Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Day of Sunmmer Vacation

For the last day before school started, Nimue wanted to ride to school to make sure that we could make it there by 8:00 (well, maybe this was my idea, but I had her complete buy-in). Upon arriving, she proceeded to ride around the blacktop like a mad thing, as it will be the last day for a while that this is allowed. She racked up two and a half miles just by frenetically circling around the play structures, tetherball poles, and teachers preparing for tomorrow morning's onslaught of crazo kids. Plus, she got to ride over Texas. (see picture)

In other school-related news, we rode back over at 4pm to see the class lists, and her new teacher was friendly enough to poke his head out of the classroom to say "Hi". Mr. Hauser seems like a very calm, friendly guy; his bio on the school website indicates that he's been teaching for 25 years; word from other parents is unequivocably positive; and when Nim was acting nervous on meeting him, he reassured her that his daughter, who is in first grade in another school, was nervous too until starting earlier in the week, and now thinks it's fun. Nim responded well. Already a better start than last year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A hilly ride, and an unexpected celebrity encounter

Rode some hills with Randy and Mike on Saturday. Not too fast, it was a nice day out and we enjoyed the climbing at a more-reasonable-than-usual pace, probably because Mike had just done the Leadville 100, and both Randy and Mike are getting tuned up for their upcoming giganto-ride to Vegas.

I managed to forget my Garmin GPS/bike computer, which was both a blessing and a curse. I've gotten so used to having my heart rate displayed, and I really gauge my effort by that -- I know exactly how hard I can go before switching from aerobic (e.g. sustainable almost indefinitely, as long as food and water keep going in) to anerobic (e.g. really not a sustainable effort for very long.) Without the computer, ignorance is either bliss or incipient doom, depending on how accurately I can judge my effort.

The computer also gives a nice post-ride summary of the distance and elevation gained; without it, I'm forced to turn to the various on-line widgets, like gmap-pedometer which lets you draw out your route on a map, and then gives you an estimate of the distance *but* doesn't give you the elevation change in a useful way... you must then export the data (using the gmaptogpx bookmarklet) but that only gives you latitude and longitude, so you then add altitudes to the data using the very-handy GPS Visualizer. Oy, it should be simpler... next time, remember the computer, dummy!

All that work to get this: 10770 feet of climbing, and the profile below. I think that the climbing estimate is a bit high, but not hugely -- it was a ride with a lot of long climbs!

Coming out of Big Basin park, at the intersection with Highway 9, we caught up to Jobst Brandt. Jobst is a cycling legend, author of the seminal book "The Bicycle Wheel", creator of the slick tire for Avocet, and long-standing de-bunker of myths about bikes and cycling propagated by those who know nothing about physics or engineering. In short, one of my heroes! He's 74 now, and still cranking away on long rides and setting a very respectable pace up the hill -- in what I think of as a crazy-huge gear, and on seriously "old-school" equipment. Style, the man has style... I will never again complain about not having a low enough gear.

That 6-mile climb has never gone by so quickly. Jobst gave us a rolling lesson on the cosine problem of dual-pivot brakes, the history behind each address along the road, honking etiquette (or lack thereof) on the part of car drivers approaching from behind us (less than 1 sec is intended as a polite "coming up behind you"; a blast of more than 1 sec is "get the F*&% off my road!") Great fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nimue's birthday ride

Despite the fact that Nimue got to direct the family activities on her birthday, Ma's insidious influence played a role: I convinced her that since I always do a Mt. Hamilton ride on or around my birthday and Chad also did a birthday hill ride with his friend Dave, she should do a hill ride with us on her own bike to celebrate her day.

We loaded up her bike and our mountain bikes on the car and drove over to the junction of Stevens Canyon Road and Mt. Eden Road, and she proceeded to ride all the way up the canyon to the end of the pavement under her own power. Good job Nimue!

This is a good starter hill -- mostly gentle grades, not too far, about 400 feet of climbing, lots of shade, and very little traffic as this section of the road is a dead end.

Three stops were needed for resupplying the energy tanks with cookies and saltwater tafffy :)

She decided it was a bike race; we gracefully let her win (though Chad did pass her a couple of times for added motivation...).

Didn't we already celebrate this birthday?

Last week, it really was Nimue's 7th birthday. It feels like this was the seventh time we celebrated this particular birthday, as festivities and gifts were spread out over the summer.

June: birthday party with kids from school, before everyone went on vacation
July: birthday presents from Gran and Grandad while they were out for the camping trip
July again: birthday present from the Merz family when they visited Sunnyvale
August: the actual birthday, with cake, Nimue-directed activities all day, yet more presents (from Gramma and Grampa, Gramma Linda, and us), and sushi for dinner
August again: birthday presents from the Halder family when they were visiting

What a lucky kid.

Today, we're working on thank-you notes...

Take that, you evil thieving scum rodents!

 Yesterday, I saw a squirrel running along the top f the fence with a stolen tomato in its mouth, and for once, the tomato was not one of ours, thanks to Chad's most excellent handiwork. Ha.

(And yes, the vegetable cage will make a fine greenhouse come the cold season.)

Bobber Bed

 Nimue made a little boat for herself the other day; the cat had other ideas and commandeered it. Bobber has a new bed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Belp be...

Boday beverything barts bith be better "B". Bargh!!!!
Bone bore beek buntil bool barts -- bill BI bake bit bithout boing buts?
Bethinks bot.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The perfect bike?

I picked up my new Specialized Roubaix SL2 last Wednesday. I put some long miles on one of these a few months back, and have a couple of good rides in on the new one, and I really think this bike is amazing.

I'm pretty critical of bike design, and over the years I've ridden an awful lot of good bikes. But this thing has completely re-set my standards.

For starters, it just feels fast. It's a cop-out to say that, without quantifying whether it actually is fast, but it's a fair and accurate summary.

The initial impressions I had were eerily similar to the first time I rode a full-suspension mountain bike -- my expectations of what riding should feel like were blown out of the water. Possibilities were expanded.

The most amazing characteristic of this bike is how ridiculously efficient it is, while still being superbly comfortable. The frame around the bottom bracket is huge, and the chainstays are very tall where they join the BB; likewise, the structure around the headtube is large and the junctions with the down tube and top tube are gigantic. All of this super-sizedness makes energy transmission from the rider to the wheels virtually lossless, and gives the front end stability that directly translates to more confident (and faster) descending.

More thoughts on what makes a good bike over at my other blog.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I did a painting of Kumbhakarna fighting monkeys.
Three monkeys are swinging on a vine.
Four monkeys on the ground.
Kumbhakarna is in the jungle.

Field Trip from the Week of Camp Mom

This week has been a relatively calm week, as Nimue is not signed up for any camp, we have no trips, and we have no visitors. Nimue and I have been calling it the week of "Camp Mom", as there has been an awful lot of intensive Mommy-Nimmie time.

In addition to art, a trip to the pool, games, tandem rides, and room cleaning, we took a cultural field trip. Nimue has been bugging me for a while to go back to the Asian Art Museum up in San Francisco, so we took a train adventure up there. To get to the Civic Center area in SF from our house, one has to walk to the Caltrain station, take Caltrain to BART, and the take BART into the city. Among other conversational diversions, Nim renamed all the train stops; e.g. Sunnyvale = Bunny Kale or Mountain View = Mountain Stew. My favorite was San Potato (San Mateo). So very six/seven.

At the museum this time, her favorite object was 15th century Korean ceramic turtle, but she was clearly fascinated by many other things as well. A chorus of "Look at this! Hey look at this Mom!" "Oh, look at this!" followed me through the museum, especially in the many sections where there were sculptural items. Delightfully odd kid :)

After three hours had passed, we finished pretty much the whole museum and she was tired, until simultaneously discovering her second wind and a little room full of hands-on stuff for kids downstairs. She took over the kimono dress-up play area and danced and danced and danced until Mean Ma finally dragged her away.

She needed to veg on the train on the way home; I can see shades of the teenager to come...

This morning, I found her out on the patio painting; upon a query regarding what it was, she answered "Kumbhakarna fighting the monkeys." She had noted a couple of images of this part of the Ramayana in the museum yesterday because we have the same scene in the form of one of Faith's excellent batiks hanging in our TV room. I like my quirky kid.

Eyeball Bender

When I was a kid, we used to get GAMES magazine, and one of our favorite activities every month was the page of "Eyeball Benders". Above is one for you. We'll send a piece of Nimue art to anyone who figures out what it is.

Hint: I was very, very bored at the impromptu stop at the park; the answer is visible in this picture of Nim.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weighty matters

Chad got another new bike. Never mind that the most decrepit bike in the family bike stable is my road bike and, being both thrifty and attached to this particular bike, I have deemed that I can eke a couple more years out of it. We should have been free of bike purchases for a while.

Ha. He found a stellar deal on a swoopy new bike with a carbon fiber frame in his size that was way too good to be passed up, and now there is another Chad-sized wheeled denizen of our garage.

For his birthday, he also got a hanging scale for the garage that can be used to weigh things like bikes.

Chad's new bike: ~15lb (the whole bike. It must be made of toothpicks.)

My typical load of groceries and library books coming home on the tandem with Nimue: 37 lb
Note that this is just the cargo and does not include the weight of large bike and kid, snacks, coats, water, locks, etc...

The moral victory is clearly mine. I will be very strong. Slow, but very, very strong. However, I can't help but covet the shiny new object in the garage, especially after he raves about how well it rides...

My glasses

I got new glasses.
They're really cool.
And I really like them.
They have pinkish-purple on the outside,
and gold-green on the inside.
They have a blue stripe to separate the purple from the green.
They even have a red case!
My glasses help me read.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My, how she's grown

San Francisco zoo, August 2006 vs August 2009. When I pulled the picture from yesterday off the camera, I had a curious sense of deja vu that perhaps I had seen a picture of her in lavender on the lioness statue already, so I had to go search for it.

Mom, there's an enormous bread blob mess!


Lakes Basin Camping

For all you friends and family who made it on the camping trip this year: Thank you for making the weekend of Juy 23-26 such a great time for all! I've put all of our pictures in a Picasa web album here; please let me know if you can't get to it. I could apologize for all the goofy pictures of Nimue, but hey -- she's my kid and I think she's pretty darned cute :)
Robert and Kathleen's pictures are here; I will continue to add photos as I get them.

For all of you who missed it: Nyah-nyah! You missed an excellent weekend full of camping, hiking, kids gone feral, good food, beverages a-plenty, lightly toasted marshmallows, swimming, mountain bike bushwhacking/rock climbing, and assorted other fine experiences. We missed you.

Stay tuned for the plan for next year (I've got to get through the next two rounds of visitors and get Nimue off to second grade before I even think about it...)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Glug, glug, burble: A nasty pool.

Glug, glug, burble. Strange noises from the shower. Glug, glug, burble. Strange noises from the toilet. Hmmm. All coming from the master bath, everything seems to drain, many visitors coming imminently. Ignore.

Five visitors arrive. Yay, fun! House now contains eight people and one cat. Next morning master shower no longer drains. Toilet no longer flushes. Argh. Bad timing. Pour Drano in and defer until later as it is still only the master bathroom.

Visitors head off to the park while we plot a mesh house to protect the veggie bed from the vile squirrels. Go to water plants in front yard. Note big puddle in unusual part of front yard despite dry summer weather.

Looks like puddle is rimmed with toilet paper. Ew. Ick.

Chad flushes guest bath toilet inside. Puddle turns into geyser and dribbles out across the front yard. EW. ICK!!!!!!!!!!!

Call plumber. In an unusual display of good business sense, plumber points out that if the problem is between the sewer clean-out port and the street, the city will take care of it for free so we should call the city first. We liked this very helpful plumber the last time we had a problem and this is just another example of why.

Call City of Sunnyvale; fear long wait and destruction of front yard. Four kids coming back from park imminently. No working toilet. Hmmm. Ride bike to park very fast to warn everyone that they need to use the bathroom there before they come home. Use park bathroom myself.

Ride home. Sunnyvale truck has arrived! Water from puddle has soaked into ground revealing long-lost sewer clean-out port underneath! Problem is between port and street! Very Large Motorized Snake deployed!


Time between problem discovery and repair: one hour. Cost: Free. Yet one more reason to like the City of Sunnyvale :)