Flow

John and Darcie. Regan and Carl. Jennifer and David. Buzz. Dan and Nicole. Kerry and Jason. Scott and Annie. Stefanie.

I’m not one that easily makes friends. It’s really hard for me. But over the years, I’ve made a few. And then a few more. One or two at a time, built up over the years. And a few have left town. A trickle in. A trickle out.

Except this year. This summer, the trickle became a flood. Some expected, some not so much. None are easy to lose. I only hope that those that stay with me here in this little college town will be available to help me through the transition. I suspect I’m going to need it.

After Three, it’s tradition


View 2014 Round and Round lap in a larger map

Jason first talked me into being part of a 24 hour relay team for the Round and Round race over Memorial day weekend in 2011. In 2012, I had a large trip to Scotland and wasn’t a rider (but was a volunteer). I returned in 2013 and again this year.

And each year, it is really hard to keep going after the third lap. But this year, while it was hard to start, once I was going, it felt good to be on the bike. All told, I spent just over 5 hours riding 60 miles in great bumpy circles.

Great company. Great trail. Great energy. I have always felt great relief at noon Sunday morning, but also a bit of anguish. It’ll be another year before Memorial Day is again looming on the calendar. Another year before I can ride round and round with 700 great friends. This race is like Bloomsday. I can’t really explain just why I enjoy it so much without looks of puzzlement. Why would I want to do this? Because I can. Because it’s there. Because why notI?

Last year’s race was marred by injury. While the wound didn’t really bother me by race day, at that point the antibiotics had kicked in and their side effects were. I suffered terribly slow laps, especially at night. This year I was healthy. I wasn’t as fast as I wanted; I ranged from 1:14 to 1:25, but I was having fun. I never wanted to stop while I was on course.

20140524-DSC_5986-17911That said, my personal times are not the reasons why I do this. I do it because I was talked into it that first time and recognize just how fun it is to spend a weekend with like-minded individuals who what to go have fun. Have fun while going fast, yes. But fun is really important to mountain biking, so we make sure that the fun stays around. The campsite is full of friends you know well, or friends you know well soon. Food is abundant and excellent. Conversation is entertaining and enlightened.

It’s not just the race, it’s the people that are racing. I’m really happy that my brother was able to join this year, he doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with the friends I’ve met in Pullman and I was glad to have to opportunity to join those two worlds.

And next year, as Wendy Zupan rightly fears, the Roaming Gnomes will grow some more. After all, getting bigger every year is tradition too, at least for a little while.

The First Sunday of May

Finish line cameras always capture the worst of a runner. We're tired and just want to finish. I still don't know why my tongue is doing there. Image courtesy Bloomsday run and Chronotrack, who gracefully have allowed us to freely access and share high-quality images for repost.

Finish line cameras always capture the worst of a runner. We’re tired and just want to finish. I still don’t know why my tongue is doing there.
Image courtesy Bloomsday run and Chronotrack, who gracefully have allowed us to freely access and share high-quality images for repost.

In 2009, I completed my first Bloomsday. It took me an hour and 24 minutes. I steadily improved my time in 2010 and 2011. But then the improvements stalled. In 2011, running from green, I finished the race in 1:11:27. The following years weren’t really any better, 1:11:55 and 1:11:25, respectively.

This year, I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep the streak alive. I woke up with a raging sinus headache and had trouble breathing. Several minutes in a hot shower helped, but the headache didn’t really go away until I used the marvels of modern medicine. OK, Sudafed and Tylenol aren’t all that modern, but still. In the end, I decided that even if my time was terrible it was better to try and fail than to not try at all.

Needless to say, I had low expectations. When I was asked “What do you want to do?” by a very capable runner (she finished in under 54 minutes), my response was a simple “I want to finish.” I was frustrated and down on myself.

I didn’t really feel any more confident until about 5 minutes before the gun. My headache was gone, I could breathe clearly, and I had no pressure. I just had to finish. So at 9:05, off we go. I didn’t try to pass anybody, I just hung in the crowd and let it pull me along. It was moving at about a 9 minute pace, a little faster than I would prefer, but doable. I figured I’d just keep going as long as I could hold it up. My good friend Jim Ekins was keeping with me, with his own excuses (“I drank too much yesterday”). It was great encouragement to run with somebody you know along with 46000 of your best friends for a day. At mile 3, I’m still going. Mile 4. Still going. Doomsday. “I’ll walk this,” I told Jim, and he wished me luck and headed up the hill ahead. But I didn’t walk. I was slow, but I never stopped “running.”

Top of Doomsday and I’m still going! Well hell, I’ve only got 2 and a half to go. Let’s see what happens. Hrm. There’s the Darth Vader corner. I’m ok! Mile 6… and the penultimate corner on to Broadway shortly after. I can see the courthouse in the distance, I just have to keep going.

And so I do, at a slow and steady 9 minute pace. I’ve got this! The Mile 7 marker appears near Maple Street and I start to really relax. At Jefferson Street, I accelerate, turning the corner on to Monroe just as Eye of the Tiger starts to play from Milford’s Fish House.

Perfect.

And after a day that started with such low expectations? A new PR of 1:08:16. I wasn’t happy. I was ecstatic. I had given up on the artificial 1:10 barrier last year. Sure, when many of my friends are finishing in well under an hour, a 1:08 time isn’t special. But it’s special to me and that’s all that matters to me. For now.

Next year, we’ll see what happens.

Yer out!

In today’s dream memory, I played wiffleball as an adult. I hated baseball growing up because my bat coordination was terrible, that has not changed.

So being the first guy up to bat for me team due to a late change was comically nightmarish. It didn’t help that my college roommate was the catcher and first baseman on the opposing team. Ted always was good at heckling.

Returning to form

Dropping down Pinkham Trail

Me, dropping down Pickham Trail from the Ridge above Asotin Creek. Photo courtesy Scott McMurtrey.

The plan was simple enough. I would ride a bike, while two friends ran. We would travel to the gate that blocks the Asotin Creek Trail parking lot, park there and head on our way. When we arrived above Lewiston, the hills looked clean enough, so we decided to go for the loop.

On arrival, the two runners became four. The plan was simple enough: leave the car, head up Lick Creek along Lickfork road to Sourdough Gulch, then climb up to the ridge line by using the jeep trail that Google amusingly calls a road on their maps. Once we reach the ridge, we’d travel west along the top until we reach the second of two Pinkham trails. From there, we just have to drop down the far side of the ridge to Asotin Creek, then take Asotin Creek Trail back to the car. Nice, simple 21 mile loop.

If only.

The ride started well enough—it’s hard to go wrong on a road. But the fire road was severely rutted and water logged. The ruts eventually went away, but the waterlogged trail never did. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m used to very slick conditions in mud; this wasn’t. The best description I would have is “gooey”. Every pedal stroke took terrible amounts of energy. By the time I got to the meadow at the top, I was completely worn out. So of course, that’s the perfect time to ride into headwinds.

I was ready to just give up and turn around more than once. But I was alone—the runners were far faster and lighter than I and they disappeared. I couldn’t turn around without letting them know. Fortunately, Buzz waited for me at the ridge, so I let him know that I was planning on dropping down the first of the Pinkham trails, not the second. I’m glad I did, for I did not see him again for quite a while.

The picture above is me descending down the beginning of that first Pinkham trail. Scott, along with Spencer and Alan, had forged ahead and Buzz had run along to follow. When I reached the intersection, confronted with a very steep trail, I quit. I remember saying to myself “I’m fucking done with this climbing shit.” Knowing that I had already told Buzz my plans, I dropped in. The first 200 yards are so are a narrow, but relatively shallow and smooth trail. I had noticed movement on the ridge line behind me as I was dropping down, and just before the first switchback where the trail gets more rocky and steeper, Eddy (the border collie cross in the picture above) caught me. Buzz did so shortly after that as I bravely, but briskly jogged my bike further down trail. The rest caught me just before we hit the trees.

It turns out that the second Pinkham trail is still under snow; after post-holing for a half mile, the lead runners turned back, met Buzz, and the whole group caught me just after I dropped in. Fortunate timing.

Pinkham is a very steep, very fast, but mostly ridable descent with the standard hazards (boulders, trees, encroaching plant life). It’s actually quite a lot of fun, even as it tears your legs up as you rush down. Later in the year, I would want to do a thorough tick check post-ride, but in early March it’s still pretty safe. And at the bottom is Asotin Creek. While I don’t often ride it, it’s a great location, with good scenery and interesting wildlife. The trail is gentle as it parallels the creek, so the ride up isn’t overly demanding, but the ride down isn’t a free lunch. Still, I had little trouble keeping up with at least Scott, even when I had to stop to cross trees he simply leaped over.

Every little hill ached. I was tired. I was angry with myself for not being able to ride it out.

But in the end, I logged 16 miles of activities, at least 10 of which was on the bike. Aside from some cuts and a pair of soaked socks, I returned home safe. Not a bad outing, though I’ll probably go back to my previous stance of “no high elevation rides before April”. The soggy ground made what could have been an amazingly good ride into something that was merely OK (and downright scary when I was alone on a chilly, windy, swampy ridge).

Of course, if I had the legs to power through it, the ground conditions wouldn’t have mattered. Next time will be better.

Protests while sleeping

Ah yes, another “what the fuck” moment.

Last night I had a dream. I don’t remember most of it. But what I do remember was the end.

I was walking along the street, where there was a protest of some sort. I believe it was political, probably something like some crazed wingers screaming about the end of the world and how “the gays” were out to turn us all. Something like that, anyway.

It was a small crowd, maybe 5 people. One of them was a young boy. He might have been 7, maybe younger. He was picking out people as they walked past and yelling “You’re a douchebag!”

I thought it a bit rude to do that, so I walked up to the young boy, and asked him “Do you know what a douchbag is?” Answered in the negative, I proceeded to explain to him that “a douchbag is used to clean out a vagina.”

After doing so, the child’s father came to me and loudly explained that “I shouldn’t have done that.”

I woke up thinking “you’re letting your son go around calling people douchebags and I’m the bag guy?

I don’t know where my brain comes up with this shit.

30 years

OK, I’m a little late to the party.

Apple is celebrating 30 years of Macintosh this year. I was late to that party too. Growing up, the family computer was a clone of the IBM XT. It ran at a whopping 10 MHz, was kitted out at 640K of RAM, and had a massive 30 MB hard disk.

I played around with DOS 3.3 and GWBASIC. And I liked it.

But when it was time to get my own computer, my parents didn’t give me a choice. It was a Mac, or it was nothing. They were teachers and they got a great deal. So my first personal computer (rather than the family computer) was a Macintosh Performa 638CD. I didn’t expect to like it. But when that big box of computer and monitor arrived and I discovered what 8-bit color and stereo sound was like, I never looked back. I loved that machine.

It’s been 19 years since I opened that box. So since Apple is looking back at 30 years since the beginning, I thought I’d at least look at my own history of interaction with Macintosh.

I started with my Macintosh Performa 638CD in 1995. 33 MHz of Motorola power. It lacked the Math Coprocessor of the 68040, which mattered in 1997, when MP3s became popular and my poor little Mac couldn’t keep up. I had the TV tuner card, which was a really cool gimmick, but I didn’t really use it much. I eventually maxed out the RAM (36MB) before I moved on.

By 1997, the PowerPC had really stabilized and Apple had stopped making truly terrible designs. I upgraded to the Power Mac 6500/225. The 603e was a consumer chip, but it was still quite capable. The tuner card in my 638 was still compatible, so I transferred it and continued to use it until I broke the coax connector during a move. With 2GB of storage, I thought I’d never run out of space. And I didn’t. Simple times. This particular machine had a bad L2 cache when I bought it; I could remove it or run an extension that disabled it under Mac OS 7.5, with reduced performance. When I updated to 7.6, the cache control extension no longer worked and I had lots of troubles; it was only after complaining to an enthusiast website that Apple made me whole and the machine was fully corrected.

I kept the 6500 for a few years before it was again time for an upgrade. By this point, Apple had moved on to the G3 and was producing the second generation of the Power Mac G3, in a delightfully colorful case. By this point, I was quite settled into the pattern of letting Apple release a new generation of hardware, then buying the second revision of that hardware. The 6500 had replaced the 6400, the Blue and White G3 replaced an earlier beige G3. Like the 6500, the G3 served me well.

But two years later, I replaced it with a G4. I was programming and dabbling in video by that point, so the Altivec engine was a big deal. Before Apple moved to Intel processors, I bought two more G4 based Macintoshes.

The first was my very first PowerBook G4, in 12″ form. I remember dropping it the very first day I had it, dinging the aluminum case right at the power supply. It wore that dent for the rest of its life. The combo drive was great for watching DVDs or burning CDs, and the machine was a joy to use. But when I finished school in 2013, the 12″ screen grew to be tiresome, so the next upgrade grew to a 15″ display and a significant improvement in performance.

By 2005, the G5 was released, but I was fully in the world of portable computers. I had decided that when I bought the 15″ Powerbook G4, I would not upgrade it until the G5 laptop existed. It was not to be. In 2006, Apple released the first Intel Macs, replacing the iconic “Powerbook” brand with “Macbook Pro” (a decision I still feel was unjustified and inappropriate). Like I’ve done in the past, I skipped the first generation of Intel Macs. It wasn’t until 2008 that I finally upgraded my trusty Powerbook. I ordered a brand new MacBook Pro 15″ 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo in February 2008. It’s now 2014 and I still have and use that laptop on a daily basis.

I would have replaced it a while ago, but in January 2010, I returned to the desktop fold. I realized that I wanted a large monitor and the portability of a laptop was still nice, but not really needed for my everyday use. So I went to the closest Apple store that very day and walked away with a new iMac.

That’s my history of the Macintosh. 8 computers in 19 years. I have been considering replacing my current iMac, but the new one just isn’t quite enough to sway me. Perhaps in a couple years I’ll feel differently—Lightroom is a bit slow on my current now 4 year old computer. But not just yet.

The desolation of smaug

The easy review: it’s too long.

I hope that the decision to make three movies out of one book wasn’t made by Peter Jackson. The result of this decision is clear in the second of the series—you have a movie that simultaneously lacked enough plot to fill a movie, while being too long to keep me entertained. The filler was obvious and unfortunate.

The CGI was mostly well done, but at times it was quite poor; almost comically poor. Speaking of, one scene still stands out as extremely misplaced. In this great saga of a story, Warner Brothers made the choice to allow what I can only describe as slapstick to carry the plot. Sure, it was amusing, but it was out of character. It only accentuated the feeling that the movie was stretched to fit the time that the studio or Mr. Jackson felt the movie should run.

Even the title didn’t seem quite fitting. The end of the first movie showed the great dragon awakening, and yet much of the movie was still build-up to his appearance. The desolation is just a story of the past, smaug gets really angry and finally starts to wreak havoc just in time to… Roll credits.

And yet, I paid my money, and I know that when the last part is released, I’ll go to that too. Because I am a sucker that way.

But unlike The Lord of the Rings, I won’t be buying the director’s edition this time around. Well… I might buy it if it is properly edited and quite a bit shorter.

My advice is to wait for video and use the fast forward button with impunity.

Well, wasn’t 2013 something?

Each year, I go through my photos posted to flickr and create a “year in review.” This year is no different. What is different though is the number of photos in that set. In the past, the goal was to find 12 photos—one per month. This year, there were two months that had no photos at all.

I have wondered what happened this year. My love of photography hasn’t changed, but for whatever reason, the muse isn’t with me as much. I’ve struggled a lot more than I remember, and it’s been frustrated.

Or perhaps I’ve just been busy with other things. Which leads me to this post. What have I been doing this year, since I’m not burning up my Nikon’s shutter release like I have in the past?

I still ski. This year I changed home resorts, moving from Silver Mountain to 49° North. This is bittersweet, as while Trevor moved mountains with me, I left Max and other great friends behind. I miss that, but not enough to go back.

I run more now. Not a lot more, but more. I can’t say I enjoy it more.

I’ve done a lot of organizing—the old 18V B series block that used to be in my car is now taken apart and stored in a large box. All the parts I pulled off my dad’s car are also stored in a large box.

As Winter gave in to Spring, I ran Bloomsday again. And again, I did not beat my best time. But I ran all of Doomsday this year, so I accomplished something. I’ve actually done a lot of running this year, even made the paper once.

Last year I did not ride the 24 hours of Round and Round; this year I returned and performed rather badly. But it was a start; this year I endeavor to do a better job. To my defense, I was wracked with the ill effects of high-grade antibiotics.

Summer was heralded by a “informational only” visit to a realtor. I ended up moving a few months later, with a massive increase in my living expenses, but also a massive increase in what I am allowed to do to the place that I now call home. I also have much much happier cars.

Well, I will have happier cars once they are both running and roadworthy again.

There were no trips of a lifetime; there was nothing crossed off the bucket list this year. But there was a one big and very unexpected achievement and lots of little things that went along with it.

Am I better off? I honestly don’t know. But I can certainly say that I’m more comfortable at the end of 2013 than I was when the year started.

A two hour job

Early this year, I noticed a clunk in my MG when I started moving in a forward gear. Later, I noticed it occasionally happened in reverse too. It was most pronounced when changing direction. Reverse out of my spot, then go forward? Clunk.

Come to a stop, then accelerate away? No clunk.

The googles told me it was likely thrust washers in the differential. So I took it to the shop, asked them to take a look, and got it back with all the driveline bolts were loose. Well, that would do it! Except… the clunk didn’t go away. Since the driveline was now good, and the suspension was nice and tight, it had to be the diff. There wasn’t anything else.

So after I moved into the new house and put the car away for the summer, I ordered some parts and started work. It’s a two hour job after all.

Not so much. For this is what I found.

Yeah, gears shouldn’t move like that.

It got worse.

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What you see here is a set of new thrust washers on the right and a set of well used thrust washers on the left. There’s so much metal gone that it would be… unwise… to put anything back together without replacing all the bearings.

The two hour job that cost maybe $50 is now a 10 hour job that will cost at least $400. Who would have thought a couple small chunks of brass would be so costly.

But wait, there’s more! There is one well regarded shop in the Pullman/Moscow area that does this kind of work. Well, did the work. Because the guy retired. He bought the farm. Literally, he bought a farm and retired from car work to do that instead.

The next best shop, 30 miles away does “some” differential work. But they won’t touch this car.

Fortunately, a friend from way back and one-time-boss saw my plight and made an offer. “It’s just like a Dodge design,” he said. “No problem.”

I just have to get the axle to the Tri Cities and hope to get it back before spring.

So much for a “two hour job.”