Sunday, December 26, 2010

Late to the party, I purchased an iPod last month. After much consideration, I determined that the Classic 160gb best met my needs. As much as I'd like the internet connectivity of the Touch, I need the capacity of the Classic because our long term goal is to decumulate, to coin a word, so much of our stuff that takes up space. The beauty of it is that I can upload CDs seemingly at random and the iTunes interface will organize it for me.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Getting close to another year's end.

Lord, is it cold! It always comes as a rude shock when winter starts to come around here. I've ridden to work twice in the last week but come into the store with my hands barely functioning. Laurie has taken a knife to a couple apple juice bottles to make fairings. She's also modified a worn pair of wool socks to make hand covers. I'll get the Bully Porteur going again and be on the road.

My new position at Whole Foods entails being there in the morning, often at 6AM which means getting my ass on the road before 5AM. I'm going to try to make that work because I actually do enjoy riding that early and very much enjoy the ride home at 2 PM.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I have been a fan of Patagonia for a long time. I like their environmental stance and general integrity. I love their catalogs but all the good publicity and green work is pointless unless the merchandise is good. I purchased some Capilene shirts back in 1987 that I can still wear regularly and a fleece hat that remains in constant use about the same time. Patagonia gear is expensive but easily a good value in the cost per wearing and per use equation.

About 5 years ago, my in-laws gave me a Critical Mass bag for a Christmas gift. I used it daily on my commute, on trips. It held at least 2 grocery bags full of stuff, beer, books, dog food,  what have you. I liked it because it rested on my backside for bike rides, not on my shoulders or my back.

Tossing it in my car one day, I neglected to buckle the buckles on the thing. (Yet another reason to avoid driving.) The plastic buckles were slightly cracked but still worked. When they finally gave out, I contacted Patagonia via chat about getting replacement buckles. They offered to ship them to me but when I considered trying to restitch the straps and so forth, I decided to mail the bag back and have their repair department handle it. I emptied my bag and put my daily needs into my Lowe Alpine daypack, which I love for hiking but was too small for riding and uncomfortable when biking.

I printed and completed the repair form and packed it up at the UPS store.3 weeks later, I got a call from Patagonia that they had received my bag with only the UPS label on the package, no instructions, no idea what to with it. I called them and explained that I sent it in to have the buckles replaced.

A few days later, it occurred to me that, if they didn't have the form, they didn't have my payment method. So I made another call to them.

They told me that the record showed they were sending a new bag out Monday at no cost to me. It wasn't my old bag or a new old stock version of my bag, but a brand-new updated bag. My old bag had a small pocket in the back so that objects inserted in there would sit at my back. It didn't have pen slots so that pens floated around the bag. There was no place for my phone. It had a built-in laptop pouch.

The new bag has a phone pouch attached to the shoulder strap. It has slots for 3 pens. The small zipped pocket is in the front of the bag. The new bag has a detachable, padded laptop pouch.
Despite constant improvements in bags, I was committed, in my mind, to using the old bag until it wore out. I'm thrilled, though, to have a newer, nicer bag and where I'm making a choice, I'll buy Patagonia.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Of Dog Food, Human Food and such

We had a moment of truth, an opportunity, last winter. Our longtime dog, Chester, who we've had since he was six weeks old and who has never lived anywhere but our block, had trouble walking one icy morning. It looked like a harbinger of a long decline. We took him to the vet to see if he'd had a stroke or something. Looming was a conversation that neither of us wanted to have, the one where we have to decide to spend a lot of money or to have him put down.

It turned out that he was fine, just old. A friend told Laurie that her dog had gone through the same thing and found help through Dr. Linda Faris. She is a veteranarian, and an accupuncturist.

 Her other recommendation was to start feeding him Urban Wolf, which we bought at Brookside Barkery. In my years at Whole Foods, we had sold the ground chicken necks and backs to customers for years but I had been skeptical of them. There was something of the Flat Earther about the raw diet. I gave it a try or rather had my dogs try it.

It was an instant success with them. As I prepared the first batch, they watched with great interest. Both Chester and our other dog, Mocha got a great deal more efficient in eating. Chester began waking us up, hungry at 6:30 every morning rather than laying about in his bed until 8:30. Their meal time took about 45 seconds max after eating. Also reduced was their weight. Chester went from 77 pounds to 61 pounds. Mocha went from 80 pounds to 62.

The villain, in this piece, was corn. Anyone who has read Michael Pollan's recent food writing will be familiar with the nefarious grain, grass, whatever. The fine documentary, King Corn, puts the origin of this back to Earl Butz. Corn is so heavily subsidized that we have to put it in everything. We feed it to cows. We brew it up to run our cars. We put it in dog food. The last use was killing our dogs. They were fattened up by it, just as cattle are but not getting the nutrients they needed so they were hungry all the time and overeating, just as we have been.

About this same time, I heard about The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell, or it became part of our curriculum at Whole Foods. The nascent Healthy Eating Initiative was coming together, so, being the company man that I am, I read it and Laurie read it. It's a profoundly life-changing book. Following that I've read Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and the Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn.

Being a Foodie, it's hard to accept that "Everything You Know Is Wrong". Olive oil is as much empty calories as white sugar and white flour. It's going another step further than we had been. We've had some intense discussions at the store among the team members and it's just begun.

Nevertheless, I am enjoying the changes in my life. I turned 50 this past year and I want to be as strong or stronger than I've ever been. I've failed to be as disciplined in my eating as I've forced my dogs to be but I've reconsidered my  relationship to food and I'm going to get back to the body I once had when I was running 50 miles a week.

Pump it Up

For years, it seems, I have fought with our bicycle pump. It's a decent pump, a Joe Blow Pro from Topeak. The top part of cylinder where the piston pulls up against is plastic and keeps popping off. It didn't screw on to the cylinder but was attached with a couple plastic tabs and the top of the cylinder was two parted that continually had to be snapped together. I am getting to a state in life where I don't want to make do with things that don't work on a regular basis.

When we rode the BikeMO last fall, I had an opportunity to use a Lezyne pump. It felt solid, well made.Velo-Orange sells them, which I find a reassuring recommendation. So, using a birthday gift, I bit the bullet and bought the Lezyne. I haven't been disappointed. The only thing it's lacking is a dual head. That is, you have to open up the pump head and switch around the mechanism to use the pump on a Schrader valve, a small amount of bother.

I still have the problematic Topeak pump for those bikes of mine that use Schrader.