little bit of water, flour and you’ve got your pasta.

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Homemade fettucini with brown butter and mizithra.  I asked the kids if I could sprinkle parsley on it just to give it some color.  Absolutely not.

Included with the dinner was caesar salad with homemade dressing, and salmon.

And through the three hours of preparation, I listened to this fabulous voice.  How the hell is she only sixteen?

So, there you have it.  My anticipateds for today didn’t all come to pass.  Instead they were replaced by things I didn’t know would happen that were far better.  A novel I finished reading that brought me to tears several times (it’s been far too long since I’ve cried in the reading of a story) and left me stunned with its elegant simplicity, a newfound story that may find space to grow in the days and weeks ahead that I’m excited to try to write, a short bike ride that told me it can be done, a new voice that fills my head with an incredible sound, lyrics and presence, and a meal I loved to prepare for two special people … oh yeah … here’s the happy couple…

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And, no, they don’t normally dress as cowboys.  Those going to the dance were supposed to go in matching outfits.  So, cowboy and cowgirl it was.

It’s been a good day.  Tomorrow will be better.

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