Tuesday, November 25, 2008

These lies come from somewhere

Never have I watched so much CNN in my life. It started with the election, but now that the prospect of hearing the (future) president speak doesn't fill me with the same emotion as nails on chalkboard, I've been tuning in on a more regular basis.

I like the reporters a lot--they seem to have personality and aren't afraid to show it on air, be it airing their views as Republicans or Democrats or weighing in on what kind of puppy the Obama girls should get.

One thing I don't like is the tendency to have 25 'coming up next' previews before actually showing the story.  Yeah, I know all news channels do this, but CNN seems to have raised it to a high art of annoyance.

Tonight the big delayed story was all about Michelle and how she's single handedly going to remake the image of black women in America.  Funny thing is, they spent one part of the story playing every clip they could find from any movie where Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry ever put on a dress and a fat suit, decrying the "stereotype of black women as overweight and loud," (which frankly, just reminded me of most family holidays I've ever had, but I'm not supposed to say that out loud...).

Then, right after the break, they had Faye Wattleton on talking about how Michelle works out and keeps herself together, without looking scarily and unattainably thin--which will be a great example for black women because (insert statistic about the huge percentage of black women who are overweight--no comment on whether they're loud too).

CNN, I say to you, MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY!!  Are these pernicious rumors about the supposed obesity of black women (which by the way, we certainly don't have a monopoly on), vicious stereotypes or unfortunate statistics?

I suspect, as usual in these cases, it's a little of both.  In any case, it couldn't hurt if Michelle inspires a few folks of whatever race, size or genders, to move a little more.

This morning I was on my way to school and I pulled up behind a black woman on a bicycle at the stoplight.  She was riding an old rigid mountain bike and rocking some red shorts over blue tights, super-hero style.  She had a helmet,which was a nice change from a lot of the neophyte cyclists I see every day.

Not surprisingly, when she looked back and saw me, she asked, "What's your name?"  I assumed that meant we'd met before, which it turned out we had.  She came to a beginner bike clinic for black women that a friend of mine put on.  I went and gave a few tips on commuting, riding in traffic, maintenance, etc.  And now, here she was taking to the streets.  Considering how many people I talk to who give lip service to wanting or wishing they could bike more, I was pretty thrilled. (The credit goes to Deborah for organizing the workshop!).

See, it's started already.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All About Art

I have an art quiz later today so I'm going to do a post all about art.  Who says blogging can't be productive?

Part 1: Basic Elements

Line1. Line:  The distance between two points, or the pathway of a moving point.  Line can have endless characteristics such as thin, thick, wavy, broken, implied (--  --- --- --- --- ---), psychic (line of sight), contour (the edge of a shape), calligraphic, etc.

2. Shape: A flat, 2-dimensional enclosed line.  Possessing width and height.

3. Form: Round, 3-dimensional figure, possessing width, height and depth.

Value Drawings4. Value:  Amount of lights and darks.  The upper left corner is high value, minor contrast. Top right is intermediate value, minor contrast.  Bottom left is low-minor and bottom right is high-major.

5. Texture: The surface character of a material that can be experienced through touch or the illusion of touch. Tactile texture is stuff you can touch. Simulated texture is a convincing copy or translation of an object's surface in any medium.  For this assignment, we spent time in class drawing invented textures on an outline of our hands.  Then we took various rubbings of surfaces around school and then had to use a certain number of each type of texture to create a composition.  I used bubbly, prickly, scaley, smooth invented finger textures as well as the sole of a shoe and some other things.

Texture Assignment 

6. Space: Flat, shallow or deep.  Positive space is occupied space; objects and most dominant areas.  Negative space is less dominant, unoccupied space.  One of the innovations of cubism, invented by Picasso and George Braque, was to portray more than one perspective of an object at the same time. For our assignment, we made five different viewpoint drawings of a small, interesting object on trace paper.  Then the drawings were layered and we drew a whole new shape from the intersecting drawings.  This was done three times, one a line drawing, one shaded in black and white for a flat design and one shaded to look three dimensional and give depth.  Any guesses as to what my original object was?2008_1110_004_space_drawing 

Part 2: Principles of Design

1. Balance: A sense of visual equilibrium achieved through implied weight, attention or attraction, by manipulating the elements in a composition.

Symmetrical Balance is the exact duplication of appearances in mirror-like repetition on either side of an imaginary line down the center of the composition.

Asymmetrical: A composition which is visually balanced, but does not have the same exact elements on each side.

Crater Lake-003

Approximate Symmetry: The use of similar imagery on either side of a central axis.

Crater Lake-181

Radial: Parts of a design seem to emanate toward or away from a central point.



This week's homework on balance was to take three differently balanced designs and distill the basic shapes into a non-objective design which obscures the original reference. New design did not have to have the same type of balance as the original.

Approximate Symmetry

Crater Lake-099





2. Proportion: The relationship in scale between one element and another or between a whole and one of it's parts. Proportion refers to a comparison of sizes or parts of a whole (Is the head in proportion to the body?). Scale is established when associations of size are measured relative to human dimensions. Monumental, miniature, life-sized, exaggerated and idealized.

3. Repetition/Pattern: The use of the same visual effect a number of times in the same composition.

Harmony/Unity Assignment4. Unity/Harmony: The quality of one-ness, of individual elements relating to the whole in a composition. Assignment: Make three unified designs using ONLY three circles and two lines.

5. Rhythm: A flow or sense of movement achieved by repetition of regulated visual units. Rhthym results from the perception of intervals between repeated elements.

6. Dominance/Focal point: The perceived focus of interest. Visual emphasis in a work of art is a way of calling our attention to a particular area.  Dominance--making one element the strongest (brightest color, unique shape).  Focal point: An isolated element, larger or smaller in size, contrast, having lines or paths that come together.

7. Variety: Differences achieved by the use of unexpected, opposing, contrasting, changing or diversifying elements to add interest.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I just dropped Jess off at the airport.  She's flying to Santa Fe to visit her dad for a few days.  She asked me to get her a Furkey (fake turkey) this weekend before they run out, so I stopped at the Arbor Lodge New Seasons before things got crazy.  I may have gotten a few bachelorette food items as well.  Shopping before breakfast... 

It was already getting busy when I left the store at 9:45AM. Scary.

We've been pondering all week what we're going to do for Thanksgiving.  I was not a big fan of the holidays before, and my distaste for the latter third of the year has only grown now that I'm mom-less.  Before, I didn't have think about it--I just went where mom went, ate myself silly, and took a nap.

I still have plenty of family in town, but it's complicated by the fact that, although we've been together for almost three years now, I can't take Jess to a meal with my relatives unless we bring our own vegetarian food.  Oddly, it's worse at holiday meals than just smaller get-togethers.  I've gotten used to a different style of cooking and eating since being with Jess, and even before we met, I didn't do a lot of 'traditional' black/southern style cooking. 

Even the vegetables have meat in them; ham in the collard greens, turkey stock in the dressing, bacon in the green beans...  For me, TG with the family is a nice opportunity to eat a bunch of foods that remind me of childhood (and having a mom).  For Jess, it's a frustrating exercise in the opposite of what a holiday meal should be like. 

Our friends all have plans and I was leaning towards staying home most of the day, making a dinner of dead mom favorites and having a quiet day.  Then J's friend Therese invited us up to Seattle for dinner with two friends of hers who we love.  They've been wanting her to bring us up to visit and we were thinking about it, but didn't really want to pay for a hotel. Peg & Anne-Marie figured this out and have arranged to borrow an RV from a friend.  That pretty much fixed my only reservation about the trip, so it looks like we'll be headed north.  They might even sleep in the RV and let us have their room--they like to travel and camp, and think it sounds fun. More power to 'em.  Usually Jess doesn't have enough days off around a holiday to travel, but she's off for a minimum of three weeks because of her wrist surgery so this will be a nice change. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gimpy Rides Again

I know it's bad when my grandmother complains that I haven't updated the blog.  But things have been pretty boring around here.  Doing homework. Still doing homework.  More homework.

I managed a couple of cross races and wanted to do at least one more--one that would be good and muddy in the true cross tradition.  But I was swamped with midterm projects, tests to study for etc.  I made the right choice, if grades are any indication.  Racing pretty much took up the entire day when I did it, and that was when the weather was good.  Lately the team mailing list is all about how to get the particularly nasty mud from Hillsboro to wash out. 

Aside from the time issue, there are definite risks that come with cross racing with Jess scheduled to have surgery today, I couldn't afford to get hurt.

So yeah, another go around with the wrist.  She's had a cyst that's just over a tendon running from thumb to wrist and it wasn't going away on it's own.  She was scheduled for 2:30 check in today with surgery at 3:30.  When we settled into the short stay ward, the new time was 4:30.  When the Dr came around to see us, the new time was 5:30.  About the only good thing I can say about spending six hours in the hospital where my mom died, is that the surgery is so minor and this time I got the patient home alive.  A big one for the plus side.

Also on the plus side, the staff was really nice.  Every single person we dealt with.  Jess had the good sense to ask straight away for an IV nurse to put in her line.  She doesn't have the best veins at the best of times and since she wasn't allowed to drink since the night before, they were really shriveled.  At first the nurse was offended, but then Jess let them know that she was a hard stick AND an IV nurse herself.  They were happy to let someone on the IV team draw the short straw after that.  And of course the nurse we got knew Jess--everyone knows everyone at all the hospitals.  She was friendly and chatty while she worked and got in on the second try. 

Our pre-op nurse, Christy, was awesome.  She and Jess bonded over the trials and tribulations of floor nursing, spurred on by the constant unpleasant attitude of the guy in the next bed.  We heard he was having his colon removed though, so it's not like he didn't have reason to complain.

BeforeOnce all the fluids were dripping, vitals taken and forms signed, everyone left.  Cranky guy had gone up to his surgery and there were no other patients in the ward.  I studied, snacked (not in front of Jess, since she was starving), ran to the pharmacy for the pain meds and studied some more.  Finally at 5:30, a nurse came to get her. 

We parted ways and I went to my favorite NW restaurant, Ling Garden, for my usual fried rice and egg flour soup.  I got it to go, which was a good thing because I was only back for about 15 minutes before the Dr came out to talk to me.  Yup, the whole day was about 9 parts, waiting and 1 part actual surgery.  He said that everything went well, the only surprise being that her tendon was actually torn underneath the cyst.  He put a stitch in it and said it should heal up fine.


So Jess is back to being a one-armed wonder for a few weeks and I'm back to doing all the chores and keeping us fed.  Ten days with the cast, then a brace for another 5-6 weeks.  We spent the weekend cleaning the house and our fridge is literally fuller than it's ever been with leftovers, so I shouldn't start feeling the strain till late next week.  Since this was a more controlled procedure, the pain is also a lot less.  Jess has a pretty high pain tolerance, so I'm betting the one pill she took tonight at the hospital will probably be all she needs.

Saturday she's flying off to Santa Fe to visit her dad for a few days, so I should have plenty of opportunity for wild parties and drinking catching up on my homework.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Election Day

I really wanted to title this post, "Bill Clinton Stole My Virginity," but I decided against it. I'll get to that in a bit.

A bitter sweet night on Tuesday as we finally get over ourselves enough to elect the first person of color to the highest office in the land--but three states agree that *somebody's* gotta be the n****r and it may as well be queers. You would think we could figure out by now that the old 'seperate but equal' argument is just a sham.

I think the phrase that best sums up my election season is 'mixed emotions.' My first time voting in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1992. I had a mad crush on him, politically speaking, and I was totally excited to have come of age in time for vote for him. I've never been a very political person but I don't think 'giddy' is too strong a word to describe my feelings about Bill. I was old enough to hate Bush the first, and welcomed the possibility of Democrats taking back the White House.

Then, practically the first thing he does in office is implement the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy--after boldly courting gay voters with promises of actually treating us like people. I was pissed. It was like sleeping with my first boyfriend and having him turn right around and cheat on me (something Bill turned out to excel at in reality as well as metaphor).

So, while there's no denying the unbelievable relief I feel about the outcome of the election, I have never been quite as excited as it feels like I should be. Obama talks a good game and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hopeful and excited, not just about what his election represents for progress in this country, but also the fact that he actually seems to have a brain and is willing to use it to try to solve some pretty serious problems. But after the Clinton fiasco(s), I've got a few trust issues that I just can't stuff back into the box. I'll be watching to see how much of Obama's campaign was saying what he had to say to get elected, and if any of his real views come out, now that the job is his.

So that's my pessimistic, cynical, cheated on side. But there was another aspect to this day, and on Tuesday, I finally gave in to the Kool-Aid. During the campaign, I kept thinking I should go volunteer--but the thought of canvassing or making phone calls is pretty cringe-worthy. Instead I sent what sheckles I could to the campaign via MoveOn.org and their relentless, mafia-like demands for more money.

On Tuesdays I have a class about WDIM (Web Design & Interactive Media). Last week, Dan, our teacher had said we basically had a free pass to skip, if we volunteered on election day. It was just the small catalyst I needed. When I looked back on the day, regardless of the outcome, I'd rather think to myself I should've volunteered sooner rather than, why didn't I do anything?"

The campaign office was a madhouse of excitement, hope, activity and most impressively, organization. In less than 10 minutes, I had a neighborhood to canvas (turned out to be mine actually), a list of people who hadn't yet turned in their ballots, and instructions on what to say to them. I had ridden Fezzik to the office but another volunteer who couldn't do much walking had offered to drive us over. Then I spotted my friend Bria, who was also doing some last-minute, first-time volunteering. A staffer suggested if we knew each other we should go out together. So I ended up riding with Bria in her borrowed Prius over to the Mississippi neighborhood.

We spent the next two hours knocking on doors and talking to people. Everyone we actually contacted said they had turned in their ballot. Everyone was friendly. The sun was even shining when we started, though we got sprinkled on and the temperature dropped as our shift went on. When we got back to the office, we ran into yet another friend and spent some time catching up. She was contributing by holding a big sign and cheering.

As I was about to leave, a guy walked in with a big box of fried chicken. I'm pretty sure it was home made and it was hot and delicious. I haven't had chicken that good since my mom died. Finally I tore myself away and holed up in a coffee shop for the next several hours to work on a paper that was due the next day.

I'm taking a writing and argumentation class and the whole term is discussions about democracy and what consitutes the perfect society. In the last few weeks, we've read the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and a couple of short pieces about different ideas of utopia. The reading has been great, but the timing of this paper couldn't have been worse.

"Where were you when the first black president was elected?"

"Um, writing a paper about utopia."

Yeah, it didn't sound right to me either. I compromised by working until Jess got off work. But after dinner we headed over to the Bus Project election party at Grand Central Bowling. We had to stand in line for about twenty minutes to get in, which was maddening. I didn't have an iPhone or anything, so all we had were the rumors floating around in line. People were saying it was over, that McCain had conceded, but I couldn't quite bring myself to believe it. Jess went to the pizza place half a block down to try to hear one of the news casts, while I kept our place in line. While chatting with the family in line behind me, the dad, who clearly hadn't read this article said to me, "Let me ask you something," causing all my spider senses to tingle.

"What's that?" I said, dreading the answer.

"Do you think that now Obama will go to "black" instead of saying "African American?"

I was quite proud of myself for managing to answer him civilly and without sarcasm, when what I really wanted to say was something like, "Wait, let me tap into the Great Black Hive Mind and see!"

Someone let me know that the sound was being piped outside the bowling alley. I called Jess back and we stood in the rain and watched McCain's concession speech on three big screens through the huge windows. Halfway through, we got to the head of the line and finished watching inside. It seemed to be the first time McCain actually behaved with any kind of dignity. Too bad he didn't campaign that way. There are a ton of reasons why I'm glad he didn't win, not the least of which is that I won't have to listen to his voice anymore. It's a toss up as to which resembled nails on chalkboard more, McCain or Bush.

It was great to be in a room full of ecstatic people when Obama finally came out to give his speech. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place, including mine. When my little cynical voice tried to speak, I squashed it. Now wasn't the time. Now was a time for a big schmaltzy celebration. A time to celebrate the fact that maybe now we can begin to repair our world image, as well as our devastated country.

So, in the spirit of unbridled sentimentality, I made a little video of highlights from the day, with some music that seems strangely appropriate:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two. Many. Bikes!

Seems like every few months, we spent most of a day organizing our garage, only to have it overflow with stuff again in what seems like no time.  I accept 95% responsibility for this.  The other 5% I blame on the recession, since it seems our two perfectly lovely commuter bikes aren't going to find a new home for a while.

So, with the help of Rubbermaid, we set out to once again hack a path through the middle.  I'd say we were fairly successful:

Storage Geeks Live Here

While we were in a groove, we went through several boxes and drawers full of bike stuff, and a box of goodies will be making it's way to Goodwill or the Community Cycling Center in the near future.

Then there's the stuff, we're still hoping to get a little cash for.  So if you're in the market for:

Columbia winter boots
Specialized bike shoes
women's bike saddle
Apple Mighty Mouse (the computer kind, not the super hero)
Surly Cross Check Fork

...by all means, click on through.  I also have a bunch of old Star Trek comics I'd love to see get a good home (not so attached to the cash).  Something about dealing with all my mom's stuff has given me a strong urge to de-clutter my life.  It's an ongoing project.

But for now, I'm going to pat myself on the back (and Jess too) and maybe wander back out to the garage before bed so I can revel in the orderliness of it all:

Storage Geeks Live Here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hot Crossed Buns

Originally uploaded by Anne and Tim Photos

Survived and thrived at cross race number two today, out at Rainer High School. I managed to get my act together (so I thought) and head out around 11:00am. As I was driving up I-5, I ticked off the list in my head: keys, wallet, phone, check. Helmet and shoes, check. Front wheel... ? crap! This is the downside and the nightmare I have about a roof rack that requires taking off the front wheel. Luckily, I hadn't yet crossed into Washington, so it was a simple matter to take the Jantzen Beach exit and retrace my steps, making my effective departure time 11:30.

I guess I should've worn lighter shoes because coming off I-5 onto the 432 expressway, I had a little too much momentum and got caught in a speed trap. Yet another reason I hate driving. On my bike, I can sprint as fast as I want, and not worry about stupid cops. He wasn't even bothering with sirens, just had his speed gun out and was pointing and waving at folks to pull over. He got me and another car with two cross bikes on top, obviously in a hurry to get to the race as well.

He had some mercy and only wrote the ticket for 5mph over the limit, but that's still a big ol' $93.00 ouch. So much for saving money by buying cross race passes...

I reached the high school without further incident. Registering as a returning rider was as easy as signing my name on a sheet and handing over my pass. The sun had been working it's way out on the drive out and now it was a bonafied gorgeous fall day. I went back and got my race gear on, but my warm up was pretty lazy at best, punctuated by chatting with other team members and fiddling with strange noises on my bike.

Oh well, warm ups are for sissies I thought. I decided not to pre-ride either, though I probably could have followed the course around just outside the cones. But we came out last year to watch this race, so I had a good idea where the tough spots were. I also talked to a guy who was already done and asked him for tips. He said there was a lone barrier on the back side, and I should gear down before I get to it because the remount would be bumpy. It turned out to be a really good tip.

Last week, the women seemed to start lining up 45 mintues before the race. This week, no one went near the start line until the call for staging actually came. That's because this week, starting positions were determined by who had the most series points, and then by number lottery. I don't really care much about my starting position but I ended up in the second row, which was pretty good.

I didn't have any of the nerves of last week, so I was pretty relaxed right up until the whistle blew. Then we were off. As we reached the end of the starting chute, I counted and determined I was probably in the top ten. That quickly altered as we took a right turn and headed up what I would come to think of as the hill of pain. Of course, I find just about all hills painful. But this one was special.

My cross check is the first bike I've had with a double ring up front. Usually all my road bikes have had triples up front because I love my granny gears. But since was going to be an around town bike mostly, I went for a compact double instead. Until today, I hadn't yet bottomed out of my gears and wished for more, but that all changed on the first hill. Still, it wasn't too bad, and most of my panic subsided once I warmed up a little. I wasn't exactly spinning the next time I hit that hill, but I made it up alright, especially with people ringing cowbells in my ear and Bruce yelling at me to "PUSH IT!"

This course was a lot less technical than last week, but at the same time, much harder because of all the climbing. And there were seven barriers total, six of them all together in a pack, and the one lonely one that the guy had warned me about. Let me just say that as a vertically challenged person, six packs of barriers suck like a black hole. I got over them without tripping and that's all that can be said. As for the rest of the course, it just never seemed to end. On the first lap, I just kept thinking: we're still on the first lap. Man, we're still on the first lap? Geez, this lap is long. When is this lap going to end?

Finally, it did end--with the aformentioned hill of pain. In the regular course, it starts with gravel and standing up to pedal put me at risk for spinning out my back wheel. So it was a sit and grind. Then once you've made it up that, there's still a pavement hill to kill any will you had to live before you cross the finish line.

Now that I'm a cross veteran, with two whole races behind me, I think I've figured out that I'm one of those people who gets better as the race goes on. Once the first lap was done, I was pretty well warmed up, and I knew what to expect. In addition to the climbing, there were some super fun, really fast descents as well, and I hung loose on every one of them. In lap two I started to pull back some of those jack rabbits who got away at the start. One woman in my category passed me, but then immediately lost all her juice and I passed her back and made it stick. I caught a few other people on the few technical sections--steep short climbs, barriers and tight turns.

Of course, I was also getting passed by the A and B women right and left. It wasn't till lap three that things settled down a little. There was one particular narrow spot that was gravel road going over a pipe that carried water underneath. Twice when I went over it, I heard women barreling down on me, screaming, "On your left!" I wanted to reply, "I got nowhere to go, just wait a damn second!" But I didn't, and they went barreling by and it's a wonder I didn't end up in the ditch. But that's racing.

Jess is working this weekend, so I didn't have a crew (or a personal photographer, but pics are bound to turn up on Flickr and elsewhere), but I did have a few pockets of cheering sections. Zan showed up right before the start. Mostly I couldn't tell who was cheering when I went by, but I just want to say that no matter what look I may have directed your way, I really did appreciate the support.

I came up the hill at the end of lap three, really hoping I might see a big zero on the lap counter, but alas, I rode too fast and still had one to go. "It's your last lap, make it a good one!" yelled Zan. I decided that was good advice. I resolved to try not to let anyone in my category catch me, and I think I managed to pick off a couple of more before it was all over.

Results were posted right away and I was astonished and pleased to see that I got sixteenth, nine places better than last week. Who knows what would happen if I kept at it?

After the race, (and the required time spent collapsed over my bike heaving, though my recovery was much faster this week, and some guy who should be raised to sainthood offered me water), I did the smart thing I and went straight back to the car to change clothes. I stopped by the concessions tent, but they had been cleaned out by hungry riders and spectators before me. Luckily I came up with a better post-race food plane than the Costco samples I had last week. I grabbed my post race cookies and went to the hill to watch the men suffer. I ended up next to Bernard, whom I met at the Oregon Manifest Handmade Bike show a few weeks ago. Bernard brings the count to three, of black folks crazy enough to do cross--and we have to import him from Seattle. The other one is a member of team Ironclad, or The Real Team Beer, as I like to think of them. I gave Bernard one of my recovery cookies.

My dear teammate Sage is devastated that I'm not planning to fully explore my cross potential. She missed her calling as a crack dealer--she offered to sell me one of her race passes for $5, and insists that there's no way I'll be able to walk away. However, future weekends will be devoted to study. Because I can stop any time I want. And this amazing weather is bound to turn soon.

For photos of the race, check out these prompt flickr posters:

Anne & Tim's Flickr Page (Photos by Tim) (Thanks for making me look WAY cooler than I am :)

Ironclad's Flickr Page

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rvr ov Knawlege is Floin' en Mi Hed

I survived my first two weeks of school.  My cold lasted three weeks, that would be up until a few days ago.  Monday is my long day with Logical Thought and Programming in the morning and Principles of Visual Design (PVC) in the afternoon. 

Going from Laurie, who is very calm, logical and good at explaining things slowly, to Amy, who talks as fast as that one girl from the Cosby show and has the psychic energy to match, was a shock to my system, to say the least. I seriously explored the option of dropping the class or switching to a different teacher.  But the other section I wanted was full and reports were that Amy is a good teacher if you can handle her.  Week two I was better prepared mentally, so I decided to stick it out.

My other classes are WDIM 101, which is basically an exploration of the field of web design and interactive media.  Sort of a 'what the heck am I getting into,' class for new students so you don't take a related class the two terms before graduation and realize you've been in the wrong major for three years. (True story).

There's also writing and argumentation.  That teacher seems to really know her history and says a lot of interesting things in class.  As a mainly fiction reader (or at least I used to be when I had time to read books, which I seem have fallen out of for the past two years), this class will be good for me to catch up on some 'classic' stuff I haven't gotten around to--and wouldn't without a class to force me into it.  The downers are that the actual tone of her voice is slightly irritating--but more annoying is that ninety percent of the class seems to be mute.  There are about four of us who talk and this week's class was like a bad Ferris Bueller nightmare.  When I said something after class, the teacher said her classes are usually much more engaged.  Just my luck.  Hopefully some of them will warm up in a week or two.

Thursdays I have off. Those are art days, since all my art homework takes me forever to do.

Fridays is my Image Manipulation class (think Photoshop fun).  That started out slow but ramped up quickly this week.  Fortunately, Phil is insistent that we tell him if he's going too fast.  I took him at his word and made him repeat several sequences.  I have taken a Photoshop class, but the muscled are out of shape.  Our first assignment is a collage based on a song, which should be both fun and frustrating, as I try to make real images match what's in my head.  I'm thinking of using one of Stephanie's new songs and doing something kind of sexy and haunted.  She loves the tortured love songs, that one. 

So far I'm actually enjoying my classes.  Even all the books are good. Last week, I was geeking out about the Declaration of Independence.  I really need to see the second movie...

Could be just the honeymoon phase, but I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Psycho Cross Crusade

Ever since the first hint of chill in the air, all my racer friends have had cross on the brain. No conversation was ever completed until they had asked, "you gonna race cross?" with that special gleam in their eye. I never experienced peer pressure this heavy handed, even in high school.

With my new Surly Cross Check finally built, I no longer had the excuse of not having a bike. Besides, people do cross on all sorts of crazy rigs, including unicycles!

I bought two discount passes through my team, which forced me to admit that I was actually thinking of trying this crazy thing. And it had to be soon, before the weather gets too cold and yucky, even though for many people, mud is the whole point of cross.

The first weekend of Cross Crusade came and went without me. I was busy getting ready for my first day of school and I was still hacking up phlegm from the cold I've had for two weeks.

This weekend, the sun was slated to shine, my homework was pretty under control so I went for it. In just under two hours, I turned my mild mannered commuter into a lean mean, racing machine.

I even had a crew; Jess was off for the weekend and her friend T decided to join us. They carried my stuff, held my water bottle while I raced and of course cheered me on. It was awesome.

My training and preparation for the race consisted solely of hauling loads on Fezzik and watching a series of Bike Hugger videos with cross tips. The episode on remounting was particular helpful. I practiced a few times in front of my house and called it good.

We got there in time for me to do the registration shuffle and then take a few loops around the nearby streets to warm up. It was a weird venue, in the middle of a suburban housing development, with appropriately enough, a mental hospital nearby. One team mate posited that the race was just bait and that fences would go up before we could leave, so they could put us into little rooms and try to figure out why anyone would participate in such a crazy activity.

When I went to line up at the start about 30 minutes before race time, I saw lots of teammates further up in the ranks. Our start was somewhat delayed, and the waiting was the worst part. I tried to distract myself by ogling the cool bikes and asking my neighbor (also a beginner) for tips on dismounting. One woman had a jersey that said Alaska and with a home made sign on the back that said Palin with a line through it.

Finally a whistle blew and the women's A race was on! That's when the nerves really hit. Too late to turn back though. We had to wait some more while the B's started, then Masters 35+, Masters 45+ and finally it was our turn.

Did I mention I didn't get to pre-ride the course? Yeah, that would've been handy. But the race schedule is fast and furious. I talked to a team mate who said she never gets there in time to pre-ride so she just rides the first lap kinda slow. Well, that would probably be true of all my laps, so that worked out fine. There was nothing I could do about it, so I quit worrying. Jess and Therese had walked around a bit and Jess told me a few spots to watch out for.

The first lap, I took it nice and easy. The course had been described as 'super fun!' when I asked a few other racers about it. They failed to mention the back side, which was bumpy as all hell. It was like riding over a giant washboard. My back was rattling and I started wishing I'd brought my dual suspension mountain bike instead. Things smoothed out eventually, and after some tight technical turns on gravel, there were some pavement and grass sections where you could really open up.

Cross spectators are notoriously supportive and I enjoyed lots of personal cheers from friends and acquaintances along the course. There were a couple of guys taking themselves a bit too seriously and I'd hear them say things to racers behind me, like, "Come on, you can catch that Sorella, she's done." Whatever dude. I'm hear to have some fun and go home in one piece.

Then came the make or break obstacle-- my first run up. I dismounted ridiculously early just to make sure my foot wouldn't get stuck. The run up was crazy steep, but had some natural pockets to step in. I shuddered to think if it had actually been raining and the hill was just a mud slide. At any rate, I made it up without incident and my remount went smoother than I really had any right to expect.

A short, fast straight-away, a tight turn and it was on to my first set of barriers. It wasn't the most graceful ever, but I didn't trip--another goal checked off the list. After the barriers, there was just a few feet in which to get your act together before going down a crazy steep hill. The first lap was pretty jammed up, so the approach was even more awkward. I was actually glad I hadn't pre-ridden because then I have time to think about it and get all freaked out. Since the race was on, I just saw what was ahead and dealt with it. There's really no place for thinking in cross.

The rest of the race was lather, rinse, repeat. I definitely felt I improved with each lap, as I got to know what was coming up and got better at dealing with some of the technical stuff. Also, the field finally spread out in lap two, so I was mostly on my own, with the occasional polite, "on your left" from a high grade woman lapping me. I got kudos from fellow Sorellas who went by and even a literal pat on the back from Sarah. Luckily, I don't startle easily, and I was glad to see her. She went on to get 4th in the B race and Kim took no prisoners and took second in the Masters 35+ When she passed me, I couldn't believe how fast she was riding over the washboards. Ouch.

Oh yes--it wouldn't be cross without at least one fall--but luckily it was a totally minor spill into a nice soft mound of dirt.

I had absolutely no idea what my actual place was in the race. I definitely got passed by a lot of people, and didn't feel like I'd passed that many people. I did my best passing on technical sections and remounts, only to (mostly) get passed again on straightaways. But I didn't really care. I was having a grand time, in between hocking up loogies. Yeah, that cold isn't quite gone yet.

On the last lap, I had a couple of women in sight going down the last big hill before the finish line. I went ahead and reeled them in, just in case they might be in my category. I remembered not to sit up after the finish line, so the video camera could catch my number.

After the race, I spent a few minutes bent over heaving and trying to get air. I wasn't quite in my right mind (but that could be said of even showing up for the race I suppose), so I didn't see that Jess and T had come over to the finish to meet me. I went wandering off for a good 10 minutes, desperate to find them so I could get some water. It finally occurred to me to go back to the start line where we met up and I sucked on my water bottle like I'd just crossed the desert.

Before the race, someone told me that cross is really fun about thirty minutes after it's over. As the race got further into the past, I found I completely agreed with that statement. It was great to be done, and have survived. And I know it's not at all productive, but given my 'preparation' for the race, I was kind of ridiculously pleased with my remounts, which went swimmingly for the entire race. I think next time I need to shoulder the bike for barriers though, due to a certain lack of tallness.

As we walked back toward the car, I stopped to pet a cute black lab, who happened to be attached to a team mate I'd only met a few times. "How'd your race go?" she wanted to know.

"Good," I said. "It was my first time."

"Did you race A's" she asked.

"Um, no beginner. Did I mention it's my first time?"

"Oh, your first race ever!? Cool. But you're a mountain biker right?"

"Well, since May..."

She looked surprised at that.

"I'm really just a poser. I'm here to make the uniform look good." I joked, and she and her friends all laughed.

It's true though. I doubt I'll ever have the time or inclination to train enough to be really competitive. But it's definitely fun to go out and ride and get a great work out. Results are in already and I placed way better than I thought--25th out of 68 beginner women. Not too shabby for no training, practice or experience.

Everyone kept saying that once you do one race, "you'll be hooked!" I don't know if I'm hooked--but I guess I'll go ahead and use that second race pass. For now, I'm going to maintain that I can stop any time I want.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The End and the Beginning

Summer is over. It hits me hard every year. Temperatures are still pretty warm, but the rain is relentless and the gray is oppressive. Only four days and I can barely remember riding home at night in a t-shirt just last week.

I spent the weekend getting ready for school and 'winterizing' the house. Saturday, I pulled one of my surprise house projects--we've had a piece of wood sitting in the garage for almost a year that was supposed to turn into a shelf at some point. With more bikes arriving daily, it was getting kind of urgent to clear up some more floor space in the garage.

I calculated the amount of time and swearing it would take to do the job ourselves, and then I called my friend Geahk, who is an artist and a carpenter and can build anything. He was happy to come over and do in a few hours, what would have taken us all weekend:

New Shelf

After Jess came home and I collected my girlfriend points, we spent some time picking the last of the tomatoes and bringing the grill and deck furniture into the garage for the winter, putting away the fans and sticking the sandals in the upstairs closet to make room for the winter boots close to the door. Depressing, but it is nice not to have to squeeze past the air conditioner to get into bed.

Sunday I got up early and spent the first half of the day taking back control of my office from the random scattered paper monster. Then I went out into the steady rain for four hours and ran a bunch of errands, starting with a trip to a Walgreens in Vancouver for more Sudafed. I got to try out my new rain legs, which worked pretty well. They seem perfect for a warm rain where you don't want to get soaked, but rain pants would be too sweaty. The only downside, is that if I actually care about keeping whatever pants I'm wearing looking nice, then I'll still need the full coverage of rain pants.

The rest of the evening was spent making dinner and lunch, packing up and getting ready for the first day of the end of my free time. School, here I come!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Orient

Today was orientation day, which means I got to go down to my new school and sit for hours and listen to people talk about things I mostly could have read on my own.  I've been sick since Sunday and I'm well into the sinus drainage and evil headaches part of the process, which made today extra fun. Not.

Aside from being miserable and high on Sudafed (the real stuff, not that over the counter crap), I did actually get some good information from the session. I wasn't exactly in the mood to network either, but I made a point to meet a few of my nearest seat-neighbors.

2008_1002_002_orientation_dayWe were still waiting to get started in the morning and the main MC came on to let us know that there was Rock Band set up in the back.  It took about 45 seconds for three guys to form a band and start jamming out to Eye of the Tiger, which I have now had stuck in my head all day.  It was cool to finally see the game I hear so much about from Wil Wheaton.  I have yet to actually play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and I didn't want my debut to be in a room full of 300 people.  Though I probably would be OK singing, as long as I knew the song.

While we sat in hard plastic chairs through hours of talking, I tried to make good use of the time by reading the student handbook and putting a bunch of  school numbers in my phone.  At lunch time, it paid to be sitting in the back, as we were closest to the sandwich buffet. I got third in line in front of a bunch of hungry 20-something guys. Not bad.  I used the extra time to run over to Powells and pick up some of my books.

After lunch we had break out sessions with different workshops to choose from.  I was tempted by digital cameras 101, but I already took some photography classes this spring so I went to the non-traditional students meeting instead.  That turned out to be a total dud.  I came in on the tail end of introductions and then the facilitators said they wanted the meeting to be whatever *we* wanted--which translated mostly to sitting around in awkward silence.  There was no one there from my department (which if you're wondering is Web Design & Interactive Media or WDIM). 

For the next session I went to scholarships, which was much more useful.  Dawn, the scholarship coordinator had some specific helpful tips for getting scholarships and invited us to schedule a follow up meeting with her so she can help search out specific scholarship matches.

Then it was back to the big room, where they went over resources--library, the cage where you can check out equipment, AKA the AV nerd's dream playhouse, how to use the computer labs and the student online services site for registering etc.

Just when I thought my head was about to explode, they let us go for our last session, which was an hour long meeting with our department head.  For some reason the schedule listed the WDIM's and the Video heads together in the same room.  It was packed.  Then Chris, my department head came in and cleared up the confusion.  "Everyone in the video department go to room 360." Three quarters of the room got up and left.  As the last students were filing out, Chris added, "And everyone who's going to make money, stay here."

We laughed, but it turns out he wasn't kidding.  He checked the career placement data today and our department graduates have an average entry level salary of $50k, $14,000 higher than the second place major (game designers), with a 100% job placement rate.  He mentioned several times that we should not worry about getting jobs out of school. He's got more jobs than he has grads to fill them.  Comforting knowledge in the face of the mess that is the economy right now.

He talked for the full time, but for the first time all day, I wasn't bored to tears.  He seems to be approachable, tough but fair and a tad gay.  There are eight people starting this term in my department.  We didn't do introductions, but I'm sure I'll get to know them soon enough.  There's one other woman and everyone is at least two years out of high school and most seem to be at least in their mid-twenties.  We also got to meet Dan, the one full time instructor in the department.  He was dressed in slightly ripped jeans, t-shirt and flip flops.  Chris was in jeans, polo shirt and white tennis shoes.  He said he's the only department head who doesn't wear suits because he wants to represent the industry and jeans is what all the geeks are wearing these days.  I think I've found my people.  I wonder if I could get away with doing interviews with out my monkey suit?  I'll have to look into that.

I was thrilled to be done at 4:30 instead of 6:30 like I thought. Most people still had to stand in a long line to pick up their supply kits, hefty little portfolio bags filled with all the mandatory supplies.  Since I have some stuff from my spring drawing class, I opted to just buy other needed supplies ala carte.  The one thing that I anticipate might be a huge pain is no lockers on campus.  but I talked to the president and he said they're actually working on that.

Jess was downtown for an unsupervised trip to REI and a workout at 24 Hour fitness.  When I got outside, I found her bike locked up to mine and she was stalking me, waiting across the street.  So nice to be the stalk-ee for once.  Since I was done early, I talked her into going over to Seven Corners with me, where I got to pick up my new Cross Check!  It's not as hot and sexy as hers--just black bar tape with no fancy accents.  But it rides like butter and it felt like floating after riding the Dummy for the past month.  Jess left her bike in the shop for some tune ups, and rode the Dummy as far as Dalo's Kitchen, where I was meeting up with a friend for dinner. Since I have no rack yet, she had to carry all the stuff, which was a nice change for me.

I had a nice time catching up with Aiden, although finger food probably wasn't the best choice, considering how germy I am. Hopefully I'm well past the contagious period. 

Now I have a cross bike and two passes for the Cross Crusade series, and cross tires...so I guess that means I'll be doing a cross race sometime soon.  I had planned to be at Alpenrose this Sunday but unless I'm feeling significantly better, I might have to postpone.  But I definitely want to get out there before the weather gets too nasty.  I know, I know, that's the whole point of cross--but I really don't like being cold and miserable.  I haven't trained a lick, but I've watched several videos about cross tips on Bike Hugger, so I should be fine, right? Right?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Locked Memories

Originally uploaded by ephany

I would love to have access to these videos of a 1997 trip to Hawaii with my mom. If you have access to equipment that can turn this tape into a digital file, please get in touch. Thanks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quintessential Portland

It doesn't get any more P-town than this.  I started the day by volunteering a couple of hours putting together boxes of goodies for the up-coming bike and walk to school day.


Then it was off to Trader Joes to do a little shopping.  I brought my own bags of course, and loaded them up on Fezzik.  On the way home, I made a quick stop at Starbucks to pick up grounds for our new compost bin. 

While I was in the store, a woman sitting by the door said hello and asked how I was doing.  She said she'd heard about my mom a while after the fact.  I had no idea who she was.  Running into someone who knows me, but I don't remember? Check.

I couldn't chat long though, 'cause I had frozen goods to get home.  Next I loaded the Tikit into Jess's car and dropped the car off at the body shop for repairs.  I'd forgotten a key ingredient for the soup I'm making this week so I rode up to New Seasons and just threw the Tikit into a shopping basket. That got lots of stares and comments.

I stopped on the way home at Revolver Bike shop to pick up a few parts for this week's mechanic class.  They were busy working on building up a couple of new Yuba Mondo cargo bikes to sell.  The Yuba is a tank of a bike.  It can handle loads up to 400 lbs--more than I'd care to, or probably could pedal--and it's pretty affordable at sub $1000. 

2008_0929_007_kittensI also stopped to love up a couple of adorable little kittens hanging out on the sidewalk. The smaller one seemed quite prepared to let me hold her until the cows came home, or the mysteries of the universe were revealed, whichever came first. 




From the Garden...When I got home, I picked all the ripe tomatoes, and some basil from the garden and made spaghetti sauce from scratch.  It was delicious.  While the sauce was cooking, I went and added the grounds to the compost and gave it a good stir.

We have the Jones's in our sights--all we need is a few chickens and we'll be set.  I guess nature--growing up in Portland--has truly made it's mark on me.


...to the Pot...

...To My Belly. Yum!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Last Days of Summer

It's all coming to an end.  But at least we have this last gasp of 80+ degree weather (where were you in August???).  Jess and I have been enjoying a mellower pace this weekend as the frantic travel of the past three months winds down. 

One of Jess's friends was recently diagnosed with a metastatic return of her breast cancer.  (Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer? I hate you cancer!).  Friday we spent a few hours visiting with her, cleaning and playing with baby Sam.  I made another batch of quinoa stuffed peppers and we took it over as well.  All the stuff people came out of the woodwork to do for us when mom was sick.  I was so happy to do it and so pissed that it needed doing.

After we left, we headed to Seven Corners again, to drop off some parts for my cross check frame, which is finally in and should be built up in time for me to do an actual cross race next weekend.  I've agreed to 'try it out' once, but I don't expect to get hooked on a sport who's main features involve cold, wet and mud.

We watched the debate at Lisa's house where we were distracted by Essex and his latest cute ploys.  He's a hairs breath away from walking, and then, look out!

Saturday, after the River City women's ride, I was wiped out.  Jess suggested I pull out her outdoor lounge chair and take a nap in the sun, so I did exactly that, while she cleaned her road bike in the back yard.  Jess has free movie tickets, so after my nap I looked for a theatre movie to go to, but everything looked really stupid.  We opted for our Netflick, 13 Going on 30.  This was the third DVD we'd ordered, and none of them will play in our DVD player.  We finally made this one work on a laptop, so that's how we watched it.  Jess tends to fall asleep during movies at home, so they usually end up being two (or more) parters.

This morning we watched the last of the movie and then spent a very mellow day doing house organizing chores.  I have one more week before school starts and I'm trying to wrap my head about the idea of getting up early, deadlines, and being broke. 

In preparation for the end of my term as a full time house wife, we're trying to get in the habit of extreme meal planning--so when we both come home exhausted, we can just heat up some leftovers and be done with it.  We've tried this before, but I'm hoping this time it will stick. I spent several hours finding new recipes and making a spreadsheet with lists of ingredients for our favorite meals, for quick shopping lists.  I think in order to keep going, we'll definitely need to add some more quick prep meals, ala Rachel Ray--but less annoying.

At least I didn't have to cook today because my friend Edith invited us over for dinner--and when her son came down with a cold, she offered to bring the food to us instead.  So we had delicious pesto pasta, made with basil and tomatoes from her garden, and didn't even have to travel.  Life is good, and sometimes, life is really good.  After dinner, and good conversation, I took her out on the Dummy before she went home.

Ironically, despite Edith's lovely offer to spare us germs, I find myself with a tell tale tickle in my throat and downing my second cup of throat coat tea tonight.  I hope it blows over quickly 'cause I really don't want to spend my last week of freedom hacking up phlegm. 

Is it live or is it Memorex?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Group Ride


Jess did her first lead of a group ride today and she did an awesome job.  Her report is on her blog. We wish you would read it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I See White People

A few months ago I went through another phase where I was sick of white people.  This might shock you, dear readers, but being a black gay girl in a state where black folks are less than 2% of the population (But wait! That's a whopping 6% in Portland!) isn't all it's cracked up to be.

This latest funk was precipitated by what I've taken to calling, the R______ incident.  Much like when you buy something and then see it everywhere, this incident focused my attention on just how many clueless white people are out there--and, as if I'd suddenly become a CWP magnet, I started noticing them everywhere.  It really made me want to stay home.

But I'm a social creature at heart, so against my better judgement, I headed out one summer evening to a backyard fete given by a well known Portland bike transportation geek for the attendees of the Car-free conference going on that week.

All was going well, until I wandered over to the fruit trays, where I struck up conversation with Christopher Larsen, a local judge who created the Share the Road diversion class that you can now opt for instead of paying a hefty fine if you get a ticket on your bike (or in your car).  At first I confused him with Christopher Heaps, a lawyer who's done a lot of work with citizen initiated citations for drivers who hit cyclists ('cause the cops sure won't hand out any consequences--oh yeah, unless the cyclist you hit is a cop too).

Surprisingly, Judge Chris hadn't heard about lawyer Chris, so I started to fill him in on the drama that was the first time lawyer Chris tried to use the citizen citation process--and he completely shut me down.  Oh it wasn't outright rudeness per se--just polite, flat out denial that anything I was saying might be remotely possible because, as he said, "the process is really quite simple--it's all in Ray Thomas's legal guide for cyclists.  Red tape in the legal system? Crazy talk!  He held his misguided ground, despite my insistence that lawyer Chris wrote a whole article on Bikeportland on how fubar it was just to get the paperwork accepted. 

Sadly, there was no computer handy so I could Google the article.   After a brief second wondering if I was in fact, crazy, I started silently fuming.  I realized that what we had here was a textbook example of White Male Privilege at work.  I marveled at how he could completely invalidate everything I was saying without even blinking.  I'm sure he thought nothing of it, and I'd be astonished if he bothered to google lawyer Chris's article as I suggested.  In any case, there was nothing to do at that point but remove myself from the conversation before I said something rude.

It's incidents like these that add up to making me crazy, sometimes for months on end.  I called an emergency meeting of the WBP, so I could vent about that and other stupid crap, like the funny looks I got from kids on our bike camping trip to Champoeg Park--as if they'd never seen a black person before (and, if they're from a small community in Oregon, it's quite likely that they hadn't).

The likelihood that I will ever move away from Oregon is pretty darn slim, so I learn to get through these periods of rage--and read lots of Tim Wise articles, because he gives me hope for the human race.

Even Clueless White People.

How to Spoil Your Girlfriend on Her Birthday

Peppers STuffed w/ Quinoa & spinach1. Start[1] the night before with a gourmet dinner of yellow peppers stuffed with quinoa, fresh corn and feta

2. Wake her up with a nice birthday card (with appropriately mushy sentiments) and a little present (in this case, an air horn for her new bike).

3. Take her out to the Little Red Bike Cafe for coffee on the back of the Big Dummy.

4. Be home by noon, for the next present: a two hour massage, courtesy of the other Jessica we love, Jessica Sims, LMT.  (She can make you feel good too, hit me up in comments for her contact info).

5. Spend the afternoon soaking up the sun on your back deck.

6. Make her a home made vegan chocolate cake with home made vegan-optional (she picked non) cream cheese frosting.[2]

7. Load up girlfriend and cake on the dummy and haul them both to a lovely dinner with friends at Screen Door restaurant.  Have your server bring the cake out after dinner with all two blazing candles (yes, I was kind this year). 


8. Haul girlfriend and remaining cake home and put her to bed nice and early[3] so she gets a good nights sleep for work the next morning.


[1] Actually, start weeks before hand by doing a butt-load of leg work so she can have the custom bike she should have gotten in the first place.

[2] Delicious Vegan Chocolate Cake:

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
5 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp soda


2 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. oil

add 2 cups water
bake at 350 for 30-35 mins.


1/2 c margarine
1/2 c cocoa
1/4 c soy  (or rice) milk
1 lb. powdered sugar
pinch of salt
~mix together (mixer works best)

Non-dairy cream cheese frosting:

Follow directions on C & H Powdered sugar box for cream cheese frosting, but use Toffutti Better Than Cream Cheese & Canola Butter (white tub, green lid).  Experiment with ingredients for desired thickness.

[3]  Or not. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pedal Potluck Picnic

Pedal Potluck Picnic

Periodically Jess gets bored with food.  It's not easy finding new things to eat when you're a vegetarian who can't eat tofu, and doesn't like mushrooms.  When that happens, she usually gets out the big three ring binder of recipes.  I get overwhelmed trying to plan new meals that she'll like so we've worked out an arrangement where she picks out recipes (with some input from me) and I cook them.  The stuff we tend to like is usually pretty labor intensive, requiring at least two hours in the kitchen.  But the results are definitely worth it.

The first of our newest culinary adventures was black bean burgers with lime-jalapeno mayo. If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be willingly cooking with jalapeno, I would have said, "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?"  But as long as I ditch the seeds and don't go over board, I find I like the spice. 

Pedal Potluck PicnicOn the day I planned to make the burgers, I happened to check the Shift list and see that there was a pedal potluck picnic that evening.  Always looking for an excuse to drag out the summer, I decided to make the patties and then go mobile with the whole dinner. I loaded Fezzik (yup, I think that's the name I'm sticking with and extra points if you get the reference :) with a camp table, two chairs, two-burner Coleman stove, and a cooler with the bean patties and a Mediterranean carrot salad to share.

We met at the Alberta Coop.  Shawn of the Urban Adventure League usually leads the rides, but he was out of town so we had a substitute ride leader. My spider sense started tingling when the first thing she did was ask everyone if they wanted to vote on the destination.  Half the fun of the PPP is not knowing where you're headed.  But  I also didn't want to go too far south if I could help it, so I voted to vote.  Her suggestion was to go see the Chapman swifts.  I was kind of hoping for that destination so I was happy.

We got a bit of a late start and the leader was from SE and didn't know the area too well so the route choice was a bit lacking.  We found ourselves crossing MLK not at a light and when Jess suggested taking the sidewalk to a cross walk, she was shut down.  When we got to the school the show was well underway and there was a huge crowd and not many spaces left.  Suddenly the ride leader turned to me. "Do you want to pick out a spot for us?"

I was surprised and a little confused.  She seemed to be pretty reluctant to make any decisions--despite that being the job of the ride leader.  I declined to take over responsibility, but after following her up a steep hill that didn't lead anywhere, I decided to just go around the block to the flat part of the lawn where there was plenty of space.  Everyone else followed.

We usually have a good time on the PPP, but this time I found the lack of leadership irritating, and there wasn't the comradery that we've experienced on other rides.  It was a pretty small group, but no one really introduced themselves until well into the meal.  On the bright side, the food was every bit as good as we've come to expect.  Shawn has really done a great job of raising the standards of mobile potluck food.  The black bean burgers came out great (even though I was rushing and screwed up some of the directions) and I had fun hauling all the stuff.

We left shortly after the ride leader started talking about how she'd quit running and started smoking.  The other woman in our group shared that her dad died of lung cancer, but it hadn't really affected her decision to keep smoking either.  You know what they say, 'if you don't have anything nice to say...'   so we left, and had a lovely ride home.

After torturing my Flickr buddies with food pics, I promised Monkeykun the recipe, so here you go:

Pedal Potluck PicnicBlack Bean Burgers with Lime-Jalapeno Mayonnaise:
Makes 4 Servings

Lime-Jalapeno Mayo:
1/2 C mayonnaise of vegannaise
1 1/2 t fresh lime juice
1/8 to 1/4 t minced fresh jalapeno chile
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper

1  15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained
2  green onions (white and green parts), finely chopped
1/3 C finely diced red bell pepper
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 C dried plain bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T mild or medium salsa (I used Trader Joes peach salsa)
1 T fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 C finely ground cornmeal
2 T vegetable oil (divided)
Toasted whole wheat buns

To make mayonnaise: In a small bowl, combine all mayo ingredients, salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Refrigerate if not serving soon.

To make burgers: Measure 1/2 cup black beans and set aside.  Place remaining drained black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until pureed.  Add the green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, bread crumbs, garlic, salsa, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste; process until well-combined.  Remove to a medium bowl and stir in the reserved black beans. Taste and adjust seasonings. Form into 4 patties.

In a shallow bowl, mix together the cumin and cornmeal.  Dredge the patties in the mixture.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet and saute the burgers, two at a time, until golden and slightly crispy.  Repeat with remaining burgers using the last tablespoon oil.

To serve: Spread the lime-jalapeno mayo on toasted buns, add burgers and serve.

Notes:  I used half mayo and half sour cream, 'cause Jess hates mayo. Turned out great. I also used orange peppers.  Don't skip the mayo, it's delicious!

If you make these, leave a comment and let me know how it went!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Aimless in Seattle

My mom's best friend's daughter is getting married today.  Although I don't like weddings, of course I wasn't going to miss it.  As luck would have it, Traci has interviews in Seattle this weekend in the ongoing search for her summer internship which will hopefully become her job after law school. 

She flew in Thursday night and drove up to Seattle Friday evening. Despite getting on the road at the peak of rush hour, we practically sailed over the I-5 bridge and into our northern journey. It was eery.

We're staying at a hotel in Bellevue so when I got up to take her to her interviews at a downtown law firm, I put the Tikit in the trunk, my laptop in my backpack and prepared to find a good hang out spot to write and surf. 

I had breakfast at Bacco's Bistro, which has been added to my list of automatic Seattle stops. Their hungry jack croissant breakfast sandwich with sausage is delicious.  Since it's raining here (of course), I took the occasion to make my first use of my built in cover to make the Tikit a little more incognito.  That was ruined somewhat when one of the waiters said loudly, "Is that your *bike*? as I shoved it under my table.  But they were totally cool with it.

This was my second time actually getting to dine in and when I asked for the restroom, I found the secret lower level where they have a whole other section of the cafe.  While passing through, I saw and said hi to my favorite waitress who has helped me all the other times I've eaten here.

A guy who seemed like a manager walked by my table while I was sipping tea.  He picked up on my expression and said, "What do you need?"

I told him I needed a comfy, free wifi coffee shop to hang out in for a few hours.  He sent me to Cherry Street Coffee House just up the street.  What it lacked in back support it made up for in pillows and I was able to settle in for a couple of hours, again with the (uncovered) Tikit under my table.  The only comments I got were from other customers and passers, usually as I was folding or unfolding during my travels.  Cherry St was a little cold and I had to sit with my oompa loompa hood pulled up most of the time. Another shaved headed woman came in wearing a loose, open neck sweater with nothing on her head.  I just barely resisted asking, "Isn't your head cold?" since apparently it wasn't.  Besides, I noted lots of Seattle-ites in shorts, flip-flops and other summer wear, despite the fact that it's 60 degrees and has been raining steadily harder all day, making me wish for rain pants, or at least RainLegs.

Traci called and said she had scored extra interviews and wouldn't be done until 4:00--three extra hours.  I didn't want to pay to park downtown all day, so I went and got Beechers Flagship mac n cheese for lunch and the required mini donuts from Pike Place before heading out of downtown. If the parking wasn't incentive enough, the ridiculous crowds at Pike Place would have steered me to other parts of town.  I did stay to watch one fish get thrown.

From there I headed to Beacon Hill.  Last time I was in Seattle was for the Seattle Century and I was too busy to stop and see Bikeworks, the Seattle version of the Community Cycling Center, with similar programs and missions, so I decided to stop by.

When I walked in, Kent was busy working, but he saw me and said, "What are you doing up here?" We first met in person at the Car-free conference in Portland, at which he and his wife gave a presentation.  He let me ride his little Dahon folding bike around, which crystalized my decision to get a folder of my own.  I've been reading his most excellent blog for quite a while too.

I told him I was up for a wedding.  Then his face lit up. "Are you going back to Portland?" Yes. "Can you deliver something for me?" Of course.  He gave me two of their newly minted Bikeworks caps to deliver to Beth and Michael Rassmuson at Citybikes.  When I mentioned River City, Kent's coworker brightened up too. "Do you know people there? Want to ask them if they want to consign this bike?"  Whereby he lifted bike down from two ceiling hooks that probably could have been hung using spider webbing, it was so light.  The frame is all carbon, and looks like one complete piece with no joinings.  Even I could tell it was probably a 7k+ bike.

"No one who comes into our shop is going to buy this bike," said Kent, and I couldn't help but agree.  I was only in the shop for a few minutes, but by the time I left, I had two used cross tires (don't start with the peer pressure! It's just in case....my cross bike ever actually gets built--but that is another story), a couple of Seattle maps, a secret surprise for Jess and one of Kent's newly produced home-made key chains made of an old spoke. 

My last stop was the Grown Folks Coffee House. I was pleased to find it's a black-owned coffee house and it had two huge recliners in front of a fire place.  There was a guy in one of the chairs leaned back like he planned to spend the night.  The upright seating wasn't nearly so comfortable, but the chairs were cushioned and the outlets plentiful.  It was a nice place to while away the rest of my alone time in the city. 

Cargo Bike Gang

Thursday night, 5:23pm: My phone rings and it's Jess.

"Where are you?"

"Where are *you*?" I reply.

"You're outside stalking me, aren't you."

"No of course not. That's totally beneath me."

But of course I was lying. I kidnapped her after work and we headed down to the Lucky Lab for the 2nd meeting of the Long Tail Cargo Bike club*  Since I got the Dummy I've started getting more followers on Twitter, one of whom is Crunchy Sue.  She PM'd me earlier in the day to see if I was going, so when my sis canceled her visit, I decided to run down, even though I'm pretty tired of going to SE every day (but that's another story).

Cargo Bike Gang

We had a fun time checking out all the different configurations of hauling machines. I thought I was small to have a Dummy, but Sue is even shorter.  She has 24" wheels to lower the bike and it seems to work great for her.  In the last batch of BD frames that came out, there were seventeen 16" frames made.  Corey said he got the email on Friday that they were available to order, and when he called on Saturday morning, there were five left.  I wonder who the other sixteen people are who got the other frames.  I was surprised the number was so small. I guess maybe they think not a lot of tiny people want to haul stuff.

2008_0918_008_cargo_bike_gangWe got a little distracted from our group because we ran into Janis (of PDOT fame) and spent some time hanging out and catching up with her.  She and her bf both have Long Haul Truckers, though not in the same color.  Janis has a pink accessory theme going that includes fenders, helmet and even pink Ortliebs.  It was totally hot. 

Jess and I always feel better when we meet other couples with matching bikes.  The fact that we are selling our old commuter bikes and getting new ones and they're *still* going to match is a little bit...something.  I've long since stopped caring though and I'm constantly encouraging her to 'embrace the dorkness.'   She also has a hot color theme going; blue fenders, bar tape, CK headset and bottle cages.  It won't be long before her red Ortliebs are replaced with blue ones. Anyone have a set they'd like to trade?  I don't think she's ready to ride around on a 'red, white and blue' bike--even if the election comes out like we so desperately need it to (but that's another post).

2008_0918_010_cargo_bike_gangAlso in Janis's party was our little friend Benjamin, whom we met at a party Janis put on a few weeks ago.  He'd grown so much since then, we hardly recognized him. He's four months old, and getting cuter by the minute.  His cheeks are just about ripe for the plucking. 

After bike-geeking, baby ogling and photo ops, we headed back to NoPo for grub and rest.  The next day, I was surprised (though I shouldn't have been) to see a front page feature on our little group on Bike Portland.  Pretty soon I'm sure the right-wing/oil industry/anti-bike pinheads will be getting together to figure out what to do about the threat of the 'Xtracycle Agenda.' Or the Gay Agenda of lesbians who ride Xtracycles. Or something like that.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Save Bitch

In a world without Bitch--Sarah Palin could end up President. We've already lost Don Lafontaine, this time we can prevent disaster.

Click on over and donate.

UPDATE: Bitch is saved! (for now). Wow, that didnt' take long. :) You can still click on over to donate. Does this mean we'll win the election?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No Excuses

Pac Designs Ultimate OS "Big Load"
Originally uploaded by gyeswho

I love it when people tell me all the reasons they can't possibly bike commute--because for everyone of those people there is someone carrying around a bike in a box on their back, in a bag. LOVE. IT.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

As I left the Mac Store on 7th & Multnomah, I was congratulating myself on staying out of SE, when I got a sudden urge for sour cream pancakes from Tabor Hill cafe.  I was only about 15 minutes away so I caved, and headed south.

As I was locking up my bike, I heard someone shouting "HEY!!! HEY!" from across the street.  I didn't know if he was yelling at me, but the last time I stopped for some guy yelling hey at me, a skeevy drunk guy tried to climb onto the back of my bike, so I was disinclined to look up.

The rider, for it was a rider, eventually crossed the street and he was in fact yelling at me.  And when I turned around, I saw why:

He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother 

Matthew has had his Big Dummy, which he named Lucy (I definitely need to find a name!), for two months.  As soon as she was built up, he headed out of Seattle and hasn't looked back.  He said he's been staying with 'redneck' relatives in Newburg and this morning he ran away in search of an apartment in Portland, where he has determined he should make his home. Duh.

In a quick bike check, we discovered we have the same bars and saddle. I meant to ask him about his brakes, which sported a monstrous rotor.  I also found out that he built his wheels himself, which gives him +20 on me in bike geekdom.  We compared tires (his Schwalbe Marathon to my Big Apples) and commiserated about the hassles of getting them properly seated on the rim.  But he did confirm my suspicion that the Marathon's were pretty much bomb-proof in his ride down from Seattle.  He asked about putting the Dummy on the bus (don't bother trying), and spoke with glee about stopping at a light, and having fifteen cyclists stack up behind him.

As he got ready to leave, a guy passed us and stopped to ask about the bikes. "This one's all yours," Matt said, and I got the feeling he's had lots of these conversations.  I gave the standard answers and suggested he go test ride at River City Bikes. As of yesterday they had one built up on the floor.  I'll be curious to see how long it lasts.

Matt, if you're reading, good luck with your apartment hunting, and be sure to check out Bikeportland and Shift.  See you on the road.