Tuesday, September 29, 2009


or, "Please approach the bench"
or, "Benchmark"
or, "How much ya bench?"
or, "Pepe le pew"

okay, not so much the last one.

It all began with a sketch.It wasn't a good sketch, but Cor and Sloan and I had been talking about a bench all day, and it was the sort of thing you just want to get started on. We were walking around Point Pleasant, and I was babbling about arm-rests and shelves and supports. The ladies were less enthusiastic, but they were generally happy to, y'know, have something done for them.

A half-dozen blueprints later, I was ready to build a bench. Out of posterboard.
The neurotic engineer in me needed to see the finished product before committing, plus it helped me picture how the boards would need to be joined (which, somehow, is not the same as joinery).

I read magazines on furniture design. I found DIY websites. I planned every detail.

And of course, I messed up. Often. While it might be fun to catalog my many slip-ups, of which there were a wide variety, it is better to point out the improvisations those accidents allowed. Mis-measured the bench? Well that support beam would supplement it nicely. And so on.

So the design changed, and the novelty of the thing increased with each audible. Aesthetic flair was the unintended byproduct of my mistakes. A simple plank with a decorative board at each end became a suspended shelf that highlighted negative space, somehow. Which I was okay with, and was actually totally on purpose, I swear.

I think it works pretty well. The paint scheme is unusual, too; my clients were going for a "beach-worn" look, like the weathered whitewash so common on the beaches of Pt. Pleasant. They described their ideal coloration, and I did my best to meet their expectations. But let's be reasonable: they were trying to verbalize an unusual look, normally produced by decades of weather exposure, to an inexperienced "craftsman". Who also happens to be colorblind.

What were they expecting?

As I've said, I'm happy with the way it turned out. Not the least of which is based on the fact that it's still intact! To wit:

If it can handle these two fatasses (one of whom seems to be perplexed by a bottle of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA), it can handle anyone.

I said before that it started with a sketch. That's not true. It started with a Pinewood Derby car, in the spring of 1991. For which, you know who you are, and thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heroes limits my eyewear options

Because if I wear any one of a few dozen fashionable frames, I look like Sylar. Apparently.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recommended Drinking

Hacker Pschorr Octoberfest. Not too fancy, not too hoppy. Not too exotic. Not too anything. Just delicious.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Bar Mitzvah

Translated from Hebrew, "bar mitzvah" means "man of good deeds". Little known fact: translated from the original Aramaic, it means "lazy cyclist with no self-discipline".

I have been working out. I have! A bunch of rides this week, a run, a gym day. Yesterday, my sore legs hauled my sorry ass around central Jersey, and believe it or not, I did an intervals workout.

Racing season is coming, inevitable as the tide, and I am going to suck. That's to be expected, after a summer of athletic torpor. However, it has occurred to me that I run the risk of sucking too much. Everyone in a 'cross race suffers, whether racing for first or for not-lapped. There exists an inflection point, though, where the suffering exceeds the fun, and I don't want to experience that abject misery.

Thus and therefore, I have been making a real effort to ride more. And when I do so, I ride hard. Because racing season is coming.

Yesterday, for the first time this year, I did one of my favorite fall workouts: two 20-minute periods of as-hard-as-sustainable, with a surge every minute. This workout is uncomfortable, frustrating, and as much mental as physical. It went about as well as could be expected.

Two minutes into the second interval, I was grinding along Canal Road when I spotted a cluster of cyclists hunched over a bike on the side of the road. It wasn't immediately clear what they were doing - whether they were taking a break, tending to a crash victim, who knows? - and there was a car behind me, so I didn't stop... at least not at first. But something didn't seem right.

When it was safe enough, I pulled a U-turn, rolled back to the group, and asked if they needed help. Their response was a chorus of heartfelt "oh, yes, thank you". Of the three, whose total age must have exceeded 200, one had flatted and none had spare tubes or tools. I found the offending staple lodged in her tire, popped in one of my spares, and reinflated. The whole process took maybe 4 minutes.

All the while, she expressed her gratitude and tried to compensate me. "Can I pay for your tube?" Don't even worry about it. "I have friends in the UK. If you ever want to watch the Tour, they could help you". Umm... no thank you. "Is there anything I could do?" Well, there is rutgerscycling.com, you could check it out, maybe wish us luck for our upcoming season, and oh by the way we sell jerseys like the one I'm wearing.

I am shameless.

Here's the thing with having someone rescue you after a mechanical, or a crash, or a bonk. The only debt you owe is to pay it forward. Carry extra tubes, get educated on emergency repairs and first aid, and offer to help the next stranded cyclist you see. We are, when all is said and done, a community.

Repayment was unnecessary. I stopped because I don't ever want a cyclist in need to be snubbed by a Rutgers cyclist. I stopped because the Flat-Tire Gods are vengeful deities.

Most of all, as I told the group when I first rolled up and offered assistance: Anything to get out of an intervals workout.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The power of a bagel and a coffee

I am generally okay with disliking everybody. On a case by case basis, I find the good in people - often, the awesome - and that's plenty. Everyone else, everyone I don't know, can talk a long walk off a short pier for all I care.

At its most benign, we can euphemism-ify my behavior as "people watching"; one of my favorite things to do is stand on the stairs at Karaoke and observe the dynamics of the crowd, always with a jaded perspective. Really, it's misanthropy. And I accept that.

Somewhat coincidentally, I had a post in mind about just how much I dislike people. I spent about 3 hours traveling to and from a Yankees game, including all the accouterments one would expect from Yankees traffic on the Major Deegan. Waiting your turn on an off-ramp, only to have a self-important schmo zoom by in the shoulder with inches to spare, really raises up the bile.

Also I have been riding a fixie through New Brunswick every day. While I don't mind the hassle of interacting with motor vehicles on a regular ride, my commutes force me to interact with pedestrians. I now understand the thrill of alleycat racing (which is an unofficial bike race through a city, cars and pedestrians and all). It should be in the X-games. People are either blissfully unaware or malevolently apathetic (think about that last one... it works as well as jumbo shrimp).

Just watching kids cross the street from the dorms to the quad, or walking through the grocery store, it's all the same: people move with Brownian motion, bouncing to and fro like ping pong balls, the epitome (if not the definition) of a "drunken walk". And that's discounting the text-walkers. It's as if they simply lack any survival instinct, or at least a sense of communal optimality.

Someday, I'm going to have an ulcer. Thanks, everyone.

Tonight's session in the Dunkin Donuts did not start off well. Not one, but two individuals occupied two tables each, not because they needed the extra room, but because... I don't know why. A baby was screaming (and, mind you, I didn't get to there until after the Patriots eeked out their win). That bitterness was welling up again in my gut.

And then, at midnight, everything turned around. A girl around my age, who had been sitting quietly in the corner at least as long as I had, got up from her table. She walked up to the counter, bought a bagel and coffee, and walked straight over to the exhausted-looking homeless man.

"Excuse me," she offered with the sort of politeness one does not normally reserve for such a ridiculously dirty person, "are you hungry?"

His face lit up, and he smiled a fantastically toothless smile. She left the coffee and the bagel on his table and went right back to work. As should I.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Ask any cyclist how to take a turn, and they'll tell you:
  1. Start at the outside
  2. Apex at the inside
  3. Exit at the outside
Like so...

I know this because I asked. In a thoroughly unscientific poll conducted via Facebook chat and napkins, I polled a bunch of friends and relatives and asked how they would drive through a turn. Not surprisingly, those with cycling experience tended to get the question right.

What flabbergasted me was that the non-cyclists were so very, very wrong. Like, opposite-of-right wrong. Inside-outside-inside wrong.

The out-in-out corner is right because it's as straight a line as possible. Sharper turns require you to slow down, so... y'know, you don't do that.

Non-cyclists answered the opposite of right, which is of course would be the equivalent of parking-lot maneuvers at any reasonable speed. There should be rolled SUVs everywhere. There should be Jeeps littering the highway shoulders like so many empty Big Gulps.

So, polls, aside, I've been watching. I've observed drivers taking gentle curves, taking turns onto side streets, and so on. People turn properly. They start outside, apex inside, and exit outside.

One of my favorite places to observe the phenomenon of Drivers Not Wildly Careening Into One Another is on the exit ramp from Route 18 to Busch Campus. 18, you see, is Central Jersey's answer to the Autobahn, and the exit is a wide 270 degree turn.

People invariably start in the center of the lane while they're on 18, like the Driver's Ed teacher said to. As the turn begins, there's a seam down the middle. When you have a tire on this seam, the car shakes a bit, because it's a pretty gnarly seam.

Drivers have three options during the turn: straddle the seam, drive to the outside of it, or drive to the inside of it. Across the board, people drive to the inside, or sometimes they straddle the seam. When they reach the straight bit at the end of the ramp, they exit to the outside.

People can't explain the proper way to drive, but they drive properly. How do you explain that?

I've been mulling over that very question for a few weeks now. Maybe it's experience. Maybe it's a vestibular thing. Maybe it's a vistibular-visual interaction thing.

Honestly, I don't know, and I don't plan to know any time soon, because there are bigger things afoot. I really just wanted to make reference to 18 being the Autobahn.

How else could I set up this picture?

Not Photoshopped

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Trappist Ale. Cycling. Frites.

and now, horribly offensive advertisements. You keep giving me reasons to love you, Belgium.

Except for that 9/11 one. Not cool.

Post something that I found on digg in lieu of real writing? B-b-but that doesn't sound like something Don would do!