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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

spatial relations of a grocery ballet

There was a time when, back in the seventies and probably long before, grocery baggers were an incredibly talented lot. They took great pride in presenting the customer with perfectly organized groceries packed into crisp brown paper bags. Some of them took it to a level of performance art – adding some flair, maybe a spinning of a loaf of bread through the air with one hand as they were loading the previous item with the other hand, catching the bread and placing it softly in place at just the last moment – a grocery ballet. I’m thinking one of these guys went on to create Tetris.

These days, well I don’t have to tell you, two plastic bags per item, cans on top of tomatoes!

I’ve been grocery shopping by bicycle now for several years. At this point I know pretty much exactly how much will fit in my basket and that’s how much I arrive at the checker with because I like to maximize my trip and I like to eat – amazingly, it’s pretty close to one full grocery basket. But, you have to pack it well. Unfortunately, today’s baggers don’t get this. And they can’t seem to understand that I can’t take an extra bag – it’s a car culture thing – even a Miyata will fit several grocery bags.

So it is that I find myself out on the sidewalk taking all (or most) of my groceries out of my bag so that I can reorganize them so they’ll fit in the bike basket and not get squished. I found that the key to packing groceries well is verticality. I don’t quite understand the spatial relations of why this is the case, but it seems as though you can fit about 20% more into a space of equal size when packing groceries in a vertical manner.

It’s not a big deal, of course, but I dream of one day walking out of the grocery store with a perfectly cubical bag that slides right into my basket and away we’ll ride, me and mindful mule…

Friday, March 18, 2011

ostriches and tigers and peacocks, oh my!

Here in our little hometown we seem to consider the ostrich as our unofficial mascot. That’s not just random, there’s a historical link in that there used to be a place called the Cawston Ostrich Farm over near the Arroyo about a century ago. There’s a life size stuffed ostrich (of the Teddy Bear toy doll variety, not taxidermied, thank god, although, maybe that would be better, but super creepy) in the local library.

Wouldn’t that be the way to roll into Old Town in style for the evening! More photos here.

For some reason the mascot for the school sports teams is the Tiger. Go Tigers! That seems a little boring to me. I’d rather root for an Ostrich. Go Ostriches!

I finally went out for another long run in the Arroyo the other day (after about three weeks missed. It went well, thanks, and fast) and just as I was approaching the old Cawston Farm area what should appear but… a peacock! Are they encroaching on the ostrijes (it’s in the dictionary, although I’m not sure about the plural)? Well, yes, they are. Actually, the last ostrij is long gone. And the peacock is a surprisingly common sight – but always fresh and fun.

Encountering peacocks often reminds me of an explanation of a Zen realization moment by one of my teachers back when: You’re walking along through town thinking about the things one thinks about and you round a corner and… it’s a pig! That snaps you right into reality. AKA Zen. The Now. The Moment.

Another good example is: you’re in the kitchen getting a dish out of the cupboard and you notice a little piece of something, let’s say broccoli, on the floor, mid-dish-task you bend over to pick up the broccoli and upon standing up again slam your head into the left-open cupboard door. Bam! Back in the moment.

I see peacocks probably about several times a year. I think they once escaped from the nearby botanical gardens or somewhere but they seem to be rather well established in the mini-wilds around the hillsides. Seems rather unbelievable. Maybe they come and go.

Since there are no more ostriches and never were any tigers I’m starting the campaign to change the schools mascot to the peacock. Go Peacocks!

Though, the footballers might get embarrassed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

currently reading

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: over thirty years of conversations with Robert Irwin
by Lawrence Weschler

Raven’s Exile: a season on the green river
by Ellen Meloy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In the cycling world there are a lot of people that are very concerned about shaving weight off of their bikes – so much so that they’ll spend hundreds of dollars on new, better parts to drop a few ounces.

I’ve gotten into that a little in the past, too, it can be fun, but more and more lately I seem to be following the Rivendell philosophy of: who cares how fast you’re riding? You’re [37] and you’re not going to get picked up by Euskaltel-Euskadi for this year’s spring classic season. And even if you were to live out that fantasy, they’d give you a free 16lb bike to ride and all that training on your 20-35 pounder would serve you well.

There’s also the idea swimming around out there that for a lot of us it might be wiser to not spend extra money on dropping our bikes weight, but to just drop a little weight off our own bodies. This seems somewhat logical but I don’t think it’s a direct equation. If you loose 3 pounds of fat it probably won’t do as much as losing 3 pounds of bike weight. That’s my belief.

I can never really get a good study going on this. There are so many variables to include that it’s pretty much impossible. I like the idea of someday doing some time trials on each of my two road bikes, one being a few pounds heavier than the other – maybe loops around the Rose Bowl – but I doubt I’ll ever get around to it.

I’ve lost a little weight recently, mostly by intent. It seems like a natural cycle to be a little leaner at the end of winter when, in the old days at least, food was a little scarcer. I think I can feel I slight difference in my climbing speed and ease but I’ve also been riding alone a lot lately and so maybe I’m just riding slower and therefore the hill feels easier without the competition. Incidentally: Desperately Seeking bicycle freaks who enjoy long winding rides…

My recently developing trend has been to ride Mindful Mule (the heaviest of all my bikes and most often used) on longer pleasure routes that were previously reserved for the road bikes. This makes it easier to bring along extra clothes in the basket and locks and encourages more of an exploratory feel to the ride. And I’ve really enjoyed these rides. Sure it’s slower going up over the hills on the Mule but who cares? The coffee shop will still be there when I get there a few minutes slower. And, actually, on the downhills, the Mule is a champ – a rattletrap bomber, of sorts – we hit 37mph the other day descending Lida (our super duper in town mini mountain), not much slower than the road bikes and just as fun (the importantist factor).

Over the weekend I rode Lida three times on Totally 80’s (the heavier road bike but still a lot lighter than the Mule) I’m not sure how to filter out all this data (heavy bike training, been sick, lost weight, lighter T80, ate heartily the day before, inspired by watching Paris Nice, etc.) but I know I didn’t want to stop riding. I’d get to the bottom and just go again. I don’t think I’ve ever done Lida more than twice before. It felt good to let it ride and ride and ride…

The funny catch to that Triple Lida ride was that it started off with a Devil’s Gate Dam Trail run (5K), twice crossing the knee-deep, shoe-and-sock-soaking, mucky, silty, creek so I did the whole ride with soggy feets. Freak!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

currently reading

A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude
by Jonathan Williams

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

“let’s get back to civilization!”

As I was saddling back up on Mindful Mule after my Devil’s Gate Trail run last evening a couple of young runners were exiting the trail behind me. I had just passed them on the way out about a mile up the trail where they had gone off the trail over to the creek for some reason where they were squealing in that high Beatles-follower pitch as youngsters sometimes do. Maybe they dropped their iPod in the river or something, I don’t know, but they seemed fine when I passed them. When they got back to the trailhead one of them exclaimed with relief, “let’s get back to civilization!”

I thought it was sorta funny, pretty cute. I mean, I understand where they were coming from, and that’s exactly why I like that trail. It does have the feeling of a “real” trail (like) out in the woods. But you’re also never more than about half a mile from a road and for much of that you’re only about two meters from the rough off of fairway 16 at Brookside Golf Course (actually, I have no idea what hole number it is). So, you never really get a chance to leave civilization on that trail. Oh, and then there’s also the Interstate 210 Freeway bridge that runs directly overhead about a mile in – it’s so high that you barely notice it but you’ve got to realize it’s there – or wonder where all that shade is coming from.

In other trail running news, it turns out I’m getting a little bit wiser. The creek was flooded again and I just walked right in without trying to balance on rocks that didn’t quite span the flow or make any kind of impossible flying longjumps. My socks filled up with about a 1/2 cup of silt each though and I did have to give my shoes a good rinsing bath when I got home but it turns out it’s just a little water. Wet shoes and socks are really not that bad when compared to any kind of injury/recovery. And besides, I’ve got a race this weekend and as a little Zen master once said, “you can’t run if you can’t run.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

so many bike racks…

How many bike racks do you need for a 100-thousand-seat stadium?

Oh, about 12 should do it.

More bike parking here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

improvising protected bike lanes

There’s been a ton of construction going on along Fair Oaks Ave lately – they’re resurfacing the road. I usually avoid this street as it’s a fairly major thoroughfare – two lanes each way, crosses a freeway, stoplights, business parks, etc. Since the construction, though, I’ve been riding this street a lot. It seems strange I know because it’s become doubly congested now. The new advantage though is that for about a mile in each direction the right lane is closed off to cars. There’s a line of those tall skinny orange traffic cones running along what was previously the line between the two lanes – a cone about every 20 or 30 feet. To the right of that line of cones is a gap of about 4 or 5 feet before another line of cones that block off the actual construction zone – creating a long empty corridor. I think you know where I’m going with this: free bike lane! It’s dope. The street goes up and down a moderate hill so on the way down you can zip by like 100 cars. And even on the way up the hill, maybe only pulling 9 mph, but there’s so many cars stuck in there you can ride past a good 30. It’s been nice, like living in Copenhagen. It would be (will be) amazing to see that (someday) permanently converted to a forward-thinking-multi-modal-pedestrian-community-safe-friendly-calm-happy street – with big old oak trees wending along the way for killer shade.