Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not Far from the Tree...

This effort by my oldest is a comic strip, called Foop and Notch.

This is the sequel, Foop and Notch 2: Ultimate Laffs**.

I show you this not to highlight my daughters creative accomplishments, but to share with you a secret:

I did exactly the same thing when I was her age.

I don’t have copies of them (nothing like that survived the frequent relocations that occurred during my childhood), but I remember that the main characters were geometric shapes. There was a triangle, a square, the slightly nerdy rectangle and a teardrop shape that represented the female protagonist. My inspiration was Charles M Schulz’ Peanuts strip. I found out that SiSi’s muse is Calvin and Hobbs (she keeps one of the anthologies in her bed, to read as she goes to sleep).

She asked me to read her comic strips, and afterward we talked about them.

“Wow, they’re really great, SiSi! I’m curious, though. They seem rather violent. Why is that?”

She shrugged. “Kids like me think that stuff is funny, I guess.”

I remember saying the same thing to my dad.

Eerie, is what I’m saying.

** SiSi made a point of telling me that she knew this was not the correct spelling of the word, but that she decided to use it for effect. I was quietly stunned.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Straightforward Day

This wasn’t going to be a rest day, but I’m taking the girls up to a sleepover, and I won’t get back in time to do the training ride I need to do to tweak all the settings on my bike before the long test ride this weekend. That’s ok because I get to go out on a date with my wife! Nothing exciting; a little shopping, some dinner, a movie. We might even sleep in on Saturday, since there will be no small children about.

Instead of riding, I’ll be with the girls and doing some cleanup around the house (I’ve realized I can’t find the floor on my side of the bed). I’ll feed them elevenses and the drive them up to their sleepover party at Bessie’s, get my hair cut and get back just in time to meet Wifeness down by the small mall (not to be confused with the Darth Mall) after she gets out of work. That’s the day. It’s pretty straightforward, really.

Except that it’s my birthday. Yay me!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making Preparations...

Today is the recovery portion of the Stress and Recovery cycle, so we’ll be taking care of trip planning.

I have some equipment to buy for my ride, most notably a new front rim (the current one has a kink in it that I can’t massage out, and it wobbles a little too much at high speeds). I’m also hoping to find some new cycling shorts. The ones I use now, while perfectly effective for local daily riding, are really old and I’m worried they’re not going to survive the trip. It would not do to have one’s (only) pair of bike shorts fail halfway on a long trip!

After that, I need to put together the maps and trip notes I need into a document I can print out and take with me. I use the AAA website to plan my trips. Their tool gives me good information on where I can get food and water en route, as well as where there might be construction or other road hazards. It also creates maps that are more easily converted to what I need, although Google or MapQuest can do much the same thing.

Once I know what roads I'm taking, I’ll input the route information into, which has an elevation calculator so I can see where the challenging parts of each day’s ride are. This is really helpful in terms of planning how to approach the ride on any given day. I’ll take all those notes, the maps, contact information for hotels, etc. and make a single PDF document out of it. Wifeness will get a copy for emergency purposes, and mine will live in a ziplock baggie that attaches to my aero bars, so I can get to it easily.

Then comes the packing. This trip doesn’t require camping out, so there’s no heavy gear like a tent to worry about. I can fit everything on this bag:

It really just holds the basics: glasses, compact street clothes and shoes, camera, phone, ointments (sunscreen, etc), basic toiletries -- including tp -- and pills (Ibuprofen, thyroid stuff, vitamins). I’ll carry the stuff I need to get at quickly (food, handkerchief, mp3 player) in the back pockets of my jersey, so I don’t have to stop the bike except to reapply ointments or take the occasional potty break. Trust me, the more often you get off the bike, the harder it is to get back on it.

Each trip is different, so the packing takes a little bit of experimenting to get just right. The trick is to get stuff positioned in just the right places so it’s comfortable. The pack should sit a little high on the waist as I ride, so it doesn’t pull on my lower back if I’m bent over on the drops of the handlebars. On my Lock Haven trip, this proved difficult to do because of the stuff I was carrying, so I developed a way to move the pack onto my aerobars when I need to give my body a rest from carrying it. It’s an interim sort of solution only because putting weight on the front of the bike like that changes the way it steers and gives it a sluggish feel that, when going down hills, can be unnerving. And it also takes away one of the four riding positions -- and the one that gives my body the most rest -- because I can’t lean on the aerobars while the pack is there.

I have a couple of repairs and adjustments to make before I leave. I’ll tweak the seat just a touch to accommodate for the pack, and my left shoe needs to be taken apart so I can refasten the cleat (it’s worked itself just a bit loose, so it moves when I use it to pull the pedal up from the bottom). I need to rewrap my handlebars because the tape has shifted and makes the tops all slippery now, and I need to adjust the tension on the rear derailleur cable. It sometimes shifts on its own, and that can be really annoying when you’re trying to get into a rhythm to climb a steep hill. After that, there’s some final cleaning and lubricating of parts, and then we’re ready to roll!

I have a 60-mile ride scheduled for this weekend to test everything out “on the road”. That’ll be the last real mileage I put on before I leave on Wednesday. Assuming there are no major issues, I should only have to pump the tires up on Wednesday morning before I’m ready to start off! My goal is to leave around 7:30. It's a much more pleasant thing to ride before it gets hellish hot!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Somebody's in a Hurry...

I was out on a training ride this evening when this flew by me at 80+ mph [HERE]. I was grateful to have been going the other direction. I really didn’t need to get caught up in a high-speed chase on a bicycle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My tenders are tender. Chaffed. Made raw in ways such parts should not be. Thank goodness there’s a cream for that.

Those saddle calluses need to harden up; I have a bike trip to ride in a week and a half. My first since my 400 ride to Lock Haven in 2006, and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m riding 220 miles from Wayfarer House to the tippy top of Vermont. The route is designed to take advantage of several scenic roads before culminating in a climb of Smuggler’s Notch, near Stowe, and easing my way to the Morrison Family reunion.

I was concerned I might not be able to do this ride because of my ankle, but two recent outings (20 flat miles at time trial pace and 30 miles of hills) have shown it will handle the strain. My ass, clearly, still needs some convincing.

I’ve been working out the details for lodging today, which has been an annoying challenge. The trick in planning trips like these is to find places to stay that are on the direct route, in a sweet spot of mileage (in this case, around 60 miles), but don’t cost an outrageous amount. The problem in Vermont is that lodging is...

1) rarely on the direct route,
2) rarely about 60 miles apart,
3) totally outrageously priced.

To that end, I’m looking for couches to sleep on. I’ve got in-laws in Bellows Falls who have graciously offered to let me stay with them, and I’m reaching out to an alumna of mine near Rutland for some help, but the area around Stowe is proving impossible. Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions/friends with couches?

Tomorrow, I’m taking the van in to get a new starter. While that work is being done, I’ll be riding. Then I expect I’ll be looking for some more cream. And maybe some chamois. Is that too much information?

Smuggler's Notch

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Everyone else in the house is gone. It’s just I (which never sounds right, even though that’s the correct way to say it). I’ll be alone until Sunday afternoon. You’d think this represents a time of complete freedom, and it is in the sense that there’s no responsibility to make dinner, do dishes, chivvy kids in/out of the shower. But when it comes right down to it (on this occasion, anyway), things won’t play out all that differently from normal day. I suppose I could let everything slide, put on my Hawaiian shirt and go find a place to party, but that’s never really been my style.

Plus, I’ve got stuff to do. There’s a dump run to be made, visits to the bank, library and BJs (the garbage bags they have now just don’t stay in the can right since they “improved” them). There are repairs to be made upstairs in the apartment. I need to get out on my bike again to work my ankle. I need to do some sheets.

My day will be full, and that brings peace to me.

Am I sad, or what?

Friday, July 23, 2010

To catch you up...

I apologize for the lengthy absence. I’m finally feeling like I’m getting a handle on my summer.

While I’ve been off-blogosphere, several things of note have happened:

I sprained my ankle a week ago. The effects of this are several: There will be no triathlons this summer; there may be no cycling to VT (more on that in a sec); many home-improvement projects will get done, albeit at a much slower pace, and with much pausing; I will have more time to spend retooling course and curriculum for the fall; I am learning to be at peace with things as they are, and not as I had planned them to be. That last one is still a work in progress.

I will be returning to soccer. Over a year ago, I walked away from athletics at my school--a program I started--to put an end to the conflict and discord that was becoming constant between myself and our school’s curricular director. The situation is complicated to explain but, in essence, it wasn’t worth putting a full-time teaching job on the line to constantly go head-to-head with this woman over a seasonal stipended position, however much it meant to me, personally. Last year, the curricular director announced that she was leaving the school and, after some lengthy discussions among people about the althetics program, its mission and its direction, I offered to come back to coaching--just coaching, no admin. This seemed to meet with a positive response from the players.

I am planning a 4-day bike trip through VT scheduled for the first week in August. My ankle has put this trip in jeopardy, but I’m making preparations to do it all the same. Today, in fact, I have the first real test of fitness and strength since the sprain--a 20-mile time trial scenario. If it goes well, we move forward. If my ankle reacts badly... The trip runs from Wayfarer House to Enosburg Falls, VT, where the annual Morrison Family reunion will take place (this reunion is for Wifeness’ family, and has been held every year for something like 60 years).

I’ve committed to be part of a trial of a new grading and reporting system for my school. We don’t use letter grades at my school; instead, we have a system that is based on levels of credit. For example, Full Credit (which equates roughly to a B in the letter system most of us recognize) is designed to basically communicate that the student knows or can do something with confidence, and without a lot of errors. We like (and there is an ever-growing body of research to support) the idea of grading in this way, but there are issues we’ve uncovered in terms of its universal application and its conversion to something colleges and universities will deign to interpret.** There are still some bugs to be worked out among the group involved in the trial, but in its basic form it won’t work all that differently from what we use now (we will still require the equivalent of FCR for students to move on), but it will be quite different in terms of how we approach grading and assessment (what goes into the actual “grade”, what the kids and parents see, how we have conversations about student work and progress). I’m blogging about this work and the retooling of my own materials and grading systems, but right now it’s a closed blog just for the teachers at my school. If I get their permission to open it up for everyone to read, I’ll post the link.

My thyroid is failing. I’ve been having problems with fatigue, weight gain, depression and muscle issues for a good while now, and I’d been to my doctor about it. We drew blood. We checked lots of things, and came up with the very likely possibility that all this was due to an erratic thyroid. Solutions? Cut it out, go on drugs, do radiation treatment.

None of those appealed so we left things be, but I committed to regular blood tests to see what was actually happening with my thyroid. Was it just being temperamental or was it actually failing? It turns out the latter, as a result of some form of autoimmune function. Solutions? See above, but really drugs become necessary. I resisted this at first because I don’t tolerate drugs well and I suck at taking pills of any kind religiously (please notice the vitamins on top of the refrigerator). The symptoms were getting really hard to work around, so last week I went back to the doctor and got a prescription for synthetic thyroid hormone which, if it proves effective, I’ll likely be taking in one form or another for the rest of my life--every day at 6am.

That’s it for now. I’m going to finish this cup of coffee and go put on some lycra. My bike has been waiting patiently for me for a while. Too long. She’s ready for a workout.

** I find it no end of ironic that the very universities doing the research that has confirmed the inefficacy of traditional grading also require it for admission to their programs.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Update...

Go, USA England Mexico Paraguay Uruguay!

Nods to Ghana for their heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals. Seriously, if you didn't see the game, you missed some of the most epic drama ever seen in sport!