dxmachina: (Computers 02)
...or how I spent my summer.

I spent a good portion of the summer teaching — the lab portion of my usual MCC assignment on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 to 10 p.m. The three days a week thing got old fast, but otherwise I had a good class and a good time. One of my students was even a minor local celebrity, a features reporter for a local TV station who is apparently chucking it all to become a (male) nurse. Of course since the local TV station is not local to where I live, I had no idea until some of the other students pointed it out. He was totally not the stereotypical self-absorbed TV personality, but was rather a keen student and very helpful to others.

As for the rest of the time, here are the highlights...

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Last weekend of June... )

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Fourth of July weekend... )

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Readercon weekend... )

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First weekend in August... )

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The funeral... )

---
Summer ends for me on Tuesday, with the start of the semester at MCC. Meanwhile I have been busy preparing syllabi and lecture notes. I'm teaching my usual general chemistry course at MCC, Mondays and Wednesdays 4-7, and a lab over at CCSU on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30. The department chair at CCSU offered me a second lab section, but it conflicted with MCC, alas.

Hoping I can post this...

Nope, still down... and I lost all my tags. Bother.

And now we appear to be back.
dxmachina: (Dandelions)
Boshe moi, the pollen vortex is frackin' killing me.

March finally showed up on April 1st, and for the past few days April has been trying to shove it out of the way with a vengeance. On one hand, I was finally able to ride my bike two days in a row. On the other hand, I am wheezing like a patient in a TB ward. I hate to think what it would be like without the zyrtek, because even with it, boosted by some diphenhydramine, my mucus membranes are still running overtime on histamine production.

I had the windows open for the first time yesterday. Did I mention I had all the windows except the ones in the front replaced? Back in January, when it was 7 °F outside. Cold as it was, at least I could breathe.

I never did see any crocuses this year, although the daffodils and tulips have sprouted. I'm worried about the two krabapple trees in the front yard. Neither has shown any signs of life yet. They're both a few years old, so it's not like this was their first winter. The branches still seem fairly flexible, so at least there's some moisture in there.
dxmachina: (Rain02)
I think it's time for me to break up with Mother Nature. I seem to be trapped in an increasingly abusive relationship with her. The past few months have been especially abusive on her part, and I've had it. Start with the coldest winter I can remember*, one that doesn't seem to be anywhere near ending though it's the last days of March. Throw in the snow storms and the ice. Then the last few days have been the nor'easter from hell. It's been raining hamsters and now there's water seeping into my basement as the water table rises. Plus the winds seem to have wrecked my gas grill.

* And I have an especially good memory...

I can't take much more of this. I thought we might finally be getting a break three weeks ago when the temperatures got up to about 60 one sunny Saturday. I even broke out the bike for the first time in months for a sloppy ride through the snow melt on the bike path. I even left the bike in the car, figuring I'd be back reasonably soon after. Nope.

Bother.

I really am itching to ride. Last year was my worst year since I got the new bike back in 2007. Didn't even break 900 miles for the year. The year before I'd done almost 2300. It shows in my weight. Between the lack of exercise and the cabin fever, I'm gaining. Not good.

More rain in the forecast for tomorrow. One of these days I'd better install that sump pump.

On a happier note, I appear to be well set for teaching the rest of the year. I've got a summer lab lined up at MCC, and my usual course at MCC along with a lab at CCSU for the fall. I could actually make a reasonable sum of money this year. OTOH, it was kind of fun getting almost everything back from Uncle Sam that was withheld for taxes last year. I'll be getting most everything back from CT, too. On the gripping hand, I owe more to RI than I do to either the US or CT, even though the only income I got in this state was a piddly amount of interest and some dividends. Almost makes me want to start thinking about a move to CT**.

** Seriously, the tax rate in RI is double what it is in CT, and CT seems to offer better services. I need to investigate.
dxmachina: (Bike 03)
Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike — Grant Petersen

Real cyclists don't wear underpants. At least that's what the biking magazines have been telling us for the last thirty years or so. They also wear spandex shirts*, shoes that clip into bindings on the pedals, and bike shorts with padding in the seat rather than getting a more comfortable saddle. They fret over every single ounce of weight added to the bicycle or their person. And they pay through the nose for all of this gear.

* Often covered with logos providing free advertising for megacorporations.

Becoming an unracer... )

---
Meanwhile, back at the bike path, I had a singular year...

New. League. Record. )

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Volleyball tonight, for the first time since I got sick back before Thanksgiving.

Status

Oct. 13th, 2012 09:50 am
dxmachina: (Dawn)
So, mom is out of the hospital and in a rehab facility to regain some strength. Things seem to be going well. I admit that Neil Armstrong (a man of approximately the same age as my mother, and someone whose medical history had been meticulously tracked for fifty some odd years) dying from complications of similar surgery put me on edge about this, but mom seems to have come through it like a trouper.

---
It has been chilly and mostly rainy for the last couple of weeks. I turned on the furnace last night, in anticipation of a cold night, and, sure enough, it got down below freezing. It's been such an odd year temperature-wise. Temperatures were very moderate through the third week in June, then Mother Nature turned on the steamer. Even when then temperatures were reasonable, it was ridiculously humid. Then come September, the dial got switched back lovely. Now we seem to be getting a normal October, albeit a tad wetter than usual. Climate change is very strange.

---
The weather has made my riding schedule sporadic. Yesterday was nice in the morning, so I mowed the lawn. We got a brief shower around noon, but then the sun came back out, so I was able to get in a ride before too early sunset. The ride was a slow one. I felt pretty good, but I think the lawn workout, coupled with volleyball Thursday night, left my legs a little slower than usual. It was also pretty windy. I seem to be getting used to pounding the muscles take in volleyball. I had an uncomfortable night of sleep as they stiffened up, but once morning rolled around I was fine.

---
Speaking of volleyball, there is this whole time machine effect going on. My friends who play that I have seen over the years all look normal to me. But among the other people playing who were playing eight years ago, people who I don't hang out with and haven't seen or even thought about in all that time, it amazing how much most of them appear to have aged. Very weird, especially some of the guys who are much younger than I am who are now sporting very silver hair.

Volleyball

Sep. 21st, 2012 09:14 pm
dxmachina: (Volleyball)
So, I went to rec volleyball for the first time in eight years. The last time I went* I noted here:

Went to volleyball, and now everything aches.

Turns out the only thing different is that this time everything ached even more. It's amazing how muscles that haven't been used in a particular manner for eight years will complain. It didn't help that the crowd was a little sparse, so I played a lot more than I anticipated. Hopefully, the muscles will be a little less touchy as I get back into it.

* It was the night before my one and only ambulance ride, which was the original reason I stopped going.

I was worried going in that I would be way too old for the crowd, but a lot of the people there were folks I played with back in the day, and they have aged right along with me. It was comforting not to be the only one moving as though through setting concrete towards the end of the night.

I was very sore when I got home, and this morning I felt like the Tin Man after a good rain storm, although now I think of it, he probably was just stiff, not stiff AND feeling like he'd been run over by a tank. Will try again next week with the hope that instead of being run over by a tank it will merely feel like being run over by a small Volkswagen. Baby steps.

I rode my bike this evening and was fine, so the soreness in my legs apparently comes from muscle groups other than those I use to pedal.
dxmachina: (Bike 02)
Yesterday I went ahead and did the ride I'd been attempting when last week's ridus interruptus occurred. My house to Pt. Judith and Galilee via Kingston Station and Narragansett Pier, 47 miles round trip, the longest ride I've ever done. In doing so I also broke my record for mileage in a year. Last year I rode 1767 miles. Today I stand at 1791, with 3+ months to go. Go me!

Insane bike riding... )

dxmachina: (Bike 03)
There was good news and bad news when I brought the Fuji in to be repaired the other day. The good news is that Bike Shop Guy was able to fix the chain and shifter cable while I waited. He also tuned the brakes and other cables (at no charge). The bad is that there is a lot of wear on the drive train, and it's probably only a matter of time before I have to replace both the chain and the rear gear cassette.

Excessive wear... )


dxmachina: (Bike 03)
Am slowly but surely recovering from my injuries. I still have some pain in my obliques, mostly in one spot. My thigh is still various shades of black and blue, but is now fading to reds and yellows, much like a sunset after a storm, and the giant lump at the point of impact is shrinking.

I started riding the bike again on Sunday, albeit much mess vigorously than usual. I started to ride the Fuji, but had to call it off when I noticed that the wheel was out of true. I rode the 3-speed instead.

I don't think the wheel was jolted out of true by the accident. One of the spokes was broken, and I don't see how it could have been simply be me falling off the bike. It takes a much harder jolt to the wheel to do that. Rather I think I probably broke it earlier, hitting a sinkhole or something on the path, and that the wheel starting to go out of true is what actually caused the accident.

I noticed that the wheel was out of true because it had started hitting one of the brake pads on every revolution. The accident occurred because the brakes caught much faster than expected when I started to slow down for the intersection. If the wheel was hitting the brake pad, or getting near to it as it began to warp, that could explain what happened.

I took the wheel up to Providence Cycle in Warwick, where my bike mechanic now works, and had it back the same day. I do tend to break spokes on the rear wheel, a combination of my weight and my preferred tire pressure that makes the rear wheel, especially, unforgiving of sudden jolts. I need to remember to check the wheel before a ride to make sure I'm not starting off with a broken spoke or two.
dxmachina: (Dawn)
Feeling at bit better today. I took a long nap yesterday which helped. My side is still very sore, though. Walking isn't a problem, despite the massive bruise on my hip. Bending and stretching and reaching with my right arm are. I've been able to lift things without escalating anything, so there is nothing structurally wrong, but the obliques and upper chest muscles complain mightily.

I still need to get ready to go camping, so I did a little more of my equipment inventory. Thank goodness that I checked out the tent and air mattress situation last week instead of waiting. Most of what's left is much easier to handle.

That said, why do I have five, count 'em five, camp lanterns? One is fueled by propane gas and will provide exterior light for the campsite. That's fine. Then there's the brand new LED lantern that I picked up the other day because LEDs are the coming thing. They don't run through batteries the way fluorescent tubes do. The thing is that when I bought that one, I thought I had at most two other battery-powered lanterns, the larger of which was in pieces on my workbench because I'd left the batteries inside it for too long and they'd corroded. Turns out I had three, all using fluorescent tubes, one small four-battery lamp, and two large eight-battery lamps. I don't remember the second large lantern at all. It's a larger version of the small fluorescent, so maybe I elided the two, but for the life of me I can't see why I ever thought I needed it. It's not like I need more than two lanterns in the tent (one to hang up, and one down next to the mattress).

Anyway, I finished cleaning the corrosion out of the other large lantern, and then I tested all of them. They all work, but I don't have enough batteries on hand to run all of them, so one of the big ones will stay home, I think.

Still trying to decide what sporting gear to bring. I doubt I'll be ready to swing a golf club a hundred times or more by Saturday, so I'll probably leave the clubs home. I doubt I'll be ready to play tennis, either, but a tennis racquet is neither heavy nor bulky, so that'll probably come. I'll still bring a bike, because that doesn't require the extreme upper body motion that the other items do. I need to swap out the road tires for hybrids, because the nearby bike trail is unpaved. I had thought about bringing the old Univega since it not only has hybrid tires, but I also have a set of wider tires for it. So I swapped in the wide tires about a week ago and took it for a spin. Boy, did it ever ride like a pig. It's a heavy bike to begin with, and the wide tires make it worse. Plus the rear derailleur needs adjusting badly. It kept changing gears on me without me touching the shifter. So I hung it back up on its storage hooks for another time.

What I will do instead is take the slick, thin road tires off the Fuji and substitute the knobbly hybrids that I took off the Univega. They're only slightly wider than the Fuji's road tires, so they should fit on the narrower rims well enough. We'll see. I'll try that tomorrow when I'm a little more healed.
dxmachina: (Bike)
...I fell off the damn bike.

Had an accident today. Unlike last time, I don't really know what happened. I was on the path approaching a little trafficked cross road. I saw a car coming, so I braked. It wasn't an emergency braking situation. I had plenty of warning and plenty of distance available to stop. Next thing I know I was tumbling forward and to the right, as though the front brake had locked. I managed to maintain enough control to aim for the grass along side the path, and I mostly did land there. It's been very dry here, so even the grassy area was hard as a rock as my right side hit it, but at least it wasn't pavement.

I was still a good fifteen feet or more short of the intersection. The fall and the pain in my side stunned me. The car stopped, and the guys in it came over to see if I was okay. So did some other cyclists. As my head started to clear I did an inventory, and nothing seemed to be broken, just some muscle pain in my oblique area, and some scrapes on my knee. They stayed with me for awhile, but eventually I thanked them all and let them go about their business. I was only a few hundred yards from the parking lot, so I rode there, and found that it wasn't too bad, so I continued on with my ride and did a second lap. My side hurt a little, but it wasn't that bad, and I knew it would hurt a lot more once it stiffened up*.

* I was totally right about that, too.

I really wanted to finish the ride because when I went down I was 2.5 miles short of my all time mileage record for a single month. So far I've managed to set a new monthly mileage record every month this year, and this was going to be the Best.Month.Ever.

After I finished, I gingerly loaded both bike and myself into the truck, and headed home. When I got there, my neighbor said hello, then looked askance at the blood on my knee. I explained what happened and that I was okay if sore. It was then that I put my hand on my hip and felt the huge lump there where I'd landed. Bother. Time for some ice and a gingerly taken shower. I got pretty woozy after I discovered the lump, too. My head had been clear to that point, but I guess the knowledge of the lump triggered a reaction. Very weird.

I'm going camping in less than a week. There's supposed to be golf and tennis and volleyball, and I may have to just sit there and watch. That's gonna suck. This is the third time in a row I've been getting ready to go camping where something has happened to me healthwise. The last two times I wasn't able to go. I'm just hoping I heal up well enough to make the drive at this point.

It is also worrying that I have no good reason for the accident. One second I was riding along, braking to slow down, and the next I had lost control of the bike and was about to create a seismic event. Scary stuff.
dxmachina: (Bike 05)
Rode my bike home from work today, the first time I've ever done that. That wasn't Plan A. I was originally going to drive home, then go to the bike path and ride later. Unfortunately, that got the kibosh applied to it when the truck wouldn't start at lunchtime. AAA came and, after I had the presence of mind to grab the bike from the back of the truck, took the truck off to Tire Pros for some diagnostics. Apart from a longish detour around the crazy traffic by the Home Depot, which included my first real hill climb of the year, it wasn't too bad. Map My Ride tells me the trip was 9.6 miles. It wouldn't be a bad bike-commute, except for the whole smelling like old sweatsocks at work.

The lion-like part March finally got tamed this past Monday, just in time for daylight savings to commence. It's been gorgeous during the days, and even though a chill fog has been rolling in over the path in the evenings, it's been nice to get out after work. Fortunately, I have tomorrow off, so I don't have to worry about getting to work in the morning. The flip side of the time change is that it's really dark when I leave in the am.

Now here's hoping they'll figure out what's the up with the truck in time for me to pick it up sometime tomorrow so I can drive to Connecticut Saturday for basketball, ribs, and hockey.
dxmachina: (Bike Snow)
A conversation* en passant between a cyclist and a rollerblader on a cold day.

* Sort of. It's hard to maintain a sustained conversation while cruising in opposite directions with a closing speed of about 20 mph. This is mitigated slightly by the fact that the cyclist can do almost two laps in approximately the same time the rollerblader does one, providing them with at least three opportunities to yell something at each other as they zoom by.

First pass...

Cyclist (Me): I thought you said it'd be warmer today.
Blader: <shrugs apologetically>


Next pass, on a very deserted path...

Blader: This just means we're tougher than everyone else.
Cyclist: Oh, yeah!


Last pass, this time going the same direction...

Cyclist: You know what one synonym for tough is?
Blader: Stupid?


That was last Sunday, when it was just barely 40° out. Still, it wasn't all that bad, and it was actually quite pleasant while standing around in the parking lot in Kingston. This past Friday it was almost 50°, but it was windy so it felt much colder while riding or standing. It really has been a mild winter. I broke my all-time record for mileage (a whopping 25 miles) for February on my second ride of the month, which tells you something about normal February conditions. It pushed the total past 40 miles on Friday.

The rest of this weekend was much more like normal. It snowed yesterday, although it didn't stick at all. Today was the coldest day of the winter so far, never even getting into the thirties, and windy as all get out. Having already proved how "tough" I am last weekend, I did not ride. I probably won't get the opportunity next weekend, either, regardless of weather, since I'll be up in Boston at Boskone for most of it.

---
Some great news on the work front. Someone in senior management took leave of their senses and decided that employees with fifteen years in shall now get four weeks of vacation instead of three. Couple that with my current four days on three days off flex-schedule, which means I don't even have to take one of my extra vacation days to go to Boskone, and I suddenly have a ton of free time on my hands. Go me! If only they'd have done the vacation thing 12 years ago or so.

Wind Chill

Jan. 29th, 2012 09:31 pm
dxmachina: (Bike)
Got to ride a little bit this weekend for the first time since winter finally showed up. Friday it was raining elephants, but the temperature was close to 60°. Yesterday was cooler, high 40's. I cut yesterday's ride short because my legs were toast after only 10 miles. It had been three weeks. Atrophy is a bitch. Tried again today. It was sunny, but only in the low 40's. I wasn't really enjoying the cold, and the bike was complaining, too, so I called it a day after one lap of the path. Still, it was my best January ever at 76 miles.

---
A couple of the regulars showed up yesterday as I was finishing up, and I socialized a bit. One turns out to be another woodworker, so we compared some notes. Good day.
dxmachina: (Bike 04)
Eight days into the new year and I've already broken my all-time best mileage total for January. Mind, the previous best was only 49 miles and the current total is only 58. It's not from any extraordinary effort on my part, either*. The weather has been surprisingly moderate for January in New England. Yesterday it even touched 60°. Today was the coldest weather I've ridden in recently. It was 45° or so. And sunny. The only weather related complaint I have is that it's been windy.

* Well, apart from the fact that I haven't ridden this much since mid-November, which meant my legs and back were and still are complaining vociferously.

I'm living on the weather equivalent of house money. I'm know it can't last, but I intend to take advantage when I can.

---
I cooked for a crowd this weekend, the crowd being me for the next couple of weeks. Yesterday it was an oven stuffer (on sale). Today I put a big ol' pot roast and a pile of pintos in their respective pots and shoved both in the oven for three hours. All came out splendidly.

Ooh, this week's Sherlock is ready to watch. Gotta go...
dxmachina: (DX-Opus)
So, after two weeks of misery, the Worst Cold Ever (™) seems to be abating at last, and I'm feeling mostly human.

---
I rode my bike yesterday. I wasn't sure I was up to it, but it was sunny and 50°, and forecast is for colder temps the rest of the weekend, so I bundled up and went. It was chilly, but I was warm enough, and the wind wasn't nasty for a change. Even better, no lungs were hacked up in the process. It was the first time I felt close to normal in two weeks. It was a short ride, 12 mi., just enough to nudge me over 1750 for the year.

---
Afterwards I took a ride up to the big box stores in Coventry to lay in my truffle making supplies. I took the back roads up to avoid the misery that is the interchange between Rt 4 and I-95. To wit, there is no interchange between 4 N and 95 S. One has to exit 4, negotiate the three traffic lights on Division Road as it passes between a shopping center and a multiplex, and then north on Rt 2 to the 95 S entrance ramp. Another of RI DOT's many hall of fame designs. I try to avoid the area as much as possible, but it was the best way to get to the big box complex off 95 from where I live.

That is, apart from Hopkins Hill Road, which runs straight down through Rhody's backwoods from Coventry to Exeter not far from my house. I often came home that way, because the return through Division Road is even worse. The only problem with the whole scheme was that when Hopkins Hill hit the Exeter town line, it turned into a dirt road.

Now, I like dirt roads. I enjoy the nostalgia of a simpler time. I think they're neat, so I don't mind occasionally driving on them. Hopkins Hill was kept up pretty well by the town, so it was bumpy, but not atrocious. But they're no fun at all in lousy weather, and they take a toll on the shocks. So I didn't use Hopkins Hill all the time.

Then, last September, they paved it. Now it is wonderful, sailing through the woods and past the farms smooth as silk. Of course it is dark as pitch at night, but that's what high beams are for.

I'll miss the dirt road a little. It was the only one I drove on with any regularity. There are a few other still in Exeter, so I can still indulge occasionally. Although there is another one I'd love for them to pave, Ten Rod Road from where it stops being Rt 102 to where it intersects with Rt 3. That would be so useful.

Nastiness

Dec. 4th, 2011 02:47 pm
dxmachina: (Dizzy)
I have been in the grasp of the Worst Cold Ever(™) for a week now. It all started innocently enough. I went to a party last Saturday, where the hostess mentioned that she and her kids were trying to get over a cold that just seemed to linger. The party was fun, but already on Sunday I had a scratchy throat, which I knew was a bad sign. Monday it was worse, but I went to work and managed to get through the day without medication. Monday night the snot monster hit, along with a sore throat like as I don't remember experiencing since I was a kid*.

* Although I must have come close sometime in the mid-90's based upon the evidence of the mostly unused box of Sucrets that had expired in 1997 that I found in the medicine cabinet. I have to be in serious pain to suck on a Sucret.

After a lousy night where every swallow was burning despite a healthy dose generic nyquil, I called in sick and mostly slept until after lunch. The sore throat abated quite a bit, and I slept better than I had during the night. But the throat came back with a vengeance Tuesday night, and I was again miserable. Took Wednesday off, too. What was interesting was that the sore throat once again disappeared during the day, so I took a closer look at the bottles of generic dayquil and nyquil that I was swilling like cheap gin during the day and night, respectively. They both had the same ingredients except that the dayquil had a decongestant and no antihistamine, while the nyquil had the antihistamine, but no frelling decongestant. I'd been assuming that the only difference would be the presence or lack thereof of the antihistamine**. Live and learn. Wednesday night I took the dayquil before bed, and slept like a very sniffly baby. The throat was only scratchy.

** Antihistamines are mostly useless on colds, but they do make you sleepy.

I returned to work on Thursday, and was damn near dead by the end of my usual ten-hour day***. I worked a shorter day on Friday and brought some work home. I'd hoped things would start to get better this weekend, and to a very small extent they have, but I'm still feeling pretty lousy.

*** Have I mentioned that I changed my work schedule to four 10-hour days a week now? Three day weekends every week!

---
I would've liked to ride this weekend. The weather's been reasonable for the time of year, and it's sunny out, but I don't have the inclination or the strength. It's a pity, too. I've already broken my all time best for mileage in a year, previously just over 1700 miles in 2008, and I'm just 10 miles short of 1750, which has been a sort of next milestone goal of mine since I first broke 1500. I'm surprised I got this far. The main reason I did is that the weather was very moderate for November, and those three day weekends really add up in terms of number of available riding days, especially when it's too dark to ride after work.
dxmachina: (Snow02)
Sure there was snow up Worcester ways a couple of days ago, but really, Mother Nature? REALLY?

Snowstorm 10/30/11 I wasn't expecting this at all. They were talking about heavy snow in Massachusetts, but all it was supposed to do down here was rain, which is what it was doing when I went to bed last night. Sigh. It's nice and sunny today, too. I was planning to ride, but I don't have snow tires on my bike, alas.

Pity. I've already had my best October ever, and I could've easily broken 200 miles for the month today (and 1600 for the year).


Snowstorm 10/30/11

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