Category Archives: Navel Gazing

Letting Go and the Other

Speed the Dog was a great dog.  Although she died eight years ago, I think of her every day.  She is in my heart, to be sure, but there are also physical reminders all about.  I was cleaning a drawer a couple of days ago and found our old remote.  I don’t remember when Speed decided to put the hurt on it.  Was she a puppy (during which time she chewed something inappropriate almost every day), or was she an adult (when she knew what wasn’t to be chewed, but would put her mouth over something, ready to chew, just to let us know that she could if she wanted to and then did one in forty times to keep us guessing)?  Anyway, the TV to which the remote belonged died six months ago, so the remote is of no use to us.  I tossed it into the wastebasket.  As I did, Lacey awww‘ed and registered a mild protest.  I talked her out of it–we have to toss some things, many things really–but as I was taking out the garbage just now I pulled it from the trash to make a picture.  So this part of this post is for Lacey and I, and for all of our friends that got to meet Speed.  Glad that she never perforated you, right?  Sigh! 

Drove to get coffee beans and groceries, but remembered that across from the coffee roaster is a new to Albany record store.  Fuzz Records at 209 Lark.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a record store (albums, not CDs) stocked to satisfy just my tastes.  I can’t remember everything I saw, but highlights included Fiery Furnaces, Parts and Labor, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Neutral Milk Hotel.  Those are just the ones I recognized.  The rest seemed like to fall into the same genre.  The collection was very focused.  The proprietor was nice and helpful, too.  They will order what they don’t have.  I might have no use for online LP ordering any longer!  Hooray for Fuzz Records!

Gotta go.


Just OverDo It

I’ve been in love with bicycles all of my life.  I was born at a time when kids were allowed to pedal all over creation (without helmets) and I did just that on my Schwinn Bantam.  Always bugged me that it was a step through bike with a bolt on top tube.  Was I riding a “girl’s bike?”  I didn’t have to worry about it too long, though, as it was stolen from school one day.  

In elementary school I’d pedal to the homes of friends or to the woods to fly off of dirt ramps on my Redline Proline with Bullseye hubs, Redline Vee Bars and a Tuff Neck stem (which was supposed to be red but I begrudgingly accepted in blue and regretted it every time I caught a glimpse of it under the red pad).  I’m skipping over the Ashtabula BMXer.  No pictures of that reliable tank.  

In junior high I’d pedal in the country and once, over the summer between  junior high and high school, I pedaled with a friend to a local lake and spent the night on my Schwinn Super Le Tour II.  That’s me in front with the Bell Biker helmet.  My friend’s mom took that shot from her porch.  How many parents would let this happen today?  I was so lucky to be born when I was.

In high school I’d ride all over town and the local countryside.  Summer were so hot I’d wait until midnight to ride downtown and do laps around the one ways pretending I was a criterium racer.  I had a fixed gear wheel built for me and often rode brakeless on the green frame in the foreground.  Found that frame in the garbage.  Maker unknown.  The shed was my work shop.  I’d sometimes sleep in there during nice weather.  

In college I’d pedal to school through the winter, snow and ice be damned, on my still trusty Cannondale SM 600.  Road stem placed the bars a little lower than the saddle, but I was young and flexible and thought it looked so cool!

During law school I’d pedal to a park on my Faggin racer and do one, two or three six-mile laps for exercise.  How many kids shipped their Park repair stand to school?

During law school I saved a Rollfast from the garbage and brought it into my small dorm room bringing my collection to three.  It needed only tires, a stem and bars, but I needed frequent breaks from the tedium of reading cases.  I rode it over the Williamsburg Bridge once.  Passed it along by riding it in circles in Washington Square Park with a sign asking for $40.  An Italian couple bought it within 30 minutes.

Next came a decade of putting my Bridgestone XO-1 on my car to travel to rail to trail routes on the weekends.  Easily the worst haircut of my life, but I was doing my best to hide my true self from my colleagues in the law office.

Now I am in a decade of transportation bicycling.  Transportation in a broad sense–from grocery getting to getting out of the city.  I ride too many different bicycles to list but from time to time talk about them here.

All the while I have been staring at bicycles.  Just yesterday Lacey found me sitting on a bench staring at the Rivendell Road.  I was there for nearly 30 minutes before she shook me out of the trance.  I almost always find something that is out of adjustment or alignment.  When bicycles are mine or I am given permission, I pick up a tool and try to right what is wrong.  I started collecting proper bicycle tools and parts in high school and get a couple more each year.  A Park three way hex wrench was my first and I still use it more days than not.  When everything is just right, I can relax and enjoy their beauty.  I think about the hands that touched the frame and parts to bring them into being and into my care.

I read everything I can find about bicycling.  Transcontinental explorers, racers, trick riders, equipment designers and manufacturers, safety experts and anything else with the word bicycle in it draws me in.  My google page gives me all the news stories containing the word bicycle.  My Tivo records all programs with the word bicycle in the description.

I collect bicycles and parts.  Some days I feel like a preservationist.  Other days a hoarder.  North of 30 complete bicycles and boxes of parts fill a room of our home.  I want to have less but I rarely take steps to make that happen.  It isn’t really a problem.  The bicycles and parts are all well cared for and stored safely and in an orderly fashion, but I will never forget a bit from the documentary I Am–that certain native Americans called it mental illness to keep more than you need.  I agree and want to shake the sickness.

Against this background, and here finally is the point of this post, I am surprised at how little I pedal.  That is what bicycles are all about, and I am surrounded by wonderful well-tuned examples, but I can go for days without throwing a leg over one.  Might be work getting in the way.  It might be weather.  Whatever.

Even when I pedal every day, I don’t pedal far.  These days I pick routes and destinations that take me to my goals (shopping, banking, shipping or socializing) and back safely and more or less directly.  When I pedal in the country for fun or fitness, the rides rarely exceed 15 miles.  Just once since I have lived in our current home city I pedaled 75 miles in a day (to Saratoga Springs and back–to a Bright Eyes concert).  Before that my longest ride was in high school.  I recalled it was 75 miles as well, but I just mapped it and it was closer to 100 miles.  I am surprised.  I honestly thought 75 miles was the furthest I had ever gone in a go.

Why so many bicyclists, even those new to the sport, pile on huge miles has always been a mystery to me.  How do they enjoy doing one thing for so many hours?  Don’t they have other things they also want or need to do?  Don’t they worry about wearing out their joints?  Don’t they worry about increasing their exposure to the dangers of the road?  Do they ever consider that most really long rides are voluntary and that the production, distribution and preparation of the food they need to make it happen has an impact on our planet?  Does media and peer pressure have anything to do with it?  Are Americans especially good at overdoing things?

Am I the only one who asks these questions?  Obviously we have different bodies, schedules, goals and concerns, and of course we are all free to do what we will, but sometimes I feel like the only bicycle fanatic that values and practices moderation when it comes to time in the saddle.  Am I alone?

I love rolling in the country and sometimes pushing hard on the pedals.  Balancing on two wheels makes me laugh each time I notice it happening.   Taking in lungfuls of clean air feels terrific.  Endorphin highs are as good as any other (and better than most).  Experiencing new things from atop a bicycle is a joy without equal.  Still, I love my family and they don’t often want to pedal as much as I might.  They let me pedal without them, and I do, but I always want to get back.

I have a job that affords me food, shelter and recreation and I need and want to be available to my clients.  As such, I think about the dangers of the road.  I accept the risks of some time on the road, but why push my luck?

Then I worry about my parts.  As much as I marvel at and care for well made bicycle parts, I marvel at and care for my parts.  I think about my knees, hips and nerves in my hands and between my legs.  I’d like to finish this life long journey on my bike with my original parts in good working order.  Unlike bicycle parts, our parts can sometimes repair themselves if given time.  Overuse makes this less likely.  Some folks can hammer hard their entire lives without ill-effects.  Good genes.  I am not one of these people.  I feel aches and pains when I use my parts too much or push them to hard.  Lighten the load and the pains go away (for now, anyway).

Then there is veganism.  I have no idea what a decade of veganism has done for or to my life as a bicyclist.  I can’t compare how I feel today to how I felt a decade ago.  Not only do I not remember, I am aging.  All I know is I feel good.  My weight is reasonable.  I have muscles and energy enough for pedaling to get groceries and mowing my lawn.  I read blog posts about pedaling and diet and feel more alone than ever.  Seems to be either meat, meat and more meat or vegetarians pushing themselves past epic and back.  In the end, it sounds like a whole lot of  eating animals and/or plants to fuel rides to nowhere.  I wonder if running that much fuel through a body is tough on it.  Do cells get tired of processing energy?  Where does all the food come from?  Where does all the extra poop go?  All I can do is drop a comment that maybe one could consider pedaling less.  The comment is ignored.  Isolating, I tell you.

I am not preaching.  I might want to, some, if my hands were clean, but they are not.  I drive cars.  I fly on planes.  I overeat.  I digitally beckon bicycles and parts and other things from all over the world to show up at my door  and show up they do.  Way in excess of what I need or even want.

I have only a vague and ever changing idea of how I might properly live life and I sometimes do the other thing.  I won’t pretend to know what is right for you.  I watched a documentary last night about Epicurus and his recipe for a good life.  His ingredients included friends, self-sufficiency and introspection.  Sounds pretty good.

Bicycling has given me friends, something close to self-sufficiency (moreso than my cars and past motorbikes, anyway) and time to introspect, but I still go off-course.  Would more miles on my bicycles give me more happiness?  Maybe I should give it a try, but I probably won’t.  Just now I am fixed on my idea that pealing in moderation is the right thing for me, for now.  Again, am I alone on this one?

Time for breakfast.


I haven’t pedaled since I injured my paw.  At this point I could (and probably will today), but I will have to pay special attention to my hand while using it for steering, braking and shifting.  If I had this system, though, I could give my hand a break from shifting duty.  What do you think?  Combine that system with the electronic braking discussed here, and all I would have to do with my hands is steer.  Why not move steering into the eSystem, too?  While you are at it, toss the cranks and add in a motor controlled by thought.  I could just sit at home and send my bicycle out for a ride.  Affix a camera and mic and I could stream the experience to my monitor.  I wouldn’t even need to watch it in real time.  Tivo it for viewing later (and fast forwarding through the red lights).  

Humbug, I say.  While I am able, I’ll use my mind to control my limbs to operate the mechanical controls on my bicycle.  This is bicycling for me (and I hope it will always be).  That said, I’ll welcome the gadgetry when my limbs give up.  I imagine a recumbent trike with two wheels in front, a motor, solar panels and full eControls.  All in, under a hundred pounds.    Aboard my high tech, high speed wheelchair, I’ll jet noiselessly around the hood, feeling the sun on my face, watching the scenery and collecting a few groceries.  I’ll drive the damn thing right into the store (that’s why it is better than a car–it is right sized).  

Why not today?  For me, there is something about using a tool that has no more to it than the essential.  For example, Swiss Army knives are great in a pinch but few grab them at home when a screwdriver or chef’s knife is at hand.  Single purpose tools generally work better and are more satisfying to use.  The brain powered shifting and the electronic braking will find their place, to be sure, but not on my bicycle today.  I’ll reserve judgment as to tomorrow.

Be well.

Knocking on Wood

The predicted nor’easter had my knickers in a tight twist.  Yesterday was spent cleaning gutters, replacing heated gutter tape and fretting about shoveling I shouldn’t do with my bum hand and the all but certain loss of electricity.  Storm-fear also kept us from going to what I know would have been a wonderful party.  Lucky for once, this nor-easter turned to the east of us.  Two million have lost power, but we didn’t get enough snow to stick to the pavement.

I was happy to wake to all the various power indicator lights staring me down.   I see a few downed limbs, but even those surprise as we received only a few inches of snow.  Must have been terribly heavy.  If we’d gotten the seven inches predicted for our town, the results would have been horrible.  I wonder how the occupiers are fairing?

Even though we hunkered down in preparation for a storm that missed us, last night was far from a total loss.   We made a nice meal and enjoyed Skyping with friends.  We made seitan cutlets dredged in flour and cornmeal, then fried and finally topped with a white wine sauce (sauteed onions, garlic and roasted fennel then added and reduced stock, some pinot gris from Oregon, lemon, basil, salt, red pepper and black pepper).  A side of ravioli from the freezer and tomato sauce from a jar rounded out the plate.  So good I was sad to take the last bite, and it was as lovely as it was delicious.  I also enjoyed a nightcap consisting of hot cider spiked with pear vodka.  Buying the pear vodka was an obvious mistake (I knew so at the counter, but home it came anyway).  This application and a few years may make the bottle go away.

If the meal wasn’t so good and fulfilling, we would not have survived the swell of jealousy as our friends in Portland planned their take out meals from local vegan food carts.  One was getting a burger that sounded amazing (and it must be as she gets it every week if not more often) and the other was getting a soyrizo burrito with rice, avocado and salsa.  What a town!

Cooking last night was extra fun because Lacey and I worked together.  We both cook, but it is usually one or the other.  Working side by side is uncommon, but this could be changing.  Last night was a delight with both of us moving in and out of each and every aspect of the preparation.  Almost without speaking.  Just doing the work with love and respect for each each other and the ingredients.  Injuring my hand and relying on Lacey to help more than usual has put my head in a good place.  I am happy to have another example of her essential goodness.  I am so lucky!   

I’ve covered my paw with a bandage each night for the last three nights, then left it open during the day to allow air.  The first time I removed the bandage was terrible.  I hated the sight of it but was powerless but to steal glances every minute.  It made me queasy.   The second day was worse.  I won’t go into details, but I was really anxious about whether it was going to heal poperly.  Saturday, though, the tide turned.  The surface was leveling and the coloration was closer to human.  I haven’t taken off the bandage today (I will wait until breakfast is done), but I am optimistic.  Walking around all day treating my hand like an explosive device with a touch sensitive detonator is getting old.  Such a little injury in the grand scheme, but it is all relative.  I haven’t had many injuries, so this is new to me and it sucks.  Very excited to close this chapter.

Take care of your paws and your loves!


I was mowing the lawn today with my recently super tuned Scott’s Classic 20″ reel mower.  It was running mad well.  Until it wasn’t.  A funny sound and a tougher push all of a sudden.  This time I took it to the workbench for comfortable disassembly.  Two of the three cross members that form the structure of the mower had cracked at welds.  This was the one I found first.

Not a problem.  The thing was a gift from my neighbor, it had been great for five years and I was sure I could fix it.  A welder could probably repair the parts, but I wanted a faster fix.  I’d just order new parts.  I called Scott’s.  They told me to call American Lawn Mower Company for parts (they make the mowers for Scott’s and also produce Great American reel mowers).

American Lawn Mower Company  said the part I described was the frame and that I needed to buy a new mower.  I said I had the thing apart in front of me and the part they were calling the frame was simply one part of a many parts frame and pretty please couldn’t they sell just the one part.  They took my name and number and said they’d call back.  I wasn’t hopeful.  Oh.  I also asked if their mowers were made in America.  Some are was the answer.  Not many, as it turns out, but the few that are seem fine.  I’d respect them more if they changed their name to the “Chinese Lawn Mower Company.”

Then I finished taking the mower apart and found a second broken part.  This one was a stiffening bar on the cutter blade.  The weld was broken and part of the bar was cracked.  Maybe this thing wasn’t worth saving.  What was going to go next?

Tactic change.  I had just walked by a garage sale this morning with a Great American reel mower for sale.  What are the odds?  I had tooted my horn to the seller about my awesome newly maintained reel mower that I loved using, so smooth and all, and then went home to have it blow up.  Karma.  Not a problem.  I would drive over and get the garage sale mower, give it a go over, and be happy for another five years.  Not to be.  I got to the sale and it was gone!  Shoot.  What now?

Home Depot was just a block away, so I went and bought a brand new Scott’s Classic 20″ reel mower.  Made sure it was made in China before I bought it (it was).  Got home and put it together.  It seems nearly as nice as the old one.  I noticed the absence of the stiffening member on the cutter bar.  The one that broke on my old mower.  Not there now, so it can’t break (but the fact that it broke with careful use suggests there were some pretty good stresses being applied and maybe its bad they eliminated it).  Also, the new cutter bar was flat.  The old one was a wave shaped piece of metal.  The waves made it stiffer still.

Then  the American Lawn Mower Company called back.  The part I knew I needed when I called the first time (the “frame” as they called it) could be purchased for only $13!  But now I knew I also needed the cutting bar.  Not a problem, as that is available for $36!  Bummer.  I just bought a new one for $150 (with tax) and could have saved the old one for $50.

Great that they stock parts, though.  800-633-1501 if you need the number.  Helps if you have the original manual as that includes the model number and a diagram with all the parts pictured and part numbers.  Of course the neighbor had given me the manual.  He was that kind of guy (i.e. careful old guy that I have always tried to be and hope to become a bit more like every day).  He gave me the mower then came over an hour later and gave me the manual.  I wish he was still my neighbor (but my new neighbors are awesome, too).

I just compared the part numbers in the respective manuals for the 2000 model and the 2010 model.  Most of the parts share the same parts numbers (but the 2010 parts numbers have an A before and after the number, so maybe they are not the same at all), but two parts have totally different numbers.  The reel and the cutter bar.   The two most important parts and the two parts that have pretty clearly been cheapened.  Sad.  Whatever.  The new one cuts well now.  The lawn looks great.  We’ll see how it holds up.

I consider the whole ordeal a big fail on my part.  If I had waited for the call, I could have saved the old mower.  If I had taken out the manual before I called the first time, they wouldn’t have had to call back because I would have said I needed Torsion Bar number 10492 and Cutter Bar 10468 for mower model 2000-20 (presumably made in 2000).  Then I wouldn’t have gotten in the car to go to the garage sale, found out the used mower had sold and  headed to the all too convenient Home Depot (where the super friendly check out clerk asked me how I found my shopping experience and I replied excellent because it was because the exact mower I was replacing was there right at the front of the store just before they got taken away to make room for winter stuff–why didn’t I suggest they sell a mower made in the USA?).

Or I could have googled made in usa reel mowers and found this:  “American Lawn Mower Co. (Shelbyville, IN):  Models still made in USA: 1415-16, 1815-18, and Great States 815-18. At Ace Hardware.”  My biggest mistake was impatience.  Forming the idea that I can fix this immediately and jumping in the car and plowing forward like the ugly American I can so easily be when I let myself go.  Sigh.

One funny side track.  After I bought the new mower and mowed the lawn, I lunched and googled reel lawn mowers to see what a colossal mistake I had made (the post purchase investigation–so useless).  I found a fancy Fiskars mower that seems pretty well designed.  The video showcasing the mower has a guy telling us that the EPA says the fumes from an average mower used for one year equal the fumes put out by a new car driven 500,000 miles (at 42 seconds).

Que?!  That’s ridiculous.  So I looked here.  Closest claim I could found was that “operating a typical gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour produces the same amount of smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average care (sic) almost 200 miles under typical driving conditions.”  Still a good reason to use a reel mower (every week I mow with the reel mower I can drive 100 miles to go hiking without enlarging my carbon boot print).

So just how inflated is the video guy’s claim?  To the mathmobile, mathman!   Let’s say you live in LA and mow year round.  Is an hour a week fair?  That’s 52 hours a year for a total car mileage equivalent of 10,400 miles using the EPA statistic I found.  Maybe the video guy assumed you mow the lawn every Saturday and Sunday for 16 waking hours a day all year long.  Big lawn.  That’s 1664 hours of mowing and equal to 332,000 miles of driving using the EPA stat I found.  Still kinda short of the 500,000 miles claimed by the video guy.  Look at it from the other direction–if using a mower for a year equaled driving a car for 500,000 miles, then each hour of mower use would equal nearly 10,000 miles of new car driving (assuming 52 hours of mower use per year).  What kinda grass is that video guy cutting?  Reel lawnmowers are cool tools.  Sad the video guy feels the need to BS to sell them.

I’ll do better tomorrow.  Maybe!

Have a good weekend.

Missoni Bike for Target on eBay

I heard on the radio (a Telefunken bajazzo de luxe, it was)…

…that Target started selling the Missoni line yesterday and that everything sold out.  They said the stuff is already up on eBay, so I looked for the bike.  Seventy-four of them are listed.  I didn’t look at each listing, but one has a buy it now price for $1,900.  The bikes were offered by Target for $400.  I will not be surprised if it and all the others sell.  If even one of these bikes sells for $1,900, it might be the quickest value appreciation of any bicycle ever.  I wonder what they will sell for in 20 years?  Did I miss the boat on the next Bridgestone XO-1?  Probably not, but only time will tell.

What else?  I dropped off for repair my hifi amplifier.  It is at Tempo Electric in Troy, NY.  The principal, Joseph Levy, spent the good part of an hour with me answering my 101-level questions about this amp and his plans for it, his business practices, his gurus, skyrocketing prices of gold and silver, the durability of US made valves  and so on.  This conversation took place in his small but tidy workspace.  Bins with what seemed like every possibly useful capacitor and resistor ever made lined his workbench.  He had on display (presumably for his aural entertainment) the first monoblock amps he made.  They used Heathkit chassis that were stripped of all components and rebuilt with the finest parts of the day.  Things of beauty they were.  On his bench was a vintage phono preamp made in California that had recently belonged to Mr. Levy’s business partner, Dr. Arthur Loesch.  It had been sold on eBay to a purchaser in Korea.  The buyer had asked Mr. Levy to replace capacitors and resistors and convert the unit for 240v use.  Mr. Levy is going to listen to my unit, then take it apart and look it over.  He will send three suggested parts lists with budget, bang for the buck and price is no option premium parts.  I am very optimistic that this project is going to turn out beautifully.  It should be back in a month.  Anticipation is one of my favorite states.

Anything else?  I had a garage sale this weekend.  Sold one of three bicycles offered.  The Goodrich is no longer with us.  Turns out it is easy to sell bicycles if you price them at next to theft level prices.  The bicycle came into my life for free, but I had added what I recall to be $60 Schwalbe Fat Frank tires, a smaller NOS one-inch pitch chainwheel, some NOS Schwinn grips and a bell.  I priced it at $50 and the fellow offered me $35.  I said ok and then he said he was going to resell in in Provincetown.  Provincetown!  I could have been sad that I let myself be taken.  I could have been sad that the bicycle may very well be left to rust while chained to a utility pole (only Nelson “The Cheetah” Vails could make this thing go up the steep hills of Provincetown).  I felt none of those things.  Not only was I happy to be able to let a bicycle go, but Provincetown is a lovely place for this wonderful bicycle to spend its final decades.  Good wishes to you, Goodrich!

I hope you are well.

Bikecology Summer 1981

As summer is winding down here, I thought I should finish posting the balance of the pages from the catalog.  Peruse the origins of chains with shaped side plates (to help us shift easier).  Shimano and Sedisport both offered chains with shaped side plates.  I never appreciated how important shaped side plates are until I tried to shift the Motobecane with the flat sided chain.  No thank you!

Lights for folks who didn’t want to see or be seen.  Probably were none better at the time.  Glad there are better now.  A good quality see the road light is something I have never had.  Someday.Gosh I wish someone would remake the Bata Biker.  I never had a pair, but I want stiff soled biking shoes with rubber bottoms and canvas uppers.  Vegan, walkable, good for long distances.  Who makes this shoe today?  Anyone?  Swiss Army knives (what boy didn’t want one?) and Niko bicycles?  Wha?  What’s a Niko?   Not a Nico (did you know her death involved a bicycle?).  Anyone ever seen a Niko?  As far as Google is concerned, it is close to nonexistent.

Jack Taylor tandem!  Those racks!  Cream fenders and pump on a candy-apply frame!  Gorgeous!These shirts, I mean jerseys, are hella rad.  Wooly, but they didn’t know better.  Not many did the (or even today).  That’s it, folks.  No more pages.

Sunny here, with a light breeze.  So pleasant that it is hard to accept that many died yesterday in the hurricane.  Irene left many more without homes or possessions (the flooding up here is terrible).  Millions on the East Coast are without power.  When I walked Frida to the pond today, I heard three or so generators purring away.  Strange to be sitting here in a dry home with power and a hifi playing burping out goofy Television Personalities tunes.  Two gallons of sauerkraut are souring on the counter (that should be it for fermentation projects for the year).  Another pint of tomatillo salsa is bubbling on the electric stove.  A helicopter is flying overhead (surely surveying damage).

How’d you do?  Know that I’m thinking of you and sending warm thoughts your way.